|Previous Section||Index||Home Page|
The comprehensive test ban treaty was signed on the understanding that it could be adequately verified and existing stockpiles safely maintained. I am one of those who believe that the outlawing of nuclear testing worldwide is vital. I believe, too, that a continuing United States refusal to ratify the treaty makes it easier for other countries to deny any responsibility to do so. I have in mind, in particular, the cases of India and Pakistan.
I have always thought that there is a risk in unilateralism. I thought that there was a considerable risk in unilateralism throughout the debate about whether the United Kingdom should maintain its own nuclear deterrent. The unilateral approach can be seductive. Treaty negotiation and adherence to the terms of treaties can be a restraint on freedom of action; treaties are cumbersome and sometimes messy. The agreements that they embody are not always satisfactory, but if the major military superpower moves increasingly towards a unilateral approach to the matters under discussion, that will make the maintenance of a collective--a multilateral--regime to deal with those matters extremely difficult.
One of the lessons learned from the cold war was that collective action is essential to success. In the new post-cold war environment, the best way to ensure security is by collective action through NATO, the United Nations, the Commonwealth and the European Union, and through arms agreements that are universally subscribed to. Just as unilateralism was rejected, by some of us at least, during the cold war, so it should be rejected now.
Mr. Campbell: Arms control agreements not only control proliferation, but ensure predictability. If predictability were a word to describe any hon. Member, it would certainly describe the hon. Member for New Forest, East (Dr. Lewis). I can almost guess the question that he wants to put, but so that my curiosity may properly be satisfied, I shall give way to him.
Dr. Lewis: I thank the right hon. and learned Gentleman for giving way. He is right that my remarks on this subject are predictable, because, unlike his party, I consistently supported the British nuclear deterrent and NATO's policy of nuclear deterrence during the cold war. Will he explain why Liberal Democrats were in the forefront of the unilateral disarmament movement? I will be happy to quote the Liberal Democrats chapter and verse from the 1980s. Why, in October 1983, at the largest ever CND demonstration against the vital deployment of cruise missiles, was one of the star speakers on the platform the right hon. Member for Yeovil (Paddy Ashdown), who went on to lead the Liberal Democrats?
Mr. Campbell: I was right, and I suppose I was wrong, as well. If we are to go back to 1983, those were the days when the Conservative and Unionist party in Scotland was advocating the merits of something that came to be called the poll tax. One thing is certain. When it comes to defending the interests of the people of the United Kingdom, my right hon. Friend the Member for Yeovil (Paddy Ashdown) has put himself and his own life at risk on rather more occasions than many, many hon. Members who now see fit to criticise him.
Dr. Lewis: I thank the right hon. and learned Gentleman for giving way. I know that the record of his party is such that he is strongly tempted to rewrite it. It is an historical fact that at the crucial time about which he was speaking--the crucial period when decisions were taken whether to employ cruise missiles and to replace Polaris with Trident--his own party leader repeatedly and publicly called Trident a white elephant and said that it should not be deployed, and repeatedly said that cruise missiles were the missiles that we had to stop. That was his leader's and his party's position. It is astonishing and deplorable that the right hon. and learned Gentleman cannot face up to that, but harks back to something like the council tax, about which we Conservatives admit we were wrong. Will he not admit that he, his leader and his party were wrong about unilateralism in the 1980s, for that is what they were?
Mr. Campbell: This is a pretty arid discussion. The views of my right hon. Friend the Member for Yeovil are on record and he has defended them on many occasions. I do not think that anyone like him, who served his country with great bravery and put his own life at risk many times, has anything to answer to the hon. Member for New Forest, East for.
With regard to my party, it is quite wrong to say that the Liberal party or the Liberal Democrats ever espoused a policy of unilateral nuclear disarmament. It is right to say that there were members of our party--indeed, there are still some--who, out of sincere religious conviction, believe that nuclear weapons should not be tolerated. That is something for them to be proud of. Our party is sufficiently wide to embrace that nonconformist and Quaker tradition from the 19th century and allow it to flourish in the 21st century, without feeling any embarrassment whatever as regards the hon. Member for New Forest, East.
The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mr. Brian Wilson): Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman agree that one does not have to be a Quaker to be worried about any weapons that the hon. Member for New Forest, East (Dr. Lewis) is so enthusiastic about?
The debate has echoes of the period immediately before the 1992 general election, when we had a debate about nuclear policy just about every Friday because the then Conservative Government were attempting to embarrass the Labour Opposition on the question, which now seems less relevant than it was then, of whether Labour would build the fourth Trident submarine. We had such debates Friday after Friday. Not much light, but a certain amount of heat was generated. The important point--which is important as a response to the intervention and to my momentary trip down memory lane--is that nuclear weapons must be seen in the present strategic context, not in the obsessive historical context to which some in the House seem determined to refer us back.
I reject the suggestion that the anti-ballistic missile treaty is ancient history. I also reject the approach that declares that the anti-ballistic missile treaty is no longer in force. We must accept a determination on the part of the United States to proceed with NMD.
It is important to remember that the treaty is capable of amendment. My view is that we cannot exclude the possibility that Mr. Putin, on behalf of the Russians, will seek--if I may use a colloquialism--to cut some kind of deal. It is not difficult to envisage the basis of some agreement between the United States and Russia that allowed for an amendment of the treaty in return, for example, to agreed reductions in the total number of strategic warheads held by both Russia and the United States; that relied on at least a reconsideration by the Senate of the comprehensive test ban treaty; and that included some additional funds replicating the Nunn- Lugar programme, in order to enable Russia to deal with the detritus of its nuclear weapons programme, some of which swings on anchors at Murmansk and some of which is to be found in decaying arsenals throughout Russia. Mr. Putin might argue, perhaps with more difficulty, that a bargain was possible if the expansion of NATO was inhibited. It is not impossible to understand such an arrangement.
The article in the Financial Times argued that China's position of outright opposition may be changing. It is not difficult to envisage that country, although not a signatory to the treaty, endeavouring to reach some accommodation with the United States, perhaps to drive a harder bargain on trade, economic advantage or, indeed, on Taiwan. We must therefore accept the determination of the Administration to proceed and the possible willingness of the two principal protagonists to reach some agreement.
The development of effective missile defence is measured in decades rather than years. The land-based system cannot be deployed until 2007 at the earliest, and the sea-based system cannot be deployed until 2011, long after the United States constitution allows Mr. Bush to continue to occupy the White House.
Mr. Richard Butler is often mentioned in the context of sanctions against Iraq. I recommend his recent book, "Saddam Defiant", to anyone who has an interest in the matter. After making the case for inspection, he deals with sanctions. On page 55, he states: