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Commons Chamber

Volume 21: debated on Monday 29 March 1982

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House Of Commons

Monday 29 March 1982

The House met at half-past Two o'clock


[MR. SPEAKER in the Chair]

Royal Assent

I have to notify the House, in accordance with the Royal Assent Act 1967, that the Queen has signified Her Royal Assent to the following Acts:

  • 1. Agricultural Training Board Act 1982.
  • 2. Industrial Training Act 1982.
  • 3. Canada Act 1982.
  • 4. Travel Concessions (London) Act 1982.
  • Private Business

    Port Of London Bill

    As amended, considered; to be read the Third time.

    Oral Answers To Questions


    Works Of Art (Export Licences)


    asked the Secretary of State for Trade if he will state, pursuant to his reply to the hon. Member for Isle of Ely, Official Report, 10 March, column 406, what other information it is his Department's policy not to disclose.

    Each request to my Department for information is considered on its merits

    Will the Minister accept that the only sane criteria for withholding information are national security. commercial confidentiality or disproportionate costs? Will[his Department try a little harder when considering export certificates for works of art, or the day-to-day running of the English Tourist Board?

    I did not know that there was any problem about the English Tourist Board or works of art. We grant about 38, 000 export licences a year and approximately 4, 000 of those are for works of art. Of those 4, 000, only 1 or 2 per cent. are controversial. All details about them are published at the end of the year.

    Foreign Trade Balance


    asked the Secretary of State for Trade whether it remains his policy to seek a balance in United Kingdom foreign trade on a multilateral rather than a bilateral basis.

    Will my right hon. Friend be prepared to show considerable patience in explaining to hon. Members on both sides of the House that the days of bilateral barter in trade have long since gone and that what matters to Britain, as a manufacturing and trading country, is to have a high level of trade which remains in reasonable balance overall?

    I accept what my hon. Friend said. However, there are one or two markets, particularly in Eastern Europe, where barter remains the significant part of trade structure

    Will the Secretary of State accept that whereas we all generally support multilateral agreements, it may be necessary with countries such as Japan to introduce every possible measure, including bilateral talks, to try to reduce their trade imbalance with Britian? Unilateral action may be necessary to stop their imports into Britain

    The hon. Gentleman will have seen that the European Community, the United Kingdom and the United States have sought to conduct discussions with the Japanese to deal with certain aspects of their trade

    Further to the question on the Japanese element in multilateral trade, is it true, as reported yesterday, that France limits imports of Japanese cars to 2, 000 per year? If so, is there any reason why we should not do the same?

    The method whereby the French limit Japanese car imports is a mystery wrapped in an enigma. It would not be appropriate for the United Kingdom Government to depart from their existing voluntary restraint arrangement, which pays regard to a whole number of interests, including that of the domestic British purchaser.

    "The Times"


    asked the Secretary of State for Trade if he is satisfied with the observance of the undertakings as to editorial independence that were given to him on the acquisition of The Times

    I do not consider that any of the conditions I imposed relating to editorial independence have been broken. Responsibility for approving the appointment and dismissal of the editor is a matter for the independent national directors and not for me

    Does the Secretary of State agree that what was, in effect, the constructive dismissal of the editor of The Times was a matter of "fire first and ask questions later"? Does this not constitute the second breach of undertakings given to the Secretary of State, the first having been the transfer of the titles, which had to be reversed by Mr. Murdoch? Has the Secretary of State any lessons to learn both from the nature and enforceability of undertakings given to him on the transfer of newspapers?

    If the former editor of The Times thought that he was being constructively dismissed he was under no obligation to resign. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Oh, yes. The man who was a great crusader over thalidomide could have taken the case to the independent national directors. He chose not to. There is no question of the conditions having been infringed. Opposition Members who are trying to mount a crusade simply have not identified the nature of the problem.

    Will my right hon. Friend resist the temptation to go on looking like the emperor who had no clothes, and living in a world of complete make-believe about The Times? If he is so satisfied that the independent national directors played a proper role, will he explain why there was no proper mechanism for calling them to exercise their functions to safeguard editorial independence?

    The mechanism was there, and the former editor of The Times chose not to use it

    Is the Secretary of State aware that it is now well known on Fleet Street that it was as a result of the direct pressure of the Prime Minister that Rupert Murdoch took the action that he did? Does the whole situation not prove that the golden rule on Fleet Street is that he who owns the gold makes the rules?

    Will my right hon. Friend resist the temptation to refer to reporters and editors with the ballyhoo that one uses for footballers or film stars? Does he agree that what matters in the media is the message, not the messengers?

    I have tried to be austere and detached about the matter. That is why I confined my answer to the specific question of the independent national directors and whether the conditions made for editorial independence at the time of the acquisition of Times Newspapers Limited have been infringed. I have to say that they have not.

    Laker Airways (Allocation Of Routes)


    asked the Secretary of State for Trade if he will make a statement about the allocation of route licences formerly held by Laker Airways

    The allocation of route licences is, in the first instance, for the Civil Aviation Authority to determine in accordance with its statutory duties. The authority will hold hearings to consider applications to take over the Laker route licences as soon as practicable. The Laker licences have not yet been formally revoked.

    My right hon. Friend has directed the CAA to grant British Caledonian Airways a temporary exemption from licensing arrangements to enable it to operate a service between Gatwick and Los Angeles in place of that operated by Laker.

    Is it not clear that in the past the method of allocating routes led to an oversupply of seats at minimum economic cost, with the result that, although passengers gained in the short run through cheap fares, in the long run there have been deficits, bankruptcies, redundancies and passengers losing all their fare money? Is there not a strong case for reviewing the allocation of routes and at least making it clear that no operation in which Mr. Freddie Laker has a part will be allocated any of the routes in future?

    The answer to the question about Sir Freddie Laker is "No". On the hon. Gentleman's suggestion that we look again at allocating the routes, the answer is also "No". My officials are this very week discussing with the American authorities the overcapacity of seats on the North Atlantic route.

    Will my hon. Friend congratulate the Secretary of State on his sensible decision to grant the Los Angeles route to British Caledonian Airways? Will he remind everyone that British Caledonian is just as much an example of private enterprise as Laker Airways?

    I am grateful to my hon. Friend for making those two points. I reinforce what he says by pointing out that the private sector, as opposed to the public sector, last year made a profit. I thank him for his kind remarks about my right hon. Friend, who deserves them.

    Will the Minister confirm the recent story in the Financial Times that the Government believe that the main cause of uneconomic operations over the North Atlantic is an excess of available seats? Are the Government pressing for a gateway moratorium over the North Atlantic? Has that not been a problem not only for Laker Airways but for all British airlines?

    It is true that in a time of world recession there is a problem of overcapacity. My answer to the hon. Gentleman's specific question about gateway moratoria is "Yes".



    asked the Secretary of State for Trade whether he is satisfied with the level of exports.

    Our recent export performance is encouraging and I hope that we can build on the recent improvements in our labour cost competitiveness.

    Should not British industry be congratulated on what is by any yardstick a fine performance at a time of world trade recession? Additionally, should not my right hon. Friend be happy with the way in which his Department and others have given every possible assistance to British exporters?

    I am certain that the whole House would wish to congratulate British industry on securing the orders, which sustain employment. I take note of my hon. Friend's second point.

    Is my right hon. Friend satisfied with the level of exports to Russia, bearing in mind that the value of imports from that country has consistently been twice the value of our exports there? Is there not a case for further bargaining with the Russians to encourage them to take more of our goods and to help trade between our two countries to flourish?

    I should welcome an expansion of trade with the Soviet Union, consistent with our other international obligations.

    European Community (Exports)


    asked the Secretary of State for Trade if he anticipates a continuation of the trend of increasing trade in United Kingdom exports to other European Economic Community countries through 1982.

    Does my right hon. Friend agree that, with the present trends, by mid-1984 well over half our total exports will go to other EEC member States? Does that not make it crystal clear that our continuing membership is even more indispensable and vital than we thought hitherto?

    I should be pleased to see the statistics that project that. Our trade with the Community is valuable. Of course, trade is a two-way business. There has been a rise in imports as well as exports. Much will depend on growth within the Community and in markets outside.

    Is the Secretary of State aware of the great anxiety in the British textile industry, and particularly the carpet industry, about the degree to which the Belgian carpet industry is subsidised, making it difficult for us to export to Europe and to meet competition from Belgian imports? What action is the Secretary of State taking or proposing to take to deal with the unfair subsidisation?

    It is inherently a matter for the European Commission, but if the carpet industry or the hon. Gentleman approaches my Department to see how best we can formulate a case to sustain his point, we shall be happy to help.

    Is my right hon. Friend aware that an extrapolation of the figures for trade with the EEC for the last two months of last year—an £850 million deficit in manufacturing—shows that by the year 1990 we should have a deficit in manufacturing trade of about £30, 000 million? Does that not prove the absurdity of European fanatics putting forward bogus statistics to prove unprovable facts?

    Again, I am trying to be austere and detached about this highly emotional topic. Projections into the future should be undertaken only on the basis of carefully assessed scientific material.

    Does the Minister think that the trend of food prices to increase is likely to continue?

    Inasmuch as such a reply is required of me, I should have thought that it would be "Yes".

    Lodge Road Builders (Newspaper Report)


    asked the Secretary of State for Trade whether he is sending any reply to the Birmingham Evening Mail in connection with its article on the activities of Lodge Road Builders, which was sent to the Department at its invitation at the end of January; and if he will publish his reply in the Official Report.

    I have read the local press cuttings on this matter with concern. I have passed them to the Director General of Fair Trading in order that he can consider whether he would be justified under part III of the Fair Trading Act 1973 to seek assurances from those concerned that they will refrain from such conduct in future.

    Is the Minister aware that part of the problem is that it is impossible for people to contact Lodge Road Builders? Is it not a scandal that con men in firms such as Lodge Road Builders can use "Yellow Pages" to obtain business and can charge extortionate amounts of money for work that is done badly or not at all? Can nothing be done to protect the public against such unscrupulous people?

    I am glad that the hon. Gentleman has raised the question. It is a matter of concern and I am looking into it. In this case, the papers have gone to the Office of Fair Trading, and the trading standards department is also looking into the matter to see whether a prosecution would be appropriate. The Supply of Goods and Services Bill, which will come before the House on Friday, and which will codify that area of the law, will also be helpful.

    Air Travel (Indemnity Scheme)


    asked the Secretary of State for Trade if he has completed his consideration of an indemnity scheme for loss of advance payments by scheduled air travel passengers.

    This work is continuing. There are a number of possible approaches, but all of them present difficult problems and I cannot yet say whether a workable solution will be found.

    Is not a workable solution absolutely essential? Does not the Minister regard it as totally unsatisfactory that he wrote to me on 12 March about an elderly lady in my constituency who had saved up to travel by Laker Airways and was told by him that the only advice that he could give was that as an unsecured creditor she should make contact with the receiver?

    That may be unsympathetic advice, but it is extremely sound. I advise the hon. Gentleman to ask his constituent to follow it.

    In view of the importance of early warning in any system, will the Minister tell us whether he or any other Ministers were informed before Christmas of doubts about the financial viability of Laker Airways?

    Is there not a general problem about consumers paying in advance for services? Will the Department publish as early as possible the Cork committee report on insolvency, which might give consumers under those circumstances more priority than ordinary creditors?

    I do not know the answer to the hon. Gentleman's question, but I shall find out and let him know.

    British Airways


    asked the Secretary of State for Trade if he will make a statement on his consideration of the Price Waterhouse report on British Airways.

    British Airways commissioned a report from Price Waterhouse to help the airline return to profitability. British Airways has sent me a copy of the report. It contains commercially confidential information, and British Airways do not intend to publish it. My right hon. Friend and I shall, however, be discussing with them the report and their response to its recommendations.

    Does the Price Waterhouse report make any recommendations regarding the capital reconstruction of British Airways? How much will be required either to pay off the loan debt or to go into equity shares, if that is the way the Minister decides to go? Is there any truth in the newspaper report that that money amounts to about £600 million?

    I advise the hon. Gentleman not to believe everything that he reads in the newspapers about the report. I have already said that it is a confidential report commissioned by British Airways and not by us. Therefore, it is not up to us to reveal its contents.

    Does the report help my hon. Friend to decide how and when British Airways shares will be made available to the public?

    Does the Minister agree that what the Government might or might not do about BA on the taxpayers' behalf is a matter of legitimate concern to the House and the public? Will he confirm that the Government will not write off any loan debt or translate it into equity in a way that involves the taxpayer putting a large amount of money into British Airways before it is sold to private interests?

    I was asked about Price Waterhouse, not about British Airways' finances. The Price Waterhouse report was commissioned by British Airways. Therefore, it is not up to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State or me to reveal its contents to the public. If Sir John King wishes to do so, that is up to him. With regard to future plans about British Airways and its privatisation, the right hon. Gentleman will have to wait and see.


    asked the Secretary of State for Trade if he will review his policy towards British Airways to exclude the sale of profitable subsidiaries.

    Although the Government's aim has been to sell to the private sector a stake in British Airways as a whole, I would not exclude the separate disposal of a subsidiary if the British Airways board, in the exercise of its commercial judgment, decides that the airline's future interests are best served by such a disposal.

    Does it make sense to threaten British Airways with the sale of its profitable and enterprising subsidiaries when the British Airways board is making enormous efforts to get the whole operation back into the black?

    I commend strongly the efforts of the British Airways board. I should also like to commend the attitude of many members of British Airways' staff during the present ramp strike. They are showing a splendid spirit for the future. With regard to the future and the sale of subsidiaries, there is no question of a threat. The decision on whether to sell a subsidiary is for the British Airways board. There is no pressure from me that it should do so.

    Will the Minister take on board that I was pleased to hear him say a few kind words about British Airways because he seems to spend most of his time denigrating, not assisting it? Surely it would not be beneficial to sell profitable subsidiaries. Will the Minister not take up most of his time making apologies for Laker, who was a bad employer of staff?

    It is always pleasant to hear kindly words from the hon. Gentleman. The kindly words that I pushed in the direction of British Airways were well deserved. When criticism is necessary I will give it as equally as I will give praise where that is due.

    As the Minister mentioned the ramp dispute, does he agree that the attitude of British Airways management in locking out a section of its staff will hardly enhance its future financial prospects? Will he encourage British Airways to take a more positive attitude, at least towards negotiating in the dispute, or is he standing idly by on the sidelines making critical noises in the hope that the dispute will precipitate the break-up of British Airways?

    The answer to the last part of the hon. Gentleman's question is "No, certainly not." The details of the dispute are a matter for the British Airways board.


    asked the Secretary of State for Trade if he will make a statement on his proposals to privatise British Airways.

    The Government intend to sell a controlling stake in British Airways to the private sector as soon as practicable. I very much welcome the steps which the British Airways board is taking to improve profitability and enhance the propects of an early sale.

    What is the earliest date by which my hon. Friend anticipates that British Airways can be back in profit? Is there any chance that the Government will sell a stake in British Airways before then?

    I hope that British Airways will be profitable in the next financial year. As I have already said, if the British Airways board decided that it wanted to sell a subsidiary in the meantime, I would not stand in its way.

    What sense can it make for the Government to allow British Airways to consider flogging subsidiaries that make a profit of £20 million a year if the Government wish to privatise the airline? Does Price Waterhouse have any bearing on the Government's policy to privatise British Airways? Is it not a scandal that the Government refuse to publish a report that involves potentially hundreds of millions of pounds of taxpayers' money, in a desperate bid to flog a national asset?

    There is no scandal. It is not my report to publish. If Sir John King wishes to do so, that is up to him. The selling of subsidiaries in the meantime is for the commercial judgment of British Airways. If they consider that getting the cash in the short term from such sales will be to its benefit, they will do so. If they decide that it is better to sell British Airways altogether in the long term, they will do so. We shall not stand in its way in either direction.

    Will my hon. Friend acknowledge that reducing their labour force from some 58, 000 to 43, 000 in just over two years is no mean effort on the part of British Airways? Furthermore, they have pruned 16 international uneconomic routes and reduced their borrowing by some £160 million. Will my hon. Friend acknowledge that and perhaps take this opportunity to pay tribute to British Airways for the efforts that they are making to get their house in order and enable the corporation to write a prospectus for the sale of its shares in due course?

    I am grateful to my hon. Friend for giving me the opportunity, which I take yet again, to pay tribute to all the good things that British Airways are doing. However, they are taking that action because they are almost £1 billion in debt and had a trading loss of £141 million last year. I am happy to give praise where praise is due, but the action that British Airways are taking is necessary because of the faults of the past, which must be rectified as soon as possible.

    The Minister implies that he has no objection to the Price Waterhouse report being made available. He suggests that the difficulty arises because it is British Airways' report. Will he respond to the interest that has been shown in the House and the high public importance that attaches to this issue by asking Sir John King to make the report available to Members of Parliament and placing it in the Library?

    There was no such implication in my remarks. I merely made a neutral statement that Sir John King commissioned the report. It is therefore up to him to make it available if he wishes to do so. I can assure the right hon. Gentleman and the House that if Sir John decided that it was in the interests of British Airways to publish the report, we would not stand in his way.

    European Community (Balance Of Trade)


    asked the Secretary of State for Trade if he will make a statement on the latest balance of trade figures between the United Kingdom and other European Community countries.

    The United Kingdom had a slight surplus on trade with the Community according to the admittedly incomplete figures so far published for 1981.

    I welcome that apparent surplus. Will my right hon. Friend confirm that the value of our exports to EEC countries in the past eight years has increased more than sixfold and that West Germany has now become our largest customer? If that is so, should not those who contemplate the United Kingdom withdrawing from the EEC understand the damaging consequences of doing so, especially for Britain's economy?

    I confirm the statistics quoted by my hon. Friend. I add my voice to those who would deprecate any erection of tariffs between the United Kingdom and the European Community.

    Before deprecating anything, can the right hon. Gentleman give us the extent of the surplus that he mentioned and the level of our present oil exports to the EEC?

    I am not clear that I have mentioned any surplus, and the figures quoted by my hon. Friend the Member for Chipping Barnet (Mr. Chapman) did not refer to any surplus. However, oil is a significant factor in the trade between the United Kingdom and the European Community. Taking one year with another, there is no surplus resulting from the United Kingdom's trade with the European Community. The right hon. Gentleman can make what he will of that.

    If oil is left out of account and we deal only with trade in manufactures, is it not a fact that the cover of imports by exports is substantially better in our trade with the EEC than it is in our trade with either Japan or the United States?

    Broadly speaking, yes. I agree with my hon. Friend's argument. The House might like to know that in the last four months of 1981 the deficit in trade in manufactures with the European Community amounted to £1, 400 million.

    Will the Secretary of State confirm that we have a far larger trade deficit in manufactures with West Germany than we have with Japan and nearly every other country? Surely this shows that we are being given doctored figures by the apologists for the EEC.

    The figures offered by my hon. Friend the Member for Flint, West (Sir A. Meyer) are a far fairer interpretation of the relative balance between the United Kingdom and Germany and the United Kingdom and Japan than the figures presented by the hon. Gentleman. We have far greater access to the German market and a far better ratio of exports of our manufactured goods relative to our imports from Germany than we have with Japan.

    Textile And Clothing Products


    asked the Secretary of State for Trade what is the total value of imports of textiles and clothing products for the latest available month and for the same period 12 months before.

    Imports of textiles and textile clothing were valued at £247 million cif in December 1981 and at £204 million cif in December 1980.

    Does the Minister recognise that the level of imports could be greatly depressed by the effect of the Government's policies, and that if there is a recovery in the economy it might not necessarily lead to increases for British textiles or British jobs? Has he initiated any specific steps to monitor any such upsurge?

    I am sure that the recovery in the economy—the evidence of which is now very apparent—will be much welcomed by the hon. Gentleman and welcomed not less by my right hon. and hon. Friends. I accept that it could have an impact upon the levels of imports of textiles. It is a matter that is contained within the multi-fibre arrangement and we believe that the cutbacks that we have secured in the five group 1 clothing categories with the four dominant suppliers, the anti-surge mechanism and the likely continuation of members' use of certain quotas will limit the extent to which there will be a rise in imports.

    Does the Minister accept that it is surprising that the imports of textiles and clothing have increased by such a significant amount in the middle of a depressed market? Does the right hon. Gentleman have any estimate of the import penetration ratio in these industries? What is the state of the negotiations that are taking place with Mediterranean countries, especially Spain and Portugal, which pose a problem over and above the MFA low-cost countries?

    The negotiations are being conducted by the European Commission under a mandate that has already been discussed by the House. I shall seek the information on import ratios that the hon. Gentleman has requested and send it to him.

    Does my right hon. Friend think it rather odd that Labour Members seem to spend a substantial amount of their time urging the industrial development of the Third world and underdeveloped countries but start to whine as soon as they begin to export to the United Kingdom?

    Yes, I think that they believe in Socialism with a white face. They become highly discriminatory. The hostility of the narrow-minded "Little Englanders" on the Opposition Benches is terrifying when one deals with items such as textiles, without which the developing countries cannot pretend to have the resources to engage in a wider trade.

    Consumer Services (Information)


    asked the Secretary of State for Trade if he will introduce legislation to improve the accuracy of the information provided for the public by estate agents, holiday sellers and other similar consumer oriented services; and if he will make a statement.

    I shall keep the position under review, but I see no case at present for new legislation of this kind.

    Will the Minister accept that I have had a mass of letters from holiday makers who have found that the reality has been completely different from the dream described in the holiday brochure?

    Does the Minister accept that many trading standards officers have told me that they are extremely unhappy with existing legislation?

    I agree with the hon. Gentleman. This is an important point and I join him in condemning brochures that mislead people and misrepresent the services to be provided. However, taken in the context of the many holidays sold, I suspect that there are few such cases. The holiday industry is making progress on a self-regulatory and voluntary basis to improve the protection available under the Trades Description Act 1968. We should welcome that.

    British Airways


    asked the Secretary of State for Trade when he expects British Arways to be in profit after interest payments.


    asked the Secretary of State for Trade if he has made any recent revision of his estimate of when he expects British Airways to break even.


    asked the Secretary of State for Trade if he will make a statement on the financial position of British Airways.


    asked the Secretary of State for Trade if he has changed his assessment of the losses likely to be sustained by British Airways in the current financial year since the Committee stage of the Civil Aviation (Amendment) Bill.

    I cannot give a precise figure, but I understand that British Airways, in the financial year that is just ending, will show a loss a good deal larger than the £141 million pre-tax loss last year. This is quite unsatisfactory, and I expect the board to take whatever measures are necessary to restore profitability in the shortest possible time. I am confident that it is making every effort to do so.

    In view of the uncertainty in the Minister's mind, does he not agree that it would be economic madness to attempt to keep to the Government's timetable to privatise British Airways by 1984? Does he agree that if that policy is pursued, British Airways will inevitably be sold at a price well below its long-term value, which will mean further substantial losses to the British taxpayer?

    I do not agree with the hon. Gentleman. I can tell him and the House that Her Majesty's Government are determined to stick to their timetable to privatise British Airways as fast as is practicable.

    Does my hon. Friend agree that the management of British Airways is with the Government on privatisation and that its efforts to make the company profitable should be encouraged and not discouraged?

    I certainly agree and I strongly commend the work that Sir John King, Mr. Dibbs and Mr. Roy Watts are doing about that. I gladly pay tribute to the tough but necessary decisions that they have made.

    Can the Minister give any justification, from the point of view of the public interest, for the Government wiping out or acquiring the loan debts of British Airways before selling their shares to the private sector? What will be gained by such a manoeuvre?

    Notwithstanding the fact that the Government intend to privatise British Airways as soon as possible, will my hon. Friend acknowledge that at the end of the previous financial year British Airways had outstanding debts of about £633 million and that before a prospectus can be written for the sale of those shares the Government may have to do something about writing off their debts? British Airways do not receive money from the Government, but guarantees to borrow money abroad. Did my hon. Friend bear that in mind before making his statement about privatisation?


    On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. During Question Time, when the Under-Secretary of State for Trade answered question 24, he announced that he was linking it with questions 21, 30 and 38. Is it procedurally correct retrospectively to link questions with those that have gone? If it is, can one demand one's right if one comes into the Chamber having missed one's question?

    It is an act of kindness on the part of the Minister. The hon. Member concerned may have come into the Chamber since his question was called. That is exactly the kindness that both sides of the House show to each other.

    Civil Aviation Policy


    asked the Secretary of State for Trade if he will set out the policy of Her Majesty's Government towards civil aviation in the form of a White Paper.

    Will the Minister reconsider that brief and unsatisfactory reply? Is he aware that if he proceeds to privatise British Airways, despite some substantial losses, surely before that crucial decision—which involves legislation—is taken, he should at least have before him the reports on the future of the airways authorities in Britain and the distribution of airports, which crucially affect British Airways' policies and operation?

    I agree with the hon. Gentleman about the importance of the facts that he has mentioned, but I do not agree that it is necessary to publish a further White Paper on those matters before moving ahead to privatise British Airways.

    Is my hon. Friend aware that on many flights it is easy to get a smoker's seat but quite difficult to get a non-smoker's seat, which suggests that some airlines, in deciding the proportions of each, have fallen behind the shift in public taste on such matters? Will he ask the Civil Aviation Authority, which grants licences, to consult the airlines to see what can be done about the matter?

    The simple reason is that that question is best directed to Sir John King, Mr. Adam Thomson and Mr. Newman of Dan-Air.

    Can the Minister confirm that the Government have no plans to privatise the British Airports Authority, either as a whole or by selling off individual airports?

    My hon. Friend the Member for Harrow, Central (Mr. Grant) is putting ideas into my head. I shall wish to consider what the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Foulkes) said.

    In the light of the figures for British Airways that the Minister gave in answer to earlier questions, and bearing in mind the question of equality for civil aviation, would it not be better to consider the sale of British Airways' assets, licences and routes so that we diminish the number of airlines operating out of Britain in a market that is clearly over-saturated?

    I am glad, as I said in answer to the previous question, to take almost any idea into account. However, an idea that diminishes competition in the airline industry would not be a good idea.

    Earlier the Minister expressed a dislike of answering a hypothetical question. In the light of his previous answer, will he give an undertaking to the House that the Government will not consider writing off the capital debt of British Airways at the taxpayer's expense before offering shares to the public?

    The right hon. Gentleman is simply trying to wrap up his previous question—which was obviously hypothetical—in language that is less hypothetical. I have no intention of answering either his previous question or this one.



    asked the Secretary of State for Trade what are the amounts of exports and imports to China over each of the past four years.

    The value of trade with China in the years 1978–80 is given in tables II—imports—and V—exports—of the 1979 annual edition and the December 1980 issue of the Overseas Trade Statistics of the United Kingdom, copiesof which are in the Library. Information for the 1981 calendar year is not yet available, owing to last year's Civil Service dispute.

    May I thank the Minister for such a non-reply? Is he satisfied that we are making the attempt s that we should to increase trade with China, taking into account the fact that it will have a population of 1, 000 million within the next few years, which is a tremendous market? Should we not have greater contact with China than at present?

    I believed that I was assisting the hon. Gentleman, so that he would know where the figures for which he asked are available. This is a matter mainly for my hon. and learned Friend the Minister for Trade. I visited China to discuss not only health matters but general trade matters and there is a deep concern in both countries that we should increase trade in exactly the way that the hon. Gentleman has in mind.

    Textile And Clothing Products (Imports)


    asked the Secretary of State for Trade what steps he has taken so far to monitor possible surges in imports of textiles and clothing products in 1982.

    Officials of the Department of Industry already closely monitor import statistics and they will be paying particular attention this year to any increased utilisation of quotas.

    In view of the figures that the Secretary of State quoted earlier, which showed an increase of over 20 per cent. in imports during the past 12 months, does he confirm the importance of properly controlling surges in imports to take advantage of the British market? Is he satisfied that the measures to control the surge in imports during the next 12 months will be adequate? Can he remind the House whether he will employ further staff in his Department to monitor textile and clothing imports so as to prevent an unwarranted surge?

    The hon. Gentleman's figure of 20 per cent. refers to value and not to volume. However, I certainly take his point about staff numbers. I assure him that the Department of Industry is paying especially close attention to the matter.

    Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that if there is a surge in imports, that may well be because that is the only way that consumer demand, or a changing pattern of consumer demand, can be met in the absence of supplies from United Kingdom sources? Will he consult carefully with the retail trade before taking any action on that?

    Yes, but my hon. Friend will appreciate that the mechanism has been devised in consultation with those who advised us at the time of the multi-fibre arrangement.

    Overseas Development

    East Caribbean Islands


    asked the Lord Privy Seal if he will make a statement about the level of development assistance to the East Caribbean islands.

    British bilateral aid to the Eastern Caribbean islands in 1980 was £12 million. A table showing expenditure by country will be published in the Official Report. The 1981–82 figure is expected to about £13 million. About 40 per cent. goes to the dependencies and the rest to independent Commonwealth countries and regional projects.

    The East Caribbean islands also benefit from British contributions to the Caribbean Development Bank, the European development fund, the Commonwealth fund for technical co-operation and the United Nations agencies.

    Does the right hon. Gentleman recognise that these economies are highly vulnerable and will be dependent on overseas aid from Britain—which has a special responsibility towards them—for many years to come? Does the right hon. Gentleman also recognise the special difficulties facing Dominica, following hurricane David? As a result of the damage done by that hurricane, its economy has still not been restored.

    The answer to both parts of that question is "Yes". I met the Prime Minister of Dominica, Miss Charles, to discuss the problems involved. We have given considerable aid—which is at sea on its way—to the island's banana industry, which has suffered considerably as a result of hurricanes.

    May I congratulate my right hon. Friend on the assistance that he is giving to the East Caribbean islands? Will he review the whole programme in the light of the fall in prosperity in almost all those islands because of the reduction in the price of their natural products, such as bananas, nutmegs and other tropical produce? That reduction in prosperity will lead, in turn, to even greater instability than in Grenada, Dominica, and to some extent, St. Lucia. From the Select Committee's recent visit to the area, I know that such action would be welcomed throughout the British Commonwealth.

    What applications for aid have the Government received from the Government of Grenada since the coup? What aid has been given and what is the British Government's attitude towards applications that they may receive now, or in future, from the Government of Grenada?

    In 1980—the last year for which we have figures—Grenada received £53, 000 of technical cooperation, £10, 000 of capital aids and other grants and £195, 000 in loans. We have made it clear to the Government of Grenada that we do not like their human rights record. I shall not go into that point now, as I have done so before. However, when their record improves, we shall consider their problems.

    Following is the table:

    Gross Bilateral Aid Expenditure 1980


    Technical Co-operation

    Capital Aid

    Gross Aid Expenditure

    British Virgin Islands2769551,231
    St. Kitts-Nevis305472777
    St. Lucia230693923
    St. Vincent295525820
    Turks and Caicos Islands4128491,261
    Regional Caribbean7412621,003

    Costa Rica


    asked the Lord Privy Seal on what projects the United Kingdom is currently assisting in Costa Rica.

    The United Kingdom is currently assisting with the following projects: the Central American School for Animal Husbandry at Atenas; the National Apprentice Institute at San Jose; and the Centre for Research into Food Technology at San Jose. Expenditure for the current financial year is expected to be about £450, 000.

    Is the Minister aware that Costa Rica's economy has been savagely hit by the fall in coffee prices and the rise in world oil prices and that it now has a balance of payments crisis on its hands? Will he consider helping Costa Rica to develop energy resources, particularly hydro-electric power, in order to reduce its dependence on imported oil?

    Costa Rica's financial problems are largely a matter for it to negotiate with the International Monetary Fund. I shall bear the hon. Gentleman's second point in mind.

    Overseas Students


    asked the Lord Privy Seal how many overseas students are currently being assisted by funds from his Department.

    We have trained over 13, 000 people in the past 12 months on courses of varying length. I hope to sustain a similar programme in 1982, but I cannot at this stage give a total for the whole year. At the moment there are 6, 200 people under training in this country.

    Is the Minister aware that since the Tories came to power there has been a decrease of 25 per cent. in the number of new overseas students coming to Britain, and that the most significant decreases have been found in the number of students coming from developing Commonwealth countries, such as India, Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe? Is he further aware that there has been an increase in the number of Common Market students coming to Britain, who are exempt from paying full-cost fees? If the Department of Education and Science is too blind to see the injustice of all that, will the Minister ensure that his Department helps more students to come from poorer countries, especially Commonwealth countries?

    I should very much like to do that. As the hon. Gentleman may know, the Overseas Students Trust has been looking at the problem and hopes to publish its report within a matter of months. It will consider the whole question of students from the Commonwealth and elsewhere and the report will be made available after publication.

    Will my right hon. Friend confirm that many of the students who attend courses in Britain do not attend universities? Some of them attend private enterprise organisations such as the Air Service Training at Scone, where they learn to be technicians and pilots?

    Not all students are at universities. Students also attend technical colleges and a wide spread of educational establishments, which, we hope, will be of help to the developing countries.

    Does the Minister agree that the training of students in Britain is of substantial commercial benefit to Britain in the long term? When those who have been trained here return to their countries and attain influential positions, they are likely to purchase our manufactured and scientific goods and our publications. That reflects substantially on our long-term earnings capacity.

    Prima facie, that is one of the views taken, and it is probably a good view. That is precisely the type of point that the Overseas Students Trust has been considering, to see how relevant such arguments are.



    asked the Lord Privy Seal what has been the total official development assistance disbursed to Zimbabwe since that country's independence; and how much has been spent on the land transfer scheme.

    Disbursements of official development assistance to Zimbabwe since independence total £50 million. The Zimbabwe Government have submitted claims, which we have met, for £2·6 million in respect of the land resettlement programme.

    I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for that reply. How confident is he that the total amount of aid promised at, and since, independence will be disbursed within the time scale envisaged? What progress has he made in persuading other countries to join the United Kingdom in helping to fund the land transfer scheme?

    I hope that all the money will be spent within the three years in which it was promised. So far, the Netherlands, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia have agreed to help with the land resettlement scheme. Contributions will also be made from the European development fund and the African Development Bank.

    Will my right hon. Friend do his best to give every possible assistance to the Jairos Jiri centres in Zimbabwe, which do such excellent work with the disabled? Will he help them to spread their knowledge of how to deal with the disabled to other developing countries in Africa?

    I have met Mr. Jairos Jiri and discussed the problem with him. We were of considerable help to him during the International Year of Disabled People. It is primarily a matter for Mr. Jiri and the Government of Zimbabwe to spread to other countries knowledge of what he is doing.

    Can the Minister tell the House what proportion of the £2·6 million that he mentioned is spent on land purchase? Even if all of it has been spent on land purchase, does he agree that that is a small proportion of the funds that have been made available? Can he tell the House where he believes the constraining factors are in what is a crucial programme to Zimbabwe?

    It is a complicated subject and one that requires a lot of study before the Zimbabwe Government go ahead with any particular area of that project. There is no hold-up on our side. We are entirely ready to honour anything that is submitted to us, but it is a much bigger problem than the average outsider realises.

    Aid Statistics


    asked the Lord Privy Seal if he will make a statement on the current proportions of United Kingdom overseas aid allocated through bilateral agreements, through United Nations agencies and through other multilateral agencies.

    In 1980, the latest year for which figures are available, the proportions of United Kingdom aid, on the basis of gross public expenditure, were as follows: bilateral 70 per cent.; European community group 14 per cent.; World Bank group 9 per cent.; United Nations agencies 5 per cent.;other multilaterals 2 per cent.

    I appreciate the work done by many international agencies. Can my right hon. Friend say whether it is Government policy that, wherever practicable Government aid should be through bilateral agreements? Does he agree that only by direct negotiations between Britain and the recipient country will it become more likely that the aid will be effectively deployed and go to those people most in need?

    Yes, Sir. That is absolutely right. However, we have a problem in that we need to meet existing commitments, many of which were entered into a long time ago. We must honour those.

    Statutory Instruments &C


    That the draft Grants by Local Authorities (Appropriate Percentage and Exchequer Contributions) Order 1982 be referred to a Standing Committee on Statutory Instruments, &c.—[Mr. Mather.]

    United Kingdom Trident Programme

    On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I am sorry that I have to raise this matter as a point of order. Perhaps it will help hon. Members who hope to take part in the debate to know that in the Vote Office there is a transcript of the evidence given by the Secretary of State when he appeared before the Select Committee on Defence on the subject of Trident. Hon. Members my obtain copies of that evidence.

    I hope that some more routine way can be found to notify the House of matters such as this rather than the Chairman of the Committee having to raise it as a point of order at the start of the debate.

    The hon. Gentleman is quite right. We must find another way, even if I have to announce it myself. There is no other way of giving the information to the House.

    3.33 pm

    I beg to move,

    That this House endorses the Government's decision to maintain a strategic nuclear deterrent and to choose the Trident H (D5) missile system as the successor to the Polaris force.

    I have selected the amendment in the name of the Leader of the Opposition.

    It was on 1 March 1955 that the then Prime Minister, Mr. Winston Churchill, opened the debate in the House which foreshadowed the development and production of the hydrogen bomb—and subsequently the creation of the first British strategic nuclear deterrent. He said then:

    We live in a period, happily unique in human history, when the whole world is divided intellectually and to a large extent geographically between the creeds of Communist discipline and individual freedom, and when, at the same time, this mental and psychological division is accompanied by the possession by both sides of the obliterating weapons of the nuclear age."
    He went on to say:
    It is now the fact that a quantity of plutonium, probably less than would fill this Box on the Table … suffice to produce weapons which would give indisputable world domination to any great Power which was the only one to have it. There is no absolute defence against the hydrogen bomb. …
    What ought we to do? Which way shall we turn to save our lives and the future of the world? It does not matter so much to old people;"
    Churchill was then aged 80—
    "they are going soon anyway, but I find it poignant to look at youth in all its activity and ardour and, most of all, to watch little children playing their merry games, and wonder what would lie before them if God wearied of mankind."—0fficial Report, 1 March 1955; Vol. 537, c. 1893–95.]
    All of us share a feeling of deep concern, even foreboding, about the future. All of us fear the idea of war, and, heaven forbid, of nuclear war. Imagination stands appalled. There can be no other aim but to preserve peace. But how? Every hon. Member of the House, I do not doubt, would choose balanced and verifiable disarmament as the sanest route to a safer world. We all seek to bring it about.

    It is not necessary to be a pacifist or a unilateralist or a Socialist, if I may say so, to see the essential lunacy of two great Powers acquiring ever more efficient delivery systems, each of them armoured with multiple warheads, whose sole purpose is to deter the use of the strategic armoury of the other side. That is why we want START to begin at the earliest opportunity.

    Nor, at the theatre level, can any security justification be perceived for the Soviets deploying 900 SS20 warheads—150 of them this year, in the last three months, when the modernisation of similar systems in Europe has not begun. This is lunacy as well. That is why the West has tabled the zero-option at Geneva—and why we stand by its objectives. But, lunatic or not, this is the world in which we live—and these are the realities that we are forced to contemplate while we strive for progress towards genuine two-sided disarmament that would sustain a balance of security on both sides of the divide.

    Force and science, hitherto the servants of mankind, are now threatening to become his master. We cannot arrest the advance of knowledge, and who can say, 20 or 30 years from now, what fool, what knave, what lunatic, will threaten our children and our grandchildren with these weapons? Our overriding duty, while protecting the security of our own people, is to strive towards genuine multilateral disarmament. We cannot shuffle off all responsibility for our people's future by the futile gesture of renunciation.

    In this debate we are discussing matters of the utmost importance for the future security of this country; matters which are the heaviest responsibility that any Government have to bear. Our horror at the power of these nuclear weapons must, indeed, inform our discussion, but it must not prevent us from facing the issues and discussing them methodically.

    The motion before the House refers to the Government's determination to maintain a credible independent strategic deterrent, and to our decision that the Trident II (D5) missile carried in a new generation of British-built submarines is the best way of doing so, from the mid-1990s on. Our determination rests on three propositions. We believe that it is essential to the security of the United Kingdom that we retain a strategic nuclear deterrent. We believe that a submarine-launched ballistic missile is the only effective way to ensure that credibility into the twenty-first century. Finally, on the evidence available to us, we believe that the Trident II (D5) missile system is the most cost-effective way of ensuring our deterrent needs when Polaris ceases to be credible.

    Let me turn, therefore, to the first proposition: that we should maintain the unbroken continuity of our independent deterrent which stretches back to the V-bomber force in the 1950s, to Polaris today, and, we propose, to Trident in the 1990s and beyond.

    The motion does not refer to an independent strategic nuclear deterrent. Is that an oversight or is it intentional?

    I shall come in a moment to whether it is fully independent.

    No one in the House has any quarrel with the Russian people. My reading of their history leads me to the belief that the Russians are a brave nation who have suffered more than their fair share of human exploitation through the ages. I hope that one day the Russian people will be our allies, just as the Germans are today.

    Our quarrel is not with the Russian people, who have no say. Our quarrel is with a hostile ideology that holds a contempt for human freedom, and with a Communist dictatorship that has the apparent will to impose that ideology by force of arms on others.

    Even if we do not believe that the present ageing Russian leadership, with personal memories of 20 million Soviet dead, would willingly embark upon some exploit which might expose its citizens to another war of hideous attrition—or least of all to the devastation of a nuclear exchange—we can have no such confidence about a Communist succession and its perceptions.

    Who can tell whether tomorrow's Communist leaders might not be prepared to use the awesome power that they now possess to further their beliefs or divert their restless people from a multitude of problems which a crumbling Soviet empire could so easily bring in train? I think that we are bound to judge even today's Soviet leadership not so much by its well-advertised desire for peace as by its actions.

    The history of Eastern Europe since the war—Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Poland, the murderous destruction of millions of Soviet citizens by Stalin, and further afield in Angola, Ethiopia, South Yemen and Afghanistan—suggests that the present Communist leadership is prepared to promote its interests by any means when it calculates that it can safely get away with doing so. I see no evidence at all to suggest that the leaders of the Soviet Union respect anything but strength or that they will negotiate seriously if they believe they can retain superiority by manipulating the Western peace movement to achieve their ends.

    Rather before my time, but within the experience of the Leader of the Opposition, I am mindful that another godless and authoritarian regime in the 1920s and 1930s gave ample warning by its deeds and by its ideology of what it meant to do. It too did not hesitate to translate its idealogy into action, despite the efforts of others to appease it, primarily because of their sincere abhorrence of war. At that time, 10 million people in this country signed the peace petition, yet hundreds of thousands of them died defending freedom when the ink was hardly dry.

    Today, although the memories of that war are fading, and are without the experience of half our nation, we still subscribe to NATO, to prevent such horror happening again—and we use the word "deterrence" in rather general terms to describe the policies of NATO to which, I believe, all political parties in this House subscribe.

    But deterrence is not a policy only to prevent the threat of nuclear attack; it also relates to the more easily conceivable threat of the use of any military force, including nuclear blackmail, as an instrument of political aggression. Its purpose is to prevent a ruthless military power using its superiority, either nuclear or conventional, as a political instrument to play upon the sense which others feel of the evils and horrors of war.

    To understand NATO's policy—the policy of deterrence—we have to place ourselves in the position and in the mind of an aggressor. Planning deterrence means thinking through the possible reasoning of an adversary, doing this in his terms and not in ours, and allowing for how he might think in future circumstances, not just in today's. It rests, as on a chessboard, on blocking off in advance a variety of possible moves in an opponent's mind.

    In thinking through the policy we have to ask ourselves these questions. Would our conventional forces deter if only the other side, and not we, had access to theatre nuclear weapons? Of course not. How would we, even were we to possess conventional superiority, resist attack or political blackmail by his theatre nuclear weapons? In the eyes of the blackmailer or the aggressor, we would have no credible response to a nuclear threat.

    Further up the scale of conflict, would theatre nuclear weapons actually deter if only the other side, and not we, had access to strategic nuclear missiles? Of course not. How could we, even if we were to possess theatre nuclear weapons, resist the threat of the annihilation of our homes and cities when he knew that we did not possess a capability to respond in kind? A threat by us in such circumstances to use theatre nuclear weapons would be seen by him as an incredible gesture because he, and not we, could escalate the response beyond our means to respond.

    Ultimately, deterrence in the face of nuclear weapons has to rest on the possession of an indestructible second strike capability, so that at no level of attack would the aggressor possess the power to blackmail us into surrender. That is why the communiqué from last week's NATO nuclear planning group, supported by 13 countries,
    "noted the continuing build-up by the Soviet Union of its strategic forces, and in that connection supported the determination of the United States and the United Kingdom to ensure the deterrent capabilities of their strategic nuclear forces which are of fundamental importance to the Alliance's strategy. Strategic nuclear forces remain the ultimate guarantee of NATO security."

    Is not there a flaw in the right hon. Gentleman's argument? He is saying that the Soviet nuclear weapons justify and necessitate NATO's nuclear weapons such as Trident, cruise missiles and the vast increase in arms spending? If we proceed along that course, will not the Soviet Government say exactly the same? Will not they say "We must further increase our nuclear weapons to keep up with the West"? Thus neither side will be any step further forward, but both will be bankrupting their economies.

    I was not referring, in what I had just said, to the numbers of strategic nuclear missiles in the world today. I am greatly in favour of the strategic arms reduction talks, and I hope that they will succeed. I was referring to the fact that to possess a theatre nuclear capability, but not a strategic nuclear capability that is invulnerable to attack, would not make the nuclear theatre capability a credible threat, because the other side would be able to escalate beyond our capability to respond.

    That brings me to the reason for an exclusive British contribution to NATO strategic forces, which I think is the point that the right hon. Member for Llanelli (Mr. Davies) was asking about. It seems to me to be central to the motion.

    First, while we have every confidence in the American strategic guarantee, again we have to look at Soviet perceptions. It is possible that, at some time in the future, in circumstances that are very different from those prevailing now, a Soviet leadership might calculate, however mistakenly, that it could risk or threaten a massive nuclear attack on Europe without involving the strategic forces of the United States.

    If the Soviets are ever tempted to make such a horrendous miscalculation, the existence of an immensely powerful nuclear force in independent British hands, supporting our conventional forces based in Germany, will be an enormously complicating factor and a powerful argument for Soviet caution.

    It is for this reason that, in addition to the collective alliance's endorsement of our decision to opt for Trident, several of our European partners—notably the Government of the Federal Republic—have individually made it clear to us that they welcome our intention to maintain a credible strategic deterrent fully committed to NATO.

    The second reason for an exclusively British strategic deterrent is that, in the last resort, Great Brtain must be responsible for her own defences. She cannot shuffle them off on another nuclear power. After 30 years with a nuclear capability, if we abandon nuclear weapons on moral grounds, we would deal a devastating blow to NATO—which depends for its collective security on the nuclear deterrent. We would be abrogating all responsibility for our own security which would be protected only by the existence of the United States' nuclear umbrella that we had refused to support. To renounce our own nuclear weapons and then shelter under the American umbrella would have neither moral nor political merit, and it would leave the French, our immediate neighbour, as the only European nuclear power. I notice that in a foreign affairs debate on 5 November 1981, the official then foreign affairs spokesman for the Opposition, the right hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey), said:
    "I have often said that strontium 90 does not respect conference resolutions or declarations of neutrality."—[Official Report, 5 November 1981; Vol. 12, c. 136.]
    Indeed, strontium 90 would be just as powerful launched or delivered on our French neighbours as on these islands.

    The right hon. Gentleman says, if I understand him correctly, that it is important that the Soviet Union should perceive that Britain has its own nuclear weapon if it feels—perhaps wrongly—that the United States will not come to the defence of Europe. If it is so important that the Soviet Union should perceive our independence, I repeat my question: why not say "independent strategic nuclear deterrent".

    The right hon. Gentleman has asked the same question twice.—[Interruption.] I do not have to answer every question in the opening sentences of my speech. I am coming to that issue. Perhaps I might be allowed to develop my argument. As I said, we would be abrogating all responsibility for our security if we gave up an independent deterrent and were to be protected only by the existence of the United State's nuclear umbrella, which we have refused to support.

    Could it be, then, we should choose the renunciation of an independent strategic capability because of cost? Is cost to be the determinant of British independence? Are we to forgo our own defence against nuclear oppression and nuclear blackmail because 3 per cent. of our defence budget is just too much to bear? Of course all my Cabinet colleagues—and my defence advisers—would have liked to find a cheaper way of sustaining a credible strategic capability beyond the 1990s—but none exists, as any incoming Administration would discover, and the most expensive system of them all is one that fails to deter.

    There can be no question of delaying any longer a decision on the modernisation of Polaris, with the lead times involved in building a later generation of submarine. By the mid-1990s the Polaris submarines will be noisy—and much easier to detect—and very difficult to maintain in operational order. We did, of course, examine a host of other options, including the submarine-launched cruise missile, but for many reasons we concluded that both on grounds of submarine and missile vulnerability, it had none of the necessary attributes of a credible strategic system.

    During the questions following my statement on 11 March, my right hon. Friend the Member for Stafford and Stone (Sir H. Fraser) suggested that we were acquiring the weapon of a super power. Perhaps we are, but the threat that we face comes from a super power, our submarines must be capable of surviving against super power technology, and the defences that we have to penetrate are those of a super power. Given probable Soviet anti ballistic missile developments—even within the ABM Treaty—the Polaris missile with the Chevaline warhead is unlikely to be credible beyond the 1990s. I repeat that the most expensive system of them all is the one that fails to deter.

    Is my right hon. Friend convinced that the new submarines that will carry the Trident weapon will be as silent as the Russian submarines, which are propelled by diesel electric means? If so, surely there is a threat from that source?

    We have a substantial lead in submarine technology over the Soviet Union. The choice of the new submarines that we made is heavily influenced by the need to keep that 10-year lead in submarine technology, and so we will.

    The Secretary of State mentioned the intervention of his right hon. Friend the Member for Stafford and Stone (Sir H. Fraser) in his last statement to the House about acquiring the weaponry of a super power. His right hon. Friend also asked him about the effect of such an acquisition of super weapons on our conventional defence forces. Will he now say a word about that?

    I shall do so right now.

    In the open Government document I published, for the first time, a chart showing defence equipment expenditure up to 1995 on our major roles. No doubt, the hon. Member for Sheffield, Attercliffe (Mr. Duffy) has seen that. Our planned expenditure on the strategic nuclear deterrent, if it were instead to be spread over many conventional capabilities, would not represent more than a marginal increment in those conventional forces which will anyhow obtain 97 per cent. of defence expenditure over that period—and more, if there is growth in the defence budget after 1985–86.

    Of course, I and all my defence advisers would like more frigates. As Secretary of State for Defence, I should like more tanks and aircraft. However, all of us, including the Chiefs of Staff, are unanimous in the view that a strategic nuclear capability takes precedence over an increase in such forces. Even a massive conventional force has no ultimate value in a nuclear environment unless the possessor of those conventional forces can resist strategic nuclear blackmail by the other side.

    It seems to me that in the last five minutes the Secretary of State has been peddling the most dangerous mythology that we can defend this country in isolation. Surely collective defence within the NATO alliance is the only way in which we can defend ourselves? It is a dangerous mythology that he puts about to say that we can defend ourselves in isolation.

    I made it clear earlier that all our NATO allies, all 13 countries in NATO of every political persuasion, fully support our decision to maintain a strategic nuclear capability. It is part of the collective defence of freedom. The NATO Nuclear Planning Group said in its communiqué that it regarded a strategic capability as vital. If there is a myth here, I can only say that the hon. Member for Newcastle upon Tyne, West (Mr. Brown), both as a Back Bencher and as a Minister, has supported that myth for many years.

    Will my right hon. Friend answer this riddle, which is worrying many people: how can we apparently afford £8, 000 million to meet a threat in 13 years' time, which may possibly be true, when we cannot afford £3 million to keep HMS "Endurance" on patrol to meet a threat that is facing us today?

    I do not intend to get involved in a debate about the Falkland Islands now. These issues are too important to be diverted into a discussion on HMS "Endurance". In any event, as my hon. Friend knows, expenditure on Trident will be extremely small in the next few years.

    The arguments in favour of our retaining an independence nuclear deterent rest, of course, upon the force being truly independent. Independence means control. Although it has been stated many times before, I repeat again to the House that the Polaris force now, as with the Trident force in the 1990s, is entirely under the control of the British Prime Minister; the release of any nuclear weapon would be wholly within the power of Her Majesty's Government—and the Soviet leadership knows it to be so.

    We are in no way dependent upon the United States for communications, targeting, or any other matter relating to the day-to-day operations of the force. It is unquestionably an independent force. We cetainly have the technical ability to build a successor missile of our own, as indeed the French have done. We chose not to do so purely on the ground of cost. A sudden withdrawal of support facilities could, after a year or two, begin to have an effect on the servicing of the Trident missile, although the D5 missile will have a much longer in-tube life that the Polaris missile. We would, therefore, have the time to provide our own replacement facilities, albeit at considerable cost.

    Is it not a fact that if the Americans withdrew support facilities for the Polaris fleet it would remain operational for nine months, and if they withdrew support facilities for the Trident fleet it would remain operational for 24 months?

    That is not the case. My hon. Friend is referring to the stocks of spares that we carry at any given time. If arrangements with the United States are severed—I see no prospect of the United States breaking an agreement between our two countries—it is true that after a year or two we would have to provide components from our own productive resources. We could do that, but it would be costly.

    The central reason why Trident II (D5) represents such a massive escalation of the nuclear arms race is that it is designed to destroy Soviet missiles in hardened silos. It is a counterforce weapon and, therefore, a first strike weapon. That is a massive escalation over Trident I (C4). Will the Minister face that issue?

    Of course, it is embodied in the Opposition amendment and I shall refer to that point.

    The amendment accuses the Government, among other things, of escalating the arms race—the point made by the hon. Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Strang)—and of showing contempt for the INF negotiations in Geneva and the United Nations Special Session on Disarmament. These are fine-sounding phrases, but hardly borne out by the facts.

    Taking first the United Nations Special Session on Disarmament, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister hopes to attend this, just as the right hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) did in 1978 while his Government were continuing the Chevaline programme in secret. I am sure that my right hon. Friend will reaffirm our commitment to realistic, balanced and verifiable measures of nuclear disarmament—including a comprehensive test ban treaty, which we support. These will be achieved not by emotional gestures or political posturing and propaganda, but by painstaking detailed negotiations. What the United Nations special session will provide is a powerful and important stimulus to these endeavours in which we intend to play a full role.

    I deal next with the Geneva talks. The right hon. Gentleman and his friends seem determined to drag the British Trident force into the INF negotiations in Geneva—almost as determined as the Labour Government to keep Polaris out of the SALT II negotiations, on the quite reasonable ground that it represented a minimum deterrent force which could not be reduced.

    Trident is, of course, a strategic sea-based force like Polaris—even the Russians recognised that in arguing for the inclusion of Polaris in SALT while the Labour Government were determined to keep if out of SALT. The Geneva negotiations are concerned with land-based intermediate-range forces. All our allies understand this, but I have not succeeded in getting the message through to the Opposition.

    Indeed, so far as the arms race is concerned, the four-boat Trident force will be capable of carrying the same number of missiles as presently deployed on our Polaris force. I shall come to warheads in a moment. This number of missiles—a maximum of 64—represents a very small fraction—about 3 to 4 per cent.—of the predicted Soviet and United States delivery systems. This is about the same proportion represented by Polaris when it first came into service.

    Of course, Trident has the capability to carry many more warheads than Polaris, but on the same basis of comparison the proportion will actually be lower than when Polaris came into service in the 1960s—at that time no anti-ballistic missile defences existed—and is one of the decisive factors in determining the size of a minimum dererrent.

    Finally, the amendment refers to the "intolerable burden" that Trident is supposed to place on the British economy. The United Kingdom Trident programme will provide £4 billion of extra work for British industry. I believe that work for British industry that is in the furtherance of the defence of this country is good work.

    Whilst in the United States last week, I discussed detailed arrangements for the participation of British industry in the American Trident programme. I was impressed by the United States' Secretary of Defence's determination to move ahead as fast as possible with his undertaking, not least to waive the buy American provisions to clear the legal obstacles from the path. An American team will visit this country next month to brief British firms on the range of possible products for which they will be able to compete, and to explain American procurement procedures to them.

    Thereafter, Mr. Weinberger is willing to designate American officials in both this coutry and the United States to maintain and develop these liaison arrangements. The American Department of Defence also intends to initiate discussions on these new arrangements with the American prime contractors, among them Lockheed, and the Pentagon will be arranging meetings between these American companies and interested British firms.

    The production programme for the D5 missile system is not, of course, decided and it is simply not yet possible to quantify the size of the opportunities that will be open to British firms. In some subcontracting areas it will be up to 80 per cent. of all components and in others 10 per cent. or less. Undoubtedly the competition will be fierce, but with continuing support of the Department of Defence I do not doubt that the opportunity exists for very substantial business. My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Defence Procurement, who will wind up the debate, will follow this up further in a visit to the United States. Contracts obtained for the American Trident programme, and for ours, will last for several decades over the lifetime of the system.

    We have had peace in Europe for half a lifetime now, despite deeply opposed political systems, massive forces in close proximity and a succession of potentially inflammatory situations, which in any other age would have been highly likely to lead to war. In an East-West setting deterrence plainly works and Great Britain has a distinctive role to play in it—one that our allies welcome.

    It would be dangerous folly, in the world as it is now, to abandon that role. Much the best long-term way to sustain it at the strategic level is to build a new force around the Trident missile. That is, in absolute terms, not a cheap course, but the consequences of shirking it might one day prove unimaginably expensive.

    To recognise the success of deterrence is not to accept that it is the last word in ensuring freedom from war. Any readiness by one nation to use nuclear weapons against another, even in self-defence, is terrible. No one, especially from within the ethical traditions of the free world with its special respect for individual life, can acquiesce comfortably in it as the basis of international peace for the rest of time.

    We have to seek unremittingly, through arms control and otherwise, for better ways of ordering the world. But the search may be a long one, no safer system than deterrence is yet in view, and impatience or emotion would be a catastrophic guide. To tear down the present structure, imperfect but effective, before a better one is firmly within our grasp would be an immensely dangerous and irresponsible act.

    4.10 pm

    I beg to move, to leave out from "House" to the end of the Question and to add instead thereof:

    "condemns the decision to purchase the Trident nuclear system, a decision which escalates the arms race, breaks the spirit of the Treaty on Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, shows complete contempt for the negotiations currently taking place in Geneva and for the United Nations Second Special Session on Disarmament, damages the United Kingdom's conventional defences, places an intolerable burden on the British economy and reduces the United Kingdom's power to pursue an independent foreign policy."
    The amendment gives the reasons why Labour will cancel the Trident project. We reject the Government's policy. The policy will not keep Britain safe 20 or 30 years from now, as the Secretary of State claims. The Secretary of State thinks of it as an insurance policy. He may have satisfied himself that when he looks into the mirror a little insurance broker looks out. He may find reassurance in the notion of Trident as an insurance policy against a Russian attack, but he has overlooked the uncomfortable facts. Insurance policies do not prevent disasters or accidents. They never really compensate for the loss suffered. They regularly create an entirely false sense of security., and they are not worth much in time of war.

    The Secretary of State tried to deal with our criticism that he is escalating the arms race. I say that he "tried" to deal with it because he did not succeed. He appeared not to understand why the possession of Trident escalates the arms race. Trident does not make anybody in Britain feel secure. It is yet another manifestation that convinces more and more people that we no longer control nuclear weapons, but that they control us. What we are getting is designed not to prevent war—the original reason given for Polaris—but to fight war.

    Deterrence was the hub of the Secretary of Slate's argument. Nuclear deterrence, if it exists, is about mutually assured destruction. Nuclear deterrence implies the ability to retaliate to a first strike, so that both sides are equally in danger of destruction. But is not Trident's unique quality that it is accurate enough to destroy Soviet inter-continental ballistic missiles in their silos? What sort of deterrent is it in that context?

    Let us consider what Trident is and how it relates to Polaris. Trident multiplies Britain's strategic nuclear warhead capacity to about 20 times its original Polaris level.

    Has nobody ever told the right hon. Gentleman that the Russians have submarine strategic capability?

    We are dealing with the United Kingdom. We can deal with the question of the United States and the Soviet Union, the two super powers, but the right hon. Member for Stafford and Stone (Sir H. Fraser) made the important point on 11 March when the statement was made that Great Britain is adopting a super power's weapons when it is not a super power.

    The Secretary of State said that it was not his intention to multiply Britain's nuclear warhead capacity to anything like 20 times the original Polaris level. Will he consider the problem from the point of view of an adversary? He talked about a game of chess. In a sense, I accept that that is what it is. One has to look not only at one's own motives but at the chess board and one's adversary's motives and work out what one's adversary might think. An adversary would not measure the Secretary of State's intentions for many reasons. For instance, the Secretary of State will not be Secretary of State for all time, but will be succeeded by somebody else. Such an adversary would measure the capacity.

    It is almost as if the United Kingdom were playing "last across" with the Soviet Union. That is why the danger of escalation is so real. As the Secretary of State fairly said, not only members of the Labour Party, pacifists and unilateralists, but people throughout the country are protesting. They are terrified out of their wits at what is happening.

    Nuclear warfare has repealed the law of safety in numbers. More warheads do not magnify the chances of peace; they multiply the odds on war. That is what the people have seen. That is why they recognise the importance of the Geneva talks. They seek a reduction, not just a limit, in nuclear weapons and a reduction in the tension, which has grown so much in the last 12 to 24 months.

    People regard the Geneva talks as the only possible means of stopping the nuclear madness. I think that the Secretary of State hinted that he felt the same. For 25 years the people of Britain were told that we were at the top table and that our possession of nuclear weapons stopped us from going naked into the conference chamber. Now the people see that we are not even in the conference chamber, naked or fully clothed. They wonder why.

    In the past, Governments of both parties played a part in negotiating the test ban and the non-proliferation treaties. Now the Government say that we never intended to go to Geneva and that we intend leaving it to the two super powers. The Secretary of State said that that happened before his Government came to power. He identified that with his Government's attitude in a different context—in the context of Trident.

    Our possession of strategic weapons is supposed to influence the top table negotiations. The Government are committed to maintaining a strategic nuclear force at an irreducible minimum level. If that is so, the Government cannot contribute to a strategic disarmament agreement without disqualifying themselves from the strategic weapons club. That is why the British Government are absent from the Geneva talks and that is why the Government prefer negotiations between the two super powers to be kept exclusively on a bilateral basis.

    Geneva is not about strategic weapons. I keep making the point that it is not.

    Geneva is about theatre weapons. Geneva should lead to strategic weapons. Can the Secretary of State assure the House that when we go on to START the British Government will be represented at the tripartite negotiations?

    No more than the right hon. Gentleman's Government were represented at SALT. SALT and START are bilateral negotiations between the two major powers. It is not true to suggest that we have not played a major part in agreeing the zero option in following the course of negotiations in Geneva and influencing those negotiations.

    The Secretary of State is making the worst of a bad case. He is telling the House that the Government have not the slightest intention of being present at any negotiations on strategic weapons. We already knew that. We also needed to have it confirmed in the House so that the public could be made aware of it.

    In addition to that fear, it is the wish of many that we be represented as a major party at the Geneva talks. After all, as the right hon. Gentleman said, we were signatories to the test ban treaty and were one of the three original signatories to the non-proliferation treaty. Therefore, we have a right to be represented, especially as we are a super-nuclear power.

    There is another reason why the public are fearful. There is this year the second special session on disarmament at the United Nations. I am pleased that the Prime Minister has at last agreed to go to the plenary session. She said that she would attend "at some point", but when I wrote to her about it she would not identify the point. If the world is to recognise that the British Government are as serious about disarmament as the British people would like them to be, it is not enough for the Prime Minister to say, as she did at Harrogate:
    "Of course I would like to see nuclear disarmament."
    She should be at the session right at the beginning.

    The Opposition amendment mentions the nonproliferation treaty. [HON. MEMBERS "And everything else."] Yes, it mentions everything because the Opposition are trying to articulate all the fears of the British public. That is much better than talking about the cost of Trident in terms of chocolate bars, as a member of the Government did the other day.

    The non-proliferation treaty represented a self-denying ordinance by non-nuclear powers in return for undertakings by the three major nuclear powers of the day to negotiate an end to the nuclear arms race and to bring about nuclear disarmament. Article 1 of that treaty made the position clear. It said:
    "Each nuclear weapon state undertakes not to transfer to any recipient whatsoever nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices".
    In other words, the transfer and acceptance of nuclear weapons and other nuclear explosive devices is contrary to the spirit of the treaty. It may also be contrary to the letter in certain cases. The transfer of Trident from one of those nuclear powers to another State, whether or not that State was one of the original signatories, is contrary to the spirit of article 1 and, I maintain, of article 6.

    The non-proliferation treaty refers to nuclear warheads. We manufacture the warheads. There is no transfer of nuclear warheads as they are manufactured at Aldermaston.

    If the non-proliferation treaty were solely about warheads, it would be extremely limited. The right hon. Gentleman should re-read article 6. He can do that for himself, quite simply. The whole basis of the treaty is that it is imperative to stop the nuclear arms race. It is how warheads are delivered, not their possession, that is crucial. Trident is a powerful and deadly method of delivering nuclear warheads on a hitherto unknown scale.

    Does my right hon. Friend agree that the logic of the Secretary of State's argument is that to maintain our independence we must possess an independent nuclear deterrent? Does he also agree that that argument could be used by every country which does not possess nuclear weapons, and that it is against the spirit of the non-proliferation treaty?

    That is exactly the reason. It is so stated. That is why the non-proliferation treaty came into existence.

    I am confused about Labour Party policy. The right hon. Member for Deptford (Mr. Silkin) knows my views about keeping up a strong conventional force. However, I find it especially difficult to understand how, after supporting Polaris for so many years because of its effectiveness and the need for a nuclear deterrent, the Opposition suddenly now say that we apparently need none at all.

    The country was always strongly divided on the issue of nuclear weapons, but Trident is so completely different, difficult, dangerous and deadly as to be a different matter in both quality and quantity. Many Labour Members were against the Polaris missile system. although some were in favour of it, but the Labour Party is unanimously against Trident. If any hon. Gentleman can find such unanimity on the Government side, I for one would be intensely surprised.

    My hon. Friend the Member for Aberdare (Mr. Evans) mentioned independence. It also appears in the Opposition amendment. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Llanelli (Mr. Davies) said, it does not figure in the Government motion. No doubt that was an oversight and a head may roll as a result. I assume that the word "independent" was intended to be included but that the Government motion was merely badly phrased.

    I believe in friendship with the United States—I always have. However, friendship rests on a relationship between equals, not between master and servant. The Secretary of State has presented the purchase of the Trident system to the British people as perpetuating an independent strategic force. He tells us that we need it—this is the interesting way in which he advanced his argument today—because America might one day drift away from us, or might seem to be drifting away from us. Are we really expected to believe that the Americans would let us have Trident if they thought that we would use it as we pleased, rather than as they pleased? If the Secretary of State believes that, I am interested to hear it. I am reminded of the Duke of Wellington, who, when accosted by a gentleman with the words:
    "Mr. Jones, I believe?",
    "If you believe that, you will believe anything."
    We are completely dependent on the United States—I challenge any hon. Member to dispute this—for missile technology, launch and guidance systems, satellite intelligence and test facilities in Nevada and Cape Canaveral. We do not have to risk a nuclear Suez to show that independence is an illusion. The Americans would never have let us take Trident unless they were completely satisfied that we would never use it in any other way than as they tell us to use it.

    Once, the situation was different. Britain had a special relationship with the United States. British Prime Ministers gave cautionary advice and exerted a restraining influence on United States Presidents—both Sir Winston Churchill and Clement Attlee did that—but nuclear dependence means the end of independence in the Trident age.

    Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the United States has already said that it is keen that we should have an independent nuclear deterrent? Is he aware that that is set out in the exchanges between my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and President Reagan?

    That might be a reason why the word "independent" did not appear in the motion. It depends, as they say, on what is meant by "independence". If the United States thought that we would use Trident this week, anywhere—in the South Atlantic, for example—in a way which might involve the United States, would we be allowed to use it? Of course we should not.

    Why does the right hon. Gentleman not consult his colleagues who are former Prime Ministers? They would tell him that the deterrent is independent.

    My former colleagues never had to deal with Trident. In future, when Britain speaks on world affairs we shall increasingly hear the unchallenged voice of America. The process is now well under way. The Government do not merely echo the bellicose rhetoric of the White House. They amplify it. They cannot criticise the United States President's Latin American policy. They dare not say that he is wrong.

    Trident is not Britain's ticket to peace and freedom; it is the badge of our servitude. The sacrifice of our ability to pursue our own foreign policy is but one of the many casualties of Trident. The United Kingdom's economy will be weakened by scarce resources being diverted away from manufacturing industry.

    The Secretary of State was at his most unconvincing when he talked about the jobs that he hoped might come to the United Kingdom—10 per cent. here, 80 per cent. there. We have heard those promises before, but they have not materialised.

    Far worse even than that is the effect on conventional defences. The recent cuts in RAF flying hours, the closure of dockyards and other naval support facilities, the latest of which were announced last week, and, with the current dangers in the Falkland Islands, major cuts in the surface fleet are all but first instalments in the long-term programme of cuts in our conventional forces that Trident will necessitate. Indeed, it has been said that within five years the Royal Navy will be unable to fight a war at sea of any duration or even to fulfil its peace-time commitments.

    The Secretary of State is pleasing one person—Admiral Gorshkov—as in its peak years Trident will absorb nearly 30 per cent. of the naval budget. The Secretary of State shakes his head. Perhaps he would like to intervene again.

    When the Labour Government left office the naval target heading was £3, 459 million at constant prices. In 1985–86 it will be considerably greater than that. The amount devoted to the naval target heading, without Trident, will be much greater in 1985–86 than it was when the Labour Government left office, so what is the right hon. Gentleman talking about?

    As the right hon. Gentleman well knows, when the maximum payment years come, his figures will be as irrelevant as chocolate bars. We are talking about the peak years, in which Trident will absorb 20 per cent. of new equipment costs. Does the right hon. Gentleman dispute that?

    The right hon. Gentleman mentioned only "equipment". I am talking about new equipment. My figure of 20 per cent. is right. He had better go and look again. If the Secretary of State wishes to talk about costs, let him remind the House of the actual cost of Tornado compared with the original estimates and then explain to us why Trident should be immune from the disease of defence inflation. Of course the cost will rise, and the right hon. Gentleman knows it.

    Major wars have changed in technique and technology. The dangers have changed. But major wars cannot change geography. As always, we have to tailor our defence to the rules of geography and to our economic resources. We can no longer afford to make the all-round balanced contribution to NATO that makes us unique in Europe and indeed in NATO and explains our disproportionately high defence spending. The time has come to face military and economic reality.

    On 24 January 1980, the right hon. Gentleman's predecessor, now the Leader of the House, who is not unnoted for his wise words to us from time to time, said:
    "I am very clear that it would be gravely harmful if sustaining our nuclear contribution to the alliance meant emasculating our non-nuclear contribution. That would amount to lowering the nuclear threshold."—[Official Report, 24 January 1980; Vol. 977, c. 684.]
    That is precisely what is happening. Trident does exactly that.

    The structure of our defence policy must change. The emphasis on our contribution to NATO in the 1980s must come down far more to our naval and air force efforts. We do not discount BAOR, but defending Britain's air defence region in the air and, at sea, defending the sea lanes of the Atlantic, the English Channel and the North Sea are the spheres in which we are most needed and at our best.

    If air defence is so important, I am at a loss to understand why the outgoing Labour Administration left the Air Force more than 200 fast jet pilots short.

    The hon. Gentleman will have to learn that we are considering how best to defend our nation and where its future lies. He must realise that for all parties in the House this is a moment of truth. We must all consider where we are going. The Tories intend to press on with Trident. The Liberals and Social Democrats in the country rejected nuclear weapons, although they have yet to receive a clear statement from their leaders, whose attitude to matters of vital importance seems always to be dictated by the apparent advantages in the constituency in which they happen to be speaking.

    The Labour Party is unanimously opposed to Trident. Labour will cancel it outright and finally abandon the pretence that the path to peace lies in preparing for nuclear war.

    4.35 pm

    As Opposition Members have been kind enough to refer to some of my remarks, I should at once declare that the case against Trident advanced by the right hon. Member for Deptford (Mr. Silkin) is one of the most complicated and knowingly absurd that I have ever heard. I must confess that I cannot support the Government on Trident, for three reasons, which I believe are more practical and relevant to reality than the rather vague arguments advanced by the right hon. Gentleman, especially when, in pursuit of greater rhetoric, he said that only equals can be friends. One can understand why the right hon. Gentleman sometimes feels somewhat isolated.

    I maintain that we are purchasing the wrong weapon from the wrong firm at the wrong time. Of course, I agree with much of what was said by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and will undoubtedly be said by others about the size of the global missile crisis. It is a crisis of colossal and absurd superfluity of nuclear weapons. Broadly, it is that crisis to which my right hon. Friend referred in his admirable speech. There are now some 50, 000 warheads in the world—equivalent to perhaps 10 million times the force of the Hiroshima explosion. The basic problem is how to achieve disarmament, not on a unilateral basis as the Labour Party wishes, but, as Lord Zuckerman and the late Lord Mountbatten pointed out time and again, to make progress in arms reduction by negotiation from strength and the application of reason to that process.

    Looking at the world situation, I believe that reason must eventually seep through. Existing nuclear weapons, be they tactical, theatre or intercontinental, once used, cease to be effective weapons of war. War, as a mode of action, has rational objectives. Once used, such weapons become meaningless instruments of world destruction in which neither policy nor even war can be pursued. I do not know whether my right hon. Friend has seen the recent statement by Admiral Rickover—who was the father and mother of the American naval nuclear enterprise—to the effect that within 48 hours of a major nuclear exchange the United States Navy nuclear fleet would cease to exist as an effective military force. It would be without bases, without refurbishment, without targeting and probably without central control. That is why I believe that the statesmen and chiefs of staff of this world must eventually realise that in the creation and building up of nuclear weapons, whether they be tactical, strategic or theatre nuclear weapons they are embarked upon a policy that ceases to be warlike and becomes mere folly.

    That is why I welcome the fact that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State will be attending the world disarmament conference in New York. All plans of nuclear arms control, whether the Baruch plan, the Acheson plan or the Lilienthal plan, have been stymied by one power—the Soviet Union. Nevertheless, one can only hope that reason will one day prevail, and that the present nuclear absurdity will be brought under some sort of control. At the moment, of course, that day is not here.

    We are faced with immediate problems. That is why I cannot possibly support some of the things that have been said and that are about to be said by the Opposition and by those who oppose the Government. Today, I note that we are celebrating 25 years of the EEC—an institution that has its problems. But if one looks further afield one sees that the problems of NATO are even graver than those of the EEC. Therefore, when discussing the issue, some reference must be made to the NATO position.

    As we all know, NATO is a unilateral American guarantee of European security, under which it was believed that Europe, under the shadow or with the help of the American nuclear umbrella, would achieve two things—political unity and effective European self-defence. After 33 years, neither of those two things has happened. That must be accepted as a fact, because a fact it is.

    Theodore Draper wrote in Encounter recently:
    "For 33 years Europeans have benefited from the American strategic deterrent without paying for it or controlling it."
    A new crisis for NATO is developing on the questions of payment and control. That is why NATO has never been in a more disturbed state and why there has never been a greated threat to the stability of the organisation. Dr. Kissinger wrote when considering the dilemma from the American point of view:
    "The dilemma of tactical nuclear weapons for our allies is that they wish to commit the USA to the early use of strategic nuclear weapons."
    At the other end of the scale I quote what President Mitterrand said in his book "Ici et Maintenant" which was published in 1980, a few months before his election:
    "I am no more attached to the Atlantic Alliance than a Romanian or a Pole to the Warsaw Pact."
    That is the problem which faces the West today—a growing mistrust between Europe and the United States. In that context, America is not so much the isolationist as the isolated. Therefore, I believe that NATO is perhaps moving into its most dangerous period.

    In defence, timing is of the essence and for the next four or five years the window for Russian aggression against the West could not be wider. At this stage, what is needed above all else is the reinforcement of our conventional arms. That is the key.

    I turn to the gap in Britain's defence. About 20 years ago I was Secretary of State for Air and so I know a little about the subject, though not as much as my hon. Friends, who are better informed than I. In an article in The Times today Mr. Stanhope points out that the RAF's front line today has 80 aircraft fewer than was planned for three years ago. That was largely the fault of the Labour Government.

    I turn to the question of naval defence. That is not just a matter of a lonely HMS "Endurance" in the Antarctic surrounded by Argentinian warships, which were doubtless sold to that country by us, but the cancellations that will take place over the next two years, with about 15 ships going out of commission.

    I maintain that at the moment our nuclear contribution of Polaris to NATO is perfectly adequate. To disturb the balance further by a new nuclear investment beginning now could be fatally dangerous.

    Before the right hon. Gentleman moves on from the ships that have been reduced in numbers, to which he referred, is he suggesting that that is not Trident-related and that there is not an element of Trident displacement in that reduction in surface ships?

    Of course there is. Anyone who has anything to do with defence matters knows that forward planning—even the expenses six, seven or eight years ahead—has an effect on immediate programmes. It always has and it always will.

    Next I turn to the Trident system itself. There is no question but that Trident as a theoretical system—it will not be operational in the United States until 1986—is the best known. But in this case, I believe that the best is the enemy of the good. One of the essential differences between the Polaris and the Trident is that Polaris is an area weapon—a weapon or deterrent that threatens cities and industrial complexes—while Trident is an infinitely more sophisticated counter-force strike weapon of immense accuracy, designed specifically to pinpoint military targets, missile sites or command posts. Even if I believe this concept to be total nonsense, it can be said by "nuclearologists" that Trident has a nuclear war fighting capacity as well as simple deterrent capability.

    Those who back the Trident system have not thought out its full classical nuclear implications. The implications are vast and put Britain even more in the front line and open a whole new dimension of danger regarding civil defence, nuclear anti-ballistic missile systems and crisis management considerations that have not been fully considered.

    The Government have said that the weapon will strengthen the West by creating what is stated to be another centre of nuclear decision that would baffle the Soviets and make them even more careful of launching aggression.