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Nuclear Weapons: Papal Policy

5.32 p.m.

Lord Jenkins of Putney rose to call attention to the speech of the Pope's Permanent Representative, Archbishop Renato Martino, at the United Nations on 15th October making the case for doing away with nuclear weapons; and to move for Papers.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, the decision by the Vatican to come out for nuclear disarmament was hailed in many countries as one of world importance. It gained little attention here. I am not aware that it has been welcomed in another place, and in your Lordships' House it is left to me, a humanist, so I warmly welcome the name of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Oxford among the speakers.

So what was the message? Here I can give only the outlines, but I have taken the precaution of making photocopies of the full speech available in the Library.

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I believe that noble Lords and noble Baronesses, Catholic or not, religious or not, will find it thought-provoking to say the least.

The representative of the Holy See said:

    "Nuclear weapons cannot be justified and deserve condemnation...Nuclear arms are incompatible with the peace we seek...If biological weapons, chemical weapons and now landmines can be done away with so too can nuclear weapons...No weapon threatens the longed-for peace of the 21st Century as the nuclear. Let not the immensity of this task dissuade us from the effort needed to free humanity from this scourge".

The Archbishop also said:

    "Nuclear weapons can destroy all life on the planet. They imperil all that humanity has ever stood for and indeed, humanity itself...The international community cannot shield itself from the assault on life itself that nuclear weapons represent...The world must move to the abolition of nuclear weapons through a universal non-discriminatory ban with intensive inspection by a universal authority".

I could quote much more of that speech, but your Lordships may read it for yourselves in the Library.

I believe that the Prime Minister might say that the policy of Her Majesty's Government is in line with that now made with papal authority in that the elimination of the nuclear weapon is already the Government's aim.

That may be so, but it is not sufficiently clear. In this Chamber, for example, and perhaps in another place also, we hear two different voices from the Government Front Bench, bringing two different messages. One, with Foreign Office authority (which I am happy that we shall hear tonight) confirms what I understand to be the position that I have just ascribed to the Prime Minister--that is, that we seek to negotiate the universal elimination of the nuclear weapon. The other voice, in the accents of the defence department, never mentions the word "elimination". It concentrates on telling us that the Government intend to keep Trident. One might think that the wretched thing was immortal or at least permanent, for it is never suggested that we want a nuclear-free world--not in that voice--and that we are working to that end, an end which will entail the end of Trident with all the rest of the nuclear horrors.

I invite the Prime Minister to congratulate the Pope on the statement made on his behalf and to make it clear that this country will do its utmost in the cause of doing away with nuclear weapons on the basis of a universal, verified and enforced international agreement.

It has been suggested to me that since this Motion was drafted--and, indeed, last week--the United Kingdom has voted against nuclear disarmament at the United Nations. If that were so and if the Cabinet agreed that it were so, which it does not, I should certainly not now be taking the parliamentary Labour Party's Whip in this Chamber and the party itself might not be in one piece.

However, I have investigated the matter. It is true that, led by the United States, the nuclear powers, with the important exception of China, voted against a motion for nuclear disarmament moved by Malaysia. They were roundly defeated by 116 votes to 26 with 24 abstentions, so, as the General Assembly is the only parliament of the world that we have, it can be said that the peoples of our planet are massively opposed to

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nuclear weapons. The Pope's representative forecast that decision. Therefore this is no time for nuclear disarmers to give up.

Furthermore, the Government's explanation for their action in voting against the Malaysian resolution begins,

    "The United Kingdom is committed to the goal of the global elimination of nuclear weapons".

It could hardly be clearer, could it? They go on to explain why they voted against the resolution, obviously taking the view, as the explanation makes clear, that this is not the way to go about it.

This is neither the time nor the place to pursue that particular matter further, complicated as it is. However, I believe that we are entitled to ask; if the nuclear powers will accept only paths to elimination designed by themselves, do they not have the duty to map it out in detail? Only then will the rest of the world begin to believe that they may be serious. The fate of our civilisation may depend upon it. Let the Foreign Secretary and his representative in the Chamber tonight draft a procedure to that end so that we may say that the world, as I believe to be the case, is gradually but certainly moving towards the cause of nuclear disarmament because it knows in its heart that it must be done. We hope to hear from my Front Bench tonight that we are on the way to achieving that. I beg to move for Papers.

5.43 p.m.

The Lord Bishop of Oxford: My Lords, this is an opportune time to have a debate on nuclear weapons. I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Putney, for initiating it. I believe that on an issue like this it is important to be clear about and never forget the salient facts. They may or may not be palatable; but facts they are and unless they are taken into account and continually borne in mind the whole discussion can become unreal.

First, the knowledge of how to make nuclear weapons can never be unlearnt. Even if all nuclear warheads in the world were destroyed and all missile systems dismantled the capacity to make nuclear weapons and the means to deliver them would remain. We have eaten the apple of nuclear know-how and can never get back into the garden of pre-nuclear innocence. The implication of this is that until the end of time there will always be some risk of nuclear weapons being used. Furthermore, if in the future there was a serious conflict between two major powers who had done away with their nuclear weapons but who still possessed the knowledge of how to make them--a knowledge that can never be eradicated--there could be a major push to nuclear re-armament with all the risks that such competitive re-armaments have carried in the past.

The second fact is that nuclear weapons are not just ordinary weapons on a large scale. They have the capacity to destroy whole civilisations in a few minutes. There is a difference of kind not just degree between them and all other means of destruction. It has been one of the strengths of the peace movement, of which the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins, is a distinguished representative, that it has continually kept before the

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mind of the public this horrific fact. Yet the implication of this has not always been grasped. It is quite simply that war between two powers who both possess a nuclear arsenal could never be rational. It could never conceivably be in the interests of a country to go to war against another nuclear power for, however quickly and decisively it struck, with the assured second strike retaliation available to the enemy totally unacceptable damage would always be inflicted on itself. This is what has been accurately described as the Copernican revolution in the use of armed force. It leads to the familiar nuclear paradox that these uniquely appalling weapons systems have a uniquely sobering effect on governments considering war as an instrument of policy. If the world's political system remains as it is now--a tempered anarchy of competing nation states--then, as Sir Michael Quinlan has put it, the abolition of nuclear weapons would purport to "re-rationalise warfare".

As a Christian I cannot resign myself to the world staying as it is for ever. I believe in the Kingdom of God and the coming of God's just and gentle rule when all will be transformed and human beings will live in communities of trustful mutuality. Furthermore, as a Christian I cannot simply wait for that Kingdom to come. I pray for it daily and believe that even now there are signs of that coming Kingdom, when suspicions are dispelled, barriers broken down and peace takes hold.

What I cannot do is kid myself that this Kingdom is here in its fullness. This Advent season reminds the Church that we live between times--between the time of Christ's life, death and resurrection when the power of evil and death was in some decisive sense broken and the flag of the Kingdom was planted on this earth, and the time of his coming again when his humility will be revealed in all its glory and all will be irradiated with the divine presence. Between the times, where we now live, there is an inescapable tension between what is necessary to achieve some kind of order in a recalcitrant world and the absolute ideal of the Kingdom. The Church has had to wrestle with this tension in every age, and Augustine, Luther and Reinhold Niebuhr have made their own distinctive contributions to how we can best live with it. It is, I believe, a tension that is inescapable. It means on the one hand that we have to face the world as it is and try to achieve some semblance of order in a system of competing nation states, some of them driven by considerations of aggrandisement and some led by foolish or wicked rulers. On the other hand, we can never rest content with that. The absolute ideal of the Kingdom continually beckons to transform what we have into what will be. That is why the concept of a nuclear free world which we are debating today remains a proper aspiration.

But a nuclear free world in which the present political system remained unchanged could be a more dangerous world than we have it at the moment. What is necessary is not just a nuclear free world but a radically changed political order. It means, in effect, having on the world stage what we have in democracies like our own; namely, a central authority which all acknowledge and which has the power to implement its decisions. We are, sadly, a long way from that. The world remains a loose system of nation states with different perspectives and

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potentially conflicting interests. The United Nations exists but as yet has neither the authority nor the power to act as a universal policeman. It is not able to render powerless the major players in a conflict. In the world as we have it at the moment nuclear weapons, terrible as they are, still have a unique role in making parties to a conflict that possess them think again and again before taking the conflict further. This means that we have to proceed cautiously. But it does not mean that there is nothing we can do to make the world a safer place. There are a number of good suggestions around; for example; first, there is ample scope to reduce the number of nuclear warheads and delivery systems, bringing the former under direct control and verification, as many of the latter already are. It is already time to begin work on a START 3 programme. New agreements, particularly those which enable the number of warheads to be verified, would reinforce long-term confidence. It would also be highly desirable to bring into the discussion non-strategic components as well as strategic ones.

Secondly, it would be important to relax, wherever they still remain, tense and costly high alert operational systems. The concept of "launch on warning" which was fundamental to the policy of deterrence in the Cold War is full of perils. On 25th January 1995 President Yeltzin's nuclear suitcase sounded an alert in response to a meteorological rocket fired from Norway. He had four minutes to decide if it was an American attempt to disable Russia's defences. It is important, therefore, to de-alert--that is, increase the response time of nuclear weapons by taking them off "hair trigger alert". It is also important to de-target strategic missiles, re-directing them towards neutral points in the ocean. Much of that has already been done. But it would also be possible to de-mount the vast majority of nuclear weapons; that is, remove nuclear warheads from their delivery systems. Physical separation obviously increases reaction times and induces confidence that nuclear arsenals are not on hair-trigger alert.

Thirdly, reducing the spread of nuclear deployments. Some concentration of remaining nuclear weapons would be helpful to control and verification as well as cost saving. Fourthly, it is important to exchange information more frequently and openly about nuclear armouries, and, in particular, about the best practice and the safety of storage for their handling and management and perhaps design. In the world as it is at the moment, where there is no open conflict between the major powers but in which nuclear weapons continue to exist, transparency should be given a very high priority, and such transparency is possible. As Sir Hugh Beach has put it:

    "The reductions in warheads already carried out unilaterally by Britain and France could be internationally entrenched, the remaining inventories declared and made subject to the same sort of verification as Russia and America are prepared to apply mutually under the START treatise. At a later stage Chinese holdings could also be brought into account... Britain could take the lead if it could but break out of its prevailing cult of secrecy."

Fifthly, entrenching still more durably the norm against any nuclear testing; sixthly, constraining further the production of nuclear weapon materials. At the

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moment the Conference on Disarmament is deadlocked on that issue and it is very much hoped that progress can be made soon.

Seventhly, bringing under more assured account and control the nuclear systems of the former Soviet Union. It is clearly important to seal off any possible leakage of nuclear expertise to possible terrorists or proliferator states. Western aid has been given for this purpose and will continue to be needed. Eighthly, developing further on an international basis, the tools and systems of information collection related to nuclear weapons and their disposal. The example of Iraq underlines how difficult that task is, and obviously maximum international co-operation and sharing of expertise is important.

Ninthly, strengthening the various instruments which were put together to prevent or impede proliferation. Tenthly, easing any political friction by underscoring that remaining armouries are not directed against particular adversaries. If nuclear weapons are to be retained for the time being as a kind of low-key insurance, then the maximum political reassurance can and must be given that their presence does not imply adverse assumptions about any particular country.

Eleventhly, consolidating and perhaps further extending nuclear weapon-free zones. And, lastly, your Lordships will be pleased to hear, exploring more fully the contribution which military defence systems might be able to make to diminishing still further any residual nuclear risk. That is a contentious area, particularly in respect of any implication it might have for the ABM Treaty. But debate on that could at least be kept alive.

None of those suggestions is, of course, original. But they represent a consensus among some of those who have thought longest and hardest about those issues. It would be tragic if people so focused on the aspiration of a nuclear-free world that they were distracted from putting the necessary thought, energy and resources into those practical steps which would actually reduce the risk of a nuclear explosion in the real world in which we live now. Progress has been made in recent decades, most notably with the non-proliferation treaty and the containing of nuclear states to a much lesser number than was once predicted. Further steps can and must be taken to reduce risk, create political confidence and move towards a different kind of world.

Sir Michael Quinlan in his recently published RUSI Whitehall paper, Thinking about Nuclear Weapons, puts the position better than anyone I know. He wrote:

    "The continued retention of nuclear armouries on a limited and transparent scale in the hands of a few internationally-ratified possessors helps to seal off any possibilities of armed conflict among advanced states; it reduces the incentive to clandestine acquirers, since it diminishes whatever leverage they might have hoped to seize; and it offers an overshadowing in-reserve discouragement to intolerable state behaviour of other extreme kinds. It is entirely possible to pursue the extensive and valuable agenda that is available for further reducing the scale, salience, costs and risk of nuclear weapons whilst still benefiting from the underlying contribution which they uniquely make to security in any world at all like today's. That is to align policy with the grain of reality".

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A world in which all nuclear weapons had been disposed of, a world in which there was an international authority with the power to ensure that it remained free of such devices, would indeed be a better world than we have now. It remains a legitimate aspiration. But such a world implies a radical political transformation of the states system as we have it at the moment. In moving towards that world, governments have the awesome task of balancing one risk with another. As part of that process there are, I believe, good things going on, which need to be developed and strengthened; and other things, such as greater transparency, which could come about without risk and which would reinforce political confidence. I very much hope that the Government will be able to press forward on a whole range of those important issues.

5.57 p.m.

Lord Rea: My Lords, as the right reverend Prelate said, my noble friend chose the right time of year to raise a Question which touches on the very centre of the Christian concept of peace on earth and goodwill to all men. I was a little worried that he might be on the verge of conversion to the Catholic faith when he chose also to base his debate on a statement by the Pope's permanent representative at the United Nations.

The statement which my noble friend outlined to us was one with which all men of goodwill--that of course includes women of goodwill--of all faiths or none, can agree. During 15 years in your Lordships' House, I have discovered that it is possible for governments to shrug off difficult questions relatively easily if they are raised just once or twice. Results are achieved by those MPs and Peers who are prepared relentlessly to pursue their cause at the risk of becoming thought to be single-issue eccentrics. We can all think of a few of those among our ranks, but my noble friend is far from that, however many times he raises the issue. He acts as the conscience of the House by reminding us of the dangerous unfinished business that the continued existence of these weapons represents. Compared to him, and in the presence of the two noble and gallant Lords, Lord Carver and Lord Bramall, I feel ill-equipped to address the issue. When I listened to the right reverend Prelate, whose expertise on this subject is remarkable, I felt myself to be a small voice.

Archbishop Martino's statement raises the uncomfortable truth that mankind spends a truly colossal proportion of its productive capacity on weapons of all kinds. It is a sum sufficient to rid the world of serious poverty if it were diverted to human development. Although nuclear weapons have the capacity to destroy life on earth as we know it, they cost just a small proportion of that total expenditure. However, they remain the ultimate weapon. They have not been used for 52 years, since Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but are still present in large numbers in the USA and Russia and in smaller numbers in Britain, France, China, India and probably Israel and at one time South Africa. As the right reverend Prelate said, the number is probably smaller than we might have feared.

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Several other countries are on the verge of developing their nuclear weapons capacity. We know how close Iraq came to making its nuclear weapon. When countries have civil nuclear power they have already passed the most difficult technical barrier on the road to developing the nuclear weapon. However, sophisticated verification techniques are able to detect the work carried out on the final stage. The fact that nuclear power can act as the basis for weapons technology is the strongest argument for at least temporarily halting the development of civil nuclear power. That is a pity because we all know that it could make a major difference to global warming if only it could be made safe.

Archbishop Martino said:

    "During the acrimonious years of the cold war...the international community felt powerless to stop the relentless build-up of nuclear weapons. But now, in the post cold-war era, characterised by new partnerships, the international community cannot shield itself from the assault on life itself that nuclear weapons represent".

An indefinite extension of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty was achieved two years ago, but, sadly, Pakistan, India and Israel were not among the signatories. However, the non-nuclear states hope for a stronger commitment by nuclear weapons states to Article 6 which binds them to work towards reducing and eventually phasing out their own nuclear weapons.

Despite considerable progress by Russia and the United States in reducing the number of warheads and the partial implementation of START 2, can my noble friend tell us how far START 2 has progressed and whether we are thinking about START 3? It seems to be a laboriously slow process, although two weeks ago in a throw-away remark, President Yeltsin said that he would unilaterally eliminate one-third of his warheads. That remark was quickly denied by his spokesperson. Neither the United States nor Russia seem to have fully accepted that the Cold War is over or that the continued existence of these weapons is as much a danger to themselves as to possible adversaries.

It seems to me that there is still a hangover from the Cold War and the belief that a nation's international influence is strengthened by the possession of a nuclear deterrent. As the Archbishop's report points out, there has been useful progress in reducing the level of conventional forces in Europe. That must be a recognition of the fact that there is little likelihood of a major war in Europe. A useful chemical weapons treaty has been agreed, as has a comprehensive test ban treaty. More recently, there was the Ottawa Convention on anti-personnel mines. If such progress can be achieved with less destructive previously "legal" weapons--though there is still a very long way to go, particularly with the international arms trade--it should be possible to speed up the countdown to elimination of the ultimate weapon.

What further initiatives are we taking through the United Nations or other channels to encourage the one remaining superpower, and the previous other superpower to move more swiftly? What progress is being achieved towards drawing up the terms of a binding nuclear weapons convention with targets for reductions and the eventual complete elimination to be

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achieved by certain dates? I am aware, of course, that it is no longer the policy of the Labour Party or the Government unilaterally to give up our nuclear weapons. It is far better, if possible, to have effective multilateral agreements. But while accepting that that is the case, I suggest that there is still a very large body of opinion in this country and in the wider world which would like to see the United Kingdom in the forefront of nations working much more actively towards the goal of total elimination of nuclear weapons.

Although we have fallen behind in the international competition for the highest GDP per head, we still have a very influential international position--"punching above our weight", to use the phrase of the noble Lord, Lord Hurd--not only because we are a permanent member of the Security Council but because of the respect in which our spokesmen at the United Nations and at many international bodies are held. I shall be interested to hear from my noble friend in what way Her Majesty's Government are pushing the agenda forward.

6.7 p.m.

Lord Chalfont: My Lords, I intervene in this short debate not because there is a great deal new to be said about the subject but because since the end of the Cold War there have been alarming signs of a resurgence in unilateralism. It is as though there is a new hankering after Greenham Common and the Aldermaston march and rituals of that kind which I hoped we had put behind us. It is also important to place this debate on the United Nations in a broad political and strategic context. Perhaps it is most important to ensure that the record on some of these issues is kept straight. There is sometimes a tendency to misquote or, to put it politely, to misunderstand the requirements of some of the international treaties concluded in the past 50 years.

I declare an interest of a kind. I was chairman of Vickers Shipbuilders during the whole of the manufacture of the four Trident submarines which now constitute our nuclear deterrent. However, I have no such connection now and noble Lords who know me will be aware that my views have not changed substantially on this matter for the past 30 years.

Those views prompt me to offer some comments. First, I am somewhat at a loss to understand why the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Putney, should single out as the basis for his speech the speech of the permanent observer for the Holy See. Perhaps I may point out as a small matter of accuracy that Archbishop Martino is not a representative or a delegate but an observer of the United Nations. He is an observer of the Holy See. His speech was made in the First Committee of the United Nations in October as part of the normal proceedings of the United Nations in disarmament matters. It is true, as the noble Lord said, that Archbishop Martino called for the elimination of nuclear weapons. But so, too, did the representatives of Myanmar--known better to some of us as Burma--Poland, Australia, Croatia, Uruguay, Bangladesh and South Africa. In one day all those representatives made virtually the same speech. None of them, including the representative of the Holy See--the Pope's observer whose speech I have studied with great

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care--advanced any new arguments whatever to support their case. The arguments were those that have been put forward over and over again for generations.

Indeed, I was interested to note that the archbishop's speech contained a view which the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins, repeated tonight: nuclear weapons cannot be justified. I can only say to the noble Lord and, if he were here, to the archbishop that that is a view not by any means held unanimously in the Roman Catholic hierarchy. I have heard an archbishop explain to me the doctrine of conditional intent in which he pointed out that there would be some occasions when the threat to use nuclear weapons might be justified.

But there were no new arguments in New York, because there are no new arguments about this. The debate is depressingly familiar to anyone who has followed these matters, as I have, since I was the British Minister at the disarmament negotiations in the 1960s. There has always been a clear intellectual and ideological gulf between the nuclear powers, whose aim and policy has been to prevent the spread of weapons of mass destruction and the non-nuclear and non-aligned countries and their supporters in the West who pressed constantly for the elimination of nuclear weapons from the arsenals of the major powers. It has always been the case; we have been here before; there is nothing new.

It was against the background of that straightforward clash of interests and ideologies that the nuclear non-proliferation treaty was signed in the 1960s. That treaty is so often misrepresented and misquoted in debates and discussion on arms control and disarmament. Indeed, in the First Committee debate to which we are addressing our minds this evening, there was an interesting example of that. In calling for the total elimination of nuclear weapons, the representative of Western Australia told the committee that,

    "the nuclear weapon states were obligated under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Regime to reverse the Cold War accumulation of nuclear weapons, as a necessary prelude to their elimination".

I repeat that phrase,

    "as a necessary prelude to their elimination".

That is simply not true. The relevant article of the non-proliferation treaty--and I hope that the House will indulge me if I quote it in extenso--states:

    "Each of the parties to the treaty undertakes to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament, and on a treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective control".

Your Lordships will note that that refers to nuclear disarmament. It makes no mention at all of the total elimination of nuclear weapons. There is a clear and important, if subtle, distinction between the two. It is an important distinction. I am especially anxious that it should be understood because I was largely responsible, with my British delegation in Geneva, for drafting Article 6. Yet that has now come to be prayed in aid by the anti-nuclear lobby and quoted as an undertaking by the nuclear weapons states to dispose completely of their nuclear weapons. That is not the position of the nuclear powers in the disarmament negotiations. Their position is and always has been that that can be achieved only

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within the context of general and complete disarmament under international control. That state of affairs, as the right reverend Prelate said, is much to be desired. But I fear it is as remote from practical politics as it ever was.

It is worth pointing out that in pursuance of Article 6 of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, there has been very substantial nuclear disarmament. The major powers, especially the United States and the Soviet Union in their strategic arms reduction treaties, have substantially and, I should almost say from where I stand, drastically disarmed their nuclear stockpiles. It is important to place all that in a broad context, as the right reverend Prelate did, in what I thought was a remarkable and powerful speech. I conclude my intervention with a warning against the whole concept of what I shall call "single weapons disarmament"--the identification of some weapon or weapons system and seeking to eliminate it or remove it from the military scene. As the right reverend Prelate and Sir Michael Quinlan have said, that is in great danger of re-rationalising the whole concept of war as an instrument of policy.

But there is another matter to which the right reverend Prelate made reference. I would express it this way. The elimination of nuclear, chemical or biological weapons or anti-personnel landmines is a process which, in the long-term strategic context, has no meaning whatever. It has been said before a thousand times, it will bear saying again, and the right reverend Prelate said it this evening: we cannot eliminate the knowledge of how to manufacture weapons, whether of mass destruction or of any kind. There is nothing to prevent any country or any group of people who wish to use those weapons manufacturing them secretly and using them against countries which have succumbed to the fallacy of single weapon disarmament.

In any event, as, again, I think Sir Michael Quinlan has said and as I say with great force and power, the removal of nuclear weapons as a deterrent--the so-called nuclear-free world--would place us all once again at the mercy of any aggressor with large and heavily-armed conventional forces.

Of course a case can be made for reductions in missiles and warheads. No one would deny that; indeed, it is going forward. However, I disagree in one respect with the right reverend Prelate on the matter of removing warheads from nuclear weapons as a matter of what he called "de-alerting." In my view, that would be a dangerous process. If warheads were removed from missiles and stored separately, when, in a state of emergency of some kind, a government sought to bring them together again--and that would be known immediately to any potential enemy with serious intelligence capabilities--it would be enormously destabilising and provocative. I warn very strongly against the seductive idea of de-alerting systems by taking the warheads away from the missiles.

Although I have the greatest respect for the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Putney, and for the consistency and passion with which he has approached the subject of nuclear disarmament, I genuinely believe that the elimination of nuclear weapons and the idea of a nuclear-free world is based on an over-simplified

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concept of international relations. I share entirely the view of the right reverend Prelate that until the whole nature of international relations has changed and the nation state ceases to be the fundamental building block of the international power structure and until we remove the possibility of war as an instrument of policy, to begin the business of single weapon disarmament, of tinkering with the panoply of weapons in the hope that that will in some way reduce the dangers, is manifestly over-simplified and unwise.

I am encouraged to note that in this country we appear to have a clear bipartisan policy in that respect. The present Government, in line with their manifesto, are firmly committed to the maintenance by this country of an effective nuclear deterrent. That was the position of the previous Conservative Government. That is a prudent, realistic policy and long may it continue.

6.19 p.m.

Lord Monkswell: My Lords, I thank my noble friend for introducing this debate. I must advise the House that I found the contribution of the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, very interesting and erudite; but I am intrigued to think that he has not changed his views in the past 30 years. Bearing in mind a number of things which have happened over the past 30 years, I wonder whether it may be useful to the House to find out how my views have changed over the past 30 years.

My political life started in 1962 at the height of the Cuban missile crisis. At the tender age of 15 I decided that I would take some control over my life and try to prevent myself and my fellow human beings from being blown off the face of the earth. Therefore I joined CND. Having been an active member in that organisation for a number of years, I then became troubled because I realised that I was not a pacifist and it appeared to me that the whole raison d'etre of CND was as a pacifist organisation. I left CND and to try to ease my troubled mind I started to study military history and the history of military campaigns. I was amazed at what I learnt. I am only self-taught and I have not engaged in any professional course of study of military history. But one of the things I learnt was that it was not the bombing campaign across Europe by the United States Air Force and the RAF that brought an end to the war in Europe; the end of the war in Europe started at the battle of Kursk and finished when the Red Army took Berlin.

I also learnt that in the war in the Far East the Japanese were brought to a halt at Imphal and Kohima and that the Allied forces, who were predominantly American, had taken Okinawa and were precipitately planning to launch an invasion of the Japanese mainland before the nuclear weapons were dropped at Nagasaki and Hiroshima. There is a school of thought that claims that the Japanese would have surrendered anyway without the dropping of those nuclear devices. However, there is also a school of thought that has held sway among the establishment in the western world since the end of the war that claims that it was utterly necessary to drop those nuclear weapons.

Following the public campaigns of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament which started in the 50s and have carried on to this day, it has become impossible for

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political and military leaders around the world who had access to nuclear weapons, and were at times tempted to use them, to do so. My studies also revealed the terrible carnage that was wrought by poison gas during the First World War. That gas inflicted horrendous casualties. The effects of that gas lingered for many years afterwards not only in the bodies of those afflicted but also in the minds of their friends and relatives who suffered too. I discovered that there was a realisation on the part of military strategists that the use of poison gas conferred no military advantage. While most of the powers involved in the Second World War had the capacity to use poison gas, it was not used because it was of no military advantage.

I shall not go into a long explanation of various other reasons why I can stand here and declare myself not to be a pacifist but to be totally against nuclear weapons. If we look at what has happened over the past few years--not just the past 30 years--we see that the Cold War has ended. The fundamental justification of the Soviet Union, the United States of America, Britain and France, for having nuclear weapons disappeared almost overnight. It was reported just the other day that South Africa had the capacity to make nuclear weapons but decided not to do so. It effectively decided unilaterally to disarm itself of nuclear weapons. That was the case with some other countries too, some of which were constituent parts of the former Soviet Union. It is interesting that that should happen because for years and years we have been told that we cannot disarm unilaterally on the nuclear front.

One of the things I learnt from the early experiences of the Thatcher government is that perceptions are vitally important in defence and military matters. The Argentinians invaded the Falklands because their perception of Britain's foreign and defence posture was such that they believed we were not concerned about what happened in that part of the world. They took as a signal our planning to decommission "Endurance". I hope that I have learnt from that--and I hope the current Government have learnt--that it is not possible in today's fraught and difficult world to take a unilateral step and say,"We as a major nuclear power will get rid of our nuclear weapons without any reference to what is happening among our allies in the rest of the world". Imagine the perception that everyone around the world would have if a new Labour government were to say that one of the first things they intended to do was to get rid unilaterally of their nuclear weapons. I believe that the Labour leadership of the past few years has learnt that lesson.

We now have a new Labour Government who are committed to saying to the rest of the world,"We are dedicated to having strong defence capabilities because we recognise that it is a prime duty of the government of this country to defend this country". However, we also have a manifesto commitment which states,

    "When satisfied with verified progress towards our goal of the global elimination of nuclear weapons, we will ensure that British nuclear weapons are included in multilateral negotiations".

There has been a change in policy with the election of a new government on 1st May.

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The previous government would never accept that it was even their far distant objective to get rid of nuclear weapons on a worldwide basis. Thanks to the good sense of the British people in electing a Labour government, we now have that as our ultimate objective. I am sure that that ultimate objective must be shared by the vast majority not only of the British people but peoples all around the world. I recognise that to get from here to there will be difficult. I shall not chide the Minister on the Front Bench to say what the Government will do about that now because I recognise that it will probably take a number of years of steady diplomacy. I hope also that our Government can learn from the important work that is being done by senior military figures in working out the mechanisms of how we can get from here to there, and that the Government will build on that work within the political arena and use our ethical foreign policy to form a basis on which we can achieve something that will make the name of Britain resound around the world as a decent and leading member of the world community.

6.30 p.m.

Lord Carver: My Lords, the House is indebted to the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Putney, not only for giving us this opportunity to discuss this important subject in greater detail than we usually can in the margins of a defence or foreign affairs debate, but also, as the noble Lord, Lord Rea, said, for his persistence in ensuring that your Lordships did not forget that the issue exists.

My own position has long been that the only value that nuclear weapons have had since the Soviet Union developed them has been to deter a potential nuclear opponent from using his. To initiate the use of nuclear weapons against a nuclear opponent is to invite retaliation in kind which would be suicidal. If he strikes first, to retaliate would ensure further escalation. To use them against a non-nuclear opponent would, I believe, be morally and politically unacceptable.

We have lived with them so long that we are apt to forget what really horrible weapons they are--modern ones are much worse than those dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. If that is so, and their only value is as a deterrent to their use by others, we should all be better off if they could be eliminated altogether.

The principal arguments against that, which we have heard today from the right reverend Prelate and the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, are, first, that they remain a general deterrent to war and to the use of other so-called weapons of mass destruction, that is chemical and biological weapons; secondly, that their use even against a non-nuclear state could be justified in certain circumstances, particularly if a combination of target and yield selected minimised the collateral effect; and, finally, that it is impossible to develop a verification system which would ensure that they had been, and remained, eliminated. So we are stuck with them and, as it seems that more states may acquire them, it is prudent that those who have them should keep them. Those are the serious arguments against elimination.

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Let us take the first argument, that if they were eliminated we might see a return of conventional wars between the major industrial nations, like the two world wars of this century, made worse by modern weapons; and that the overwhelming virtue of nuclear weapons is that that now seems inconceivable. I will admit that I myself used to hold that view. When I was asked to be a member of the Canberra Commission--I was delighted to hear the right reverend Prelate recite almost all the commission's recommendations--I was not certain at that time that I was entirely in favour of total elimination. What convinced me was the argument--it may not be a new argument to the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, but it was new to me--of comparative risk.

We should not be attempting--as we have done in the Chamber today--to compare the situation as it is today with one which might arise if, miraculously, all nuclear weapons were to disappear tomorrow. We should try and compare two future scenarios. The first scenario involves no serious attempt being made to eliminate nuclear weapons, with perhaps a reduction in US and Russian arsenals to about 1,000 each, and the other declared nuclear states staying much as they are. In that scenario, in, say, 25 to 50 years' time, what may have happened? May there not by then be several more declared, certainly more undeclared, nuclear states, some with less reliable and sophisticated methods of control than those hitherto exercised by existing nuclear weapon states? The risk of either the intentional or the accidental explosion of nuclear weapons in such a scenario will surely have increased. The chances of maintaining an effective non-proliferation regime will surely have been reduced.

Let us compare that with the scenario which the Canberra Commission recommended. Starting with a genuine commitment by the United States and Russia, based on a conviction that it was in their own interests to do so, they would have reduced their arsenals, stage by verified stage, to the point at which those two major nuclear powers decided that the risks of taking the final step to elimination would be less than the risks of retaining nuclear weapons. Of course the United States and Russia would not make that decision unless they had brought other nuclear weapon states, declared and undeclared, along with them and were satisfied that the verification system they had developed during the process of reduction--and they must develop it; no one else can do it for them--was valid and would remain so for the final step and beyond. The process of getting that far would itself be a formidable confidence-building measure.

Risks, of course, will be entailed in moving to and eventually establishing elimination, but whether those risks will be greater or smaller than not taking that step can only be judged at that time. If they are then judged greater, the step will not be taken. But remaining at a fairly low level of nuclear weapons for some time would undoubtedly be an unstable situation.

The Canberra Commission did not ask anyone to take that final decision now. What we were asking was that the United States and Russia, as the leading nuclear powers, should genuinely decide that because success in that quest could eventually lead to a safer world for

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them and everyone else, while failure to make the attempt could lead to a more dangerous one, they should commit themselves to it while the relations between them are fairly relaxed. If they move in that direction and put anything like the effort into it that they have put into creating and maintaining their nuclear arsenals, including into establishment of the verification process (and that will need a lot of effort), others will be bound to follow.

The risks involved in elimination, and the move towards it, must be compared not only with the risks involved in the possible continued existence of nuclear weapons, but also with the risks of the things which nuclear weapons are expected to prevent: renewed wars between the major industrial nations and the use of chemical or biological weapons. Under the shadow of nuclear weapons, and one must admit that it was under that shadow, the idea of engaging in wars, to use Clausewitz's words, "as a continuation of state policy", political or economic, has undoubtedly been abandoned by states who had thought of it in that way earlier in the century. It would be rash to dismiss the possibility of it entirely, particularly in the Far East, where there are potentially serious causes of dispute between Russia, China and Japan. But the question to be answered is this. What is the risk of such wars occurring, and, if they do, of the suffering they might cause in comparison with the potential risks arising from the continued existence of and probable proliferation in the possession of nuclear weapons?

The same reasoning must be applied to deterrence against the use of chemical and biological weapons. There is no doubt that there is a serious risk of their being used, and that their use could cause great suffering. The Henry S. Stimson Center in the United States has recently published a comprehensive study of the subject by Dr. Victor Utgoff, which I commend to your Lordships. His conclusion is that it is unwise for the United States to rely on the threat of nuclear retaliation as a deterrent against the use of these weapons. First, it is uncertain. There will always be strong inhibitions against the actual use of nuclear weapons in retaliation, whether or not the perpetrator himself has nuclear weapons. Secondly, and connected with the first reason, is the difficulty in selecting targets. Those which might be connected with the opponent's chemical or biological warfare capability would inevitably involve collateral damage to the civilian population, while ammunition stocks and methods of delivery would be more appropriately dealt with by conventional weapons. Thirdly, it is possible, without great expense, to develop protective measures not only for armed forces but also for the civilian population of areas assumed to be threatened. A better and more convincing counter to the threat is a combination of developing effective verification and enforcement measures, open development of effective protective measures, and convincing determination to retaliate to any use by effective conventional attack. There should be no ambiguity about that as there is about nuclear retaliation.

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My argument, therefore, is that the risks of not trying to eliminate nuclear weapons are greater than the risks of trying to do so. The difference between the Canberra Commission and the opponents of elimination is a difference in assessment of risk. The commission believed that a situation in which a few privileged states retain nuclear weapons, asserting that they are essential to their security while attempting to deny them to others, some of whom face much more real or potential threats from their neighbours, cannot indefinitely be sustained. It must lead to a dangerous proliferation.

Our opponents' case is that the danger of proliferation has consistently been exaggerated and that it is both possible and desirable to maintain the status quo, but with a reduction of Russian and American arsenals to about 1,000 warheads. The Government state that elimination is their aim but they show no more sign of trying to move in that direction than their predecessors, in spite of the attitude of several Ministers and supporters in the past. Let them demonstrate that they mean what they say by at least adopting the immediate steps which the Canberra Commission recommended: taking nuclear forces off alert, removing warheads from their delivery vehicles and trying to agree with other nuclear states an undertaking not to be the first to use them and not to use them against a non-nuclear state. Whether or not we in this country should keep our own nuclear warheads is a different question. Of course, if we succeed in eliminating nuclear weapons altogether, ours would go as part of the process. The Canberra Commission envisaged China and ourselves joining in the process when the United States and Russia had got down to about the 1,000 mark.

But I personally would like to see us getting rid of our nuclear weapons now because I believe them to be unnecessary and a waste of money which would be better spent elsewhere in the defence field. As the noble Lord, Lord Gilbert's, reply to my Question on the 9th December revealed, maintaining our nuclear weapon capability and the means to deliver it costs a lot more than most people realise and most government spokesmen have ever admitted to.

Even if you are a believer in the usefulness of nuclear weapons, we do not need them, as we are fully covered by the American nuclear umbrella. I cannot envisage a situation in which we were threatened with attack, either by nuclear or other means, and the threatening nation did not have to take into account the reaction of the United States. Nor can I envisage a scenario in which we would use a nuclear weapon when the Americans had decided not to use theirs. And if they had decided to do so there would be no advantage in us firing one off well. Justifications like "weapons of last resort", "second centre of decision" and "fundamental basis of our security" are meaningless when you begin to analyse them. What could be that "last resort" when it would make sense to use them? If the Russians had somehow reached Calais it would not be to our advantage to use them. It would be an act of suicide--like Hitler in his bunker but worse, because it would be committing the whole nation to destruction.

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There is another good reason for giving them up. Our retention of them and all the reasons invented for doing so could be applied to any independent nation, and even more justifiably to those who have neighbours who are hostile or potentially so, which we are fortunate not to have. They are an encouragement to proliferation and not, as some suggest, a counter to it. Our nuclear weapons are useless to us as military weapons they cannot conceivably be used. We do not need them as a so-called deterrent, and I urge the Government to consider very carefully how to set about changing their policy which, like so many others, is inherited from their predecessors.

6.43 p.m.

Lord Bramall: My Lords, perhaps I should make clear at the outset that I speak on this subject as someone who, in the light of a number of factors relating to the international scene and our own defence effort, has changed his mind. I therefore find myself largely in agreement with my noble and gallant friend Lord Carver and perhaps, and I hope unusually, at some odds with my noble friend Lord Chalfont, despite the powerful speech that he made.

In the past, as someone who over 50 years ago had in the space of a few months seen for myself the ruins of both Hamburg and Hiroshima and found the former, destroyed by conventional means, in some ways more disturbing, I long held the view that it was all wars, and not just nuclear wars, which had if humanly possible and with honour to be prevented or at least limited or curtailed at the earliest opportunity. That has been the basis of our defence policy over the years. So I accepted, like the right reverend Prelate, that the mere presence of nuclear weapons and even what came to be called "the balance of terror" did have a part to play during the Cold War era in the deterring of any aggression and indeed of any sort of military adventurism by signalling such a dire warning on what such things might lead to. I believed that these weapons made a contribution to achieving that matchless blessing of 50 years of peace in Europe since World War II. Although with hindsight I do not think it would have changed the course of history one iota if we in this country had not had our own independent so-called deterrent, bearing in mind that the chances of our being determined to use it or even threaten its use when the Americans were not prepared to do so were always remote to say the least, I could see the rationale and the argument, particularly in the political sense of international influence, for making some significant contribution to the overall NATO deterrent on which, as I know well as a divisional commander in Germany in the 1970s, the whole NATO defence plan would have ultimately had to be based.

I also believed that if you were going to make a contribution it ought to be a credible and viable one. I therefore supported the replacement of Polaris, which was vulnerable and past its shelf life, by the modern Trident, designed to compete with the most sophisticated and powerful air defences, although, since

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Trident was so much more efficient than Polaris, I never saw the need for the fourth boat nor for the excessively short response time permanently demanded.

But now, looking at the world's scene, the authority and legitimacy of the Security Council, the world's correct preoccupation with the environment and what we are doing to our world, the economic and social problems of waging aggressive war, which have absolutely nothing to do with nuclear restraint, and the power of the media and of public and world opinion generally, I cannot see any situation in which this country would authorise the use of our own nuclear weapons on another country--not in the East, even post-Yeltsin, nor in the Middle East, nor anywhere. Against a strong country, people in glass houses do not throw stones and against a weak one it is, I hope, just not our style.

In a sense of course the weapons used against Hiroshima and Nagasaki--as my noble and gallant friend pointed out, weapons of tiny size compared with today--did make the point to an ignorant and innocent world and in that instance saved hundreds of thousands of lives in the process. But since then the weapons have been virtually unusable, except perhaps, as Winston Churchill said, as a "response from the grave", when it really would hardly matter. You may say--and indeed I have said it myself--that one of the reasons that Saddam Hussein did not put chemical weapons in his Scud missiles, of which he was capable, may have been a faint suspicion that the United States (not us, but the United States) might have used a nuclear weapon against him. This inhibiting, awesome retaliatory threat of nuclear weapons has now largely been overtaken by the accuracy and power of conventional cruise missiles which can take out key targets and installations without the inhibiting massive loss of civilian life.

So I would say to your Lordships, whatever way you look at it, even if you take a different view, as my noble friend Lord Chalfont does and as to a certain extent the right reverend Prelate does, on the value of some nuclear weapons being in the West's armoury in a still dangerous and uncertain world, or you are keener than I am on a belt-and-braces capability for a million to one chance, it must be admitted that we in this country are greatly over-nucleared in the context of our over-tight defence expenditure. It amazes me that this Government of all governments who in the past adopted, to say the least of it, a most suspicious attitude to these weapons should have accepted the whole nuclear deterrent philosophy--one might almost say theology--without demur or question. The Secretary of State for Defence constantly gives the impression that, although literally everything else in the Defence Vote will be looked at most critically in the coming review, the nuclear deterrent is ring-fenced, off limits and sacrosanct.

If the subject was ever raised in the Ministry of Defence, the line usually taken was that, now that the capital expenditure had been made on the four hulls and missiles, the running costs were so low that the political advantages of being part of the so-called "nuclear club" were well worth the cost. So "We're here, because we're here, because we're here" has become established policy not to be questioned, even though many were prepared

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to admit in private that if we were taking the decision now we would probably not have an independent deterrent at all, and certainly not one of the current size. But if, as the Minister so honestly admitted in reply to a question from my noble and gallant friend Lord Carver, the cost of maintaining our nuclear capability, including the full running costs of the Trident force, are in the order of £1 billion this year, surely, in view of the manifest weaknesses of our conventional forces, whose utility is clear and consistent--weaknesses in terms of manning, infantry manpower, medical services and sustainability in general, all of which the Government have so rightly criticised in the strongest possible terms--there must be better ways to spend that money. It must be a matter of military priorities to bring the programme into proper balance.

Nor, if we are serious about nuclear proliferation, can we expect much response from those who wish to own their own nuclear weapons for exactly the same reason as we have for so long justified ours, unless we show some example. And if we do show some example, then I think we can, and should, insist on some reciprocal act on their part. I hope that that would be the start of a proper process on all sides.

I urge the Government to put our nuclear deterrent under the same microscope as everything else in the strategic review so that we can keep our whole defence programme in proper balance. Quite apart from the moral viewpoint, savings here may produce just the amount of extra resources that we require to put right so many other things in the conventional field that so badly need doing.

6.53 p.m.

Lord Burnham: My Lords, I had intended to rise and say that, sadly, I did not feel that I could repeat the conventional congratulations to a noble Lord on introducing this type of debate and giving us the opportunity of discussing this subject. I had intended to speak in that manner because I did not, and still do not, feel that the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Putney, has succeeded in adding anything new. He has repeated the arguments that have been made against nuclear armaments for at least the past 40 years.

However, I have been very startled and saddened by the speeches of the two noble and gallant Lords, Lord Bramall and Lord Carver. I feel that they have totally misunderstood the nature and importance of nuclear weapons for world peace. I am especially glad that the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Bramall, said that he had changed his mind since the days when he was Chief of the Defence Staff. I am glad that he thought differently when he held that position. He referred to the "matchless blessing of our 50 years of peace".

The noble and gallant Lord, Lord Carver, talked about what would have happened and what steps could have been taken if the Russians had reached Calais. The point is that they did not reach Calais. They had no chance of reaching Calais because they knew of the overwhelming threat of nuclear retaliation, at a time when no country, not even America, would have been capable, in terms of conventional warfare, of retaliation in the face of an invasion of Germany and France as far as Calais.

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As I said, the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Putney, used an old argument. We heard nothing new. The noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, pointed out that there was nothing new to be heard. The noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, said that he had not changed his views in 30 years. I am not in the least surprised, because the situation has not changed in the past 30 years. There is no longer a Cold War; but there are countries which may well have evil intent and which are in possession of nuclear weapons and sizeable conventional forces. They might well be persuaded to use them if the total threat of immediate retaliation did not exist. The noble and gallant Lord, Lord Carver, said that that could never happen. I believe that, were the worst to happen, that could be wrong.

The noble Lord, Lord Jenkins, quoted Archbishop Martino. I thank the noble Lord for placing a copy of that speech in the Library; it was extremely difficult to get hold of. Archbishop Martino said that no weapon so threatens the peace of the 21st century as the nuclear weapon. He also says that,

    "Nuclear weapons can destroy"--

I emphasise the word "can"--

    "all life on the planet".

It is true, as noble and gallant Lords have said, that nuclear weapons are infinitely greater and more destructive than that used at Hiroshima. But there are also small "pocket" nuclear weapons which could be used and which would not destroy all life on the planet. I suggest to Archbishop Martino that there is no weapon that so achieves the peace of the second half of the 20th century, and will do in the 21st century, as the nuclear weapon.

Archbishop Martino was forced to admit the tragedy that more were killed by the use of short-range small weapons than by weapons of mass destruction. That he puts down to the continued growth of the arms trade. But he fails to recognise that nuclear weapons, which, because of the scale of destruction that they bring about, have never been used, are great contributors to the peace of the world.

The Archbishop uses much of his speech to condemn land-mines. That is a totally different question and not the subject of today's debate. But there can scarcely be modern weapons wider apart in concept than the nuclear bomb and the anti-personnel land-mine. In both cases, if the weapon concerned is to be wiped from the face of the earth, as many are trying to achieve, everybody will have to agree that it should happen, be prepared to set about it and get on with it unilaterally. All countries would have to be prepared to give up the advantages that they have gained, by having both the necessary material and the circumstances in which it can be used.

How are inspections to be carried out? The noble and gallant Lord said that verification was impossible. The advantages to a potential evil-doer are such that the temptations to have, maintain and hide a nuclear weapon are almost irresistible. A degree of goodwill is needed among all nations if what is sought by nuclear disarmers is to come about.

In the Cold War, the possession of nuclear weapons was vital to prevent those countries with massive conventional forces from attacking those who had not

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got them. Today they are vital so that those smaller countries which have a nuclear potential or an aggressively minded conventional force know that they will be instantly destroyed if they use it.

It is sad that worthy and genuine seekers for peace, like the noble Lord and the Archbishop, continue to ignore the practicalities, or rather the impracticalities, of eliminating certain types of weapons, and nuclear weapons in particular.

Before the first world war in which he was killed, the novelist Saki wrote a short story in which two parents, being dedicated pacifists, gave their children models of J S Mill and Lord Shaftesbury so that they could play peace games and develop their social responsibilities. Of course, it did not work. The children instantly painted them red and renamed them Marshal Saxe and Napoleon and converted the workhouses into barracks. The noble Lord represents the worthy pacifist parents. The children, sadly, represent the nations of the world.

As the only speaker in this debate from these Benches, perhaps I should reiterate the views of this party on the possession of nuclear weapons. We have heard different views from the two noble and gallant Lords, and views much in concert with the views of both the main political parties from the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont. The Benches opposite have confirmed their belief in the retention of nuclear weapons. Daniel has indeed come to judgment! It is scarcely necessary for me to add anything to my views and the Government's policy.

Although deeply concerned at the prospect of cost-cutting in the strategic defence review, the Conservatives have a defence policy underpinned by nuclear weapons which provide the ultimate guarantee of security. Anyone who believes, as the noble and gallant Lords seem to believe, that if we totally abandon our nuclear policy the Treasury will allow the Ministry of Defence to have all the money it costs for conventional weapons, is very sadly misleading himself.

Nuclear weapons uniquely ensure that aggression is not a national option for any country. It can reasonably be said that in the days of the Cold War it was those weapons alone which preserved peace in Europe. Now we have no Cold War, we no longer need the number of weapons which previously existed. This is recognised by all the political parties. By the end of 1998 we shall have 21 per cent. fewer warheads and nearly 60 per cent. less explosive power than we had in the Cold War. While we should not revive the infamous pre-war "10-year rule", we do not need the resources of 15 years ago.

The 1970 nuclear non-proliferation treaty, which was reviewed and extended indefinitely in 1995, was one of the main goals of Conservative defence policy. We vigorously support the comprehensive test ban treaty.

The Government put a commitment in their manifesto to retain Trident. In the past, Labour spokesmen have spoken of the need to preserve a minimum nuclear deterrent and I hope that the noble Baroness will confirm that today, because anything less would be disastrous. I believe it unlikely that she will find time to

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confirm the Government's commitment to a four-boat Trident fleet, but I can hope for it. I can also hope that she will confirm the last government's commitment in terms of the number of nuclear warheads and missile bodies.

Like the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, I ask why the noble Lord chose to feature the speech of the papal representative in the title for the debate. It is dangerous to quote Stalin, but he had something when he said:

    "The Pope: How many divisions has he?"

Stalin, like other dictators of whom there are still sadly many around the world, also knew what he would do with his nuclear weapons if he did get the opportunity of using them. It is by keeping our own weapons that the free countries ensure that they continue free and that relative peace is maintained. If it were the case that the countries of the world could only retain nuclear bombs or land-mines, it would be infinitely preferable to keep the bombs.

CND, Archbishop Martino, the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Putney, and their friends are worthy but unrealistic. Sadly, we have heard their case many times before and there is little new in it. However, I have to say that there is a good deal new in what we heard from the mouths of the noble and gallant Lords and I am saddened and startled by it. No doubt we shall get it all again in some further debate and again there will really be nothing new. We should keep nuclear weapons. It is the policy of this Government and of the Conservative Party to continue to work for the best interests and the peace of the world.

7.5 p.m.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean): My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Putney, for introducing the debate this evening. As ever, the noble Lord is indefatigable in ensuring that nuclear disarmament is kept at the forefront of our minds. However, even without his efforts, this is a matter which is very much a concern of the Government. We recognise that it is also a question in which there is a high level of public interest. In the Gallup Poll which was conducted in October this year, 87 per cent. of those questioned supported negotiations to prohibit nuclear weapons. We pay close attention to that. My honourable friend the Minister of State in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office with responsibility for disarmament, Tony Lloyd, recently held a meeting with a large number of non-governmental organisations to hear their views on these and related issues.

The speech by Archbishop Martino to the United Nations' First Committee called for the world to move to the abolition of nuclear weapons through a universal, non-discriminatory ban with intensive inspection by a universal authority. It is a call which noble Lords will find mirrored in the Government's manifesto commitment to mutual, balanced and verifiable nuclear disarmament.

We fully agree with the Archbishop on the desirability of the global elimination of nuclear weapons, but I must say that not all the Archbishop's

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arguments support his case equally. Nuclear weapons account for a tiny proportion of global military spending. They are not a factor at all in the spending of the vast majority of nations. They constitute a relatively small part of even the declining defence budgets of the nuclear weapon states.

In answer to one of the points made by the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Carver, in our case 90 per cent. of the £12 billion estimated procurement cost of the Trident programme has already been spent. Average running costs have been estimated at £200 million per annum over a 30-year in-service life. This forms only a very small percentage of the defence budget.

The abolition of nuclear weapons therefore offers no financial panacea, as the noble and gallant Lord suggested. The Government wish to see their global elimination because it is desirable in itself and not on the grounds of cost.

We are committed to arms control in all forms. The Archbishop referred to the Ottawa convention banning landmines. This Government are proud to have played their full part in the process that led to that agreement. We have now signed it and we hope to ratify it soon. We are also party to the chemical and biological weapons conventions he mentioned, and have been leading international efforts in Geneva to strengthen the latter. On 28th July we introduced new arms export criteria which made good our pledge to press for responsible arms trading.

As one of the five nuclear weapon states, Britain has a key role to play in the process of nuclear disarmament. As I have already made clear to noble Lords on a number of occasions, we intend to use our position to work for the global elimination of nuclear weapons. To achieve that, we will press for multilateral negotiations towards mutual, balanced and verifiable reductions. Once satisfied with verified progress towards our goal, we will ensure that British nuclear weapons are included in the multilateral negotiations. It will involve, as the noble Lord, Lord Monkswell, reminded us, steady diplomacy and painstaking negotiation.

The noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Putney, asked what we were doing to make good our commitments at the moment and the noble Lord, Lord Rea, asked what effective progress the Government are making. At a global level much progress has already been made towards nuclear disarmament especially through bilateral strategic arms reduction talks, or START. That has led to the United States and Russia agreeing significant reductions of their nuclear arsenals which are the world's largest numbering many thousands of warheads. Though outside these talks, Britain has played its full part in working for nuclear disarmament. We have unilaterally promised to withdraw our free-fall nuclear bomb by the end of March 1998. I draw that particularly to the attention of the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Bramall, who suggested that Britain ought to be doing more to set an example. We are setting that example. We have unilaterally promised to withdraw our free-fall nuclear bomb, but that will leave us with a single nuclear deterrent system. We have also taken a leading role in the negotiations of essential precursors

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of global nuclear disarmament, such as the comprehensive test ban treaty. This treaty, which ends nuclear weapons test explosions for all time, has been the major global advance of recent years. It has been signed by over 140 states, including all the nuclear weapon states. We hope to ratify in the new year, becoming the first of the nuclear weapons states to do so. It has created a strong moral and political norm against testing. The international monitoring system, to be set up under it, will in due course provide an additional practical deterrent to nuclear testing, ensuring that any breaches will be detected. We and the international community will continue to work to persuade those states which have not signed, to do so as soon as possible.

Another success story of recent years has been the development of nuclear weapon free zones, as mentioned by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Oxford. We believe that such zones, freely arrived at by all the states of the region concerned, can make a valuable contribution to global and regional peace and security. The UK has already ratified the protocols to the treaties establishing zones in Latin America and the Caribbean, and in the South Pacific. Last year we signed the protocols to the African nuclear weapon free zone and are working towards ratification. We are also trying (with other nuclear weapon states) to find a solution that will enable us to sign the protocol to the treaty creating a zone in south east Asia. We continue to consider proposals for new zones, such as the initiative to establish a zone in central Asia.

Through the protocols to nuclear weapon free zone treaties, we and other nuclear weapon states give the parties to those treaties negative security assurances, as the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Carver, reminded us. These commit us not to use nuclear weapons against these states, unless they attack us in alliance or association with a nuclear weapon state. We have also made a unilateral statement extending such an assurance to all non-nuclear-weapon state parties to the nuclear non-proliferation treaty.

Several further steps towards disarmament have been suggested during this debate--particularly by the right reverend Prelate in a number of different ways--and by such bodies as the Canberra Commission. Many of these are being examined in the strategic defence review and elsewhere.

This examination will cover all aspects of our nuclear policy including warhead numbers, greater transparency and de-alerting measures, in the way that the right reverend Prelate suggested it should. If we conclude that circumstances allow us to make changes in any of these areas we will be prepared to do so, while ensuring that we retain an effective deterrent.

One of the most common suggestions is that a timetable be agreed with a date by which nuclear weapons will be eliminated, although I know that Archbishop Martino did not call for this in his recent speech. Bearing in mind the complexities of disposal and verification, we remain to be convinced of the wisdom of a pre-set timetable.

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I should repeat our commitment to a fissile material cut-off treaty. We believe it would be an important step towards eventual nuclear disarmament, as well as strengthening the non-proliferation regime. And we will work hard to bring about the start of negotiations on this issue in the conference on disarmament.

This Government welcome the International Court of Justice's recognition, repeated by the Archbishop, of the importance of obligations under the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, which includes a commitment to nuclear disarmament by all states parties.

The court was unable to conclude definitively whether the threat or use of nuclear weapons would be lawful or unlawful in an extreme circumstance of self-defence, in which the very survival of a state would be at stake. We have always maintained that the use of nuclear weapons would be subject to the requirements of international law applicable in armed conflict, but that the legality of any specific use or threat of use would depend on all the circumstances at the time. The United Kingdom's nuclear deterrence policy remains entirely defensive: we would only ever consider the use of nuclear weapons in extreme circumstances of self-defence, which includes the defence of our NATO allies.

The noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Putney, asked why the United Kingdom voted against the Malaysian resolution at the UN on the International Court of Justice advisory opinion. We voted against the resolution because of its selective quotation of the advisory opinion and its unrealistic call for time-bound multilateral negotiations. However, we remain committed to the goal of nuclear disarmament and continue to hold the International Court of Justice in high regard.

I add that we supported resolutions tabled by Japan on the ultimate elimination of nuclear weapons and by the United States of America and Russian on bilateral nuclear arms negotiations. We also supported resolutions on nuclear weapon free zones in central and southern Asia, Latin America, the Middle East and Africa. I hope that gives the noble Lord some assurance. I was a little perplexed by his notion that there were differences in the policy between the Foreign Office and the Ministry of Defence on those issues. The noble Lord raised this question specifically in an oral Question on 10th December. I hope that I was unequivocal in assuring him at that time that there was no withdrawing from the Government's policy as stated in our manifesto and as supported by many people in this country.

The noble Lord, Lord Rea, asked about President Yeltsin's remarks in Stockholm. President Yeltsin's statement has since been clarified by a spokesman who stated that no reductions were imminent. We would of course welcome any further reduction in Russia's nuclear stockpile in particular to implement the pledge to reduce their tactical nuclear weapons made by President Yeltsin in 1992.

I was also asked by the noble Lord, Lord Rea, about START 2. START 2 is not yet in force because it has not yet been ratified by Russia. President Yeltsin

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introduced the treaty to the Duma and Russia and the US agreed revisions of the timetable for its implementation and demarcation under the anti-ballistic missile treaty. Those are expected to resolve the doubts expressed by opponents of the treaty in Russia and to smooth the way for verification.

The noble and gallant Lord, Lord Carver, expressed doubts about the Government's policies in this area, in particular in relation to implementation of the Canberra Commission's goals. This Government strongly support the Canberra Commission's goals of the global elimination of nuclear weapons. Some of the recommendations of the Canberra Commission have already been achieved; for example, the comprehensive test ban treaty which created such a strong norm against nuclear testing. The United Kingdom will have only one single nuclear weapon system in 1998. We believe it is making significant progress. It is bound to be painstaking; but, nonetheless, it is progress.

The noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, raised questions in answer to some of the points made by the right reverend Prelate in relation to detaching warheads from missiles. Her Majesty's Government agree with that point. We believe that to detach warheads from missiles would be impractical, as he suggested, because of the nature of our deterrent. As Trident is a single submarine-based system, there would be significant difficulties in detaching our warheads from missiles while maintaining the credible deterrent to which Her Majesty's Government are committed while we are going through the process I described.

The noble Lord also spoke about the importance of Trident. However, the noble Lord, Lord Monkswell, reminded us of the Government's position over this. We have said that we will retain Trident, but retain it while we work for the global elimination of nuclear weapons. It is a very different policy from that of the previous government, as the noble Lord, Lord Burnham, reminded us. Our overall objective is of course a strong defence against the new security challenges in the post-Cold War world. We have recently ordered new missile bodies in order to ensure that Trident is kept up to date. But that does not mean that our goal is not clear: to continue to press for multilateral, balanced and verifiable reductions in these weapons. Our goal of the final elimination of those weapons remains clear.

The noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, said that there were no new arguments. He was not surprised that there were no new arguments. Neither am I surprised that there are no new arguments. It is indeed an old argument, but it is an old argument with a great deal of new energy behind it, a new energy supported by the British public. He may have found it a depressing argument, but many do not. They find it a genuine prospect for the eventual elimination of these appalling weapons of mass destruction--a very important and exhilarating prospect. It will indeed be painstaking; it will indeed be difficult; it will indeed demand verification; but it is important and it is desirable. The noble and gallant Lords, Lord Carver and Lord Bramall, showed that this Government's policy is very, very different from that of their predecessors.

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I thank the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins, for allowing me another opportunity to present--I hope with much greater clarity than is possible in dealing with Questions in your Lordships' House--the Government's position on nuclear disarmament. I have taken note of all the points made. I hope that I have answered them. When I read through Hansard if I find that there are any points that still remain to be answered, I shall write to noble Lords.

In the seven months since the general election we have made steady progress on this issue. We shall continue on that course in line with the undertaking so clearly expressed in our manifesto. I conclude by referring to the remarks of Archbishop Martino's statement. He called for an unequivocal commitment to the abolition of nuclear arms. I am happy to repeat that this Government are committed to the global elimination of those nuclear weapons.

7.22 p.m.

Lord Jenkins of Putney: My Lords, in her brilliant summary to this fascinating debate my noble friend has clarified the Government's position. I find it entirely satisfactory. I have a certain qualification about speed and direction; but, so far as concerns the objective, there is a growing feeling, which was exemplified by the speeches of the noble and gallant Lords who graced this occasion with their presence, that the world is moving towards making a distinction between weapons of mass destruction and weapons which can reasonably be used in war.

It is rather like a man in a house who quarrels with other members of his family. There is not much point in bringing down the whole house by using a weapon which has that effect. In a simple way that is why the distinction between weapons of mass destruction which threaten our world as it has never been threatened before and other weapons is made by those whose duty has been--and the duty of their successors might still be--to put those weapons into active use. There was an international meeting of generals from many countries, including Russia, at which the reluctance of people to initiate a process which might have the type of effect I have described was manifest. The world is moving in that direction.

Apart from the opening speech, the debate has been characterised by quite brilliant speeches. It should be printed and circulated widely. It would make good reading. I am grateful to noble Lords for taking part in the debate. I feel invigorated by it. I hope that that feeling is not confined to me--I do not believe that it is. I beg leave to withdraw the Motion for Papers.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.

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