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Lord Monkswell: My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, he referred to the fact that the "guidelines were not changed". Is the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, saying that, following the ceasefire between Iran and Iraq, the guidelines remained the same as when they were promulgated by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Howe?

Lord Trefgarne: My Lords, yes.

9.58 p.m.

Lord Jenkins of Putney: My Lords, there has been more heat than is customary in this Chamber over this issue. That is probably due to the fact that we have not been discussing the important issues at all; we have concerned ourselves with individuals and their frailties on one side or the other.

I do not regard the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, whom I have known for many years, as a villain. The idea that the man selected by the Prime Minister, and his assistants, are the scoundrels presented to us is not according to my experience. I readily grant that I was not present as often no doubt as the noble Lord. But we have got on to the wrong level and the business of traducing people on either side is a waste of time and unworthy of this Chamber.

I came across an article in tonight's Evening Standard by Mr. George Walden, the Conservative MP for Buckingham. The article is entitled, "Why I won't vote with the rebels tonight", so I thought to myself that there was nothing in it for me. But I was wrong. At the end of his article Mr. Walden comes to the conclusion that he will not vote with the rebels tonight because he thinks that the wrong Motion is being debated. His idea of what is the right Motion is certainly my idea, and I think it may be the idea of quite a large number of Members of both Houses--on both sides of the gap we have drawn between ourselves.

The Motion that Mr. Walden thinks should be debated is:

That is true, is it not? It really is the cause of the whole trouble. Because of this overdependence on the defence industry all the problems occur. That is why we are making exports abroad. We are dependent on the defence industry. That is why even in opposition we on the Labour side are saying--not as George Lansbury used to say that pacifism is the line--that we shall have

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a stronger defence industry, the reason being that we have become economically dependent on it. This over-dependency on the export of the merchandise of death is morally wrong, a point touched on briefly by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Lichfield and other noble Lords. Those are the two issues which we ought to have been talking about, but we have not been talking about them at all.

It seems likely that the Prime Minister would not have set up the Scott Inquiry if he had realised that it would end in the kind of disputation that has occurred. The truth of the matter is that it is difficult simultaneously to sustain with honesty the roles of mass exporter of armaments and of upholder of international agreements barring such exports to different countries. It becomes a struggle between the interpretation of international obligations and acceptance of or resistance to internal compulsions. The internal pressures carry the votes. They also carry the employment. But if they win entirely, morality goes out of the window.

The major exporting countries seem to find ways and means to bend the rules. So it means nothing when Ministers claim that we are more honest than others. In the arms trade there are no degrees of honesty. So long as this trade remains a major part of our production it would be naive to suppose that a Labour Government could be immune from its immense influence. They could hardly be so inept as the present blunderers, but the pressures on Labour would be no less than those which have persuaded other governments and other Ministers, here and abroad, to say one thing and do another. If one compares the morality of George Lansbury with the stated intention of New Labour to maintain arms production at even greater strength, one can see that even in Opposition power can persuade conscience that wrong is right.

Given the time, I shall devote the rest of my speech to showing how this appalling situation has come about. That is necessary if we are to try to find a way out of it. In the aftermath of the dramatic carnage of the First World War, the arms trade was despised and rejected. Those who plied it were called "Merchants of Death". In that war and after, pacificism grew in the Labour Party and Lansbury, Fenner Brockway and others went to prison rather than take part in the war. Even before that, during the build-up to that war, George Bernard Shaw in his play Major Barbara foresaw the philosophy of the merchants of death--that philosophy prevails even today--and gave Undershaft the best line. When challenged to state his faith by the Salvation Army Major, Barbara, the Merchant of Death says--I shall quote only one rather long sentence:

    "My faith? Why, it is to give arms to all men who offer an honest price for them, without respect of persons or principles; to aristocrat and republican, to Nihilist and Tsar, to Capitalist and Socialist, to Protestant and Catholic, to burglar and policeman, to black man, white man and yellow man, to all sorts and conditions, all nationalities, all faiths, all follies, all causes and all crimes".
That is a pretty good statement of the compulsion which exists when you rest your economic prosperity on the arms trade.

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According to a research article by Gordon Macdonald in the October issue of the journal of the Royal United Services Institute for Defence Studies, in the 1960s Prime Minister Wilson and Chancellor Healey decided,

    "to establish the U.K. as a major arms exporter".
Clearly, they did not foresee that they were creating a monster which could command government foreign policy and corrupt the thinking of hitherto percipient politicians. As Scott puts it, export promotion received a higher political priority than export control.

For example, turning to paragraph D6.326, in 1990 the export of some special furnaces to Iraq was being questioned because they could be used to enhance the country's nuclear missile aspirations. The question was put to Mr. Waldegrave, who I agree is an honest man. All men in this issue have merely been doing their duties as they see it--and more damage has been done in the world by men doing their duty as they see it than anything else of which I can think. Mr. Waldegrave ruled that the furnaces should go to Iraq, but in the event they did not because just then, in August 1990, Iraq invaded Kuwait. All exports were then stopped worldwide. But for that, Saddam Hussein might now be threatening the world with nuclear missiles and, who knows, perhaps not only threatening. Sir Richard Scott clearly regarded it as beyond his remit to examine how the United Kingdom in particular and the world in general can get out of this mess.

I must not take up any further time except to make two more brief statements. I hope that the Government will accept the proposals that Scott makes for bringing the present system under better control. What the noble and learned Lord, Lord Fraser, said in his opening statement leads me to believe that that hope may not be entirely misplaced.

I also hope that he will recommend that the Government consider the recommendations of the Campaign Against the Arms Trade for an end to the huge financial support that the Government give to that trade. There is another proposal--and here again I may be pushing at an open door--for an annual report to Parliament on the arms trade. The great need is for recognition that this trade is causal and that if the developed world does not bring it under international control, the merchandise of death in its modern forms will not only destroy morality, it may well destroy civilisation itself.

10.11 p.m.

Lord Beloff: My Lords, it gives me great pleasure, for the first time that I can recollect, to agree with the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Putney. I believe that the time of the House would have been much better devoted, for instance, to examining ways in which British industry can be made less dependent on armaments and more dependent on civilian production. How that can be done is not something which either the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins, or any other economist from any direction, has yet been able to suggest.

But if one asks why we are not discussing this and other serious topics raised in our minds by the report that we are considering, the reason is perfectly apparent.

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It is that for the past three years a campaign has been waged around the notion of the Scott Report whose purpose has been to destroy the careers of two Ministers in order to advance the cause of the two Oppositions.

Noble Lords: Order!

Lord Beloff: My Lords, it was said and the evidence was given by the noble Earl, Lord Russell. He said that when he went among ordinary people--I am not quite sure what an Earl means by "ordinary people" but let us say the kind of citizen he might meet in a pub, if he ever goes to one--they were horrified by the evidence of malpractice by Ministers. So the campaign was merely reflecting popular indignation. I submit to your Lordships to the contrary: that the indignation which the noble Earl found had been stimulated by a political campaign through the media and in other ways, which has been wholly governed by party political considerations.

Perhaps I may enlarge further on that. As has been referred to in several speeches, when one looks at the discussions that went on about the export of arms--perhaps I may mention the mere fact that we talk about arms for Iraq when no arms were exported there--and defence-related equipment, it has become clear, and it is generally accepted, that the Minister who pressed most strongly to ignore moral or political considerations in relation to permitting such exports, was Mr. Alan Clark. One might ask why Mr. Alan Clark has not been the subject of a campaign from the Opposition. The answer is simple; Mr. Alan Clark is no longer a Minister. Defaming Mr. Clark would give no political assistance to the Opposition. They have concentrated not even on my noble friend Lord Trefgarne, who has moved on and who would have given as good as he got, but on the two people involved who still happen to be Ministers of the Crown.

I too must confess an interest. We must always confess an interest, which has become a post-Nolan fashion. Like Mr. Waldegrave, I am a Fellow of All Souls, which means that I have known him for a very long time. Unlike some noble Lords who come from the legal profession, I see no reason to read portions of a report which I assume all noble Lords who take part in the debate have already read. As I read the report it occurred to me that the one Minister who constantly called the attention of his colleagues in writing to the difficult international problems, referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Wright, and to the moral problems of arms exports was Mr. Waldegrave, as one might have expected. The attack on Mr. Waldegrave, which was prolonged today in what I thought were the least responsible speeches I have ever heard opening a debate from the Opposition Benches, from the noble Lords, Lord Richard and Lord Jenkins of Hillhead--it was a

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personal assault upon a Minister of honour purely in order to score a passing political objective--is something which I believe they will come to repent.

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