§ Debate resumed.
§ 4.12 p.m.
§ Viscount Trenchard
My Lords, my noble friend Lord Cathcart has introduced this important debate in his characteristic way: very constructively and in a way which can only help this House to make another important contribution to our national security. The Motion both separates and yet links what is called conventional defence on the one hand and nuclear weapons and deterrents on the other.
I agree with a great deal of what my noble friend 1362 has said in relation to deterrents and in relation to the vital importance of NATO. I will leave some of the points he particularly drew to the Government's attention in relation to the hot-line until later. I will, I hope, as I progress answer to a degree, directly or indirectly, the points that the noble Lord, Lord Brooks of Tremorfa, has raised, and many of the points that the noble Lord, Lord Mayhew, also raised.
Let me, at the start, make quite clear that the Government regard nuclear weapons as an absolutely integral part of our overall defence contribution to NATO. Furthermore, my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Defence has several times this year stressed the fact that as a contribution to our defence effort and to deterrence, the independent nuclear weapons represent possibly the best value within our defence budget. The consistently repeated idea that it is the British expenditure on nuclear weapons that has caused us to curtail some areas of our conventional defences, like surface ships, is persistent but wrong.
It does not seem to matter how often Government spokesmen for defence reiterate that no more than 3 per cent. of the defence budget over 15 years is likely to be spent on Trident. Cuts in the numbers of some of our conventional forces, viewed against budget increases of 3 per cent. per annum in real terms, seem to lead to the irresistible, but erroneous, conclusion that "Trident causes cuts". Perhaps it is because we have not sufficiently explained the real causes for some cuts in numbers that this myth—for myth it is—persists.
My Lords, I hope that as I continue I will answer to a degree the points that have already been made by the noble Lord, Lord Mayhew. Our expenditure on Trident has barely started, so that it is fact that Trident has played no part in the constraints on conventional numbers within our current budgets. That the provision of Trident could play, over some 15 years, an approximate 3 per cent. part in any future constraint is undeniable, but that is the order of it. However, as we have said so often, the costs of Trident will be significantly less than, for instance, the Tornado programme, which at the present time is at its peak.
There has been much conjecture and there was more already today about whether our estimates are reliable, and there has particularly been conjecture in the media. I have seen huge estimates and the noble Lord, Lord Brooks of Tremorfa, suggested that we might finally pay double. These estimates, so far as I am aware, are nearly all made after taking account of future inflation—that is, comparing prices in 1980 in which we made our estimate against our defence estimates as a whole in 1980 prices with prices at any year in the future that the particular commentator wishes to take. These estimates, by definition, are misleading. I would again point out in this respect that the Polaris programme was carried out virtually within the original estimate. The D5 option which is now available to us but upon which we have not yet taken a decision, will not alter the fact that Trident will take only a very small percentage of our total defence budget.
As I have said, the failure to accept the Government statement that Trident is not the cause of the strains on the conventional budget may be due to lack of full comprehension of what the real reason is. It is, of 1363 course, the escalation of costs of all modern sophisticated equipment and weaponry. This point was touched upon, together with the growing budget expenditure, by the noble Lord, Lord Brooks of Tremorfa. I hope that as I progress I will give some answers to the way the Government intend to control this upward cost escalation which is taking place.
When we say that the defence budget is, at the moment, increasing by 3 per cent. per annum in real terms, we mean real terms over and above inflation rates. These, in the main, measure the rise in prices of the same items from year to year. While for other programmes, including items like schools and office buildings, this approach measures the approximate rise in price per unit, it does not measure the cost of defence equipment such as warships or combat aircraft.
Defence equipments have consistently gone up by factors between 6 per cent. and 10 per cent. per annum above the national inflation level. I have expressed this price increase on a per annum basis, although of course the major jumps take place between generations such as between the Leander class frigate and the Type 22s; and, for aircraft, between the Hunter and the Harrier or the Lightning and the Tornado. For ships and aircraft, these step changes average out at 10 per cent. per annum above national inflation.
To really rub this situation home I have extended some of these examples on a straight-line basis, taking the actual lines of past years as the base. On that basis, and assuming that ships and aircraft were allotted the same share of an inflation-proof budget, then we should be able to purchase only one combat aircraft to replace our Tornado force in 62 years' time and only one frigate to replace our Type 22 force in 29 years' time.
This does not mean for one moment that the Government accept that this cost-escalation will continue or can continue on a straight-line basis, and my right honourable friend and his predecessor have been taking active steps to moderate the increasing costs. The cost of sophistication is the real problem; the strategic deterrent is not. That is why nations like the Federal Republic of Germany have exactly the same problems with their defence budget as does this country, even though they have never been in and are not in the business of producing nuclear weapons.
There are two main reasons why the cost of modern weapons has escalated much more rapidly than prices in the economy generally. The first is the technological revolution which has a greater impact on the scope for sophistication of defence equipment than for any other industry that I know; and the second is the fact that this huge scope for the production of devastatingly more powerful weapons and equipment is being used by the Soviet Union, spending 14 per cent. of its gross domestic product, to increase the sophistication of the threat. Indeed, one has to wonder whether those who sometimes give the impression of regarding conventional war as not too bad, in contrast with nuclear war, really understand the devastating power of today's conventional weapons.
My Lords, the Government are trying to bend this cost-escalation line in order to obtain what my right honourable friend the Secretary of State described as a balance between sophistication and numbers.
1364 We are taking action in the following ways. First of all, our Chiefs of Staff and their expert advisers are examining much more critically the operational requirements that they would ideally like to have in each generation of weapons. They realise that new technology can very often be 100 times more expensive than repeated technology, and they are trying to select a much smaller percentage of new technology, involving key areas only, in each system or equipment.
Secondly, the Ministry of Defence at every level is endeavouring to work much more closely with executives and experts in defence industries to try to arrive at the most economic way of meeting operational requirements or indeed of performing major roles. We are determined that there should be flexibility in the requirements, in order to use all the relevant brains to arrive at more economic ways of meeting the modern and more sophisticated threat.
Thirdly, and in the dialogue which I have described, all parties are trying to arrive at specifications for equipment which will meet a bigger segment of the world market than can possibly be represented by this country's requirement on its own. This involves a great deal of thought at an early stage on possible future security problems, on national policies in those countries where there may be scope for sales and of industry's assessment of market opportunities and the likely future strengths of competitive industries in other countries.
Fourthly, we must improve international collaboration. Although the history of collaboration is a chequered one, it must be sensible to continue to encourage international collaboration first and foremost at an industrial level and, on that base, to follow up with major international collaborations at Government level. Somehow we must cease to be so vulnerable to the determination of each national industry to do the same things in each country. I do not expect very fast progress but I believe that there are chances of selection of areas in which industries of different European countries will, in the future, place more emphasis.
Fifthly, there is the particular importance of the two-way street between the USA and Europe. This debate gives me the first parliamentary opportunity I have had to express my delight at the choice by the United States' Navy of the BAE Hawk trainer. This programme should be worth at least £500 million to British industry and is, therefore, a particularly welcome addition to the AV8B programme for our aerospace industry. The two projects total around £1½ billion and should sustain around 7.500 job opportunities. With the very helpful attitude of the American Administration, I am quite certain that we shall make the two-way street work better in the future than it has on every occasion in the past.
There are other ways in which the Government are trying to bend the upward line of cost-escalation of equipment and weapons. We must do so because we need a rising proportion of our budget to spend on new areas of weaponry. For instance, new technology will provide the opportunity for destroying airfields by stand-off weapons and the opportunity for destroying echelons of advancing armour by totally novel methods. We need to use our technological abilities in the Alliance to push forward these possibilities if 1365 the numbers preponderance of the Warsaw Pact is not to gain the upper hand. They, too, are now pushing forward research and development in many of these areas. We need the money for these.
My Lords, I hope I have given some idea of some of the main real problems affecting our vital defence effort at present, and perhaps put in perspective, from a cost point of view, the question of nuclear weapons. I will, if I may, leave for my reply on behalf of the Government the points which were made by my noble friend Lord Cathcart in relation to sea routes and air defence.
The vital contribution to deterrence of nuclear weapons is a separate subject from that of cost with which I have dealt. My noble friend has already mentioned my previous reference to a 60 per cent. increase in the conventional armaments of the NATO Alliance as being necessary not to achieve parity but to achieve a level at which we would feel, on a conventional basis, that we had near enough parity. Even if that was to be so spent, it does not remove the possibility of nuclear blackmail at more than one level.
I think some Members of this House, and probably large numbers of those who have been influenced by the campaigns of the CND in the past, have wondered whether the NATO Alliance were really giving sufficient urgency to the question of disarmament. There has undoubtedly been a period in the USA—and I do not think there is any need to push our principal ally—and also in this country perhaps, during which, as a result of our democratic processes, new Administrations have been taking stock of the Soviet response to the marked restraint that NATO has shown in recent years in the modernisation of its nuclear forces, especially in the field of intermediate range weapons. It has seemed that the Warsaw Pact and the Russians have not responded. Neither did they respond to the unilateral withdrawal by the USA of 1,000 nuclear warheads completed earlier this year. This hardly supports those who believe in unilateral disarmament and who believe—or, perhaps, one should say who ideally hope—that a unilateral gesture would produce a response. Only when the Alliance agreed to modernise its own forces and to propose limits at equal levels, did negotiations become a real prospect. President Reagan's zero option proposal, put forward at the start at the intermediate range nuclear weapon discussions, now offer the chance of making significant multilateral progress.
I take with a pinch of salt the media's report that Mr. Brezhnev is not convinced of the American or NATO desire for peace and disarmament. There can be many arguments about what is a fair balance of deployments of nuclear weapons, according to whether you add up systems, missiles, warheads, size of warheads, accuracy of missiles, vulnerability of launch bases and penetration ability of different generations of weapons. But zero is zero is zero. Of course, you can still argue about which weapon categories zero is to apply to. As proposed by President Reagan, it is to apply to land-based intermediate-range nuclear missiles; that is, those capable of hitting all Western European countries from bases in the USSR or vice versa.
1366 This is the area to which many of Mr. Brezhnev's proposals have themselves been addressed. If the USSR wish to bring other systems, including strategic ones into the comparison, or even the shorter-range missiles on both sides, then the observer should note that, while there is a near balance in the long-range strategic weapons as a whole, the Soviet Union has the greater total numbers of submarine-launched systems and modern aircraft. There are two areas to which the Russians have drawn attention in response to President Reagan's proposals. The Soviet Union also has a greater number of shorter-range missiles.
Furthermore, we must remember that, at the strategic level, President Reagan has put forward a second proposal that the SALT talks, which cover submarine-launched ballistic missiles, such as Poseidon, should become START talks to reduce strategic weapons rather than just to limit them. Nor must we forget the preponderance of conventional weapons held by the Warsaw Pact.
I hope that I have answered the request of the noble Lord, Lord Mayhew, that we add up all warheads. It is not quite as straight forward as that. But I believe that, given time and by next year, as my noble friend the Foreign Secretary said in the debate on the gracious Speech, the American proposals will cover virtually the whole area. I do not believe that there has been a necessity to push the USA. I believe it is right that the talks should be mainly on a two-party basis. There are consultative machineries—and I shall go into them in detail—and there are hot lines and special lines for consultation between ourselves and other European countries and the Kremlin. In the wind-up, I should like to go more fully than time will allow me now into those points which both my noble friend Lord Cathcart and the noble Lord, Lord Mayhew, mentioned.
The Government recognise that the Soviet Union's belief in the inevitability of the continuing spread of Russian power is totally different from the aims of the West. But we still hope, and indeed believe, that the Soviet Union does share the burning self-interest to avoid a major catastrophe and, also, a desire to reduce the cost of nuclear weapons. We believe that these two points will ensure that the talks will slowly lead to practical disarmament steps.
I, too, was amazed at the initial reactions of the British CND to President Reagan's proposals. But I note, as the noble Lord, Lord Mayhew, has noted, that there are changes in emphasis. I should like to say that I welcome them and I shall not say what I had drafted in this speech, when I had not read the most recent replies. I hope that we are, perhaps, moving nearer to agreement on multilateral steps to maintain the peace and to reduce the armaments on both sides. I shall leave the rest of my comments to later. I again thank my noble friend for introducing this debate and, at a later stage, I shall round up a few more of the questions that I have already been asked.
§ 4.35 p.m.
The Lord Bishop of Durham
My Lords, I, too, should like to start by thanking the noble Earl, Lord Cathcart, for giving us another opportunity to debate this vital subject. Since we discussed it in the debate on the gracious Speech, I have had the unusual privilege 1367 of being chairman of an international hearing on nuclear weapons, sponsored by the World Council of Churches in Amsterdam—a very remarkable gathering, which brought together many responsible and well-informed people sharing many different opinions from most parts of the world, except China.
Some may have seen on the television programme "Everyman" that the hearing happened to coincide with a massive anti-nuclear demonstration in Amsterdam on the day on which we started. I should like to make it clear to your Lordships that, from the point of view of the WCC hearing, this was entirely coincidental. I think that the Amsterdam demonstrators chose a convenient date. We were, of course, very much aware of what had just taken place in the city, and of the presence of powerful members of anti-nuclear movements at the hearing. But the hearing itself was an open one, which genuinely tried to hear all points of view and listened to very hard evidence from very well-informed people.
Perhaps I may take a moment or two, in view of the Question at the beginning of this afternoon's Session, just to say one word about anti-nuclear movements. In the Netherlands, of course—and we were particularly conscious of the movement in the Netherlands—the leadership has for a long time been in the hands of the churches. The present mood in Holland, is I believe, really the result of about 18 years of very patient and thorough education by a large section of the churches in that country.
I picked up one interesting little piece of evidence relating to our own country, and, in particular, the CND, when one evening I happened to have supper beside a charming girl, who was a very keen member of the CND in this country and who, not very long ago, with two friends, had started a CND branch in one of the major cities of this country. Within a comparatively short time, these three had obtained 1,000 members—very ordinary citizens and students, for it is a university city.
Just before the annual meeting, the branch was suddenly joined by 350 members of radical left organisations, who took over the annual meeting, elected their own members and immediately passed restrictive rules, such as that nothing could emerge from the branch without the signature of the radical left chairman. This poor girl, who had started with the best of intentions, found herself bewildered and out of her political depth. I do not say that that happens everywhere, but it certainly does happen.
Let me pass on the fruits of one conversation about some of the movements in the East. I was able to talk with a Hungarian Ambassador from the Hungarian Foreign Ministry about the significance of those movements, the extent to which they were politically controlled and why they simply demonstrated against United States weaponry and not against weaponry of the Soviet Union. This delightful ambassador looked at me pityingly and then smiled and said, "Well, what do you really expect?" One can be naive in imagining that there could be popular protest movements on the other side of the Iron Curtain but this is not a reason for totally discounting them and imagining that the political apparatus there is so powerful that, simply by the wave of a wand, one can put half a million people 1368 on the streets. There is genuine feeling there, but it is feeling which inevitably, because of the situation, has to take a different form.
I say that by way of preface. If the Churches begin to move more firmly into this particular area of antinuclear protest, or whatever it is, it is not because they are unaware of the political dangers but because they see that there are genuine moral issues at stake which must not be left solely to political extremists. The hearing—which was of course a Christian hearing but which heard evidence from many who were not Christians—was in no doubt about the moral dimension of this problem. We said, and I am sure the Churches will go on saying (as will a great many other people) that all war is evil, that nuclear war would be an unmitigated evil, that the intention to use nuclear weapons, however nobly motivated, shares in that quality of evil and that therefore our ultimate goal must be nuclear disarmament, not just as a pious hope but as a moral imperative.
This is to say nothing in advance about political realities or about what can be achieved through negotiations. It is to specify a direction. I believe that we do need to specify a direction, loud and clear, and to convey a sense of urgency. I believe that this is politically helpful rather than politically threatening. It can help to strengthen political will on both sides of the Iron Curtain.
Much of the anger that we are witnessing stems from the belief, rightly or wrongly, that politicians believe in their heart of hearts that nuclear war really would be all right. I know that this is a travesty but that is how people see what those in the political sphere are doing and saying. if we wish to defend the retention of nuclear weapons as the lesser of two evils—all right, we may be able to do so; but we need to be clear that the lesser of two evils is still an evil and not a good. if we are not clear about this, then the moral sense becomes dulled and we begin to get that loose talk about nuclear war which causes such outrage. The hearing spoke about the delegitimisation of nuclear weapons, not as a realistic goal now but as an ultimate goal. I believe that this is something which we need to keep in front of us.
In the meantime, we have negotiations. We had a very careful look at negotiations which have taken place in the last 30 or so years. We recognised, and were grateful for, some of the good things which have come out of them, but we also recognised some of the ambiguities. It was interesting that there were some disturbing criticisms of the negotiating process, particularly from some of our United States witnesses who conceded that negotiations have never yet forced either side to give up anything that it really wanted to keep.
Of course, we all hope for the success of the Geneva talks. I fully endorse many of the things which have been said already about these. But again it was some of the Americans at the hearing who were inclined to put a slightly cynical interpretation on them and who said that by going for a zero option the United States can in fact get the best of many worlds: as a result of negotiation it will in the end probably get some Pershing Hs and cruise missiles but not as many as it first bid for; it will placate the anti-nuclear lobby; and it will gain a good deal of international credit in the process. This 1369 is, as I say, a cynical interpretation. It is not one which we need necessarily share. But looking back at the progress of some past negotiations one can see that similar sorts of things have happened.
We were made very conscious at the hearing of the extent to which the concept of parity not only makes negotiations unbelievably complicated and protracted but ultimately has a tendency to stultify them because it is an unattainable ideal. In all discussions of parity in nuclear weapons one is dealing with things which are not strictly comparable. Even if one could match weapon systems and conventional forces against one another in an agreed balance, one would still be faced with the differences in geography between East and West which are as important a factor in the overall strategic balance as the actual numbers of weapons. One is also—this was a new point to me—made very conscious in these East-West negotiations of the different philosophies of two very different cultures, one of which tends to go for a labour intensive solution to its problems and the other of which tends to go for a capital intensive solution to its problems. Perhaps one can see the massive Soviet build-up of conventional arms in those terms quite illuminatingly.
It is to this kind of stalemate, then, that proposals about limited unilateral initiatives are directed. I would stress and underline the phrase "limited unilateral initiatives". It is quite wrong to interpret this as if it implied a policy of surrender. It needs to be distinguished very carefully from a policy of unilateralism tout court. It is a policy of initiatives within a general policy of multilateral negotiations. These are seen as deliberate attempts to break the log jam. We had examples in the speech of the noble Viscount, Lord Trenchard, which made the point that such initiatives have been taken before and that no response has been received. One could go into a Russian gathering, as I have been, and hear Russians making precisely the same point: that they, too, have taken initiatives which have received no response from the West. I think that the only thing to do is to say: Do not let us be discouraged but let us take the Russians at their face value in their insistence on parity and call their bluff.
§ Viscount Trenchard
My Lords, if the right reverend Prelate would be so kind as to give way for one moment, I should like to ask him which unilateral gestures of the Soviet Union in recent years he has in mind?
The Lord Bishop of Durham
My Lords, I was afraid that question would come. It is not something which I have prepared for and I do not have documentation upon it. I should not have said what I did had the noble Viscount not made the point in his speech. I can go back to my documents and try to satisfy him, but I am afraid that I shall have to do so by writing to the noble Viscount.
As I was saying, I believe that there is a case for calling the Soviet bluff by taking seriously their demand for parity and leading them into step by step reductions. This is not to negotiate from weakness. One of our witnesses at the hearing was Mr. McGeorge Bundy, who is by no means an innocent in these matters. He startled the hearing by saying that the United States could reduce its nuclear arms by 50 per cent. 1370 without any significant loss of security. The point is to call the Russian bluff and to call it with maximum publicity on the international stage.
Another aspect of Russian policy which came over very strongly in our discussions was their total rejection of the concept of limited nuclear war. One can well understand their reasons for holding to this policy. But I am not sure that its implications seem to have been fully accepted by NATO, because if as we are constantly told deterrence is in the eye of the beholder, and if the Russians resolutely refuse to see a limited nuclear exchange as anything but an invitation to all-out nuclear war, then it seems to me that a new element of uncertainty is added to NATO policy. We might simply intend to warn; we do not know how fervently the USSR would adhere to its stated policy, if the worst were to happen. But surely the fact that we do not know this and that we would be going against what they themselves have repeatedly said tends to undermine the credibility which theatre nuclear forces are supposed to provide. I am bound to say that the hearing was very sceptical about NATO policy on this point.
Finally, let me say a word about our own nuclear deterrent. It was humbling to be in an international setting and to be made aware in that setting of the relative insignificance of our own nuclear forces. I believe that we delude ourselves if we imagine that we have any real influence on the strategic balance between East and West, as that balance is at present. One asks: What of the future? We are sometimes told that the real purpose behind renewing our nuclear capability is to provide us with some insurance against an unknown and possibly dangerous future, but my guess is that in 10 years' time our real security problem will not be East-West confrontation but the proliferation of nuclear weapon states, unless in the meantime we do something about it. This is where, I believe, our own nuclear capacity does have a real bargaining value—not in relation to the Russians, because if we abandoned Trident, the Russians would hardly notice, but we could take the lead among some of the smaller nuclear states in strengthening the non-proliferation treaty and giving it some real teeth by showing that we at least are prepared to take seriously its provisions about moving in the direction of nuclear disarmament. I believe this could be a very powerful card for Britain to play at the next United Nations' special session on disarmament and could perhaps lead to some real movement on the world scene in relation to proliferation.
Such a policy, and what I said earlier in my speech about moral imperatives, very frequently gets dubbed by politicians as hypocritical. They say, "You say all that and yet we continue to rely on the United States' nuclear protection". But this is to miss the point. I am not saying, let us take an attitude of moral superiority and wash our hands of these things. I am saying, let us as allies share the moral responsibility and see how best we can play our cards together. If Britain can give an impetus to non-proliferation, then this is to everybody's gain, including that of the United States.
To discuss these matters as we did, in the context of many third world representatives, who often feel frustrated by their exclusion from disarmament nego 1371 tiations, can be a painful experience. It is to be made aware of the longing for some real lead from the nuclear nations in the direction of a saner world. I believe that this serious step towards strengthening the nonproliferation treaty could be the kind of leadership which Britain really could give and would be our best way of contributing to world peace and to our ultimate security.
§ 4.56 p.m.
§ Lord Kennet
My Lords, perhaps I should apologise to the House for speaking three times running in the past month or six weeks on the same subject. I had intended not to do so, but I think that I should speak again after the extremely interesting and carefully thought-out remarks made by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Durham.
On this question of proliferation and what causes it, and therefore by what means it may be stopped. I am among those who believe that it cannot be stopped by example or by strengthening any treaty; it can be stopped only by removing its cause, and its cause, let us not forget, is fear. The first nuclear weapons in the world were built in the United States in a joint allied effort because of the fear, which turned out to be unfounded, that Nazi Germany was building them. The second nuclear weapons programme in the world, that of the Soviet Union, was commenced in 1942 and 1943 for the same reason and was continued after the war for fear of the American nuclear forces, which were then in existence.
Our nuclear weapons—we were the first proliferator, if one defines a proliferator as a third power—were due to the fact that we were unceremoniously cut off from collaboration in the allied nuclear weapons programme, when President Truman, upon coming to office, found there had been a secret treaty which kept us in it but which had not been endorsed by the American Senate. Therefore, he held it to be non-binding, and so the doors were closed. We developed nuclear weapons under the Attlee Government because, in his words, we could not leave everything to the Americans and "they are not always very clear"—or words to that effect. He put an extremely short but very dubious formulation on it. It was done for fear of Russian nuclear weapons, and for fear that the Americans might not use their nuclear force in all circumstances to deter Russian nuclear threats on us. French nuclear weapons were developed for exactly the same reason, but de Gaulle gave the justification for it with considerably more clarity than Attlee. It will he remembered.
Chinese nuclear weapons were developed equally for fear of Russian and American weapons, because China had suffered explicit military nuclear threats from both American and Russia in the late 1950s, and it would have been extraordinary if they had not developed. If Israel has nuclear weapons, the reason for it is very clear to see—it is fear. If South Africa has nuclear weapons, the same applies.
I do not believe that the removal of nuclear power Nos. 3, 4 or 5 from the scene would have much effect down the line. No, the whole nuclear arms race has to be dismantled from the top down, and this is exactly what is beginning to happen, or will begin to 1372 happen in March, when the Americans and Russians meet in the START talks. Until those succeed, I believe we are condemned unfortunately to continue on our present courses.
Deterrence is something that can be adopted legitimately as a posture only in default of disarmament and while waiting for disarmament. Everything I would like to say is to be considered under that head. What must we do between now and the time when there is enough disarmament to make it possible for a country with a small, minimum nuclear deterrent force such as ours to join in the process? I should like to take up several remarks made by the noble Viscount, Lord Trenchard, which I found more communicative than is often the case from the Government's Front Bench in these debates, and very helpful to our thoughts on these matters. He said that the cost of sophistication is the real problem. This is why defence procurement funding is in turmoil and will continue to be in turmoil—not because of the cost of nuclear weapons as such.
§ Viscount Trenchard
My Lords, I certainly did not use the words "in turmoil". I gave a lot of reasons as to how we are keeping it under control.
§ Lord Kennet
My Lords, of course the noble Viscount did not say "turmoil". I ask his pardon for putting the word into his mouth. He did not, and he would not, and the House would not have expected him to. All right, it is not in turmoil, but let us say there is a lot going on. He gave the example of Germany, a nonnuclear power, as another country in whose defence procurement programme there is a lot going on. But, of course, this differential inflation on the defence front, six to 10 per cent. above the routine basic 10 per cent. a year, hits any country with sophisticated nuclear weapons. It hits the United States, and we can see it and study it in detail. We must assume that it hits the Soviet Union as well, because their weapons programmes are just as sophisticated. If that is so, and it is, this is another impulse towards meaningful disarmament between them. If they both find that they simply cannot afford it, they are going to sit down and agree how to stop the nonsense together.
I believe, therefore, this is a year of good hope for disarmament, the first in 20 years maybe. We in this country should maintain an independent nuclear deterrent of the minimum kind, a minimum deterrent which need not come into question in negotiation, much as we should like it to, until other countries have come down to something compatible with minimum deterrence, when we may be called upon to play our part in the process.
We on this Bench do not believe that the Trident purchase is necessarily the right buy. This does not mean that we are against some other purchase of nuclear weapons, probably not land-based, which would continue the British independent minimum nuclear deterrent beyond the expected demise of the Polaris force.
I agree with my alliance friend Lord Mayhew, in all that he said about battlefield nuclear weapons; these ought to be brought into the negotiations as soon as possible. I would not go as far as he did in berating the United States Administration for its past sins, perhaps because I am more impressed by its very recent 1373 virtues, among which I count as almost the largest the fact that President Reagan—I mentioned this the last time we debated this subject—has at last abandoned the designation which I have before called "shameful", and I repeat it now, the shameful designation of "theatre nuclear weapons" and "tactical nuclear weapons" for those weapons which are rightly known as "nuclear weapons of intermediate range". Those weapons are as strategic and as capable of destroying our lives and our civilisation as any weapons in the world.
The fact that they have been called "theatre weapons" for 10 years has for 10 years been an outrage in my eyes and I have for 10 years been boring the House with it. I am delighted that something has persuaded the United States Administration to make this good change. If it was connected with Mr. Weinberger's recent visit to this country, I am more than delighted. I am delighted that Lord Trenchard just now used the human designation, "intermediate range" and not the inhuman one, "tactical or theatre". I am sorry that my noble friend Lord Mayhew continued to call them "theatre" or "tactical", and I am sorry that the Prime Minister continued to call them "theatre" or "tactical" after President Reagan had given up this terrible habit. When was the change made between the Prime Minister's utterance and Lord Trenchard's, I would be interested to know? I hope it is permanent now.
The idea is abroad once again in NATO—it comes round about every 10 years—of specialisation; that is, specialisation by different countries in different military tasks in the deterrent effort. Of course, to be logical one should decide what are all the tasks the alliance has to fulfil, before starting to allot them to different countries. Obviously, the overall task is to deter any thinkable attack on the alliance, and I sometimes wonder whether we devote enough care to distinguishing between possible or even probable attacks and impossible or improbable attacks.
Consider the central front, the greatest concentration of destructive power in the history of mankind. Is that the most probable place for a Russian attack? If not, why do we concentrate everything there? Is there a danger of a Maginot Line mentality in this concentration? I know that we, Britain, have a treaty obligation to keep a certain level of soldiers in Germany, but is there any reason to suppose that this is the most likely place? if we act always as though we do suppose that, does it not in itself constitute an encouragement to the other side to think of other places and to devote their attention and resources to those? The other places are, of course, primarily the flanks; the northern flank where until recently salami tactics have been alive and well and advancing. The Russians have been advancing at sea and on the ice and in Svalbard. Things have been getting a little better there, better than when I was there in 1977 or 1978. This presumably is because of Soviet hopes of a nuclear-free zone up there, though, mark, that is a a nuclear-free zone which excludes the high seas and international straits and is not really of very much interest therefore to the alliance as a whole, though of the greatest possible interest to the countries concerned.
Consider the southern flank. The Montreux Convention, 1374 which bans the passing of aircraft carriers through the Dardanelles, has now been flouted repeatedly by the Soviet Union, who have built aircraft carriers in the Black Sea and brought them out without any objection being raised by the other signatories of that convention. The Soviet Union is a signatory and this country is a signatory. The Convention is, therefore, of no effect and we have been deprived of that very early arms control treaty by our own neglect, because a treaty the enforcement of which is neglected is as if it were not there.
Another less obvious place for attack which we seem to sometimes neglect is the Atlantic sea routes, the sea bridge. We do seem to conduct our war planning—and, of course, we must plan a war if we are to present a deterrent effect, because unless you look as though you mean it it has no effect; this is the central paradox in deterrence—or what little of it we can deduce in public, on the assumption of a short war. What if we fail to have contingency plans against a Russian attack which would develop and would be intended to develop into a long war. That is, no nuclear attack, no action on their side which could precipitate a nuclear attack on ours, a naval war. The weakest part of the Atlantic bridge is our ports in this country and in the Low Countries, undefended against many forms of attack, expected and unexpected. That is at our end. At the other end there is the great intrinsic weakness that geography dictates; the export of war material from the United States down the river valleys to the Gulf ports, and Cuba lies across those sea routes—very awkward. Do we think enough about that?
If one were to imagine war lasting even six months, which is not very long in historical terms, that would require one and a half million men to be shipped across the Atlantic, 28 million tons of equipment, and therefore 3,000 ship sailings. I would like to ask the Minister, if he can, to let us know something at the end of the debate about the figures for the ratio of escort vessels and submarines now, the ratio of NATO escort vessels against Soviet and Warsaw Pact submarines now, and to compare that with the corresponding ratio which obtained during the Second World War, when submarines gave us some trouble, as will be remembered. How does it look? Because if it does not look sane, then that is bad deterrence in the meantime, before we get disarmament.
The penultimate point that I should like to make is that last week the House of Commons debated the proposed new round of adjustments in Government expenditure—or, as the noble Viscount, Lord Trenchard, has forced me to say, a new round of a lot of things happening in the Government expenditure field; no chaos, nothing like that—in which the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced that £500 million more next year was going to defence. I must confess that I do not have a clear picture of where it is going or why such a large sum has become necessary within only one year, or why that is the choice for increased expenditure considering the reductions which litter the ground all around it.
I am asking the Minister a lot of questions and cannot help doing so because there are rather a lot of problems. However, would he care to speculate—if he says "no" I shall understand—about the future 1375 role of the European alliance partners, as such, in military planning both inside and outside the NATO area? There has been consultation among the Foreign Ministers of the Community, under the political co-operation machinery, about the proposed Sinai Force. Attempts have been made to reach a common line on that. That is military—it is a peacekeeping force, but it is a force of soldiers who presumably will be transported by warships.
There has been a Motion passed in the European Parliament—totally unreported in the British press—in which for the first time, unless I am mistaken, that body has endorsed the idea of political, financial and economic co-operation in the Council of Ministers specifically taking account of and being directed towards military security co-ordination. One has to ask oneself: Is the Community the right place for that? It contains Ireland. Might it not jeopardise Irish membership if it were carried too far? If it is not the right place, then what is?
The over-development of the West European end of NATO, to the exclusion of the United States and Canada, is in itself a politically undersirable possibility. It de-Atlanticises the alliance and strengthens one abutment of the bridge as opposed to the other. Western European Union will not do, because although it contains the original six of the Common Market plus this country, it does not contain Norway, Denmark, Ireland, Greece or Spain, and is therefore a very partial fixture on the scene, and it arose for quite different purposes anyhow.
I am suggesting that we should begin to talk more seriously than we have in the past, and with less party passion, about whether we want to develop security co-ordination alongside or as part of the political co-operation which goes on alongside or as part of the European Community itself. I choose my words with some care, and I am sorry if they are complicated.
In conclusion, I should like to join with other noble Lords in thanking the noble Earl, Lora Cathcart, for bringing this matter up a third time in six weeks. I do not think that that is wrong; I think that is right. I am glad that we are to have the disarmament debate again next week—that will be four debates, or four possibilities of discussing the matter, in only two or two and a half months. That is realistic. Our former silence and negligence have been unrealistic, and damaging to the interests of this country.
§ 5.13 p.m.
§ Lord Chalfont
My Lords, I had originally intended to follow the noble Earl, Lord Cathcart, and other noble Lords in concentrating on the questions of nuclear deterrence and Trident and allied problems. I decided not to do so for two reasons. The first is that, like the noble Lord, Lord Mayhew, I do not believe that this country will ever have Trident. I believe that the only question is whether the decision not to have it will be made before or after the next general election.
However, a more important reason for changing the nature of my speech is the exchange which took place as a result of a Question earlier today by the noble Lord, Lord Orr-Ewing. Certain things were said then and have been said again in this debate which lead me to 1376 believe that it might be more useful to your Lordships if instead I were to mention for the few minutes at my disposal what I believe to be a very important aspect of what the noble Earl has called, "making provision for defence" and that is, making provision for our defence against psychological warfare.
The Soviet Union would like, if it could, to achieve its political aims without the use of armed force. That goes without saying. No one would use armed force with all that it entails if he could achieve the ends that he wanted to achieve without it. So all our nuclear weapons, our tanks and our ships will be of no use if we lose the psychological, the propaganda war. I believe that we are losing it, and some of the things that have been said in your Lordships' House today have underlined my belief that we are on the losing end of the propaganda war.
We must understand that the Soviet Union is engaged, and has been so for some years now, on a massive programme of disinformation and destabilisation designed to undermine the spirit and the morale of the West. It has a number of major instruments for that purpose. One is the International Information Department (IID) of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, which, incidentally, is an organisation headed by a man called Leonid Zamyatin, who was, until he took that job in 1978, the Director of TASS, the Soviet official news agency. It is under the general guidance of two extremely important people in the Soviet hierarchy whose names will be familiar to those of your Lordships who follow these things—Mikhail Suslov and Boris Ponomarev. Indeed, Boris Ponomarev is a name that I want your Lordships to remember because it will come up later on in my remarks.
That international department, founded, as I say, in 1978, has a number of different sections each one of which is charged with operations in different areas of the media of the West. There is a section which deals with the BBC; there is a section which deals with the quality press and there is a section which deals with the popular press. It is a highly organised system of propaganda and disinformation. As I have said, it was founded in 1978 and I think it is perhaps worth bearing in mind that in the same year Radio Moscow founded its world service—a world service which now broadcasts at all hours of the day and night, in a very similar way to our own World Service, to all the countries of the world.
In addition to the IID, there are, of course, the KGB and the GRU—the KGB being the security police and the GRU, Soviet Military Intelligence. They have, again, special departments for covert, clandestine disinformation and destabilisation in the West. They carry out what are called "black" operations. They operate agents of influence in this country and in Western countries. A very fair estimate is that the KGB and the GRU between them have operating in Western Europe something like 1,200 officers under diplomatic cover. If your Lordships will take the trouble to look up your diplomatic list and do a simple sum, you will find that that represents something like 60 per cent. of the political departments of all Soviet embassies in the West.
In addition there are, of course, the front organisa 1377 tions—organisations which, under perfectly respectable guise, very often with the word "democratic" carefully inserted into their title, are, in fact, no more nor less than conscious agents of the Soviet disinformation programme. The most important of those are the World Peace Council, whose activities are beginning to make themselves shown in such a dramatic way now in Western Europe, the World Federation of Trade Unions; the World Federation of Democratic Youth; and the International Union of Students. All those are front organisations consciously carrying out the disinformation operations of the Soviet Union. There was, for example, organised by one of these front organisations in Havana recently a congress of youth and students—it was called a "festival". It brought together 25,000 students from 145 countries, including, I need hardly say, our own.
As I have said, and as I said earlier in an exchange in your Lordships' House this afternoon, the Soviet Union is now spending the equivalent of £1,500 million a year on this kind of activity alone. Of that, something like £100 million to £200 million a year is spent on special projects; such as, in 1979, the campaign against theatre force modernisation, the campaign against the neutron bomb and now, of course, the unilateralist and European disarmament programmes. Its targets are the television, the press, the polytechnics, the schools, the universities, the political parties—they are all legitimate targets of this systematic operation.
The result has been—and I do not think that this is putting the matter too strongly—a progressive demoralisation in the West. In my view there is evidence everywhere. Much of the output of our media—and in this I include a substantial proportion of the programmes of the BBC, whether in the current affairs department or in the drama department (and I am choosing my words with very great care now)—I regard as morally subversive and there is no doubt whatever that, whether or not it is consciously done, it is doing the work of the Soviet Union for them.
In my view the second evidence, and perhaps the most important because it is the most subtle, is the evidence that exists in this country of what I should like to call a false moral symmetry; that is to say, a suggestion that there is for us, in Western Europe and in this country, some middle position as between the Soviet Union and the United States. This seems to me to be a total fallacy and yet, if I may say so without being unduly disobliging, it is one from which the Opposition Front Bench itself has not remained entirely immune. There seems to be a suggestion of "a plague on both your houses". We hear the word "McCarthyism" thrown about the House whenever anyone dares to attack the operations of the Soviet Union or its allies and its agents.
I come, finally, to the evidence of the peace movements and their activities. I think that I need say very little more about these than that which has already been said by the noble Lord, Lord Mayhew. He pointed out that there is a very obvious tendency for the peace movements to complain about the cruise missiles and the Pershing Hs but to say very little about the SS.20s. It is also interesting to note, whenever a CND march or a unilateralist demonstration takes to the street, how many anti-NATO and anti-American slogans and banners there are and how few anti-Soviet.
1378 This seems to me to indicate something wrong in the way in which people, and perhaps especially young people, are looking at this problem.
In passing—and I hope that the right reverend Prelate will forgive me for saying this—may I say that in the course of his very reasoned and to me very interesting endorsement of the unilateralist position, one somewhat surprising comment was made, which was his surprise at the coincidence of the massive demonstration in Amsterdam with the meeting of the World Council of Churches. If the right reverend Prelate really believes that that was a coincidence, then I cannot go too far along that line with him, and I think that on reflection he may find that it was perhaps not entirely as coincidental as he may have thought.
I do not want to detain the House much longer. I believe that we must win this propaganda war. I shall not press the Government or the Minister on this point for one very simple reason; namely, that if the Government are doing anything or will do anything about this, the more discreet they are about it the better. However, in the course of these few remarks should, if I may, like to send a message elsewhere; perhaps to our organs of opinion, to the BBC and to the press. If we find ourselves at the losing end eventually, if we definitively lose this war against the forces from outside, one of the very first casualties will be the liberty of the press and the media of communication. I should also like to appeal most sincerely to those well-meaning people who are being exploited by this disinformation campaign. I have mentioned the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament; we have had this argument before. I have not suggested, nor do I suggest, that the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament is a Soviet-organised campaign. What I say is that it is systematically exploited by the Soviet Union, and I believe that those sincere people who belong to it should realise that.
Also on the question of well-meaning people, perhaps I could give one small example to your Lordships of the way in which people can be either misled or ill-intended, and I am not quite sure which this example was. In February this year a meeting was held in Madrid on détente; that was the rubric under which the conference was held. It was organised by the Spanish Socialist Party and the Spanish Communist Party, with considerable assistance from the Italian Communist Party. It was supposed to be bringing together the Euro-Communists and the Euro-Socialists, and a number of well-meaning people attended, including two British Members of Parliament. But I wonder whether they knew that the guiding spirit behind the organisation of that conference was the same Boris Ponomarev who heads the operations of the Soviet Information Department in the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. If they did not know that, it seems to me that they were very ill-informed; and if they did know it, it seems to me that they were very foolish.
I believe that there is now a need—and, as I say, I am not pressing the Government for any comment at all on this, for obvious reasons—for a co-ordinated NATO effort, a co-ordinated Western effort, against this insidious, expensive and insistent propaganda campaign. When General Haig was there (and, in parenthesis, it is a very interesting state of affairs) Berlin, which 1379 used to be called the democratic island in a communist sea, the place where John Kennedy once said with great pride and to enormous acclaim from the people of Berlin, "I am a Berliner", only a few months ago, demonstrated violently against and, indeed, offered physical violence to the Secretary of State of the United States of America. What has happened in that city in the meantime? I do not think it is too difficult to imagine what has happened. The people of that city, like many others in the West, have been suborned, demoralised and carried away by this flood of Soviet disinformation and propaganda. But Haig said in a speech, of which no one took any notice because naturally all the publicity went to the demonstrators:The democracies of the West have a unique privilege and a compelling obligation to promulgate their own revolutionary doctrine throughout the world".I think that we ought to take that comment, and much of the speech that went around it, very much more seriously. I believe that the West must take its defence against psychological warfare at least as seriously as, and perhaps a little more seriously than, it takes its defence against military aggression, because if we lose the psychological war our military defences may become a matter of purely academic interest. We must not be misled, confused or intimidated by the parrot-like use of words like "McCarthyism" and constant repetition of meaningless conundrums like, "Would you rather be red than dead?"
To those who seem to think that there is some halfway house between one side or another, that there is some kind of symmetrical position into which you can insert yourself as some kind of moral eunuch or neutral, I would say this. I remember, when I was on the staff of The Times in the early 1960s, Sir William Haley, who was then the editor of The Times, saying in the course of a discussion in an editorial conference something that have always remembered:Some things are evil and cruel and ugly, and no amount of fine writing will make them good, or kind, or beautifulI think it cannot be said too often, and that is why I am saying it again in your Lordships' House, that totalitarian communism is evil, cruel and ugly, and we must preserve our defences against its psychological assault as carefully as we guard against its missiles and its armoured divisions.
§ 5.31 p.m.
§ The Duke of Norfolk
My Lords, I hope you will not mind if I leave this debate before it is concluded, because I have a commitment to which I simply must go. I have been impressed recently by the sincerity of the interventions made by people like the noble Lords, Lord Jenkins of Putney, Lord Brockway and Lord Soper. I have been alarmed by the size of the demonstrations that have taken place in Hyde Park, Amsterdam and Bonn, and all the other peace movements. I am really following the theme in many ways of what the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, has just been saying.
I thought that the best thing I could do would be to go and see the nuclear disarmament people, the CND, at their headquarters in Finsbury Park. I went there the other day. I got their literature. I had tea with Monsignor Bruce Kent. I think I have learnt a great 1380 deal of what this group of people—and I am very glad that the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins, is here—sincerely believe, and I shall talk about this subject briefly. I am not talking about anything else tonight.
To my mind, there are two flaws in the whole CND position. The first is that they say that they do not fear the dangers of unilateral nuclear disarmament by us. Well, I would not mind unilateral nuclear disarmament if it starts in Moscow, but I would not like to see it here because I do not trust the Russians. We trusted Hitler for a long time, and look how unwise we were. We all know how sincere we were in not going to war against Hitler until we really had to. We all know how we then discovered how utterly evil was much of the Nazi philosophy. We all know about things like Belsen and Buchenwald.
Well, now I do not believe that we can trust the Russians. I believe that the Russian position is full of some very evil things. The whole of the Politburo position is held in power by the might of the Red Army. They have created the Warsaw Pact, which, as we all know, holds down all the satellites. The Warsaw Pact has in its command I do not know how many divisions, but I know it is well over 100. I served for two years in East Germany, with the 20 divisions of the group of Soviet forces in Germany when I commanded BRIXMIS, the military mission of our country with the Russian Army in East Germany. I saw how those 20 divisions held down East Germany.
You know what is happening in Poland. You know what is happening in all the other satellites: Czechoslovakia, Hungary, and so on. I know, and you know too, my Lords, that if the Red Army did not exist there would be grave trouble in Russia itself. How can people like the CND groups and the peacemakers, as they call themselves, trust a Government of that sort? The arms of the Soviet Union so cripple it that it cannot even feed itself. They have to put in that amount of effort—they have to; otherwise they would not be in power—so as to keep their tyranny in power. To my mind, that is the first flaw in CND: you cannot trust an opposition such as the Warsaw Pact because they are unreal and they are not sincere. They know that they are there by force and not by the will of the people. I think for us unilaterally to disarm against them would be madness.
I believe that our graduated response of conventional arms and the nuclear shield that we have is the right answer, and it is essential that we have that nuclear shield as well as our modest conventional arms. I think NATO has about 15 or 20 divisions in West Germany, of which we have three. I commanded one, and I know the position very well. If we tried to match conventionally the 100 or so divisions of the Russians we should be nearly bankrupt ourselves. Think of having that number of men of NATO under arms conventionally. It would be madness.
We are right in having that graduated deterrent, and that response of having—whatever you like to call it; it used to be called a tripwire—people on the ground, and then gradually we can escalate if ever we have to, which we hope we never shall. But we could not conceivably agree to nuclear disarmament and be told by the CND, "Oh, well, you can go for conventional arms". We could not afford it. It would be madness to do so.
1381 I also believe that we need nuclear arms ourselves for the simple reason that the Russians are not the only enemy. It is conceivable that a madman like Colonel Gaddafi might get hold of a nuclear weapon at some time in the future and threaten, shall we say, Egypt or Kenya—he has already been doing things with Chad—with a nuclear weapon. If we cannot respond to such blackmail the people with whom we are allied would be in a very weak position. That is another reason why we must retain a nuclear capability.
The second flaw in the CND lobby is when they suggest that it is unchristian, it is immoral, or it is against all religions—I do not necessarily include just the Christian religion—to have a nuclear deterrent. I thought that the speech of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Durham was delicate and restrained, and I much admired it. I also saw him on the television the other day. I should just like to say that I think that the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, was slightly unfair if he inferred that the Council of Churches was willing to have the peacemakers there. The Council of Churches came first and the peacemakers locked themselves into it afterwards, much against the wishes of the right reverend Prelate.
The Lord Bishop of Durham
My Lords, since this has been mentioned twice, may I put the record straight? The World Council of Churches' hearing was planned first, but the Dutch Churches had for a long time been contemplating a large demonstration at some time in the autumn. The initiative to link the demonstration in Amsterdam with the hearing was taken consciously by the Dutch Churches.
§ Lord Chalfont
I am obliged to the right reverend Prelate, my Lords, and that was entirely my point. I wish to exonerate myself from the accusation of the noble Duke because that is what I meant; as soon as the demonstrators knew the date of the meeting of the World Council of Churches, they arranged their demonstration. It was no coincidence.
§ The Duke of Norfolk
My Lords, I am sorry that I caused that intervention and I apologise for wasting the time of the House. Perhaps I misinterpreted what was said. However, there is (particularly with people like Bruce Kent, some of the bishops of the Church of England and the theologians of the Roman Catholic Church, to which I belong) a lobby that is saying that the nuclear deterrent is so awful—the use of a nuclear weapon is so terrible—that it is immoral to contemplate using it and therefore we should subscribe to nuclear disarmament. I have been to some theologians and discussed this with them and I believe this is a complete flaw in the CND argument.
We know that it says in the Bible, as they quote in their pamphlets, "Blessed are the peacemakers", but the Christian Church evolved, out of this obviously good intention of Christianity, the need for Governments, who are charged with looking after the people for whom they are responsible, to interpret this situation to allow for a just war in self-defence, and a just war, it has always been agreed, in self-defence is totally compatible with the Bible, as indeed with the other religions of the world. I am convinced, and I 1382 understand it to be so, that it is perfectly reasonable to believe that a theology can be worked out to allow the nuclear deterrent to be something that is not in any way immoral.
I say that to the CND people. I see that I have the right reverend Prelate frowning. I repeat, to have a nuclear deterrent policy is not immoral. It means that you must be prepared to use it; to use it might be immoral, and to deter by threatening to use it is not immoral. There are those two flaws in the whole of the CND set-up which I hope the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins, will answer. I see it as a very dangerous thing that is taking place. It is all linked, as the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, was saying, with the psychological warfare that seems to be carried on now from the Soviet Union.
§ Lord Jenkins of Putney
My Lords, is the noble Duke able to answer one question to which I do not know the answer? Can he say whether His Holiness the Pope agrees that to threaten to use nuclear arms is not immoral?
§ The Duke of Norfolk
I can tell the noble Lord at once that I do not know what His Holiness the Pope says on the subject. Perhaps the noble Lord knows.
§ The Duke of Norfolk
My Lords, do not for a moment think that I am bound as a Roman Catholic by everything His Holiness the Pope says. Good heavens above! how could the noble Lord think such things of my family or me? Having made those comments, I am itching to hear the replies of the CND philosophy, and I will say no more; that is all I wanted to say. I end by saying that I am totally behind the present Government's defence policy and, indeed, the Opposition defence policy because there is nothing much between them. Oddly enough, this is a debate of both sides of the House against the CND and the Soviets. It is not a debate between the Labour Party and the Conservative Government, and therefore my last words are that I totally support the present Government's defence policy.
§ 5.45 p.m.
§ Lord Mottistone
My Lords, it is indeed a privilege to speak following the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, who made what I thought was a remarkable speech, and I was delighted that he found it necessary to change his speech to the one which he in fact made. While I appreciate entirely that he cannot expect an answer from the Government, for the good reason he gave, it is a shame that he cannot have an answer. I wish also to congratulate my noble friend the Duke of Norfolk for a very remarkable speech and for taking the splendid initiative of bearding the misguided people of the CND in their own den. That was absolutely first-class of him.
I cannot go with my noble friend the Duke of Norfolk on one point; I cannot entirely be in agreement with what the Government seem to be evolving as their policy. I must say at the outset that I entirely agree with my noble friend Lord Trenchard that what he is doing in investing in Trident is but a small element 1383 of extra expenditure and is not the main cause of the general policies which he is adopting. While I agree with the Government in their Trident policy, I do not propose to say more about that.
I wish to look rather more to the future. The frightening thing about modern times is that it takes about 15 years to develop a major weapons system, and in those years it is possible that the policies adopted now may not show up the errors of those policies for as long as perhaps 15 years, and I suggest to the Government that they need to look very carefully at what the situation might be in the late 'nineties as well as trying to deal with the present situation. I do not blame them for having to cope with the present situation—because it is there and must be dealt with—but at least we must try to make sure that the overall pattern is compatible with the future as much as with the present. Unlike, say, 200 years ago, we have the appalling difficulty of not being able suddenly to deploy armies, navies and air forces at the drop of a hat if we happen to go to war tomorrow.
Having said that, I suggest to the Government that there are four particular points which they should remember. The first is that they seem to have lost sight of the fact—perhaps I am being unfair to them and I hope that my noble friend, to whom I have written on the subject, will be able to give me an answer—that we are dependent ultimately on supply by sea, and we are dependent on two main fronts. One is essential raw materials which we do not have and the other is food. Within the European Community and NATO we are somewhat unique on the food front. We are paralleled, I believe, only by Portugal, and in the case of NATO by Iceland, which does not have any armed forces at all, and perhaps Greenland as a dependent of Denmark. Thus, we have this essential Achilles' heel where we are permanently vulnerable.
The other area in which I suggest we have a particular problem is in both our practical and moral need to provided for the support and defence of the British dependent territories: that is, those territories listed in Schedule 6 to the British Nationality Act 1981. They include all kinds of small groups of islands all over the world, and they are otherwise totally defenceless against all manner of threats from outside.
The other factor that I suspect the Government in their thinking have had to put to one side is the quite remarkable fact that the Soviets, quite apart from the threat that they present in Europe and the threat that they present with their nuclear capability, have built up their sea-going forces to a level far in excess of what they could ever claim was necessary for their own self-defence. This is most remarkable, on this particular front. Practically everything else that they have—their huge arms, their huge land-based airforces, and their huge nuclear capability—could perhaps be said to have grown up in direct defence of the homeland. But the Soviet Navy does not come into that category, because the Soviets are not dependent on imports in the way that we are—or at least they should not be, if they are efficient. Admittedly, they have to import grain from North America, but that is their own fault, because they are so inefficient. But, basically, they do not need to have to import that. Nor do they need to import very nearly all the essential 1384 raw materials that we have to import. So, there is presented to us an absolute conundrum with this vast naval force. What is it for?
I go along with the Government, and indeed with most previous speakers, in saying that we must be able to deter an aggressor from actually attacking us, whether by nuclear means or otherwise. We need all the weaponry that is necessary to do that. Broadly speaking, what the Government have, and what successive Governments have provided us with, is aimed towards that end.
However, looking to the future, which, as I said earlier, is the most important thing to do, I suggest that we also have to deter our potential aggressors from depriving us of our vital needs by bullying gestures short of war. I suggest to your Lordships that the vast Soviet Navy and its increasing world deployment is intended for that bullying purpose. Having heard the most enlightening speech of the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, I suggest further that the ability to spread influence physically with armed force, in support of the propaganda campaign, which shows as the Soviet Navy goes into ports and around places, works so neatly gradually to demoralise not only their main opponents—as we in NATO might be thought to be—but the rest of the world as well. The Government need to make quite certain that they have the capability, in conditions short of war, to provide the necessary cover and protection for the supplies of our own raw materials and food, as well as to provide the dependent territories to which I have referred with protection from any bullying gestures that might be made against them.
The problem here is how is that to be paid for. I mentioned this point earlier. Now I repeat it, and I suspect that I shall receive the same answer as previously. It seems to me that, in view of the nature of the threat, gradually over the next 20 years or so our best contribution to NATO, and our best means of securing an overall position of being able to prevent bullying gestures short of war, will be achieved by shifting the balance of our contribution from land force to maritime.
I have a feeling—and I hope that my noble friend Lord Avon will forgive me for saying this—that it is the Eden commitment of about 30 years ago, to 50,000 people for 50 years, which is at the root of the Government's attitude that they are continuing to pursue their land force superiority as opposed to the maritime strategy. I suspect that now one might begin to say that 30 years have passed, we are looking ahead 15 to 20 years, and perhaps we can see the end of the Eden commitment. Perhaps we can start to plan on the assumption that that is becoming less and less of a binding commitment on us, and perhaps we can start to say to NATO, "Look, we are good at this sea business. You know very well that it is in our best interests to be good at the sea. Why don't you allow us to concentrate on that contribution, rather than giving you the soldiers that we told you 30 years ago we would continue to provide?" That cannot be done overnight, but it is the direction in which the Government might logically, sensibly, and most honestly move. I say "honestly" because I believe that there is a real moral commitment to the few 1385 dependent territories which it seems are rather brushed aside whenever the opportunity presents itself.
We are to have a debate in about a week's time on the South-West Atlantic, and so I shall not now pursue the particular point of the dependent territories, because there will be a good opportunity to do so then. I shall miss out the next point that I was going to mention, because there are many other speakers to take part in the debate.
I should like to turn to one other aspect of deterrence. My noble friend Lord Cathcart mentioned this is his splendid opening speech—I must take this opportunity of thanking him for initiating the debate—and I am sure that other noble Lords will mention it, too, but I wish to put in my pennyworth to support them. I believe that so far the Government have given a most inadequate lead to an essential element of deterrence against potential nuclear attack and any other kind of war; namely, civil defence. Much can still be done in encouraging local authorities to develop plans and train volunteers at very little, if any, cost to the ratepayer, and the Government should do much more in providing just that encouragement. As I said earlier, it is probably very unfortunate that the Home Office, which has an attitude to life quite different from that of what one might call the more forthright ministries, such as the Ministry of Defence, should have responsibility for civil defence. I think that we might have a better, more robust statement i it were the responsibility of another department. Even the Department of the Environment might make a more robust attack on this subject.
The Government must give serious thought to this point. I say that because the important point about civil defence is to show the potential enemy that we really mean business in deterrence, ranging from the means of attack to the ultimate needs for the defence of the citizen, and to show the citizen that the Government really care that some of us should survive whatever kind of war takes place. One gets a slight feeling that the Government do not really care about the fact that some citizens, if they were practised in the art, might be able to survive, but otherwise would not. I believe that the Government are doing themselves a grave disservice by not giving greater attention to this particular point.
I believe that in order to deter we must be ready, and we must be ready in all arms, in all ways that are most suitable for us. We are now in this position, and for the immediate future, let us go on doing more or less what we are doing. But we must remember that our Achilles' heel is our dependence on supply by sea of our essential raw materials and food if we are to stay alive; and we must be ready to face any threat as much in 1999 as in 1982.
§ 6 p.m.
§ Lord Orr-Ewing
My Lords, like the previous speaker, I think we owe a debt of gratitude to Lord Cathcart for having initiated this debate. It is very timely, and I think it has been very worthwhile. I think we also owe a debt of gratitude to Lord Chalfont for drawing attention to, and concentrating our minds on, the wider picture of psychological warfare, which so many of us have noticed in different aspects of our lives but which we have not been able to elucidate with the clarity, the well-chosen phrases and the accurate 1386 information which was included in Lord Chalfont's speech. I think we owe him a special debt. This is one of the great advantages of membership of your Lordships' House. One is proud to be a Member of this House when one gets good speeches, from whatever Bench they come, on matters of this sort. His was not the sort of speech, I think, which would ever have been made in the House of Commons; and I only hope that the media, to which he referred, will report it as it deserves to be reported, by both the BBC and the press.
I am going to talk on different matters. I am going to talk on air matters, partly because I have noticed that the Soviets are spending as much as 40 per cent. of their defence budget on air power. That is as much on air power as the combined expenditure on their armies and their navy; and they cannot be doing this without some intentions to use that airpower. I also noticed that there was no one else on the speakers' list who was going to speak on air matters, so I thought that if I did not address myself to this matter it might go unmentioned and unsung. I therefore hope I may be excused for dealing with the air defence of the British region.
In the early part of this year I opened a debate on this same subject, but several things have happened since then. It is not generally realised by our nation, I think, that we are responsible for the air defence of a region which stretches for a thousand miles, starting in the north with the Faroes and Iceland Gap and going a thousand miles south, and stretching from the British Channel in the east to west of Ireland. That is an immense area, covering half a million square miles, and we are responsible for the air defence of that area.
What is the threat today? In the last year the Soviets have gone on building up their air power and their bomber force. I dealt in some detail with their modern aircraft a year ago. But since then the Soviets (making much use of air transportation, by the way) have invaded and subjugated, or have nearly subjugated, Afghanistan; and they have, with military and political threats, regrettably almost quenched the fires of freedom that were burning in Poland. While NATO has been riven by economic problems and recessions, the Soviets have continued expanding their military capability, and especially their attack capability. As my noble friend has just said in his speech, it is not the defensive capability which has been expanded, it is the attack capability. The switch from defence to attack in the last three years has been most noticeable.
Everywhere in Europe well-meaning idealists are demonstrating, but not, unfortunately, in the Soviet police state. I thought, in endorsement of what Lord Chalfont has said, that Dr. Joseph Luns was so wise when he said on the BBC on 12th November that the Soviet Union is paying for the peace movements in the West. After all, he, with 10 years as Director-General of NATO, must have more access to the intelligence sources of all those nations than any of us in this House.
The next point is: when are Western Europe and Britain at their most vulnerable? All the political commentators and assessors believe that the years are 1981 through to 1985. So we need to address ourselves, not to the long-term plans but to what we can do during what is called this window of vulnerability.
1387 At this moment we could deploy a maximum of 100 air defence aircraft to defend this whole area. These include Lightnings, which are now getting rather long in the tooth. They are doing extremely well in Saudi Arabia, but in the more testing environment and weather of Western Europe they will be less successful. We have two squadrons of Lightnings and five squadrons of Phantoms. The maximum number it is believed would be likely to be operational at any one time is 70 aircraft, and that is all we have to defend half a million square miles.
My noble friends and others here will remember that in the last year over 200 Soviet aircraft have probed our airspace to see whether we are alert, and that does not show a lack of interest in the British base. They know full well how essential this base is to the reinforcement and the deployment of NATO troops and the reception of supplies, ammunition, equipment and men from the United States.
In addition to these good supersonic Lightnings and Phantoms (both of which were first operational in 1960, so they are already 21 years old) we have the Hawk. Of course, that is a good aircraft, and we are all delighted with the sale to the United States of this training aircraft. But it is no answer really. It is nice to have 90 Hawks in the air to help—and if they were in the right place they certainly could help—but they are not much of an answer to the Backfire Soviet bomber, with its speed capability of mach 2 and its ability to fire stand-off weapons with ranges of 250 miles.
Of course, I shall be told by my noble friend that the Tornado, air defence version, is coming along. Yes, it is coming along—I believe there are two at the moment doing test flying—but it is not coming along within the window of vulnerability. I read in my papers this morning that already there is pressure—in this case because of the recession which is also affecting our partners, Germany and Italy, who are combining with us in building the Tornado—to push delivery further to the right, to slow down the provision of Tornados for the air defence of our region. So we find Germany and Italy and ourselves all being forced to slow it down.
With such a shortage in the short-term of aircraft to defend this area, it is of imperative importance that we do something to increase the numbers of supersonic aircraft available to us to meet any attack.
My Lords, when I spoke previously I made the suggestion to my noble friend that we ask some of the US National Air Guard, who are a voluntary force and who, incidentally, on a part-time basis, fly F 15s and are now re-equiping with F 16s, which are supersonic aircraft, to come and exercise in our country. I repeat this. I was told that it would not fit in with their schedules. They already exercise in West Germany: why do we not ask them to exercise in Scotland and other places which are vulnerable and very thinly covered by our own forces?
Perhaps we could also consider leasing or buying some F 18s, because something of this sort will have to be done in the short-term. The Australians have already decided to buy 75. The Norwegians, the Danes, the Dutch and the Belgians are also buying F 18s, so it will be an aircraft common to our NATO 1388 allies as well. Of course, it would be nicer to say that we ought to get on with our own aircraft. Noble Lords will know that British Aerospace are proposing the P 110 and are anxious to go ahead with developing it. Even if they do get the money, even if they do go ahead and find someone to sponsor it and share the cost, it cannot possibly be operational for another 10 years. The dangers are in the next five years.
We heard in the admirable opening speech of my noble friend Lord Trenchard that we were earning £1½ billion from the sale of AV8Bs and Hawks to the United States. If that is so, perhaps a small part of that money could go, as I have said, to leasing a suitable aircraft, which they have in production, to fill the gap until such time as our Tornados come along.
I note—and it has not been said recently—that we are gravely short of operational pilots for our air defence force. According to the Select Committee, it now costs £1.3 million to train an RAF pilot. The strange thing is that at the end of that training period —normally an eight-years commission—when he is aged about 28 the pilot has no reserve obligations at all. I think my noble friend should look at this. If the state has invested so much money in young people and given them so much aptitude, that should not be thrown away. There should be some commitment, of perhaps three or four years, and at the end of that period if the commitment has been honoured the pilots could then be given their gratuity or perhaps an enhanced gratuity. It will be said that even the regulars cannot fly the aircraft as much as they should because it is too costly and the flying hours are down to about 15 hours a month; therefore, one cannot waste flying hours on part-timers. But why not keep them up to date on simulators? This does not cost much. If simulators are better for transport aircraft than for fighters, then why not buy or hire simulators from the United States and adapt them? Investment in simulators could be a relatively cheap way of achieving the object.
I want to say something about the air defence network of this country. These relatively sophisticated aircraft cannot find targets or operate efficiently without a sophisticated ground environment. I am delighted that we are going ahead with the improved UK air defence ground environment—called the UK/ADGE. Tenders were put out in March 1979, were accepted on 3rd September 1980, and contracts signed on 5th March 1981, and provision for integrated communications of a military network is going ahead.
We need new radars which they have to have a modern digital output to match this particular network. I am told that British Telecom will have the radio and land line communications in time; but all world-wide experience is that there are two bottlenecks when deploying a radar network. One is communications (in this case, by British Telecom) and the other the work services. I urge my noble friend to do all he can to push ahead with both of these potential bottlenecks and not to let them be delayed as was the case with the aircraft. There is vital equipment, software and co-ordination, which ought to be speeded up and I hope attention will be paid particularly to the integration of Nimrods. We have been waiting for the Airborne Early Warning Nimrod for a number of 1389 years. It is probably the most sophisticated such airborne system in the world today. It is admirable in its class. It is important that integration of its communications and information should be made. I hope that we shall press on with that.
The NATO defence budget and the infrastructure budget is also under great stress as well as our own defence budget. I would remind noble Lords that of the whole of our radar network to be deployed, 83 per cent. of the cost is met from NATO infrastructure funds; so that the House will be disturbed if they are under pressure. How are we to go ahead if we are not to get our full share and support from that infrastructure? I say to my noble friend, "Do not be pushed to the right". Every Treasury Minister always says, "Can you not slow down this or that work service and the rate of production of this or that?" In the long run, the units which are slowed down always cost more and become obsolescent quicker at the end of the period. With Government cuts, with NATO cuts, I know there must be great pressure to push and delay some of these things. I hope that my noble friend with his right honourable friend the Minister of Defence will stand up and that they will not let themselves make cuts in the vital defence of the United Kingdom and the ports which will receive our reinforcements and which are so essential to the wellbeing and confidence of our NATO allies.
§ 6.15 p.m.
§ The Earl of Glasgow
My Lords, I, too, should like to congratulate my noble friend Lord Cathcart for initiating this debate, and to say what a pleasure it is to follow my noble kinsman Lord Orr-Ewing. In the past, it has been the custom to plan to win wars. Now, all efforts seem to be concentrated, quite rightly, on preventing a major war from ever taking place, a war which it is accepted generally that no one can win; hence the policy of deterrence.
The allies, confronted with the vast arms build-up in the Warsaw Pact countries, must be seen to be determined to resist aggression and to have sufficient trained and effective forces and equipment to make such an adventure exceedingly unprofitable. Here, I think the Government's intention to proceed with the Trident missile system is very important on both counts. I thoroughly support this project for all the reasons which have been deployed so often and which I will not weary your Lordships by repeating today. The only point that I would wish to make here is that I think it is wrong that the cost of our independent strategic nuclear deterrent should be borne by the service, whether the Royal Navy or the Royal Air Force, which builds and mans the launcher. It should be an entirely separate item in our defence budget. The Polaris and Trident submarines are no part of the Fleet. They have an entirely different and independent role.
My Lords, how to spend our limited amount of money to support deterrence is the problem which faces the Government; and that is what all these White Papers are about. I do not know how many of your Lordships read an article by General Sir John Hackett in the Daily Telegraph of 24th May this year on the subject of the proposed cuts which were published in the White Paper a month later. The general first commends the Government for not cutting the Royal 1390 Air Force which has already been reduced below the safety limit for its major role in the defence of these islands. He then goes on to say, in effect—and, he also adds, at the risk of losing friends—that the army probably has more fat to shed than the Royal Navy without reducing the size or efficiency of the British Army of the Rhine. He follows up that assertion with the argument that it is easier and quicker to rebuild an army than a navy. I found myself very much in agreement with the general.
My Lords, I should like now to turn to the Royal Navy. I was not able to take part in the debate in July and I think that there is a bit to be said about it. It has taken a pretty hard knock in the latest Review and the major blow has fallen on the surface fleet. Your Lordships would not expect a retired admiral to welcome the early disposal of about 10 ships of our escort forces and almost an equal number put into reserve; nor the early disposal or sale of one of our three through-deck cruisers. We have not enough of these types of ship, anyway.
The argument as to whether our trade routes are better protected by submarines and aircraft or by surface ships or even by surface ships and aircraft, is evenly balanced. That must be left to the experts. Nevertheless, a show of force in peacetime in some sensitive corners of the world to deter the outbreak of hostilities requires surface ships. Noel Coward had a delightful little song called "Lorelei" in which he sympathises with the lady having to conduct her business under modern conditions. One couplet always stick in my mind in which he says:What could be more obscene Than vamping a submarine".I think I see what he meant.
Showing the flag is still an important part of the Royal Navy's duties in peacetime. This cannot adequately be done by submarines; it needs surface ships. Like the noble Lord, Lord Murton of Lindisfarne, who, I am glad to see, is speaking later today, I am also concerned about the withdrawal of HMS "Endeavour" from the South Atlantic without replacement. I consider the naval presence of a specialised ship in the Falkland Islands and the Antarctic area to be a high priority. Again, while welcoming the retention of the Royal Marine Commandos, they are to be deprived of their two assaults ships, "Fearless" and "Intrepid". Our amphibious capability—a form of warfare in which we are particularly skilled—is of vital importance to NATO, particularly on the northern flank. This capability should not be weakened. The assault ships should be retained or replaced. It is my hope that the money may be found in later years to do the latter.
I am inclined to agree with the Government in their intention to do away with the half-life refits and modernisation of ships. These are very expensive and put a ship out of service for anything up to two and a half years. When the ship emerges, she is often quite unrecognisable with a mass of modern weaponry for which the hull was never designed and with possible adverse effects on her sea-keeping qualities. Ships, like humans—and remember that ships are female—should be allowed to live out their lives without unnecessary transplants.
1391 Of the dockyards I am less qualified to speak, but it does seem logical that some reduction should be made here. But would it not be better to retain all five dockyards (and here I include Gibraltar) with reduced facilities and manpower, rather than close Chatham altogether? Dispersion of repair facilities in war is of some importance, and here a dockyard outside these islands must have an important part to play. I sincerely hope that there may be second thoughts before the dockyard at Gibraltar is finally and completely closed.
I am also slightly unhappy about the shape of the present surface fleet. In paragraph 5 of the Way Forward occurs this sentence:The fast growing power of modern weapons to find targets accurately and to hit them hard at long ranges is increasing the vulnerability of major platforms such as aircraft and surface ships".In the case of surface ships, the answer seems to me to be that the platforms should be smaller, cheaper and much more numerous. With the increased range and accuracy of modern weapons, numbers become important. I therefore strongly support the entry into service of the Type 23 frigate. I would go even further and consider building something smaller on the lines of the Hunt class destroyers or corvettes of the last war.
When I was a very young naval officer, the most powerful and expensive surface ships were battleships and aircraft carriers. After them came the cruisers, light and heavy. They were not so powerful and not so expensive. Below them were destroyers and sloops, of which we had a great number. I am thinking particularly of the V and W class destroyers built at the end of the First World War in four of which I served. I think we had about 40 of them in the Mediterranean Fleet alone in 1930. They were splendid little ships—maids of all work. They screened the Fleet; they were trained to launch massed torpedo attacks on enemy heavy ships. They were on the spot whenever there was an earthquake or other similar disaster in many countries. They helped to put down revolts in such places as Cyprus and combat piracy in the China Seas. The survivors of them did noble work in escorting our convoys in the last war.
Nowadays, our most powerful and expensive ships are the Fleet submarines and the through-deck cruisers. After them come destroyers and frigates, far more sophisticated and expensive than the cruisers of old; and after that there is a hideous gap until you get to the minesweepers which are not strictly part of the Fleet, though in their own way very important. It is this gap that I hope the Type 23 frigate will fill.
There are five paragraphs in the Way Ahead under the heading of "Beyond the NATO area". I have always thought that the greatest mistake that the British Government made in foreign and defence policy in the past decade was to withdraw all our maritime forces back into the NATO area. I have said this many times in your Lordships' House. We gave up important bases in Singapore, South Africa and the Persian Gulf, where the local inhabitants were still pleased to have us. Our influence in the Gulf area and the Indian Ocean was still considerable and our help and advice eagerly sought.
Once out, there is no possibility of return. Apart 1392 from the strategic value of these bases, our influence is lost. I only hope that the Government are sincere in their intention—and here I agree very much with my noble friend Lord Mottistone—to expand our maritime activities in the oceans of the world, and to support our allies and protect our friends and dependencies in all corners of the globe. We seem to have cut down the numbers of ships most appropriate to this task. Our maritime responsibilities do not stop at the Tropic of Cancer.
I am sorry, my Lords, if I have painted a rather sombre picture. I have tried to express some of my anxieties about our ability to exercise our NATO and national responsibilities at sea with the "new look" fleet. I hope that the noble Viscount, when he comes to reply, will allay some of my fears. But let me end on a more cheerful note. In my own part of Scotland, it is my hope that a number of the diesel submarines may he built at Scott-Lithgow, and that Yarrows will get a substantial order for Type 23s after they have completed the last Type 22 frigate. I welcome the entry into service of the Sting Ray torpedo and the Sea Eagle anti-ship missile and, subject to agreement, the new British-built heavy torpedo. But finally, my Lords, I put my faith in the Type 23 frigates. They must be small enough and cheap enough for us to have a great many of them, and we must have them soon.
§ 6.27 p.m.
§ Lord Jenkins of Putney
My Lords, it is a pleasure to follow the noble Earl, and I hope that he will forgive me if I do not follow him very far in the naval waters in which he is so much at home because, were I to do so, I should speedily find myself completely out of my depth. Perhaps I may also echo what has been said and thank the noble Earl who initiated the debate. We cannot talk too often about these matters, even if from my point of view they sometimes seem to develop on lines which have a certain repetition to them. I have found a tendency for these debates to centre to some extent on an attack on the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, of which I am the vice-president. Had I responded to the various things which were said about the CND with which I did not agree during the course of this debate, I would have been jumping up and down like a jack-in-the-box or a yo-yo. So, I have allowed many things to pass with which I profoundly disagree, and I do not intend to try to pick up these points now. If I were to try to do so, my own remarks would lack any coherence.
I will say one or two things which I said on a less public occasion to the all-party Defence Committee last week. If noble Lords who were present on that occasion wish to depart and refresh themselves in case they should hear the same remarks over again, I shall readily understand that and will take no offence.
The defence study group were kind enough to accept my offer to talk to them about these matters, and particularly about the attitude of the CND. They turned out last week in numbers which I felt indicated an appreciation of the supreme importance of the subject of nuclear weapons. The noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, was in the chair, and he was an eminently courteous and impartial chairman. The same—unhappily—could not be said of what he had to say this afternoon; but this is 1393 not a place for impartiality. For myself, I should have liked to hear the speech which the noble Lord did not make. I hope that on some other occasion we may perhaps be able to hear him on a subject other than the one which is so close to his heart.
I have left out of consideration in these matters the position of the complete pacifists, who are none the less represented on the CND National Council. It is not the position of most of us who are members of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. We are opposed in particular to the nuclear weapon. I shall not weary the House by going over the exceptional awfulness of that weapon—its capacity to kill not merely individuals but possibly to exterminate humanity and civilisation itself. It is that which makes the nuclear weapon to us such an exceptional thing, which we feel has to be taken out of the context of weaponry. I agree with George Kennan, surely one of the most distinguished of all living Americans, who takes the view, which was shared too by Lord Mountbatten—may I say once again, not a unilateralist—that the nuclear bomb is unfit to be used or thought of as an ordinary weapon of war.
In other words, fresh considerations, fresh attitudes and fresh approaches have to be taken up when considering the possible extinction of mankind and all that mankind has built up over the centuries. Attitudes which would have been perfectly appropriate—one has heard them put forward this afternoon—on any other occasion and in reference to other kinds of weapon are inappropriate when we are in circumstances which mankind has never had to face before. If humanity is, as I believe, facing a position which is unique in the history of the world, then we have to bring to that situation fresh attitudes and fresh minds and to put out of our consideration the kinds of attitude which are traditional and which come naturally to noble Lords who took part, as I did myself in some small way, in the unpleasantness of World War Two, because then they and others took part in a war which it was possible to think of winning. It is no longer possible to think of winning wars; and that is the new situation to which we have to bring a fresh mind if we can.
Something has been said about communists this afternoon. They too, like the absolute pacifists, are represented on the CND National Council. Some of these communists are quite alarmingly anti-Soviet these days, and here again I think we have to recognise that the situation has changed fundamentally in the last few years. We used to think of communism as a monolithic Stalinism speaking with a single voice—which was true. The name of Senator Joseph McCarthy has been mentioned here this afternoon. We have to remember that there was at that time a single communist voice and it was possible to say that when that voice was heard one heard variations on the same theme all over the world. But of course that is no longer true. The Chinese communists profoundly disagree with the Soviet communists and the Romanian communists equally profoundly disagree with the Soviet communists. The Yugoslav communists have never been very close to the Soviet communists; and now we have the phenomenon of the Euro-communists, who are almost beginning to sound like members of the Labour Party when they quarrel so bitterly among themselves. It is really quite alarming.
1394 This is new and to react to that situation as though communists themselves were a monolithic group, when they consist of Maoists, Trotskyists and so on, and to assume that the Soviet Union is, as it were, the world voice of communism is really completely old-hat. That is to assume something which no longer exists. This is not a very powerful organisation, a sinister, growing and commanding world conspiracy: it is a country which in many respects is in a very weak position, as the noble Duke mentioned. It is having great difficulty in retaining control of that part of the world which it regards as being its own.
So far as CND is concerned, I think we are a reasonable cross-section of the people of this country, except that we are very short of conservatives. I gather from what I have heard this afternoon that we are not likely to fill that lacuna from this House. However, last week I expressed the hope that we might perhaps clear up some of the misunderstandings. Whether or not I have succeeded in doing that I am not entirely sure, but we must try.
Even the hawks among us are committed to the 1978 United Nations document on disarmament, which provides for general and complete disarmament under international control. This Government has not repudiated that and indeed this year the United Kingdom, with Australia, Belgium, Federal Germany and Japan, has put forward proposals to provide for a comprehensive disarmament programme to be considered by the second United Nations Session on disarmament next year. Ultimately, therefore, we are all peacemongers and the differences between us are perhaps not quite so great as those of us who are engaged in the dialogue sometimes believe.
While all these discussions are taking place in Geneva, Madrid and so on, the arms themselves continue to pile up. We are now in the position of being able to destroy our civilisation and its people several times over. As George Kennan (to whom I have just referred) said, we are in a position of total absurdity when we can destroy each other eight times over and are speaking as though it was absolutely essential to have Trident, and so forth, so that we can destroy ourselves 30 times over. We have all kinds of sophisticated nuclear weapons, tactical weapons, theatre weapons—I still use these terms because they are descriptive, we have got used to them and we know what they are about. They remind us that here in Europe we are in the theatre. It is possible to be a little removed if one is outside the theatre and to imagine, I think quite wrongly, that it might be possible to conduct a restricted nuclear war in Europe, reserving the strategic weapon from outside. But, if you are in Europe, whether it is a limited or a total nuclear war is not going to make that much difference.
It is not true of course that the CND never mentions the SS 20s. We say that the response to the SS 20, with the Pershing 2 and the cruise missile, has set the alarm bells ringing all over Europe. That is what we have done. That is the cause, and not Soviet money, of the gatherings which have taken place all over Europe. As noble Lords have said, people are alarmed. They believe that unless some action is taken to reverse the present course of events we shall find ourselves approaching the holocaust. It is this that is stirring people, 1395 and it does not need any troubles to bring about a rethinking of one's position. As Dr. Johnson said—he was a terrible Tory, but I often quote him because he said some very wise things—nothing clarifies a man's mind so much as the knowledge that he is going to be hanged. That is the gist of what he said. I may have not got the quotation quite right, and noble Lords may correct me.
When we approach the situation that mankind is in danger of being hanged, that begins to clarify humanity's mind. That is what is happening, and it is motivated not by Soviet pressures or by Communism but by a determination that the species to which we belong shall continue to exist on earth. That is what it is about.
It is impossible—I have said this once before—not to have some sympathy with the American Administration. There they were, invited into Europe to assist us in a nuclear defence project. Now when they have got here, and have established their nukes all over Europe, they find that they are being regarded not as firemen but as arsonists. No wonder that they are beginning to be rather confused. But this very confusion, which obviously exists inside the American Administration, is, in itself, extremely dangerous.
For example, it now transpires that the notion of a demonstration nuclear shot is not, as it seemed, the brainchild of Al Haig, who merely blurted it out, but is a notion which was originally discussed by none other than our own Denis Healey. The unfortunate Caspar Weinberger has been led to deny what is now generally thought to be true; that is, that among the nuclear options which NATO forces are being trained to deploy is the demonstration shot. This is dangerous and I do not think that any noble Lord, whatever attitude he brings to these problems, will disagree with that view. We are not disagreeing that it is a dangerous situation. What we are disagreeing about is how one approaches that dangerous situation.
I think that the position of the Government is clear and understandable. They envisage a longer, distant prospect of disarmament at some stage, but an immediate nuclear rearmament which includes Trident, cruise, Pershings, Tornados and the rest. When one adds up the lot, the cost is absolutely phenomenal. One can spread it over years, but the Tornados, for example, will cost almost as much as Trident. The initial cost at the moment, which was revealed the other day, is of the order of £2,500 million; that is, 220 Tornado aircraft at over £11 million each. It is a staggering commitment. That is what disturbed the Select Committee, which stated that the Government contribute to NATO to an extent which they consider excessive as compared with other NATO nations. The Government support the retention and enlargement of the British nuclear capability, and their enemies might say that they talk peace but prepare for war.
The position of the last Labour Government was, in some ways, not dissimilar to that which is adopted by the present Government, except that the last Labour Government acted secretly, and the upgrading or modernisation of Polaris was undertaken by four members of the Government and was even kept from the Cabinet. So Polaris was modernised and £1,000 1396 million was spent. I am not sure how it was got through the accounts; I am trying to find out. But, although the present Labour Opposition does not agree with Trident, there is some relationship between the position of the last Labour Government and that of the present Conservative Government.
How is that to be compared with the position which I support, and which is supported by the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Carver? I very much regret that the noble and gallant Lord is not here to make, once again, the very valid points which he has made before. But there is a distinction to be made, which is that he is not a unilateralist—I told the noble and gallant Lord that I was going to mention his name this evening—but he shares with the late, sadly lamented Lord Mountbatten a horror of nuclear war, and a recognition that a nuclear weapon is not an instrument which is fit to be deployed by an officer and a gentleman. It is something which is outwith the consideration of normal warfare. This is why we should bring to it a separate attitude, as I have already said. This third position is growing. It is one which is occupied by a number of respected noble Lords in this House and by many people outside. The view which they take is that the nuclear weapon is something which we must do without, because, if we do not do without it, it will finish by doing without us.
Before I sit down, I should like to say one or two words about the CND. I apologise to noble Lords if I am taking up too much time, but I am rather in the position in which I am one of the few batsmen on my side. So if I take up a little more time than I should, I hope your Lordships will bear with me for another few minutes. I think that our position is rightly described as unilateralist, in the sense that it envisages the running-down of British nuclear forces and simply telling our allies what we are doing, instead of asking their opinion about it. I am not sure that they would disagree if we did do that, but they would certainly disagree with the second unilateral action envisaged by the CND, which would be to tell the American Government to take its nuclear forces away from this country and out of British waters.
It is important to note that the TUC and the Labour Party envisage Britain remaining in membership of NATO, as does the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Carver, and other people who occupy what I have called the third position. It is also my own position. But I want to tell noble Lords that the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament has carried a motion including withdrawal from NATO among its proposals. I personally think this to be unnecessary and undesirable. There are a number of non-nuclear members of NATO already, and I believe that Britain should seek to remain a member of that organisation and should work for the denuclearisation of both NATO and the Warsaw Pact, culminating in a non-nuclear Europe.
Like Aneurin Bevan, I am opposed to regional pacts in principle, in the same way, perhaps. that the present Government are devoted to general and complete disarmament—a long-term aim rather than an immediate possibility. But I do not regard their disappearance as something which can he expected in any short term. I am quite sure that NATO and the Warsaw Pact are linked and that, while one remains, 1397 so must the other. That is not merely my position; it is that of the Labour Party and the TUC.
Finally, the CND is glad that the Geneva talks are taking place, but would ask the parties to negotiate a real zero option; that is, the establishment of a nuclear-free zone and the gradual extension of that zone until it embraces all Europe, as was envisaged so many years ago in the Gaitskell and Rapacki plans. The Duncan-Sandys doctrine of total nuclear response to a conventional attack has been replaced by the idea of a limited or flexible response. This is now seen to be equally impracticable, even by our own International Institute for Strategic Studies, and it will have to be replaced by a new doctrine of non-nuclear response if mankind is to survive.
§ 6.49 p.m.
§ The Earl of Cork and Orrery
My Lords, like many others I have enjoyed a rather neat concatenation this afternoon of three circumstances. The first was the admirable speech with which my noble friend Lord Cathcart introduced this important debate. Second, the happy conjunction with that of the question put down by my noble friend Lord Orr-Ewing concerning intelligence relating to Russian activities; third, arising directly, he told us, out of that question and the question and answer that it gave rise to, the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont. In my opinion, that speech alone would have justified this debate. If it could be printed as leaflets and dropped by the Royal Air Force all over Europe it would be a far more useful endeavour than any of those pamphlet raids we went in for in 1939 and 1940.
I have also enjoyed listening once again to the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Putney. I heard it last week with pleasure, and I have heard it again today. He will not be surprised if I say things now with which he disagrees; but he will not, I hope, think that I am intending in any way to be offensive. I assure him that I am not. If he will forgive me saying so, he has left out of his considerations something which is of the utmost importance to this debate and to the whole of the defence situation. I think I can say with some certainty that he made no reference whatever to the deterrent effect of nuclear weapons, no reference at all to the independent British nuclear deterrent, no reference to any nuclear deterrent. He has simply referred to nuclear weapons as bigger, worse, more dangerous, more horrible weapons of war. He has referred, as is often done, to nuclear war as though it were as likely to occur as non-nuclear war.
It is probably the result of so much talk about these matters that many of us have come to think of nuclear explosions, weapons, bombs, missiles, as something quite weird and quite different from what they really are. The situation has become so complicated in our minds that we have forgotten what it is, and it might be helpful if we could think about it in a slightly unusual way. The way I propose is this: it may sound rather frivolous but I do not intend it in that way.
Let us imagine that we are engaged in a game of poker. This is a comparison which is not seldom made. In case some noble Lords do not know exactly how poker is played, it is a question of one or two, or more, players betting on hands of cards, which they hold, neither of whom knows what cards the other holds. There are three possible ends to such a game. The first is 1398 that one player loses his nerve as the betting goes up and throws down his hand, in which case he loses all his stake to his opponent. The other is that the opponent loses his nerve because he thinks he cannot afford to win, so he throws in his hand and the first player wins. Another possibility is that one player will say to the other, "I will see you", and puts down a sum of money equal to that put down by the other player. Then you get the showdown. The cards are put on the table. The bluff is then called. The hand is decided according to which player has the higher cards.
With the nuclear game of poker that last alternative is not possible. It is possible to throw in the hand and admit defeat. There are those among us who advocate this course. But there is one course which neither side can in any circumstances take. It is the third one which I described: seeing the other fellow. You cannot call his bluff. Neither side can call the other's bluff because the risk of being wrong is so terrifying, so totally destructive, so fatal to everything that we believe in and so fatal to our own existence that it cannot be done. The nuclear weapon is not a weapon that can be used. It deters and it cannot fail to deter. This is the principle of deterrence. It is the principle which the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Putney, has not mentioned. He takes it for granted, as do so many other people, that this is a weapon. He talks about nuclear war. As I have said, there can be no nuclear war. There can be no war so long as both sides have this weapon, because it is quite impossible that either side can take any step so dangerous that the other side would fire a nuclear rocket back at it. It simply cannot be done. So long as the deterrent exists I do not believe that we can have war of any kind, nuclear or otherwise.
At this point I hope I may put in a plea for the abolition of the words "conventional warfare" as distinct from nuclear warfare. Conventional warfare embraces, among other things, fragmentation bombs, napalm, which means spraying women and children with jellied petrol and then frying them to death in their villages and homes. It means also the firestorm: starting so many fires in a city that they generate great gales of wind, turning whole cities into a furnace, with the result that the next morning all the inhabitants of that city have been reduced to small, charred sticks three or four feet long. This is what people now refer to as "conventional warfare". To the Russians, conventional warfare includes also chemical warfare and biological warfare. There are two kinds of warfare: nuclear and non-nuclear. I see very little to choose between them. The point is that the nuclear deterrent will prevent both.
What happens if we do away with it? This brings me to what I think of as our possible undoing. That is an acronym—UNDOING—which stands for Unilateral Nuclear Disarmament, Or Is NATO a Goner? What happens if we do what the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Putney, has suggested? We do away with our own nuclear deterrent, whether our NATO allies (which means basically our United States allies) like it or not. The noble Lord has not, quite properly, raised the moral argument, which would get us into very great difficulties, of proposing the possibility of sheltering behind the American deterrent while doing away with our own. But what, in effect, would happen? The 1399 noble Lord wishes us not only to do away with our deterrent, but to ask the Americans to remove theirs from here. Other countries presumably would do the same. Why not? What is to prevent them? And what happens when the Americans have removed their nuclear missiles from Europe? What happens is that they have removed themselves and NATO is finished. The policy which the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Putney, proposes is no less than the destruction of NATO. If carried to its logical conclusion it cannot end in any other way. I hope he will think very seriously before embarking upon so hazardous an adventure if he does think that it can end otherwise. This is the most appalling peril which we could possibly face.
We have heard with great force from the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, and we have also heard factually from my noble friend Lord Trefgarne that the Russians are subsidising peace movements in Europe. I submit that this is not arguable. Nor, I submit, does it reflect adversely or discreditably upon the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. I do not wish the noble Lord to think that I have been suggesting anything of that kind. But any advocacy of reducing our nuclear deterrent is offering aid and comfort to the enemy. I do not think that in this context we need split hairs about the meaning of the word "enemy". This is a perfectly proper proceeding in certain circumstances. For example, it is perfectly proper when the United States Government does it. It is offering aid and comfort to the Soviet Union when it proposes to withdraw or to cancel the deployment of cruise missiles and Pershings in Europe. But there is a quid pro quo. The quid pro quo is the abandonment of the SS22s, the SS4s and the SS5s. When you say that you will disarm unilaterally, in the full knowledge that this is what the enemy wants you to do, that is not offering aid and comfort to the enemy—it is giving aid and comfort to the enemy as a gratutious gift. This, my Lords, I do not believe we can contemplate with equanimity.
Lord Grey of Falloden said in 1914:The lights are going out all over Europe. They will not be lit again in our time".They were lit again in our time. They were lit again twice in our time. They were relit by the courage and steadfastness of ourselves and our allies. To follow the policy advocated by the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Putney, albeit with every sincerity and goodness of heart, would be to run the very grave and serious risk that those lights would go out again. This time they may never be reilluminated. Those who ask us to do that ask us too much.
§ Lord Davies of Leek
My Lords, I did not interrupt the noble Earl earlier because he made an excellent speech and I followed it carefully—and I beg his pardon for not being here at the beginning of his speech. When the noble Earl talks about our allies being able to relight the lights, 20 million of our allies who died were Russians, who also helped. Secondly, the unthinkable is now becoming the thinkable in parts of the world. President Reagan's speech worried us, when he looked upon Europe as a theatre. Did he, or did he not, think that there could be a local war with nuclear weapons in Europe? The British people and the world should know.
§ The Earl of Cork and Orrery
My Lords, I am not sure whether the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Leek, is asking me a question or not. But if he is, I do not think it has anything to do with my speech.
§ 7.3 p.m.
§ Lord Beloff
My Lords, I agree so much with the speech made by the noble Earl that I find it hard to follow him. I think the House might find it more interesting if I were to be deal with one or two people with whom I disagreed. I disagree in the first place—and I am sorry he is no longer here—with the Duke of Norfolk when he says that this is a debate between the House as a whole and CND and is not a debate, as is more customary, between the Government of the day and Her Majesty's Opposition. It is a fact that the Opposition have a defence policy which has been outlined recently, although not in this House, by the official spokesman for the party, Mr. Silkin, in more than one speech. I think it would be appropriate in a debate of this kind if this Chamber, which is part of the legislature, were to discuss and compare these two policies. The policy as I understand it, and we have to rely on newspaper reports, is fairly close to the policy which the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Putney, is putting forward; namely, that we should both remove our own independent nuclear weapons and get our American allies not to station a portion of the NATO deterrent force in this country and, as I believe Mr. Silkin said with total and admirable candour, spend a good deal of money necessarily on conventional arms.
I hope perhaps that the noble Lord, Lord Peart, who will be winding up this debate for the Opposition, will tell me if I have in any way misrepresented what I understand to be the policy of the Opposition on this matter. I must apologise if an unavoidable engagement at eight o'clock makes me unable to hear him or the noble Viscount the Minister. I assure the noble Lord that any remarks he makes I shall read in Hansard with due attention. After all, these are political discussions. These are political debates and they will be decided, as things are decided in this country, by the weight of opinion acting through our parliamentary institution. It is not a debate with CND.
As far as CND, as represented by the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Putney, is concerned—and having advised other people to take refreshment he has found need to partake of it himself—I can only say that I wish to make one point, and I want to put it on record. At the private meeting of the interparty defence group to which the noble Lord referred, I challenged his use of the International Institute of Strategic Studies in support of his argument, by pointing out that this body, which Lord Chalfont and I helped to found, is precluded from having collective policies. Indeed, it would be difficult for the institute to have them with a wide international membership. In the all-party defence group on that occasion, this point was admitted by the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Putney, but today once again, he quoted the International Institute for Strategic Studies. I very much hope—I am sure with my noble friend Lord Chalfont and others associated with that body—that to do this is really quite improper. It is as though someone were to support or criticise a matter of foreign policy 1401 by saying that Chatham House was in favour of or opposed it.
I should like to take up something that has been referred to by more than one speaker, including the noble Earl, Lord Cork and Orrery; to contemplate again the difference that has been made (and it is a difference) concerning the problems we face through the introduction of nuclear weapons. It is idle to pretend that a situation in which a small number of people commanding the levers of power could destroy the human race, is familiar to us from history or, indeed, that history is very helpful to us when trying to find out what we should do about it. It cannot be said that humanity has never been conscious of this risk. The dangers of applying or misapplying knowledge go back to the root of our religious beliefs; it is at the root of the story of Adam and Eve. It is at the root in Greek mythology of the story of Prometheus. People have always realised that knowledge unaccompanied by wisdom is dangerous.
What difference, then, does it make? It makes a difference in that when we have a debate of this kind or any other discussion under the broad heading of defence or disarmament (for they are two ways of looking at the same theme) we are dealing with two quite different things. One of them, as the noble Earl, Lord Cork and Orrery pointed out, is the question of deterrence. In the end, either we deter or we fail. At the same time, because we live in a troublesome world—a world in which not everything is part and parcel of the East-West rivalry, and where not every move in that rivalry is necessarily likely to involve nuclear weapons—we also have to consider some very familiar questions as to the balance between land forces and sea forces and, more recently, between land, sea and air forces, which would have been familiar to earlier generations.
It is not surprising that trying to hold these two things in the mind at once is a very complicated and difficult affair. I do not find it at all surprising that the propaganda to which the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, referred has been so successful among the unthinking because this propaganda does suggest a way out of facing this kind of intellectual problem; one clutches at the straw of "count me out" or unilateral disarmament and tries to avoid being caught up in this kind of dilemma. What I find worrying, and perhaps it is the result of a lifetime in the academic world, is that the people who are supposed to be trained to think, and who are supposed to apply trained minds to problems of various kinds, seem equally capable of taking refuge in avoidance of these issues rather than facing them. It is the depredations among the intellectuals of the West, not the depredations to be met among the unthinking and perhaps fearful youth, which I think explain the worries the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, feels, that as a university teacher I feel, and others feel.
I think that the real difficulty which they find—and I think this was illustrated by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Durham when he told us about this meeting of the World Council of Churches—is that they believe that the impact of the novelty of our situation is bound in the end to be symmetrical throughout the world; that because we can see so 1402 clearly—and I think all of us agree—that nuclear weapons have introduced a new dimension into our thinking, this view must be equally shared, and the ethical basis for the revulsion we feel must be equally shared by other people. And, indeed, the right reverend Prelate said that he thought the impact which would be made by the statement or statements of the meeting of the World Council of Churches would make an impression not merely in the countries there represented but even wider, and even in the Soviet Union itself.
I hope, because it is indeed our only chance of survival, that this moral imperative will come to be felt in the Soviet Union itself. But it is difficult to see any evidence in what the Soviet Union does, or indeed in what it says, that this symmetry of reaction exists. After all, why should we expect it to exist? The Soviet Union has, or at any rate its rulers have, an ideology, a faith, which is not the faith professed by the right reverend Prelate, but there is no reason to believe that they do not hold it, that they do not believe that the triumph of their system is as much the object of human life on earth as the right reverend Prelate believes that the saving of human souls is the right object of human life on earth. I do not think we should morally devalue their differences. We find it abhorrent that they keep a distinguished elderly scientist and his wife incarcerated in circumstances of which we are ignorant; that they should deny, because she admittedly fails to fulfil the normal procedures for emigration from the Soviet Union, a peaceful passage from their country for someone who can have no conceivable use to them either militarily or industrially or in any other way.
They have a different view about human rights; they have a different view about the rights of families. Why should we not assume that so far at least, alas, they have a different view about the iniquity of the nuclear weapon. And this, alas, means that we have no alternative but deterrence, no alternative but to retain our own nuclear weapons and to do this this ghastly, beastly job of deterrence—in the most efficient, the most practical way, and the one which most closely associates us with the countries whose friendship we enjoy. It is thoughts of this kind, I think, rather than the details of defence which must always occupy our minds when we come to consider this situation.
§ 7 15 p.m.
§ Lord Murton of Lindisfarne
My Lords, we are all indebted to my noble friend Major-General Earl Cathcart for his initiative in introducing this important debate today and for the most excellent speech which he made. I hope that as a mere soldier of lower rank I may be forgiven the temerity of following two noble Lords, one a Rear-Admiral, the other a Captain RN, in discussing naval matters.
A major problem involved in making provision for defence is how to match the rapidly growing strength of the Soviet navy. It may have come as an unpleasant surprise to many that a nation which can be described as land-bound geographically and land-based economically should be throwing such a great effort into a maritime role. On the other hand, it should not be too much of a surprise and it should not be forgotten that at the beginning of this century the Russian fleet 1403 was indeed fourth in world strength, although it would be true to say that its size and power was not matched by its morale and efficiency, as the Japanese were to prove in the battle of Tsushima in 1904. During the war of 1914 to 1917 and in the last war the Russian fleet achieved nothing of much consequence, but between 1951 and 1957 a large number of submarines began to appear, noticeably 240 of the Whiskey class, one of which, complete with nuclear armament, so recently and inconveniently, but certainly dramatically stranded herself in Swedish waters.
The real creator of the modern Soviet navy is Admiral Gorshkov who became Commander-in-Chief in 1956 at the early age of 45. Under his leadership a modern fleet with an all purpose capability has been developed, and no longer can it be considered to be for defensive purposes only. It is possible, in my view, that the Russians learned the lesson of Cuba and understood for the first time that it was possible to put a ring of ships round a place in the form of a cordon in order to prevent them from reaching their destination.
A graph showing the number of ship-days-out-of-area of the Russian fleet is illuminating. In 1965 there were about 8,000 days and they were concerned principally with steaming in the Mediterranean. By 1979 there were 50,000 days, some 15,000 each in the Mediterranean steaming and in the Atlantic steaming, and 10,000 each under steam in the Indian Ocean and the Pacific. The plain fact is that Russia now has a blue water navy which can be used as a political instrument in the furtherance of Soviet world policy. And that ability to provide a Russian presence at a pressure point could prove to be a cheap and easy form of political intimidation, as my noble friend Lord Mottistone pointed out in his speech.
Britain at its height as a maritime power and before the dissolution of the Empire and the rise of nationalism had territory astride every focal point on the major shipping routes of the world: Gibraltar, Malta, Suez, Cape of Good Hope, Falkland Islands, Aden, Ceylon, Singapore, Hong Kong—and one could go on to the Pacific and the Caribbean islands. In a number of those areas Britain's influence has diminished, and in her place the influence of Russia is now apparent and her warships can be sure of some bases and many anchorages. One can think of Cuba, Conakry, Luanda, Mozambique, Mauritius, Umm Qasr, Aden, Hoddeida, Libya, to mention but a few. This poses a severe problem to the Western allies. Of the NATO countries only the United States and Britain have the will and the ability to operate their navies worldwide, with the co-operation to some extent, of course, of France, which is outside NATO. But it is not only a problem of warships. Britain's merchant marine comprises some 33 million deadweight tonnes, and sorrowfully this takes into account a decline of 3 million tonnes comprising some 70 ships which has taken place in the last seven months.
The United States' merchant fleet is a small peacetime industry. Only 6 per cent. of United States' overseas trade is carried in United States ships. She has some 500 of these, comprising 13 million deadweight tonnes and she ranks tenth among maritime nations. By comparison, the Russian Morflot is a 1404 modern merchant fleet under the total control of the state. Ships can be diverted at any time and to any place to further Soviet interests, and can just as easily become part of a naval fleet train as they can, in their normal role, serve trading interests. Russia ranks third with 1,700 ships comprising 16 million deadweight tonnes.
Modern British ships are fast and therefore able to sail independently of convoy. Unfortunately I have read recently that, in the interests of fuel economy, some modern ships are now being fitted with less powerful engines, and thus will proceed at slower speeds and therefore, I fear, will become a greater risk.
I welcome the report in the Financial Times of 6th October, which I am sure some of your Lordships will have seen, that British Aerospace are at the present time in communication with the Ministry of Defence over a scheme which envisages that merchant ships should be able to carry containers housing complete missile systems in order to be able to defend themselves independently of supporting warships. Whether that is practicable only time will tell. But I think it would be an extremely good thing if merchant ships, as indeed they did in the last two wars, were able to look after themselves.
I do not wish on this occasion to embark upon a detailed comparison of the respective sizes and weapon strengths of the navies of Russia and of the United States and our NATO allies. It is only too well known that the balance is critical. All I will say is that the allied navies are going to have an immense task in the event of war, or the threat of war, to fulfil the roles allotted to them. The NATO policy of having some land forces dual-based makes the task of the allied navies in the North Atlantic particularly difficult. In an emergency and in order to bring the United States and Canadian land forces in Europe up to strength, transport will have to be found for up to one million men, 10 million tons of equipment and 100 million tons of stores, and 95 per cent. will have to be carried by sea. Only 5 per cent. could possibly be managed by airlift.
Naturally I cannot vouch for the above figures, but I should be surprised if I have overstated the position. Moreover, the above does not take account of the movement of reserves of men and material which would be flowing from the United Kingdom to the mainland of Europe at the same time. I have mentioned this problem before because the strategic implications cause me great concern.
Quite apart from the NATO reinforcement, which obviously takes priority over all else, there will be the vital necessity to defend the sea-lanes, worldwide, for the import to North America and to the United Kingdom of oil and of strategic materials and of foodstuffs. That has been mentioned by two of my noble friends already this evening. The task of preventing the interdiction of sea-routes by Russian attack submarines and surface ships would be of mammoth proportions. Time is not on our side, and events during the next eight to 10 years could be decisive. The United States is now building up her navy, which has remained static in numbers for some considerable time. Britain is embarked upon a changed role in which existing surface ships in commission are reduced in numbers and new construction is painfully slow.
1405 This I am afraid is the inevitable result of cost escalation.
Much of the successful expansion of the Russian fleet has been achieved not only by massive spending, which I fear we cannot match, but also by a ruthless cutting in the time spent on research and development and evaluation and project definition. This is something which I think we could match. The ships produced may not in consequence be perfection, but at least they are in being in the case of the Russians and not still on the drawing board.
British Shipbuilders meanwhile are crying out for orders for warship construction. There is calculated to be a worldwide replacement demand for about 450 warships over the next few years. If the Ministry of Defence could be persuaded to build ships for the Royal Navy which had a sales potential for other friendly navies, it would provide a great encouragement to the corporation's workforce and would protect their jobs. Twenty thousand are employed on warship construction, and ironically this was the only division of British Shipbuilders to make a trading profit last year.
The trouble is that for some years now other navies have not bought ships of British design. I wonder why. I wonder, indeed, if the British preoccupation with a long load waterline and a comparatively narrow beam is really the answer for modern weapon platforms. It would be interesting to hear the argument for the modern conception of a hull shorter in length and wider in beam, which I believe to be just as efficient. The new Type 23 frigate, of simpler design than the Type 22, may be more popular; but I wonder whether an even more radical change of hull design should not be tried, together with a reduction in the sophistication of its basic equipment.
Rather than reach the point where British Shipbuilders become overmanned through lack of sufficient orders and begin to pay off skilled men, could not the Ministry of Defence place orders for a number of basic hulls now, which could later become the floating platforms ready for "project definition" when funds allow? The navy could well do with increased numbers of surface ships when this is possible.
Nothing which I have said in any way alters my belief that the Government are absolutely right to maintain our independent nuclear shield. No amount of conventional arms equipment or forces would have the same potency to deter an aggressor. Nevertheless, we have to look to our interests worldwide as regards our Royal Navy.
§ 7.27 p.m.
§ Lord Renton
My Lords, if and when multilateral nuclear disarmament is achieved Russian superiority in conventional weapons is as great as my noble friend the Duke of Norfolk told us, then Europe would be at the mercy of Russia. Mr. Brezhnev has said recently that Russia will never surrender her superority of arms strength, and presumably he meant her superiority in both nuclear and conventional weapons. Therefore, if and when we get negotiations covering multilateral nuclear disarmament, we shall have to embark upon negotiations for conventional disarmament after that. I think that the obvious conclusion from those simple facts is surely that the 1406 Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament should aim its propaganda at Russia, and so should the World Council of Churches, and so should the peace movement in the various countries of Europe and America. However, the peace movement appears to be, to some extent, in Russian hands, as the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, said in his brilliant speech.
As my noble friend Lord Cathcart said in opening the debate, no defence policy could be complete without arrangements to protect our people by means of civil defence—protect them not only from attack, whether conventional or nuclear, but also from the effect of fallout drifting over here if nuclear bombs were to be dropped elsewhere. It is, indeed, surely a prime duty of every Government to help the people to survive, if possible, in all kinds of disasters in peace and war. It should also be the compassionate, humanitarian desire of every Government to do so, and I am glad to say that this Government have shown an increasing desire to do that. Although there is this dispute as to whether disarmament should be multilateral or unilateral, surely we ought all to be united in wanting an effective civil defence organisation as a compassionate duty of Government and, indeed, of Parliament.
I therefore find it surprising that the CND should assert that we should not have civil defence. Even if they misguidedly want our country to become neutral, they should remember that the present neutral countries have civil defence arrangements fully developed, and one thinks particularly of Sweden and of Switzerland. So I invite your Lordships, briefly, to consider the present state of civil defence and what needs to be done to make it effective.
The Government are making some progress, but, as my noble friend Lord Mottistone said, they and local authorities should be making their preparations much faster—much faster than they have so far done since the Home Secretary, in August 1980, made his Statement in Parliament, which was, in effect, a Statement which promised the revival of effective civil defence. Since then, the Government have had the benefit of the advice of Air Marshal Sir Leslie Mayor on the co-ordination of voluntary effort, upon which necessarily so much depends in civil defence, because the regular civilian forces that we have would not be sufficient in the kind of emergencies that have to be contemplated. Indeed, they are not always found to be sufficient for some of the peacetime disasters that occur. The Home Office circular ES 2/81, which was published in, I think, October, says in paragraph 13:The Government consider it essential that local authorities should make the maximum use of voluntary effort in support of their plans".Many people would like to volunteer, including, I am sure, many of the unemployed, for it would give them something helpful to do. Then it was suggested in a short debate in another place on 27th November that former members of the Reserve and Territorial services, whose reserve commitment has expired but who have great experience, which would be useful, should be encouraged to volunteer their services to local authorities.
Last month the Government issued a pamphlet, Civil Defence: Why we need it, in which we read:If you would like to help, ask your local volunteer organisa- 1407 tions in your neighbourhood: the Citizens' Advice Bureau or your local authority will have a list".However, it is quite clear from that pamphlet that the only bodies which volunteers were expected to join would be the Red Cross, the St. John and the St. Andrew Ambulance Brigades, the WRVS or the special constabulary. No mention was made of such bodies as the National Voluntary Civil Aid Society or the Devon Emergency Volunteers, who, in a public spirited way, have for many years now filled the vacuum. However, I am glad to say that Mr. Mayhew in that debate on 27th November amplified the Government's policy—and I only hope that note will be taken of what he said—because, in effect, he said that local authorities should be doing more to enrol volunteers and use their services.
Of course, the part to be played by local authorities in civil defence is vital. They have a statutory duty to set up an emergency planning organisation. Some authorities—not surprisingly Left-wing authorities or Left-wing-controlled authorities—are quibbling about what is expected of them under the statutes. But if clarification is needed it should surely be given; if amendment is needed, I am sure that both Houses of Parliament would gladly pass a short amending Bill. But I do not think it is needed. What is needed is guidance from the centre.
Some local authorities have the strange idea that they could declare their area to be a nuclear free zone. The ostrich burying its head in the sand did, at least, protect its head a little, but a nuclear free zone without civil defence would give no protection of any kind to anybody—no protection even from fallout drifting over here from far away. As I say, at present the performance of local authorities varies considerably. I understand that Mr. Mayhew and his much too small a band of officials in the Home Office are trying to co-ordinate the efforts of local authorities; but there is a long way to go.
Finance, of course, is relevant. Superficially, it does not look too bad because 75 per cent. of the cost incurred by local authorities is supposed to be the subject of the emergency planning grant aid. But, unfortunately, the actual amount available is obscured within the rate support grant and it might, therefore, make more sense if that grant aid came from the defence budget through the Home Office and thus was disentangled from the rate support grant.
In any civil defence plans, industry—whether public or private—has a vital part to play, for it has the manpower, the expertise and the equipment which often far exceed the resources available to local authorities. But as yet there is no serious attempt being made to make use of those resources which industry can, as I say, provide and would, in most cases, gladly provide if consulted.
As the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, said, we must win the propaganda war, and this applies no less to civil defence than to other things. It means that there must be a strong answer from the Government to those who, either intentionally or thoughtlessly, say that civil defence is nonsense. It is not true to say that; it is inhuman to say that; it is dangerous talk. The Government should intensify their humanitarian task of preparing protection for our people.
§ Lord Noel-Baker
My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, may I ask him whether he is aware that it is grotesquely false to say that the disarmament movement in this country, in Europe and in the West is inspired or controlled by the Russians? Will he accept my assurance as co-chairman of the World Disarmament Campaign, that our movement is an entirely spontaneous British and international democratic demand for the fulfilment of the policy of the final document of the special session of the United Nations in 1978; namely, multilateral world disarmament coupled with the reallocation of resources to world development to end world hunger? Will he also accept my assurance—
§ Lord Sandys
My Lords, I think that the noble Lord, Lord Noel-Baker, should follow the conventions of the House. He can certainly ask a question in an intervention, but not make a long statement.
§ Lord Renton
My Lords, perhaps I may briefly comment on what the noble Lord has said. I did not make any accusation that the Russians were supporting the CND. What I said was that the CND should aim its propaganda against the Russians rather than letting the Russians exploit the existence of the CND. At least, that is what I intended to say and to convey. I was glad to hear the noble Lord, Lord Noel-Baker, say that he favours multilateral nuclear disarmament, because the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament seems to favour unilateral nuclear disarmament.
§ 7.40 p.m.
My Lords, after that slight interruption I should like to say a few words in regard to civil defence. I have been through it with my noble friend, and I do not think we are going to overlap. I was very pleased to hear what the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, had to say. There is great anxiety among people of all ages in regard to civil defence and the different things they have heard. I have in my hand a document called Civil Defence: The Cruellest Confidence Trick. It says on the first page:We must tell the Americans we are not stupid enough to remain their advanced nuclear base; that we will not allow them to make our country a target by basing H-bombers, Cruise missiles and nuclear-armed submarines here. Who are they to sentence us to death? What are we to allow it?Many people must have forgotten that if it had not been for the Americans in the last two world wars we should not be in the happy state we are in now. We should probably be part of a Europe that we would not be pleased to be in. Also there is a most cruel picture in this document and it says:Minutes after a one megaton hydrogen bomb has exploded, 2½ miles away the survivors are being sucked into the centre of fire storm by winds of up to 150 mph".I think that this kind of propaganda is very unfortunate indeed.
As my noble friend has just mentioned, we have this new leaflet which states: "Civil Defence is Common Sense". It has been issued on behalf of the Home Office. I now know, and I hope it is correct, that every county will have a county planning officer and that his, or her, job will be to prepare defence of their areas and to co-ordinate the local effort. I hope that 1409 the people who my noble friend mentioned will come into this co-ordination. It says also in this document that money is being spent at the rate of £45 million a year up to 1983–84. I should like to know when the noble Lord replies, or perhaps he will write to me, how this money is being spent and what it is being spent on. It is called an "insurance premium", and I should like to know how it works. I gather there is also to be more information about self-help shelters, which w ill be published from time to time. The local authorities also have been asked—I think this is something new—to make a survey of suitable communal wartime shelters.
Now I should like to mention these statutory obligations. I have had correspondence with the County Planning Officers' Society, and they would like to know something about the following. First, statutory obligations. Some local authorities are questioning the legal requirement to make civil defence preparations. That may take in some of the ones that my noble friend has just mentioned. As a result much time has been spent in attempting to define exactly what these legal requirements are, and to what degree district councils are involved and what, apart from paper plans, is implied and required. It has become apparent that the statutory instruments are open to different interpretations, and this complicates further the job of professional advisers.
Then they go on to speak about the anti-civil defence lobby. They say that there is an urgent need for central Government to mount a co-ordinated and sustained publicity campaign to counter the anti-civil defence lobby. The issues of nuclear disarmament and civil defence preparedness must be separated in the public mind. I think this is important. They are not incompatible but, if civil defence preparations are to continue, the public must be persuaded that they are worthwhile. They must be persuaded that ignorance could prove a greater danger than the bomb itself. It is possible that central Government have misread the public reaction to some of their previous documents and civil defence measures, and have overestimated the public support for the anti-civil defence campaign.
Also, on the Government's civil defence policy they say there is still no obvious commitment clearly defined and fully documented on the civil defence policy. They say that a policy which relies on individual local authorities to carry out "guidance" as they see fit is doomed to failure. Civil defence policy must be convincing, and supported by political will and unequivocal determination to achieve a defined standard, and that is what they are asking for.
Millions of words have been spoken about the inevitability of having another world war, and what weapons are likely to be used. Yet as one or two noble Lords have mentioned, for the last 35 years, with varying degrees of severity, different wars have been waged in fairly confined areas of the world, mostly using conventional weapons. Bigger nations, the major nations, have remained at peace with each other.
More recently magazines describing means of protection have been poured out. It is mostly the Soviet Union which seems to be the ultimate enemy. But what is rather interesting is that smaller countries, 1410 developing countries, now say they are capable of producing some atomic weapons. It would be quite possible for a small nation to blackmail a more powerful one into providing food or finance by the threat of a minimal nuclear attack. In considering the subject as a whole, and attempting some solution, it seemed better to do so from the point of view of: from whence, and with what weapons, the worst effects would come; and, obviously, apart from the Western nations, the Soviet Union has the most sophisticated weapons and is probably the most knowledgeable in their development.
The Soviet Union can launch attacks by any of four means. A quotation from an article in the Journal of the Royal United Services Institution for Defence Studies, of March 1981, on Chemical and Biological Warfare, reads:It has been suggested that fear of nuclear retaliation would impose restraint on Soviet chemical release. This may well be a risk the Soviets are prepared to run, if only because it is a small one.SALT has produced parity or, according to the gloomier analysts, Soviet superiority in strategic nuclear weapons. In the event of a theatre conflict in Europe the U.S. President will be worried by the fear that to authorise even selective tactical nuclear strikes will start an escalation leading inevitably to the destruction of U.S. cities".It is clear that there is no authority capable of providing a categorical view as to which order of attack might take place, including that of high explosive bombs. Also there are those—particularly of the Left-wing persuasion—who believe that unilateral disarmament will bring about world peace. I do not consider that this is a sensible suggestion. There are also others who fear that it would be so unpleasant if an attack were made that survival would be pointless. There is a third group who say that it will never happen anyway.
I hope that, whatever happens, we shall give some help to those civilians who are anxious now, and we should have better or more propaganda to stop their fears. The noble Lord, Lord Clifford, asked me to raise some points as he is unable to be here, but at this late hour may I just hand them to the Minister and perhaps he would be kind enough to answer in that way, because I do not want to detain the House any more.
§ 7.50 p.m.
§ Lord Dormer
My Lords, I wish at the outset to congratulate the noble Earl, Lord Cathcart, on initiating this debate. Defence is this country's greatest need, as well as its most fundamental one, and the ordinary people of this country expect it. In its new guise of world destruction, it is now taking on a fresh dimension, that of prolonged and persistent public debate. This can be a very healthy sign, in that it focuses public attention not only on nuclear weapons, with their vast destructive power, but also on conventional weapons which, if present in sufficient numbers and of the best quality, can provide a deterrent to starting a war.
The sure shield of NATO is this country's greatest asset, yet in recent years we have seen a slight diminution in our overall contribution to it. This paradox, now evident, of great public interest in defence, while 1411 at the same time seeing a diminution, however slight, of this country's contribution to it, has become a curious sidelight on the history of this period and renders all the more valuable the many varied and interesting views which have been advanced in the debate today.
NATO is the fundamental shield of our defence policy. To be able to provide a massive retaliation to anything that the Warsaw Pact can hurl at us must remain, in my view, the greatest contribution to world peace, due to the stupendous destructive power of modern nuclear weapons. I am, nevertheless, slightly concerned at a recent suggestion—perhaps no more than that—that the West might, in the event of war, fire a warning shot of strategic nuclear weapons across the bows, as it were, as a deterrent against further action. Any action of that kind should be made the subject of the most careful discussion between ourselves and the United States Government before any decision is taken, as the possibility exists of such limited intervention developing into a full-scale nuclear war.
At this late hour I shall be brief. The progressive reduction of nuclear weapons on a multilateral scale must remain a great contribution to world peace in the long term, but a reduction is slow in coming and its potential and tactical application must be viewed with some scepticism. To remain strong and retain the superiority which now exists in nuclear weapons over the Soviet allies must, and I believe will, contribute the greatest and most effective deterrent to war which can be devised. That is the justification for buying Trident, in spite of its great cost, together with a large and continuously refreshed fleet of submarines and a Royal Air Force of great striking power and reconnaissance capability.
I turn briefly to our submarine programme, which I believe to be a slight weakness in our overall naval contribution. The great increase in the Russian naval submarine fleet must remain a most serious menace to this country, and I would ask the Minister whether our programme of building could be speeded up. Indeed, it was suggested during the debate in another place, after the Secretary of State had made his Statement, that this could well be done; that is, that a nuclear-powered submarine could be built by a certain firm far quicker than at present. On a visit which I paid to a submarine of this kind, I was tremendously impressed by her manoeuvrability, striking power and other qualities, and an increased rate of production could well constitute a significant increase of enormous importance in our contribution to NATO. In the detection role, I was very much impressed by the Sea-King Harriers of HMS "Invincible", as well as by the great carrying capacity of these aircraft, during a visit of great interest which I paid to that ship last year.
I wish to make a few brief remarks about the composition of BAOR and the imbalance of tanks of the British First Corps in relation to the Russians. No one doubts that the First Corps would give a magnificent account of itself, but one must ask for how long in the event of hostilities breaking out. In view of the fact that hostilities might well start in that vital sector, if they start at all, I have formed 1412 the opinion that what are really needed in this corps are two more armoured divisions, in fact one more corps. High quality is no substitute for lack of numbers, and an increase in this very vital sector might, in fact could, provide that vital extra time for diplomacy to take over and avert the ultimate tragedy. We have heard recently of an increase of £450 million in defence expenditure, and I would ask the Minister if consideration could be given to an increase in the number of tanks in BAOR, even to the extent of one further armoured division.
Defence can never be cheap. It is a fascinating mental exercise to decide where, if anywhere, cuts could be made and where increases in our capability should be made. I am comforted by the hope that this is not the last Defence Review on which I shall be able to speak and that any serious imbalance can be made good in the future. That defence generally, not only against nuclear attack but in conventional warfare, is becoming a major public issue is beyond all doubt, and I hope the Minister will be able to give the House reassuring news of the Government's intention to provide this country not only with a full contribution to NATO in terms of the nuclear deterrent but with a realistic increase in conventional weapons for all the three services. In this way alone, I believe, will peace permanently be maintained, and peace—for this country, for our allies and for the world—can never be expensive.
§ 7.57 p.m.
§ Lord Noel-Baker
My Lords, I shall not detain the House for long. I rise only because as lately as 9 o'clock last night I arrived back from the Soviet Union where for eight days I had discussions on matters of war and peace, defence and armament, with leaders of the Soviet Government, with leaders of Soviet nongovernmental organisations and with ordinary Russian citizens, the men and women in the street, and I can summarise my conclusions in three points which I shall state quite shortly.
The first is that I thought the Soviet Government and people had a much better understanding, much more vivid and realistic, than we have, of the horror and terror of nuclear war. When I listen to noble Lords today discussing civil defence, I am the more convinced that that is true. I wish those noble Lords could pay a visit to Hiroshima, where I have been six times, and could talk with survivors of the bomb about what the events of 6th August 1945 were really like.
Secondly, I came to the conclusion that the Soviet Government and people were obsessed by the fear and hatred of war. They talk constantly of what they suffered, of their appalling losses, during the Nazi occupation of 1941–45. I was in the Republic of Byelorussia, which has a population of 8½ million, and 260 towns. The Nazi gauleiter had established 230 concentration camps, in which he tortured and murdered 2,300,000 people. They have symbolised that event near the village of Katyn, where 150 people were herded into a barn and burnt to death. They have symbolised their losses by the planting of three birch trees, with another space for a fourth tree, where, instead of a tree, there is a living flame which symbolises the 2,300,000 people, the one in every four of the population, who lost their lives to Nazi atrocities.
1413 No one going through the experience which I have had in the last eight days could come away believing that the Russian Government or people contemplate the starting of an aggressive war, and I venture the opinion that if the Government attempted such a thing the people would not allow it to happen. I believe that they would have the kind of revolution that the Czar provoked in 1917. I believe that propaganda which suggests that we are under the menace of aggressive war from the Soviet Union is entirely without foundation.
Thirdly, I would say that in a discussion I had with the chairman of the Council of the Union of the Supreme Soviet and four of his colleagues last Friday afternoon they convinced me that the Soviet Government are genuinely determined to help to carry out the policy of the final document of the first special session of the United Nations in 1978; namely, general multilateral world disarmament, nuclear and conventional, down to the level at which no Government retains more arms or forces than they need to maintain internal order at home and to make a manpower contribution to a United Nations peace force, the disarmament to be carried out in progressive stages, which should be rapid, and under international inspection and control. There would be the further provision that the enormous resources so released by this general world disarmament should instead be devoted to world development, to ending world poverty and hunger, to providing proper shelter for those who live in mud huts and slums, to providing food for the 800 million people who are starving, and to saving the children who are dying from hunger every year.
I am no simpleton in international affairs. I lived in the Foreign Office for eight years. I was an original member of the secretariat of the League of Nations. I have represented Britain in the Security Council and in the General Assembly of the United Nations. I am not easily taken in by foreign statesmen. I was genuinely convinced that the Soviet Government desire world disarmament and desire to use their own national resources to make communism succeed, to give their people the standard of living that they ought to have and which, being saddled with a war economy, they cannot give them today.
§ Lord Renton
My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, and bearing in mind that he asked me to clarify something in my speech, I wonder whether he would be so good as to clarify a matter. He referred to what the Russians need for maintaining order internally. Did he ask them why they had to imprison and put in so-called psychiatric hospitals, and otherwise victimise, people who were standing up for human rights in accordance with the Helsinki Agreement, to which the Russians are a party?
§ Lord Noel-Baker
My Lords, I answer to the noble Lord, that of course we are all agreed that it is regrettable that the Soviet Union do not take the same view of human rights as we take. However, I would add that when world disarmament is carried out, and when the Soviet people are freed from the burden of the war economy with which they are now saddled, much more will be done for the human rights of Soviet citizens than can be done in any other way.
§ 8.6 p.m.
§ Lord Gladwyn
My Lords, we are greatly indebted to the initiator of this very interesting debate. It is indeed necessary to have a debate limited to one great issue, in fact the greatest of all issues, the nuclear issue, rather than to stray over the whole field of defence if we can avoid it. So, as I have said, we are very much indebted to the noble Earl, Lord Cathcart, for raising the matter in the way that he has done. As I understand it, his aim was twofold. In the first place he wanted to make the case for our own nuclear power, for Trident, so far as he could. In the second place, if I am not wrong, he wanted to contest the general theses of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, which he thought were very dangerous.
On Trident, the views of those of us on these Benches are very well known, and I shall not repeat them. I tended to agree with the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, when he said that in his view Trident was doomed and in any case would be rejected by the next Government when they came to power, which I think I said myself in a debate a few months ago. More and more people are coming to that conclusion. The price will undoubtedly escalate over and above inflation, and I do not see how we can possibly avoid that. So I believe that eventually it will be abandoned; certainly it will be if the Liberals and Social Democrats have anything to do with the next Government.
On the CND point, we have heard the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Putney, in private and in public, and we all respect his views. But surely the main argument against his case is that you cannot profess the views and objectives of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and at the same time be in favour of NATO; they are definitely contradictory. If, as the noble Lord said, we told the Americans to clear out of this country, bag and baggage, with their nuclear weapons and otherwise, from all their bases, we should create a situation in which the position of the German Chancellor would probably become impossible, and the whole of NATO would begin to crumble. The Americans would then go back to America, and the result would be that NATO would collapse. I think that I am expressing the views of nearly everyone in this House when I say that I believe that that is the case.
The noble Lord, Lord Jenkins, also said that the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Carver, who is not here to express his views, and others—I suppose that he was also referring to me—belong to a school of thought which held that we should "do without" nuclear weapons. I do not think that Field Marshal Lord Carver holds that the alliance should do without nuclear weapons. He believes rather that it should have nuclear weapons as a deterrent. I do not think that he has ever said anything to the contrary. All he feels is that our own so-called independent nuclear deterrent is not independent and could not profitably be used as a deterrent in war.
If one rejects altogether the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, what therefore is the right philosophy for defence? Here we come up against certain real diversities of view. Purely personally, I do not now have the kind of leaden feeling that I had in the late 'thirties that war was absolutely inevitable. Somehow, I do not feel that now. I feel that it is certainly possible 1415 and is a great danger, but I believe that the greatest danger we face is that there will be some kind of collapse of our present industrial society in the next few years. If that should happen, then inevitably the Soviet Union would win the third world war without ever fighting it. That, I think, is the real danger we are up against.
If we are to combat the spirit of pacifism and indeed, I think, to some extent, defeatism which is now sweeping over the country, I therefore think we must first of all do our best to cure the recession, to get out of the slump. That is the best way to counter all the undoubted Soviet propaganda which is now certainly encouraging movements like CND and other such movements in the western world. I do not think that the CND is motivated by the Soviet Union as such. I agree with Lord Chalfont, however, that they are undoubtedly encouraging that movement. The best way to combat that feeling is really to get the better of the present recession and to get a move on in improving our own industrial society.
But, of course, the danger of nuclear war still exists. We must maintain the alliance; and how best are we to do that? The present position is not what it was 10 years ago, when our basic defence strategy or policy was formed. Here I should like, if I may, to refer to what I think is a very impressive document called, The Credibility of the NATO Deterrent, a policy paper issued by no less a body than the Atlantic Council of the United States—a body on the board of which, I note, sits no less a person than Eugene Rostow and, indeed, Paul Nitze, to say nothing of Goodpaster and other generals and other famous American characters who cannot possibly be said to be influenced in any way by heterodox views, or so one would have thought. What they say is:What has occurred to change the picture is the loss of that fairly clear NATO superiority in both strategic and tactical (or theatre) nuclear weapons, which had given the Atlantic Alliance escalatory control. Such clear NATO superiority is not likely to be seen again. To the extent that control of the situation through escalation to tactical or theatre nuclear war exists, it can be said to rest now with the Warsaw Pact rather than the West".That is a sombre thought. The conclusion, of course, broadly speaking, is that the way to combat this is, by one means or another, to increase the credibility of our conventional deterrent—in other words, to strengthen our conventional forces.
What are the deficiencies that they detect in these forces now? I should like to read them out because it will not take a minute and I think that we really should understand what these Americans (who, after all, are experts in this matter) believe are the present deficiencies in our conventional defences. These are, they say:lack of defence against, and response to, chemical warfare, both still inadequate in the Allied Forces in comparison to the threat; deficiencies in operational reserves; inadequate numbers of tanks and anti-tank weapons to counter the Soviet armoured superiority; shortage of ammunition of all sorts, currently inadequate for sustained combat conditions of more than a few days, and in many cases poorly located and protected; shortage of other War Reserve Material stored in the theatre to replace material consumed or destroyed in combat; inadequate air-defence measures, particularly surface to air missiles, compared with an excellent Soviet capability in this area, presaging serious NATO losses early in any air battle; lack of survivable 1416 war headquarters and interface of Allied and national communication networks; insufficient allied war headquarters manned in peace-time; lack of sufficient exercises in which national forces are placed under international command; shortages in infrastructure of all kinds, national and international; lack of naval forces needed to ensure the arrival of reinforcements in Europe; deficiencies in trained manpower in ready and reserve units; lagging electronic warfare measures to counter the impressive Soviet capability in this field; and inadequate training of personnel and maintenance of equipment".To this, I think, so far as the BAOR is concerned—to which I think this catalogue of deficiencies probably also applies—one might add the lack of hardened airfields to resist any bombardment by the enemy in the case of war. All this makes very bleak reading, but it is apparently the view of, as I say, this highly intelligent and informed collection of people.
All this, however, could be remedied. It could be remedied more particularly if co-operation on the production of the new, ultra-modern defensive weapons, notably anti-tank weapons and anti-aircraft weapons, was undertaken in accordance with a scheme for their forward deployment on the Continent. It need not be—and this is a point I should like to emphasise—colossally expensive. We are told that money in not available. Of course, it never is. We are told that even the 3 per cent. by which, as I understand it, we are going to increase our forces here over the next two or three years—we are told this by the press, and the noble Viscount will no doubt correct me— is now in danger. Perhaps it is not, but that is what the press say.
Yet, in spite of all this, we propose to spend about £10 billion on Trident, not now but over the next few years; and, unless I have got it wrong, the United States proposes to spend some £200 billion on new nuclear weapons of all kinds, including the new bomber, apparently for the admitted purpose of achieving a preponderance and not for restoring even a nuclear balance. That, I must say, makes one think. If only a proportion of this enormous sum—some of our Trident money and some of the huge sums which the Americans propose to devote to nuclear rearmament—was diverted to remedying the deficiencies which the Atlantic Council has observed in our conventional forces in Germany, the situation would obviously be enormously improved and we should not be confronted, as we still may be if nothing like this is done, with the alternative, in the event of war, of defeat or prospective annihilation.
Of course, we all hope for negotiations; but if only we can achieve some kind of conventional credibility it will assist these negotiations in Geneva and Vienna. It will not wreck them; it will assist them. Therefore, I think it is all the more necessary for us to devote ourselves, if we can, to the construction of some credible conventional defence. The negotiations will not be assisted by merely piling up enormous quantities of nuclear weapons, of which there is a vast superfluity already. It might even wreck the negotiations if that happened.
Perhaps—and I should like to end on a note of hope—both super powers now, despite appearances to the contrary, are beginning to think that the negotiations simply must succeed, that there is no alternative to their success. Naturally, if they are to succeed I agree with my noble friend Lord Mayhew that the 1417 Europeans ought to be more nearly associated with them than seems likely at the present moment. But if we all work together to this end, I believe we shall close the famous window of opportunity for the Soviet Government which has been referred to in the debate, and, with luck, arrive in calmer waters by the year 1984.
§ 8.19 p.m.
§ Lord Peart
My Lords, may I first congratulate the noble Earl for giving us the opportunity today to hold a very fine defence debate. I have listened carefully to all the speeches that have been made today, and I think that, of all the debates we have had in this House of which I have had experience—and I have not been here as long as other noble Lords—this is the best I have heard. I hope I can make a good speech, but one never knows. The quality of the speeches I have heard has been remarkable. I will not single out names, but it was a fine performance on the part of all noble Lords.
My Lords, listening to the debate and thinking about the horrific implications of nuclear weapons takes me back to another place in June 1945 when I made my maiden speech. In it I described how the:development of new Wellsian scientific devices has increased the necessity for world peace".I argued then—I am not a pacifist but a multilateralist—that:the world cannot afford to have another war…the atomic bomb has seen to that".I declared that:total peace must follow total war. If mankind is to survive, we must have a new approach to foreign politics and international affairs".At that time I was thinking of the need to have a positive, constructive attitude towards nuclear energy. I hoped that the famous Baruch plan would represent that new approach. This was a plan to create an international atomic energy development authority to which would have been entrusted all phases of the development and use of atomic energy. When Baruch presented that plan at the first meeting of the United National Nations Atomic Energy Commission in June 1946, he called on the commission to make a choice between the "quick and the dead". He continued:Science has torn from nature a secret so vast in its potentialities that our minds cower from the terror it creates. We must provide the mechanism to ensure that atomic energy is used for peaceful purposes and to preclude its use for war…the search of science for the absolute weapon has reached fruition in this country. But she stands ready to proscribe and destroy this instrument if the world will join in a pact to that end".This was the theme I developed then. I still think that we have sadly foundered: the plan has foundered on the question of the authority enforcing the agreement. It never came.
I believe that this was a tragic lost opportunity. We shall never have another one like it. How much further we are now from an international agreement on nuclear weapons! How much more difficult it is now to agree on even a limited reduction of the massive stocks of nuclear weapons which the super powers now possess, capable of destroying the world many times 1418 over. We cannot even agree on the arithmetic. Not only do the two sides differ very substantially over the number of weapons each possesses—the United States has recently claimed that the Soviet Union has a 6:1 advantage in intermediate range systems, while the Russians claim that there is an approximate balance—but the United States figures conflict with those circulated by its allies as well as by the International Institute of Strategic Studies. This is so important.
In a recent report the Institute concluded that the,numerical balance over the last 20 years has slowly but steadily moved in favour of the East. At the same time the West has largely lost the technical edge which allowed NATO to believe that quality could substitute for numbers…The overall balance continues to be such as to make military aggression a highly risky undertaking…The consequences for an attacker would be unpredictable and the risks, particularly of nuclear escalation, incalculable".The numerical permutations are seemingly endless; what matters is whether the will to agree exists; and that has seemed in doubt in recent months. I think that this was partly due at first to the belligerent stance of the United States. I am pro-American, but I still think it was essential for them to think in terms of opening up negotiations. Too much rhetoric! Now we know we are having the negotiations, and I trust they will succeed. Every noble Lord and people all over Europe and the world will hope that these talks are successful and that we shall see an era of peace come into being. Everyone will accept that.
I am glad that President Reagan has at last sought to have a confrontation with the Soviets and the East. We cannot afford to have the super powers wilfully misunderstanding one another. I should like to take this opportunity to express my admiration for, and gratitude to, Chancellor Schmidt, who has played such an invaluable role as mediator and interpreter between the two sides.
In a recent article—I think it was quoted today—George Kennan, the former American Ambassador emphasised that:Western policy makers should consider that a Western policy that offers no encouragement to the more moderate elements in the Soviet hierarchy must inevitably strengthen the hand and the political position of those who are not moderate at all".He questioned the assumption that there has been an enormous build-up of Soviet conventional strength on the European continent and warned:Western Governments in particular should not try to gain support for such a program [of strengthening NATO forces] by painting on the wall an exaggerated and unnecessarily alarming image of Soviet intentions and capabilities. This procedure represents, in my view, an abuse of public confidence and one that, in the end, is invariably revenged".Turning to nuclear weapons, he concluded:…if there is any incentive for the Russians to use such weapons against us, it surely comes in overwhelming degree—probably, in fact entirely—from our own enormous deployment of them".He may be right; he may not be right. We can only be grateful that other Americans are beginning to take heed of these arguments.
I welcome President Reagan's proposals, especially the "zero option", but I do not think that we should ignore the contradictions this proposal involves. As one British analyst asked:What would we do if Brezhnev said yes?Acceptance of the "zero option" would undermine 1419 NATO's claim that the Pershing and Cruise missiles are vital links in the chain of flexible response. I believe that NATO and the United States should take this opportunity openly to renounce all plans involving a first strike. This would be in keeping with the "zero option" and would be a valuable gesture of goodwill. If the Geneva talks are to achieve anything, they must be conducted in an atmosphere of mutual trust or, at least, suspended suspicion.
My Lords, I should like now to turn to another aspect of defence that I feel is often neglected. A recent leader in the Financial Times declared:The monstrous cost of armaments has soared, is soaring and ought to be contained".Economics cannot be divorced from defence and I believe that our present defence policy is dangerously weakening an already weak economy. This has even been admitted by Mr. Nott, the Minister of Defence, who is on record as saying that if the present 1:2 ratio of British spending on research and development production costs is sustainedit may drive us into bankruptcy".Yet it was announced last week that an extra £500 million will be spent on defence next year. Heavy military expenditure has been accompanied by relatively low investment in the rest of the economy. Whereas civil sector industry has suffered cuts in R & D and in investment, the military sector has remained immune. A rising military budget is certainly no way out of a recession. A report published in Washington this week by Dr. Ruth Leger Sivard has shown that the slowest growth in investment and manufacture productivity among 10 developed countries has occurred in the United States and the United Kingdom where military expenditures are the highest in relation to GNP:The best investment and productivity record is in Japan where the military-to-GNP ratio has been very low and productivity has grown at an amazing 8 per cent. a year".Finally, I should like to add a note of warning to the optimism that has been engendered by the start of the Geneva talks. Sadly, a nuclear-free Europe is not just around the corner, but I believe that it is vital that Europe continues to maintain the pressure on the super-powers to keep talking until they reach an agreement. It was hard enough "getting them to water to begin these talks". We must now make them drink.
My Lords, I remain committed to NATO, as I have been since its inception. I believe now, as I believed then and as other leading members of the Labour Government that helped set up NATO believed, that peace can only be preserved by a British contribution to NATO, which must be accompanied by a contribution from other countries. I cannot visualise a situation in which Britain would come under direct attack except in the context of a general European war. Such a war would involve nuclear weapons at some stage. Even if the philosophy and practice of neutralism dominated our political thinking, we would inexorably be sucked into the conflagration.
I make no apology for supporting NATO or believing in multilateral disarmament. I believe the two can be matched. But I would ask those who vilify the peace movements and brand them as dupes of the Soviet Union and worse, whether the United States 1420 would have altered its position quite so drastically and whether it would now be sitting down to talks with the Soviet Union (a fact that was welcomed throughout Europe) if it had not been for the strength of feeling represented by the peace movements? We should not blind ourselves to the fact that so long as multilateral disarmament fails to deliver the goods, unilateralists will have an increasingly persuausive case. I believe in multilateral disarmament. I believe that we should have the best weaponry that we can have. I believe that what I have said is the right approach, and I hope that it will be accepted by most people.
§ 8.32 p.m.
§ Viscount Trenchard
My Lords, I, too, am glad that I am not on this occasion replying to a Motion which covers both foreign affairs and defence, although I would say to the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, that it covers the problems affecting the whole of defence, including nuclear weapons. That is bad enough. I will not go over the ground that I covered this afternoon with which a number of your Lordships do not fully agree. I will not, therefore, go into the question of Trident and the extremely small percentage of the defence budget for which it accounts. I would only say that my words clearly have not been accepted by the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, but I hope that he will do me the credit of reading in Hansard the spell-out of the situation in money terms as it is.
I welcome the speech of the noble Lord the Leader of the Opposition, and particularly his support for NATO, which the vast majority of your Lordships have supported in this debate, and for multilateral disarmament. I will not tackle the interlocked questions of armament expenditure in different countries and the correlation—I believe a rather simple and perhaps facile correlation—which the noble Lord quoted, because we have a short debate to be held before Christmas which will be introduced by the noble Lord, Lord Noel-Baker, on that specific subject.
Let me start by saying that the Government stand by the July review. Of course, in defence, in an age of change, we every year are redoing both our annual estimates and, internally, our long-term appreciations, and things do in fact change. But we stand by the July measures and the major recast of programme which my right honourable friend the Secretary of State announced at that 'time. It puzzled the noble Lords, Lord Kennet and Lord Peart, that so soon after that review we read in the papers—and it is published in the statement of my right honourable friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer—that defence is to receive another £500 million. Let me mention but three reasons for this. We are moving on to a cash rather than a volume control basis. We continue to suffer from the very encouraging fact that industry is delivering our orders on time, within specification, extremely efficiently; as I said in reply to a Question earlier, at a higher rate of productivity as well. The third factor is that the exchange rate has moved rather fast, particularly in relation to the USA, back to what many might regard as a more normal level; and our defence suppliers—not that we buy a great deal directly from America at the moment—use a great number of American components in their goods
§ Lord Kennet
My Lords, can the noble Viscount tell us a little more about those American components? We know it is nothing to do with Trident because he has told us that the increase is nothing to do with Trident. What is it to do with, if it is affected by the exchange rate charge from America?
§ Viscount Trenchard
My Lords, I do not wish to delay your Lordships at this hour. The three reasons that I have mentioned—and when the noble Lord reads Hansard I think that he will see them—account for substantially more than a £500 million change in the purchase of £5,000 million-worth of equipment in a single calendar year.
A number of noble Lords have expressed worries about the maritime role. Let me first remind all those who have brought this up that the July review included our submarine-building programme, which is proceeding as rapidly as possible. We have six Type 42 destroyers under construction and four Type 22 frigates. We are still considering the question of a further 22 frigates beyond the last one announced. We are looking hard at the design of the successor frigate that was mentioned in the July review. In the field of weapons, some of your Lordships have mentioned the torpedoes and the submarine-launched missile, the sub-harpoon, which will also be in service very soon. So, there really is no question but that we are still re-equipping our maritime forces, not only the Royal Navy but also our maritime patrol aircraft, and the whole field of anti-submarine warfare is changing to a degree that make the ratios of frigates and escorts which the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, raised, and about which I will write to him, really not a very relevant factor.
In general, we believe that, of the essential roles that we still have to meet, the maritime role can be met within the NATO context in the way outlined in the July review. Of course, we should like more of everything, and a number of noble Lords suggested that perhaps it was easier to rebuild an army or that commitment to 50,000 personnel in Germany was out of date. I have to say that one look at the build-up on the Western Front in Europe and at what is facing us and our allies disabuses us of any idea that there are economies to be made there. Some noble Lords have pointed out that they would like to see more staying power in the front line in Europe. It is our front line. We are re-equipping it; we are cutting down on headquarters. We are supplying the Challenger tank to a percentage of our armoured regiments in Germany. There is no economy to be made there. Neither is the offensive threat which has been built up in recent years by the Soviet Union greater in the maritime area than in the air, in the nuclear area and in the area of land warfare. The build-up is everywhere, and it needs a good deal of investment in modern weapons and a great deal of thought and skill by experts to be able to meet it adequately.
We cannot keep five dockyards in existence. The overheads of a dockyard are far too great and we really do not need five of them. If we are to have teeth in our defensive weaponry we cannot spend unnecessary money on overheads. I welcome the suggestions made by my noble friend Lord Glasgow 1422 for smaller type designs for the Type 23 frigates. Work on the design of this frigate is still proceeding and I will ensure that his suggestions are brought to the attention of our experts.
Our out-of-area forces are very small. Indeed, such is the cost of modern defence and such is our current position in the industrial world that there are limits to what we can do outside our essential roles in Europe. We still do have small mobile forces and they still can be used to help dependent and ex-dependent territories which depend upon us and where we have treaties. We support the United States in the emphasis they are putting on the rapid deployment force, and we hope very much that the non-aligned world in the East may perhaps build up its alliances and begin to get to a stage of having something more comparable with the NATO defensive organisation in that part of the world.
The noble Lord, Lord Orr-Ewing, raised the air role question, and I will not weary your Lordships with going over the many points which we raised in the July review and which involve the strengthening of the air defence of this country, which we believe is necessary. The plans are going ahead; the infrastructure plans are going ahead, as are the radar improvements and the force multipliers which my noble friend did not have time to mention, such as the tanker aircraft; the early warning aircraft which are also force multipliers are going ahead together with the other measures he knows of in relation to maintaining the Phantoms, which were due to be phased out, and being able to provide a further Lightning squadron in time of emergency as quickly as we possibly can.
We are also moving forward on all the important weapons mentioned in the July review that affect the air role. I would tell my noble friend that I have passed on his point regarding the benefits of the United States National Air Guard exercising in this country, not only through our own air force, which has discussed the question with the United States, but also raised them with all concerned on my visits to Washington. I believe his point is a good one and I hope very much that something will come of it; it is entirely in the hands of the United States.
A number of noble Lords raised the question of civil defence, and I think that in the time available I would be wrong to do more than say that my right honourable friend the Home Secretary is not twiddling his thumbs and doing very little in this area. There are to be civil defence exercises in 1982, and a great deal of work is going on. I would just say in passing that this should not be taken by any of our peace movements to mean that we are planning to fight a nuclear war. Our main strategy remains deterrence; but deterrence, to be creditable, must include emergency plans.
I want to mention the United States, since at various times in the debate our largest and most powerful ally in the Alliance has been mentioned. The noble Lord, Lord Chalfont—and I agree with him—said that you really cannot have a sort of intermediate position, halfway between the United States and the USSR and, at the same time, be members of NATO, which virtually all of us believe we must remain with and which is the cornerstone of the defence of freedom.
1423 The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Durham mentioned the Americans who came and gave evidence to his meeting in Holland. I will ask him on another occasion to tell me: which Americans? I have seen many of the United States Administration who are concerned with defence and also members of the State Department, and I do not find a cynical attitude anywhere. I accept completely that the proposals they have put forward they mean, and while I do not believe that any of us really think they would be accepted just like that, if they were accepted after considerable deliberation nobody would be more pleased than the United States.
The noble Lord, Lord Mayhew, twisted the Americans' tails a little hit, if I may use that expression; and even the noble Lord, Lord Peart, when he talked about the difference between the American assessment of armaments and that of the International Institute of Strategic Studies, did so also. He queried the reality of the zero proposal. I have read very carefully, and several times, the figures of the International Institute of Strategic Studies on the balance and I have also read the various American publications on the strength of the Soviet Union. I find no major differences between the two.
Tail-twisting is a hobby in a free society, and I think that we in the West all find it more fun to do with a chap who is big, important, rich and very powerful. When we were the richest and most powerful country in the world we had our tail twisted a lot, and particularly by the United States. I think we took it quite well. I think all of us are now twisting the United States' tail and, although they have not yet quite the experience of taking it in the way that we did for long years in our great past, I believe that they are taking it extremely well.
I believe also that we are in danger of being very unfair to them. We say at one moment that we doubt whether they would use their nuclear weapons, and we ask them to place some nuclear weapons in Europe to counter the Russian weapons which cannot reach America but can only reach Europe. And when they start to do that, some of us say, "We don't want you". I really feel we all owe an enormous amount to the United States, and think that should be recognised.
On the question which the noble Lord, Lord Mayhew, raised, of whether communications are adequate within NATO on the main negotiations in the nuclear disarmament talks, there are the two bodies—NATO's special consultative group and NATO's nuclear planning group—which meet regularly, which have met recently and which have agreed with the United States unanimously exactly what should be negotiated. Reporting-hack procedures, both formal and informal, exist and, as I said earlier, there are special lines from the heads of all the members of the Alliance to each other. There are also hot lines which we have to the Kremlin, to the White House and to Paris as well. Perhaps I might just finish the sentence and then I will give way to the noble Lord. I believe that purposeful meetings will be better held by the smallest numbers of those most directly involved, and I believe that all the others concerned will be fully informed of the progress of those negotiations.
§ Lord Mayhew
My Lords, I am sure that the noble Viscount is very well aware of the important difference between being informed and invited to make comments, on the one hand, and being given observer status and being able to make up one's own mind from one's own observations, on the other. I ask why the European allies are refused the second status.
§ Viscount Trenchard
My Lords, I do not think they are. I used the word "informed" just now, and I believe that there are continual consultations in NATO. These groups are just for that purpose. I do not believe that the United States, although the strongest nation within NATO, can move, nor do they believe they can move, without the agreement of their allies. I also do not believe that they will move in any direction which is not endorsed by their allies.
I do not have the time to do anything other than add my praise of the very striking speech of the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, who drew our attention to the great importance of the psychological war. The only thing I want to say to him is that we are not, of course, doing nothing. I am not speaking in the terms which he envisaged, but we are realising, perhaps a little too late, that we must inform our own public—and our allies are realising that they must inform their own public—of the facts of the situation. A great many publications and much literature have been produced by my noble friend the Foreign Secretary and by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Defence. I remain worried at the volume of contacts being made by people who are not in possession of the full facts, particularly with our young, in schools and universities. Fairly busy Ministers in this "Yes, Minister" syndrome, on a part-time basis, are not adequate to deal with this situation. So I very much hope that the noble Lord, and other noble Lords who have spoken so clearly and so well in this debate, will spare the time to go and explain the facts and their points of view to all and sundry.
Let me try to summarise what we believe, and what we do not believe, in the area of deterrence. Deterrence is inherently a contradictory concept. Great war fighting capability is required not to fight, but to prevent, a war. That is a contradiction in itself, but it is a truism. There are good reasons for the alliance having all the options that we have. There are good reasons for modernising the weapons in each of these option areas to make deterrence credible. We need the options to prevent nuclear blackmail, perhaps allied to conventional attack. We need the option of our own deterrent to make sure that the Soviet Union never gambles on the possibility of swift attacks or blackmail in Europe, resulting in the decoupling of the USA from the alliance in Europe. Our allies, including the United States, welcome this.
We do not accept that renunciation of the first use of a nuclear weapon, in any circumstances, is either reliable or sensible, in view of Soviet conventional preponderance. We do not believe that achieving parity in conventional forces, involving perhaps a 60 per cent. increase in the defence budgets of all NATO nations, is practical, nor does it remove the vulnerability to nuclear blackmail. The noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, quoted a criticism in what I think was an American report—I shall check in Hansard and get 1425 hold of it—of NATO's conventional forces. I do not recognise it. I have some knowledge of the degree of equipment of those forces and I believe that it is, perhaps, another example of the West's capacity to criticise itself—
§ Lord Gladwyn
My Lords, would the noble Viscount agree that it is published with the knowledge and apparent approval of such great American authorities as Mr. Paul Nitze and Mr. Eugene Rostow?
§ Viscount Trenchard
My Lords, I told the noble Lord that I will study it closely. Perhaps it may sound impertinent, but every day of my life I listen to famous experts or read what they say, the one in contradiction to the other—
§ Viscount Trenchard
My Lords, I really feel that, with 24 minutes on the clock, I should not give way. We do not believe that in a situation which, if deterrence continues to work, will never arise, it necessarily follows that the first use of a nuclear weapon by defenders of freedom and democracy would automatically result in nuclear retaliation. The aggressor would take stock from his bunkers as to whether his prize was attainable at an acceptable cost. Neither could he have any interest in acquiring a nuclear desert. I, therefore, regard the term "nuclear exchange" as misleading. There is no intention by Her Majesty's Government or by NATO of—nor any interest in—fighting a limited nuclear war which no one can win. Our interest lies in keeping it clear in the potential aggressor's mind that no aggression will pay. We can certainly give the guarantee that, if there is no aggression, there will be no first use, second use or any use of any nuclear weapon or any other weapon at all.
In conclusion, I would say that our disarmament hopes are high, and I am glad that a number of noble Lords have supported that view. That does not mean that we expect miracles, or expect miracles quickly, but, for the reasons I gave in my opening statement, we are optimistic. I would end by appealing to all those who have a burning interest in peace, including those in our peace movements, to draw close behind the leaders of our alliance, to give them every support and to put all pressure possible on those behind the Iron Curtain, where the same freedoms do not exist, to react and to respond. I, too, believe that they have enough self-interest and abhorrence of war, as the noble Lord, Lord Noel-Baker, said, to react at this time.
§ 8.57 p.m.
§ Earl Cathcart
My Lords, your Lordships would not wish me to detain you at this late hour, except to thank my noble friend the Minister for the very full part he has played in this debate, and for the clear way in which he has summed up. I should also like to thank all noble Lords from all parts of the House for their contributions to the debate. We have heard many distinguished speeches, and I hope noble Lords will feel that it has 1426 been a worthwhile debate. I beg leave to withdraw my Motion.
§ Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.