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Lord Graham of Edmonton: My Lords, my noble friend Lord McIntosh of Haringey has asked me to apologise for his absence and to say that the order has his full approval. We on these Benches are content.

Lord Rodgers of Quarry Bank: My Lords, we on these Benches are also content with the order. We shall support anything which gives a clear and unequivocal message that we will play our part in combating international terrorism. We may regret the need for such orders but we should support them while scrutinising them for safeguards.

There is one question I should like to ask the Minister relating to the remarks of her colleague Mr. David Maclean in the discussion in the Fourth Standing Committee on Statutory Instruments on 2nd March. At col. 6 of the report he refers to the alternative of a free-standing restraint power and says:

Will the Minister explain to the House what is meant by "the earliest opportunity" and whether we may anticipate an amendment within the present parliamentary Session or at some other future date? Can she also clarify the further statement by Mr. Maclean that the present method contained in the order is a suitable and practical alternative to a free-standing restraint power? It is not clear to me why, if this is a suitable and practical alternative to a free-standing restraint power, the Government intend to take the earliest opportunity to amend the enabling power to make it a free-standing restraint power. I merely seek an explanation.

We support fully the objective of the order and will play our part in ensuring that international terrorism is combated in all its forms.

Baroness Blatch: My Lords, I am grateful for the welcome accorded the order. I shall try to deal with the questions asked by the noble Lord, Lord Rodgers. If I am not able to do so sufficiently fully I shall write to the noble Lord following the debate.

The Order in Council enables the High Court to restrain property in this country at an early stage by registering a restraint order made in India. This is a

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practical and effective way of proceeding. A free-standing restraint power is desirable as an additional measure because it will enable the court to restrain property without an order from the Indian courts provided that certain conditions, which we shall lay down in the Order in Council, are satisfied. In certain circumstances that may be a more flexible method.

As regards the introduction of the amendments, I understand that that will take place as soon as possible. The change is needed to allow the High Court more flexibility in the way it acts by enabling it to restrain property with or without a restraint order made by the Indian courts. I commend the order to the House.

On Question, Motion agreed to.

US Counter-proliferation Initiative

7.15 p.m.

Lord Kennet rose to ask Her Majesty's Government what discussion, whether in NATO or otherwise, the Ministry of Defence has had with the US Defense Department about the US Defense Counter-proliferation Initiative; and what is their attitude to the initiative.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I raised the counter-proliferation initiative (CPI) in the defence debate on the Queen's Speech and asked some specific questions which were not answered at the end of the debate. I consequently wrote to both the Foreign Office and defence ministry Ministers, including the noble Lord who is to answer today, and I asked for an answer. The Ministry of Defence referred me to the Foreign Office, but I have had no reply. That is why I am asking this Question today. I am sure that the noble Lord will understand.

What is the CPI? It is an American programme of military procurement, brought about by industrial momentum and accompanied by the usual justificatory doctrines and assumptions. Last month the House of Representatives threw out the Republicans' idea of reviving the old strategic defense initiative (SDI)—President Reagan's star wars. But that leaves untouched this other, more comprehensive, initiative.

The end of the Cold War did not stop defence people producing brilliant technologies. The momentum is still colossal. President Reagan, a Republican who was far from believing in balanced budgets, had invested so much talent and wealth in the now defunct SDI that ever smarter weapons and systems are now arriving just as if it had not been abandoned. Moreover, interest payments on the US budget deficit are increasingly absorbing the country's revenue, so weapon sales abroad look more and more useful.

Last May, John Deutch, the US Deputy Secretary for Defense, listed 16 "areas for progress" that needed more money. Among them were the following: capability to detect, locate and disarm, with a high degree of assurance and in a timely fashion, outside the United States weapons of mass destruction hidden by a hostile state or terrorist in a confined area; real-time detection and characterisation of bacterial and chemical weapon agents; detection and characterisation of underground structures; and hard underground target defeat including

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advanced non-nuclear weapons (lethal and non-lethal) capable of holding counterforce targets at risk with low collateral effects. These last include a rather new class of weapons, smart burrowing munitions. They burrow into the ground and only go off when they find a space—a chamber.

To carry forward this procurement and the sales of it abroad, there has to be a military doctrine about what to do with the weapons. This is much the same problem as faced Kennedy in 1961 when, having won the election on a missile gap with the Soviet Union which reconnaissance had already shown did not exist, he still had to order vast numbers of Minutemen, many times what his predecessor, Eisenhower, who was a soldier, had ordered. Then Kennedy had to find a military doctrine to fit the numbers. That was the second strike counterforce doctrine, which was the fuse that lit the Cuba crisis because the Russians, not surprisingly, understood it to comprise a first-strike counterforce threat as well.

The doctrine was then, and is now, that possession of a counterforce system will deter attack, but the reality is that, if it works at all, it works both defensively and aggressively. While a second counterforce strike would not be unlawful—the US would already have been attacked—a pre-emptive first counterforce strike in the absence of war would be aggression and therefore very unlawful indeed.

The prototype operation for the CPI is Israel's 1981 strike on Iraq's nuclear facility—Osirak—which, of course, triggered many of the current arms races in the Middle East. Our Government have always made clear that that attack was wholly unlawful. The Reagan administration unfortunately found it quite tolerable and Israeli officials have recently been suggesting that they could do the same to Iran. I have seen no objection to that unlawful suggestion from the American Administration, which is, of course, funding the local anti-missile missile programme to shield Israel from Iranian retaliation. All that, at the very time the United States has apparently agreed not to press Israel on the non-proliferation treaty, while still pressing all the Arab states to sign up.

But a military doctrine for the new purchase is not enough. There must also be a political doctrine. This goes more or less as follows: we have seen, have we not, that neither diplomacy nor treaties can stop the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. Out there in the big world there are these rogues, states and terrorists, who, given half a chance, will get these weapons—nuclear, chemical and biological—and missiles to put them on, so we had better be able to see what they are doing in real time. Then we had better be able to shoot them down before they can land on us and our friends. Even better still, we had better be able to identify and destroy them before they leave the ground, or even under the ground. That, sure as hell, will deter them.

Well, probably not. Elsewhere in the world, nations have long been obtaining weapons of mass destruction, not for fun and because nothing prevents them, but for very real fears, which they usually articulate quite clearly and we usually fail to listen to.

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To halt and roll back proliferation, it is useless just to cry out against it and its effects; we have carefully to remove its causes. North Korea was being goaded into proliferation by the nuclear sabre-rattling and vast military exercises being ceaselessly conducted all around its borders. Iraq's programme was redoubled, not weakened, by Israel's attack. Iran's, if it has one, will be redoubled by Israel's threats.

The counter-proliferation initiative stands also on a political assumption: the world so needs American leadership that the United States - the sole hegemon, as Mr. Gingrich encouragingly puts it—must accumulate and deploy weapons to meet that need. Part of the assumption is that the world agrees and will want to give house room to American infrastructure. We could allow the use of Diego Garcia and Ascension Island, perhaps, as well as bits of the UK. There have been discussions with Namibia. At this very moment, the highest tech weapons are being offered to Poland and the Czech Republic, who surely have better things to spend international aid on, and military agreements are being reached with Armenia, Albania, and several others.

The CPI implies also a faith in boundless technological capability. It is ill-founded. One serving US intelligence general has already warned about this programme of multi-sensor surveillance: do believe there are things we cannot know. Identifying the contents of underground chambers, in real time, from space; distinguishing a harmless bio-engineered pesticide from a military biological or chemical process or weapon, and then rendering them all harmless will not happen. And of course no one will ever know that, as well as ordinary technical bugs in the system, there is not a bright young hacker in it for the fun or because he disagrees with the idea.

So what is our attitude? That is what we hope to hear from the Government tonight.

To sum up, we have a strongly motivated procurement of the new generation of precision-guided munitions, including burrowing munitions, which would be launched from unmanned platforms—supersonic stealth cruise missiles, perhaps, unmanned aerial vehicles and so on—which are to be controlled and re-targeted in flight by space-based sensors and computers that can unfailingly identify and therefore trigger attack on whatever they have been programmed to identify as unacceptable. A globally operational, computer-led identification system and a globally operational, computer-led attack system, both under the political control of a single sovereign state? There would be no way in which the international community could ensure that such a system would not be misused. If it can be used unilaterally, it can be misused unilaterally.

What we need is European eyes in space. Strategy begins with geography, which we have in common with Europe, not the United States. Nor can we go on depending on information handed down to us in spoonfuls by the American intelligence apparatus. As we have learned in Bosnia, we do not know what we do not get. Iraq and North Korea and co. can just say of US intelligence: "They would say that, wouldn't they?" We do not know who is right. We—and this goes for the

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whole United Nations—must have more than a single, nationally controlled, source of intelligence about whose quality and context we know next to nothing although probably we know more than any other country. The Treasury accountants, who seem not to know much history, believe it has to be cheaper to depend on another government's intelligence services. One can only say, "Wake up!"

Britain needs to join up with Helios as soon as possible. Probably we should not be buying US cruise missiles with their built-in permissive links.

The Russians are being consulted about the CPI because some of what is already being tested in the United States requires the bilateral ABM Treaty to be re-interpreted. Even the old system of global protection against limited strikes—and the CPI is far more ambitious than little old G-PALS—cuts across the indefinite and concept-derived limits of the ABM Treaty. "Tactical" to the United States is "strategic" to us. Such words measure nothing.

Certainly the Russians see some charm in participating in a very expensive scheme in which others might want to pay them for what they can contribute, but they do not intend to see any such apparatus put into the sole hands of the US. Anything like that, they say, has to be right inside a Security Council system. But unfortunately it cannot be; not if it is intended to perform automatically in real time. Nor will the Chinese, nor the Japanese, nor the Indians, nor the Koreans in the slightly longer term accept this kind of American hegemony. Nor, I think, will we in Western Europe.

If the new version of the Atlantic Assembly that Mr. Rifkind proposed in his thoughtful Chatham House speech last month were already in place, the CPI would probably not have got as far as it has. Mr. Rifkind's wish to get the United States Congress rooted more closely and democratically into the world we all share is warmly to be commended.

I say that it might not have got so far as it has, but of course we do not know how far it has got. The American chiefs of staff were supposed to be taking a decision on it at the end of January. I hope that the Minister will be able to enlighten us to some degree about what is going on and what is our own attitude to it.

The world remains unchanged in certain all-important respects which affect all countries. That is that scientific and technological predominance does not guarantee political predominance unless it is put into military terms. If it is put into military terms, it guarantees the political rejection of the country which does so, and in any case, in all the advanced countries there is a continuing danger of the political apparatus and wisdom of those countries falling permanent hostage, half unconsciously, to the pressures of technological development and of industrial profit.

7.29 p.m.

Lord Mayhew: My Lords, I must apologise to the noble Lord for missing the beginning of his speech. Indeed, I have to say that I had only the minimum notice that this debate was being rescheduled this evening.

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However, I congratulate the noble Lord very warmly on raising this matter, and on doing so in an extraordinarily well-informed and well argued speech, every word of which I heartily endorse.

Perhaps the project that he criticised is more formal and more official than he realises. I recall its being expounded, not by the Assistant Secretary of Defense, six months ago, but by Mr. Les Aspin, the United States Secretary of Defense, a couple of years ago. It certainly deserves all the arguments against it that the noble Lord deployed so well. It is based, of course, on the precedent of the Israeli attack on Baghdad in 1981. It is argued now that that delayed Saddam Hussein's nuclear programme for a few years. That may well be true. But it also inflamed still more the hostility and distrust of Israel in the region. It undoubtedly prompted the manufacture of weapons of mass destruction, not only in Iraq but in Iran and Libya. If a scheme such as the noble Lord describes is practicable; if it is technically feasible and can be afforded; if the Americans really have the outrageous arrogance to take into their own hands the whole question of the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons, it will certainly produce the same results. There will be an increase in hostility, distrust and tension, and there will be increased manufacture of weapons of mass destruction. It is a mad scheme. I should be surprised if the United States Government discussed it with Her Majesty's Government. I look forward to hearing from the Minister at what point, if at all, we were consulted about this. We ask for an assurance that, if they were consulted, Her Majesty's Government did their utmost possible to dissuade the Americans from this provocative and ill-judged scheme.

Another feature of the scheme is that it undermines the world's efforts to secure a successful non-proliferation treaty. This is a plan which assumes the collapse of the non-proliferation treaty; otherwise there would be no point in the project at all. This plan will have an impact on the conference on non-proliferation which takes place next month, to be attended by 161 member states. They will be deeply shocked at the lack of faith shown by the United States in this approach to non-proliferation. There is the assumption that only the United States has the right to prevent proliferation, and to prevent it in the most extreme and aggressive military way—an illegal way—in which this plan has been designed.

It is my wish that, at the non-proliferation conference the British Government will show more faith in the concepts of agreed non-proliferation. The fact is that so far the conference has not gone very well. As we warned from these Benches, the fact that the five excepted nuclear nations have failed to implement their obligations under Article 6 of the treaty has put them on the defensive. The British Government, too, have not fulfilled their obligations under this article. For example, I believe that they still have reservations about the comprehensive test ban treaty. They have been pushed and pushed in the direction of supporting such a treaty. But as I understand it, the French and British Governments still maintain the need for tests that are excepted from the treaty. Perhaps the Minister will confirm or deny that.

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As we on these Benches have constantly pointed out, the British Government also maintain a nuclear potential, with the number of nuclear warheads well in excess of what could possibly be required for a minimum deterrent. And they are keeping the numbers secret. Here again, the Government are inviting criticism and suspicion from the non-nuclear members of the non-proliferation treaty. Why do they not tell the world how many nuclear warheads they possess? The Russians do that, as do the Americans. Only the British Government arrogate to themselves the right, not only to possess nuclear weapons when the rest of the world, with five exceptions, is supposed not to have them, but to keep quiet about it. The British Government assume the right to insist that everybody else in the world subject themselves to intensive, intrusive inspection of their civilian nuclear capability, while reserving the right to conceal from the world the number of nuclear warheads that Britain possesses.

I am bound to say that the Government have ignored the warnings given from these Benches that, by taking this line, they would soon find themselves hopelessly on the defensive against the non-nuclear members of the conference; that they would find that when they asked for an indefinite extension of the treaty they would be met with the perfectly reasonable argument, "Why should we indefinitely extend the treaty before the five recognised nuclear powers fulfil their obligations under the treaty?". We said that they would say it, and so they are. I predict that there will be a great deal of opposition to an indefinite extension of the treaty while the five nuclear powers fail to fulfil their obligations under Article 6. That is the way that the wind will blow.

I therefore ask the Government, these questions. First, were they consulted about this illegal and provocative American project? If so, what comment did the Government make? Will the Government now put their whole weight behind negotiating a successful non-proliferation treaty? Will they take the lead by fulfilling their own obligations under Article 6 of the treaty?

7.39 p.m.

Lord Williams of Elvel: My Lords, the House will be grateful to my noble friend Lord Kennet for raising this important Question. The proliferation of weapons of mass destruction is certainly one of the major challenges to national security in the modern age. This is a particularly appropriate time to be debating proliferation issues. On 17th April, as the noble Lord, Lord Mayhew, pointed out, the nuclear non-proliferation treaty extension conference will convene in New York. At that conference the parties to the treaty will decide how much longer, and in what way, the treaty should continue after 25 years in force.

The NPT, along with other control mechanisms, such as the Nuclear Suppliers Group and the Missile Technology Control Regime, constitute part of our non-proliferation policy and our efforts to prevent proliferation happening. But the subject of today's debate concerns counter-proliferation. How do we respond to proliferation if our non-proliferation policies fail to prevent it? How do we tackle new proliferants?

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At its 1994 summit, NATO decided to seek to develop a comprehensive approach to proliferation, the primary focus of which will remain prevention. But it will also include consideration of developing the military means to deal with proliferation should prevention fail. I understand that the work is in hand but has not advanced very far yet. Perhaps when the Minister comes to reply he will be able to comment on that.

In the meantime, the United States itself has launched a counter-proliferation initiative, the purpose of which seems—I use the word advisedly—to be to enable the United States to tackle a regional adversary who is armed with weapons of mass destruction by using advanced conventional capabilities rather than nuclear ones. I understand that the Pentagon has identified a number of future capabilities which will be required to support the counter-proliferation mission area, including theatre missile defences and interdiction to deal with extant weapons of mass destruction capabilities.

I understand that so far as the British Government are concerned, a consortium led by British Aerospace has been awarded a contract by the Ministry of Defence for what is called a pre-feasibility study to examine our national options and help inform future policy decisions, including whether the UK has a requirement for ballistic missile defence. Quite why a contract of that nature has been given to a private firm—and an arms supplier at that—is beyond my comprehension. No doubt the Minister will explain why our defence policy seems now to be determined by the private sector.

Given the counter-proliferation initiative, a number of political and technological questions arise. The political risk, which my noble friend Lord Kennet spelt out very clearly, is as follows. The development of these capabilities in themselves might tempt some to use them pre-emptively rather than in response to a regional conflict initiated by a future proliferant state. A country that was merely suspected of developing nuclear or other weapons of mass destruction might find itself the subject of an attack launched in order to take out that country's suspected capability. Of course, that would be highly dangerous, because, first, if unprovoked, it would be contrary to international law and thereby could destroy completely the international non-proliferation regime; and secondly, there is no guarantee of success. Instead, it is likely to make that state more determined and antagonistic and could spark a regional war. The noble Lord, Lord Mayhew, gave an example of how that had happened in the past.

There are also technical problems with such an initiative. For example, theatre ballistic missiles and missile defences are as yet unproven. The performance of the Patriot against the Scuds in the Gulf War fell rather short of the hype provided by the manufacturers at the time. Obviously, it would take only one single nuclear warhead to penetrate one's defences for those defences to have been judged a failure. We should also be aware that ballistic missile defence is no panacea for dealing with attack by weapons of mass destruction, even if those defences work perfectly. Are there other ways to deliver such weapons—by artillery shell, free-fall bomb or low flying cruise missile; or possibly even in a suitcase?

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Any development of theatre ballistic missiles will also need to pay close attention to the terms and restrictions of the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, which bans strategic missile defences almost completely. I understand that the United States and Russia are each allowed to deploy 100 launchers around a single site. Russia chose Moscow; the United States has not exercised the option. A continuation of that treaty is crucial to existing nuclear disarmament agreements remaining in place and future negotiations taking place. We should do nothing and the United States should do nothing to undermine it.

Further, there are the cost implications of any such initiative. We must be wary of being sucked into an expenditure black hole in pursuit of a technological quick fix. At every stage we must ask ourselves whether money spent on counter-proliferation might not be spent better on proliferation prevention, for example by increasing what we regard as the inadequate budget of the International Atomic Energy Agency, which is the NPT's own watchdog.

I have no doubt that the Ministry of Defence will bear those factors in mind during the quaint pre-feasibility study on which it is engaged and will weigh them very carefully before proceeding further. It is probably right to examine whether or not certain defensive counter-proliferation options are cost effective and therefore worthy of investment of scarce defence resources. But we should not let that distract us from our central focus—here I agree entirely with the noble Lord, Lord Mayhew—on trying to prevent proliferation through an enhancement of more traditional methods of international treaties, export controls and diplomacy.

7.46 p.m.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Henley): My Lords, perhaps I may start with an apology to the noble Lord, Lord Mayhew. I understood that he had been informed about the revised time of the debate when it was changed from last Monday. I offer him my sincere apologies. Obviously the message failed to get through. I am also most grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, for writing to me and setting out some of his ideas. I believe he knows that his letter went to his noble friend Lord Healey but eventually it reached me. The letter which the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Craig, addressed to me also went to the noble Lord, Lord Healey, and reached me this morning. I am not aware whether the letters of the noble Lords, Lord Williams and Lord Mayhew, who also wrote to me, went to the noble Lord, Lord Healey. Perhaps I might ask the noble Lord, Lord Healey, to answer these debates on other occasions.

The noble Lord has given me a welcome opportunity to set out our approach to the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, which is of crucial importance to our security interests. I would rather not follow him in what I believe was almost an attempt to drive a wedge between the United Kingdom and the United States in this important area, as I suspect he was doing. I hope that he will bear that in mind as he listens to what I have to say.

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The US counter-proliferation initiative describes the American attitude towards proliferation. It was launched following President Clinton's address to the UN General Assembly in 1993 when he drew attention to the risks posed by the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. But, as both my noble friend Lady Chalker and I have made clear to the noble Lord in letters dated 3rd and 4th February this year, the counter-proliferation initiative is very much a national US initiative, as the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, rightly stressed. Therefore, I cannot comment on it directly. The United Kingdom has been briefed about it both bilaterally and within NATO. We are certainly very interested in US thinking in this field. But we are not directly involved—and should not expect to be directly involved—in what is a distinct national US matter. Nor, despite our close relationship—I emphasise to the noble Lord, Lord Mayhew—is the United States obliged to consult Her Majesty's Government on all its initiatives.

Therefore, it is not my responsibility to defend the counter-proliferation initiative against its detractors. However, I cannot let what the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, said pass entirely without comment. In particular, I should correct his implication that the United States has given up all attempts to prevent proliferation and instead is concentrating simply on military approaches. That is a misrepresentation of what we understand the American position to be. Last year, the NATO Foreign Ministers stated:

    "The principal non-proliferation goal of the alliance and its members is to prevent proliferation occurring or, should it occur, to reverse it through diplomatic means".

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