§ 3.5 p.m.
§ The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Young)
My Lords, I should like to make a statement about the Reykjavik meeting between President Reagan and General Secretary Gorbachev on 11th–12th October. Since that meeting, the United Kingdom in common with our other NATO allies, has received a full briefing in Brussels on the outcome of the meeting from the US Secretary of State, Mr. Shultz. My right honourable friend the Prime Minister and I also saw the chief Soviet negotiator at the Geneva nuclear and space talks, Mr. Karpov, in London on 14th October.
The Reykjavik meeting was not originally designed as a forum for the conclusion of major arms control agreements. That both sides used it to get so close to the goal is proof of the value of the meeting and of their commitment to progress. We warmly welcome the extent of agreement that did prove possible on the elimination of intermediate-range nuclear weapons and on substantial reductions in strategic weapons, and on nuclear testing. At the same time, we regret the Soviet step backwards, at least in Reykjavik, in making all arms control agreements, including one on INF, dependent on further constraints on the United States SDI research programme.
Arms control is not the only important element in East-West relations. We applaud President Reagan's determination to press the Soviet Union for progress in resolving regional issues; and for better respect for human rights, without which it will not be possible to build confidence between East and West.
The United States record on consultations with the allies has been praiseworthy. The unity of the Atlantic 806 alliance has been a major factor in bringing the Soviet Union to the negotiating table, and in impelling it so far down the road towards arms control agreements. It is already clear from the meeting in NATO on 13th October that our unity will not be affected by the outcome of the Reykjavik meeting.
Her Majesty's Government support the United States in its continuing efforts to build a more stable relationship with the Soviet Union and in East-West relations by seeking progress in humanitarian questions and regional issues and by reaching balanced and verifiable agreements on arms control. The Reykjavik meeting was only one step in the long road towards these goals. The proposals made there remain on the table. And we are encouraged by the apparent determination on both sides to build on the progress already made. Together with the United States and our other allies, we shall seek to maintain the momentum that has been generated at Reykjavik.
§ Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos
My Lords, we are grateful to the noble Baroness for making that Statement on the summit meeting, in which this country and the whole world are deeply involved and acutely interested. As the noble Baroness has implied, we had been told that the Reykjavik summit was to be a preparatory meeting, paving the way to a later Washington conference. As it developed, however, it became plain that it was far more than that, and that far-reaching proposals of a most encouraging kind were on the table. For example, it now appears—the noble Baroness will perhaps confirm this—that the two leaders had agreed before the conclusion of the summit on Sunday to cut INF by 100 per cent. in Europe and by 80 per cent. in Soviet Asia. to cut strategic weapons by 50 per cent., and to work towards a comprehensive test ban treaty. This was remarkable progress, or appeared to be so, in a short space of time, and it raised our hopes considerably.
This is why the news of failure, when it came through on Sunday evening, was so profound a disappointment to us and to everyone else. It seemed then that a glorious and historic chance had been missed. It is, however, just as well that we have this Statement today and that we did not have it over the past two days, as the mood seems to have changed once again from one of despair to one of modest hope. Let us hope that we are not grasping at straws. But both President Reagan and Mr. Gorbachev now appear to be saying that Reykjavik was not a failure. Mr. Gorbachev said yesterday that they must not slam the door, while President Reagan said that he was anxious to try again.
Can the noble Baroness confirm that this was also the sense of Mr. Karpov's remarks to the Prime Minister at a meeting at which the noble Baroness, I understand, was herself present? Would she not agree that after what was, if I may so describe it, a seemingly paradoxical conference, the situation is now fluid and that the clear objective of Her Majesty's Government should now be to work strenuously for some constructive outcome? We obviously need a full debate in this House on the implications of the summit. This will become available to us, one hopes, in the debate on the Address in three weeks' time. However, can the noble Baroness deal now with two or three questions' 807 First, will the Government undertake to press for some of the Reykjavik proposals to be transferred to Geneva for early detailed discussion? And is this not the view of our European NATO partners? Did Mr. Karpov tell the Prime Minister that agreement may be reached on medium-range missiles independently of the SDI argument, which seems to have stultified the summit at the end of the talks?
Secondly, on this crucial SDI problem, the United States and British spokesmen constantly refer to the Soviet strategic defence initiative. Is there clear evidence that Russia is working on its own SDI? And if this is true, why is it not brought on to the conference table? Why does not the United States, and indeed why do not the rest of us, press the Soviet Union to make disclosures in the same manner that the United States has disclosed some details on this subject? Thirdly, the Statement refers to other matters. Can the noble Baroness say whether there were any specific undertakings on the question of human rights and Afghanistan?
Fourthly, what are the present prospects for a meeting in Washington? As I said previously, the objective seemed to be a preliminary meeting in Reykjavik, followed by a fuller meeting in Washington. Is it still intended that this meeting should be held? Finally, can the noble Baroness say whether the Prime Minister herself is now intending, as has been reported, to visit Washington for a discussion with the President? If she does so, what will be the main objectives of the visit?
I conclude by expressing general relief that the door is not closed and that, mercifully, there does not appear to be any bitterness but rather a desire for some progress on both sides.
§ Lord Kennet
My Lords, we endorse what has been said by the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn. I have certain further questions to put. The House will remember that in December 1984 the Prime Minister and the United States President agreed on the famous Reagan-Thatcher four points, the second of which said:SDI related deployment would, in view of treaty obligations, have to be a matter for negotiations".Subsequently, the Prime Minister has said:Great democracies must give a lead in keeping their treaties".In refusing to admit discussion of his freedom to test and deploy SDI, President Reagan is of course announcing his intention either to breach or, more likely and more legally, to denounce the ABM treaty. In Reykjavik, Mr. Gorbachev agreed to 50 per cent. reductions of all kinds of strategic weapons on both sides; to the zero option in European intermediate-range weapons; to a freeze and agreement on negotiations for short-range nuclear weapons; to a balance at a lower level of intermediate-range nuclear weapons in Asia; and to freedom for Britain and France to increase their nuclear forces in the meantime, which is completely new. He agreed on proper negotiations to settle regional and humanitarian issues.
If the Government are now to back Mr. Reagan's belief that SDI testing in space is worth all this together, will they now spell out what they see as its 808 apparently overwhelming benefits for Europe, for NATO and for the world? I am asking about SDI research and deployment in space, not about "lab" research or improved air defences in Europe, which are different matters. After all, the Government regularly cite Soviet advances in strategic defence as justification for Trident's enhanced capabilities compared to Polaris and as a condition of British participation in disarmament. This argument is unanswerable. It is correct. Is this argument not valid in other mouths, even Mr. Gorbachev's?
In view of all these things, will the Government not agree that we must now quickly develop a proper European foreign and defence policy that could allow us to be present at negotiations which affect our very existence?
§ 3.15 p.m.
§ Baroness Young
My Lords, I should like to thank both the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, and the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, for their reception of this Statement. Both have asked a number of specific questions, to which I shall try to respond.
First, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, for the point that he made that the meeting at Reykjavik should not be regarded as a failure. We do not do so. Indeed, my honourable friend Mr. Renton, who was at the meeting in Brussels, made the point immediately that we were encouraged by what has been achieved but that we see this as just one step on a long road to detailed but very important arms control negotiations and progress towards disarmament. I think that he was quite right to say that we now had hope in this regard.
The noble Lord asked me a number of detailed questions about the next steps. We see these as building upon what has been achieved at Reykjavik. Indeed, we believe it is important that the negotiations at the nuclear and space talks in Geneva should continue so that there can be further progress towards agreements. The noble Lord asked what Mr. Karpov had said in the course of his talks in London on these matters. As the noble Lord, I am sure, will understand, it would not be appropriate for me to go into detail on this matter. But the position on INF is that the Russians agreed at the Geneva summit that a deal on INF could and should be negotiated without reference to strategic weapons or to space issues. We noted what Mr. Karpov said on the subject at his press conference yesterday. In the light of our discussions with him yesterday we hope that the Russians will confirm at the negotiating table the commitment to a separate agreement. This is what we have agreed.
The noble Lord asked me whether there was any evidence of Soviet work on some kind of defence initiative. As he may know there has been a Soviet research programme since the 1960s. Anti-ballistic missile defences around Moscow are the only type in existence in the world and are being upgraded. Indeed, the Russians have the only operatonal anti-satellite weapons in existence. There has been an extensive programme on ballistic missile defence-related technologies, including high powered lasers, kinetic energy and particle beam weapons and heavy lift space launchers.
809 The noble Lord also asked me about regional issues. I can confirm to him that, although it is clear from Reykjavik that most of the time was spent on arms control matters, nevertheless, the United States Government pressed the Soviet Union for progress in resolving regional issues and for a better respect for human rights. On the point which he made about Afghanistan, I can confirm that the most helpful move by the Soviet Union would be a rapid and complete Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan.
Finally, the noble Lord asked me about the possibility of a Washington summit. So far the prospects for a further summit are not clear but we very much hope that Mr. Gorbachev will pick up the outstanding invitation to visit the United States this year.
With regard to my right honourable friend the Prime Minister, as the noble Lord probably would expect, I am not in a position to comment on her travel plans. But, as he will know, we are in constant touch with our American allies on this as on very many other issues.
The noble Lord, Lord Kennet, asked me two quite specific points about the American strategic defence initiative and the ABM treaty. Perhaps I can confirm to him, as President Reagan has repeatedly confirmed, that SDI research is consistent with the present treaty obligations, including the ABM treaty. He recently reaffirmed that SDI will be conducted in conformity with a strict interpretation of the treaty. The Government have repeatedly made it clear that we regard the treaty as an important element in preserving international peace and stability and want to see it reaffirmed and strengthened. Any suspicion of violations should be pursued according to the mechanisms provided in the treaty.
§ Lord Zuckerman
My Lords, would the noble Baroness explain to your Lordships' House exactly how it is possible to reconcile the statement made by the President to the American people the night before last declaring his right to develop, test and deploy against missiles, with the assurances given to the Prime Minister at the beginning of last year about nothing being done which would be in defiance of the 1972 ABM treaty? One must bear in mind that at that time we were dealing only with a strict interpretation, whereas what the President said in his address on the television related to what is now known as a broad interpretation, or, according to Gerard Smith, who negotiated the treaty, a new treaty.
§ Baroness Young
My Lords, I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Zuckerman, will have heard the answer I gave to the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, on a somewhat similar point on this matter. Perhaps I could say further that the United States have made clear over an extended period that the Russians have no veto over the deployment of SDI. But President Reagan invited the Russians, should strategic defences prove to be feasible, to move to a more defence-orientated world, and any deployment should thus be co-operative. Meanwhile, President Reagan made clear that SDI continues to be conducted in accordance with the ABM treaty. But we are not prepared to see the treaty 810 rewritten to constrain the United States research while letting the Soviet activies run free.
§ Baroness Young
My Lords, on this matter of inspections, particularly with regard to nuclear testing, the position is that despite Soviet propaganda in the run up to the Reykjavik meeting, we understand that nuclear testing was not a major issue at Reykjavik. But we have long believed that progress must be sought in areas where it is most likely, and the first step would be to seek the verification necessary to ratify both the threshold test ban and the peaceful nuclear explosions treaties of the 1970s. We therefore welcome the extent of the Reykjavik agreement to work for that.
We also welcome President Reagan's offer in an UNGA speech now confirmed at Reykjavik, and accepted by Mr. Gorbachev, to negotiate on further constraints on testing on the way to an ultimate goal of a comprehensive test ban. We believe that this practical step by step approach is consistent with our views.
§ Lord Brockway
My Lords, I propose to take advantage of the Standing Orders which allow questions to he put and some comments to be made. May I first thank the noble Baroness not only for her preliminary Statement but for the answers which she has given to points which have been raised. On the whole, I think that most of us would regard what she has said as hopeful.
All of us must have been shocked when the summit meeting in Iceland broke down. At first it was the greatest disappointment of my political life. The situation is now more hopeful. I think that both sides are a little ashamed of themselves.
The American Secretary of State, Mr. Shultz, has made an extraordinary statement about the potential agreements which would be reached. My first question to the Minister is: do the Government support those potential agreements? What he said was so astonishingly broad in scope that I think it should be recorded:The talks saw the potential for a set of genuinely significant agreements with intermediate nuclear forces and potentially the elimination of all ballistic missiles".Mr. Shultz said that the talk came close:to a breathtaking deal to cut strategic arms in half, the elimination of all intermediate nuclear arms leaving only 100 in Asia and 100 in the United States, and a pretty fair measure of agreement for working towards a nuclear test ban treaty".I think the House will agree that those quite astonishing agreements make it intolerable and unforgivable that there should not be a renewed effort to reach agreement. Both sides are now seeking new talks.
§ Lord Brockway
President Reagan has made a strong appeal to Mr. Gorbachev to move towards another summit. Mr. Gorbachev's speech envoy Viktor Karpov has said that the Soviet Union is prepared to negotiate agreement independently of 811 political parallel agreement on SDI. In view of those facts, I beg the Government to use their influence to secure a renewed summit.
§ 3.30 p.m.
§ Baroness Young
My Lords, I am glad that the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, views the outcome of the Reykjavik meeting as hopeful. As I indicated very early on in responding to the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, we believe that there has been some good news that has come from Reykjavik and that we must build on what has been said.
As I indicated in an answer to an earlier question, we hope now that the negotiations which have come so far on various limitations on arms, shall be continued. That is the wish and hope of Her Majesty's Government.
§ Lord Nugent of Guildford
My Lords, can my noble friend tell me how it is that considerations of humanitarian matters are connected up with these very intricate and important matters of defence, especially as Soviet Russia is in breach of the Helsinki Agreement in this respect? How is it that these humanitarian considerations are brought into this as bargaining counters?
§ Baroness Young
My Lords, I think what is very important in all these humanitarian concerns is that if progress can be made on these, these would be not only right in themselves for the individuals concerned, but they would be confidence-building measures between both the United States and the Soviet Union. Of course, we hope that progress will be made on these issues of human rights.
§ Lord Gladwyn
My Lords, I have three very short questions to put to the Government. In the first place, is it not rather odd that in spite of an unparalleled propaganda campaign," the President is facing widespread criticism in the United States, whereas in this country, where nuclear arms limitation means so much, many people, (including it would seem our own Prime Minister) are seemingly finding excuses for his insistence on the full operation of his, as I think, absurd star wars programme, even imputing blame to Mr. Gorbachev for, as it were, being too clever by half?
We must all hope, along with the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, that progress—preferably owing to pressure applied by the European Members of NATO—will be forthcoming in Geneva. But now, more especially following on what the noble Lord, Lord Zuckerman, has said, and failing some suitable compromise on SDI, should we not, unfortunately, contemplate the situation arising from the complete collapse of detente and the triumph of the tough guys on both sides of the Iron Curtain who are as we know, opposed to all forms of arms limitation? Are the Government really confident that the Icelandic Humpty Dumpty can now be put together again?
My third short question is: when are we going to have a full debate on this very important subject? It is obviously very unsatisfactory to discuss it by question and answer as the result of a Statement.
§ Baroness Young
My Lords, one point which has become very clear about the Reykjavik Summit is that some of the immediate reactions to it have not been the same as the reactions which are now apparent two days later. I think one must make one's judgments about the matter as time proceeds. However, as a consequence of this, I think there is every reason for us to be hopeful. That is not just wishful thinking. This is ground for believing, as I indicated in earlier answers to the point raised, that the Russians, too, wish to see the progress continued.
The noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, went on once again to be highly critical of the Americans and their SDI programme. Perhaps I may just say to the noble Lord on the point about whether or not—and I believe that this is what underlay his question—it was worth preventing some of the arms control agreements for the sake of SDI, that the fact is, that the SDI research programme is investigating the feasibility of strategic defences. No one knows whether or not they will work. The discussions at Reykjavik were about managing the period until it was clear whether or not strategic defences would be possible. President Reagan has spoken on SDI being the insurance policy of the United States and the Alliance. Whether this insurance policy will be necessary at some future stage cannot be answered now. Therefore, SDI, particularly in the light of the Soviet Union's own activites should not be abandoned now. Perhaps I may also make clear that the United States is not prepared to see the ABM Treaty rewritten to constrain its research while letting the Soviet Union's research continue.
§ Lord Chalfont
My Lords, is the Minister aware that not all of us were shocked by the result of the Reykjavik meeting, because not all of us were terribly surprised by it?
May I also ask the Minister a question? It may go to the root of this matter and it may run across the general tenor of the remarks which have been made in your Lordships' House this afternoon. Are we not in grave danger of making the mistake of regarding nuclear arms control, and nuclear disarmament in a vacuum? There are very many other things which are important in this confrontation. Would not the Minister agree that one of the reasons for the great build up of arms on either side is the tension that exists between the two sides in this equation? Arms are not the cause of tension, they are the result of tension.
Perhaps I may also ask the Minister whether she would not agree that it would be very foolish indeed to consider nuclear arms control in isolation from conventional arms control, in which the Soviet Union has an overwhelming superiority and in total isolation from the matters of human rights and the rest of the Soviet Union's foreign policy? Would it not be wiser to examine all these things very carefully and in conjunction with each other, and not in the context of some hastily arranged and ill-prepared conference at Reykjavik? Would it not be wiser to look at conventional arms control, conventional disarmament and the whole context of the Soviet Union's foreign policy including its expansionist policies all over the world before we start to tinker ill-advisedly with the balance of nuclear power?
§ Baroness Young
The noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, has made a number of really very important points. I should like to start by saying to him that on repeated occasions the Government have made clear that nuclear disarmament and the reduction of conventional weapons are inextricably linked in the search for general and complete disarmament. This of course remains the Government's ultimate objective.
However, nuclear weapons will continue to have a role to play in our security for the foreseeable future. I also share the noble Lord's view that it is very important not to forget not only the conventional weapons, but also the area of human rights which was raised earlier by the noble Lord, Lord Nugent. As I said then. it is important not only for the sake of those unfortunate people concerned, but also because it will build confidence between both the United States and the Soviet Union, and we would like to see progress made.
Of course there are many other issues of a political nature about which the West could talk to the Soviet Union. In that connection I should like to say that my right honourable friend the Prime Minister has made clear to Mr. Gorbachev that she looks forward to visiting the Soviet Union in the first half of next year and that the Reykjavik outcome does not affect that situation. The dates, of course, are still to be discussed.
§ Lord Molloy
My Lords, does the noble Baroness agree that there are some aspects of the success following Reykjavik which must cause grave and bitter disappointment to those who are determined somehow or other to find no joy in the ultimate possibility of the great nuclear powers of the world coming to some agreement on disarmament? Will the noble Baroness agree that one of the fundamental features—the linchpin to the whole talks—could well he the total acceptability on both sides of verification, both on tests and on manoeuvres, in either theWarsaw or NATO blocs, and that that is something for which we should be grateful?
Will it now be possible for our Government to send a message to the governments of both the Soviet Union and the United States of America saying how much we welcome the endeavours which have been made towards achievement and what has been achieved, and how much we warmly welcome the statement of both President Reagan and Mr. Gorbachev that this is not the end, that further discussions will take place and that we warmly applaud these ideals?
§ Baroness Young
My Lords, I point out to the noble Lord, Lord Molloy, that I think that the views of Her Majesty's Government on the Reykjavik Summit are now quite clear both to the United States' Government and to the Soviet Union.
§ Lord Mayhew
My Lords, will the noble Baroness explain a little more fully her two references to aspects of the ABM Treaty which are restraining on the Americans but not on the Russians? What did the noble Baroness mean by that?
§ Baroness Young
My Lords, what I said was that President Reagan has made clear that SDI continues to 814 be conducted in accordance with the ABM Treaty, but the United States is not prepared to see the treaty rewritten—that is to say, in a way which would constrain the United States research while letting Soviet research and activities run free.
§ Viscount Eccles
My Lords, is it not certain that if the Russians did not think that SDI would work, they would never have gone to Reykjavik and would never have made all these proposals?