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Mr. Spring: Does my hon. Friend agree that probably the most fantastic misjudgment of global politics in the latter half of the 20th century was made by the party that is now in government, which embraced multilateral disarmament when the cold war had come to an end?
Dr. Lewis: I entirely agree with my hon. Friend, except I think that he meant to refer to unilateral disarmament, embraced during the cold war by the Labour party. He is absolutely right, and I shall be coming to that in a
I note that the hon. Gentleman is, as usual, wearing his gold pound sign. Is he suggesting that if, in the fulness of time, the British people, presented with a referendum on the issue, decided that we should go into the euro, that that would demonstrate that all his efforts were entirely nugatory and foolish and that he should attempt to airbrush them from his record? It is perfectly possible to hold views that are not held by the majority but are entirely honourable and for one to have absolutely no desire to airbrush them out of one's record.
Dr. Lewis: I am happy to pay fulsome tribute--as I develop my argument, the hon. Lady will see this--to people who hold sincerely to the unilateralist views that they held at the time, and I have always done so. I shall not be drawn down the route of European defence or other European issues in that connection because I secured an Adjournment debate on those very subjects a little earlier this year. If the hon. Lady had been genuinely interested in those subjects, she could have attended that debate.
Dr. Godman: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for showing characteristic courtesy in giving way. Might I point out to him that members of Scottish CND were delighted to see the departure of the American nuclear submarine fleet and the mother ship from Holy Loch on the firth of Clyde, but they do not claim that they were the principal decision makers in that departure?
Dr. Lewis: I am delighted to hear that Scottish CND does not make that claim. The hon. Gentleman had an honest commitment to unilateral nuclear disarmament in the 1980s, when this issue was at the centre of everyone's attention, and still holds to it today, whereas other participants in that debate do not show anything like the same consistency.
I was intrigued by the remarks of the right hon. and learned Member for North-East Fife (Mr. Campbell). He said that he and the Liberals had not supported unilateralism. I shall read a few quotations.
Many of those sincere people who advocated disarmament and appeasement had distinguished military records--even more distinguished than that of the former leader of the right hon. and learned Gentleman's party. That did not mean that they were right about the issues then, any more than the answer given by the right hon. and learned Gentleman should insulate the former leader of his party from criticism of his party's position in the 1980s.
Mr. Menzies Campbell: The hon. Gentleman clearly came prepared with those quotations; otherwise, he would not have been able to give them in such detail. In accordance with the conventions of the House, did he advise my right hon. Friend that he proposed to attack him personally?
Dr. Lewis: The right hon. and learned Gentleman is entirely wrong. I did not come prepared with those quotations. On the contrary, I left the Chamber for a short period during his speech to retrieve them from my desk, which is at the foot of the stairs leading from the Members Lobby.
However, the intervention by the right hon. and learned Member for North-East Fife illustrates a feature of the debate. Criticism of the individual records of parties and their leaders on policy issues is construed as a personal attack, but there is nothing personal in such criticism. I am sure that the number of times that Baroness Thatcher is criticised in this House now, as she was criticised in absentia when she was Prime Minister, is substantial. The right hon. and learned Gentleman has deployed a typical red herring.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman said that the Liberal party did not support unilateralism. I think when we look at the record of what he actually said, we will see that the wording was carefully chosen and that the right hon. Gentleman said that the Liberal Democrats did not support unilateralism. With that, there is no problem. From the right hon. and learned Gentleman's point of view, there is only one snag--the Liberal Democrats did not exist before 1988. By that time, the argument about nuclear weapons, peace camps and cruise missiles had been resolved. Indeed, the intermediate nuclear forces treaty of 1987 had already been signed, vindicating the stance taken by NATO.
It is frankly disingenuous to say that there is no blame to be attached to a party because it did not come into existence until after the key events had taken place. In fact, the blame that should be attached is to that party's predecessor organisation, which was most certainly unilateralist throughout the crisis.
Mr. Campbell: Will the hon. Gentleman point to a resolution of the Liberal party that embraced the code of unilateralism to the extent of saying that the United Kingdom should rid itself of all nuclear weapons? That was what unilateralism was commonly regarded as meaning in the period that the hon. Gentleman has described. I challenge him to point to a resolution of the Liberal party that said that.
Dr. Lewis: The right hon. and learned Gentleman has heard me state what the leader of the Liberal party publicly stated. Is he saying that the right hon. Member for Yeovil was wrong when he said that he agreed with the Liberal party, which he described as
Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. I think that I ought to tell the hon. Gentleman that, if he intends to dwell rather lengthily on what another Member has said, he would be advised to give prior notice to the Member in question--in this case, the right hon. Member for Yeovil (Paddy Ashdown). Therefore, I think that the hon. Gentleman has probably said enough on that subject.
Dr. Lewis: I thank you for that advice, Mr. Deputy Speaker. However, I remind the House that I had no intention of raising the subject until it was falsely claimed that a political party that had been committed at a key time in this country's history to one-sided nuclear disarmament, had not been so committed.
Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. Perhaps I can try to deal with this. I think that the hon. Member for New Forest, East (Dr. Lewis) would probably wish to say, on reflection, that in his view a mistaken impression may have been given to the House, rather than a false one. I think that that is parliamentary good manners. However, if one hon. Member is persistently going to quote, as the hon. Gentleman is doing, what another Member has said, notice is usually advised. That is the case even if the hon. Member doing the quoting did not intend to do so at the beginning of the debate.