§ Debate resumed on the Motion moved yesterday by Lord Colnbrook—namely, That a humble Address be presented to Her Majesty as follows:
§ "Most Gracious Sovereign—We, Your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Lords Spiritual and Temporal in Parliament assembled, beg leave to thank Your Majesty for the most gracious Speech which Your Majesty has addressed to both Houses of Parliament".
§ 2.39 p.m.
§ The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Glenarthur)
My Lords, in opening this part of the debate on the Motion for a humble Address, I should perhaps begin by saying that I shall concentrate on foreign rather than defence policy questions, leaving the latter for my noble friend Lord Trefgarne to deal with when he winds up.
Foreign and defence policy must, of course, be considered in tandem. Foreign policy has as its objective the preservation of a country's security as much as does defence policy. It achieves its objective by seeking to shape the international climate in which decisions on defence matters have to be taken. It is strengthened in pursuit of that objective when it is seen to be supported by a resolute and consistent attitude on defence issues.
Foreign policy is however also concerned with the strengthening of a country's economic security, with the protection and advancement of its prosperity. A country's foreign policy is exercised against the background of a complex and constantly evolving international climate, which presents risks as well as opportunities. In formulating our policies we must take care to avoid risks and be confident enough to grasp opportunities. Above all, policy must be of active engagement. International relations, like time, wait for no man.
The period since the last gracious Speech has been one of exceptional activity and interest. There has been progress in East-West relations with two successful superpower summits, in arms control and with regional conflicts in Afghanistan, the Gulf and South-Western Africa.
These are interesting times indeed. In China, to wish someone life in "interesting times" is a curse. But these are times of promise, and of hope. The United Kingdom is playing an active part in the fulfilment of that promise and the realisation of that hope. I know from my discussions with senior members of governments and others across Asia and the South Pacific that our diplomacy is admired. We as a country are held in greater respect than for many years.
At home, we have re-established prosperity. Solid economic growth has been sustained now for eight years. Economic liberalisation has brought worthwhile results. Our policies have been studied and imitated around the world. We are asked for advice.
23 As my noble friend Lord Colnbrook, in his quite excellent speech, described yesterday, we have also taken care to safeguard our security through the maintenance of a strong defence, including an effective nuclear deterrent. We have thereby earned an authoritative place at the arms-control table. Those are solid achievements. They both buttress and give purpose to our foreign policy.
Nowhere have the changes on the international scene been more striking than in the area of East-West relations. Change here has been possible, first, because the West has remained firm, united and consistent in its approach. But the approach of the Soviet Union has also become more pragmatic. We welcome Mr. Shevardnadze's public assurances about the downgrading of the role of ideology in Soviet foreign policy. We do detect a more constructive Soviet approach on some issues of common concern.
We do not underestimate the significance of the changed Soviet approach. Indeed, it was my right honourable friend the Prime Minister who first declared, at the time of Mr. Gorbachev's first visit to this country in 1984, that here was a man with whom we could do business. We admire the efforts he is making to change the conditions in which Soviet people think and work. We look forward to seeing him here again in a few weeks' time.
Nevertheless the Soviet Union remains a superpower with an ideology fundamentally antagonistic to principles we stand for in the West. Its interests will often be at variance with ours. The KGB continues to practice subversion abroad. The process of domestic reform has only just begun and has already encountered difficulties and resistance. We cannot with confidence predict how things will go in future, although we are right to wish Mr. Gorbachev success.
Therefore, we must be cautious. Most of all, we cannot afford to ignore the reality of Soviet military power. Other speakers will no doubt describe the details of that reality. It is sufficient for me to say that our vital security interests demand that we judge Soviet military intentions by deeds, not words.
The best guarantor of our security remains the NATO Alliance, to which we have brought a strong military defence and a clear sense of purpose and commitment. I will see this for myself when I visit NATO headquarters in Brussels tomorrow. The policy of nuclear deterrence has helped to keep the peace for 40 years. NATO's united and consistent stand on arms control issues has brought concrete results, most notably with the INF agreement. Can anyone argue convincingly that without the NATO decision to deploy Cruise and Pershing, difficult though it was, we could now look forward with confidence to the prospect of an INF-free Europe? I do not think so.
Other difficult decisions face the alliance, such as those concerning the modernisation of NATO's short range nuclear forces in the face of continuing Soviet modernisation of its own comparable weapons. We shall continue to work for a consensus on the collective decisions we need to take. NATO's arms 24 control priorities now are a 50 per cent. cut in superpower strategic nuclear arsenals, a global ban on chemical weapons and the elimination of conventional imbalances between NATO and the Warsaw Pact in Europe. NATO proposals have set the agenda in all these areas, and the UK has been active in shaping it.
Over the past eight years the entire Western Alliance has been strengthened by the leadership of President Reagan and Secretary of State Shultz. I am sure that as we look forward to the new Administration, your Lordships will wish to join me in expressing our warm thanks to President Reagan and his colleagues for their record of outstanding achievement in East-West relations. We already know Vice-President Bush well and congratulate him on his election victory. We welcome the prospect of essential continuity in American foreign policy and look forward to working with the new Administration in the warm spirit of my right honourable friend the Prime Minister's visit last week to Washington.
I have said that where our security is at issue we can afford only to take account of Soviet deeds, not words. We choose the same approach over principles that matter to us. We shall therefore keep up our pressure on the Soviet Union to improve its human rights record. Yes, there have been recent changes for the better in Soviet performance; but without clear evidence that these changes will be permanent, we believe it would be wrong to attend a Moscow CSCE conference on human rights.
There is no inconsistency between a hard-headed Western approach to security issues and human rights, and a desire for improved relations with the East. Look at the facts. Anglo-Soviet relations are acknowledged by both sides to be at their best since the war. We have established an active and productive dialogue at the highest level. President Gorbachev's forthcoming visit will mark his fourth substantive meeting with my right honourable friend the Prime Minister. There are, too, frequent and varied other ministerial contacts; we are giving priority to developing people-to-people exchanges and trade on prudent commercial terms.
Our relations with the countries of Eastern Europe are developing too. We offer a simple and commonsense message. Economic liberalisation requires political liberalisation, too. This message does not threaten. It promises a more secure and prosperous future for Eastern Europe and, ultimately, also for the Soviet Union.
Where NATO is the guarantor of our security, the European Community is the safeguard of our prosperity. Indeed, more than that. As my right honourable friend the Prime Minister said in Bruges, we in the UK see our destiny lying in Europe. We are stronger for being part of the Community and through it we are able to project our values more widely and effectively.
The Community is in the middle of an exciting period of consolidation and development. We have played a leading part in charting the course; for example, in pressing for the completion of the single market, control of agricultural spending, and reform 25 of the budget. We have secured important advances in all three. Our priorities now are for further liberalisation, and we shall be striving for more progress at the Rhodes summit next week.
The prize is great: a Europe of 320 million consumers in the largest trading bloc in the world; up to 1.7 million new jobs in the medium term; more competition; greater freedom for enterprise—conditions which lie at the heart of this country's economic success story; a Europe open for business, externally as well as internally—fortress Europe is not part of our vision. That is why we want the forthcoming mid-term meeting of the GATT in Montreal to register clear gains for the open multilateral trading system, whether in concrete agreements reached or as consensus on the way ahead. We also want to see real progress in bringing agriculture much closer to market realities. The Community has made a start, but like all the other major participants we have further to go.
In NATO and in the EC we have worked to strengthen the security and prosperity of Europe. But ours is a global vision; we are working also to strengthen international security and prosperity. This means, first, addressing destabilising regional conflicts around the world. The United Nations is enjoying a resurgence in this respect. We welcome (and indeed have done much to promote) a sense of common responsibility and purpose in the five permanent members of the Security Council. For instance, we have encouraged the resumption of regular meetings of the Foreign Ministers of the Five.
The most outstanding example of successful co-operation by the Five is the achievement of a ceasefire in the long and bloody war between Iran and Iraq. The UK was a prime mover behind Security Council Resolution 598, which provides the basis for that ceasefire. Tension, however, remains elsewhere in the Middle East. Israel and her Arab neighbours remain at loggerheads over the Palestinian issue. We continue to believe that a United Nations-sponsored international conference based on UN Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338 offers the best prospect for a peace settlement.
The recent meeting of the Palestine National Council in Algiers gives some grounds for hope. Decades of enmity are not easily erased. But the Palestinians must show in deeds as well as words that they are genuinely seeking peace. On her side, Israel must be prepared to put Palestinian good faith to the test through a similar commitment to negotiations.
The United Nations has also offered a blueprint for a solution to the problem of Namibia. Independence for Namibia is nearer now than at any time since the Security Council adopted Resolution 435 in 1978. We welcome the approval by all the governments concerned of the recent Geneva agreement on Cuban troop withdrawals from Angola. This is a remarkable success for American diplomacy and a personal triumph for the skill and persistence of Dr. Chester Crocker. We have given our full support to the US-led negotiations and we now urge the parties to move quickly to implement Resolution 435 in full. I am glad to reaffirm our readiness to contribute to the 26 United Nations transitional assistance group in Namibia.
The American achievement is also a vindication of our own policy towards Southern Africa. It demonstrates that engagement achieves more than walking away from the problem. With South Africa, for example, we have pursued a policy which combines dialogue with diplomatic pressure. Our position is, I believe, increasingly understood in Africa and our support for the front line states, including military assistance for Zimbabwe and Mozambique, is greatly appreciated.
Angola is not the only country from which the Soviet Union and its allies are withdrawing their troops. I have mentioned Afghanistan. Firm Western and international pressure and the heroism of the Afghan resistance were decisive in stimulating Soviet new thinking on this issue. The Soviet Union now accepts that it has no business being in Afghanistan and that its forces must be gone completely by 15th February 1989 at the very latest. Only then will the Afghan people at last have the chance to determine their own future.
The Cambodian people also should be allowed to resume control of their own affairs. Vietnam has indicated that it is ready to end its illegal occupation of Cambodia, which we were among the first to condemn. Let Vietnam now put the flesh of action on the bones of resolve. It is time for Cambodia's long agony to end. Her people need peace, free from foreign domination and free from the fear that Pol Pot and his murderous henchmen may return. We support Prince Sihanouk's efforts. Although ours is not a central role, we shall continue to do whatever we can realistically to help put an end to the suffering of the Cambodian people.
Vietnam cannot afford the cost of its Cambodian adventure. Its economy is in ruins—only one example of the many failures of the Soviet economic model in the Third World. The consequence of this failure has been a tragic exodus of Vietnamese citizens who have had to endure hazardous sea journeys and protracted stays in camps in the region, including in Hong Kong. In the past year the flow has increased dramatically. Hong Kong has a fine record as a place of temporary refuge for over 130,000 boat people, of whom some 13,000 have settled in Britain. The majority of new arrivals are not political refugees fleeing from persecution, but rather people in search of a better standard of living overseas. The future for such people must lie in their own country. The Vietnamese acknowledge this.
This was the background to the policy introduced by the Hong Kong Government of screening new arrivals to distinguish genuine refugees from the rest. I should like to make it clear today that no boat people will be turned away and all genuine refugees will continue to have access to resettlement overseas. Let me assure your Lordships that we would send back no one who does not qualify as a refugee unless we were satisfied that they would not be ill-treated or punished.
I know Hong Kong itself is also a subject of great interest to your Lordships. The views expressed on the first draft of the Basic Law during the 27 consultation period were reflected in debates in your Lordships' House and in another place. The Chinese authorities are aware of all these concerns. We welcome the openness of the drafting process and the expressed willingness of the Chinese authorities to consider amending the draft in the light of comments received. Press reports on the drafting committee's deliberations in meetings currently in progress suggest that substantial amendments may be made in the areas of most concern.
We look forward therefore to the publication of the second draft next year. We have the right to satisfy ourselves that it accurately reflects the provisions of the Sino-British Joint Declaration, and we shall study it carefully with that in mind.
Regional conflicts are one matter. But there are other threats facing the international community which directly affect many more countries; namely, terrorism, drugs, AIDS and environmental problems. No one country can tackle these in isolation. We have launched, or supported, anti-terrorism initiatives in the European Community, the United Nations and the International Civil Aviation Organisation. As EC President we initiated a new Community programme against drugs and in the UN we are closely involved in drafting a new convention against trafficking. We are encouraging support for UN efforts to combat AIDS, and organised jointly with the World Health Organisation a meeting of world Ministers of Health in London last January to increase international awareness of the disease.
We are also playing a leading role in emphasising the need for international efforts to combat the current dangers to the world environment. Poverty and debt are also problems which afflict all too many countries in the Third World. We play a substantial role in alleviating the suffering that results. We maintain a substantial overseas aid programme—£1.387 million in the current financial year—growing in real terms, and of high quality.
We are heavily involved in the common efforts of the industrialised countries to assist the developing world. We have, for example, cancelled the aid debt of the 22 poorest countries at a cost of nearly £1 billion. Through the International Monetary Fund we are encouraging developing countries to reform their economics and helping to provide new, cheap lending to the poorest. The Toronto summit in June endorsed an initiative from my right honourable friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer on debt relief for Africa. This is a record to be proud of.
The challenge our policies face today is to find ways to co-operate with other countries in pursuit of our interests and to improve the effectiveness of the organisations through which we work. The world has become too complicated a place for any country—even a superpower—to be able consistently to secure its aims by unilateral action. Harold Nicolson argued in a lecture to new Foreign Service entrants in 1945 that British foreign policy had constantly tended to become "non-committal". Today we are committed. We are actively committed to, and working to influence, NATO, the EC, the UN and other organisations in a changing world, and we are 28 committed to a common-sense approach which combines strong defence with the search for arms control agreements, and which works to build stability and prosperity on the basis of democratic, free-enterprise values.
Our place is in Europe, but we have not abandoned our outward-looking tradition. Rather our influence has been strengthened through our membership of the European Community. That influence is growing wherever we are engaged worldwide. Our policy is not one of passive reaction to events. It is rather a confident and imaginative effort to identify and develop new opportunities—in the European Community, in East-West relations, in the settlement of regional conflicts. We intend to go on setting the pace, and thereby further to strengthen our security, our prosperity and our standing in the world.
§ 3 p.m.
§ Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos
My Lords, we are grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Glenarthur, for opening this debate with a statement of government objectives. A great deal has happened since we last debated foreign affairs in the debate on the Address last year and in the further debate on the INF treaty in December. We are passing through times of great change, the main developments of which have been mentioned by the noble Lord. We must ensure that our policies are relevant, realistic and credible. As the noble Lord has just said, there are strict limits to what we can do alone, but there are many constructive steps we can take in concert with our allies and partners, through the United Nations and in some cases in the context of the Commonwealth. We need to sustain the Commonwealth, but I believe that the Prime Minister was ill-advised to interfere in the Canadian general election as she did when she was in the United States last week. The Prime Minister has many important qualities but she must not add hubris to them.
The election of a new president in the United States is always an event of the utmost significance. Like the noble Lord, I wish President-elect Bush every success over the next four years. The world will be crucially affected by his management of foreign affairs and also of economic policy. These are understandably not yet clear although Mr. Bush has said that he will continue the process of negotiation with President Gorbachev. It is right that we should pay tribute to both President Reagan and Mr. Gorbachev upon the INF treaty which was without doubt an historic achievement. The House recognised that when we debated the matter in December.
We agreed then that the treaty should be used as a foundation for further disarmament measures both in the nuclear and conventional fields. My noble friend Lord Irving will deal with defence matters when he speaks later and I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, will give us the Government's view on the likely progress of disarmament. Not a great deal has happened since the INF treaty, and progress must depend on the two great powers. But we and our allies are in a position to exert great influence on both sides, and in this current period of flux, real opportunities seem to present themselves. I hope that the Prime Minister took advantage of her visit to 29 Washington to clarify Mr. Bush's stance and that she will do the same when President Gorbachev visits London next month.
We warmly welcome this visit, as do the Government in the gracious Speech, and hope it will bear fruit. As the noble Lord reminded us, the Prime Minister has said that President Gorbachev is a man she can do business with. He has certainly grasped the nettle of reform in the Soviet Union with greater courage and determination than any Soviet leader since 1917. He deserves our very best wishes. He has a hard and difficult road ahead and immense economic problems to overcome if he is to persuade the Soviet people that his policies are right. The Soviet Union will never be the same again, and while there will still he some scepticism—the noble Lord, Lord Glenarthur, reflected that in his speech—we must hope that Mr. Gorbachev will succeed in his historic enterprise, because the logical end of the reforms which he has started is greater freedom for the people of the Soviet Union.
In its article on the Soviet party conference the Observer issued a cautionary warning. We would do well to listen carefully to what it said. I quote:Experience should teach optimists that change in the Soviet Union is a vastly more difficult process than ever first appears. The momentous decisions taken … in the Conference … are still only political decisions—taken after a belated recognition that without a political transformation, economic changes are getting nowhere. They still do not guarantee economic revival although they are clearly an indispensable prelude to it".Those are sensible words. But the success of this enterprise is of immense importance to us and to the West generally; to the hope for world stability and the progress of disarmament. Mr. Gorbachev deserves our support. If Her Majesty the Queen is invited to visit Russia I hope that she will be advised to accept the invitation. The long-term consequences of this could be of historic dimensions.
If, as the Observer said, the Soviet economy is shaky, so is that of the United States at the present time. We know that Mr. Bush has a well publicised problem in the shape of a deficit of £84 billion. The way he tackles that will test his mettle. We must hope that he goes for a bipartisan solution. He announced on Monday that he was making the reduction of the deficit a "top priority". We must all warmly welcome that announcement. If the deficit is not cut we must anticipate trouble in international financial markets, and that will affect us radically here. I make this point in the debate because we all know that economic weakness does not make for a strong foreign policy and we need an economically sound and confident United States of America.
There is a tide in the affairs of nations as well as of men which taken at the flood leads on to fortune, and this tide may be flowing for us now. The noble Lord referred to the European Community and to the Government's record there. I also believe that we must work to strengthen the Community, which has all the potential and all the resources to match West and East. Our relations with our EC partners have progressively improved over the past two years or so, especially after the resolution of the budget dispute. However, I am not sure that the Prime Minister's recent flurry of aggression within the Community has 30 been constructive. I know that we must always be suspicious of bureaucratic control at the expense of democratic control. We hear a great deal of criticism about the bureaucracy of Brussels. However, this principle applies as much to Whitehall as it does to Brussels. We must not stand isolated in the Community at this critical time. We must work in harmony to promote social and economic progress which will give us the strength and the stability to hold the balance between East and West. We must not be weak as between the East and the West. That must surely be the desirable foreign policy objective.
It will also help to strengthen NATO at a crucial moment. The House knows that NATO has complex problems. The noble Lord failed to mention the fact that there are difficulties to resolve both in the nuclear and non-nuclear sectors. The Vienna talks have been going on for 15 years without anything of substance to show for them. But shortly the new talks covering a vast extended area from the Atlantic to the Urals are to start, and we shall be glad to have the Government's views from the noble Lord, Lord Trcfgarne, when he comes to reply.
The gracious Speech refers to the Government's "obligations to the NATO Alliance", and we recognise this. However, great efforts are needed to help NATO to resolve the problems to which I have referred. NATO is not having a smooth passage at the present time. I hope that the noble Lord will give us confidence that the Government believe that the problems can be resolved within a reasonable period of time.
I must avoid a long speech in the debate. That is always a danger when one considers the wide range of subjects before us, many of which were mentioned by the noble Lord in his tour d'horizon. However, I think that we can all agree on one important matter; namely, that the likelihood of a nuclear war in Europe has faded progressively over the last decade, and certainly over the last three years, but a war could be sparked off almost accidentally as a reaction from hostilities in some other part of the world. I also have a sense that even that eventuality is less likely while President Gorbachev remains in office and pursues his present moderate policies.
For several years the most dangerous flashpoint has been the Middle East. Two events of significance have taken place recently, the first being the Israeli elections, which resulted in a government headed by Mr. Shamir, and the second being the PLO meeting in Algiers also referred to by the noble Lord.
We debated Mr. George Shultz's peace plan in this House earlier in the year, and on the eve of his retirement I should like to wish him well and to thank him for his strenuous efforts. He has been a stabilising and constructive influence in United States foreign policy.
The noble Lord referred in detail to Algiers. The proclamation of a new independent state of Palestine, which was read out there by Mr. Arafat on 15th November, could be of significance. It endorses the two United Nations resolutions and It moves towards a recognition of Israel which we, and our allies, have always regarded as a prerequisite to any meaningful international conference which may be convened.
31 The proclamation could of course be no more than a passing gesture and the reactions of Israeli leaders have been less than encouraging. Indeed, Mr. Shamir has spurned it and Mr. Peres has said that its reference to United Nations Resolution 242 was so hedged with conditions as to be virtually meaningless. It is, however, the reaction of the United States which will decide the proclamation's fate at the end of the day and Mr. Bush will soon have to formulate his attitude.
Experience has taught us not to be over-confident in this matter, but we shall support the Government in working for an international conference involving the major powers and the immediate parties in the region. That will probably include Syria, whose position is crucial to finding an agreement on the security and recognition of the state of Israel and establishing a homeland for the Palestinian people. A political solution must be found for the sake of the people in the area who have suffered so much for such a long time.
I am sure that the House noted with interest that EC Ministers meeting in Brussels on Monday described the PNC decision as a,positive step towards a peaceful solution",without recognising the Palestinian state in exile. On the whole, I believe that that was a sensible conclusion at this juncture.
It has also been reported that the Prime Minister discussed the implications of the latest development with Mr. Bush in Washington and urged him immediately to begin a new American Middle East peace initiative. Perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, will confirm that that was the case. Very careful preparation is necessary before such a conference is called. However, we would support it in principle. I also ask the noble Lord to confirm that the subject will be raised when the 12 heads of the Community governments meet in Rhodes on 2nd December.
We also welcome the end of the murderous Iraq-Iran War and hope that better progress will be made in the peace negotiations. In this context I must refer to the tragic dilemma of the Kurdish people, and the inhuman way in which they have been treated. The chemical attacks on innocent Kurdish civilians must come near to the excesses of the Nazis in Germany.
The Kurds were promised their own state, but their wishes were frustrated. The Government have a good record on chemical weapons and have said that:appropriate and effective measures will be takenif such weapons are used by anyone in the future. I was glad to hear the Foreign Secretary speak of British revulsion against the Iraqi action, calling it "barbaric".
Against that background, what action are the Government proposing to take? The United States Congress is pledged, when it meets in January, to enact sanctions against Iraq. What view do the Government take of that? Should not this country, with its commendable record, join with the United States in applying sanctions instead of contemplating new trade links with Iraq?
32 Perhaps I may now move briefly to a more promising scene which was also mentioned by the noble Lord; namely, South West Africa. I know that we were glad to hear that the Geneva talks between South Africa, Angola and Cuba have resulted in an agreement on terms and a timetable for the withdrawal of Cuban troops from Angola. A war has been going on there for 13 years since Angola became independent. Dr. Chester Crocker, the United States Assistant Secretary, deserves our thanks and congratulations because he has been working hard for the agreement for a period of eight years and there were times when a solution seemed hopeless. Out of this hard-won settlement, if it is ratified, will emerge a free Namibia although a good deal of work remains to be done such as the endorsement of the agreements by the UN Security Council and the drafting of monitoring and verification procedures.
I am sure that the Government will wish to do everything in their power, especially as a member of the Security Council, to bring this splendid start to a satisfactory conclusion. Here again, I believe it is right to say that President Gorbachev has helped to bring about the Cuban withdrawal. This apparently growing Soviet and American understanding on regional disagreement seems to me to be of the utmost significance at present.
We are deeply concerned to hear today's news about the Sharpeville Six. We understand that the South African Appeal Court has rejected the application to re-open the trial. As a result, unless the state president intervenes, it now seems likely that the six will be executed.
I think that the whole House will expect the Government to make the strongest representations and also seek the support of our allies in the matter. In particular, we hope that the Prime Minister will use her influence and make a personal appeal to Mr. Botha to use his prerogative to grant clemency in this case. There is every reason to do so because the consequences of proceeding to the death penalty could be far-reaching.
As I conclude, I feel that I must congratulate Benazir Bhutto upon her success in the recent elections in Pakistan and wish her well if she becomes Prime Minister of her country. We welcome her plans to establish a democratic government. I am sure that our Government will give her, and her colleagues, all possible support. Genuine practical democracy is a frail plant and where it appears we must hope and pray that it will flourish. We have the comfort of knowing that in this case it is also in the hands of a former President of the Oxford Union!
Finally we can at least say, as we view the world scene, that tension has eased progressively even in the 18-month period since the last debate on the Address. Wherever and whenever possible it is the duty of the Government to encourage that process. As I said earlier, the great powers seem to be deeply preoccupied with internal economic affairs, and somewhat less with global roles. As I also said earlier, they appear to be anxious to disengage from overseas commitments and to replace conflict with peace. Let us hope that that is true.
33 I do not want to appear euphoric in this debate, but if that is true—and I hope I am right—a new vista opens before all of us. In this country we have diplomatic resources and experience, together with many channels of communication, along which we can work for further disarmament and for peace and stability. Let us use these to the fullest possible extent.
§ 3.20 p.m.
§ Lord Jenkins of Hillhead
My Lords, having attempted yesterday something of a short tour d'horizon, I feel that I can perhaps today concentrate with a good conscience, in the sense of the economy of your Lordships' time, on a single subject. Before I come to it, I must apologise to the House for the fact that I cannot stay until the end of the debate. For once my Oxford responsibilities conflict with those of the House. I hope that I may be forgiven for doing something once which, were I to do it at all frequently, would be rightly seen as a discourtesy.
The subject upon which I wish to concentrate today, in an objective and non-partisan way if I can, is whether there is a serious clash between the new European momentum and Mrs. Thatcher's admonishments to the Community not to go too far or too fast, or to challenge national sovereignty; and, if there be such a clash, whether it raises the danger that we may repeat for a fourth time the mistake of not joining fully at the beginning. It is a mistake which we made in 1951 over the Coal and Steel Community, in 1955 over the European Economic Community and in 1978 over the European monetary system.
I am aware of course that the word "mistake" may he regarded by some noble Lords as question begging. It is possible to argue, as my noble friend Lord Jay and several other noble Lords on this side and the other side of the House would do, that it would have been better had we permanently stayed out of everything. That is a consistent view, even if in my view slightly barren; but it has not been the position of successive governments and it is not the position of the Government today. What is extraordinarily difficult to argue is that it is desirable to make a national habit of always coming in late and half-hearted.
On three occasions we have stood, as it were, on a railway platform, more or less benevolently waving goodbye to the train as it pulled out and then tried to decide, with as much dignity and comfort as we could muster, whether to run after it and try to clamber on. Apart from anything else, that is a wonderful recipe for obtaining the minimum of influence over the shape of the institutions which we subsequently joined.
The gracious Speech gave special mention to the hard-pounding task of further reform of the common agriculture policy. The CAP of course would never have been frozen in its present mode had we not made the second of those major mistakes and gone to Messina in 1955. It cannot be sensible national policy to learn nothing from those mistakes and to do it all over again for the fourth time.
How much of a potential clash is there? How strong are the conflicting currents? First, it is difficult 34 to exaggerate the extent to which the European prospect has been transformed in the past two years or so. As recently as 1985 there was a widespread impression that the European Community, bogged down in a sterile, apparently unending, internal budgetary dispute, had lost both its dynamism and its idealism; further enlargement to 12, with the admission of Spain and Portugal, which was imminent, would weaken the decision-making power, just as the enlargement from six to nine had undoubtedly done in 1973; and the Community would most likely continue in the trough of disregard into which it had fallen in the early 1980s. That proved to be wrong. The Single European Act pulled the Community together more than enlargement pulled it apart, especially as Spain and Portugal proved to be constructive members.
The idea of 1992 suddenly seized the imagination of business communities and governments. That new capacity of the European idea—to get up off its bed and walk—may have been sufficient to take the Community past its critical point. Since the great surge forward of the original six came to a juddering halt with the quarrel between General de Gaulle and President Hallstein in 1966, until recently the forces of inertia were stronger in Europe than those of movement. It was occasionally possible to get something done, as with the creation of the EMS in 1978, but it was hard going, working against the grain.
There now appears to have been a qualitative change in which it has suddenly become possible to get enthusiastic support, not merely for the next goal but for the goal after that. Thus, no sooner had the single market become a strong possibility for 1992, it was reasonably pointed out that it will not make much sense without internal stable exchange rates and a common monetary policy. As a result, plans for a European central bank and even a single currency come seriously over the horizon.
Mrs. Thatcher's Bruges and subsequent speeches in no way invalidate those truths. Indeed, they sharpen them, because a short time ago I doubt whether she would have considered it worth while so brutally to try to apply the brakes to Europe—there has to be a momentum before it is worth trying to stop it—nor would the speech, even if made, have attracted nearly so much attention.
Exactly what is the split between Mrs. Thatcher and the other main leaders of Europe? It does not spring in any practical sense from the federalist or non-federalist issue. It is wholly reasonable to believe that we are not in the foreseeable future likely to see a political entity in Europe which bears any close analogy to that of the United States of America. It is so reasonable that it is hardly worth stating, for I doubt whether anyone now seriously believes the contrary.
The nations of Europe, some but not all of them ancient, have, and will retain, a degree of identity totally different, as do the states of the United States, the provinces of Canada, the states of Australia or the cantons of Switzerland, or any other components of full federations or confederations.
Europe has been through defeat arid degradation, but it has not been through a melting pot. The 35 inhabitants of Europe have never turned their backs on their own countries in the way that the inhabitants of the United States and their forebears did. Equally, at a time of well justified revolt against remote government there is no sense in trying to do an unnecessarily large number of things in Brussels, although it should be noted in passing that no government in Europe, or elsewhere in the democratic world, are as opposed to the local devolution of their own power, as are the present government of Britain.
This is all legitimate, but not very controversial. However, it is vastly different from trying to hold Europe frozen in its present half-made unsatisfactory mould and at the same time denouncing European idealism because it is necessarily a little imprecise. The detailed commercial provisons of a single market will be much more likely to be achieved with the lubricant of some ultimate political purpose, even if it is over one or two horizons and not fully defined.
Ever since the days of Schumann, de Gasperi and Adenauer the European idea has always meant and used economic means to advance towards a political end. It is the inability properly to understand this which has vitiated so much of Britain's relations with Europe over the past 40 years. That approach is made still more divisive of Britain from the mainland of the Continent if it is accompanied by the setting up of a series of phantasmagoric Aunt Sallies in order to have the pleasure of hurling denunciatory balls at them.
The fear that there will be too much federalism too quickly in Europe is in my view ludicrously misplaced. There is still far more brake than accelerator about the Community. The sensible course for a British European who is sceptical about the possibility or indeed the desirability of full federalism is to encourage all signs of relevant dynamism and to make very sure that Britain is not left for the fourth time waving forlornly from that metaphorical railway platform.
§ Lord Harmar-Nicholls
My Lords, perhaps I may intervene. The noble Lord, who is an authority on the theme, said that federation was not unlikely. Does he think that within 10 years we are likely to get 80 per cent. towards federation? Is that his view or does he rule that out as well?
§ Lord Jenkins of Hillhead
My Lords, no. I think that M. Delors, my successor, whom I regard as a good and powerful president of the Commission, exaggerated when he used that figure.
If this lesson from the past is not learned, I see four likely consequences, all of them gravely damaging to Britain's long-term interests. First, if we stay hesitantly semi-detached, half in half out, and we repeat the hesitant attitude we have taken previously, that will guarantee that leadership in the Community remains firmly, almost exclusively, Franco-German.
Secondly, it will make inevitable a two-speed Europe, with the only question being how many minor laggards we can keep with us in the rear column. Thirdly, standing out from central bank and 36 common currency moves will endanger even the apparently impregnable financial position of the City of London. Even New York could not do very well if it were outside the dollar area with a little offshore currency based on Albany.
Fourthly, it may isolate British industry from the full benefits of the single market. This will not be achieved on the basis that others abolish the barriers that Britain does not like, while we keep the ones that they do not like and they are compensated for any imbalance by occasional free lectures on how to run their affairs. It can only be achieved on the basis of give and take and respect, not only for the legitimate self-interest but also for the European idealism—sometimes inchoate, sometimes shot through with contradictory shafts of national selfishness, but the nonetheless real European idealism—of others.
Please do not let us, more through lack of comprehension than through a real clash of interests, make the same mistake for the fourth time running.
§ 3.34 p.m.
The Archbishop of Canterbury
My Lords, in an address in Turin earlier this year Sir Isaiah Berlin spoke of the two factors that above all had shaped human history this century. The first was the development of natural sciences and technology. The other, he said:consists in the great ideological storms that have altered the lives of virtually all mankind: the Russian Revolution and its aftermath—totalitarian tyrannies of both right and left and the explosions of nationalism, racism and, in places, of religious bigotry, which interestingly enough, not one among the perceptive social thinkers of the 19th century had ever predicted".I do not need to weary the House with examples of what Sir Isaiah was talking about; they are all too obvious and all too numerous. One does not expect religion to figure in the gracious Speech. But I want to say a word about its role in world affairs today.
It has often been taken as a truism in Western liberal thought that religion is in irreversible decline. It seems to me that this notion has taken some knocks in recent years, while the most systematic and savage attempts to eliminate the spiritual element in humankind have been markedly unsuccessful.
Religious fanaticism and bigotry are no more attractive than nationalistic or racial fanaticism and bigotry, and we have seen altogether too much of these things this century. But it seems to me foolish and indeed dangerous to underestimate the power of religious conviction to shape the future of our world. Does anyone in this House, for example, seriously doubt that the slowly but clearly emerging growth of religious tolerance in the Soviet Union will lead to a better society there? More to the point I am making, is it not remarkable that religious conviction has survived in the Soviet Union despite decades of active persecution? Does that not say something about the power and the tenacity of religious conviction? The cultural and national movements in the Baltic states and Armenia are surely inconceivable without the religious ingredient.
The Soviet Union is perhaps an extreme example, partly because religion itself was for many years actively suppressed and partly because the recent 37 signs of progress there are so full of hope. But there are many other examples throughout the world of Christian men and women, and people of other religions too, sticking tenaciously to their beliefs despite the brutalities that surround them. I think, for example, of Central America, the Middle East and southern Africa, in all of which Christians provide a leadership based on love and hope in situations which induce despair.
Your Lordships will not expect me to speak in a foreign affairs debate without saying a word about hostages. Terry Waite has been held hostage in Lebanon since January of last year, some 22 months. John McCarthy and Brian Keenan have been held since April 1986. There are other hostages who have been imprisoned in that unhappy country even longer. This is by no means a matter only of Shia fundamentalists engaged in the inhuman practice of hostage-taking, for people of all the faiths in that country have been both victims and perpetrators of it. Meanwhile, the ordinary people of Lebanon have for too many years suffered the brutalities of a savage civil war aggravated by external intervention.
In many ways the plight of the hostages is an allegory of our times, a piece of symbolism. One side resorts to this inhuman practice, so another retaliates in kind. Some countries have met the demands of the captors, thereby, in my view, making future hostage-taking more likely. I do not think we should forget the fact that there are more American hostages in Lebanon now, after the Irangate episode, than before it.
So what is to be done? I hardly need to remind your Lordships of the courage and fortitude of the families of the hostages or to express my admiration for them. Nor do I think many Members of this House would wish to see Her Majesty's Government meeting any demands from the hostage-takers. We must be ready to respond to any possibilities of help from any quarter that might have influence on the situation of the hostages. I believe we have done that at Lambeth Palace, and will certainly go on doing so.
The improvement of diplomatic relations with Iran is a hopeful sign too, for Iran has undoubtedly considerable influence on one of the groups in Lebanon. We must continue to search for and respond to any prospect of hope. We must continually assure the families of hostages, of whatever nationality, that we do not forget them. And we must continue to pray that the hostages themselves are sustained in their ordeal and will soon be reunited with their families.
In talking of the Lambeth Conference of Anglican bishops from all over the world this summer, Professor Owen Chadwick said this:Bishops are lovely Christian people as individuals and in their dioceses. Put them together in a heap and you cannot tell what will happen".I will not encourage your Lordships to question the first part of that statement, but I will say that in mid-July of this year, as the bishops were assembling in Canterbury, I was nervously conscious of the force of the second part. Your Lordships hear directly only from the 26 senior bishops who sit in this House, all of them from English dioceses. But here was a 38 collection of 525 bishops from every part of the world.
The Anglican Communion is now much more than the churches of the British Commonwealth; it is a good deal wider and more complex and it is growing, particularly in Asia, the Far East and Latin America. Often churches are in friction with the political structures in which they live. But, like the Church of England on a much smaller scale, the Anglican Communion commands a network of deeply engaged observers who know as much about what the people are thinking and enduring as many political networks. Without the same pressures to produce material results and to justify party policies, perhaps the Church's assessments are worth listening to. This is true not only of the Anglican Church, but also of others with which it is in ever closer dialogue.
The Anglican Church is small in comparison with the great Catholic and Orthodox traditions, but after Rome it is arguably the most widely distributed group of churches in the world. One of the advantages of improved relations between Churches and, in places, between communities of faiths is that we can provide a network of consultation which is a valuable supplement to the diplomatic one.
What we are saying to all concerned with foreign policy is not only that they should listen to our views, but when in Russia they should listen to the Orthodox and Baptists, when in South Africa they should listen to a whole variety of Churches, and not just the political parties. Experienced foreign correspondents have told me that when they find themselves in a strange country they do not just go and talk to the British Embassy, the government spokesmen and the local newspaper editor. They often learn more about a local situation from the priest, the missionary and the Christian Aid worker. We in the Churches may not be able to provide an estimate of the rate of inflation this time next year, but we know how our parishoners are making ends meet—or failing to—right now.
It may be said that Lambeth was attended by a bunch of mitred bishops. Actually we did not wear mitres very much and the whole three-week conference was built upon a daily routine of prayer and study. But bishops are remote., one may think from the life of the slum Christian, the village Christian or the refugee camp Christian. If someone thinks that, he cannot be thinking of Bishop Kafity of Jerusalem, for example, or Bishop Singulane of Mozambique or the Archbishops of Burma or Burundi. These were the kind of people who came together at Lambeth. It is hardly surprising that they did not confine themselves to matters like the proper number of orphreys on the chasuble, or even whether women should be ordained into their ranks. For the Church's people live in the same world as anyone else, and the Lord Jesus taught them not only how to pray but how to live. He taught them how to love and care for one another. He taught them to feed the hungry, to shelter the homeless, and to visit the sick and the oppressed. The fact is, all that can be set at naught—and is in many parts of the world—by wars and extravagant preparations for war which are not of the people's seeking and cannot be in their 39 interests. No bishop who acquiesed in such wasting of creation's resources without protest would be true to the charge of "feed my sheep".
I was especially pleased to note in the gracious Speech the Government's intention to strive for a worldwide ban on chemical weapons. Those are truly horrific weapons. One of the most horrific things about them is that some of them are appallingly cheap to produce. As the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos, said, Her Majesty's Government have a good record in this field, as have successive British governments for a long time. But the plain and hideous fact is that Iraq has used these weapons without adverse consequences. Today there are reports that Somalia has imported nerve gas. Unless the international community takes vigorous steps to deter any prospective user of chemical weapons and punish any user, a monstrous chapter of history will be reopened.
We hear much, and rightly, about the duty of the individual to make his or her own moral choices. But for the refugee from civil war in Afghanistan, Sudan and Kampuchea there is no choice. Everybody's choice is constantly under pressure from political and economic circumstances. But some people have greater freedom of' choice because they have more competence, more power, and more money to tackle those circumstances. If the Churches do not remind them of this, and of their duty to the powerless, who will?
The Churches are certainly grateful to the leaders of the great powers for the progress that has been made recently towards disarmament and mutual reassurance. But the kind of bishops I met this summer at our conference, and religious men and women of other denominations and faiths whom I meet around the world, know all too well that the 35 years of peace between the great powers since the Korean War has been a luxury not granted to the third world.
The Churches acknowledge that the state has to live with certain political realities of which the Churches are not called to take account. But the realities with which so many of my fellow believers have to live are something we must all share. We must all listen or abdicate our humanity.
§ 3.48 p.m.
§ Earl Attlee
My Lords, I must start by offering my apologies to the Minister because I missed the very beginning of his speech. Unfortunately I was stuck in an immoveable tube train. There is nothing more frustrating than that. Foreign affairs and defence cover a very wide area. Therefore I shall restrict my speech to the European Community. I must declare an interest in that I am the SDP candidate in the European by-election for Hampshire Central, the polling day of which is on 15th December.
§ Earl Attlee
My Lords, I did not mean to put in a plug for that. I do not think that many noble Lords who are present today live in my constituency. I find 40 that being a candidate for a European constituency does not half sharpen one's mind. Indeed, I now notice a lot more in the newspapers about Europe than I previously did. I was surprised that in the gracious Speech there was very little mention, if any, of Europe. It seems to me that the Government are doing very little about 1992 except for the advertising campaign on television.
In her speech in Bruges on 20th September the Prime Minister referred to the single European market of 1992. She said that it means:Action to free markets, action to widen choice, action to reduce government intervention".That implies that the single market is the final stage of the ever closer union of which the Treaty of Rome speaks. However, most European nations seem to think otherwise. They are looking towards a closer political union as well; not in the immediate future, and perhaps not for several years, but that undoubtedly is the ultimate aim.
No-one is in a hurry, but as the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins, said—and I shall also use his metaphor of the train as I am an ex-employee of British Rail—the train to integration in Europe is on the move. He said that on the headboard the destination is Europe. If we miss that train we will not be able to catch it up. Even if we could catch it up we should not be able to help to create the terms of integration. That is what happened with the European Community. Who can doubt that if we had been one of the founding fathers of the EC we should in no way have agreed to or allowed the featherbedding of certain farmers in some European countries which has resulted in the creation of wine lakes, butter mountains and beef mountains which take an inordinate amount of income which should be spent on other things. Admittedly, those mountains and lakes are being reduced, but very slowly. Worst of all, the CAP does not appear to have helped the British farmer. Indeed, as a result of reductions many are doing very much worse now than they were before.
Missing the boat once I think we can say was idiotic; to miss it twice would be criminal. Therefore we have to think now about a single European currency. There are people who are frightened of the idea but they are not quite sure why. However, I think that we can guarantee that there will be a single European currency. If there is, then there must be a central bank. It seems to me that the obvious place for a central hank would be in the City of London which is the financial capital of Europe. But if we are not involved and do not agree to a single European currency, that central bank will not be in the City of' London, it will be in Paris, Frankfurt, or possibly Amsterdam. In whichever of those cities the central bank is located it is obvious that there will be a flow of business out of the City of London and into the chosen capital. I am sure that those noble Lords who have interests in the City would not like that at all.
The noble Lord, Lord Plumb, who is President of the European Parliament and a Conservative Peer, told the CBI very recently:A European currency is inevitable.41 We agree. The noble Lord, Lord Cockfield, also agrees because on Monday he said:Why should trade and industry in Europe be denied the immense advantages of a single currency simply to preserve the national rights of finance ministers to mismanage their affairs?We agree with the first part of that statement but I think that the second part is rather hard and rather cruel.
Consider the advantages that will result from a single European currency. This Government are very keen, and quite rightly, on exports. However, if you are a manufacturer at the moment you have to work out prices in sterling and then translate them into whichever European currency is appropriate, whether it is deutschemarks, francs or Swiss francs. If you are a businessman or tourist who goes to Europe you take your sterling and change it into the European currency at a loss. When you come back to this country you change it back into sterling and again there is a loss. Therefore it is logical and natural that we should have a single European currency. After all, we already have a European currency, the ecu.
Admittedly one cannot go into a bank and buy or sell ecus and it is only a notional currency. However, anyone who has dealings in the EC will know that everything is referred to now in so many million or trillion ecus. It is obvious therefore that if we wish it is possible to have a European currency.
In his speech to the Conservative political summer school in Cambridge on 2nd July the Foreign Secretary said:Our European vision accepts, indeed commends, loyalty to the member state as perfectly compatible with the pooling of our national efforts for our wider European gain. Like separate strands which come together to form a single rope, the Europe we are creating will he stronger, not weaker, because of the different elements which comprise it.We agree. But there appears to be a considerable difference between what the Foreign Secretary says and what is said by the Prime Minister.
We believe that the power of the European Parliament must be increased. It seems that at the moment it does not have anywhere near enough power, and that the Council of Ministers (which after all is not an elected body) has too much power.
If we are to protect British interests, we can only do so by going wholeheartedly into Europe. I know that it is difficult. We live on an island and therefore do not tend to think as Europeans, but we must. We must push for a common currency and we must push for the central bank to be based in the City of London. Then we shall benefit, Europe will benefit; everyone will benefit.
§ 3.59 p.m.
§ Lord Callaghan of Cardiff
My Lords, I very much regret that I must begin with an apology to the noble Lord who will wind up this debate. Alas, some time ago before this debate was arranged I undertook an engagement. It is not unconnected with this subject and I trust that I can be excused.
It is the purpose of the gracious Speech, especially in the first section, to call attention not only to the legislation that is proposed but to matters that are of 42 supreme national importance and interest. I must begin my address by calling attention to a serious omission from the gracious Speech which, so far as I can trace, is unprecedented. It is customary for Her Majesty when she reads the Speech to detail her proposed visits to countries of the Commonwealth and, in the years when a Commonwealth conference is to be held, for her to state her intention to be present. But it is also customary—indeed it is the invariable practice or has been until this year—for the Government themselves to declare their attitude to the Commonwealth. On this occasion there is no such reference. I very much regret it.
In 1983 the gracious Speech contained the words:My Government will continue their full support for the Commonwealth";in 1986 she said:My Government will play a constructive role in the Commonwealth";and last year she confirmed that:They will continue to play their full part".I have picked out those illustrations, but Ministers will find, as I have found for every year at which I have looked, that there has been a similar reference.
Suddenly to omit any reference to the Government's attitude towards an institution in which Britain is a senior participant and of which it was a founding member leaves the Government open to a charge of either careless oversight or a serious snub. I hope I am wrong; but the House is entitled to an explanation of why there is no reference on this particular occasion to the position of the Commonwealth. There are many, and I hope a majority, who believe that the Commonwealth, with its varied membership of differing races and creeds, combining rich and poor countries, speaking a common language and with an intertwined history, has much to offer to the world. I very much deplore the omission of any reference by the Government. and I believe that we are owed an explanation which I trust we shall receive.
The gracious Speech says that:My Government will continue to strive to break down the barriers between East and West".From Moscow Mr. Gorbachev indicates his manifest desire to do the same. There is a promise to set free political prisoners; NATO countries are invited to inspect Soviet military installations; there is unprecedented toleration of dissent in the Republics, and human rights are to be codified in a new set of laws. Mr. Gorbachev makes impassioned speeches indicting the errors and policies of the regime that he has inherited. He declares his intention of wrenching the whole structure of Soviet life—political, economic, legal (yes, my Lords, legal) and social—out of the deep ruts into which it has stuck.
President Gorbachev has set out on a mammoth and herculean task which will demand every ounce of will, resource and energy if he is to overcome the inertia and hostility that he will meet. Like others, I certainly wish him well, as we all should do. The Soviet people will of course judge him by whether his policies of reconstruction lead to tangible improvements in their standard of life—I fear that it will be as material as that—and he will have 43 opponents ready to tear him down if he falters. Let me say at this moment that such opponents as he will have are unlikely to be friends of ours should they displace him. So we have every reason to wish President Gorbachev's experiment well. This is a pivotal period for the Soviet people and their leadership. Opportunities and risks are balanced for them and it is hard to say which will triumph. For us in the West, the results will be equally fateful.
On the credit side Mr. Shevardnadze and other Soviet authorities have declared their intention to take the ideology out of international relations, as the noble Lord, Lord Glenarthur, reminded us this afternoon. Mr. Gorbachev has stated his readiness to use the United Nations and especially the Security Council to settle regional disputes. Withdrawal from Afghanistan is promised for next February; there is a more flexible attitude towards Angola, where as my noble friend Lord Cledwyn said, prospects of settlement and for the withdrawal of Cuban troops seem better than for many years past; and there is a positive snowstorm of disarmament proposals as well as other proposals coming from Moscow.
How should we respond to a Soviet Union that is telling us that whatever may have happened in the past, in the future it will be a much easier country with which to live? Our first instinct is naturally one of relief, but it must also be said, I submit, that our policies cannot be shaped to rest on the success of one man, however resourceful—even though the Prime Minister says that she can do business with him. That is too great a risk. No, we must continue best to protect the security and welfare of our people through a steady and consistent support of the North Atlantic Alliance with the indispensable support of the United States and through the growing unity of the people of Europe. I should like to say that I very much agree with what the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins, said.
Our attitude towards the Soviet Union should be firm but not rigid, hopeful but not sceptical: we should be supportive and not spectators, guarded but not obstructive. In my view the Foreign Secretary got it right when he said that the West should give all encouragement to President Gorbachev's efforts but should remember that he may not succeed. I should add to what the Foreign Secretary said, that while Soviet intentions are changing for the better, Soviet capabilities remain formidable and there is no case so far for modifying the security arrangements of the past 40 years in Europe. That day may come but it is not here yet.
Mr. Gorbachev emphasises that in Europe we occupy a common home. That is true; but in a common home no internal doors are locked and people move freely from the kitchen to the living room. There is no bricked-up Berlin wall to divide the home in two.
So far, I agree with the Government on these matters. Now, however, I come to some differences and first of all about the human rights conference. Moscow wishes to hold such a conference in 1991, and Her Majesty's Government apparently object. I think that the Government are wrong. Provided that 44 the Soviet leaders fulfil certain preliminary conditions, surely it can do nothing but good for the West to carry our idea of human rights into the heart of the Soviet Union. There is now freer broadcasting and even criticism in the newspapers of the Soviet Union. Her Majesty's Government should not, as they seem to do, regard such a conference as a reward for good behaviour by the Soviet Union. It is an opportunity for the West. It is an opportunity especially given to us with the new-found policy of glasnost in that country.
Let us put it to the test. I urge Her Majesty's Government to withdraw their objections. If the Soviet Union want to hold a human rights conference there, let us go and let us speak our minds freely and firmly; and let us hope that our views permeate through to the Soviet people.
Secondly, there is the Middle East. We should recognise that the Soviet interest in that part of the world is legitimate. So long as the policies of the Soviet Union were to spread conflict in Afghanistan, Angola and other places, it was reasonable for the West to oppose Soviet intervention in the Middle East. But here is an opportunity in the Gulf and in the Arab-Israeli dispute to test Soviet co-operation. Experience has shown that whatever our best efforts may be—and those of Europe and the United States—none of us has been able to solve on our own the terrible problem of the dispute in the Middle East. In my judgment, we should not rule out an international conference, perhaps under the aegis of the United Nations—again to test, as we have not succeeded in doing so far, whether the Soviet Union's stated intentions will be carried out in fact.
Thirdly, the forthcoming arms negotiations on non-nuclear weapons especially affect us in Europe. We should assume that when Mr. Gorbachev calls for equality between the two sides at substantially lower levels than at present, he means what he says. I need not labour the difficulties, in view of our reliance on nuclear weapons, to redress the present imbalance in conventional arms, but our stated aim should be a minimum role for such arms consistent with an effective defensive stance.
On economic policy, I would withdraw any objections that there may be to observers from the Soviet Union being present at GATT meetings especially in view of their declared intention to seek a rapprochement with that body. Moreover, although so far the Soviet Union has expressed disinterest in membership of the International Monetary Fund until certain amendments are made to it, their leaders have put forward some more than interesting—in my view constructive—ideas on the management of the international monetary system and the future of reserve currencies. In their own words, as was stated when I was present in Moscow in the early summer, they consider themselves part and parcel of the world economy and wish to expose their industries to international competition in order to improve their efficiency and eventually—and this will be a very long way off—to make the rouble convertible.
We have here four areas in which the West could make a positive response to President Gorbachev's overtures and, by patient and firm negotiation, 45 increase his prospect of success without endangering our own security.
Finally, Europe has an important role to play. Our national differences are still great. Our love of our country is deep. It will need very wise statesmanship to reconcile those feelings with the consequences of Europe's commerce and industry which are rapidly transcending our national frontiers, with vital impact on our economic regions and on employment. Yet I am convinced that it must be done, for common action will grow inexorably and cannot be denied. As the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, stated, such power must be democratised to be acceptable to our people. Certainly we have not yet gone nearly far enough in that direction. Indeed 1992 will be a dramatic illustration of the potential strength of Europe to influence world trade and practices if we choose to exert it as a united force. Is it not illustrative of what could be done that, because everyone is now talking of 1992, for once Europe is not being reactive to the policies of the United States, the Soviet Union or Japan? It is they who are reacting to Europe. It is they who arc stating their position in relation to what we intend to do in 1992 and 1993. That surely has lessons for us in other fields of European co-operation such as security, defence, arms production, and the environment and pollution, where, if we act together in a spirit of unity, we shall be altogether stronger than if we act as individual nations.
I was deeply impressed by the speech of the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury. If he could undertake that I would hear a sermon like that every Sunday I would never be missing from the pew. It raised the standard of our debate and I thank him for what he had to say.
It is not often that we stand at an important moment in history but I believe that this is such a time. The manner in which the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury addressed our problems, and the manner in which the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins, and the noble Lord, Lord Glenarthur, have addressed them, although in a different manner, illustrates that for a short while we have the freedom in Europe and in this country to choose which path we shall tread both in our relationships with the Soviet Union and with our people in Europe. I hope that we shall follow the paths that will enable our children to say that we chose wisely.
§ 4.15 p.m.
§ Viscount Eccles
My Lords, my noble friend Lord Glenarthur opened this debate with a very fine speech. I should like to congratulate him. He went round the horizon in a very comprehensive way and showed that there are real reasons for optimism if we choose to work with other countries as we should. After his speech it became clear that noble Lords are concerned about 1992 and the question of what we are going to do when we have—as we all want—a free market in goods and services. Do we go beyond that market? Ought we then to subscribe to a single social and financial policy, a common currency and a single central hank, which the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, wants very much and I think would not do much good? Do we want harmonised tax laws? Do we want 46 to have common labour laws? It is a very big question.
We know the views of the Prime Minister on this question. So long as my right honourable friend is in office we shall not advance very far towards a European union of a political nature. There are noble Lords opposite who do not like the Prime Minister. I hope that that is not sufficient reason for opposing her on this enormous subject. The majority of the British people would support her. They might be wrong. Perhaps they should accept what appears to many noble Lords to be the logic of a shrinking world.
In politics, as in life, instinct is sometimes the best guide. We are islanders. We live alongside Europe. The Channel Tunnel will not convert us overnight into Continentals. I suppose it is partly geography and partly history—we have not been raided for almost a thousand years—that makes one rise at the thought of a commission of European Ministers sitting in Brussels exercising authority over more and more of our domestic affairs. If we were to surrender our sovereignty to the extent that we shall be asked to do—which I suppose the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins, would like us to do—would the result be greater security and greater prosperity for the British people? That is the question that we have to examine taking into consideration the way the world is going, which is very different from 30 years ago.
At the end of the last war Sir Winston Churchill called on Europe to unite in order to prevent another war between Germany and her neighbours. As time went on, further reasons appeared. The strength of the United States and of Russia pushed European nations into the second rank and some statesmen did not like it—for example, General de Gaulle. An alarm was spread that the powers to the East and West of us could and would, over our heads, strike bargains between themselves.
Your Lordships may remember M. Servan Schreiber, who wrote a sensational book, Le Défi amDéfi amDéricain. He warned that the Americans were about to gobble up the economies of Europe. That seemed quite possible, so dominant were the military and economic resources of the United States. But I submit that, whatever the force of that argument a generation ago, it has now lost its force. Today we ought to be worrying, not about economic aggression from America, but about how to co-operate with the Americans to promote stability and prosperity throughout the whole world. I say that because we have to adjust our thinking to recent and very great changes. First, the heyday of the American empire is over. Secondly Russia is behaving differently under President Gorbachev and, thirdly, great wealth has come to Japan and the Pacific rim.
How should we respond to those changes? For example, how should the United States and the Soviet Union react to the fact that they both now know they are heavily over-militarised? The capacity to generate wealth has become the weak sister in their security policies. So much is being spent on arms that they do not have the resources to underwrite all their overseas commitments and, perhaps even more important, to keep their economies competitive with 47 those of less encumbered nations. The crisis may be much deeper in Russia, but the United States is also in grave trouble, having become the world's largest debtor. History shows us that creditors, not debtors, wield power outside their own borders. Who, for example, will refinance Latin America—the United States or Japan? It is pretty obvious what the answer is to that, if one has lived part of one's life in the United States.
Changes of this magnitude compel us to look for new forms of co-operation between the leading nations of Europe, North America and Japan, with Russia and China at the door. The resources of more than one continent will have to be co-ordinated for specific purposes. World government not being a practical possibility, this has to be done ad hoc and the nations participating in the new international institutions remain free to approve or disapprove,
This is already happening. The fluctuations in exchange rates are causing increasing inconvenience and anxiety. Europe alone cannot deal with that problem. The EMS and one central bank cannot manage the word's currencies, but this is exactly what the Group of Seven is trying to do. That group is drawn from nations in Europe, America and Asia. Here is the scale and here is the pattern that we have to follow in the new circumstances.
Governments and diplomats may be surprised to find that the great issues of our time are being thrown up, not by politics as they have been all through our history, but by the revolution in science and technology. Continents are not the scale on which to deal with problems of such an extraordinary extent and complexity of origin. Tomorrow every bit of information known to man will be available everywhere and simultaneously. Capital will ebb and flow across all frontiers. Currencies will be bought, sold and attacked day and night in all the markets of the world. Surely it must be plain to the most passionate of Europeans that the huge imbalances in international trade require world-wide and not continental arrangements to overcome their disruptive effects.
If this view of the age we are now entering is anywhere near correct, it is obvious that American policy must change. It cannot remain the same, partly in response to what is happening in Russia and partly because the United States, though still the leader, is no longer the master of the world economy. There is no successor to the United States. We must look to President Bush—whose election I greatly welcome—to give the lead in creating international organisations appropriate to the problems which are now threatening more than half the world. Whatever is done in Europe, things will go badly on both sides of the Atlantic if that lead does not come from America. Of course in time we shall adopt world rules to regulate many activities which are now more or less out of control. We shall devise and follow these world rules because the logic of the scientific revolution is not continental but is global.
As I see our own position, the experience of empire has given the British a unique sense of the world as a whole: an attitude towards humanity that has never 48 been needed more than now. Our advice is valuable, our language is the common language of international communications and we are well placed to influence the future.
The conclusion which I offer is that Britain would be more useful as a very experienced member of ad hoc world organisations such as the Group of Seven; more useful than as a member of the numerous cast of the Council of European Ministers, a council exceedingly difficult to produce on stage, always unsettled, frequently paralysed by the conflicting politics of its members. Sometime in the future your Lordships' descendants may vote to join a European union or federation. That is pure speculation. What is certain is that in the next decade the problems most urgently demanding attention will be soluble only on a world scale.
§ 4.28 p.m.
§ Lord Stewart of Fulham
My Lords, at the beginning of a new Session of Parliament in time past, the Sovereign opened the gracious Speech from the Throne with the words:My relations with foreign powers continue friendly".The words meant no more than that we were not actually engaged in a war with anybody at that time.
When the last war began it became unsuitable to use those words and, perhaps not surprisingly, it has never been considered suitable to replace them since. I am wondering whether we may not be approaching a time when we might not consider using them again. I followed with great interest the catalogue given by the noble Lord, Lord Glenarthur, of the parts of the world where there has been a definite move towards attempts to make peace. I say "attempts" because some of them have been very halting and uncertain, but the tendency is notable all round the world: in Kampuchea; in Angola; in the dreadful conflict between Iraq and Iran; in the long struggle between the Soviet Union and Afghanistan and, of course, in the Middle East. To this one may add—though it is not a regional conflict—the decided improvement in the approach of East and West to the problem of disarmament.
Why is there this apparent move towards at least the possibility of a more peaceful world? One reason, I think, is that all the parties have become increasingly aware of the fearful destructive power and danger of the weapons that they enjoy, if "enjoy" is the right word. I think not only of nuclear weapons but of the ever more sophisticated and destructive conventional weapons that are coming into use. This has disposed combatants on both sides to look more earnestly than they had done before to peaceful solutions and to feel that they can no longer rely on the certainty of victory that they enjoyed previously in their imagination.
The other reason is that, just as the danger of weapons urged people to consider peaceful solutions, the United Nations has provided them with avenues through which peaceful solutions can be found. If one looks at any one of the regional problems that I have mentioned, one finds that there is somewhere or other in the history of the problem a United Nations resolution to which at last, sometimes after years of 49 neglect, the parties concerned are returning in the realisation that somehow or other a solution has to be found to their conflicts.
In that situation, what are the lessons that we can learn? I think that the first is in respect of weapons and the success that we have had. I regard the INF agreement as a very considerable success, even if it is small compared with the total problem of disarmament. It is so remarkable and so unlike anything that we have achieved before that we are entiteld to look at it with a good deal of hope. It is well to remember that it was secured, if I may borrow a phrase from the right honourable gentleman Mr. Neil Kinnock, on the "something for something" basis and not on the "something for nothing" basis. The moral that we must draw is that, if one wants to make further progress with disarmament, one must continue to argue in the terms that what we are seeking is a mutual agreement, which cannot be achieved if one begins by throwing away one's own weapons. This I think more and more people have now come to understand. I do not think that it is at all unreasonable to hope that the future will see an advance not only in nuclear disarmament but in conventional disarmament as well.
The other lesson that I believe we have to draw concerns the importance of strengthening and increasing the authority of the United Nations. As I have said, it is from the United Nations that we have had the offers of ways in which these problems may be solved. I take particularly the situation in Iran and Iraq. At one stage it looked as if those two countries were so bitterly irreconcilable that nothing except sheer exhaustion and mutual destruction would bring the conflict to an end. However, from the very beginning of the conflict there has been a United Nations resolution urging the way in which they should set about it; and very gradually and with many halts and interruptions they are beginning to accept the authority of the United Nations. I hope very much that our country, as one of the permanent members of the Security Council, will always do its best to uphold the authority of the United Nations.
Perhaps I should add here that, if we are handling the problem of Iran and Iraq, I support very strongly what was said by my noble friend the Leader of the Opposition about the problem of the Kurdish people. It ought to be possible, if we are to get an agreement between Iran and Iraq, at last to bring some hope of peace and decent treatment to these unhappy people. They have been persecuted now for centuries. The possibility of a decent life stood there after the last war, and then, among the pressures of other problems that worry the great powers, was neglected and thrown away. We ought to pick it up again now and see what can be done.
The other field in which the authority of the United Nations will be of particular importance is in the Middle East. It has been said, I think rightly, that the reference by Mr. Arafat to Resolution 242 is implicitly a recognition of the existence of the state of Israel. It seems a great pity that Palestinians cannot go a little further and make it explicit. They must know how great is the importance that the Israelis attach to that. If they are sincere in what they say about Resolution 242, then they are implicitly 50 recognising the state of Israel. To recognise it explicitly if they are sincere, is therefore not so great a further step and might be very effective in causing Israel to take a more favourable view of the Palestinian approach to the problem.
We in Britain should be particularly interested in anything that can he built on Resolution 242 because it was a British creation through the energies of the noble Lord, Lord Carrington. It has from that day to this so far as I can see been the only possible way out of the Middle East deadlock that anyone has suggested with any hope of success. I therefore hope that the Government, again as a member of the Security Council of the United Nations, will find the opportunity to see whether we can build on Resolution 242 and bring about the agreement between Israel and her neighbours that has eluded us for so long.
It seems that one is going hack to past history when one urges the importance of the rule of law and the United Nations. In the years between the wars, the received wisdom proclaimed by those who were considered to be the great and the good was that belief in the League of Nations was something in which only softhcads and idealists indulged, and practical men knew that one must not bother with that sort of nonsense; one must look after one's own national interest. This was of course the exact reverse of the truth. It was the continued failure of the nations of Europe—for both the United States and the Soviet Union for different reasons stood apart from the main conflict—to make the principles of the League of Nations work that landed them where they found themselves in 1939.
We do not want that history repeated. We cannot afford to allow it to be repeated because the dangers are so much greater and the weapons so much more terrible. We ought to have learnt from the experiences between the wars that the only alternative to periodic war between nations—which after all has been a habit of mankind from earliest recorded history and which must be got rid of now simply because it has become so destructive—is the establishment of the rule of law; and the instrument for that used to be the League of Nations and is today the United Nations. We have to grasp that it is through that—through common sense and courage about our weapons and justice in respect of the international rule of law—that the possibilities of peace lie.
§ 4.40 p.m.
§ Lord Gladwyn
My Lords. I shall only speak for a few minutes on a single point not considered, I think. up to now, and in doing so I hope that your Lordships will forgive me if I speak rather slowly.
There is no doubt that President Bush will shortly be locked in a difficult debate with Congress on the best means of reducing the enormous US budgetary deficit. Unfortunately, one of the few proposals on which there may be agreement is for a cut in American expenditure on the defence of Europe—that is a possibility—it being thought that the European allies should themselves contribute more to this end. Should the allies not feel able to do so, 51 then we may well have to face reductions in the number of US troops in Germany, even before there may be any reduction as a result of general conventional disarmament.
It may perhaps be thought that in the present climate of détente that might not matter very much No doubt some Americans would still be there and the nuclear umbrella would still be in place. That is a dangerous thought. The fact is that, rightly or wrongly, a doubt would probably arise in the German mind as to the ultimate willingness of the Americans to defend Europe at all, and an increasing desire on their part to explore further with Mr. Gorbachev the emergence of that famous "European House", as he calls it, which might one day render such defence unnecessary.
However, that is clearly the ultimate aim of the new Soviet policy, welcome though it is in many respects, and it must surely be in our interest to discourage the Germans from pursuing a similar policy of their own unless it has been fully discussed and agreed—and agreed—with their European partners.
How can we best do that? Apart from, if necessary, spending rather more on our non-nuclear defences in order to induce the Americans, pending disarmament, to maintain their troops, we have perhaps only one major card to play; namely, genuine support for a form of European union arising out of the Single European Act. Only in that way can we be sure that Western Germany is irrevocably grafted onto the West and is not tempted to act as a sort of go-between with the East.
The particular danger which I fear may never come about. Let us hope that it never will. However, unless Western Germany becomes firmly integrated into Western Europe, circumstances may in any case arise one day in which it may be tempted to achieve reunification by accepting a form of neutrality. It is as serious as that.
Playing the European card in this way would not mean that we favoured a European federation on the United States model any more than would our European partners—with the possible exception of the Italians. However, it would mean that we favoured a genuine economic union rather than a mere free trade area, leading up to the emergence of a common foreign and defence policy. It must he obvious, in spite of what has been said to the contrary, that no genuine economic union is possible without a common currency and a European Central Bank, under the ultimate control of course of the European Council of Ministers, of which we shall form part.
Mrs. Thatcher is quite right to oppose a federation. although here she is, as I think, rather tilting at windmills because in practice few actually want that. However, unless she accepts the idea of real economic union she is exposing this country, and indeed all the democracies of Western Europe, to great potential dangers. Therefore we can only hope that she will one day change her mind.
§ 4.47 p.m.
§ Lord Rippon of Hexham
My Lords, I welcome the commitment in the gracious Speech to the European Community and to the completion of the single market, especially because it is allied to an undertaking to play a full part in multilateral negotiations to liberalise trade and agriculture. We have passed the Single European Act and I have no doubt that we intend to implement it. I only hope that in due course we can say the same about our European partners.
The question which I should like to address today is, what sort of Europe do we really wish to create. I believe that we should take as our starting point the wise and far-reaching speech made by the Prime Minister in Bruges in September. I believe that the noble Lord. Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos, was quite wrong in the gloss which he put on that speech. It is a speech which deserves to be read in full if it is not to be misinterpreted, as it is today in some quarters.
For myself, I find what the Prime Minister said in Bruges entirely in harmony with British policy over the years. While I may sometimes have reservations about the Government's economic and monetary policies, I entirely agree with what the Prime Minister says about European foreign and defence policy.
In Bruges the Prime Minister made it quite clear that our destiny is in Europe as part of the Community but, as she says, the Community is not an end in itself, nor is it the whole of Europe. She set out five guiding principles designed to ensure that Europe succeeds not merely in economic and defence terms but also in the quality of life and the influence of its people.
Those five principles may fairly be summarised as: first, willing and active co-operation between independent sovereign states; secondly, the tackling of Community problems in a practical way. however difficult that may be—and from my experience I know that the devil is in the detail: thirdly, the need for Community policies which encourage enterprise; fourthly, a Europe open to the world and not protectionist; and, fifthly, Europe must maintain a sure defence through NATO and Western European Union.
I find nothing at all with which to quarrel in that declaration of policy. Holding to that does not seem to me to make anyone, by any stretch of the imagination, an unenthusiastic European.
Of course, we may dream about an eventual united states of Europe. For my part I share the view that that is not in the foreseeable future. I do not think that it will develop in any way, for example, like the United States of America. For the present we must accept that the Community is composed of sovereign states co-operating together ever more closely but still individual nations with their own sovereign parliaments.
At the end of the last Session—the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, will remember this—we had a short debate in this House on the subject of how the Dutch Senate has refused to ratify the agreement to establish the European Foundation which is designed to promote a European political and cultural identity by 53 helping to fund the activities of various European voluntary organisations over the whole area of Europe. The noble Lord called it a document, but in fact a formal agreement in the nature of a treaty was necessary because of the uncertainties in the Treaty of Rome about the Community's ability to conduct cultural activities.
The point is that the Dutch Senate acted as it did despite the fact that the agreement had secured parliamentary approval by every other party to the agreement. By standing out alone the Dutch have made a declaration of national parliamentary sovereignty. So be it. That should be an object lesson to everyone. The Prime Minister has said on other occasions that European rhetoric is not always matched by European action.
In any event I do not believe that we can contemplate future European union, however defined—and that is not always easy—as being limited to the present members of the European Community. For 15 years, before we joined the Community, we were members of EFTA. We promised to seek to build a bridge between the two organisations. It should be an essential part of our European role to protect the smaller nations with special problems, such as Finland, Austria and Switzerland. We should nurture our close ties with Norway and Sweden. In short, we should always have in mind the concept of a wider Europe stretching from the Iberian peninsula to Finland and, in due course, beyond. In that respect the Prime Minister in Bruges rightly reminded us that there is a Europe east of the Iron Curtain. In her words,We shall always look on Warsaw, Prague and Budapest as European cities.Therefore, we should seek every opportunity to identify every nation in Europe with developments in all the fields in which they are able to participate. Mozart was no less a European than was Beethoven; and pollution of the Danube will not stop at an imaginary Iron Curtain.
I do not want to stray from my main theme by speaking about what might happen after 1992 in relation to a central bank or a common currency. What I do know is that the other members of the Community already have a long way to go before they catch up with us in regard to the liberalisation of capital movements, the freedom of exchange rates, and so on.
De Gaulle once said:Treaties are like roses: they fade, they fade.We must not forget that the Treaty of Rome in its very first paragraph speaks of,the progressive abolition of restrictions on international trade . . . elimination of the barriers which divide Europe . . . abolition of obstacles to freedom of movement for persons, services and capital . . . a system ensuring that competition in the Common Market is not distorted . . . the association of the overseas countries and territories in order to increase trade.I warmly welcome what the noble Lord, Lord Callaghan, had to say about the importance of the Commonwealth. In our Treaty of Accession to the Community we secured protection for Commonwealth countries, including in particular New Zealand and the sugar producing countries. We 54 should ensure that those and other safeguards and obligations are faithfully maintained.
In standing for an outward-looking Community, not protectionist, and mindful of wider international interests I believe that the United Kingdom has been in the forefront of European thought and action. I was glad to hear my noble friend Lord Glenarthur emphasise that we are not interested in creating a fortress Europe. The Prime Minister was right to emphasise the importance of our overall alliance. Therefore, I particularly welcome the declaration in Bruges that we should develop the Western European Union, not as an alternative to NATO but as a means of strengthening Europe's contribution to the common defence of the West. Of course, we have been declaring our intention of revitalising the Western European Union ever since the Council of Ministers' meeting in 1984 and doing very little about it, at least until this year. Now it seems that we can hope for new and positive initiatives.
The Treaty of Brussels, concluded in 1948, bound its signatories for 50 years to economic, social and cultural collaboration and collective self-defence. Interestingly, unlike the Treaty of Rome. it provides for cultural collaboration. Since then, in 1954 Germany and Italy became members of the new Western European Union and an enlarged Brussels Treaty organisation; and we now welcome, as I am sure do the Government, Spain and Portugal as members. Both of those nations have apparently accepted that defence should be based on a mix of conventional and nuclear weapons and have agreed to Article 5 of the Treaty which requires members to come to each other's aid in the event of an attack.
Of course, it is under the protocols of the Western European Union that we commit our forces to NATO and in many respects our obligations are closer and more binding even than under NATO; albeit that is perhaps not a matter of difficulty in practice and results largely from the difficulties inherent in the American Constitution.
The Western European Union and the opportunities of making it more effective are a way of underlining our commitment to the defence of Europe within the Atlantic Alliance but on the basis of equality between Europe and the United States. In recent years it has been overshadowed, of course, by NATO but I think it offers an ideal forum for the harmonisation of defence policies with the political policies of the European Community. I do not think that they can ever be combined.
I welcome the fact that talk was translated into action earlier this year when, as a result of the Western European Union meetings, five states agreed to join together in sending ships to the Gulf and to work there in collaboration. It is in that way that we could make the WEU become the European pillar of NATO.
While the dialogue takes place in the Council of Ministers it is important that we have a parliamentary assembly in the WEU, just as we have a parliamentary assembly in the Council of Europe, which we have perhaps for too long neglected.Those two parliamentary assemblies, which are now almost the only direct link between our national Parliament 55 and the European organisations, are a way in which we could express effectively our beliefs in a wider and all-embracing Europe.
I began by posing the question: what sort of Europe do we want? As far as I am concerned it should not be a cash register operation. We want a truly political Europe, capable of contributing to our common defence, embracing all the members of the Council of Europe, which appeals to the young and is not continually trivialised by bureaucratic wrangles about rates of VAT and pigment regulations. I do not want to criticise bureaucrats because we have bureaucrats here and they are very necessary, but let us not forget that the Commission consists of functionaires who are very necessary and useful in providing advice but they are not, and they are not going to be, the rulers of Europe. Environmental issues; university, youth and cultural exchanges; research and development; social policy; regional development; must all concern us if we are to make a success of Europe and fulfil our highest hopes.
§ 5 p.m.
§ Lord Carver
My Lords, the gracious Speech laid considerable emphasis on the importance of NATO and of our obligations to it. Within the present Session, on 4th April next year, we shall be celebrating the 40th anniversary of the signature to the North Atlantic Treaty. We need to ask ourselves whether the alliance which the treaty inaugurated is beginning to suffer from middle-aged spread. When we do so, we must take account of the enormous difference in the circumstances between then and now. Then Berlin was still blockaded and being supplied by airlift. The Soviet Union posed a very serious threat to Western Europe; a military one, to face which we had hardly any properly-organised forces; and a political one in the active communist parties within most Western European nations.
It was almost entirely due to the leadership of our Foreign Secretary, Ernest Bevin, that energetic and imaginative steps were taken to counter those threats as soon as the talks on the future of Germany broke down on 15th December 1947. The whole Western world owes him a great debt for that. The noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, who spoke just now, was a very great help to the Foreign Secretary in that process at the time.
Today the situation is totally different. NATO is far stronger militarily, and infinitely stronger politically. Although the military threat remains potentially, the political one has changed fundamentally. The threat is not at present one of menace; it is not the bear's snarl that frightens us, but the smile. The alliance appears to fear the proffered handshake more than it did the clenched fist. But it has some good reason to do so, for unless we face the new situation with the same degree of resolution and imagination that Ernest Bevin showed 40 years ago, the alliance will founder and might even disintegrate.
In opening the debate, the noble Lord, Lord Glenarthur, said that we must not make the fatal error of underestimating what is going on in the Soviet Union—I very much welcome that statement 56 from the Government—in thinking that it is just a passing whim of a man called Mikhail Gorbachev. Those who are expert in these matters (and far more expert than I) are in general agreement that profound changes are taking place within the Soviet Union resulting from its educational and industrial development in past decades. Gorbachev's policy is impelled by these, and it also takes account of some important politico-military factors.
It is a basic tenet of Soviet thought that military policies must both depend upon political aims and serve them. Over the past 40 years its military policy of maintaining large and strong conventional and nuclear forces was designed to ensure that the Soviet Union would be regarded as a superpower on an equal footing with the United States; and, as a result of that, that its influence would expand the area in the world in which communism would prevail over capitalism. It is now beginning to realise two things: first, that in the nuclear age, its large forces have not produced this influence and cannot be used for any conceivably useful political purpose. Secondly, that there is no point in having a massive military machine if it distorts the economy and weakens social cohesion to such an extent that the nation becomes vulnerable to social stagnation, possibly even collapse, falling ever further behind its competitors in the world arena.
What Mr. Gorbachev seems to me to be aiming for is a return to something like the five-year industrial plans of the early days of the Soviet Union. The priority then given to the development of heavy industry was what made it possible for the Soviet Union to equip the huge armies of 400 divisions and more which defeated the Germans in Russia in the second world war, and were the principal factor leading to allied victory. He knows that, given the structure of the Soviet economy, he cannot rapidly switch resources from the military to the civil sector. Both technically and politically it is bound to be a slow process. But unless he does it, and makes it possible for the Soviet Union to develop its industry and whole economy on modern lines so that it can compete with the West and satisfy the demands of its own people, both he and the more intelligent of his military chiefs see that it is inevitable that it will fall further behind, and that this will set up social strains which it may not be able to control.
Mr. Gorbachev is not just trying to improve his country's international image in order to trick the West in some way. He has strong domestic motives for improving the Soviet Union's international relations and reducing the effort he puts into its military resources. The result of that is that we are likely to see further Soviet initiatives in the arms control field, challenging NATO to respond. To get 16 nations to come up quickly—indeed at all—with an agreed response which is also the right one is far from easy, as the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, will know from his recent experience. The alliance is still struggling, in preparation for what are called conventional stability talks, to find an answer to a proposal Mr. Gorbachev made several months ago.
If the alliance is to respond sensibly to Mr. Gorbachev's initiatives or to take sensible initiatives 57 itself, it must be clear and consistent in its attitude to events in the Soviet Union. Different schools of thought are proffering different advice about that. The ultra-hawks would increase the pressure on Gorbachev, forcing him to maintain or even increase his military effort, so that he cannot solve his social and economic problems. Their hope is that the whole Soviet system would then collapse. That policy would reinforce Soviet suspicions of the West and its obsession that we have always been actively engaged in attempts to undermine its revolution.
Although it is difficult to conceive of any circumstances in which the Soviet leadership might initiate a war that ran a high risk of turning nuclear, the threatened disintegration of its society, provoked by Western propaganda and pressure, is undoubtedly the least unlikely senario. We should steer clear of that route. At the opposite extreme are the ultra-doves; those who leap to the conclusion that the Soviet Union is becoming one of us, and that we should do all we can, by taking the lead in friendly measures, to encourage it in that direction. They say that we should welcome every arms reduction proposal, and even anticipate them with unilateral reductions of our own. Why then, they ask, should we need an alliance and the presence of American forces of any kind in Europe?
To follow that route leads to equal dangers. Would not the Germans, tempted by the possibility of a reunited Germany, drift into an ostpolitik that might almost become a Soviet-German alliance? Would not the United States prefer to deal directly with the Soviet Union as a friendly superpower neighbour in the Pacific without having to worry about the complications of being involved in Europe? What would the rest of us in Europe feel like then? Pretty insecure, I suggest.
If we reject both hawks and doves, what are we left with? We could just sit on our hands and see what turns up, continuing to say, as we seem to be saying now, that we want to see the colour of Mr. Gorbachev's money before we make any move. We have plenty of allies on his side of the fence in that attitude; the Soviet generals and others who demand that before they agree to any of Mr. Gorbachev's suggestions for reductions, NATO must show the colour of its money by reductions. I reject that unenterprising policy. I believe that we have a genuine interest in the development of perestroika and glasnost within the Soviet Union but that we should not be starry-eyed about it. I believe that we in NATO should maintain and improve the quality of our defences; that we should continue to put effort into confidence-building measures of arms control and to try to reduce the ridiculously excessive numbers of nuclear weapons on both sides. We should seek ways of improving the real security of the peoples of Europe on both sides of the Iron Curtain and not just to reduce the cost of that security which I regard as a secondary consideration.
It is not going to be easy. Under the influence of the Gorbachev line the United States, under its new President and Congress, will certainly seek to reduce the cost of its commitment to the defence of Western Europe and it will expect its European allies to take 58 up the slack. But the Gorbachev line affects European public opinion just as much as it does American. It is clearly having a considerable effect in Germany. Under its influence, and faced as we are, and Germany even more so, with a severe shrinkage in the numbers of men of military age in the next few decades, it looks highly unlikely that the European members of NATO will increase their defence effort to compensate for a reduction in the American contribution.
So what are we to do about it? We must not just wait and see what happens. We need to take a hold initiative which combines measures in arms control with measures to meet the American demand but which does not reduce our real security. We must beware of those who suggest, as the French are inclined to do, that the answer is to build up a European defence community which can dispense with American help. I have reservations about building up Western European defence in the way the noble Lord, Lord Rippon, suggested, if it is liable to lead in that direction. Western Europe alone cannot produce a power to balance that of the Soviet Union. To follow that path as an insurance policy against American withdrawal could turn into a self-fulfilling prophecy and be fatal to us. Our aim must be to retain an American military presence in Europe. I suggest that NATO should devise an arms control and defence policy which would make it possible for the European members of the alliance to propose a specific reduction to the American Administration. I suggest that we might first look at air forces which can return quickly if we maintain, as we would have to in those circumstances, the facilities for them to do so.
At critical periods in NATO's history. British Ministers have provided essential leadership—Ernest Bevin in 1948 in bringing the alliance into being; Anthony Eden in 1954 in breaking the impasse over German rearmament: Denis Healey in the 1960s in helping to find a compromise between American and European views on nuclear policy. We are now at another critical period, and I hope that once again we shall take the lead. However, I am afraid that I do not at present see much sign of it.
§ 5.12 p.m.
§ Lord Weidenfeld
My Lords, anyone travelling today on both sides of the great Potsdam divide of Europe must be struck by the perception that Britain's, and especially her Prime Minister's, views on foreign policy are closely monitored. Although they are variously received they are recognised as having the merit of consistency. She is seen to be firmly in the driver's seat, putting the brake on European political integration and pressing the accelerator on the liberalisation of Eastern Europe, urging modernisation of the tools of defence while warmly supporting perestroika. In her case these are not contradictory policies but indeed are umbilically bound together in a coherent system. This perception of Britain today is an asset that must not be underestimated.
Those of us who are committed Europeans must applaud and endorse the speech of the noble Lord, 59 Lord Jenkins. The last thing we want is to lag behind and end up as an outlying province of a new Carolingian empire built around Charlemagne's Franco-German axis. At the same time, I must also admit that the Bruges speech improves on second reading. It essentially endorses the single market and the economic, educational and cultural inter-penetration of the European countries. It may be hesitant on some themes but it is by no means negative.
As the noble Lord, Lord Rippon, said, it goes beyond the Europe of Brussels. It must be recognised that, especially in the field of foreign policy, the differing political systems, national interests, political traditions, political habits and political mortgages within the European Community will take much longer to harmonise than M. Delors would like us to believe. The great nation states of Europe, while profiting from closer and constant consultation, must he allowed to articulate their distinct conceptions.
There must be an underlying Western policy on how to deal with Mr. Gorbachev and his daring experiment, but the Anglo-American thesis that détente and deterrence should be twinned and not be held apart lies at the very root of a successful and improving relationship with the Soviet Union. Political liberalisation, security and prosperity are inextricably intertwined. The lands between the Baltic and the Black Sea, peopled by more than 100 million Europeans, are seething with discontent and yearning for change. A concerted Western policy is needed.
The Russian dilemma is formidable. General de Gaulle, in a prophetic extempore some 20 years ago, said that when the turn of Russia—the world's last colonial empire—comes for structural transformation her problems will be gargantuan because,Russia holds a dozen Al ferias within her borders".At the height of the age of imperialism, men like Klausewitz used to compare the advantages of Russia and America, expanding imperially straight across their borders, with Britain, France and Holland which had to police their scattered and far-flung domains. In the age of decolonisation the reverse is true. Britain, Holland. Belgium and Portugal all shed their overseas possessions without lethal impact on their homelands. That is not so in the case of Soviet Russia. At the base of any changes in East Central Europe is Moscow's fear that what happens today in Budapest, Prague and Warsaw may echo tomorrow in Kiev. Minsk, Baku and Tifflis. The dilemma posing itself to the West is how much encouragement to give to the struggling East Europeans and how intensely to urge the Russians to give way.
I believe that at the outset of a concerted Western policy must be our unqualified recognition of Russia's right to military security. At the same time, we should be pressing for political pluralism and indeed drastic institutional reform towards democracy in Russia's client states. The status of Finland comes to mind. Whereas the word "Finlandisation", when applied in the past to 60 Western Europe, had a sinister ring—for it meant neutralisation—when applied to East Central Europe in the context of today and tomorrow it heralds a state of affairs where those countries can run their own affairs and institutions while still ensuring military security for the Soviet Union. What must be banished from Russian minds is the sphere and spectre of a cordon sanitaire—echoes of post-First World War alliances along the Soviet border.
Those of us who followed Mr. Gorbachev's diplomatic offensive cannot have overlooked the marked European direction of current Soviet policy. It is so much in the foreground that it now seems to have priority over the old bipolar preoccupation with Soviet-American relations. Straws in the wind are the promotion of Mr. Falin, who has Mr. Dobrynin's old job as chief foreign policy counsel to President Gorbachev. and the emergence of Mr. Yakovlev. There is now a sharp new focus on the German question. I have seen a recent statement by Mr. Falin in which he confirms—to my knowledge for the first time, in spite of a spate of contentious rumours in the past—that a united Germany in the early 1950s, led by, say, a social democratic government might have been acceptable to the Soviet Union. While this must not be understood as a clear hint of future policy, it could stir the imagination of many a German—a glittering goal on the far horizon.
President Gorbachev's code word of the "European home" has an emotive quality which has been seized by commentators throughout Europe. Gorbachev's European home, de Gaulle's Europe from the Atlantic to the Urals, Alain Delors' integrated Europe, whatever their merits, have one subtext -the exclusion of America. They lack the Atlantic spirit, and in the current battle of ideas which proceeds apace with the diplomatic and political debate we in this country must beware of sliding into a state of mind where we forget that there is a cohesive Western community, linked by a common civilisation and shared values as well as enlightened self-interest, that today stretches from Pacific California to the River Elbe. If we through wise statemanship, mutual good will and Russian help think that we can eventually expand that frontier eastward to the Soviet border, and indeed beyond to include Russia into one vast peaceful community, we will have set a formidable and also an exhilarating agenda for the 21st century.
We must not pay mere lip-service to the linkage between a far-reaching movement of credit investment, joint ventures designed to underpin the failing economies of the Communist world on the one hand, and progressive liberalisation of its political and economic system on the other. I think it is essential that the Western leaders decide on a concerted policy and stem a one-sided stampede.
We must not minimise the great advances in East-West relations already achieved of which there are many and varied auspicious examples in countless fields. If I may be allowed to speak as a publisher who recently paid three visits to Russia, the changes there are quite dramatic. Soviet writers may now write on almost anything they want. They can make special contracts with foreign Western publishers. There is a 61 great deal of revisionist literature being written by historians, novelists and journalists, all looking back at the recent past, exposing the failings of Stalin, Khrushchev, Brezhnev and their entourages, re-assessing the image of the West and dropping old caricatures and stereotypes.
All that reveals a genuine sea-change that cannot easily be reversed, yet the road to a truly pluralist society in Russia is still stony and steep. Let us beware that what lurks in the subsoil as an alternative, or additional political and cultural current is not necessarily always attractive. Side by side with the genuine liberalisers, and democratic reformers, are bigoted traditionalists and narrow-minded chauvinists. The old Slavophile, xenophobic tradition has its supporters too who are equally hostile to Western democracy and Leninist/Marxism.
Yet in sum, while the West is increasingly prepared to open its heart as well as its purse, the burden of proof still lies very much with Soviet Russia to show that she is genuinely prepared to meet us on our political and human minimum postulates.
I was most struck and moved by the intervention of the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury when he talked about the need for coercive punitive action against the offenders in the field of chemical warfare. Here is a test case to see whether the Russians will help us. I ask the British Government if they would be prepared to act with the same degree of integrity and principled disinterestedness against the Government of Iraq as they did in the case of Syria when Syria was discovered beyond doubt harbouring and initiating terrorism.
One of the most important testing areas lies in the field of regional conflict—Afghanistan, Namibia, Angola, Central America and last but certainly not least the Middle East. I think that it is too early to assess the true meaning of the Algiers proclamation of independent Palestine. Of course one can nit-pick on the wording of the PNC declaration—the absence of explicit recognition of Israel and of the very mention of the Jewish state; the weakening of the references to Resolutions 242 and 338 by citing other contradictory UN declarations; by the reservations on the renunciation of force and violence.
But I believe that there is a more fundamental and much more basic issue at stake. To my mind, the security needs of the region as a whole, and especially those of Israel, exclude a third state between Jordan and Israel; a third state within the territory of the greater Palestine of the British mandate. Only a joint Jordanian—Palestinian political entity, large enough to develop economically and not driven from the very outset to expand and follow an irredentist line, is viable and safe. Hence something like the Reagan plan, which from the outset brings Jordan into the picture, is infinitely more realistic. Jordan, let us not forget, has a clear majority of Palestinians within its borders.
If there are misgivings about the letter and the spirit of the Algiers meeting, let me quote from a speech by the chairman of the Palestine National Council, Mr. Abd El-Hamid El-Saih when he said: 62We will take what we can, and afterwards we will demand the rest of the territory. We are not opposed to obtaining a state which would encompass one quarter or one half of our territory, and afterwards we will demand the rest".That is exactly the phased plan programme adopted by the PLO in 1974, which remains valid today. Can you really blame the Israeli Government—any Israeli government—for raising their eyebrows?
Israel may be divided on peace aims and on the degree and extent of compromise. It is united on the need for peace and on the unacceptability of a freestanding state between herself and Jordan. While the United States might be the most effective broker in renewed negotiations, Britain too has a major role to play, for this Government enjoy the confidence of both moderate Arabs and Israelis. Above all the British Government still have the best relations with the King of Jordan. His re-involvement in the peace process is indispensable. He is not above bending his mind to compromise, nor would a Likud government be if the right climate prevails—a climate of tranquil reasoning and compassionate understanding of both sides.
Such a climate is a pre-requisite not only for the protagonists—and that of course is very difficult—but essentially for those who want to act as moderators. Noting some of the more heated interventions during recent debates in another place and in your Lordships' House, I should like to say that the first essential qualification for moderators has to be moderation.
§ 5.27 p.m.
§ Lord Birdwood
My Lords, I should just like to take a matter of minutes to alert the House to possible events in Africa which have the gravest strategic implications. If we regard the two themes of defence and foreign affairs as being linked together—and it seems we must—here is an area of strategy which shortly none of us will be able to ignore. I am talking about the inexorable spread of AIDS in Africa. For my facts I must draw heavily on the research of International Defence Review. Noble Lords who need to know more can read Volume 21, Issue Number Four, which was published earlier this summer.
The Washington Times in May last year reported that by 1995 about 70 per cent. of black Africa will have been depopulated. That was followed by the Panos Institute, which put the figure at 50 per cent. One can scarcely take in or believe these estimates, but they agree with projections made by the World Health Organisation and the Johns Hopkins University population report. Those two prime sources agree that for every 100,000 people with active AIDS there are between 5 million and 10 million who are HIV carriers.
One of the extra problems is that the human immune system needs to be particularly rugged in Africa. When it fails, the range of endemic diseases ready to strike is rich, various and lethal. To some extent, this actually hides the cause because the first evidence emerges at plague levels as yellow fever, sleeping sickness or some other dormant condition.
What I am talking about is the real possibility of a number of African nations facing a future of 63 unprecedented devastation in human terms. I have read and heard the phrase "the African continental vacuum". The countries which are going to be most affected are believed to include Kenya, Uganda, Zaire, Tanzania, Zambia and Angola. But the list is certainly incomplete.
The potential depopulation of much of black Africa has extraordinary, urgent and serious consequences for the international community. The countries concerned are in many cases the world's largest single resource for a number of commodities. They range from uranium, copper, cobalt and chrome to many strategic metals. Time after time we have to take into account the critical dependence on growing and trading in food crops of some of the world's most fragile economies. If we suppose that a world hungry for territory will sit idle and watch great tracts of fertile land revert to its natural state, then we have not been reading our history books.
We shall have a period of a few years while potential predators watch and measure events. Eastern bloc interest and Cuba are understandably jittery about importing AIDS into their home states and exceptional measures have been taken. Since March 1987, for instance, all blood supplies needed for Cuban and East European personnel serving in Africa have come from the German Democratic Republic. Contact between diplomatic staff and host populations is being reduced as a point of urgent policy; but when some time has passed, and it can be seen that the rewards potentially outweigh the risks, I am afraid that we may see some opportunistic attempts to redraw boundaries. What will our posture then be? We have interests in strategic materials in common with all developed countries. I cannot be optimistic about future events.
I have raised the issue using the cold language of strategic planning. Behind the language of options and scenarios there is a spectre of a truly gigantic human tragedy. Words fail absolutely.
The percentages of population loss that I quoted at the beginning of my remarks are the highest estimates I have seen from authoritative sources. A more cautious position was taken last month by the director of the World Health Organisation global AIDS programme when he wrote in Scientific American. He referred to the urban picture as bleak. He made the point that the true magnitude of the problem will be manifested when anything is known about the spread of the disease in rural areas.
I have set those brief comments in the future tense, and that is where, for the time being, they apply. But it is a close and unpleasant future. Reading sparse and censored reports from teams in the field, we are forced into too much guesswork. If those frightening projections are wrong, I shall never have been more happy to see expert opinion overturned.
§ 5.33 p.m.
§ Lord Ardwick
My Lords, although I usually stay to the "unbitter- end of our debates, tonight must be an exception. There is sickness in the home and I should be there. The speech of the noble Lord, Lord 64 Birdwood, was a deviation, although an important one, from the debate's main theme; nevertheless, I feel I must follow him for a moment. I was in Zimbabwe about three weeks ago, and I heard the kind of figures that he cited this afternoon. I did not know whether they were exaggerated or whether a truly great tragedy was likely to happen. I was interested to hear his confirmation. The people who gave me the figures were most reliable.
I shall return to the main theme of a debate, which has been extraordinarily unified. These debates usually hop about from country to country. We have all stayed on the main theme. A few days ago I stood by a farmhouse in north-west Germany. I looked across the fields which generations of its owners had tilled, but those fields are now neatly divided from the house. Beyond the fence is another neat but more substantial barrier. It is in those fields that the GDR begins; that the Communist world begins; that the Warsaw Pact operates. The fences brought home to me, more vividly than did that brutal and ugly Berlin wall, the tragic division of Europe.
I was in that part of Germany as one of the three Peers privileged to be members of the delegation to the North Atlantic Assembly. It consists—I am afraid that it is necessary to say this even after 34 years because it is seldom reported—of parliamentarians of all 16 NATO countries. It brought home to me, and I hope it brought home to our transatlantic colleagues, the moral and physical strain of being a front line state. When we talk of burden sharing, which is being talked about a great deal, we should take that strain into account as well as the number of dollars that defence costs.
Burden sharing is one of the problems currently disturbing the NATO powers. How shall the burden be measured? Should we not take into account the fact that Germany is an armed camp with close upon a million troops constantly engaged in 5,000 military exercises that cause damage—for which of course there is compensation—of £25 million per year? One can imagine the upset that tracked vehicles cause. Is money alone to be counted, when American troops are highly paid while some European armies comprise low-paid conscripts? Those are the problems which are under discussion as the United States groans under its double deficit and seeks a way to offload some of its expenditure.
At that six-monthly meeting of the Assembly it was thought that the main subject would be the political challenge offered by Gorbachev with his bundle of olive branches. But burden sharing, and the divisive dangers of protectionism exacerbated by the imminence of the single European market, made equivalent demands upon our attention. The Americans have an exaggerated view of what is likely to happen in 1992.
As the three wise men, reporting on non-military co-operation in Europe, pointed out 30 years ago, political co-operation and economic conflict are irreconcilable. The Gorbachev effect has perhaps aroused the strongest hopes and fears in the Federal Republic. There they hope that the tension under which they have lived for 40 years will soon be relaxed; or must they fear that the comforting 65 presence of so many American soldiers will end prematurely? They have a worried ambivalence on those subjects.
Before the ink on the INF treaty was dry some idiot in high circles immediately demanded the modernisation of short-range nuclear weapons as though to turn back the clock and to compensate for the first attempt at disarmament. It is because Germany would be the main target for those smaller nuclear weapons that the question is asked there most readily.
The Gorbachev détente has raised in many minds the logical contradiction between the justification of the nuclear deterrent as a political weapon, militarily unusable, and the idea of using the limited nuclear weapon in battle. Flexible response is less credible than it was. An erudite German who studies public opinion assured me that there is no crisis of nuclear acceptance in Germany, but there is an acceptance problem.
Such feelings are by no means confined to Germany. They have aroused in the minds of some legislators the fear that in a wave of excessive optimism the West may disproportionately reduce its defences. Such fears impel those who hold them to deny the reality that the Russians are in a rare conciliatory mood, induced by their desperate economic problems. Nothing has changed, say these people. As regards the deployment and the manufacture of weapons, they are of course right. However, to say that it is the same old Marxism is surely wrong. There are old, cold warriors who would still be unconvinced of adequate change if Gorbachev joined the Roman Church, set up a stock exchange and demobilised the army.
I thought that in the Reith lecture the other day Geoffrey Hosking gave a rather vivid picture, set alongside the more practical ideas that have been put out and which were detailed by the noble Lord, Lord Callaghan. Geoffrey Hosking said:Life has been very unkind to such staunch party members recently [in the Soviet Union]. They've seen their own leadership sponsor changes which affront their most cherished beliefs. Their hero, Stalin, is pilloried in the press as a mass murderer. State ownership of the means of production is undermined with impunity, as they see it, by speculators and private marketeers. Rock music and Western clothing are corrupting the youth. And the party itself no longer seems to know where it's going: why, it's even permitted a self-styled opposition to come into existence".There is of course a more modest and convincing case for military caution than is advanced by those who pretend that there has been no change at all in the Soviet Union. It was put very well by the President of the Bundesrat, who said:We must not base today's security solely on tomorrow's hopes".Mr. Werner, the successor to Peter Carrington as Secretary General of NATO, hopes that at the forthcoming conventional stability talks the Soviets will show willingness to change their forces from an offensive to a defensive posture. But until then we have no realistic alternatives but to keep our forces up to date wherever necessary.
Where I found the greatest wisdom was in an hourlong disclosure by Helmut Schmidt, that great social democrat—in the old sense of the term "social democrat"—who was Chancellor of the Federal 66 Republic of Germany for so many years. Schmidt was no softie. He was one of the four who took the double-track decision when the SS20 menace became apparent. It was because of that that he lost office. It was he who stood out against the demands to end conscription in Germany when the Americans brought their system of conscription to an end in order to get some peace on the campuses.
Schmidt, in this remarkable speech, embraced almost everything that has been said in the debate this afternoon by the noble Lords, Lord Jenkins and Lord Callaghan, and the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Carver, and others. What he is concerned about is not just the military situation in isolation but what he calls grand strategy, a concept that he took from Liddell Hart. It was that it is necessary to include the developing political and economic paths as well as the military paths the nations are following.
He recalls that NATO itself would have been ineffective without the wealth and stability that was given by the Marshall Plan or which the Marshall Plan made possible. He looks today on a Western world the currencies of which, as the noble Viscount, Lord Eccles, reminded us, were destabilised by the inflationary financing of the Vietnam War. It was a world which was visited with problems of inflation and mass unemployment after the Arab oil explosions. Those problems are still not fully solved by any means.
As Schmidt explained in his encounter on the radio with our own Foreign Secretary a fortnight ago, he sees too the grave disorder in the financial markets of the world. We no longer have purely national stock markets or national money markets. Yet there is no global authority to discipline them. He sees a threat in the fact that the international trade in money is 20 times that in commodities or in manufactured goods. He regards the EMS, of which he was a founder, as a little Bretton Woods which has ensured more stability for its currencies than the dollar or the yen themselves have enjoyed. He is seeking this Western stabilisation. He thinks, as does almost everyone else except the Prime Minister, that we should be in the European rate mechanism of the EMS. He sees Delors's dream of Europe and Mrs. Thatcher's reaction to that dream as not very important. They are just rhetorical exaggerations.
Then he goes on that the United States must deal with its domestic deficit, if ever it is to reduce its external deficit. But it must be done slowly over a period of four or five years, if it is not to disrupt world trade. The Russian dilemma he sees as a crisis of economic Marxism which has discovered everywhere that the central planning mechanism on which it is based does not produce the goods. While they are trying to find what another speaker called a socialist market economy—which is quite different from a social market economy—while they are trying to discover how to run a socialist market economy, the Russian people are at last losing their fabulous patience with their low standard of living. Gorbachev, running an overstretched imperialism which consumes at least 14 per cent to 16 per cent. of GNP, simply must reduce the arms burden. In his reconstruction he is up against a difficult bureaucracy as well as the military industrial complex.
67 We must respond, says Schmidt. That is what the noble Lord, Lord Weidenfeld, was saying: that we must respond positively. We must talk to Gorbachev, listen to him and make him listen to us. Schmidt, who is well informed on these matters, believes that his chances of success are only 50–50. That is why we must not sacrifice our relative strength in any disarmament measures. If Gorbachev fails then he may well be replaced by another expansionist regime. It is entirely in our interests that he succeed. So Schmidt too falls back, as did all the other main speakers at this assembly, on the Harmel doctrine: dialogue, yes; but keep up the defences.
Perhaps I may say how pleased I was with the unequivocal language of the gracious Speech on this subject. I hope that Britain will be the unequivocal advocate of positive courses within the NATO framework.
§ 5.49 p.m.
§ Lord Bonham-Carter
My Lords, as so often happens when I follow the noble Lord, Lord Ardwick, I find myself in close agreement with the general tenor of his argument. In particular, I agree that we cannot construct a new response to the new conditions in which we live without a hard-nosed analysis of the Russian policy. We cannot fail to recognise that the effect of Gorbachev's perestroika and glasnost has been to resurrect the crucial position which Germany holds in the world of European politics. Like other noble Lords who have already spoken, I agree that we are living in an extraordinary period of change, and one which five years ago no one would have predicted or dreamed could have happened. That only goes to show that like economists. Kremlinologists are historians rather than prophets. They can tell us why things have happened when they have happened, but they very rarely predict what will happen before it has happened.
That is true, but it is also true that in this era of change there are dangers. Those dangers must be guarded against, even though the prospect is now probably brighter than at any time since 1945. As the noble Lord, Lord Callaghan, said, we are at an important point in history.
In the debate on the Defence Estimates last July, the theme from the Government Benches was that we must not be deceived by words, but that words must be matched by deeds. I accept that truism. However. I do not altogether accept the conclusion which seemed to be drawn by the Government that while making encouraging noises we should continue with existing policies and wait on events. I start from a rather different position with the proposition that Mr. Gorbachev and his perestroika and glasnost have changed the terms of reference and the agenda of East-West diplomacy. It is to these changed terms of reference that we must address ourselves. The most dramatic example of that was the Reykjavik summit, which marked an extremely radical shift in the attitude of President Reagan to the USSR. The "evil empire" was no longer beyond the pale. The way was opened to the reduction of nuclear arms.
68 But in addition to that there was a fact of which we must take note. NATO was not consulted about matters of the greatest importance to it. and especially of great importance to Germany. Reykjavik and the subsequent INF agreement marked the end of what I can only describe as trench war diplomacy. It ushered in the existing period of open competitive diplomacy and of diplomatic manoeuvre. Manoeuvre is simply another word for instability. In a world of instability, flexibility and imagination are at a premium.
I would argue that unless the implications of this new agenda and the consequences of diplomatic manoeuvre are recognised, we shall find ourselves again and again out-manoeuvred, as we have been so often, if only in a public relations sense, because we do not want to appear to be in the position of generals fighting the last war—the old cold war. We do not wish to appear to be a kind of General Gamelin secure in his Maginot Line, only to find ourselves outflanked when we wake up.
To believe however that Mr. Gorbachev's agenda is based purely on idealism and that the changes which he has introduced are simply based on idealism would be foolish. I regard the changes which he has initiated in the foreign policy of the USSR to be based on a recognition of certain, to him, ineluctable practical facts. He has recognised the parlous economic position of the USSR and of its East European empire. He has recognised that year by year it falls further behind the West. He has recognised that if that trend is continued. or rather if that trend is to be checked, he can no longer spend the 15 per cent., or whatever it may be, of his GNP on defence or on armaments.
He would not admit that the Marxist-Leninist model has failed, but he has at least recognised that the Stalinist economic model has failed. Perhaps most important of all, he has recognised that the economy cannot be reformed without political reform. It is this issue which lies at the heart of the debate which is going on in the USSR and in its satellites—whether economic reform is possible without political reform or whether political reform is the prerequisite of economic reform. It is that, I suggest, which lies behind the differences—I guess this—between Mr. Gorbachev and Mr. Ligachev. It is this that distinguishes the position of the USSR and Hungary from that of the GDR and Czechoslovakia. It is that which lies at the centre of the debate which has been raging in Poland since 1981.
It seems to me that because of the Russian leadership's apprehension of the economic crisis in which it finds itself, Russia may be at the start of a political revolution. In addition to that, the economic crisis provides the leadership with compelling and, as it would describe it, objective reasons for changing its military strategy from an offensive one to a defensive one. The extent to which that is the leadership's true intention is obviously open to question. The evidence that it has taken any steps in that direction is also open to question and is extremely fragile.
But that having been said, there is no doubt in my mind, nor as it appears from this debate in the minds of other noble Lords, that it is profoundly in our 69 interests that economic reform succeeds, that it is accompanied by political reform and that Russian strategy is changed from an offensive to a defensive one. Therefore we should take all the steps at our command both to support those changes and to encourage them. It is for that reason that I have some doubts about the somewhat cautious approach which in recent months has marked statements by the Prime Minister on this issue. For the same reason I applaud the rather more positive attitude expressed by Dr. Genscher.
To do so does not mean lowering one's guard; it simply means pushing a door open to see how far it will go. An example of this what I would decribe as somewhat negative attitude which seems to spring from Downing Street was the instant reaction to rumours of an invitation to Her Majesty the Queen to go to Russia, purveyed by Mr. Ingham, who presumes in public to advise Her Majesty on how she should respond to an invitation which she has not even received.
Characteristically Downing Street's first reaction was to deny the story. Later it described it as speculative. and finally it admitted that the quotations were accurate. Coming after the comparable episode of the Chancellor of the Exchequer's non-attributable briefing, I think that two things should be said: first, that Mr. Ingham should be told that his brief does not extend to Buckingham Palace, and, secondly, the whole practice of unattributable briefings should be revised. On the substance of that episode, which was mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos, I wholly agreed with the advice which the noble Lord offered.
That may be a slight diversion from the main theme of my speech, but it is my view that in the present circumstances we must examine with a positive attitude of mind the initiatives which Mr. Gorbachev has made. In his book Perestroika he hardly mentions the effects which perestroika and glasnost will have on Eastern Europe. As we know, it has been profound.
One consequence of that has been that what used to be known by the geographical expression "central Europe", which was buried at Yalta, has been exhumed. With the re-emergence of central Europe goes, as other noble Lords have mentioned, the re-emergence of what used to be called "the German problem". It is no fluke that when Chancellor Kohl was in Moscow he raised almost at the first opportunity the question of German reunification. That indeed is part of the constitution of the FDR.
I should like to consider how the European Community, in the very early stages of co-ordinating its foreign policy, and the UK react to that proposition because it is one which I do not believe will go away. As I understand it, the established British view is that the division of Germany cannot be regarded as permanent but that it is a problem which can only be handled under circumstances of general East-West reconciliation and that such a general East-West reconciliation is not likely in the foreseeable future and therefore the consideration of 70 that very important issue can be put on the back burner.
The effect of perestroika and of the changed agenda has been that it abbreviates in some way the timescale in which we arc operating. It is rather like pressing fast-forward on your television set: history comes rushing towards you. German unification is one of the issues which we have to consider. After years of immobility change is in the air. The conflict between East and West signalled by Yalta and defined by the Fulton speech, which created the Europe to which we have become accustomed—a divided, hostile continent, with a different ideology in competition all over the world—may, to continue the metaphor of the Cold War, be likened to a glacier that is melting. Melting glaciers are extremely dangerous and so is an era of change, manoeuvre and instability. But it is a more hopeful era in which to live than the frozen immobility we have endured since the late 1940s.
A successful strategy in a war of manoeuvre demands a firm base. In a Europe where the USSR and the eastern states of Europe and of central Europe are in the midst of a political revolution and an economic crisis, where Germany is once more on the agenda; in a world where—as the noble Viscount, Lord Eccles, pointed out—the USA's political and economic empire is past its heyday; in a world where politically there are now three centres of power (a tripolar as opposed to a bipolar world ) it seems to me that our firm base must he the European Community. The faster the European Community develops its political and economic institutions the safer we shall be in an unstable world. A stable EC in an unstable Europe—taken in the wider sense—is in my view the best way in which we can handle what is called the German problem. That is hardly surprising because it was to deal with that problem that the European Community was originally invented.
§ 6.4 p.m.
§ Lord Beloff
My Lords, I find it difficult to agree with the noble Lord, Lord Bonham-Carter, as to the Government's action in offering something of a brake to the illusions—widespread in Europe but existing in this country—as to the malleability of the situation that we face in central and eastern Europe, including the Soviet Union.
In his speech the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Carver, said that he thought that all those who studied the Soviet Union were in broad agreement about what is going on. I would make two comments on that, if I may, and I am sorry that he is not here. The first is that we have very few people studying the Soviet Union, as a result of the way in which academic effort in this country has been directed under successive governments for some 20 years or more. Our very promising beginnings with serious studies of Russian and of Soviet affairs, which put us in the lead intellectually in the immediate post-war period have been steadily curtailed. Russian is taught less in our schools and Russian history and Soviet institutions are studied less in our universities. Suddenly we find ourselves asked to make judgments on one of the most perplexing situations we can ever have confronted in relation to a major empire.
71 My second comment is that I find myself in some disagreement with most of the noble Lords who have spoken on that particular subject in this debate. I think that people under-estimate both the enormous capacity for change and upheaval that exists in the Soviet Union and also the potential and existing tragedy of the peoples undergoing it. I think that it is far too easy simply to say that here is Mr. Gorbachev, a well-intentioned person, who has found a cure or possible solution to the difficulties of his country's economy and society. That cure would consist in some kind of reinvigoration of the economy and in a transfer of some of the enormous concentration of technology, of the best brains and of the best paid experts from the military field. I do not think that that is an appropriate picture.
I am reminded painfully of the last great reforming Tsar in Russian history. Alexander II. If one looks at what people were saying in a period in which censorship was being relaxed, in which some of the exiles returned after the long winter of Nicholas I—the nearest Tsarist Russia got to a Brezhnev—one can see something of what is being said today. One sees a major reforming initiative, an idea—the emancipation of the serfs. One sees enthusiastic support from the intelligentsia—smaller then than now but still a considerable force and with considerably greater literary talents than most of the current Soviet writers. Faced with that one sees a ruling class which profited by the existing situation, stubbornly resistant to change, and the great masses of the people, unconcerned, indifferent, uninformed and continuing to scratch a meagre life from the soil.
That picture seems to me to have horrible echoes of what we now see. People say—and this was the theme of the noble Lord, Lord Bonham-Carter, and possibly the noble Lord. Lord Ardwick—that we must encourage Mr. Gorbachev because we must hope for his success. In his terms that success is not possible for a number of reasons.
In the first place as the noble Lord, Lord Ardwick, said, what Mr. Gorbachev faced when he came to power was the result of a command economy—I do not think that the noble Lord would like me to describe it as a socialist economy. It was an economy controlled by the state as well as having the major forces of production owned by the state. It had proved to be unproductive. By any standards Soviet productivity is low, whether in agriculture or in peaceful and consumer goods industries, and above all in distribution. As Mr. Gorbachev saw it (and this comes out in his writings and those of his supporters), people had become accustomed to feeling that there was no great purpose in effort and found consolation in what they could get out of a lean life.
People have forgotten that Mr. Gorbachev started with a prohibitionist campaign, which has now been abandoned, because he thought that if perhaps one got rid of vodka attendance at work and in factories would become more strenuous. However, if one cannot achieve such a work ethic and if, in the absence of an external threat, people see no great reason for it, one has to go very much further. One cannot say, "Well, let us give a greater degree of 72 initiative to managers, to regions and to localities". That flies in the face of what is more important than anything else to Mr. Gorbachev and his colleagues; namely, retention of the power of the Communist party. Since that aim cannot be modified—indeed, many of Mr. Gorbachev's so-called constitutional reforms indicate greater and not less activity by party functionaries in the economy—I cannot see how there can be a major change. Nor, in the light of the enormous power which the military obviously hold, can I see it being easy to transfer sizeable portions of economic endeavour from the military to the civilian sector. It if concerned a unitary country and if we were talking about Russia as it existed in the time of the Grand Duchy of Moscow in the 16th or 17th centuries, one could say that there might be some way of bringing that about. But as we have recently seen, in a multinational empire in which there are differences of view and where to extend autonomy may give rein to all sorts of ideas, ideologies, nationalisms, feelings and antipathies which go back for centuries, the problem is so much greater.
I think that people tend to neglect the fact that the crusade against corruption, which was one of the early features of the Gorbachev era and which hit the privileges and positions of powerful people particularly in the central Asian republics, has also led to purges, shootings, arrest and imprisonment. Within the empire there is an enormous capacity for resistance to change. Equally, in other parts—the Baltic states have been mentioned—there is a resurgence of what on the face of it appear to be nationalism and a desire for autonomy and self-determination but which in turn probably conceal a strong desire to leave the system altogether and to run economies along a very different model. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Weidenfeld, that for an Estonian Finlandisation is a sort of Heaven to be wished for.
Finally there are the countries that used to be called the satellites. It is not now fashionable to call them by that name; let us say countries where the legitimacy of the ruling government is maintained by the knowledge of Soviet support and in the last resort—as in Czechoslovakia in 1968 and as threatened in Poland in 1980—by the threat of Soviet military action. For those governments the position is much worse than for Mr. Gorbachev because in the last resort he may be able—and indeed in his relations with the external world no doubt he is able—to call on elemental Russian patriotism. But patriotism in the satellites works against the interests of Mr. Gorbachev and the Soviet empire.
One can see that the whole notion of reform and even the very moderate reforms which Mr. Gorbachev proposes for Russia itself are now so violently suspect—for instance in East Germany—that news of them is suppressed so far as possible. I think that one ought to think of these governments as oppressive, although not all of them are as mad and as bad as the Ceausescu clan in Rumania. They are all oppressive. The recent experience in Czechoslovakia of the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, and other western scholars is just a reminder to us.
73 It is for that reason that although I agree with a great deal of what the noble Lord, Lord Callaghan. said, I believe that he was wrong to suggest that at the moment it would be appropriate to accept Moscow as a place of meeting to discuss human rights. It may be desirable to give such encouragement as this might afford to Mr. Gorbachev, but it would undoubtedly be translated into approval of some of the worst and most oppressive governments in Europe. We cannot go to a human rights conference in Moscow and expect that it will consist of the western countries and the Soviet Union; it will be the western countries and Hungary, Rumania, Poland, Czechoslovakia and East Germany. For that reason it seems to me that it would compromise our otherwise principled stand in favour of human rights as an essential part of the agenda.
As I said at the beginning of my remarks, I do not believe that we have the influence or the ability to do very much about what happens. We are bound to feel that where our help would be most welcomed by the governments in that part of the world—and that is economically—we would have no guarantee that it would do more than merely postpone an attempt to cut down the burden of military spending.
I believe that we should—and so far as we can I think we do—take every opportunity to make understandable to the Russians our different views of human nature, human conduct and human freedom, remembering always that we are dealing with only a very small segment of the population of a vast semi-continent with whom we must hope to avoid conflict but with whom at the moment our dialogue is bound to be partial and imperfect.
§ 6.20 p.m.
§ Lord Greenhill of Harrow
My Lords, it is a very long time indeed since the British Government had to face such a formidable foreign affairs agenda. However, some of the items on the agenda show an unfamiliar sign of promise. These signs suggest that on certain long-deadlocked problems there is hope of advance if not of solution. There may therefore be opportunities for initiatives by Her Majesty's Government alone, in concert with others, or through the United Nations.
I find myself, not for the first time, in agreement with what the noble Lord. Lord Stewart of Fulham, said in connection with the prospects for that organisation. In my view it is therefore reassuring that our Secretary of State is seen, nationally and internationally, to be both thoughtful and constructive. I also believe that the Foreign Office is well equipped to advise and support him. Those Members of your Lordships' House who serve on the European Select Committees have ample evidence of this when they pay visits to the British delegation in Brussels.
However, in recent weeks certain contributors to The Times have questioned the ability of the Foreign Office to advise and by implication, the abilities of the Secretary of State. It is inevitable and appropriate that any Prime Minister and any Secretary of State should receive advice, with or without invitation, from all quarters. They certainly do, as I am sure the 74 noble Lord, Lord Glenarthur, will testify. But the wisdom of setting up, as these contributors suggest, an independent official source of advice in No. 10 should be set against past experience.
Noble Lords will recall the situation at No. 10 in the late 1930s when the Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain, advised by Sir Horace Wilson, continually overrode the advice of the Secretary of State and the Foreign Office, with very fateful results. In any case, from whatever quarter the advice comes, if it is conflicting on important matters the Cabinet has a constitutional role to play. But this is not a suitable subject for this debate and I shall not pursue it further.
On the general situation, it is encouraging also to see that under President Bush the State Department will be in the powerful hands of Mr. Baker and may be less likely to encounter the same sort of domestic problems which so often undermined the tireless efforts of Secretary of State Shultz, to whom tribute has been paid this afternoon. The State Department has in recent years been vandalised to the disadvantage of us all, and I am sure that many Americans would agree with me on that.
At the top of the present international agenda must he East-West relations which affect vital decisions of both foreign and defence policy. While everyone agrees that the recently favourable momentum must be maintained, it is essential to proceed with caution, testing the ground with our allies at every step of the way. I believe that is the way the Government propose to act. Others may have their own reasons for haste—not least Mr. Gorbachev—but the stakes are high and the rewards for carefully drawn up agreements are always greater than hasty decisions. We saw at the famous meeting at Reykjavik how the Americans and the allies were very nearly stampeded into an agreement of unforeseen and unconsidered consequences. In contrast, the INF treaty took a very long time to negotiate but it was worth it.
The complexity of the problem facing President Gorbachev and the uncertainties of success are plain for all to see. The noble Lord, Lord Beloff, has rightly deplored the decline of Soviet studies in our institutions. But I am sure he is drawing comfort, as we all should, from the outstanding Reith lectures on the BBC now being given by Professor Hosking, the professor of Russian history at London University. They throw important and clear light on some of Mr. Gorbachev's problems.
However, the majority of us hope that Mr. Gorbachev will make the Soviet Union a more comfortable partner in world affairs and a freer place for his own people. It is impossible for us and for him to foresee the full consequences of what he is attempting to do. According to Professor Brzezinski in an outstanding lecture last year in London, he pointed out that no great empire has ever survived decentralisation. It remains to be seen whether the Soviet empire will he the exception. The problems of the nationalities within the union are becoming clearer each day.
The months ahead will be especially important for the future development of the EC. One cannot help feeling a certain anxiety about the coming meeting in 75 Rhodes, and the outcome of the Delors Committee. I cannot speak with the same authority as the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Hillhead, but in this connection I should like to make three points. First, Her Majesty's Government cannot expect to achieve an acceptable outcome to arguments within the Community without allies. We are unlikely to get our own way by going it entirely alone. We can block by veto, but if we want to progress we need friends.
At the same time, I do not believe that the differences between us and our partners are as profound as many like to portray. However, to someone outside we seem as a tactic sometimes to emphasise what we disagree about rather than seeking allies for what is acceptable to us. But the fault is not always on our side. For example, if I had been an adviser to M. Delors I doubt whether I would have suggested to him that if he wanted to carry the British Government with him he should seek a standing ovation at a TUC conference.
Secondly, while there is great pressure to push ahead in the EC on financial and economic matters, it is important to balance this with more effective co-operation on European defence within NATO and WEU and an improved alignment of political policies.
Thirdly, Her Majesty's Government, and indeed all of us, should not banish from our minds the vision of a wider Europe, which de Gaulle spoke of as a Europe from the Atlantic to the Urals, and to which President Gorbachev refers in a phrase such as "our common home".
We need to work steadily for the freedom of the historic countries of Eastern Europe and of course continued co-operation with the neutral Scandinavians. Along with all this must also be the resolution of trade problems between Europe, America and Japan, and the coming GATT negotiations. Nobody should underestimate either the difficulties of success or the potentially damaging consequences of failure. The protectionist tendencies in the new United States Congress and within the EC arc disturbingly strong and conflicts between the fully industrialised countries and the other countries of the world will be hard to reconcile.
More encouraging are the prospects of an alleviation of the third world debt problem. Her Majesty's Government deserve some credit for that. There are good signs that sovereign governments are accepting greater responsibilities, although the Toronto agreements do not go far enough, especially to help the poorest African countries. It is now no longer possible for the debt problems to be left to solve themselves without the active intervention of sovereign governments.
Perhaps the most encouraging development in international affairs has been the re-emergence of the United Nations as a factor in the settlement of disputes. It has been said many times before that the personality and dedication of the Secretary-General can be decisive. The right man can achieve much and this is what has been happening in recent months. There are two highly important speeches before the 76 General Assembly in the days immediately ahead which will require close scrutiny—those of President Gorbachev and Mr. Arafat. It is to be hoped that President Gorbachev will confirm the reversal of past Soviet policies and lend his country's support to the original aims of the organisation. I should expect him to do so.
Mr. Arafat has a chance to remove some of the disturbing ambiguities of his Algerian declaration and enable the Israeli Government to take the first steps in negotiation with the Palestinians. If there is even a small increase of mutual trust between the two, the United Nations Organisation and in particular the Security Council may be able to help, with or without a formal conference. The last time we discussed this problem in the House some few months ago the outlook seemed very black to the majority of us. It may be too much to expect an improvement not only in Israeli and Palestinian policy, but also in American attitudes. For the first time it should be noted that close to the President there will be a leading member of the Arab-American association. I fear the solution lies far in the future, but until then it will be necessary to keep the two sides apart and talking peace and not uttering mutual threats.
The United Nations made a promising start in attempting to settle the Gulf war, but neither the Iraquis nor the Iranians showed any willingness to compromise on the fundamental points at issue. The deep involvement of the Security Council and the Secretary-General would seem to ensure the continuation of an uneasy peace and an eventual compromise, but the uncivilised behaviour of both Iran and Iraq shows how limited the influence of the United Nations still is and how international opinion can be flouted.
More comfort can be drawn from the apparent beginnings of a rapprochement between China and the Soviet Union. This could have important repercussions on the possibility of European and wider disarmament. We have yet to see the consequences of the election results in Pakistan, but it seems that it may in due time, even with a limited measure of democracy, bring greater stability to the sub-continent and to Afghanistan.
Lastly, have the Government anything new to say about South Africa? The Minister of State at the Foreign Office has recently returned from there and no doubt will he making a statement on her journey. There arc not unhopeful signs of movement there, at least in external relations. President Botha has met important black African leaders. The Angolan and Namibian situations are no longer so deadlocked. Such events are a necessary prelude to a more settled continent.
Viewing the slowly improving international scene, one is tempted to ask a fundamental question. Is it too much to hope that countries are beginning to realise the imperatives of interdependence, the futility of armed conflict and the indiscriminate impact of flood and famine, to say nothing of outrageous arms expenditures and newly comprehended environmental threats? Will countries begin to seek new ways of ordering their affairs and turn to the creation of an international organisation capable of 77 setting disputes without bloodshed and fulfilling the hopes of the founders of the United Nations?
§ 6.36 p.m.
§ Viscount Montgomery of Alamein
My Lords, as one would have expected, this has been a wide-ranging debate concentrating on the high point of foreign policy, East-West relations and Europe. But like my noble friend Lord Birdwood and, indeed, like my late father, I propose to advance on a very narrow front and confine my remarks to Latin America where some very positive things are happening.
First, to Chile, a country which raises strong emotions in many people's minds: but I am sure that all of us welcome the recent plebiscite since this heralds a return to democracy. I know of no military government who have planned their own end with such a meticulous timetable. I am convinced that the Chilean military government, and the Chilean military, will honour the constitution as they have done in the past. The only danger will come from agitation by extreme elements at either end of the political spectrum. These elements talk much about democracy, but believe and practise it very little. I hope that that will not happen, as during the last few years Chile has seen a most remarkable economic transformation and if its course remains as it is at the moment it will cease to be a third world country by the end of the century. I look forward to welcoming in 1990 an elected civilian president together with a re-established parliament, which I hope will take an early opportunity to rejoin the Inter-Parliamentary Union.
I now move over the Andes to Argentina, where democracy is already fully re-established. A presidential election is under way which will result during next year in the first democratic transfer of power from one elected president to another for over 60 years. This heralds remarkable achievements which I am sure we welcome and should support. The sad fact is that this is not much noticed by Her Majesty's Government as our relations with Argentina are bedevilled by the impasse over the Falkland Islands.
In the last two years Britain has made some very important unilateral advances. We have removed all restrictions on trade, air traffic and financial transactions, but regrettably these have not been reciprocated by Argentina. I believe that this is an error by Argentina. I have visited Buenos Aires twice this year and have argued strongly with anybody who was prepared to listen that reciprocity of action in these matters is absolutely essential and most useful to that country. Although Gibraltar and the Falkland Islands are not parallel situations it is interesting that progress in Gibraltar started when confrontation ceased, that is, when the problem of the frontier was removed. It was from that moment that the dialogue was recommenced. I am sure that this is an object lesson in Anglo-Argentine relations.
Perhaps I may say a word on fishing. Two years ago in a similar debate it was stated that the imposition of the Falkland Islands conservation zone was a temporary solution. Unfortunately it remains so. Nothing has changed. It was an unsatisfactory 78 solution then, and so it is today. Fish, particularly whiting and squid, which are the important catches in the area, are rather unpredictable regarding their spawning habits and their location. Fishing areas move and the fish are blissfully unaware of the imposition of arbitrary political zones. That is unlikely to change. As a result it is also a very fickle source of income for the Falkland islanders. For effective conservation and exploitation of the marine resources of the South Atlantic, all the interested parties must be involved but particularly the two nations most concerned, Britain and Argentina. I mentioned this first in a debate in this House as long ago as 1977. At that time fishing was a great opportunity for Anglo-Argentine collaboration. It has always been so, but it has always sadly been ignored.
I come to that part of the gracious Speech which says that Her Majesty's Government will continue to seek improved relations with Argentina. That is all very well, but unfortunately that phrase has appeared in the Speech for the last five years. It now seems to he set in concrete. We need to be moving forward.
The time has come for positive action. From the tour dhorizons given by my noble friend Lord Glenarthur, it is quite evident that the Foreign Office is an extremely vigorous institution, but we need to have imaginative solutions to move this forward. Failure to resolve the problem exacerbates relations with other Latin American states since both Argentina and Britain constantly are pressing their diverging views on those countries. It is a huge waste of diplomatic time and effort, as is the annual Motion of censure by Argentina at the United Nations. There is at the moment only one ray of hope. I welcome the announcement in the press that Dante Caputo, currently President of the General Assembly, is to meet Sir Crispin Tickell in New York. I hope that this is correct. I can think of no better interlocutor than our very able and talented ambassador to the United Nations. Let us ensure that we have an open agenda. Despite the words of the gracious Speech, we cannot really allow a minute handful of people on a remote island to maintain an indefinite veto on British foreign policy.
I should like to turn briefly to the subject of Latin America and Europe. The year 1992 is not only the year of the creation of a single market; it is also the 500th anniversary of the discovery of the Americas by Christopher Columbus. That seems to represent an interesting challenge. Latin America has a colonial heritage from Spain, but the economic development in the 19th century was almost entirely British-inspired. Currently neither Spain nor Britain enjoys a very large percentage of trade and investment in Latin America. The accession of Spain to the EC and the completion of the single market present a unique opportunity for Anglo-Spanish collaboration to our mutual advantage within Europe and indeed in Latin America.
Unfortunately, Latin America is not a market that is easy to develop in the short term. It has to be viewed long term. It will therefore need assistance and guidance from Her Majesty's Government to create the right atmosphere and climate of opinion in 79 which new trade and investment ventures can flourish. This is a big subject. I hope that we can return to it another day. That is where the future of Britain and Europe lies.
§ 6.46 p.m.
§ Lord Reay
My Lords, I should like to start by taking this opportunity to express my appreciation for the fact that the Government saw fit recently to increase the annual direct grant to the British Council, which several of us in this House were calling for last January on a Motion of the noble Lord, Lord Bonham-Carter. The British Council is widely thought to do an outstanding job in promoting British interests overseas, and I am confident that this quite modest sum will prove to be money well spent.
I am an unrepentant European. I see the unification of Europe as a great constructive enterprise that offers this nation—and, indeed, the other ancient and proud nations of Europe—its main opportunity to use its wisdom and energies to help shape the world's future. Now, as before, the main obstacle to the chance being seized is the temptation of nostalgia—nostalgia for the solitary splendour of even greater days in the past.
Now, like various other noble Lords—my noble friend Lord Rippon of Hexham and the noble Lord, Lord Weidenfeld—I very much welcome recent reaffirmations by the Government of their commitment to Europe and the picture that they have drawn of what they would like Europe to be. This Government have unquestionably done a great deal for the European Community. As my noble friend Lord Glenarthur said, the Government have taken a lead in establishing the target of a single internal market and in the major improvements in Community decision making necessary for that purpose.
Perhaps even more importantly, this country led the Community to take its first substantial steps towards reform of the common agricultural policy and the relief of the burden of the CAP on the Community's finances. In the Queen's Speech the Government have pledged themselves to the further pursuit of these policies. By settling this country's long-festering grievance over its budgetary contribution, the Government managed to win a degree of popular acceptance for progress towards European integration which has never been won before.
The immense prestige of the Prime Minister coupled with the unprecedented speed with which events are unfolding combines to give this country an opportunity for influencing Europe's development which has never been greater in our lifetime. The task now surely is to make Europe in the image of what we want it to be. Europe should be less protectionist, not more so. Europe should he capable of organising for its own defence and not, I think, be paralysed by the thought that the United States would be scared away if, for example, there were to be Anglo-French nuclear discussions. Europe should not be allowed to 80 become the last bastion of Socialism while it is discredited everywhere else. Above all, Europe should be united. The ties that bind its members should he so strong that no member state is tempted, as elements of Germany are tempted, to listen to the siren voices of neutralism from across the Eastern frontier. I believe that that was the essence of the last point made by the noble Lord, Lord Bonham-Carter. The immediate task is to concentrate on the preparation for 1992 and to ensure that it is not a disappointment after all the talk.
However, looking beyond 1992 the greatest error which we could make would be to stand aside or be manoeuvred aside from the creation of the Community institutions of the future. As the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Hillhead, and the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, reminded us, we did that once with the Community itself in the 1950s and thereby committed decades of national energy to an attempt to retrieve the error. That mistake was made at the height of our national prestige. Indeed, perhaps such moments are the most dangerous, for they breed delusions of self-sufficiency in which the right direction is sometimes missed. However, this time I am quite sure that the Government with their outstanding realism will not allow the country to be sidetracked from the European path by illusory alternatives.
Before leaving the subject of Europe, I should like to refer to the issue of British schools in Europe which my noble friend Lady Young would have again raised today had she been able to he here. That was a cause which found very wide support in this House when my noble friend Lady Young raised the matter during discussions on the Education Bill. My noble friend did not pursue it on that occasion but I hope that the Government will take some action bearing 1992 in mind. If the Government wish to exhort businessmen to go out and be adventurous in Europe, then surely, they, like virtually all other European Governments, should offer some assistance to their nationals serving overseas in a private capacity who wish their children to receive a British education.
I should like to turn to East-West relations. I agree with the reported remark of Dr. Sakharov to the Soviet Academy of Sciences that the West has more to fear from the failure of perestroika than from its success. A Soviet Union which abandoned the cause of internal reform as a means of eventually reducing the disparities in economic capacity and living standards between East and West might be tempted to deal with the threat of Western superiority, which is after all what perestroika is a response to, in a more aggressive manner.
Therefore, the West must maintain its defences which means arms modernisation, including modernisation, within the terms of the INF treaty, of short-range nuclear weapons. Here I disagree with the noble Lord, Lord Ardwick. I believe that it is vital not to carry the denuclearisation of Western Europe any further than the INF treaty has already taken it. Short-range nuclear weapons are the last threads binding the United States to Europe. I cannot imagine the United States being willing for long to keep its forces in Europe once it was deprived of 81 nuclear protection on the ground. When the Soviet Union is known to persist relentlessly with the replacement of systems before they become obsolete, failure to modernise is just another road to denuclearisation.
As regards the question of a Royal visit, I disagree with the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, who I otherwise thought made an excellent speech. I would quite understand if the Prime Minister were to advise Her Majesty the Queen not to accept an invitation to the Soviet Union at present. I believe that the Soviet Union should proceed further down the road of perestroika before Western democracies are seen or are supposed, not least by the masses oppressed under Communism, to be giving the seal of approval. The same argument applies to sitting down with the Soviet Union and other Eastern European countries at a human rights conference in Moscow. as my noble friend Lord Beloff pointed out.
How far down the road of perestroika should the Soviet Union go? In a recent talk to Chatham House, Sir Bryan Cartledge, who has just retired as ambassador to Moscow, suggested that when the Soviet Union has started to dismantle the KGB and critically to revaluate Lenin himself, then perestroika and glasnost would be getting somewhere. I would also add, when the Soviet forces are deployed and are only adequate for defensive purposes and not for offensive action against the West as they are still at present. Only when those things come to pass can we start to believe that we have definitely entered a new era.
I do not believe that we in the West can do very much to influence the outcome of perestroika one way or the other. However, I believe that we should avoid doing certain things. As I have said, we must not drop our guard. We should also avoid throwing money Eastward. One of the saddest spectacles of the last two decades or so has been the fate of Western banklending to backward countries, prominent among them, East European countries. For example, Yugoslavia today owes 20 billion dollars. The loans merely enabled Yugoslavia to postpone for 10 years the post-Tito reckoning. The same applies to Poland which owes 40 billion dollars and Hungary, a tiny country with debts of 17 billion dollars—the largest per capita debt of all. Those countries have less now than ever. Even the spectacle of Hungary as a Communist country which had achieved economic reform has collapsed. Hungary's living standards have fallen and continue to fall disastrously year by year. There must be something wrong with an arrangement whereby Western savings are provided for Communist governments to consume, desperate to postpone the presentation of the bill for the inefficiencies of their systems. The West will very likely not see, and hardly deserves to see, that money again.
There is some talk today of joint ventures in Communist countries. That is a much better idea. It is surely far better that Communist countries should have a chance to benefit from Western management and risk-capital in specific ventures in which Western partners retain an interest and a care in the outcome of the investment and when the host country only has 82 an across-the-exchanges repayment to make if the investment is a success, than loans to governments which leave nothing behind but a few extra years of survival of the systems and unpayable debts. Therefore, I believe that the talk of a Marshall Plan is absurdly out of place. Fortunately, Gorbachev is interested in reform and not procrastination. He seems less keen to accept loans than some in the West are to offer them.
Finally, I should like to say a few words on the Middle East. I believe that we should acknowledge the step taken by the PLO towards the recognition of Israel's right to exist. For years the Americans have made the PLO's refusal to accept Resolution 242 one of their principal objections to involving the PLO in negotiations. At the recent meeting in Algiers for the first time, and by an overwhelming majority, the PNC accepted Resolution 242. I do not see how the Americans or anyone else can, with justice, now act as if nothing of significance had happened. When the voice of moderation wins victory in the Middle East we should encourage that. After all it is our only hope in that most dangerous part of the world that moderation should eventually prevail.
§ 6.59 p.m.
§ Lord Mayhew
My Lords, as might have been predicted, the debate has been largely dominated by discussion of the changes in the Soviet Union and the impact on East-West relations. Noble Lords will have noticed a considerable spread among speakers between hope and scepticism. The noble Lord, Lord Reay, who has just spoken, will not, I am sure, object to being classed on the sceptical side of the balance; but undoubtedly the most sceptical of all the speakers was the noble Lord, Lord Beloff, who in an extremely well-informed speech, if I may say so, argued not only that the changes were not fundamental but that fundamental change was not possible and that power would revert inevitably to the Soviet Communist Party. I hope I do not do him an injustice.
I am bound to say that I find that view a little pessimistic. It is very difficult to see how once again the challenge of Soviet communism can be reconstituted. That is what matters to us. How can one reindoctrinate the Ukranians, Armenians, Estonians, Latvians, and the millions of Russians who have now for the first time learnt the truth and are enjoying some new freedoms? Is it possible that Soviet history books can be un-rewritten, that the victims of Soviet tyranny can be un-rehabilitated? Personally, I do not believe that those things are possible. The changes we have seen are profound and are for practical purposes irreversible.
Other speakers have argued on different lines, but equally sceptically, that we must wait until the military power of the Soviet Union has been reduced. The noble Lord, Lord Callaghan, put forward that argument. It is certainly strange that, as I understand it—the Minister may correct me—there have been no reductions in the front line strength of the Soviet forces in Europe. That contrasts with and belies the deeds of Gorbachev in other spheres. After all, he has begun withdrawal from Afghanistan, to compromise in Ethiopia, Angola and Kampuchea. He has opened 83 the Soviet Union to a remarkable extent to verification. Russia has been observed destroying the SS.22s under international verification. Therefore, one would have expected a reduction in Soviet front line forces.
No one doubts Gorbachev's need to economise on military expenditure. That has been stressed by many speakers. However, there can be other simpler explanations. For example, on our side we often say that we wish to maintain our conventional strength in order to bargain for multilateral agreements. It may be that in this period of Soviet history Mr. Gorbachev does not feel strong enough to impose perestroika on the Soviet military establishment. It may even be—the Government should know this as well as anybody—that defence expenditure is cut before cutting front line forces. You cut the infrastructure and go in for slippage to the maximum extent, as the Government have done throughout their whole career. No one knows that better than the former Minister for Defence Procurement, the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, who practised slippage on a gigantic scale during his period of office. Therefore, there may be simple explanations for the point made by the sceptics about Soviet military power.
I am bound to say that I find myself on the opposite side of the balance. I associate myself with the more hopeful speech made by my noble friend Lord Bonham-Carter. Of course, if one is sceptical it naturally follows that one believes there should he no changes in defence policy and arms procurement. The Prime Minster said earlier this year:The NATO alliance is as vital now for protecting our freedoms as it was in 1949".I am glad to see the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Carver, here today. He began his speech by strikingly pointing out the astounding differences between the threat facing NATO today and the threat facing it in 1948–49. He is right. It is a provoking thought, but true—I can vouch for this because I was involved with it at the Foreign Office at the time—that if after the war we had been facing Gorbachev's Russia instead of Stalin's Russia it would have been totally impossible to form NATO. We would never have been able to include the Canadians and the Americans. We would never have obtained approval in the House of Commons, with its large Labour majority. It would have been totally impossible.
I had hoped that the noble and gallant Lord, who is famed for his political as well as his military courage, would go on to ask the forbidden questions. Granted that NATO, the division of Europe and the presence of American troops in Western Europe were a means to an end, a means for resisting the threat of Stalinism—militarily, politically and ideologically—now that that threat has gone (because it has) what do we feel about the division of Europe, the continuance of NATO and the presence of American troops in Western Europe? That is dangerous and forbidden ground. If one trespasses upon it at this stage in history one arouses great controversy and animosity. I content myself by saying that I am sure that if things go on as they are now those questions will force themselves on to the international agenda. 84 We shall have to decide what we really think about them.
However, the noble and gallant Lord, having disposed of the ultra hawks and the ultra doves, came down to a position which seemed to me to be very sensible; namely, that we accept and acknowledge the changes and do everything possible to encourage them. There are initiatives that can be taken. Reference has been made to possible political actions in connection with the conference on human rights and the possible visit of the Queen. However, the wording of the Queen's Speech makes clear that the Government's position is that there will be no change whatever in defence policy, arms procurement, arms control and disarmament. The phrases in the Queen's Speech are standard. They would have done perfectly well in Brezhnev's day or Krushchev's day. Perhaps to save trouble those phrases were lifted from a Queen's Speech of olden times.
That is the specific attitude of the Government and I disagree with it. The changes are fundamental and for practical purposes irreversible. After all, the Russians have withdrawn from Afghanistan and, as I said, have compromised in Ethiopia, Kampuchea and Angola. They have obeyed the treaty on the SS.22s, and so on.
As the Russians start behaving in a sensible, civilised and constructive manner the policy of the Government is, "We will continue with the outstanding feature of our defence policy—a vast escalation of British nuclear weapons". As the Russians behave better. the Government improve their capacity for killing them—not only with Trident and an eightfold increase in warheads but with an updating of Lance, ground-based missiles with a longer range, more accurate surface-to-surface nuclear weapons, replacement of the free-fall bombs, and far more powerful and accurate air-launched nuclear missiles. What kind of reaction is that? I ask the Government that question.
What changes are the Government proposing to respond to the new situation in the world? There is an anomaly here not only between the Government's policy and what the Russians are doing but—this is an even starker anomaly—between what the Government are doing and the Americans are doing. Last month Mr. Schultz said:We are far down the road towards completing a treaty calling for 50 per cent. reductions in strategic offensive arms … We have a sound basis for completing the treaty early in the next administration".What is the Government's response? They double and redouble our strategic offensive arms.
There is then the Government's attitude to conventional disarmament. They make clear that even if asymmetrical cuts are made in conventional forces, as Mr. Gorbachev offers, and even if the remaining Soviet forces are deployed defensively, as Mr. Gorbachev offers, the Government will still insist on NATO keeping battlefield nuclear weapons in Germany and remaining ready to use them first if necessary.
That is not very positive. It is foolish to insist in the circumstances that I have described on keeping 85 battlefield nuclear weapons there and to insist on a flexible response and a readiness to use these weapons first. That is sheer foolishness. Nevertheless, some agreement may be reached on arms control and disarmament. We sincerely hope so. A likely front runner is the redeployment of forces defensively in particular by withdrawing and reducing heavy tanks from both sides.
The Minister will correct me if I am wrong, but tomorrow the Cabinet will commit itself to a £1.4 billion programme for heavy tank procurement. So it may well be that, in a year or two when hundreds of millions of pounds have been spent and hundreds of millions more committed on heavy tank production, the Government will he faced with, say, a 50 per cent. reduction agreed between East and West on heavy tanks. It is hard for outsiders to decide whether the Cabinet would be right tomorrow to buy the American tank or to give Vickers a chance with an updated Challenger 2. We are entitled to ask questions about the timing of the decision. It appears that at one time the army was willing to run on the Chieftains to the end of the century. This would have made it easier to estimate how far technology is weighed in the balance against tanks with anti-tank missiles and helicopters. It would have given Vickers time to see how it got on with the project for Challenger 2. It would also have avoided the danger of repeating the Trident blunder of committing oneself to an expensive weapons system prematurely without reference to likely developments in East-West relations.
We know that the Minister is very well informed on questions of defence procurement. I ask him this one specific question. Why is it necessary to take a decision on this subject tomorrow? To sum up because my time is up, I believe that the Government have been underrating the importance of the changes and the difficulty of reversing them. I think the changes are historic and they signal the collapse of Soviet communism and of Marxism itself. They raise the possibility not only of widespread disarmament but of ending the division of Europe. We could have hoped that the Government would have made a more positive response to these great opportunities. The world is changing and it is a great pity that the British Government are not changing with it.
§ 7.14 p.m.
§ Lord Irving of Dartford
My Lords, I believe that we can agree that this has been a very successful debate and that we have had a number of very impressive speeches. I say right from the start that, as regards the speeches, many roamed over a much wider area than the more narrow defence issue that I shall deal with. Recently the Prime Minister made a speech in which she said that we,must stretch our hands across the divide".That was in response to the changes in Russia. That is a fine sentiment but actions have not yet matched her rhetoric on defence. On the contrary, the Government, far from acting in the spirit of the INF treaty, have moved in the opposite direction to make good by compensatory action the power lost by the removal of missiles under the INF treaty. This is 86 despite the fact that the East has given up more missiles than the West. This view is also held by members of the Select Committee on Foreign Affairs in another place, which has, incidentally, a Conservative majority. They questioned whether the deployment of Cruise missiles or any air-launched Cruise missiles would be in the spirit of the INF treaty.
The Secretary of State in another place said:The Soviet Union has accepted the need for asymmetrical reductions to reflect imbalances in force levels and for intrusive verification as an essential part of arms control".Herein, as far as we are concerned, is the key to all progress. Mr. Younger also said:NATO should get the credit as NATO was the first to propose it in 1981".He went on to say:No amount of sophistry can disguise the fact that the INF Treaty is a triumph for NATO and is the result of a NATO initiative".Why, if it is such a triumph, are we seeking to subvert its terms? In my view in that phrase "no amount of sophistry" there is a note of peevishness and lack of generosity. Mr. Younger goes on to say that there is no noticeable slowing down of Soviet military research and development. He continues in blood-curdling terms, telling us that new submarines are being completed at the rate of one every six weeks, that each day two new aircraft and eight tanks roll off the production line and that the Soviet chemical warfare capability remains the largest and most comprehensive in the world.
The noble Lord, Lord Mayhew, asked whether there was no change. I did not hear the reply of the Minister but, if one reads the report of the Institute of Strategic Studies, it states that in one field—that is, naval construction—there has been a fallback. At least there is evidence, however slight in this case, that there is some improvement here. These facts are certainly correct. The threat assessment paper of WEU stated that:Sometimes divergent, even contradictory estimates of Soviet Union forces are used in public statements by different allied national authorities and can only detract from the credibility of the estimates.That was said by the rapporteur of that committee, who is in a distinguished line of Conservatives, as noble Lords can imagine, and a Me=mber of the other place; namely, Sir John Stokes.
The Institute of Strategic Studies has decided for the second year running not to offer an overall view on the state of the NATO-Warsaw pact conventional balance, because it says that it is difficult to make proper comparison of combat-ready forces based merely on numbers, although it acknowledges that Soviet modernisation has continued.
Despite the changes that the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Carver, called fundamental that have taken place in the Soviet Union and which were almost inconceivable two years ago—for example, the reconciliation of Andrei Sakharov and Mikhail Gorbachev; the visit of the most reverend Primate, the Archbishop of Canterbury, to Moscow to celebrate there the thousandth anniversary of Christianity; the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan and the continuing release of people who have been detained—they do not seem to give an 87 indication to some people that there is anything really fundamental happening.
Mr. Younger is still using cold-war rhetoric and in my view this is the language of a man who finds it difficult to believe that there can ever be a new beginning. I have to include the noble Lord, Lord Beloff, in that field. Perhaps, instead of rehearsing old arguments about the Soviet build-up, it is wise to remember that 27,000 tanks on the Russian side were built before 1947. I believe that Mr. Younger should be doing something about the 13 offers and overtures made by Mr. Gorbachev since 1985, to which there has been absolutely no response whatever. The Select Committee on Foreign Affairs reporting on 4th August 1988; said:In spite of all the hazards the Committee believes NATO should not be deflected from pursuing arms control and reductions as vigorously as possible".That has our full support.
The noble Lord, Lord Mayhew, talked about simple explantions. It may be that the explanations he offered were the right ones. However, it would be remarkable if, despite all the challenges Mr. Gorbachev is facing, he were to close down his defence establishments and add mass unemployment and perhaps hostility from the army to his other problems. We are not saying that we should lower our guard but that we should adopt a more imaginitive and encouraging attitude to the extraordinary events taking place in Russia and realise that Mr. Gorbachev's success is the last hope for the world in our generation for a lessening of tension and danger.
People in the Government and elsewhere have complained that Mr. Gorbachev has pulled off one propaganda coup after another. However, of the 13 invitations offered by Mr. Gorbachev, none has been accepted. Karsten Voigt of the German SPD has said,Like it or not the initiative in arms control is being taken by Secretary Gorbachev—it is therefore incumbent on the Western Alliance as a matter of urgency to … detemine exactly what it wants from arms control, and … exploit every avenue with the Soviet Union on how to get them".Another German, Hans Dietrich Genscher, who, despite the article in the Independent last week, is probably in closer touch with the thinking of ordinary Germans than Chancellor Kohl, has said:If there is a chance after 40 years of confrontation there could be a turning point in East West relations, it would be a mistake of historic dimensions to let it slip away because of habits of thought which expect only the worst of the Soviet Union".Mr. Gorbachev has shown willingness to consider asymmetrical cuts. The first display of this kind was the INF treaty itself under which the Soviets gave up more missiles than the West.
We should be making proposals for arms reduction in Europe which would follow the view expressed by Mr. Gorbachev that the military capability on each side should be related to a defensive posture, requiring asymmetrical cuts in conventional forces. In an impressive speech, the noble Lord, Lord Callaghan, talked about the need for unity in NATO. That is still important. It is important to get an agreement on arms control and 88 on the way to implement it. It is also important to maintain an appropriate level of conventional forces.
The Prime Minister's view is that if the alliance does not modernise its short-range nuclear weapons there will be a destabilising of NATO and a danger of decoupling America from Europe. I believe that to be profoundly mistaken. Such a move is not only against the spirit of the treaty but it is unlikely to succeed. The Germans are unlikely to agree, certainly before the elections of 1990 if not beyond. Previously they have agreed to accept American medium-range missiles because they were still afraid of the Russians. However, things have changed. The Germans have always been uneasy about having these weapons on their territory as they know that if they were ever to be used—and it is part of NATO's policy to make early use of them—many Germans would die and possibly 50,000 British troops as well. They are no longer worried about Russia and therefore will not agree to this move. Undue pressure on them will destabilise rather than strengthen NATO. Already one can see this attitude not just in Germany but in Belgium, Holland and even in France. The French president has now said that he is willing to discuss conventional force stability with short-range missiles, a position which would change matters dramatically.
The Select Committee on Foreign Affairs said:The issue has already caused strain inside the Alliance. Unless the matter is pursued with great sensitivity the political consequences could be serious".Caspar Weinberger said only a couple of years ago that the Americans are not in Europe as an act of charity but to serve American interests. That will still continue. It may be that the Americans will want to make other members of the NATO alliance pay much more for their defence. If pressure on the dollar were to continue that would be inevitable.
The Secretary of State has returned to the numbers game. General Rogers made it clear when some of us saw him last year that he does not believe that a surprise attack in Europe is likely. When we saw General Galvin only three months ago, he was of the same opinion. The Government are responsible for the overstretching and underfunding of our conventional forces as they have been distorted by Trident-led priorities. Since 1985—86 (and including 1988—89) defence spending has fallen by 7…1 per cent. According to the Secretary of State, expenditure has fallen by £l billion in real terms in the past two years. The Select Committee on Defence says that it will fall a further £2…7 billion in real terms by 1991, where it will stay; and difficult choices will have to be made. However, Mr. Younger has said that cuts will be kept to the margin of the defence programme. The Select Committee challenges this view. The question, it says, is not whether we can maintain United Kingdom major roles but how well it can be done. It says:a full scale review, the first since 1981, would be essential if the Ministry was to demonstrate the continuing effectiveness of Britain's defences".Despite our defences being under strength, underfunded and unable to meet all peacetime commitments, the Secretary of State has rejected every aspect of the Select Committee's highly critical report. Britain's problems stem from the fact that we 89 are straining to support a major army and a tactical air force, NATO's principal anti-submarine force in the eastern Atlantic, the home defence ground forces, an out-of-area capability of which the Gulf and the Armilla patrol is the essential expression, and indeed the independent deterrent.
The decline in certain areas of the budget is due to expenditure on Trident during the past five years.
§ The Minister of State for Defence Procurement (Lord Trefgarne)
My Lords, will the noble Lord say which areas of the budget are declining?
§ Lord Irving of Dartford
My Lords, I hope that when the noble Lord comes to reply he will give us some answers. It will be the first time in a defence debate that the Minister has given some comparative figures. I shall comment on that later.
The Select Committee on Defence said that,heavy cuts in defence spending were unavoidable".In talking of present cuts it said,they are a serious threat to defence capabilities".Those are the words of the Select Committee on Defence. The Minister rejects everything out of hand, but that is his style. He has been doing that for a long time. He does not answer any of the problems raised by defence experts and Members of the House. It is important to realise that inflation in defence equipment is probably greater than in any other field. A Type 22 frigate costs four times as much as the Leander it replaces. The Challenger tank costs two and a quarter times as much as a Chieftain. The Seahawk costs three and a quarter times as much as the Seacat. The Secretary of State has sought to represent government policy as coherent and adequate, whereas the need for a review of our policy is recognised by virtually all those who are in any way knowledgeable about defence—analysts, academics, Select Committee members, service chiefs and Members of this House.
We all complain about the difficulties facing those who seek to discover some of the answers. The defence correspondent of the Daily Telegraph has said that there is no way of finding out although the Estimates are dripping with statistics. But nowhere are there detailed estimates of cost that will allow anyone looking at the Estimates to make real comparisons of what is happening in the department. That is a view held by many people who are interested in the defence field.
Of course the Secretary of State has had some difficulty with the Select Committee. It concluded at paragraph 70 of its last report;In the light of'—this is not me talking, it is the Select Committee with a majority of Conservative members—prevaricating and misleading statements, the half-truths, and economies with the truth, 'we consider that the MOD can have no cause for complaint if their future assurances are not taken at face value'".90 So you have a situation there where a number of people, parliamentarians and others, find the whole question of managing to understand the department virtually impossible.
Trident is the most important programme which the Government are backing. We believe that they are backing it unwisely. But the Select Committee, the watchdog of the House, said that in the light of the assurance it received from the Government enough is enough and that it will not easily take their word again. Those are very harsh words from some of their colleagues in another place.
The decline in certain areas of the budget is due to expenditure on Trident during the last five years. However, so far as we are concerned, the whole question of an independent nuclear deterrent is entirely unrealistic. As far as we can see, there is every possibility that when it comes to the crunch the Americans will not be willing to give us the nuclear weapon anyway.
As regards the Select Committee, it has made clear that the only part of the weapon that really is under our control is the fissile material which goes into the missile itself—and we are having difficulty in that field in any event. The committee said:The purchase of elements of the re-entry body and certain warhead-related components within it are mainly incurred in the USA".Not only are the missiles American, but the guidance has been purchased from the United States. The only part which is British built will be the fissile material, which we are having difficulty obtaining at present. We are years behind with the construction of the buildings and the recruitment of staff.
The Trident missile, the D5 missile pool, will provide us with drawing rights. We shall be able to obtain equipment as required, hut we shall have to take the missile back there for servicing and the whole process will take 18 days. Therefore it is perfectly within the powers of the Americans to restrain us; and when you see that, if we are to make progress in the nuclear field with disarmament it would be very unlikely that the Americans would allow us to have an independent nuclear deterrent so that they could carry on threatening action which would certainly de-stabilise what has been happening in other parts of the world.
As far as we are concerned, the Trident programme, and the preoccupation with nuclear weapons, has prejudiced the development of our conventional forces in this country. But the future for disarmament depends on us acting in a flexible and imaginative way to the iniatives made by the Soviet Union and to making initiatives of our own through NATO. It also depends on our developing the confidence without which progress cannot be made. We have a great opportunity. I hope that we will not prejudice the future by narrowness or lack of vision in approaching these problems.
§ 7.34 p.m.
§ Lord Trefgarne
My Lords, in rising to bring to a conclusion today's passage in this excellent debate, I should like to start by adding my compliments to my 91 noble friends Lord Colnbrook and Lord Henley for the way in which they opened the debate yesterday.
Today's debate has been an excellent one. It therefore gives me great pleasure to start my reply with a very good piece of news which follows the intervention of the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, at the beginning of the debate. We have heard tonight that President Botha has reprieved the Sharpeville Six, to whom the noble Lord referred in his speech and to whom other noble Lords also referred. The British Government warmly welcome this step, which we have called for on many occasions. I believe that my right honourable friend can claim at least some of the credit for this most satisfactory development.
§ Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos
My Lords, perhaps I may just say that I am greatly obliged to the noble Lord for that information. Can he say whether the six are to be released, or whether any alternative sentence has been passed on them?
§ Lord Trefgarne
My Lords, I am sorry to have to tell the noble Lord that I received the information by telephone from our embassy in Pretoria only a few minutes ago, and therefore I do not have any further details. However, I dare say that such details will emerge in the very near future.
Her Majesty's most gracious Speech once again underlined the determination of this Government to sustain the security and defence of the United Kingdom. This we will achieve predominantly through our membership, commitment and active involvement in the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, and we need look no further than NATO for an example of the inextricable bond which exists between foreign affairs and defence. This was a theme referred to by several noble Lords this afternoon.
I believe that NATO is generally perceived by the public to be a military organisation, and of course defence Ministers play a crucial role, through the Defence Planning Committee, in formulating and executing alliance policy. But ultimately NATO is a political alliance: a voluntary grouping of 16 sovereign nations whose foreign Ministers and ambassadors chart the course for their collective security through the medium of the North Atlantic Council in Brussels.
The security policy to which NATO remains committed involves both deterrence by means of its various military dispositions and dialogue and detente by seeking improved relations with the Soviet Union on the political front, including of course arms control measures.
All that is well known and I make the point simply to illustrate that no government's defence policy can be constructed or understood except in the context of their foreign policy. Frederick the Great of Prussia said that diplomacy without armaments was like music without instruments. I would add that armaments without diplomacy is equally undesirable and equally dangerous.
92 Your Lordships have debated defence as recently as July last, so I shall endeavour not to retread the ground that was covered so fully then. However before responding to specific points raised in the debate by noble Lords let me elaborate on the latest plans for the defence budget which were announced on 8th November.
The defence provision for the financial year 1989–90 is no less than £20,120 million. That is £150 million more than the provision previously planned for 1989–90. Provision for 1990–91 is £21,180 million, including an additional £600 million to previous plans and provision for 1991–92 has been set at £22,090 million. The substantial cash increases allocated to defence in the last two years mean that the budget is now growing by about £1 billion in each of the years to 1991–92.
On previous plans, the defence budget was in real terms expected to remain broadly level between 1988–89 and 1990–91. The further cash increases reflected in the 1989 public expenditure decisions mean that on current inflation assumptions the defence budget will once again benefit from real growth in the years immediately ahead. That clearly demonstrates the high priority which the Government attach to defence and I think gives the lie to what the noble Lord, Lord Irving of Dartford, said about overstretch in the defence budget and about the inadequacy of the defence budget vis-à-vis Trident and other matters. Incidentally, Trident is reducing in cost at the present time for a variety of reasons, as no doubt the noble Lord is aware.
But in response to the noble Lord. Lord Mayhew, who was—I think that I interpreted him right—criticising the Government's continued increase in defence expenditure, the fact of the matter is that as regards the threat we face, that threat is absolutely unchanged. Since Mr. Gorbachev came to power the Soviet defence budget has shrunk by not so much as a single rouble. The ships continue to go down the slipway. The aircraft continue to go down the runways into the air. The threat we face increases every day. We have had some difficulty in keeping up with the threat, but the additions to the defence budget to which I have referred will greatly assist in that direction.
I said in the defence debate in July that we must maintain our defence commitments if we are to continue to enjoy the benefits of peace that NATO has secured over the past 40 years. Those further cash increases provide the wherewithal to underpin our contributions to the collective NATO defence effort.
There has been a good deal of talk about burden sharing lately. The United States is entitled to raise that as a question at the present time, but I think that the figures to which I referred just now indicate that the United Kingdom is pulling its weight in connection with the international defence situation.
It is also fair to say that there are some other countries, in Europe in particular, which do not do as well as we do. I hope that the main thrust of the burden-sharing debate will he directed at them. How they will respond is of course for them to decide, but I believe that the United Kingdom can look the 93 world, NATO and the United States in the eye in respect of our contributions.
It is said that the world is now becoming less bipolar and more multipolar as the increasing strength of Europe, Japan, China and the rapidly developing countries of the third world challenge the pre-eminence of the United States and the Soviet Union. Nevertheless, for the moment it remains the case that the two superpowers carry responsibility for the framework of international security largely on their shoulders. President-elect Bush faces a formidable agenda when he takes up the reins next year and arms control will remain one of the most important items on it.
The West is dedicated to the achievement of balanced effective and verifiable arms control measures that will provide improved security at lower levels of forces. Those qualifications are most important as arms control is not well founded if pursued only for its own sake or simply as a political gesture.
The INF treaty was a substantial first step. The euphoria which surrounded its signature is now subsiding but the treaty's concrete contribution to the arms control process builds up steadily as the months pass. Each milestone accomplished in dismantling missiles, each successful challenge inspection, each act of intrusive verification enhances the mutual trust between the treaty parties and their confidence in verification procedures. The United Kingdom, as one of the host nations for the relevant systems, is playing a full and willing part in this process. Only a few years ago the prospect of Soviet inspectors being invited to look at US military systems in this country would have been unthinkable. Today it is a reality; and your Lordships may think, as I do, that that is a major development in the climate of East-West relations.
But INF was in many respects an easy agreement to reach, even though it took a long time to achieve. Future agreements will not simply fall into our laps. They will have to be worked for in hard, detailed and lengthy negotiations if they are to meet the criteria I have mentioned; if they are to be balanced, verifiable and effective.
Let me briefly examine NATO's three priorities for arms control in that light. The outlines of agreement for a 50 per cent. reduction in US and Soviet strategic weapons exist; but verification in this case, where only some, rather than all, of a particular class of weapon are to be removed, is a much more complex issue than it was for INF. Mr. Bush has shown his deep personal commitment to a global chemical weapons agreement. That commitment is shared by the Government. But we have to take account of the difficulties of making such an agreement effective given the problems of proliferation of such capabilities across the globe and the size of the verification task. Thirdly, we hope to settle in the near future the mandate for the conventional stability talks, with the objective of eliminating, in the area from the Atlantic to Urals, the Warsaw Pact's superiority in conventional arms, particularly those such as tanks and artillery which pose a major threat in Europe because of their offensive capability. But 94 the problems of verification, the complexities of negotiating in a forum of 23 nations and the interactions of the various weapon systems and doctrines which they operate make that negotiation far from straightforward.
We remain optimistic that progress can he made towards all those NATO arms control priorities. but the technical obstacles mean that that will take time. I would therefore caution against unrealistic expectations that they will be rapidly signed up. The agreements will be better for global security in the longer term if they are negotiated exhaustively rather than rushed through for political effect.
Another issue high on the President-elect's agenda will he the question of burden sharing within the Atlantic Alliance, to which I have already referred. This is a subject that is being raised with increasing persistence in some quarters in the United States because of the revival of European prosperity and at the same time the search in the United States for a solution to trade and budget deficits.
The American commitment to the alliance and to the defence of Europe is not in doubt, but we must respond to American concerns that the costs and risks, as well as the benefits, of alliance membership should be fairly shared.
The NATO Secretary-General, Dr. Woerner, has said that he will be working for a stronger European pillar within the alliance; he wants to ensure, he says, a,close, mature and balanced transatlantic partnership".We naturally endorse those objectives and we have demonstrated our commitment through the increased budget provision to which I have already referred. We aim also to improve the use made of the resources devoted to the alliance by more effective co-operation with our NATO partners in defence and security matters; in particular, a more cohesive European effort can make a great contribution to the alliance than the sum total of our individual national efforts.
Perhaps I may turn to some of the points that have been raised during the course of the debate. I shall deal with as many of them as I can within the time available. if I inadvertently overlook. any I hope that noble Lords will forgive me. I shall of course study Hansard and write to noble Lords if I have failed to answer their points.
The noble Lord, Lord Irving, made a speech that I think I have heard before, if he will forgive me for saying so. The criticisms that he was making have been heard loudly and clearly during the two or three years that I have been answering these debates from the Dispatch Box. Indeed, the noble Lord, Lord Mayhew, referred to me as the former Minister of State for Defence Procurement. I hope that he has not heard something that I have not heard, but as of 2.30 p.m. I was the current Minister of State for Defence Procurement.
The noble Lord asked me about the future acquisition of a tank to replace the Chieftain tank currently in service with the British Army. I am afraid that the Soviet tank threat has not stood still, despite what the noble Lord may have thought. We need to 95 keep our forces in the field up to date in order that they should remain a credible deterrent. We are therefore considering the replacement of Chieftain. An announcement is likely to be made soon, but I am afraid that I cannot anticipate when that will be or what it will contain.
My noble friend Lord Montgomery referred, as he so often does, to events in the South Atlantic. He confused me somewhat with reference to, I think he said, the blissful spawning habits of the squid. I am not sure whether I have that entirely right. In any event, more seriously, he referred to the United Kingdom's position with regard to Argentina and the Falkland Islands. He is right to say that Dr. Caputo from Argentina recently issued an invitation in his capacity as the President of the United Nations General Assembly. That meeting is likely to be a one-off affair. We are waiting to hear what he has to say, but I should emphasise that meeting is not to be seen as negotiations. We shall happily listen to whatever Dr. Caputo has to say.
As regards the United Kingdom position vis-à-vis Argentina, I should perhaps remind my noble friend that since 1982 we have lifted financial and trade restrictions with Argentina. We have offered to restore air links; we have proposed multilateral co-operation on fisheries conservation around the Falklands, which was a matter to which my noble friend referred. We have offered to accept a Red Cross visit by next of kin to Argentinian graves for return of war dead to Argentina. The Argentine response to all these matters has been disappointing, with continued discrimination against British firms. We wish to see our relationships with Argentina being put on to a more normal basis. We now look to Argentina to respond to some of the approaches that we have made.
My noble friend Lord Birdwood talked about the difficulties of the AIDS epidemic, particularly in Africa. I can assure my noble friend that the United Kingdom is playing a leading role in promoting international co-operation in the fight against AIDS. The United Kingdom has so far pledged £7.75 million from the overseas aid programme to the World Health Organisation's global programme on AIDS. The programme is working in over 150 countries worldwide, including 44 in Africa. In addition, we are providing £5.63 million over five years in support of national AIDS programmes in five African countries. I do not think the noble Lord, Lord Ardwick, is now in his place. However, he referred to his recent visit to Zimbabwe where he heard of the virulence of the epidemic in that country. I also was in Zimbabwe recently and heard the same reports as the noble Lord had heard. We are doing what we can to help there as well.
I welcomed the speech from the noble Lord, Lord Weidenfeld, particularly his response to my right honourable friend's speech in Bruges. The noble Lord said that many shared his view that the speech gets better on second reading. Speaking for myself, I find it extremely good on first reading as well.
The noble and gallant Lord, Lord Carver, speaks from a position of unrivalled experience in defence 96 matters. I cannot claim always to agree with the noble and gallant Lord, but today I could find little with which to take issue. The noble and gallant Lord has not spoken in your Lordships' House in a defence debate for a little while and I therefore very much welcomed his thoughtful contribution today.
The noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, made a very relevant contribution, if I may say so, particularly about the pressure on the United States budget which both we and the Americans recognise. These budgetary pressures are likely to force the next United States Administration to make difficult choices on defence, as elsewhere. However, we were very much reassured by President-elect Bush when he said, I think during the campaign:The United States can start by ruling out unilateral troop withdrawals.We noted and very much welcomed that remark. My noble friend Lord Rippon made a wise and perceptive speech, as we have come to expect from him. Again, I agreed with almost every word that he had to say. Likewise, my noble friend Lord Eccles made a profound and erudite contribution which I think will repay careful study.
The noble Lord, Lord Callaghan, is not now unfortunately in his place and he explained why that could not be. He referred to our response to Russian involvement or to the Russians seeking involvement in GATT and the IMF. The USSR does not belong to those organisations, particularly GATT, for what I am told are technical and economic reasons, although it has expressed an interest. Mr. Gorbachev's reforms must go rather further before the USSR becomes eligible for either of those bodies because they do not permit closed economies such as exist in the USSR.
As for the Moscow conference on human rights which was referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Callaghan, as well as other noble Lords, one issue holding up agreement on the conference has been the Soviet Union's demand—and it is a demand quite unprecedented in CSCE circles—that it must be allowed to host a human rights meeting in Moscow in 1991. We were sceptical of that proposal from the outset. We are not alone in wishing to see further progress in Soviet human rights performance before attending such a conference. I do not deny that there have been some improvements in the Soviet human rights performance lately which we very much welcome. But those improvements still fall far short of what the Soviet Union undertook to achieve under the Helsinki Final Act. We are certainly looking for further progress before we could entertain the idea of a conference such as is proposed in Moscow.
The noble Lord, Lord Callaghan, mentioned also the question of the reference—or lack of reference, as he saw it—in the gracious Speech to the Commonwealth. He mentioned that this was the first time that the gracious Speech had not included a reference to the value we place on the Commonwealth. I am told it is not the first time that such a reference has been excluded, but I wish to emphasise that this in no way diminishes the importance we attach to the Commonwealth and the valuable work of the Commonwealth Secretariat and 97 the Commonwealth Institute. We surely do not need to repeat our commitment to the Commonwealth every year. It is a unique association of 48 independent countries and I gladly take this opportunity to place on record our full support for the Commonwealth and everything that it stands for.
Turning now to the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Hillhead, I shall refer to a point which was repeated by the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, and the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn; namely, monetary cooperation, particularly within Europe. The United Kingdom is in the lead on practical steps on monetary co-operation. We were among the first in the Community to abolish exchange controls. Most others still impose restrictions on movement of capital. The United Kingdom was the first in Europe to issue ecu denominated Treasury bonds and this was welcomed without reservations throughout the Community. Our policy as regards the exchange rate mechanism remains that sterling will join when the conditions are right.
In his opening remarks, the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, mentioned the Sharpeville Six to whom I referred at the outset. He asked me also about the position of the alleged chemical attacks upon Kurds to the north of Iraq. I know that this was in the mind of the most reverend Primate when he was speaking as well. We have repeatedly expressed our concern over the human rights of the Kurds in Iraq and we have called upon the Iraqi authorities to respect them. We have condemned the use of chemical weapons against Kurds, which I think is said to have taken place last March. There is still some doubt about the veracity of those claims, but we think that the circumstantial evidence in respect of the claims is pretty compelling. We therefore very much regretted that the Iraqis would not allow the United Nations investigations properly to establish the facts.
We note that Iraq is pledged to abide by international law and agreements, including the Geneva Protocol banning chemical weapon use. We shall expect the Iraqis to keep this. However, I think that unilateral economic sanctions would not be the answer. They would damage British interests without achieving the desired effect. Incidentally, when my right honourable friend Mr. Newton was in Baghdad recently, he made our views on the chemical weapons business very clear indeed to his Iraqi hosts.
The most reverend Primate referred also to the question of hostages, particularly in Lebanon. Our sympathy is very much with the British hostages in the Lebanon and above all with their families. We continue to call upon those holding them and their sponsors to release them for humanitarian reasons, if for no other. We continue to do all possible to effect their release within our well known policy framework of no substantial concessions; deals and ransoms only encourage hostage taking. I was reassured that the most reverend Primate confirmed his agreement with that point. I have touched already upon the use of chemical weapons by the Iraqis and I shall not deal with that any further.
98 I now wish to touch on two points: first, the possible visit by the Queen to the USSR. I wish to say quite plainly that no invitation has yet been received, nor do we have any idea whether there will be one, so for now the whole matter is entirely academic. I am advised that there is no foundation whatever in the press speculation to which the noble Lord, Lord Bonham-Carter, in particular referred. I suggest that it is best to wait on events rather than to anticipate some purely hypothetical situation which has as yet not arisen.
Secondly, I shall deal with the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, which was also touched on, I believe, by the noble Lord, Lord Stewart of Fulham. That matter concerned the recent meeting in Algiers of the PNC, as it is called. That was a very considerable opportunity for the PNC and potentially an important step forward. We are very pleased to see that the PLO now endorses the international conference on the basis of Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338. If I may say so, it is high time that the PLO endorsed those resolutions. But now that that has happened, we very much welcome it.
However, some abiguities remain, as one or two noble Lords have said; for example, the PLO recognition of Israel was implicit rather than explict. Naturally we would much prefer to have seen an explicit recognition of Israel. But, overall, that is a good basis on which to build. The onus is now on Israel to come up with a constructive response. Blanket rejection of PLO statements really will not do. The status quo is untenable. After all, the inti fada—the insurrection in the occupied territories is now a year old and over 300 Palestinians have died. The new Israeli Government must offer a parallel commitment to an international conference.
We hope that the new US Administration will also make the Middle East a priority, as called for by the Prime Minister when she was in Washington last week. The 12 stand ready to play their part—indeed there was a European Community statement on this matter on 21st November.
I am getting to the end of my time. I believe your Lordships have again underlined the range of challenges which face the United Kingdom and our allies. But I hope that I too have shown that we have the will, the wherewithal and the imagination to meet that challenge. I beg to support the Motion for a humble Address.
My Lords, on behalf of my noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor, I beg to move that this debate be now adjourned until tomorrow.
Moved, That this debate be now adjourned until tomorrow.—(Viscount Long.)
On Question, Motion agreed to and debate adjourned accordingly.
House adjourned at three minutes past eight o'clock.