HL Deb 12 February 1992 vol 535 cc731-62

3.54 p.m.

Lord Chalfont rose to call attention to the potential dangers to the security and stability of the world posed by the spread of weapons and technologies of mass destruction; and to move for Papers.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I apologise to the House for returning to this matter so soon after it has recently been discussed. It was discussed most recently when an Unstarred Question was tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Kennet. However, I believe this to be a matter of great importance which has not yet been sufficiently discussed in your Lordships' House. Therefore I hope noble Lords will not feel I am imposing too much of a burden upon your Lordships.

Before I begin my speech I must say how much I look forward to hearing the maiden speech of the noble Lord, Lord Vivian. The noble Lord brings to your Lordships' House a wealth of military wisdom and experience which I am sure will be enjoyed and appreciated. I must ask for the indulgence of the House in proposing this Motion as I shall have to speak fast to cover the topics I want to cover in the 15 minutes at my disposal.

First, I wish to review the threat that is posed to the stability of the world and to our security by nuclear proliferation, by the spread of chemical and biological weapons and, perhaps most importantly, by the spread around the world of ballistic missiles. I shall then consider how we might combat those threats. I wish to ask the Government whether they are thinking in terms of the non-proliferation treaty with its International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards as being an adequate safeguard. Would the Government contemplate military intervention in certain circumstances to back up UN sanctions? Have the Government thought of engaging in some form of ballistic missile defence preparations? How do the Government think this affects the status of our own nuclear deterrent?

I shall briefly discuss nuclear weapons. Originally five countries were regarded as nuclear weapons powers; that is, the five permanent members of the United Nations. It is worth noting here that one of those, the Soviet Union, is now being replaced by a number of countries, each of which is, in its own right, a nuclear weapons power. Instead of having five nuclear weapons powers we now have perhaps seven, eight or nine.

India and Pakistan have already declared that they have, or are about to acquire, a nuclear weapons capability. I believe most of us would estimate that South Africa already has a nuclear weapons capability. Israel, too, probably has such a capability. Then there are the near nuclear powers. There are many countries which will soon have the ability to acquire or make nuclear weapons. I need only mention Iraq. As long as Saddam Hussein is in power, we can never really be sure that that country is not pursuing a nuclear weapons programme. We know that Iran has a neutron source reactor and electromagnetic isotope separators from China. I cannot believe that they are entirely required by the Iranians for peaceful purposes.

Syria is in negotiations with China for the purchase of a reactor. Algeria has a reactor acquired from China. North Korea has a complete and independent technical infrastructure plus two reactors. Despite the agreement between North and South Korea that has recently been announced, I believe the proliferation situation there is an extremely disturbing one. We can add to that the dangers of proliferation from the Commonwealth of Independent States, (the former Soviet Union) and the existing proliferation from China which is exporting nuclear technology and other missile technology in large quantities. There are also dangers inherent in the behaviour of certain Western commercial companies which, despite the dangers involved, are already exporting nuclear weapons and missile technology. One might reasonably conclude from that that by the early part of the next century, which is only a few years away, there may well be 20 countries which are either nuclear powers or near nuclear powers, or have a nuclear capability of some kind.

If we compare the instability that that position poses with what we were faced with in the days of the cold war, it almost makes one yearn for the cosy stability of the East-West confrontation. That is disturbing enough, but we have to add to it the possible spread of chemical and biological weapons. For obvious reasons I shall not go into too much detail on that subject but we know, for example, that before the break-up of the Soviet Union and before the events of the past two years had occurred, the Soviet Union had the most advanced military chemical capability in the world. There are something like 75,000 tonnes of chemical stockpiles now in existence. The Soviet Union claims it has 50,000 tonnes, but Western intelligence considers the figure is more like 75,000 tonnes.

We know that material was deployed to forward units of the Soviet mechanised infantry in the days before the break-up of the union. All over the Commonwealth of Independent States there is chemical material which is dangerous in its present form. It is also difficult to destroy and, by most expert judgment, will take at least 10 years and several billions of dollars to remove. At the moment it poses an actual threat.

There are 15 to 20 third world countries which in many cases have used chemical weapons either in war or in the process of internal security. There are many others which have developed biological agents. We know, for example, that Iraq acquired microtoxins in 1989. Those form the raw material of biological warfare. Iran also attempted to purchase one of the ingredients of microtoxin technology in 1989. We also know of the Libyan facility at Rabta and that it is dangerous.

At the beginning of the next century there will be 15 to 20 third world countries with a nuclear capability, a chemical capability or a biological or germ warfare capability, and in some cases all three. Some of those countries are erratic and unpredictable and under fanatical and dangerous leadership. The question is: if they have that material, how do they put it to military use? We should not need to be too disturbed if all they had lying around were agents of mass destruction but no means of delivery. That is no longer so. That is the development which is beginning to worry most of us who are involved in the problem.

Proliferation of ballistic missiles is the one aspect which brings the threat from the back of our minds to the front. Here a similar pattern emerges. There are 15 third world countries which now have ballistic missiles in their possession; 15 countries which will quite soon own their own ballistic missile production facilities. They will be able not only to construct ballistic missiles but also, if they wish, to export them. Most intelligence assessments suggest that by the end of this century there will be 24 countries, many of them third world countries, which will have the capacity to make, acquire or use ballistic missiles.

That is the picture which emerges. There is no need to labour the point. There is a growing number of countries, among them Middle Eastern and third world countries, many with unpredictable and fanatical leaders, which possess nuclear, chemical and biological weapons and the means of delivery by ballistic missile. I have no desire to make the flesh creep, but Western Europe and the United Kingdom are within the radius of action and range of some of those ballistic missiles.

What is the strategy of the West, and in particular the strategy of this country, to deal with what I regard as the most important single danger facing the world in the period following the collapse of the communist empire? At the moment the strategy is unclear. I hope that when he replies the noble Earl will be able to give some guidance. For example, have the Government accepted that the non-proliferation strategy based on the 1967 treaty has failed? A number of important countries have not signed or ratified the treaty 25 years after it came into force in London. Proliferation has taken place. What steps are the international community and Her Majesty's Government taking to contain it?

Are we taking steps to strengthen the powers of the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna? Are we prepared, as I suggested in a recent debate in your Lordships' House, to supply the agency with our own national intelligence, in a suitably sanitised form, which often indicates to us the truth of matters which may not be entirely clear to those in Vienna? Are we prepared to contemplate the use of force, perhaps under the aegis of the United Nations, as the ultimate sanction in bringing about a halt to the spread of weapons of mass destruction? Would we use force in certain circumstances even to destroy the facilities of those making and stockpiling those weapons if no other means of doing so existed? Are we taking steps to prohibit commercial concerns from exporting sensitive material, as we did in the days of what used to be called the COCOM agreement? There may be a case for having a global COCOM agreement to prevent the export to countries of the kind of materials which are specifically connected with the acquiring of the technology to make and use weapons of mass destruction.

I recognise that efforts are being made. There is the missile control technology regime and there is the Australia group, which has been formed to combat the spread of chemical and biological weapons. I recognise also that Her Majesty's Government are playing a leading role in many of those negotiations and are responsible for a good deal of the intellectual content of the proposals which have been put forward. It seems to me that we cannot rely entirely on arms control to ensure our national security in this very dangerous environment.

What should we be doing, then, in the context of national defence? There is one matter which I should like to bring to the notice of your Lordships' House. It is a concept which is known by one of those terrible acronyms so favoured in the world of strategic analysis—GPALS (global protection against limited strikes). That is a concept which derives from the Reagan idea of the strategic defence initiative. It is designed to protect the countries not only of the West but also of the former Soviet Union against limited strikes by maverick leaders who might acquire nuclear, biological or chemical weapons and use them either to threaten or destroy our countries. It is a US concept, accepted by both sides of the political spectrum there, and a great deal of money has been voted by Congress in pursuing it. When President Yeltsin went to Camp David he agreed with President Bush that the two should get together to see whether they could collaborate on the project. A book by Dr. Keith Payne, the president of the US National Institute for Public Policy, has been published this very day. It sets out the case for that new concept. Therefore I shall not go into the matter further now.

However, I should like to ask the Minister whether Her Majesty's Government are in consultation with the United States on GPALS—I am sorry about that acronym but there is no quicker way to say it—and what is their attitude towards it. It would be very foolish if we allowed ourselves to deploy against GPALS the same arguments which were deployed against the strategic defence initiative. It is a new concept in a new strategic environment.

In the last minute at my disposal I should like to refer to our own nuclear deterrent. It seems to me that in this context the maintenance of a fully effective nuclear deterrent in this country is of the utmost importance. The Government have decided to base our deterrent on a submarine-launched strike force. As I always do on these occasions, I declare my interest as the chairman of VSEL. I make the point strongly nonetheless that in my view we can use the Trident force when an arms control environment is right in this country, in other words when the United States and the former Soviet Union have so reduced their capability that it begins to affect our own. We can do that without arguing about the number of submarines at sea. However, I shall not embark on that argument at any length.

Finally, I should like to seek the reassurance of Her Majesty's Government that our protection against this appalling new threat will not rely entirely on international agreements, which are not universally adhered to and which have been broken before and will be broken again and which can in any case, under their own terms, be repudiated at a few months' notice. I beg to move for Papers.

4.8 p.m.

Lord Vivian

My Lords, I am more than grateful and suitably humbled to have been given this opportunity to make my maiden speech in a debate which draws attention to probably the greatest threat to the security and stability of the world, that of the spread of weapons and technologies of mass destruction. However, before I associate myself with the debate I should like to pay a tribute to my father, who was a regular attender in your Lordships' House from the time he took his seat in 1966 to his final few years when ill health intervened. He held the traditions and customs of the House in the highest possible esteem, as he did your Lordships, the door attendants and the staff that he knew so well.

In this debate I should like to draw your Lordships' attention to some of the dangers from proliferation and some of the ways of preventing the spread of these weapons and technologies of mass destruction. Information has been published that in 10 years' time an additional number of countries will have a nuclear offensive capability. It has been reported that the former Soviet Union possesses some 30,000 nuclear warheads with about 1,376 strategic missiles. It may take well up to 10 years to dismantle those weapons, which would allow the former Soviet Union to retain its vast superiority in these weapons during the next decade.

I turn now to some of the dangers that arise from proliferation. First, the Moscow Institute of Geography has estimated a possibility of up to 76 border disputes within the former Soviet Union and serious trouble may break out between Ukraine and Russia. If those border disputes start, it is highly unlikely that the republics will hand over their nuclear weapons to Russia. It is more likely that they will retain them and build up strong forces to protect themselves and their ill defined borders.

A further danger will arise if third world countries develop or acquire their own nuclear offensive capability. The southern Moslem bloc of 90 million people, linked together by a common religion, in possession of weapons of mass destruction will cause serious concern to the West. There is also a danger that smaller weapons could fall into the hands of terrorist organisations such as Abu Nidhal or the IRA.

If we are unable to stop proliferation, what are the steps that we can take to minimise its effects? First, we should ensure that the former Soviet Union's nuclear scientists and the rumoured sales of nuclear weapons are not exaggerated stories as part of a policy to ensure that the West is panicked into hasty actions and one sided treaties. That would allow the former Soviet Union to achieve in months what it was unable to achieve in 40 years of perpetrating the cold war. Secondly, it is vital that we increase our intelligence gathering systems and organisations to provide more accurate and timely information about countries that already possess or are about to possess nuclear weapons. Thirdly, the requirement exists to strengthen and ensure sufficient inspection and verification teams from the International Atomic Energy Agency and authorise them to carry out unannounced rapid spot checks on those countries. Fourthly, the existing regulation prohibiting suppliers from providing likely components to such countries should be urgently and carefully reviewed and where necessary amended to avoid making further mistakes.

We must press the former Soviet Union to accept our proposal to send it nuclear weapon disposal teams who would verify stocks and report progress on the dismantling of weapons and the destruction of launchers with their associated command and control systems. This is a matter of some urgency. Unlike wine, which should improve in the barrel, Russian-made nuclear weapons deteriorate in their canisters and enough seepage could occur to cause many Chernobyls.

In conclusion, I feel that the West is reacting too quickly. We should take a more measured view and carefully examine the existing evidence emanating from the former Soviet Union. We have heard that there are serious doubts about control of the weapons. It may be true to say that they are under the control of the military. But who controls the Red Army and the other servicemen today? There is much confusion over that question and the answers are not at all clear.

In addition, there have been disputes between Yeltsin and Kravchuk over the control of the Black Sea fleet. There has been fighting in Georgia, bloodshed between Azerbaijanis and Armenians and a likelihood of more serious fighting to come over border disputes. The economy is in shreds. Starvation is likely to happen in about two weeks when food stocks run out. The Red Army is very bitter, seething with discontent and suffering from poor discipline and low morale. Yeltsin's fall from power cannot be ruled out. Add to that gloomy picture the spread of nuclear weapons and the defection of scientists and skilled nuclear technicians and the situation becomes of even greater concern.

Now is not the time to lower our guard, nor to proceed with our proposed defence cuts. It is not the time to question our minimum nuclear deterrent, which is the keystone of our defence policy. With all the instability and uncertainty in the world and with the continued spread of nuclear weapons, now is the time for the United Kingdom to be increasingly vigilant, to maintain our present force levels until the situation becomes clearer and to remain as robust as ever. I am grateful for your Lordships' attention and I thank noble Lords for their courtesy in listening to my maiden speech.

4.15 p.m.

Lord Kagan

My Lords, first I should like on behalf of the whole House to offer congratulations to the noble Lord, Lord Vivian, on his maiden speech. We are fortunate to have among us this noble Lord who has so much practical experience and has commanded in the trouble spots of the Mediterranean. I hope that we shall hear often from him.

We are also grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, for alerting us to the potential danger to the security and stability of the world. There has never been more opportunity to create a new, peaceful world order and we have never been in danger more mortal if anything goes wrong. The responsibility of us all, but particularly of our leaders and statesmen, is awesome. One false step and the history of our planet will have been written.

We are in the middle of a global revolution. We are threatened not only by the proliferation of weapons but by a population explosion, mass migration and unprecedented economic aspirations raised without real foundations, particularly in eastern Europe. We have witnessed national disintegration. We face scarcity of resources and are watching relentless environmental decay. All that has surfaced and climaxed with the fall of the Soviet Union.

As the noble Lord, Lord Vivian, pointed out, the situation is very serious. How bad it is can be judged by the words of Mr. Yeltsin, who when he was in Paris said: Dictatorship will return if the reforms fail". Simultaneously, the chairman of the Russian state bank said that the economic measures have led to anarchy and chaos. Georgi Matjuchin, a leading economist in Mr. Yeltsin's government, is on record as having said that the reforms are doomed. His Deputy Prime Minister has again questioned all those measures. If a playwright had tried to create a tragic scenario he could not have improved on what is happening there.

In 1945, after the Second World War, there was also a situation of anxiety, opportunity and chaos. At that time it was suggested that perhaps the United Nations should be enabled to maintain a standing international military force, subject to the command of a man appointed by the United Nations, which could step in and intervene if trouble started somewhere. Alas, it was not possible to do that because the stalemate between the United States and the Soviet Union and their ritual position toward each other prevented it. But now it could happen.

The noble Lord, Lord Cheshire, to whose speech I am very much looking forward, has suggested in this House that an international military police force should be set up which owes allegiance only to its commander. Because of the few minutes left to me, I shall rush through this: I think we have one in the Gurkhas. The Gurkhas have a tradition of loyalty and obedience to their superiors and, provided they are backed logistically and as regards infrastructure by the United Nations and provided the United Nations is empowered to intervene if a conflagration threatens, it could be a first step. I am afraid I do not want to be reprimanded again and so I will stop.

4.21 p.m.

Lord Carver

My Lords, it is a pleasure to follow, although a little way behind, the noble Lord, Lord Vivian, who made his maiden speech. It is particularly appropriate since his regiment was one which had the particular task of leading the way in the Gulf campaign.

I share the concern of my noble friend Lord Chalfont about the potential proliferation of nuclear, chemical and possibly bacteriological weapons. They are weapons that, by all the laws and usages of war, should not be used. They breach both the principle that the degree of force to be used should be proportional to the issue for which the war is fought and that, so far as possible, non-combatants should be protected from the fighting.

There is no doubt that many parts of the world today face actual and potential dangers to stability and to the preservation of the security of the existing political structure, but I think we need to remind ourselves that that does not come primarily from the proliferation of these sorts of weapons. It comes more from proliferation in the numbers of independent states and from proliferation in the conventional arms which have been supported so irresponsibly by the international arms trade.

The noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, came to certain conclusions. First, he came to a conclusion with which I totally agree: that the most energetic possible action needs to be taken to be able to inspect and control the proliferation of these weapons. I do not think I am too keen on GPALS because most of these weapons are designed to fire at people's neighbours, and I am not sure GPALS would help a great deal in that connection. However, I am not an expert on that.

In the short time available to me I should like to concentrate on my disagreement with the noble Lord's last point regarding the maintenance of what is called our own minimum deterrent. He and the noble Lord believe that the danger of proliferation reinforces the need for us to have what is called a minimum deterrent which involves having ready to fire 24 hours a day, 365 days a year (366 this year), a weapon system capable of penetrating an anti-ballistic missile system more sophisticated than the only one in existence today; that is, the one defending Moscow. It is apparently thought necessary in case any of the existing or potential nuclear powers should suddenly decide to fire a nuclear weapon at this country. That has always seemed to me a very unrealistic scenario—it is more unrealistic now than it used to be—and providing against it is a gross form of over-insurance. If we have to have such a minimum deterrent, why does not every other nation need one? It encourages others to think that they should have one and it is therefore useless —indeed worse than useless—as a deterrent against the danger to which the noble Lord's Motion draws attention.

A much better form of deterrent would be the strongest possible effort through the United Nations Security Council to develop an effective method of inspection and control of these weapons, which must somehow be linked to some form of control of the international arms trade in other weapons. The Government pay lip service to that but undermine it by blithely proceeding with a significant increase (although they refuse to say by how much) in the number of warheads for the Royal Navy's strategic strike force, and with the development or purchase of a new nuclear weapons system for the RAF. If the Government are serious in their support of international action against the proliferation of these weapons, which everybody seems to agree is a great danger—indeed, the Prime Minister himself said so on 29th January—they should at least defer the order for the fourth Trident submarine and the plan to order a new warhead for a tactical air-to-surface missile for the RAF.

Three things should be done. First, we should give every support to the United States in its negotiations with the former republics of the Soviet Union in reducing their nuclear arsenals and establishing a secure regime to control them. When those negotiations have produced a reduction to a level at which the British and French arsenals become significant, they also should be involved, but meanwhile they should not be increased. Secondly, we should put all our weight behind developing an effective United Nations inspection and control mechanism to cover as wide a field of armaments as possible, a satisfactory outcome of the Iraqi situation being a vital test of progress in that direction. Thirdly, we should not consider becoming engaged in hostilities against a nuclear power without the support of the United States. I do not believe that that last item would be very difficult. We have been prepared to accept it in Europe for some 45 years, and I cannot see why it should not apply elsewhere.

4.26 p.m.

Lord Boyd-Carpenter

My Lords, it is ironic that after all the rejoicings and the talk of "peace dividend" when the Soviet Union collapsed two years ago it is now realised that the situation is rather more dangerous than it was when NATO and the Warsaw Pact were in balanced opposition. If I may, I should like very quickly, and with the very greatest respect, to differ from the noble and gallant Lord who has just spoken about our major reaction to this situation. I think it would be a fatal mistake to drop Trident and the British nuclear deterrent.

The noble and gallant Lord asks: why should we have it and not other people? The answer is that we in this country have very great responsibilities throughout the world, and we have accepted those responsibilities. We were in fact the only people to fight all through the last war with success, and indeed it was our resistance to German aggression which enabled the allies ultimately to win. We have a very special responsibility, and to give up the four Tridents would be a most damaging mistake. I am only sorry that so distinguished a figure as the noble and gallant Lord should be advocating this. I do not believe that other people accept it.

However, in the very brief time I have, I want to ask my noble friend the Minister two questions. First, can he tell your Lordships what is the position in respect of the nuclear and other arms which I believe are being prepared by Iraq? There is a perfectly clear United Nations Security Council resolution demanding the clearing up of this investigation and the cancellation of these various apparatuses. But what is happening? There seems every reason to believe that Saddam Hussein is continuing with the research and development of nuclear weapons and probably also of chemical weapons. I should like my noble friend to say whether Her Majesty's Government are going to move the United Nations Security Council to secure the implementation of their decision. Simply to wait and hope would be an extraordinarily dangerous thing, because the possibility of someone of Saddam Hussein's already proved tendency to aggression being equipped with weapons of this sort is an extremely dangerous one, and it should be gripped at once.

The only other point I wish to have a little advice upon concerns the standing down of the enormous number of weapons which the Soviet Union has, particularly of a nuclear kind. What is it proposed should be done? As I understand it, you cannot just take nuclear weapons and dump them on a rubbish heap. To demobilise them and take away their destructive power is a long, difficult and technical job. Are we assisting Russia to do that?

Also, are we dealing with the other problem, that the Soviet Union has a number of highly expert scientists and research workers who understand nuclear weapons, how they are made and how they should be handled? What will happen to them when the Soviet Union reduces, as we hope it will, its nuclear capacity? Will they be employed in countries such as Libya, Iraq or half a dozen other countries which are seeking to develop those weapons? Will the Russians take steps to secure that their scientists and technicians are not used in that way, but are given decent and responsible employment at home? That will prevent them being seduced away by high salaries for that purpose. I should be grateful if the Minster will answer those questions when he replies to the debate.

4.30 p.m.

Lord Jenkins of Putney

My Lords, faced with a new danger, those of us who regularly concern ourselves with the safety of our people and of the world are showing signs of coming together. Although we use a different language the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, and I are unusually at one in our anxiety about the development and spread of weapons of mass destruction. My support of his Motion is wholehearted.

That is not to say that I agree with every word that he said, but in general I share his anxiety although we may have slightly different attitudes to the conclusion which we finally reach. Perhaps I may say in brackets that there is no time to pay an adequate tribute to the maiden speech which we have just heard from the noble Lord, Lord Vivian. Perhaps he will have time to express himself at greater length in the future and we shall be able to congratulate him properly then.

Although, as I say, we use a different language, we reach the same conclusion, that the situation is extremely dangerous. The defence analyst Frank Barnaby gave authority to the obvious when he observed recently that the nuclear disarmament on which the great superpower, the United States, and the successors to the Soviet Union are currently engaged does not of itself make the world a safer place. That is the problem.

I shall be able to keep my speech within the five minutes because the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, made one or two of the points which I should have made and he made them much better than I could have done. However, we must ask ourselves what action we can take to improve rather than worsen the situation. It seems to me there is coming about a general view that in our determination to increase the number of nuclear weapons, at a time at which everybody else is trying to decrease them, we are in danger of making the situation worse rather than better. That is now becoming the consensus of opinion on this matter.

The situation is not helped if nuclear reduction by the United States and Russia is accompanied by horizontal proliferation to other countries and by vertical proliferation by Britain. The reason given by our Defence Secretary for the enormous leap upwards in mass destructive power from Polaris to Trident is that we need it to maintain a minimal deterrent. Is it possible for him to believe that a megatonnage of 3,000 or 4,000 Hiroshima bombs is minimal in the face of a collapsed, dispersed and almost disappeared enemy? Seldom in the field of human communication has so lame an excuse been given for such indefensible action. Wittgenstein should be alive to excoriate that. However, even if he were, he could not do much in five minutes.

A number of people from opposite sides of the same problem, equally concerned about it, are coming together and are beginning to move towards a common ground. I found myself in complete agreement with the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Carver, on several points and I hope I shall not embarrass him by saying that. I am fairly sure that I shall not.

Another point about the concentration on Trident is that it destroys the credibility of our Government's adherence to the non-proliferation treaty. In the eyes of non-nuclear nations Prime Minister Major is merely absurd when he ignores Article 6 of the treaty which obliges nuclear nations to reduce and eventually disarm nuclearly. In effect, the Prime Minister says, "Do not do as I do, do as I say".

There is still more that I should like to say but perhaps we shall be able to discuss this subject at greater length on another occasion. I hope that we shall because I can think of no subject which is more important.

4.35 p.m.

Lord Zuckerman

My Lords, if this debate does no more than underline the facts which are common knowledge—namely, that the dangers of proliferation are greater than they have ever been—we shall have achieved very little this afternoon.

It seems to me that the basic problem is to restore to the United Nations the authority which was taken away from it in 1946 when the USSR rejected the Baruch proposal, prepared by Dean Acheson, who was then Deputy Under-Secretary of State, and David Lilienthal. That proposal gave the United Nations the authority to control the development and use of nuclear power for any purpose.

Once the USSR recognised that that would leave the United States with a monopoly of nuclear power it rejected the plan. Once rejected, proliferation began. One of the first proliferators was the United Kingdom and the next proliferator was France. The story about the reasons why we decided to become an independent nuclear power is, I assure your Lordships, extremely interesting.

The effects of the USSR's rejection was, first, the arms race as we know it, and, secondly, the race between the build-up of nuclear weapons and the attempt by technological means to achieve a defence against nuclear attack. The failure to achieve a CTB at the end of the 1950s and early 1960s was due to the fact that the American people had not heeded General Eisenhower's warnings about the increasing strength of the military industrial complex. That prevented President Kennedy from giving the support which he should have given to Mr. Harold Macmillan, then Prime Minister, who was passionately concerned that there should be a successful outcome to the CTB negotiations.

The partial test ban treaty which was achieved in 1963 did little to prevent the build-up of nuclear armaments. Testing increased at a rate which no one had previously expected was possible.

Simultaneously and paradoxically, we worked our way through a non-proliferation treaty to an anti-ballistic missile treaty, to the SALT treaties and, unfortunately, on the other side of the coin, to MIRVs—ballistic missiles which carried up to 15 independently targeted missiles.

The attempt to achieve a technological defence was a romantic myth from the start. SDI achieved nothing but a waste of money. All that has come out of the presumed defensive work that has been done since the 1950s are the Patriots of the Gulf War, whose effectiveness against the enemy Scuds is now a matter of debate. Any argument is now used—a matter on which my noble friend Lord Chalfont and I differ —to keep the SDI going in another form. It is a will-o'-the-wisp. The latest reason put forward by proponents of defence is that a proper SDI system could protect our globe from meteorites.

The offers made to President Yeltsin, who probably knows almost nothing about any of these things, are appalling. Offers that he should join the US in keeping the armaments industry alive are made in the pursuit of an unachievable defence. It is easier to build nuclear weapons—to devise new ones—than to achieve any kind of defence.

Unless authority is restored to the UN, proliferation is bound to occur. Measures must be found to prevent that. We must strengthen, as several speakers have already said, the IAEA. It cannot be strengthened unless new powers are agreed for the UN of which it is the instrument. We should throw open all our nuclear installations rather than a few. With the Russians and the Americans now sharing their secrets, what do we have to lose? It would help to give some moral authority to the IAEA.

The other matter for which the Government should press, as Sir Anthony Parsons said in a recent newspaper article, is a comprehensive test ban treaty. The problem is not to continue with vague concepts of mutual deterrence, but to make as a primary goal the deterrence of proliferation.

4.42 p.m.

Baroness Park of Monmouth

My Lords, I shall confine myself to the threats posed by the former Soviet Union. They are both strategic and tactical. The strategic threat is that we shall eventually be confronted by a modern streamlined military force designed to carry out the Soviet policy of "defence sufficiency", especially if the CIS presidents accept the armed forces package of proposals on 14th February. That is not purely defensive. It will be served by a defence industrial complex which remains part of the command economy and represents 50 per cent. of the whole industrial capacity of the former Soviet Union, and probably a larger proportion of Russian industry. It produced up to capacity in 1991, including a new aircraft carrier and, according to the chairman of the State Committee for Conversion, will determine the level of defence sufficiency before conversion. He said, The policy is to attract foreign partners". Both Bazhanov, the chairman, and the deputy director of the Kurchatov Institute evidently want to solve the problem of the possible brain drain of nuclear and other scientists by setting up joint projects with the US and Russia. That is an excellent way of securing access to Western technology. There are contradictory statements made about the brain drain. Sometimes we are told that nuclear scientists will be driven to accept work elsewhere unless we share our secrets; sometimes we are assured that they will not be allowed to leave for at least 10 years.

On the question of Libya the Kurchatov Institute director made the interesting statement that the Russians set up a nuclear centre in Libya at Tajurah for strictly peaceful purposes some time ago. There were some Russians there; there had been up to 100. The head of the USSR's nuclear programme, Professor Mikhaylov, denied any brain drain. He gave a figure of over 100,000 working in nuclear arms development, of whom 10,000 to 15,000 possess real secret information". The main object seems to be to give the West good reasons to share technology and set up joint projects. The third strand of Soviet strategy is to disarm NATO as far as possible politically as well as militarily while themselves destroying their obsolete weapons to create a modern high tech army. Verification is rapidly being forgotten, but we must surely take note that contradictions between what Boris Yeltsin says and the facts are frequent. As recently as 8th February the Belarus Defence Ministry, quoting statements made both by Yeltsin and Kravchenko that the withdrawal of all tactical nuclear weapons from Kazakhstan and Belarus to Russia was completed on 1st February, said that that, did not accord with the real situation". That is one example.

Equally, despite the fact that the defence/industrial complex continues under state control, military helicopters are being sold to China, and Ldmurtia—a major centre of the military and industrial complex —after a visit from the conversion committee was authorised to produce not consumer goods but arms for sale abroad.

Russian strategy is clearly to end up with a lean, mean army; a defence industrial complex drawing in Western technology and maintaining its nuclear capacity and a climate calculated to disperse NATO's defence capacity. The tactical threats to stability are internal and largely unpredictable. If the armed forces obtain the right answers from the CIS presidents on 14th February, a strong central strategic force and delegated conventional forces, and the necessary budget, one threat will be averted—not the threat of a coup but of uncontrolled and spontaneous demonstrations by the troops. Those are only too probable if they see no prospect of housing, good pay, career prospects and good resettlement terms upon being demobilised.

The disorder would be turned to good account by the right wing opposition to Yeltsin led by Rutskoy, a war hero and vice-president and representing powerful elements of Russian chauvinism. That group would appeal to both injured Russian pride and to fears of Islamic fundamentalism. Rutskoy spoke recently of around 376,000 officers without a flag and deplored the dreadful conditions and the poor pay of the armed forces.

The other most serious tactical threat is the unstable and potentially dangerous condition of many tactical nuclear weapons, even if they have been moved back to Russia. They are badly stored and not yet dismantled. There is an equally dangerous threat to safety posed by obsolete nuclear power stations which have never met Western safety standards. According to a Finnish statement Sweden has been pressing for the closure of several such stations. But the Finns felt that the Russians were unlikely to agree as they needed the cheap energy.

There are all too many examples of high radiation levels about which nothing is done. I believe, with the noble Lord, Lord Vivian—whose maiden speech I heard with great admiration—that it is vital for us to make no serious and irrevocable changes in our defence until the situation in the former Soviet Union is stabilised and we can identify the threat more accurately. And we must retain our deterrent. We are not dealing with ordinary Soviet people but a sophisticated and determined establishment. The KGB in particular is alive and well.

4.48 p.m.

Lord Judd

My Lords, Presidents Bush and Yeltsin are right to come to grips with far-reaching disarmament and arms control measures. As the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, suggested, the concept of an effective global collective defence system based on the strategic defence initiative and built jointly by Russia and the United States at least deserves constructive analysis. It will not be possible to lose the ability to manufacture weapons of mass destruction even when we eliminate existing stocks, as should be our firm resolve. There is evidence that a bright undergraduate with access to all existing publicly available information could, within months, design some sort of nuclear device.

Collective security with an enhanced role for the United Nations, the Secretary General, the Security Council and its own forces, can no longer be regarded as an idealist pipedream. It must become the absolute priority goal in any realistic foreign policy. Trident may be needed to replace the ageing Polaris—but surely it must be Trident pro tern as part of the context for building collective security and moving to collective disarmament, not as a substitute. But why more warheads than Polaris when Bush and Yeltsin are moving in the opposite direction? Is it still to be 300 additional warheads? If not, how many more? Why any more? If Polaris can cope with the updated ABM system round Moscow, what is the new factor to justify more warheads on Trident?

Furthermore, why, in the new political situation, do we continue to target Moscow at all? Without Moscow and its ABMs as a target we could do with fewer and not more warheads than on Polaris. It would always be possible to increase the number if, sadly, any adverse developments necessitated that.

I believe that we can make a powerful contribution to strengthening the cause of non-proliferation if we come out firmly for a strengthened non-proliferation treaty with a more intrusive verification process, backed by tough UN sanctions, against those in breach. But we must understand that our credibility in arguing for that will be related to our own self-restraint on Trident.

We live in an age of cold-blooded, sophisticated terrorism. The crude nuclear bomb, assembled in an urban area from parts brought together in packages, is not an impossibility; nor is the bomb in a container or in a container ship in port; nor even is some device on a civil airliner flying a regular route. Our traditional strategic analysis must not be at the expense of facing the grim but unorthodox as well. We need to consider radical means of controlling all fissile material and its movement around the world.

But, more importantly, we have to recognise that the new hellish dangers that we have been debating this afternoon underline the policy imperative of striving for a fair and just world in which there will be little climate of sympathy for the terrorist. That means the highest priority for draconian control of the arms trade; fair terms of trade in general; space for economic development; debt alleviation; effective and generous aid policies; sane management of the environment; the protection of human rights and, perhaps above all, the promotion of good governance. It is by these positive social and economic policies in the age in which we live that the surest way of building peace and stability for humanity can be secured.

4.52 p.m.

Lord Cheshire

My Lords, the point that I wish to make comes from the very depth of my heart. I was not expecting that the noble Lord, Lord Judd, would make my central point. I thank him. I was not expecting the noble Lord, Lord Kagan, to say that he was looking forward to my speech. I fear I shall let him down. In my mind I go back to that day 47 years ago when I was sent as an official observer to watch the dropping of the atomic bomb that ended World War Two. I had to report back on the implications for the future of air warfare as I saw it.

There was one central point in my mind: that the key to the future lay in the delivery system. It seemed obvious to others and to me that the day would come when any nation with the political will and the money would acquire a nuclear device or something equally bad. Who knows what is coming? What would really count would be the delivery system. Then I saw that coming through space. When I reported back, that opinion was not very well received. People's minds were on peace-time and not on that kind of thing.

The world has now changed with the East-West confrontation gone and with it the military world has changed. But that central point of the delivery system still holds good. While I applaud practically everything that has been said today, and support it, there is one factor that worries me. We have been looking in one direction only; namely, the military means of delivery. That is likely to be a thing of the past. If there were a nation, perhaps a fundamentalist regime, that had a real reason for wanting to hurt us, it possesses the delivery system. As the noble Lord, Lord Judd, indicated, we have civil airlines coming over our airspace every day. One can deliver bacteria in a container and put it in the drinking supply. There are all kinds of undercover ways in which lethal weapons, not just nuclear weapons, can be delivered.

It seems to me that there is only one basic answer. That was pointed out by the noble Lord, Lord Vivian, in his excellent speech, which I much enjoyed. I refer to enhanced intelligence gathering. I know that in this House the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, was asked what precautions he had taken to prevent a disabled Soviet spacecraft falling out of space and landing on the Palace of Westminster. His reply was on the lines of, "The same as I am taking against a number 73 bus crashing into Nelson's Column".

We were warned of that possibility, but we are not being warned of the other possibility of a deliberately lethal cargo being brought here under cover. It follows from that that, if we need global, enhanced intelligence gathering—I say humbly—our intelligence services need bettering. Not only that, but the people who listen to what the intelligence is bringing in need to have open minds. Plenty of intelligence came in in 1938 and 1939, but it was not listened to because people did not believe that that kind of thing could happen. All I am asking is that, whatever our party, whether we believe in abolishing all nuclear weapons or whatever is our position, we should stand together and think in radically new ways about the danger of undercover delivery of a lethal cargo.

It is a privilege for me to take part in this debate, which I believe touches fundamentally the future of the children whom we leave behind us in the new world to come. I end by saying that the noble Lord, Lord Judd, is right that we must build a better society. However, we must also have enhanced global intelligence gathering.

4.58 p.m.

Lord Kennet

My Lords, the prospect for nuclear non-proliferation is not everywhere so dark as it was three months ago. In the two Koreas the US "sunshine" policy has secured the aim of the whole civilised world. US nuclear weapons were withdrawn and both Koreas are now on their way into the IAEA regime and nuclear-free status. I use the word "sunshine" in the Aesopian sense; the sunshine will get the overcoat off your adversary quicker than a strong, cold wind. Yet, oddly enough, President Bush continues to abuse North Korea as if he had not noticed his own success as a sunshine merchant.

The situation as regards India and Pakistan is bad, but not that bad. Pakistan says that it will give up its nuclear weapons—it is only a screwdriver away—if India, which tested a bomb in 1974, does the same. But India will not do so without China, and so forth, as Mr. Hurd found out. In the Middle East itself, Dr. Blix of the IAEA has just been in Syria which has agreed to accept full IAEA safeguards. He and the Syrian Government have espoused the idea of a Middle East nuclear-free zone. Iran has had a visit from Dr. Blix's number two. He has commended its choice of nuclear power for electricity. Iraq is being expensively forced to submit to proper inspection. Here we must note that some of the inspectors have been discovered exaggerating their findings. They are US national inspectors, not IAEA ones.

So where is the real seat of trouble in the Middle East'? Over the years our Government here have denied all knowledge of Israeli nuclear capability. Now they know a great deal. Seymour Hersh's book The Samson Option has now told them, and all of us. It is a remarkable book and is accepted by the knowledgeable, despite one passage added to the British edition, which was wrong, and caused a minor fuss. In previously denying knowledge, Her Majesty's Government were merely doing a good turn towards previous US administrations, going along with their 35 years of silent acceptance of Israel's nuclear capability, which was completely incompatible with their public anti-proliferation policies. US administrations had steered themselves into a cleft stick. They could neither approve in public nor, for several reasons—both honourable and dishonourable—disapprove. So they kept quiet while American millionaires privately paid for Israel's now massive nuclear capability and individuals passed secret information, and perhaps material, and what they did not, Israeli intelligence took, sometimes with strange ease.

The US taxpayer funded the nuclear delivery systems and the US Government provided targeting data so secret that neither NATO nor even this country was allowed them—data which were used by Israel to destroy the Iraqi reactor in 1981. The US taxpayer is now funding an anti-ballistic missile system, or perhaps two, from behind which Israel can only present a yet more alarming aspect to all her neighbours. The possibility of Mr. Sharon succeeding Mr. Shamir will make blood run cold in many neighbouring places.

It is this independent nuclear capability of Israel that stands in the way of a livable Middle East and a livable 21st century. Israel, backed by the United States, remains totally defiant of world law, defying the Geneva Conventions, defying countless Security Council resolutions, standing in military occupation of the territory of its neighbours which it has invaded, and in some cases annexed, and adamant in continuing just like that.

The other Israel must be found. An Israel that can re-enter international legality by returning territory, accepting the resolutions, joining the toughened IAEA which we must now build up in destroying its nuclear warheads, and all the rest. But it will not be found as long as the United States continues to arm it to the teeth, conventionally as well as nuclearly. Meanwhile, successive British governments have trotted obediently behind the regime of connivance in Washington.

However, we have only to say things like that in this House, and ostrich heads opposite go down and from under the sand come mumblings about America-bashing.

5.2 p.m.

Lord Thomas of Swynnerton

My Lords, I listened to the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, with pleasure and appreciation as always. However, I felt that we were beginning to live in a rather surreal world if the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, of all people said that he was almost beginning to yearn for the cosy stability of the cold war. A number of other noble Lords have expressed the same thought. I should not be here making a contribution to this debate if I did not appreciate that we live in a dangerous world. But surely we cannot be living in a world as dangerous as that in which we lived between 1948–49 and 1988, when the two most powerful nations that the world has ever seen had pointed at each other 20,000 nuclear warheads, and, with their allies, were living on a knife edge. The dangers of that are bound to seem overwhelming and extraordinary to future generations.

I return to the present difficulties. I hope I may be forgiven if I devote my speech to a point which was raised by the noble Lord, Lord Zuckerman, when he recalled the efforts made immediately after the war under the name of the Baruch plan to secure international control of nuclear energy. I do this without apology. I mentioned the subject in a defence debate in this House two or three years ago. I would not dream of mentioning it again had it not been for the fact that at a recent discussion on defence in Munich no fewer than three speakers suggested that we should turn our attention back to the idea and the spirit of the Baruch plan. One of those speakers in Munich was Dr. Teller, the father of the H-bomb, the other two were on the one hand a French Gaullist, the other a German Christian Democrat.

The concept Baruch plan is perhaps a misnomer —the noble Lord, Lord Zuckerman, mentioned that. Baruch was the United States financier who President Truman rather unwisely asked to be the chairman of the United States delegation to the first meetings of the United Nations Atomic Energy Commission. The plan was devised in a committee chaired by Dr. David Lilienthal. The core of the scheme introduced was devised by that brilliant and misunderstood scientist Dr. Robert Oppenheimer. It is worthwhile reflecting that, had it not been for the cold war, the disappearance of which we are all aware, we should have lived in a world in which the Baruch plan, the Oppenheimer plan, the Lilienthal plan —whatever you may call it—would have applied to us.

What was the core of the plan? It was that all nuclear development and exploitation should be internationally controlled and that there should be a monopoly of nuclear development. The brilliant element of the scheme was that there would have to be inspectors who, like the International Atomic Energy Agency, would be concerned to detect illegal activity. But also they would be involved in the production and development of the nuclear industry throughout the world so that—and Dr. Oppenheimer made this point extremely strongly—we would have had people conducting the inspection who were as intelligent as those who might be thinking of carrying out a breach of the arrangements.

I believe that in the present circumstances we should go back to look at those schemes of 1945–46 in the new climate and wonder whether we could not see, with the changes in the United Nations, whether they might not again be effectively applied.

5.8 p.m.

Lord Cocks of Hartcliffe

My Lords, I should like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, for introducing this debate. It was certainly a chilling prospect of proliferation which he presented. I was particularly struck by the statistic of 15 third world countries possessing ballistic missiles. The whole question of proliferation was excellently portrayed by the noble Lord, Lord Vivian, in his maiden speech which gave such enjoyment to us all.

I was interested in the remarks of the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Carver, and particularly his comment regarding British nuclear weapons that people will say, "If us, why not others?" I must tell the House that in the 1950s I was a member of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. It seemed to me at that time that a perfectly good intellectual case could be made that while Russia and the United States had nuclear weapons they could be trusted not to use them indiscriminately or to have serious accidents. The great problem was to stop the spread. Therefore, Britain, being the only other nuclear power, was in a unique position to take a lead in the matter.

In fact, I am able to tell your Lordships that I left the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament as a positive measure. My membership did not lapse. My decision to leave the movement was triggered off by the behaviour of some of the supporters of CND at a meeting which Hugh Gaitskell addressed in Gloucester. I was one of the minor acolytes on the platform. Their behaviour towards Hugh Gaitskell so disgusted me that I decided to leave the movement. I now believe that we should retain our deterrent.

I echo the sentiment expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter. He pointed out that, had it not been for the stand made by this country against Hitler in 1940 before others rallied to our cause, the whole map and ethos of the world today would be extremely different. I was surprised that he had to try to generate a little interest today on the part of the Government in celebrating the 50th anniversary of El Alamein in this country as opposed to the country in which the battle took place.

I was interested in the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Kennet. He said that he would be accused of US bashing, an accusation made in a previous debate. I do not think that he was US bashing. I think that he was Israel bashing. However, we are improving matters in your Lordships' House. The noble Lord was the eleventh speaker, and for Israel not to get a caning before the eleventh speaker in a debate of this nature is progress. What he omitted to mention to your Lordships when discussing the possible existence of an Israeli nuclear weapon was the minuscule size of the country and its population in a large hostile area and also the series of attacks which have been launched over the years against the state of Israel.

I conclude by joining the noble Lords, Lord Judd and Lord Cheshire, in speaking about the need for extreme and heightened vigilance against terrorism. I refer not simply to the indiscriminate—or possibly not indiscriminate—and comparatively small incidents but to the possible major intrusions of hidden nuclear weapons into countries by means which noble Lords have already described. We need to upgrade our attitude towards terrorism: it sometimes seems to be lukewarm. If hostages are released after several years of completely unjustified imprisonment, we find people falling over themselves to thank those who deprived them of their liberty for all that time. If the IRA declares that it will have an amnesty on Christmas Day or during the festive season we are supposed to be thankful; in fact, some people do express thanks. The whole thing is abhorrent, and we should upgrade our response to it.

The noble Lord, Lord Kagan, encapsulated the situation that we are in. We have, he said, the best chance of constructing a new world order to deal with these problems but at the same time, and hand in hand with this, we are probably facing one of the worst periods of mortal danger that the world has ever known.

5.14 p.m.

Baroness Strange

My Lords, we are all grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, for initiating this debate, which comes at a most timely moment, and for giving us such a comprehensive review. I should also like to congratulate my noble friend Lord Vivian on his most excellent maiden speech.

The break up of the Soviet empire and the change from one large clear nuclear threat to 100 separate sites in 13 different republics is very reminiscent of Hans Andersen's fairy story, The Snow Queen, whose icy mirror splintered into thousands of little pieces which flew about the world doing far more damage than the single mirror.

The heads of Belarus, Ukraine and Kazakhstan agreed last December to act unilaterally with the Russian president as regards their nuclear weapons, and last month Belarus sent off its first assignment of nuclear weapons to be decontaminated in Russia. The United States of America has already offered 230 million dollars to help to disable weapons and we have offered technical advice. There is much to be done. It is possible that some nuclear devices may be capable of conversion for domestic electricity. All that is good, because it is the enormous quantity of the Russian nuclear weapons—27,000 of them—which is so frightening. Once in the wrong hands, there might be no world left for anyone to debate about.

The current suggestion from President Yeltsin is that President Bush should in some way pay and employ the Russian nuclear technicians—at least 100,000 of them, according to Professor Valeri Mikhail, director of Russia's nuclear programme— and so possibly prevent their services being offered to countries such as Iraq. However, many of the Russian installations are less well insulated and maintained than Western ones and, with lack of finance, could deteriorate. Weapons can seep and become environmental hazards. There is much cause for concern here.

Perhaps the most worrying factor is the severe food shortage in Russia and the growing discontent of the people—and perhaps disenchantment with democracy as they find it. It is a country where prices have shot up, but wages have not. When I was in St. Petersburg last year people were queuing everywhere. "What are they queuing for?", I asked my guide. "In case there is something they can buy", she told me. And when we left, the waiter in the hotel said, "It is sad you are going now. There has been a delivery. Tomorrow you could have had a piece of fresh cucumber."

The situation with the army is worse. Its soldiers are still in East Germany and the Baltic countries in great numbers, because there is nowhere for them to go. There are not enough barracks, not enough houses, not enough jobs; and there is not enough food. It is a situation in which anything might happen; and a very dangerous one.

All we in Britain can do is continue with our Trident system, which will update the current Polaris and give us a very real nuclear deterrent of our own, and at the same time give all the help we can to the Russians to decrease their 27,000 nuclear weapons and help to make their country into a prosperous and peaceful democracy.

5.17 p.m.

Lord Orr-Ewing

My Lords, I am sorry that I was not in my place earlier. I should like to add my congratulations to the noble Lord, Lord Vivian, on a very constructive, courageous and well delivered speech. We hope to hear from him on many occasions in the future.

I should like to deal briefly with some of the reasons why, in contrast to the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Carver, I believe that we should keep and update our nuclear deterrent. The noble and gallant Lord has not changed his view and is always consistent. The first reason is the dangers of a disintegrating Russian empire and the growing capability of third world countries. Every speaker has underlined the dangers, not least the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, who introduced the debate. He was marvellously constructive in putting forward his views. Gorbachev has gone and Yeltsin has told us that he has his own problems. Meanwhile there are 27,000 nuclear weapons—roughly half of which are ICBMs and the rest IRBMs —to be dismantled. That in itself is a terrific problem. There are 3 million Russian troops to be sent home and found jobs and houses. By Russian estimates that will take 10 years. Why then is it suggested that we should not retain our deterrent?

When I was a civil Lord of the Admiralty 30 years ago we were launching the Polaris programme. It was one of the few estimates that I have ever made that has continued to be correct. I said then that it would cost 2.5 per cent. of our defence budget. That is true today. It is 2.5 per cent. so it is not keeping out of the budget other items which would be more useful at the present moment. We are saying that we should have one nuclear submarine at sea at any time which would carry 125 nuclear warheads. The French have five nuclear submarines, not four which is the number that we are planning to have. They deploy over 500 nuclear warheads in them. People forget that fact.

I should also like to suggest that there is one other weapon which can be used against proliferation: we must build up and spend money on the most sophisticated intelligence that we can provide. It was the disintegration under the Freedom of Information Act in America which cost the lives of hundreds of American agents, after many of them had been tortured for information. That had a spin-off for us here at Langley. I believe that we have still not built up Langley to what it was before that time.

I was sorry to see—and I believe that I am right in saying this—that the Labour Party and the Liberal Democrat Party have a freedom of information Act in their manifestos, or at least an intention to introduce one. I ask them to consider most carefully the repercussions that could arise among the 20 or so third world countries which are developing these sophisticated weapons of mass destruction. I personally think that it is unwise to have a freedom of information Act, but there is a huge media boost attached to it. I see that the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Elvel, wishes to intervene. I gladly give way; but I thought that that proposal was in the Labour Party manifesto.

Lord Williams of Elvel

My Lords, it is all subject to security aspects.

Lord Orr-Ewing

My Lords, the Labour Party should come out firmly and take it out. The world would be a better place. We must build up our information services, not do away with them.

In reply to the remarks made by the noble Lord, Lord Cocks, who is a very old friend of mine from cricketing days, I must say that I am sorry to see that the Leader of the Labour Party has still not pulled out of CND. I understand that he is to let his membership lapse. There are between 100 and 130 existing Labour MPs who are still members of CND. That does not apply to this House. They have a very strong Left Wing and potentially sympathetic crowd down the Corridor. Resignation from the CND would not do any harm.

I return to my original message. I plead with the Government to build up the intricacies, the professionalism and the research in intelligence so that we may know what countries are involved. Perhaps we could have stopped Iraq from doing what it did if our intelligence services had been better and had not been destroyed by the Freedom of Information Act.

5.23 p.m.

Lord Mayhew

My Lords, I imagine we would all agree that the major reason why a country declines to renounce weapons of mass destruction is the possession of such weapons by another country. North Korea agreed to renounce nuclear weapons only when it had been assured that the United States was withdrawing its nuclear weapons. Pakistan has hesitated to renounce them because India has them. Iran and the Arab world would certainly be ready to consider renouncing such weapons but for Israel's nuclear monopoly. Thus the cause of nonproliferation lays responsibilities on the "have" as well as the "have-not" nations; indeed, perhaps more on the "have" nations because they have set the pace. If proliferation is a sin, they are the primary sinners.

During the previous debate on this subject I spoke of the need to strengthen IAEA, the need for better intelligence, and so on. I have just enough time to follow the lead of the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Carver, and other speakers in referring to Britain's record on non-proliferation. We were undoubtedly right after the war to decide to produce our own nuclear weapons. But that was an act of proliferation —indeed, of horizontal proliferation. When the Government now increase the firepower of our deterrent and acquire a new and more powerful sub-strategic nuclear missile system, that again will be an act of proliferation—of vertical proliferation. It may not seem so to us because we do not threaten anyone. But what is meant as a deterrent by one country is habitually misinterpreted as a threat by others.

We could perhaps construct a table of honour measuring a country's commitment to nonproliferation. There would be three stars for countries with no nuclear weapons which have pledged themselves not to have them; there would be two stars for countries which have no nuclear weapons but have not yet taken the pledge; there would be one star for nuclear countries which are disarming; and, finally, no stars at all for nuclear countries which are increasing their nuclear weapons. According to such a table of honour, this country would be in the bottom group, along with, probably, China, Israel and France.

Let us take another test of a country's commitment to non-proliferation. It is generally agreed that a classic advance towards a non-proliferation regime could be achieved with signature of a comprehensive test ban treaty. But which countries are obstructing that aim? It is not Israel, France or China; the two countries concerned are the United States, which is disarming, and Britain. To a detached observer, Britain's record on non-proliferation is deplorable.

In his very informative speech the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, set out the case for discouraging the spread of nuclear weapons in every country except Britain. He defended the full nuclear programme of the United Kingdom. That is a strange position. Once again, and quite rightly, the noble Lord declared his interest, which we all understand, as chairman of VSEL. I believe that that enables me to say without the slightest ill will that, if the proposal in his speech was carried out, increases in nuclear weapons would be discouraged in every place in the world except Barrow. I believe that that is correct.

Lord Chalfont

No, my Lords; that is not correct. Perhaps I may give the noble Lord the reason. The missiles and the warheads on Trident submarines have nothing to do with Barrow. We make the submarines.

Lord Mayhew

My Lords, I am talking about the increase in nuclear weaponry, in which I include submarines.

Finally, when the Minister replies, perhaps he will be able to tell us about the dangers of proliferation and about the Government's determination to end it. I hope that he will also say that as a first step the Government propose to put their own house in order and that they have decided not to escalate the firepower of our deterrent and not to continue to obstruct negotiations for a comprehensive test ban treaty.

5.27 p.m.

Lord Williams of Elvel

My Lords, it would be difficult for me, as I am sure your Lordships will understand, to make a comprehensive wind-up speech from the Opposition Front Bench in five minutes, especially on a debate as important as the one introduced today by the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont. However, I have noted one or two points that I should like to put to your Lordships.

First, in his introduction the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, spent a certain amount of time talking about chemical and bacteriological weapons. To my knowledge, no speaker has actually concentrated upon that point. I hope the noble Earl will be able to address it in his reply. I say that because in many ways those weapons are just as important and destructive as the nuclear weapons upon which most speakers have concentrated. The problem of nuclear proliferation arises—as I think the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Swynnerton, recognised, although perhaps in passing—not because we wish to go back to the old regime but because under that regime there was at least a clear identifiable control of these major nuclear arsenals. We may not have liked the form of control, but at least we did not have the chaos that reigns in the former Soviet Union at present.

I turn now to my second question for the noble Earl. I hope that he will be able to tell us what will happen to the tactical nuclears which were in the former Soviet Union. I believe that we are aware of what will happen to the intercontinental ballistic missiles, but it seems to me that the tactical nuclears are spread all over the place. We do not know the Government's view on that aspect of the matter.

As my noble friend Lord Jenkins of Putney reminded us, we must look very closely at Article 6 of the nuclear proliferation treaty. It enjoins us to act "in good faith" and pursue negotiations, on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date". That is a treaty to which we are signatories. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Mayhew: it is very difficult for our Government to go to any other government in the world, be it India, Pakistan, China or any other country, and say, "You have got to accept that you are a non-nuclear country and do not have a deterrent, but we are going to increase our deterrent while we are persuading you to abandon yours".

The things that we have to do: we have to strengthen the non-proliferation treaty. We have, as the noble Lord, Lord Mayhew, said, to support a comprehensive test ban treaty. That will give us some leeway. We must—here I refer to the interesting speech of the noble Lord, Lord Cheshire—try to guard against what I called the other week the nuclear mercenary with the briefcase—the man who just happens to walk across a frontier and into Whitehall and deposits a briefcase with a nuclear device inside. That will happen unless we can guard against it. How we do it, I know not. I hope that the Minister will be able to help us on that point.

If we are to make progress—I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Zuckerman—we must be prepared to accept intrusive verification by the United Nations or the IAEA, whichever body is appropriate.

I agree too with my noble friend Lord Kagan: there are opportunities, but we face enormous dangers. I believe that the Minister is, by now, aware of my party's position on Trident, and so I shall not repeat it. The noble and gallant Lord, Lord Carver, was slightly misrepresented, if I may say so, by the noble Lords, Lord Boyd-Carpenter and Lord Orr-Ewing. I do not believe that he was saying that we should immediately give up the deterrent. He was merely saying that perhaps we should look again at the fourth boat. That is what we wish to do.

This has been a quick, sharp, machine-gun type debate. Many important points have been made. It is now for the Minister to sum up where the Government stand. We hope that when he has done that we shall be much clearer as to how we can get out of the appalling situation in which we are at the moment.

5.32 p.m.

The Earl of Arran

My Lords, we are grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, for bringing this matter to the attention of your Lordships' House this afternoon. It is a subject to which much attention has been paid lately in the media, in the House and in another place. It is understandable that my noble friend Lord Vivian should choose this subject for his maiden speech. I believe that your Lordships will agree that his knowledge and interest in the subject will serve us well in the future.

As the terms of the Motion for debate themselves make clear, weapons of mass destruction represent some of the most serious threats to world peace and security. It is therefore not only right and proper that we should devote as much attention as we can to such issues, it is indeed imperative that we do so. The Government are doing so and will continue to do so.

Our resolve can be seen in the outcome of the recent high-level meeting of the UN Security Council, convened and chaired by my right honourable friend the Prime Minister. British efforts ensured that a substantial part of the statement issued at the meeting concerned issues of arms control and weapons of mass destruction. The statement records the council's view that the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction is a threat to international peace and security. The members of the Security Council committed themselves to working to prevent the spread of technology related to research or the production of weapons of mass destruction. We believe that the Security Council is uniquely placed to help prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. As a permanent member of the council, we have a special responsibility to see that it is successful.

Of all the weapons of mass destruction, nuclear weapons are the most chilling, given their almost infinitely vast destructive potential. In recognition of that, efforts to restrict their proliferation have been under way almost since they were invented. The treaty on the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons is the most visible of those efforts and is the cornerstone of present efforts to prevent nuclear proliferation. The noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, was concerned that the treaty had failed. With nearly 150 states parties, the treaty remains the most successful arms control treaty in existence. It is the only global instrument through which states can make a formal commitment to nuclear non-proliferation, and it represents the international political consensus against the proliferation of nuclear weapons. It is, furthermore, the political vehicle which legitimises action against those, such as Iraq, who seek to break that consensus. The statement issued by the UN Security Council on 31st January recognised its importance and welcomed the recent decision by many countries to accede. The United Kingdom, as a depository for the NPT, has a special responsibility for it and has long championed its cause.

The UK is seeking to combat nuclear proliferation in various ways. The first and most "traditional" way is by seeking to persuade non-states parties to the NPT to accede to the treaty. We have worked hard at that task. The spate of accessions to the treaty since the Gulf War is welcome reassurance that for its part the international community continues to place faith in the treaty. The accession of South Africa and the decisions to accede of France and China are particularly welcome. The United Kingdom will continue to do what it can to persuade other non-states parties to follow suit. We still believe that the best way to achieve a universal nuclear non-proliferation regime would be for all states to accede to the treaty.

Nonetheless, it would be foolish to deny that the experience with Iraq has highlighted certain shortcomings in the workings of the non-proliferation regime which have to be examined urgently if the NPT is to continue to maintain international credibility. I can assure the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, that the United Kingdom, together with other like-minded states, is addressing those shortcomings. Together with our EC partners, we have made a series of proposals to the IAEA for a strengthening of its safeguards regime. We have supported, in particular, greater use of special inspections which would allow suspect but undeclared sites to be visited. We have, by the way, been advocating the use of such inspections since before the Gulf War. We hope that in that way we can prevent other states party to the NPT from emulating Iraq. We stand ready to do everything we can to make such a system work. I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Thomas of Swynnerton for the remarks he made.

I can also assure the noble Lords, Lord Chalfont and Lord Zuckerman, that the NPT is not without teeth. It requires all parties to implement the safeguards agreement with the IAEA. If safeguards are violated, the IAEA statute requires the violator to be reported to the Security Council and the General Assembly. It is then up to the Security Council to take appropriate action.

The disintegration of the former Soviet Union has created new challenges for the non-proliferation regime which require new thinking. The Soviet Union had, after all, the largest nuclear arsenal of them all. There is a clear danger that some of the huge reservoir of now redundant nuclear materials, technology and scientists it has bequeathed may find their way into the wrong hands. My noble friend Lord Vivian emphasised that point.

Clearly, the responsibility for combating the risk of proliferation caused by that situation lies first and foremost with the states of the former Soviet Union themselves. We have encouraged them in that task and have made clear to them consistently the significance we attach to their commitment to non-proliferation in developing bilateral relations with them. My right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary underlined that concern personally last month on his visit to Russia, Ukraine and Kazakhstan. But, clearly, we must also do more than just urge good behaviour from the sidelines. And we are doing more than that, in close consultation with our allies.

When President Yeltsin called on the Prime Minister on 30th January, they discussed those ideas. They agreed the offer which my right honourable friend the Secretary of State had made to Marshall Shaposhnikov at their earlier meeting, that the United Kingdom should send a team of experts to Russia to identify where the West might be able to assist in the process of eliminating surplus nuclear weapons, of interest to my noble friend Lady Park. That team led by the Ministry of Defence's principal technical adviser on nuclear matters has been in Moscow this week. The team also included experts in the storage and handling of nuclear warheads and materials, and in nuclear fuel technology. Their task was essentially fact finding: to establish Russian requirements at first hand. I understand that the discussions have been constructive. We shall be considering what assistance we may be able to offer in the light of their report, and consultations with allies. My noble friend Lord Boyd-Carpenter referred to that point.

The Prime Minister and President Yeltsin also discussed the risk of the proliferation of scientific expertise in the field of weapons of mass destruction and the steps the Russians are taking to prevent it. They agreed that we should have further discussion on how best we can help the Russian Republic and the other states of the former Soviet Union to use the talents of their scientists in the cause of peace. We shall follow up those discussions vigorously.

Given the uniquely destructive nature of nuclear weapons, it is sometimes easy to overlook the dangers of chemical weapons and biological weapons. That point was brought up by the noble Lord, Lord Williams. It would be wrong if we were to do so.

The Government currently estimate that 20 countries possess or are seeking to possess a chemical weapons capability. As noble Lords will be aware, the Gulf crisis added further impetus to our efforts to prevent the proliferation of chemical weapons.

One of the ways to prevent this proliferation of chemical weapons is through an international treaty to ban them. It is one of this Government's arms control objectives to secure a global and effectively verifiable ban on chemical weapons. The UK has made a major contribution to the negotiations for a chemical weapons convention at the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva, and we will press for the convention to be concluded in 1992. The importance of securing a convention was emphasised in the presidential statement made by the Prime Minister at the Security Council Summit on 31st January, in which all Security Council members reiterated their support for efforts to complete the negotiations in 1992.

Biological weapons are also of great concern. The Government currently estimate that 10 countries possess or are seeking to possess a biological weapons capability. A treaty banning biological weapons does already exist. The Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention of 1972 was the first multilateral arms control treaty aimed at the complete elimination of an entire category of weapons. The convention has not eradicated the threat posed by biological warfare, as events demonstrated in the Gulf.

The Third Review Conference of the BTWC took place in Geneva from 9th to 27th September 1991. The UK played a major role in the negotiations and achieved two of our objectives at the conference strengthening the convention. The first was a decision to establish an ad hoc group of experts to identify and examine potential measures of verification. The second was to make major improvements in the confidence building measures, which provide for the exchange of information between states parties to the convention.

It is also possible to prevent the proliferation of chemical and biological weapons by the implementation of export controls. The international forum for co-ordinating action on national export controls against the proliferation of chemical and biological weapons is the Australia Group, a point brought out by the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont. It was set up in 1985 under Australian chairmanship. It comprises EC member states, New Zealand, USA, Canada, Japan, Norway, Switzerland, Austria, Sweden and Finland. Meetings are informal and controls agreed by member states are implemented on a national basis. As the Prime Minister said in New York recently, the United Kingdom has decided to apply controls over specific biological materials as a further strengthening of our control system.

We are already seeking meetings with the Commonwealth of Independent States on export controls on proliferation. We welcome the Russian announcement that they will introduce export controls and that they support the efforts of the Australia Group.

The threat posed by weapons of mass destruction such as nuclear, chemical and biological weapons, depends also on the means of delivering them. I think it therefore appropriate to say something about the British Government's efforts to control proliferation of ballistic missiles.

The attempts by some countries to buy or produce weapons of mass destruction have been matched by equally disturbing attempts to acquire ballistic missiles. These systems are uniquely destabilising. Their use against civilian targets by Iraq has further underlined the need to prevent their proliferation.

That is why we and our G7 partners set up the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) in April 1987. Members now meet more frequently to exchange information and to take stock of current performance. The effectiveness of the regime has also been enhanced by the adoption of an updated and expanded annex detailing the equipment and technologies covered by the regime. We are looking too at improving harmonisation of implementation by all member countries.

I should now like to address points raised by noble Lords this afternoon. The noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, asked for our views on GPALS. The United Kingdom approach to anti-ballistic missile defences remains based on the six points agreed by the then Prime Minister and President Reagan in 1984 and 1986. Recent announcements have been related to defences against limited ballistic missile strikes, as President Bush said, without undermining the credibility of existing deterrent forces. We now come to Trident. The noble and gallant Lord, Lord Carver, questioned the need for the capability which Trident will provide, but we will need to bear in mind that the development of an anti-ballistic missile defences amendment to the 1972 ABM treaty so as to allow an increase in size of ABM defences seems increasingly probable. President Yeltsin spoke of the possibility of a global defence system.

The noble Lord, Lord Jenkins, as is his wont, questioned Trident, but I say to him that our commitment is to maintain a minimum deterrent. We shall deploy no more warheads than are necessary to achieve this. It is entirely consistent with our obligations under the nuclear non-proliferation treaty which does not prohibit the maintenance of an effective and up-to-date deterrent.

Polaris came in in the mid-1960s; Trident will take us well into the next century. That is the point I wish to make to the noble Lord, Lord Judd, and which was totally understood by my noble friends Lady Strange and Lord Orr-Ewing.

The noble Lord, Lord Zuckerman, mentioned the issue of a comprehensive test ban. The United Kingdom's position continues to be that as long as our requirement for a minimum nuclear deterrent remains, we will need to undertake underground nuclear tests from time to time, to maintain the effectiveness and safety of our nuclear weapons.

The noble Lord, Lord Kagan, and the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Carver, as well as my noble friend Lord Boyd-Carpenter, referred to the role of the United Nations, especially in Iraq, in international police or monitoring forces. The Government not only support but in many cases have led efforts in the United Nations in the non-proliferation field. The UN register of arms transfers, the special commission in Iraq and the resolve on arms control and proliferation displayed by the Security Council at the meeting presided over by my right honourable friend the Prime Minister last month come immediately to mind.

The noble Lords, Lord Kennet and Lord Cocks, commented upon Israel's nuclear programme. We have no firm evidence, either to confirm or deny the rumours that Israel may have nuclear weapons. There have been repeated assurances from the Israeli Government that they will not be the first to introduce nuclear weapons into the Middle East. We wish to draw attention to the support which we have given to the proposals to create a Middle East free of weapons of mass destruction.

The noble Lord, Lord Cheshire, and my noble friend Lord Orr-Ewing commented upon the requirement and necessity for intelligence. Clearly, in the fight to combat proliferation, reliable information is a key asset. Noble Lords would not expect me to comment in detail upon this issue.

The noble Lord, Lord Mayhew, talked about non-proliferation. The non-proliferation treaty is the cornerstone of the international nuclear nonproliferation regime. The NPT enhances the security of parties by constraining the acquisition of nuclear weapons by other countries. This will continue to be the case, whether or not the CTB is agreed. We do not believe that a ban on testing would change the policies of states not currently parties to the NPT or that current parties would abandon their treaty obligations because a comprehensive test ban was not in prospect. A test ban would not stop proliferation. Iraq came close to achieving a nuclear capability without testing.

I can say to the noble Lord, Lord Williams, that regarding tactical weapons, it was agreed at Alma-Ata and Minsk that tactical weapons outside Russia would be transferred to central facilities by 1st July this year for dismantling.

In conclusion, I sum up by saying that I believe that what I have had to say tonight on behalf of the Government represents the clear proof of the urgency with which the British Government are tackling the issues on non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. I can assure your Lordships that the British Government for their part will not slacken in their efforts to combat the menace presented by these weapons. We are confident that they will have the support of all those in your Lordships' House in their endeavours.

5.48 p.m.

Lord Chalfont

My Lords, there are many points in the interesting debate tonight that I should like to take up, but of course this is not the time to do it. I was not especially enlightened by the noble Earl's comments on GPALs. I had hoped to obtain a little more from him about the Government's attitude, but perhaps we may return to that at a later date.

I wish to set the mind of the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Swynnerton, at rest. Irony is a fragile rhetorical device and it usually comes to pieces in one's hands. It came to pieces in mine today. I certainly did not wish to give any impression that I should like to see the cold war back and I hope that he will accept that from me.

I am grateful to all noble Lords who took part in the debate. The noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Putney, had me worried for a while, but we ended up far enough apart to keep us both happy. I wish also to express my appreciation to the noble Earl for the full and informative way in which he replied to the debate. I beg leave to withdraw the Motion.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.

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