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Viscount Montgomery of Alamein: My Lords, following what the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis, said, have the speed cameras which have been installed as an additional piece of road furniture had any effect?
Viscount Goschen: My Lords, yes, I believe that they have been extremely effective. I understand that some 300 cameras (both red light and speed cameras) have been installed. They have led to considerable road safety benefits.
The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Chalker of Wallasey): My Lords, whether a nuclear weapon-free zone is feasible and would enhance stability must depend upon all the circumstances in any given region. With regard to Europe, I refer the noble Lord to my earlier Answer on 18th June.
Lord Jenkins of Putney: My Lords, is the Minister aware that there is a certain contradiction between the view that the nuclear weapon is peace-making and the alternative view that the whole region is better without it? Under those circumstances, would it not be wiser to say that the Answer to the Question is yes, and that the Government will work hard towards creating a nuclear-free zone in Europe so as to create the safest of all situations--a nuclear-free world?
Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My Lords, the short answer to the noble Lord's question is no. The NATO countries believe that nuclear deterrence continues to play an essential role in the policy of maintaining stability in Europe, as I said in my Answer on 18th June. Our non-proliferation commitment is that the establishment of the nuclear weapon-free zone on the basis of arrangements freely arrived at by the states concerned enhances their global and regional security, but if the nations of Europe are not going to take that into account, then I believe we are far better to have proper deterrents. I compliment the noble Lord on carrying out to the full his recreation listed in Who's Who, which is to avoid retirement. I wish him--and I am sure everyone in the House will join me--a very happy 88th birthday on Saturday.
The Earl of Kimberley: My Lords, does my noble friend agree that, having had nuclear deterrents since 1945, which is 51 years, peace has been kept in Europe and that if Afghanistan had had a nuclear weapon the Soviet Union might not have invaded Afghanistan?
Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My Lords, Afghanistan is a sad country. It may be that that would have been as good a deterrent for Afghanistan as the nuclear deterrent has been for Western Europe and the free world.
Lord Richard: My Lords, as my noble friend approaches his 88th birthday, is the Minister aware that to my knowledge, he has been asking questions on this subject for 36 or 37 years? If he thinks he has made progress, will the Minister join with me in congratulating him? If he thinks that he has not made progress, shall we join in mutual commiserations?
Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My Lords, there may be a time for commiseration, but fortunately I believe that this is a time for congratulations. The very fact that we are coming close to the prospect of achieving a comprehensive test ban treaty later this year is a sign that we have educated ourselves on these matters. However, I believe that it is right that nuclear deterrents should be regarded properly and we should work away at these matters. But it will not be easy to reduce nuclear weapons unilaterally. We are already reducing the size of our deterrent and taking into account new minimum security requirements. I am sure that that is the right way to go.
Lord Mayhew: My Lords, is the noble Baroness aware that her reference to the non-proliferation treaty is reassuring and goes back to the optimistic view that she was expressing about a month ago? Does that mean that the Government have overcome the problem of signing the treaty while India and one or two other countries do not sign it?
Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My Lords, I believe that I told the noble Lord about a month ago that we were working away at this matter. I think that I said on that occasion that we want a treaty that will be effective in preventing proliferation. It cannot be effective unless there are proper inspections. That is clearly the problem which needs to be resolved before we can sign the treaty.
Lord Stoddart of Swindon: My Lords, will the noble Baroness give an assurance that the British nuclear deterrent will never come under any kind of control, operational or otherwise, of the European Union under the common foreign and security policy.
Lord Mackie of Benshie: My Lords, does the noble Baroness agree that there is only a small amount of danger or lack of safety if nuclear weapons are in the control of stable governments but that the biggest danger
Is the noble Baroness aware also that we have made progress on this matter in that we are now able to discuss it with more light than heat? In view of that, if the Government will look again at the possibility of making progress in relation to Europe, Europe will be a safer place. Will the Government consider the possibility of making perhaps not a U-turn but a movement of recognition towards the ultimate aim to which the Government are committed as much as anyone else; namely, a nuclear-free world?
Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My Lords, I understand the noble Lord's passion on this issue. I believe that we are maintaining that minimum deterrent consistent with our national security requirements. That is how it should remain. However, we have made substantial reductions in our deterrent. It would be well for your Lordships to note that by the end of 1988, our deterrent will be reduced to a single system with 21 per cent. fewer warheads and 29 per cent. less explosive power than in the 1970s. Therefore, we are moving forward.
Baroness Blatch: My Lords, it may be for the convenience of the House if I correct personally something that I said in answer to the noble Lord, Lord Dean of Beswick. I know that efforts are being made to bring him back to the Chamber.
In answer to a question which he posed about Mr. Noye, I referred to a murder having taken place. I said that there had been a trial; and that the person was found guilty and subsequently served a sentence. The noble Lord, Lord Dean of Beswick, will know that that is not right. There was a murder; there was a trial; and the person was acquitted. There was a subsequent case in which the policeman was found guilty of corruption. I thought it best to put that matter right at the first available opportunity.
Lord Dean of Beswick: My Lords, I am grateful for that. There was another trial in which Mr. Noye, who got away with murder, was prosecuted for laundering the money, for which he received a sentence of 14 years. I believe that he served only seven years of that sentence. That is not much of a disincentive, is it?
The Fourth Report from the Offices Committee deals with a number of subjects. The first is Her Majesty's Stationery Office privatisation, and noble Lords will see that much of the report deals with this matter. I suggest that comments on that matter should be reserved until the House comes very shortly to debate the Motion in the name of the noble Viscount the Leader of the House.
Accordingly, I shall confine myself to reminding the House that the report says that the Offices Committee agreed, on the basis of advice that it received, that the contract with HMSO for the provision of printing and publishing services,
The Offices Committee report also deals with the House's annual report and accounts. I am sure that the whole House will join me in thanking the authors of this invaluable document for all the hard work which has clearly gone into it. The annual report gives an excellent account of the activities of the House and its departments during the past 12 months. It will be published, and copies will be posted to Peers shortly before the House resumes in October after the Summer Recess.
The Offices Committee report refers to a revised database of Peers' specialised knowledge and experience. That used to be called the database of Peers' interests. However, since last year at least, the term "Peers' interests" has acquired a special meaning in the context of declaration and registration of interest. To avoid confusion, the name of the database has been changed. I would emphasise that Peers will be able to keep their data confidential if they wish.
Finally, the Offices Committee report refers to a CD-ROM of the Palace of Westminster. I assure the House that that project is being carefully monitored by the authorities in both Houses. It will have the benefit of advice from our architectural archivist, Lady Wedgwood; and the contract with the producers has been drafted by my counsel. I commend the Motion to the House.
2 HL Debs., 18th January 1996, cols. 712-760.
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