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United Kingdom Trident Programme

Volume 21: debated on Monday 29 March 1982

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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.

I got the impression that in the admirable early part of his speech my right hon. Friend was talking of the threat of withdrawal of European support for America. He now appears to be arguing that the American—European alliance could be relied upon for the next 30–40 years. Does he agree that the logic of his earlier comments point to the need for an independent European command centre that could take the very decisions about which he expresses doubt?

My hon. Friend, a distinguished baronet and colleague, is on my side, as he will see in a moment. I suggest that, as long as NATO exists, the idea of an alternative centre of nuclear decision is meaningless, If I, or the noble baronet, were the United States Commander-in-Chief and I thought for one second that the United Kingdom was even considering the independent use of an American D5 missile against Moscow without American agreement I would immediately re-target all my rockets on London.

So much for the argument about an alternative centre of decision within NATO. Either NATO exists under American nuclear command or it ceases to exist. That is the hideous fact and it is time that this country and the Western world accepted it.

By purchasing Trident we are not primarily adding to our independent status. We are adding four boats to the already colossal striking power of the United States nuclear submarine fleet. We may be boosting our ego, but we are also doing a good service to the American taxpayer.

I would not be opposed to such generosity—after all, the Americans are a most generous people who have defended Europe for a generation—if such a gesture had outstanding mutual advantages. But there is a danger of NATO running into immeasurable and fairly immediate trouble—I hope that here I shall regain the support and encouragement of my hon. Friend the Member for Nantwich (Sir N. Bonsor)—unless some of the problems of which I have spoken can be resolved. The danger is that we may enter a period of unlimited nuclear blackmail and innumerable political and military permutations.

Unlike some right hon. and hon. Members, I believe that the chief value of a nuclear weapon system for this country lies in its benefit to national independence. I think that my record is a good as anyone's in that regard. As a temporary member of the Cabinet, representing the Ministry of Defence, I, along with my right hon. Friends the Members for Brighton, Pavilion (Mr. Amery) and Sidcup (Mr. Heath), insisted on 21 December 1962 that independence should be written into the Polaris agreement. I believe that it was because of our insistence that clause 9 was included in the treaty.

Looking ahead, I see a period when supreme national interest—national survival—may be the issue at stake. It is essential that there should be a deterrent of sufficient weight and size to preserve the safety of this country.

I am sure that my right hon. Friend knows a great deal more about the matter than I do, but I was under the happy impression that the agreement under which Trident was being purchased from the United States was almost identical to the agreement under which Polaris was purchased.

I am coming to that point. I can see circumstances over the next decade in which an American Government might quite properly find it inappropriate to leave the D5 weapons system in British hands. We have seen that before with the McGovern Act; it is not inconceiveable.

Therefore, I believe that a system other than Trident must be our target for an independent system in the 1990s. Many suggestions have been made, including cruise and other systems, but I remain of the view that the Polaris fleet and its refurbishment—even, if necessary, the addition of a fifth boat—would be not only adequate for our defence purposes, but cheaper than the proposed system.

The Polaris fleet is an area weapons system only. It can deliver 200 warheads equivalent to 3, 000 times the power of the Hiroshima bomb. To say that it is not a deterrent—even if it cannot be aimed at Moscow because of Russia's ABM resources—is nonsense. I maintain that it is adequate for our defence.

Whatever some experts may say, I still think that there is no reason to believe that, even on the most conservative forecasts of the hull life of a submarine, the physical replacement need begin before 1993. In other words, the replacement programme need not start until 1987. The oldest submarine, "Resolution", was commissioned in 1967and the latest, "Revenge", was commissioned in 1969.

I also believe that it would be possible to arrange for the rocket motors for the boats to be built here without offending American sensibilities. Solid fuel could be used, as it is in many of the Russian rockets, which are not without effect. If the worst came to the worst, Chinese copies could be made. That would not be possible with the Trident missile.

At this stage, with the problems of maintaining our forces and the dangers of cutting back on our conventional forces being so obvious—we must remember that conventional arms are most likely to keep the Americans in Europe—the building of an expensive super power weapon should be reconsidered and the Secretary of State should agree to take his logical, but falsely based, thinking back to the drawing board.

4.58 pm

The Social Democratic Party and the Liberal Party tabled an amendment which was not selected and I shall seek to explain why we do not approve of the Government's decision to purchase the Trident missile. However, we think it necessary to make it clear that we fully support the United Kingdom's continued membership of NATO and fully accept that that membership carries two commitments—a commitment to detente through disarmament and negotiations on arms control, and a commitment to defence, involving both conventional defences and nuclear deterrence.

It is essential to say that while the build-up of arms continues, and particularly while the Soviet Union is intent on matching the nuclear armaments of the United States at every level, it would be incredible and dangerous for NATO to abandon the concept of nuclear deterrence. There can be no non-nuclear deterrent strategy for NATO. That is why we cannot support the Opposition amendment. It would be impossible to believe that, having listened to the Opposition spokesman. Of course, the amendment's wording was carefully phrased so that the various views inside the Labour Party could be accommodated in the Division Lobby.

Both the parties I speak for—I carefully consulted the Leader of the Liberal Party—recognise that while the Soviet Union has nuclear weapons NATO must have them, too. Pending all-round nuclear disarmament, both parties acknowledge the need for the NATO strategic deterrent, of which our Polaris submarines form part. Both parties agree that, for as long as the Polaris fleet provides a useful part of a NATO deterrent, it should continue to fulfil that role. Moreover, both parties agree that the decision on whether to replace it need not be taken now. The right hon. Member for Stafford and Stone (Sir H. Fraser) spoke eloquently on this essential point and I shall concentrate on it.

The Government were right to take the decision to spend an extra £300 million—a lot of money—on re-motoring Polaris missile motors. That decision was correctly taken and will ensure that Polaris missile life continues to the end of this century. The hull life question was resolved some years ago and Polaris can be retained until the end of this century.

I will not give way. I have dealt with the view of both parties in a careful and definite statement.

I will not give way to the hon. Gentleman because time is short.

On the Polaris extension, the only aspect that had credibility was the Secretary of State's constant reference to the fact that the motors were becoming noisier. There is no doubt that there is an increased possibility of detection. Only a fool would deny that, and it is a small argument against the potential of giving, at the very least, four to five years in which more careful thought could be given to whether Polaris should be extended by the introduction of a new deterrent system.

The right hon. Member for Stafford and Stone was right to emphasise that the decision to go for the D5 Trident was a major step forward—beyond the extent of the Polaris commitment. That is a different type of weapons system and is capable of taking out hardened missile targets. Its accuracy, increased megatonnage and greater numbers of missiles, all represent a significant escalation in the nuclear arms race. I urge the Government to rethink their position. At this time, more than any other, there is the potential for a major move forward in the whole subject of arms control and disarmament.

I do not need to tell the Russians. I have just taken up the Secretary of State's kind offer to be briefed on these matters. I am the first to admit that, since I left office two and a half years ago, there has again been an escalation in Soviet military might. No one can try, or pretend, to foresee the future. If the circumstances had changed significantly, in a way that I do not feel they have, I would be prepared to rethink my position. No responsible Government would put the future of Britain's defence in jeopardy merely because of previous commitments.

There are at least five years in which a British Government can pursue arms control and disarmament. They need not make this decision and commitment now. It will be extremely expensive for our conventional defence capability. Day after day, we are beginning to see what the price is. We were promised a strategic reassessment of the Navy's role, and a decision to move out of the "big ship Navy", which I supported. We were asked to believe that there was the possibility of an increase in the submarine build rate and the effectiveness of submarine forces. We are now seeing that those promises have not been delivered. There has been no improvement in submarine forces and a major reduction in the conventional surface fleet Navy. We can observe pressures in many other parts of the defence budget, which has only just begun. On arms control——

The Secretary of State for Defence is well known, from his background, as a strong defender of the public purse. The Treasury is about the toughest guardian of the public purse. If it has accepted that this is the most competent means of maintaining the deterrent, are we sure that any other solution is less expensive? Did the right hon. Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Dr. Owen) notice that Lord Carver, the most eloquent opponent of the independent deterrent, said that if we were to go ahead with it, Trident was the best?

I have never denied, if one were comparing intercontinental strategic ballistic missile systems, that Trident is undoubtedly the best system. I have never made any secret of that. I am glad that the United States has the Trident system. The Americans need the Trident system to match the Soviet submarine-launched intercontinental ballistic missiles.

The question for the House is whether Britain, in the present economic and industrially straitened circumstances—when we make only a contribution to the NATO deterrent—needs to purchase the Trident missile system. I am not sure how much the Treasury accepted this question. That will be revealed by history. This commitment was entered into by the Prime Minister, and it is one on which she is unshakable and inflexible, as she is on so many of her commitments. There has not been totally rational debate on this issue within Government. My position on Trident has been consistent and logical from the moment that I was Foreign Secretary and I hold it to this day.

It is necessary to use this five years for arms control. There are now three major forums of arms control. First, it is most important to do something about the risk of limited nuclear war in Europe; the whole concept of limited battlefield nuclear war. I urge the Government to get an agreement this year in the mutual and balanced force reduction talks in Geneva on a first phase reduction to get a conventional balance. They must also introduce into those negotiations the concept of a battlefield nuclear weapon-free zone. That must be at least 100 kilometres on either side, east and west, of the border. No nuclear or chemical weapons would be deployed there and it would not be possible to exercise or deploy nuclear protection material and clothing, or protection material against chemical weapons, which are much the same things.

Secondly, I urge the Government to use their influence in the United States to fulfil the reality of the NATO decision in 1979. That saw a linkage between strategic arms limitation talks and the intermediate missile talks. The Geneva talks on intermediate missiles must be linked with the strategic arms reduction talks. The sooner those talks commence the better. It is vital that President Reagan, having surprised many people by coming forward with a much more imaginative proposal than most of us would have dared to believe a year ago on the zero option over cruise missiles and SS20s, is persuaded to put on the table, for the commencement of strategic arms reduction talks, deep cuts in strategic arms. That proposition was first put forward by President Carter in 1977 and rejected then by the Soviet Union as being an interference with the Vladivostok negotiations conducted by his predecessor.

More progress would be made on strategic arms in the present climate by going for deep cuts and if there were some sign that President Reagan was ready to take that step. It would be significant if he did so. Furthermore, suspect that it would be difficult in those talks to get a complete zero sum, although I wish that were possible. If it is impossible, an option is for the Americans to deploy cruise missiles at sea rather than land-basing them. That would have a major effect in reducing the political controversy over cruise missiles in the European theatre.

The third and most essential negotiation that must be progressed is the ABM treaty. It would be a tragedy if the treaty were not renewed.

The fourth essential negotiation is a comprehensive test ban. The Government's decision to go for Trident will make them somewhat less enthusiastic about a complete comprehensive test ban—no tests whatever. The Secretary of State shakes his head. I know that he is concerned about the issue. I hope that he has overridden the shelf-life argument and will exercise British influence within the tripartite discussions on the United States and the Soviet Union to complete a comprehensive test ban. A comprehensive test ban treaty could influence adherence by other countries to the non-proliferation treaty. The non-proliferation treaty is under great threat. The countries on the threshold of developing nuclear weapons, of which there are at least eight and probably 10, always invoke as their argument to allow them to proliferate nuclear weapons horizontally the absence of agreement among the nuclear weapon States on vertical proliferation.

Another major area that must be looked at by all Governments, particularly in the United Nations second special session, is the risk of taking the nuclear arms race into space. There is now a real danger of that, let alone the danger of going into chemical weapons. Some people are anxious, too, that there may have already been breaches in the biological weapons treaty.

As to the future and what should or should not replace Polaris, first, we should not make the decision now. It should be left open and reviewed in four to five years' time.

The Secretary of State simply cannot go on refusing to accept that his critics have a serious case when they argue that we should look at the cruise missile option. In his posture statement published on 8 February 1982 the American Secretary of Defence announced:
"Nuclear-armed sea-launched cruise missiles will be deployed on attack submarines beginning in FY 1984. These weapons will provide some near-term hard target kill capability, while contributing to a strategic reserve."
It is hard to estimate exactly how many missiles are likely to be deployed by the United States, but some would say that by the end of the 1980s it is planning to deploy about 600 land-targeted sea-launched cruise missiles with nuclear warheads, of which perhaps 200 would or could be in the European theatre.

It is just at this moment, when the United States has developed the Tomahawk missile and decided that it is a contribution to the strategic reserve, that the Secretary of State dismisses it totally as an option and pursues the extremely expensive, highly sophisticated super power nuclear weapon system.

It has not been dismissed out of hand. I said in my speech that we considered the option with great care over a period of two years. It is one of the many that we looked at. I know of no one in the United States who would consider a cruise missile launched from a submarine as a credible strategic deterrent. Such people do not exist. If the right hon. Gentleman is suggesting that we should put a few nuclear cruise missiles on our existing hunter-killer submarines, let me point out that we should have fewer submarines for the conventional role. The right hon. Gentleman must listen to what we say. We have considered that matter in great depth.

I wish that many others could be convinced that the right hon. Gentleman had given the matter objective analysis.

I repeat that the decision does not need to be taken at this time. The right hon. Gentleman's decision to spend money on the Polaris missile has given him freedom and room for manoeuvre, so he can think again. It has given us all the capability and capacity to spend the next five years having a far more serious look than ever before at how to achieve arms control and genuine disarmament.

This is the very moment when Britain's voice could be exercised in a multilateral context as a serious friend of the United States—a critic at times, and rightly so, but a consistent ally. We cannot, as Labour Members seem to think, exercise influence over the United States by being neutralist or unilateralist. Over the next four to five years we could ensure a major breakthrough in arms control and disarmament. To neglect the opportunity—to pursue Trident and to go ahead with the commitment—is a decision that the Government will regret and that the country will reject. The decision should be rejected in the Division Lobby tonight.

5.14 pm

Although I happen to be Chairman of the Select Committee on Defence, I do not seek to catch your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker, in that capacity. I simply wish to draw on the advantages of having been a member of the Committee for some time to make a few comments.

I do not speak, either, on behalf of the Committee or even for what I believe to be a majority of it, although the majority of Members probably share my view. I am glad to say that the Government have already shown that they embrace it. If we are to continue to live an independent strategic nuclear deterrent, one or other of the Trident systems is the only way to achieve that. Trident II, the D5 system, is the most sensible and probably the most economical.

If it is to be a credible strategic deterrent, it must be submarine-based. The disadvantages of an air or ground-launched system have become clear as the debate has continued.

Although he was not Chairman at the time, the hon. Gentleman was a member of the Committee when it produced the report which says of Trident II at paragraph 33:

"This we are unanimous in finding wholly unacceptable."

I am sorry. The right hon. Gentleman should have a close and careful look at the paper from which he is quoting. He is reading from the minority report. Let us not waste the time of the House with such baseless interventions from the Front Bench. We had a speech from the right hon. Member for Deptford (Mr. Silkin), who purports to speak for the Opposition. He made one thing crystal clear. Little though he knows about farming, he speaks a great deal better about that than about defence. His deputy has just proved that he does not know anything about anything.

Having disposed of air and ground-launched systems, and, I hope, carrying the House with me that a system that depends on a launch from surface vessels has nothing to recommend it, we are left with four choices. They have been espoused with varying degrees of enthusiasm by right hon. and hon. Members who have spoken, although I am bound to say that my right hon. Friend the Member for Stafford and Stone (Sir H. Fraser) has a unique solution, to which I may return.

The first alternative propounded is that we should have a cruise missile system based on a submarine, presumably one that has a vertical launch capability, which would mean that a new submarine would have to be built. If we are to start building new submarines, I do not believe that we can hang around for the four or five years that the right hon. Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Dr. Owen) suggests. When the right hon. Gentleman reads handouts that flow through our mail from the American embassy, he should be careful not to misstate the sense in which words are used. It is my suspicion—I am sure that the Minister will confirm this—that whatever Mr. Weinberger said when he spoke about hard target capability and strategic reserves in the context of possibly putting cruise missiles on to American hunter-killer submarines, he was not trying to build those into the level of a strategic deterrent. If the right hon. Gentleman has another look at the speech, he will see what it really means.

The second alternative is to have a continuation of the Polaris system, which is the other leg of the soft option, which the right hon. Gentleman seems to favour. I understand his anxiety not to have to take decisions in advance of the general election. However, what worries me is that the right hon. Gentleman is prepared to gamble this country's long-term interests on a solution where all the evidence suggests that the costs will escalate, that reliability will decline and that hostile technology will render the system less and less credible and effective as time goes by. We already know that the penalties that he would impose on himself are range and sea room tenfold less in magnitude than the operational scope offered by either of the Trident systems. However anxious the right hon. Gentleman may be to profit from the soft option policy, he must not carry that to such extremes that he gambles our national security upon it. I hope that the House will agree with me on that.

The third and fourth choices are both on Trident. One is to have a new submarine with a C4 missile, which would involve all the penalties of buying off the end of the line, all the costs in support that we have seen and all the problems of updating it, which we have already encountered with Chevaline. The arguments run the other way in favour of a new submarine with a D5 system. They are well rehearsed and set out. They have been set out remarkably freely and frankly by the Government in the documents that they have published and in the evidence given to the Committee on which I am happy to serve.

It is also true that a great deal of misinformation has been put about. If one watches television from time to time or reads some of the learned articles in the newspapers, one finds it difficult to persuade oneself that any of the people who write those articles or prepare those programmes have done any homework.

I shall give one example. On 11 January there was a Granada "World in Action" programme on television, which was almost the most mischievous and partisan misrepresentation that I have ever seen from "World in Action". That is strong language. I am sure that the right hon. Member for Devonport did not mean it to be a personal advertisement for his point of view, but that is the impression that I received. I am sure that that was a coincidence and that the producer had no intention of giving that impression. It was not a good programme because it was a mine of misinformation. I hope and believe that, as the debate in the country continues, it will gain progressively from public awareness of the facts. [Interruption.] If the right hon. Member for Deptford would undertake to listen rather than to speak to his hon. Friends for a little while, that would also be a contribution to this debate.

Some points still need clarification. I am glad that my hon. Friend who is to wind up the debate will deal with the amount of work and the proportion of cost in the United States. There is still uncertainty about the question of the precise distribution of the costs and the change that has followed from the move from C4 to D5.

In the longer term, the work that we can undertake is of crucial importance. That depends on the capability and willingness of British industry to go out and get it, and on the willingness of the American Administration to open doors for British industry to do so. I was glad to hear what my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said about that. It also depends on the adoption in the United States of a political attitude that makes it genuinely possible for us to compete on fair terms. In recent months there has been an alarming drift in the opposite direction.

I am also glad to have been assured in a letter today from Senator John Tower, the Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, that that matter is exercising his committee. He hopes that the situation will be corrected in the weeks ahead in Congress. I hope that he will succeed as a lot turns on that. Much of the faith that people in this country should have in the Trident system Will turn upon the extent to which we are genuinely able to make an industrial contribution to our defence in this as in so many other areas.

There is another dimension to this question, which has not yet been greatly explored in this and previous debates. It concerns France. With the Select Committee on Defence, I have just been fortunate to spend a week in France. We were very hospitably received and kindly looked after. We discussed defence matters very frankly with our counterparts in the National Assembly defence committee, with officers of all three Services and with Ministers in the French Administration. The one crystal clear difference between nuclear strategy in France and this country is that there is no difference between the political parties in France about the need for France to have an independent nuclear capability. There is no doubt in the minds of the French about the existence of a threat. They perceive it as clearly as any sane man can perceive the threat that the Russians make so manifest to anyone who has eyes to see.

There is no dispute about the need for France to be able to defend French national interests with French resources. The French are now spending over 19 per cent. of their defence budget on strategic and tactical nuclear capability. We are arguing about 5 or 6 per cent. as a figure that we may reach in some years' time. The French spend about the same amount of money on defence as we do. They are spending 19 per cent. of that total on nuclear capability—on a submarine capability, an airborne capability and on a land-based system. That means that there are three different kinds of strategic nuclear deterrent all in French control and all of French manufacture and all, I do not doubt, as efficient as the French can make them and I am sure that the French believe that they are a credible deterrent to the Russians.

Against that background of reality, what is to happen if the Opposition have their way? The first question that must be answered follows from what I have said. Do Opposition Members who argue for the abandonment of a British nuclear capability want to see France become the only nuclear power in Europe? If that is what they want, I should be obliged to hear them say that. However, they seem to be very discreet, not to say coy, on that subject. I do not know what the right hon. Member for Devonport thinks about that. I do not believe that he wants to tell us. I shall draw my own conclusions. Perhaps he wants to tell us, after all.

The hon. Gentleman could not have listened to my speech if he is in any doubt that I believe that we should retain a deterrent if we can afford it, for as long as we can afford it. If there is no movement in arms control, I should be prepared to consider an alternative replacement to Polaris.

Let us suppose that when we come to make that choice after the next general election we find that we cannot do it, but we find that the French have already done it. Is that a happy state of affairs for the right hon. Gentleman to contemplate? Is he prepared to risk that? I wonder whether he is as consistent, logical and clear as he likes to pretend. I do not know where the right hon. Member for Deptford stands on anything, so it is not much use asking him where he stands on the French question.

The second consequence of the Opposition having their way that we can identify is one that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State outlined. If we take this country out of the strategic nuclear capability, it leaves the ultimate defence of our national interest in someone else's hands. That is not a happy state of affairs. We cannot rely on our alliances continuing untouched for ever. We cannot be sure that the threats against us will not multiply as time passes. We shall take a risk simply by our idleness in refusing to face the facts.

My third point is that the abandonment of the nuclear capability could open the way to the forces of unilateralism and neutralism, which would be much welcomed by the hon. Members below the Opposition Gangway. It is a short step from the ending of a British independent capability to the insistence by the crowds in Trafalgar Square and other such representative bodies on withdrawing all United States bases from our shores, whether nuclear or not.

Yes, there we go. It will be the next speech in the list. The proponents of such a course know that these steps follow one another in a logical chain and will lead to NATO being ruined beyond repair and to the crumbling of the Western alliance. The wedge will be driven between the two sides of the Atlantic and the alliance will collapse. It is idle for the Social Democratic Party to pretend that its course of indecision and inaction will strengthen NATO or make the Western alliance stronger in the short term or in the long term. We know that it is under stress. One of the main reasons is that people are fearful. That is the only part of the speech of the right hon. Member for Deptford with which I agree. People are fearful because he and others like him have played on their ignorance, and ignorance is the father of fear.

Yes, there are ignorant people in America whose fears have been inflamed in the same way. No doubt the hon. Member for Salford, East (Mr. Allaun) spends his time looking for more of the ignorant with a view to inflaming their fears.

We have reached the crossroads and a decision will have to be made. We cannot possibly accept the pantomime horse of the amendment that the Opposition have put forward. With great respect to my right hon. Friend the Member for Stafford and Stone, we cannot decide not to buy what he called the wrong weapon from the wrong firm at the wrong time in favour of a decision to buy a weapon which does not exist at a cost which we do not know from a manufacturer whom we cannot identify. That is asking a little too much.

We must ensure that we retain a foundation for security, and only a decision to support the Government can possibly give the nation that.

5.32 pm

The hon. Member for Woking (Mr. Onslow) based a good deal of his argument on what the French are doing. That is not the right way to approach this subject. In 1939, prior to the beginning of the Second World War, even Churchill believed that the French had the best army in Europe. We discovered subsequently how correct that was.

The Government should be prepared to face massive opposition to the Trident programme. The Opposition will not be confined to the Labour Party. The right hon. Member for Deptford (Mr. Silkin), in opening the debate for the Labour Opposition, claimed that only the Labour Party is opposed to nuclear weapons. I refute that claim. The Scottish National Party and Plaid Cymru may not be as large as the Labour Party, or as large as it was before the mice started nibbling at it, but they have a far longer record of opposition to nuclear weapons than has the Labour Party.

Even the SDP candidate for Glasgow, Hillhead—he appeared to be making policy on the wing, as it were—said that he would cancel Trident if it were not in operation by the time that he reached office. It is interesting to note that a poll taken among the Hillhead electors revealed that 75 per cent. of them were opposed to the Trident missile. Even more interesting is the fact that 50 per cent. of the Conservatives who were polled said that they were opposed to Trident missiles coming to Scotland.

I was impressed by the case of the right hon. Member for Stafford and Stone (Sir H. Fraser), who stressed that the independence of the United Kingdom is important. In these matters it seems that it is becoming a Crown State of the United States. The Prime Minister echoes all the sabre-rattling pronouncements of President Reagan. The right hon. Lady and her Government seem never to stop to realise that they might earn more respect and possibly exercise more influence if they did not greet all the pronouncements with such unqualified and sycophantic approval.

Trident is a first-strike weapon. It can be used to knock out enemy missiles before they can be fired and, indeed, well in advance of any intention on the enemy's part to fire. This is the destabilisation of the deterrent theory—a theory which is no longer tenable. Nuclear weapons are not the key to world peace and security. In the past 12 years the nuclear arms race has proceeded precipitately. The United Nations estimates that there are now over 30, 000 warheads in existence and that over 15, 000 of them are in the hands of the two nuclear super powers, the United States of America and the USSR. The longer we wait for attempts multilaterally to disarm, the larger the arsenals grow and the more difficult it becomes to bring about disarmament.

Consideration must also be given to the economic burden. Before the Second World War those of my generation were shocked by Goering's statement that guns came before butter. However, the United Kingdom, like the United States, is well on the way to implementing that philosophy. The Trident system is likely to cost £10, 000 million. There will then be the cost of keeping it operational.

The right hon. Gentleman has called the Trident system a first-strike system. He is mistaken. No seaborne system has the accuracy to make a pre-emptive strike, certainly with the size of warhead that the Trident has, which is about one-eightieth the size of the SS 18 warhead. Is the right hon. Gentleman seriously suggesting that anyone could make a pre-emptive first strike with one submarine on station?

According to what I have read of what these weapons contain, one warhead would be enough to set the whole show on the go. That is the danger. The idea of a deterrent has gone. This is what will be taken into account by the Russians.

Many military experts have renounced the use and deployment of nuclear weapons. Only recently Sir Solly Zuckerman said that
"if anything is going to inhibit the Russians from making an incursion into NATO Europe it will be NATO's conventional forces".
We know that the conventional forces of European countries are weak. Expenditure on the nuclear option rather than support for conventional forces further weakens our position and lowers dangerously the nuclear war threshold. I cannot understand why the Navy has been run down to such an extent. A nation State surrounded by sea surely should ensure that its Navy is kept in a sufficient condition to repel those who might wish to attack it.

The position of my party is one of total opposition to Trident and to nuclear weapons generally, especially those based on Scottish soil, including the Polaris system——

—which was upgraded and made more lethal by the Labour Government. The SNP looks forwards to an independent Scotland that will follow a policy of nuclear-free armed neutrality.

We wish constructively to contribute to the easing of East-West tension and to reversing the nuclear arms build-up. However, we recognise that 30 years of multilateral disarmament talks have achieved exactly nothing. That being so, we are committed to supporting the unilateral renunciation of nuclear weapons. While the NATO pact remains committed to nuclear weapons, requires them to be stationed on Scottish soil and envisages a theatre nuclear war in Europe, the SNP will not wish to subscribe to that organisation.

At the beginning of this Session my hon. Friend the Member for Dundee, East (Mr. Wilson) and I tabled a motion calling for a public inquiry into the proposed siting of the Trident base at Coulport or Loch Long. That inquiry has so far been denied us and today I re-emphasised that motion by tabling a question on the subject.

I shall observe the Division with great interest. Many local councils in Scotland, both regional and district, have declared their outright opposition to Trident. If, as I expect, the majority of Scottish Members vote against the motion, it will be clear that Scotland's democratic voice has been adequately expressed. My party is ready and willing to take on the mantle of the protectors of the democratic Scottish will. The Labour Party in Scotland, in bowing completely to Westminster domination, has signally failed to protect Scotland in any way and does not deserve the confidence that the Scots put in it at the general election.

This programme will meet tremendous opposition, which will be compounded if there is any attempt to station it in Scotland.

5.40 pm

The importance of today's debate cannot be over-emphasised, as the security of our nation well into the next century is at stake. Although the importance of that is not in question on the Government Benches, so far one could be forgiven for believing that the Opposition not only doubt that it is important but that there is any need for it.

Although it may be tempting to answer some of the points raised by right hon. and hon. Labour Members—more specifically by the factions of the lunatic Left—I am anxious to avoid that temptation. However, I am fascinated by the amendment that has been tabled by the official Opposition, which concentrates largely on a change of emphasis in conventional defence.

Much of the public debate about the changing emphasis in conventional defence arose as a result of the elevation of my right hon. Friend the Member for St. Ives (Mr. Not t) to the post of Secretary of State for Defence in January 1981. Since then some dramatic changes have been made which, in the view of many of us, were long overdue. Whatever criticism those changes may have invited from some of his colleagues, he has rightly remained steadfast in his resolve that he is in the business of defending the United Kingdom by the best means possible.

Throughout that period my right hon. Friend has been bedevilled by four major obstacles. The first is that almost every member of the Conservative Party in Parliament considers himself a living expert on defence. Secondly, there is great inter-Service rivalry among the three major Services. Thirdly, we have a Ministry of Defence with a propensity to leak like a sieve. The fourth factor is the modernisation of the independent strategic nuclear deterrent. There is another—the escalation of costs in sophisticated weaponry, programmes and systems that has far outstripped the rise in inflation.

Although the last obstacle has proved to be the most formidable and has been referred to in the debate, I should say a few words about the others. The first statement—that Conservative Members consider themselves experts on defence—is fallacious. The subject is so complex and wide-ranging that I suspect no one has met an expert, if such a superhuman exists. However, it has not stopped us believing that we meet the criteria, nor has it stopped us plaguing my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State.

The second statement—that my right hon. Friend has been bedevilled by inter-Service rivalry—is nothing new. On 3 August 1926 Stanley Baldwin, the then Prime Minister, had to issue a directive to his three Chiefs of Staff which read:
"And you are expressly to take notice that in all matters in respect of which you are so required jointly to investigate, consider, deliberate and advise, each of you is to keep always before his mind the object for which the said Committee of Imperial Defence was created and exists, that is to say, for the consideration of questions of defence as a whole and for the coordination of the function of the several arms of His Majesty "s Forces, all considerations concerning a single Service being subordinated to the main object of National and Imperial Defence which the three Services have in common."
I am tempted to suggest that my right hon. Friend may wish to have framed copies of that historic document hung in every office at the Ministry of Defence. At the very least, it illustrates that nothing changes. Nor do I believe, unfortunately, that it ever will.

The propensity of the Ministry of Defence to leak like a sieve is qualified. Of course, it never leaks State secrets. It leaks tactically. The tactic is followed for a precise reason, which is to so stupefy the recipient of such information that he will do everything in his power to avert the prescribed course of action.

Is it really true that the Ministry of Defence leaks like a sieve or is it perhaps more accurate to say that the Ministry of Defence suffers from obsessive secrecy?

I am sure that it is not the latter. I merely say that those who work at the Ministry of Defence, whether uniformed officers or civil servants, may consider that it is in the national interest for them to leak tactically. I agree with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State that, on balance, it is inadvisable so to do. If any Department is to keep its secrets, it should be the Ministry of Defence.

The specific matters that we are asked to consider today are not leaks. They are not even hypotheses. They are facts that have been known for some time. The Government's decision to replace Polaris by Trident is right. I contend that it is right for us to decide in favour of the Trident II (D5) system, not only because it will it avoid problems of uniqueness and retain commonality with the United States of America, but because it will avoid the United Kingdom having to replace obsolescent components of a system during its lifetime at great expense. In addition, once the United Kingdom loses commonality with America it will also lose the opportunity to share support costs. Furthermore, British involvement and expertise in ballistic missile technology cannot possibly match that found in the United States of America. There is a definite advantage in acquiring and being privy to such a sophisticated weaponry system as the D5. It not only gives the defence industry access to more technical information but serves as an influential factor in the international community.

The Polaris production line had to be reopened at considerable expense because of the need to re-motor the Polaris missiles. Although Chevaline—the device to modernise the front end of the missile—has been successful, it has cost the United Kingdom Government £1 billion——

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I am sorry, but I wish to cause a disturbance and I shall ask you how to do it. Two schoolchildren in my constituency have been smashed about by skinheads and racists. Their parents have written to the police but have not received a reply. They wrote to me and I wrote to the police, but the police do not answer the letters. I then wrote to the Home Secretary but he did not reply. What should I do to see that the police do their duty——

Order. I understand the strong feelings of the hon. Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Lewis) on the matter, but he will understand that it has nothing to do with this debate and that there are other opportunities—there will certainly be an opportunity tomorrow—for him to raise the issue, but he cannot do so now.

I am much obliged to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and I apologise, but a Pakistani was killed in my constituency by those racists. Surely the police must be made to answer letters when Members of Parliament write to them. As I cannot raise questions, what can I do?

The hon. Gentleman is a very old parliamentary hand and has been here for much longer than I have. He knows that there are plenty of opportunities to raise such matters, but not in a debate on Trident.

As I said, Chevaline cost the united Governments £1 billion, which is three times more than planned. The example of that project illustrates that the loss of commonality with America would mean a substantial rise in the cost of operation and maintenance during the entire life cycle of the Trident C4 force.

The official Opposition are against Trident for two other reasons. First, they say that it would escalate the arms race. That is a ridiculous suggestion, because Trident will be merely modernising an existing nuclear force. As my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said in his statement earlier this month, we shall determine how many warheads Trident carries. Secondly, they object to Trident because the programme would break the spirit, if not the letter, of the non-proliferation treaty. As the START negotiations are bilateral there is no scope for a reduction in the United Kingdom's strategic force without calling its deterrent effectiveness into question. Incidentally, how will the Labour Party find new jobs for the 1 million people who will be put out of work and who are currently employed in the nuclear weapons industry? Labour Members should spare us the lectures on finding alternative work in Britain when the propaganda of the Tribune Group and of CND states that money saved on defence should be used to help the Third world and developing countries. I waited patiently for the right hon. Member for Deptford (Mr. Silkin) to talk about "the threat". However, he did not refer at any time to "the threat" or to the interpretation that he put on it. Where does it come from? How does the right hon. Gentleman interpret it? I hope that at the end of the debate the Opposition will tell us a little more about that.

To sustain a case for unilateral disarmament, the Parliamentary Labour Party must prove beyond any shadow of doubt that it would set an example that other countries would follow, or that, as a result, we would avoid a nuclear conflict. It may be said that if we were unilaterally to disarm, we would set an example that other countries would follow. Who would follow? Would France, the United States of America or Russia follow? Not one of them would follow and the Opposition know it. Therefore, the Opposition have failed on the first count.

I turn to the hypothesis that, by unilateral disarmament, we would avoid a nuclear conflict. Some of us have attended CND meetings and it is often said that if we were to disarm unilaterally we would not be involved in a nuclear conflict. However, events would not take place like that. If we were not in a position to retaliate—irrespective of the interpretation of deterrence given by CND supporters—we would be blackmailed. There would not be a nuclear conflict, because we would be unable to resist. As I have pointed out at Question Time recently, in the event of a nuclear war neither this country nor any other member State of NATO could be safe. That is a fact.

In his excellent opening speech, the Secretary of State spoke about the expense of Trident. I acknowledge that Trident is expensive, but it is not nearly as expensive as the war that it will help to prevent.

5.53 pm

As the debate is on Trident rather than on defence, I shall confine my remarks to the Trident decision and its consequences. The Secretary of State has done at least one great service to the country in choosing the D5, because as a result the expenditure pattern has moved substantially to the right and it will therefore be easier for any incoming Government to cancel the programme for a minimum nugatory cost.

I shall briefly set forth my credentials before setting out why I oppose the Secretary of State's decision, In Government I always favoured possession by the United Kingdom of a strategic nuclear capability. I still favour possession of such a capability and, indeed, the polls show that the majority of British people still favour possession of such a capability. The question is whether the Trident system is the right system for the United Kingdom, and whether we can afford it.

The cost of the D5 system is now £8, 000 million. As a previous exchange made clear, there is no question that it is—if one can use such language about such disgusting things—an extremely efficient and excellent weapon system. However, it is beyond our power to afford it. I am worried not only about its cost but about its vulnerability. Recently, the Secretary of State gave evidence to the Select Committee on his confidence about the invulnerability of Trident's command and control systems. I wish that I shared his confidence.

The American Administration regard the preservation of the command and control systems as the single most urgent call on funds in their defence budget. The Secretary of State says that our systems are superior to those of America, or that it is easier to maintain the integrity of our command and control systems, because we have only a handful of submarines and, anyway, we have two systems. It makes no difference whether there is a redundancy factor in the systems or whether neither of them is capable of maintaining that integrity. As Britain apparently does not intend to spend any money—I hope that I shall be corrected by the Under-Secretary—on extremely low frequency communication systems for submarines, I am extremely unhappy about the prospect of maintaining the integrity even of our existing forces.

It is nonsense to talk of the system as being exclusively British, as the Secretary of State did. Indeed, the hon. Member for Aldershot (Mr. Critchley) mentioned the question of supplying parts and made that point clear. What are the reasons for Trident? They cannot be range. The idea that buying a weapon system that gives us a range of 6, 000 miles, instead of a 2, 500-mile range, could be of any benefit to the United Kingdom is sheer poppycock. On Wednesday 17 March I questioned the Secretary of State on that point in the Select Committee. I pointed out that we had a distinct geographic advantage over the Soviet Union and the United States of America because we do not need to deploy our submarines forward and could attack the Soviet Union's heartland from our home waters. I pointed out that the Soviet Union had a case for acquiring the 6, 000 mile system, because it could keep its submarines near Murmansk and would not have to deploy them forward. In reply to question 126, the Secretary of State said:
"I can assure you there is absolutely no advantage to the Soviets whatsoever in stationing their SSBNs close to their home ports. There can be no advantage in that at all."
I do not know which strategic advisers advise the Secretary of State, or which strategic advisers the right hon. Gentleman thinks may be advising Admiral Gorshkov.

It is an extraordinary idea that the Soviets will acquire a 6, 000 mile range missile system and continue to deploy it forward in the Greenland-Iceland-United Kingdom gap. That is nonsense. The Americans are keen to have Trident because they can then close Holy Loch. They will no longer need it, and that is what they will do. They can deploy their boats just of King's Bay, Georgia, while the Soviets will have to send the SSNs across the best part of 6, 000 miles to find them. I do not believe that the Secretary of State has ever looked at a map. If he does not have any maps in his office, he should go to the Minister of State's office, which has two excellent maps on the wall. He might then find out where 6, 000 miles from Moscow takes him.

The Secretary of State could take our ballistic nuclear submarines to Long Island sound. What use is it to us to be able to deploy our submarines as far west as that? It may be some use to the Americans to deploy ballistic nuclear submarines in Long Island sound, but it passes belief that that could be of any use to us. The Secretary of State does not know the speed at which ballistic nuclear submarines travel when on patrol. They go more slowly than a man can go on a bicycle. In fact, they go with the minimum speed possible in order to maintain steerage way. That is somewhere in the order of 1½ to 2½knots, depending on the circumstances. I leave it to hon. Members to work out how long it would take, going at 1½ to 2½knots—which is the speed at which one gets maximum quietness in submarines—to go and return 6, 000 miles. It is an absolute nonsense. All that additional sea room for which the Secretary of State is paying £8, 000 million cannot possibly be used, but he must justify to the House the expenditure involved in obtaining it.

The Secretary of State does not need the extra accuracy. We know that Trident is more accurate than Polaris. It is certainly accurate enough to attack silos. However, it is not accurate enough to guarantee to take them out, which is the crucial factor. As the hon. Member for Stretford (Mr. Churchill) pointed out, it is impossible for any submarine-based system to be accurate enough to guarantee to take out silos. Therefore, the Secretary of State does not want that greater accuracy. If he intends to use those ballistic missiles to attack silos, he must be out of his mind. The whole point of them is to destroy Russian cities. That is where the deterrent effect of the strategic capability reposes in the United Kingdom's hands. He does not need any extra accuracy over and above that already provided by the Polaris system.

The only reason for the United Kingdom to acquire the Trident system that stands a moment's inspection is the preservation of commonality with the United States—leaving aside the rather tribal macho instincts of the Prime Minister. As we have discovered, we are, as a result, very dependent on the good will of the United States for the maintenance of our flow of spares.

The Secretary of State says that he can maintain the independence of the system by building up the facility in Britain to manufacture spares. He has not told us—I hope the Under-Secretary will take note of this question—what it would cost to acquire that facility should the flow of spares be denied us. That is an important element in the equation. It was not so long ago that we were told that it was out of the question for us to have Polaris remotored because it would cost far too much to reopen the Polaris motor production line. That was one of the reasons why the running on of the Polaris option—one of the options advanced by the right hon. Member for Stafford and Stone (Sir H. Fraser)—was rejected. It was not long after that we discovered that, as a result of force majeure, the Secretary of State had to go to the Americans to ask for the Polaris motor line to be reopened. It has been reopened and he is able to get his missiles remotored.

I reject completely the option of having cruise missiles in SSNs, which was advanced by the right hon. Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Dr. Owen). I regard that as an equally grotesque misuse of resources. There is no way that one will be able to have enough cruise missiles, with however much enhanced effectiveness and accuracy one gets in the number of SSNs and SSBNs that Britain possesses, for them to make a credible nuclear deterrent, given the numbers of them that are unlikely to arrive at their targets.

I touch parenthetically on a couple of points that came up in the debate. A question has been raised as to whether the Polaris submarines will be too noisy. I think—I do not want to put words into his mouth—that the Secretary of State said that if we were to run on the Polaris submarines they would be too noisy. I see no reason why a future generation of Polaris submarines should be too noisy. After all, the new pressurised water reactor and the new pumps are going into the SSN programme as the new SSN boats are being built. Presumably, anechoic coating would also be available for a new generation of SSBNs armed with Polaris missiles. I see no reason to doubt her Majesty's Government's ability to make a future generation of SSBNs with Polaris missiles just as quiet as Trident submarines.

Incidentally, if I may take a brief side swipe at the Secretary of State, he says that we have a substantial lead over the Soviet Union in submarine technology. I wish he would not be quite so complacent, unless he can tell the House that, for example, he knows how to build titanium hulls. There are many areas of submarine technology where the Soviet Union is considerably ahead not only of this country but of the United States. As my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Attercliffe (Mr. Duffy) reminds me, the Soviet Union is also ahead in anechoic coating. It does not lie well in the mouth of the Secretary of State to be so complacent in these matters.

The Secretary of State's argument for Trident seems to be that it does not cost all that much, that it is comparable with the Tornado programme, and that the recent cuts in the defence programme are not due to Trident. If that is so, it is clear that something else must be causing the cuts in the defence programme, and it must be the Tornado programme. If we are suffering these cuts as a consequence of Tornado, God help us all when we have to face the full brunt of the Trident programme in later years, if what the Secretary of State says is true, and I think that he is accurate in that respect.

The Secretary of State has failed absolutely to give the Select Committee or this House at any time an indication of the opportunity costs that are being forced upon our conventional capability as a result of the Trident decision. I am now more than three years away from office and have had to rely on the Secretary of State for figures but I will give him a list of things on which he needs to spend money urgently.

The Secretary of State needs particularly to spend money on the maintenance of the integrity of the command and control systems of our nuclear and our conventional weapon systems. He needs to spend money urgently on the acquisition of an adequate system of IFF—identification of friend and foe—for our fast jet aircraft; on the enhancement of our war stocks of air to air, surface to air and anti-tank weapons; in all areas of electronic warfare—electronic counter measures and electronic counter-counter measures; on more point and area defence missile systems; and on the hardening of prime targets both here and in Germany; on the enhancement of our anti-mine warfare capability; and on anti-submarine warfare. The list of critical areas that will be starved of funds as a result o the Trident decision is almost endless.

We simply cannot afford Trident, any more than we can afford our own system of satellites. The Secretary of State jumps at that. There was a time when we had aspirations to have our own system of military satellites. We decided that we could no longer afford it. Regrettably, we can no longer afford a system such as Trident. I give the Secretary of State credit for giving much information on Trident, but he gave virtually no information on the options.

Leaving aside my hon. Friends who, for reasons that I fully understand, are completely opposed to our having any nuclear capability, the Secretary of State has totally failed to persuade many of us in this House—even those of us who share his views about the desirability of the United Kingdom having a strategic nuclear capability—as to whether we can afford the option that has been put before him.

I like the Secretary of State, reject cruise, but he has not given us details of the costs, the efficency and the numbers that would be involved in going for a cruise option. It is his duty to deploy the figures that would be involved in a run-on of a Polaris-Chevaline option and the various cruise options. That is the real indictment of the Secretary of State. He has dismissed the alternatives that have been seriously put forward by those of us in this House who are seeking to maintain our defences in ways that are less costly and grandiose than his.

The Secretary of State says that he has studied the options, but he has given no proof that he has gone through the figures. He will not disclose to the House in detail why he has rejected the options. Until he gives the House and the country the detailed figures that were the basis of his decisions not to go for some of the other options that were put forward for his consideration, he has no right to the confidence of either the country or the House.

6.10 pm

I listened with great interest to the right hon. Member for Dudley, East (Dr. Gilbert). Behind his words one could detect a real regret that he could not convince his colleagues that it is right to go for Trident as a deterrent. I agree with the list that he gave of further items on which I hope my right hon. Friend will spend money and view. as an extra commitment.

I have no doubt that the Government are right to maintain our own independent deterrent. I have talked to Service chiefs in many parts of the world and they and our NATO allies take the view that it is right for us to "have a finger on the trigger"—to coin a phrase—as well as America and the French. I wish that we could find a way of making some of them pay for a lot of what we intend to do —Germany, for example. Nevertheless I found substantial support among our NATO allies for Britain having a capability such as we shall have with the new Trident, which will update our Polaris system. I therefore wholly support the decision that the Government have taken.

It was suggested by the Scottish National Party spokesman, the right hon. Member for Western Isles (Mr. Stewart), that some of us who favoured the decision were being in some way sycophantic. That is not true. There are certain aspects on which I have not been in total agreement with defence decisions taken by Her Majesty's Government. Although I have an Australian wife, I do not exactly have a song in my heart about the sale of HMS "Invincible" to the Australians. Nor do I have a song in my heart about HMS "Endurance", or about the number of aeroplanes that are suggested for the Royal Air Force in future.

As my right hon. Friend knows, some Conservative Members wish that he had crusaded even more that he did, both with his Cabinet colleagues and with the country, to get more than the 3 per cent. increase in real terms agreed by NATO. No one can accuse me or officers of the party committee which I have the honour to chair of sycophancy about these matters. Thus, when I say that I am with the Government 100 per cent, in this decision, it can be taken for granted that I have considered my view carefully, although I am bound to say that I should not wish to be cross-examined on the details of the decision, because of the many aspects of high technology that are involved, as well as matters of high security.

The following is what our American friends would call a "summation" of my reasons for thinking that Her Majesty's Government are right to make the decisions that they are making. The first relates to the wording of the letters, a new edition of which has just been published, exchanged between my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and the President of the United States. They assume, as do I, that it it right to have the overall deterrent.

I hope that my right hon. Friend will always remember the words contained therein:
"The economies made possible by the United States Government's co-operation with respect to the supply of the Trident II missile system will be used in order to reinforce the United Kingdom Government's continuing efforts to upgrade their conventional forces".
Those words take it for granted that it is right for us to have a nuclear deterrent. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister rightly spelt out her intention there to use the factum of our being allowed to have Trident the better to upgrade our conventional forces.

In his reply, President Reagan reiterated the importance that he attaches to
"the United Kingdom's efforts to upgrade its conventional forces. Such nuclear and conventional force improvements are of the highest priority for NATO's security".
So the Government were right to make the decision that they have, and I am reassured by the exchange of letters between my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and the President of the United States about our conventional intentions.

The reasons why I am in favour of the decision are, I suspect, similar in kind to the consideration that caused the Opposition, including the right hon. Member for Dudley, East, to go for an updating of Polaris. It seems that almost all the arguments in favour of Trident are the ones that must have caused the right hon. Gentleman to agree to an updating of Polaris by the use of Chevaline. I shall not accept from any Opposition Member any criticism about secret government, when the Labour Government went through the whole of that programme without giving a hint to the House. I accept that their internal difficulties may have been the reason. It comes ill from the Opposition to say that we are not open enough. I imagine that the right hon. Gentleman was largely responsible for that decision——

The right hon. Gentleman must have been closely associated with the decision anyway. I am sure that as the Minister of State he was not kept in the dark about it.

I reaffirm my view that the Government are wholly right to make this decision. One of the main reasons is the perception of these matters as seen, first, by our allies. It is right for hon. Members to pay tribute from time to time to our American allies. As I have said on other occasions, an uncle of mine who was in the Indian Army took his "long leave" between the wars in the Mid-West of the United States. In the 1920s the people in the Mid-West found him interesting, not because he was an Englishman or because he was an Army officer, or because he was an Indian Army officer, but because he had been to New York. That shows the size of America. One can understand people in the Mid-West of that vast country being somewhat isolationist, and it is something that we must guard against.

In my view, it is a great tribute to Americans that they pay such enormous heed to what happens so many miles away. However, they sometimes feel that we in the West are not doing enough, and I am sure that they would feel it amiss if they and the French were the only great powers in NATO to share the "nuclear burden". France is, of course, part of NATO, even if she is not part of the integrated structure. Our American allies want us to have Trident, and it is right that we should bear our part of the burden of nuclear arms. That burden should not be left just to the United States and France.

The main reason why this decision is right, however, is the perception as seen from Moscow and the Warsaw Pact countries—the fact that there is another decision maker. The one thing that is predictable about politics is its unpredictability. Without too much intellectual gymnasticism, one can envisage circumstances in which the Politburo might be doubtful about whether the United States would come to our aid and provide us with a nuclear umbrella. We, our children and our children's children sleep more quietly in our beds because we have in the last resort—in the jargon—the ability to inflict "unacceptable damage" on the potential aggressor.

It may be that the weapon that is now intended has a greater capacity than is strictly necessary. It may have a slightly greater degree of accuracy than is needed for the kind of deterrent that we require. However, that is a fault to the good. The fact that it has greater accuracy could mean that, if the holocaust came, we could align our weaponry on targets that were military and not just on centres of large populations. The damage could be less horrendous than would otherwise occur. The fact that the weapon is stronger than we strictly need is no reason for rejecting it.

I conclude by saying that those people who suggest that we should contract out of the nuclear arms race undermine the efforts of our United States allies and those of our Government to see that we get mutual and balanced force reductions. Whichever type of negotiation we talk about, be it the limitation of theatre nuclear weapons or SALT, we would undermine the position of our allies and of NATO if we did not update the powerful deterrent forces that we have had since the war. Therefore, the Government are right in their decision and those who oppose it, however well meaning they may be, are the enemies of peace.

6.20 pm

All previous arms races have ended in war, and we are now engaged in the most terrible arms race the world has ever seen. It can only lead to the same conclusion. Unless we end this race, it will end us.

Earlier, the Secretary of State said that we have had peace for half a lifetime, thanks to nuclear weapons. Yet why is it that there is now more fear and more talk of war than at any time since 1939? It is because people realise that we are getting closer to the brink.

A fortnight ago, a public opinion poll showed that 63 per cent. of people were against Trident and only 23 per cent. for it. Only today, the results of an even more striking poll, this time of American public opinion, has been issued. I thought that the rest of America was behind Reagan's back telling him that he must go ahead. That is not the case. According to Time magazine, which published today's poll, 71 per cent. of the American people are against Reagan's nuclear rearmament policies. [AN HON. MEMBER: "What is the percentage in Russia?"] I have no idea. I am merely informing the House about the percentage in America. Therefore, do not let it be thought that reaction against Trident is merely prejudiced British opinion. It is happening in nearly every country of the world.

The Government argue that they can negotiate only through strength. I well remember a previous Minister saying that we could negotiate only through superior strength. That view has now altered. The Government are now saying that we can negotiate only through strength, but it means precisely the same. How can one be strong except in relation to someone else? That clearly means superior strength. If the Russians take the same line, there is no hope of our avoiding a third world war.

The hon. Gentleman makes much of the so-called arms race, which implies that there has been more than one runner in the race. Is he not aware that over the last 15 years the Soviet Union has deployed intercontinental ballistic missiles at the rate of two a week? That amounts to 1, 500 new ICBMs in the last 15 years. Is he further aware that during that period the United States has not added one ICBM to its inventory, which has been static at 1, 710 systems?

No, I shall take five minutes. The hon. Gentleman cannot accuse me of making long speeches. I am surprised that a man of his integrity and persuasiveness on constitutional matters should make such a reference to me.

The increase in weaponry by either side only encourages its enemy and accelerates the arms race. That is what we are out to avert.

We are opposed to the nuclear weapons race by both sides. However, contrary to what the hon. Member for Stretford (Mr. Churchill) said, the running has been made by America. It was America who manufactured and used the atom bomb at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Four years later, the Russians made an atom bomb. The Americans then made the hydrogen bomb. Shortly afterwards, the Russians also made the hydrogen bomb. After that, the Americans made the intercontinental bomber and the Russians followed suit.

I warn the hon. Member for Stretford and the Secretary of State that if the Government proceed with cruise, Trident and the huge increase in arms spending, the Russians will do the same. I do not want to see that, and if they had any sense they would not want to see it either.

This debate is about Trident, but the struggle against cruise is much more vital although it will not cost as much. Trident is for the 1990s, but cruise, if we permit it, will come here next year. Therefore, the struggle against cruise is much more immediate than the struggle against Trident.

The Labour Party and CND are opposed to Trident for at least four reasons. First, it will make our country far more likely to be made uninhabitable in retaliation if by design, or more likely by accident, a nuclear bomb falls on Moscow or Leningrad. Secondly, there is a vital moral objection. Many of us support the East Anglian mother who said on television that if dropping one of our nuclear weapons on another country meant, as it would the deaths of millions of men, women and children, she would have no part of it under any circumstances. That is where many of us stand.

Thirdly, the official estimate is that Trident will cost £8, 000 million, and we all know that official estimates are gross under-estimates. That does not take into account the reply that I received last week, which said that there would be a 1½per cent. extra cost for running, manning and crewing Trident when it comes into operation. Such money is not chicken feed.

With that money we could build new homes for 500, 000 families who desperately need them. We could restore the NHS. We could avoid slaughtering our universities, technical colleges and polytechnics, such as Salford university. Industry could be re-equipped and we could really begin to aid the hungry nations instead of just talking about it.

Fourthly, this vast new expenditure on Trident indicates that our rulers have given up the idea of trying to prevent a war and have substituted the aim of trying to win it. The "advantage" of that is, by increased accuracy, to be able to wipe out Russian nuclear weapon sites. That can only be of use if NATO strikes first, otherwise it would be too late. It will be an encouragement to both sides to indulge in a pre-emptive strike.

The last two years have been terrible. We have moved nearer and nearer the precipice. We have a war maniac in charge in America and a Prime Minister in our own country who says "Yes, sir" to everything that the President says.

Fortunately, the war moves have aroused the biggest reaction and the greatest peace movement that the world has ever seen. I have been involved in the anti-war struggle since I left school. Never in my lifetime have I known such widespread support for the peace struggle. The instinct for human survival has been alerted, and we depend on that instinct.

Britain will not be acting alone. In the past few months I have taken part in meetings in Europe attended by the leaders of Labour Parties from half the NATO countries. They are determined not to have the cruise missile on their territories. A quarter of a million people marched in London on 24 October. There were even bigger numbers in Paris, Madrid, Brussels, Bonn, Amsterdam and Stockholm. All Europe is in revolt.

Next month a book entitled "Let there be a World" by Felix Greene will be published. It concludes:
"This moment in history, when the future of mankind balances on a razor's edge, is not the time to taunt and belittle our enemies, however provocative we consider them to be."
I hope that that message will be heeded by Parliament before it is too late.

6.31 pm

The sadness of the message from the hon. Member for Salford, East (Mr. Allaun) is that—although I respect his view of where he ultimately wants to get to—he never points his finger away from one side of the Atlantic towards the Communists. All his criticism has been of the Americans, and he has said nothing about the Russians. Why does the CND always point its finger at our allies? As my hon. Friend the Member for Woking (Mr. Onslow) said, when the Select Committee visited France this week we were surprised to hear Communist members of the defence committee say that they supported the French nuclear deterrent. France spends 19 per cent. of its defence budget on a nuclear deterrent. When the Communist members were asked about the peace movement in France they told us that it is very small and irrelevant. That is partly because all the pat-ties in France support their Government's defence programme.

If the hon. Gentleman was listening to me, he must have realised that I was making it clear that both sides are involved in the nuclear arms race and that we are opposed both to American and Russian nuclear weapons.

I am obliged for those remarks. However, when I have met representatives of the peace movement in my constituency, and in other areas, they have rarely mentioned the activities of the Russians, but always those of the Americans. The hon. Gentleman pointed out at the beginning of his speech that the Americans created the race, but I cannot possibly accept that argument.

I was grateful for the way that my right hon. Friend introduced the debate. Like my hon. Friend the Member for Woking, I am grateful for the way that my right hon. Friend has produced the evidence and the documentation from the Department in support of his thinking. That has been exceptionally helpful over the past two years.

When I joined the Select Committee on Defence and we commenced our consideration of our strategic nuclear weapons policy in June 1980, I must admit that I was apprehensive about the Government's intention to replace Polaris with Trident. However, during the months of our inquiry and after listening to the arguments I became convinced that Trident was the only solution. Once the United States Government had made their decision to go for Trident II (D5) it was not practicable or feasible for us to proceed with the Trident C4.

In the past few months, I have listened to colleagues arguing that we should proceed with more economic programmes instead of the expensive Trident programme. I cannot believe that it makes any sense to opt for second or third best when considering a nuclear deterrent. We must either go for what appears to be the best and most sophisticated weapon, or opt out of the nuclear race.

In the past few months, hon. Members from both sides of the House have said how badly and unfairly the Royal Navy has been treated because of the Government's decision to go ahead with Trident. Some argue that all the costs of the programme will come out of the naval Vole. At least we were able to clear that up when the Secretary of State for Defence attended the Select Committee on Wednesday 17 March. He made it clear that that was not to be the procedure. He explained that, although the cost would come out of the naval budget, it would not be allocated in the manner envisaged.

I fail to understand why the Navy should complain so much about its role in the defence programme. After all, the. Royal Navy is responsible for sailing, manning and operating Polaris submarines. It will have the same responsibility when Trident comes into commission.

At the end of last year, the Select Committee spent a day on Polaris. We went out and dived in her. We were impressed by the tremendous enthusiasm of the members of the crew in recognising the important role that they play in our defence programme. We have to admit that, be it Polaris or Trident, this is the most effective and important weapon that we have. The Navy is responsible for operating it. By going ahead with the Trident programme, which will run over the next 40 years, the naval role in our defence programme will be paramount.

The original estimate for the capital cost of the Polaris programme in 1963—the year of the Polaris agreement—was £333 million at 1963 prices. The actual capital cost of the programme was £330 million—a reduction of £3 million. The right hon. Member for Deptford (Mr. Silkin) implied that the Trident submarine programme would escalate. In fact, the Polaris estimate was probably one of the best in any of our defence programmes. Many sophisticated weapon prices have escalated out of all proportion and have been reported to the House by the Public Accounts Committee. When it comes to submarine building, our record is good.

I am not clear about one matter. About 30 per cent. of Trident C4 capital costs were to be spent in America. Now, two years later, according to the information given by the Secretary of State, that has escalated to 45 per cent. of the costs being spent in the United States. That is a surprisingly large jump. We are talking about £390 million extra for the D5 missiles.

In the questioning that has ensued, the Secretary of State has maintained that the increases have arisen because of the exchange rate of the pound against the dollar. I cannot believe that that is the full explanation. The programme has moved from a 15-year to an 18-year time scale. Does that mean that we shall never have to replace the whole force at once? I realise that with the D5 we shall be able to change the missiles. It is worth noting that the French and the Americans replace part of their fleet rather than make a complete change, as we plan. This could reduce the cost of the fleet replacements, but I wonder whether we are now approaching the matter in terms of changing parts of the fleet at a time rather than carrying out a full replacement programme in the years ahead.

Until there has been an opportunity to assess the Communist threat, to abandon an independent nuclear deterrent would be madness. Until the Opposition have been able to study all the defence requirements they cannot abandon the programme without giving the general position full thought. As I listened to the right hon. Member for Deptford deciding, or rather announcing, that the Opposition would not go ahead with Trident, I felt that he was like someone in Grand National week trying to pick the winner before the runners are declared.

As the right hon. Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Dr. Owen) said, until we have had an opportunity to assess the whole situation it is extremely difficult to come to a conclusion. I respect his judgment and the way in which he delivered his speech. But the Opposition spokesman for defence states categorically, before even examining the situation, that if, heaven help us, he is ever returned to office, he will abandon the programme. It is completely unrealistic to come to the House now with that type of conclusion.

The Social Democrats suggest that cruise is a satisfactory alternative. As cruise is subsonic and has only one warhead per missile and does not have the range of Trident missiles, it is not even a sensible comparison, so they may have to alter their views.

If Britain is to maintain an independent nuclear deterrent, as I believe that we should, the Government are quite right to go ahead with Trident. It is a right and proper solution.

6.41 pm

It is a little more than a year since Parliament debated the decision to acquire a successor to Polaris. The most urgent questions then raised related to strategy, costs and the impact of those costs on conventional armaments. Despite the most strenuous efforts of the Secretary of State to reassure Parliament and public opinion, and despite his attendance at meetings of the Select Committee on Defence, those objections remain—and they have been reinforced by doubts arising from offset and arms control. There are five objections with which I shall deal. They are not confined to this side of the House and are substantially reflected in comment outside.

First, Polaris is basically an area weapon while Trident I is designed to strike with much greater accuracy. It can still be argued that Trident I, like Polaris, could be deployed only as an ultimate weapon. Trident II, on the other hand, will have a war fighting capability as well as a deterrent one. With its alleged capacity to strike at pinpoint targets such as enemy missile silos, or command and control locations—like my right hon. Friend the Member for Dudley, East (Dr. Gilbert), I am sceptical that such accuracy is possible from sea-launched ballistic missile platforms—we seem to have entered, or to be trying to enter, new dimensions of strategic confrontation and analysis. That in itself signals a radical intellectual change in Britain's strategic nuclear posture. Ironically, that fundamental shift has virtually been forced on Britain as a result of being locked into American procurement decisions which do not necessarily reflect our real strategic needs. There is much evidence that the Secretary of State preferred Trident I. Indeed, he was reconciled to it only a year ago. Since then, in that short time, we have had to react to American procurement decisions that have, perhaps, taken us into a new league.

Secondly, the cost of acquiring Trident II has brought into sharper focus its funding and its possible impact on other spending. The Secretary of State claims, as he did in response to my intervention, that Trident will cost only 3 per cent. of the total defence budget amortised, for 15 to 20 years. He omitted to say, no doubt due to lack of time, that in the years of heavy spending on Trident, in the second half of the decade, the 3 per cent. will become 6 per cent. as the missile bills start coming in. That point should be stressed more and more when substantially greater claims on the equipment budget are made. The construction difficulties and the resulting cost overruns encountered by Electric Boat which manufactures Ohio class submarines show clearly the potential trouble ahead.

Thirdly, there can no longer be any doubt about the effect of these costs on the rest of the defence budget. Planning for Trident already involves a smaller Navy—as the right hon. Member for Stafford and Stone (Sir H. Fraser) acknowledged. The Secretary of State is already making cuts in the Navy when Britain's spending on Trident is at an all-time low. There will be more damaging cuts all through the 1980s of Britain's overstretched conventional defence forces.

As I have said on previous occasions, when I was at the Ministry of Defence I encountered no condition that did more damage to the Services than overstretching. It is inconceivable even now that there can have been sufficient room for the Secretary of State, as he has been anxious to convey to the House for the past year, not to do irreparable harm to the conventional forces. I confidently, although sadly, predict that there will be cuts in the years ahead. I fully expect the Secretary of State to come to the House yet again—if he is Secretary of State for the lifetime of Parliament—with yet another defence review. The announcements made hitherto belie the size and nature of the cuts, especially in the surface fleet of the Royal Navy. It is not good enough for the Secretary of State to say, for example, that elderly ships are being paid off to cut modernisation bills, with which I have every sympathy, that only infrastructure is being attacked, with which I still have some sympathy, and that only redundant dockyard facilities are being closed down. It is likely that most of the redundant ships will not be replaced. British Shipbuilders expressed anxiety to the Select Committee on Defence about the effect on the naval construction programme. More recently, the controller of the Navy told the Select Committee that the naval construction programme was "under very active review", and the Secretary of State himself has admitted that
"we are in a very difficult position"
with regard to warship building.

I would entirely understand the hon. Gentleman making those criticisms from the Conservative side of the House. He could then say with justification that 3 per cent. real growth is not sufficient. However, as he voted on an official Opposition amendment just the other day to reduce his party's proposed defence spending to £3½ billion less than that now deployed by the Government, I do not understand how he can now criticise the Government in those terms.

As I shall explain, I am basically concerned with re-ordered priorities within the alliance. That point has not been sufficiently brought out. It was mentioned for the first time by my hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle upon Tyne, West (Mr. Brown) in an intervention in the Secretary of State's speech. I shall also argue for a little more rationalisation, standardisation and inter-operability within the alliance, and thus for more cost-effective spending and a more rational allocation of resources, as well as for the division of tasks within the alliance. I shall therefore be arguing against some of the options. For instance, the Secretary of State has taken up the posture of behaving, as it were, like a super power, at any rate in the acquisition of super power weaponry. That is one example that has come out of today's debate.

The Government originally estimated that for the period 1985–90 Trident would take 8 per cent. of the total equipment budget, which would represent about 12 per cent. of spending on new equipment. That has already been modified to 10 per cent. of spending on all equipment, representing 15 per cent. of spending on new equipment. The Secretary of State may agree, on reflection, that he was less than clear about that today, although he was given the opportunity by an intervention.

Against that background, together with current reviews of defence commitments and spending on conventional programmes, it is difficult to see how it will be possible to continue to give top priority to the Trident programme throughout the decade without displacing or squeezing out other equipment programmes. Yet the Government keep saying that, just because they have earmarked more than £8 billion for the acquisition of Trident, the project will entail no degradation of conventional defence capabilities. The Secretary of State keeps saying that, just because there will be a growth rate of 3 per cent. per year in real terms until the middle of this decade, with the prospect, perhaps—it is only "perhaps"—of a further 1 per cent. thereafter, in the next several years more rather than less will be spent on, say, new warships, armoured fighting vehicles and planes, as well as on weapons and ammunition and the list that my right hon. Friend the Member for Dudley, East (Dr. Gilbert) offered today.

What the Secretary of State has argued may be true in global financial terms, but that is not how it strikes the individual Services now, and it is unlikely to amount to that in individual Service equipment terms. For a start, provision for Trident has already been incorporated in the budget projections for the rest of the 1980s and the early 1990s. The Secretary of State has placed long-term costings on a basis quite different from those that he inherited from his predecessor and from the Labour Government. Within the new long-term costings, he has first made provision for Trident and then very roughly divided what is left between the Services. Therefore, he has not been able to accommodate all that the Services need. No Secretary of State has ever been able to do that. Nevertheless, at no time have the Services nursed a greater grievance than they now do about the sacrifice of some of their programmes as a result of this project. It is not even as though the Trident programme were being spread over the defence budget. Its management has been given to the Navy, which means the responsibility for it must be accepted by the Navy. As a result, the other two Services will continue to hate the Navy, as they have for the past year or two, because of Trident, and they will blame the Navy for any shortcomings that they suffer in the next five or six years.

It is conventional weaponry forgone that needs to be borne in mind—the weapons systems that we shall have to do without. The Select Committee on Defence went part of the way with the Secretary of State in acknowledging that the problems of the defence budget are a consequence of general pressure on public spending and not of the Trident project itself. Indeed, the Chairman of the Select Committee, the hon. Member for Woking (Mr. Onslow), today expressed his sympathy for the project and its handling by the Secretary of State. I am sorry that the hon. Gentleman is no longer in the Chamber, however, as I should have liked to ask why he did not also tell the House that the Select Committee could not see how it would be possible, unless economic conditions improved dramatically, to give top priority to the Trident programme throughout the 1980s without something else being squeezed out.

Therefore, whether one considers the matter from the point of view of the Services, the Select Committee or even the Secretary of State's open Government document, one is left with the inescapable conclusion that equipment programmes are likely to be displaced in terms of time, quality or quantity, or even lost altogether. For the same reason, new projects will be very difficult to consider. The issue is therefore not so much, as I have been arguing, what will have to be forgone to make way for Trident, as what can be accommodated in the light of what is known about probable financial constraints and the continued assignment of high priority to Trident. When one considers the defence scene internationally and, because of the inevitable repercussive effects, within the Alliance and also nationally both in this country and in the United States, and when one recalls the dramatic changes that have occurred on both sides of the Iron Curtain, as well as in the Alliance and in our own defence budget, one is bound to ponder on the very tight room for manoeuvre that the Secretary of State will have in the next three or four years.

Not only has America locked us into the programme. The Secretary of State is now in danger of locking our own defence spending into an immovable posture. At the last meeting of the Select Committee on Defence, the Secretary of State accepted that there were opportunity costs in procurement projects forgone and capabilities lost, and that money spent on Trident could not be spent on other desirable force improvements. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Dudley, East reminded us, the Secretary of State refuses to be drawn on those opportunity costs. Indeed, he gives the impression not just to the Select Committee but to others who watch his proceedings that the Department has not even begun to explore those costs, which surprises even those who count themselves among its friends. It may be argued that those procurement costs will not all peak at the same time, and I understand why the Secretary of State cannot accept the arguments of critics such as Mr. David Greenwood of Aberdeen university that there will be need to be major readjustments in one of Britain's major contributions to NATO. Nevertheless, the Secretary of State is leaving himself very little room for movement.

One reduction in capability which may result from the Government's plans has already been noted. This concerns the nuclear-powered attack submarine fleet—the SSNs. With Trident boats building at Barrow, it is difficult to see how Vickers can maintain the current SSN build as well as putting in hand the current 2400 class submarine. The Secretary of State well knows that even the SSNs cannot be maintained. He talks about SSN No. 17, but he has not got it yet and there seems little prospect that he will, unless a new facility is laid down at Vickers. He knows that Vickers will not undertake that without assistance from the Government, and he knows that he will not get the funding from the Treasury.

This must be of even greater concern when one bears in mind that the United States Navy considers that its own SSN force is under stress. Therefore, we are acutely short of hunter killer submarines on both sides of the Atlantic. Yet the Secretary of State intends to throw the main weight of our ASW operational capability on the hunter killer submarines and maritime patrol aircraft in the new mix, with the aid of the barrier defences in the Greenland-Iceland-United Kingdom gap and with the aid also of underwater detection.

Hon. Members will recall what my right hon. Friend the Member for Dudley, East said about the advantage—contrary to the Secretary of State's argument. The acquisition now of Trident by the Americans and the latest Delta class by the Russians means that neither country has to stray very far from its homeland. The latest Delta class submarines will presumably conceal themselves under the ice. They do not have to penetrate the Greenland-Iceland-United Kingdom gap. That means that the gap is unlikely to be maintained at the high level of efficiency that it has been in recent years.

Therefore, I hope that the Secretary of State is aware of the high-risk strategy that he is undertaking in throwing the main emphasis of ASW operational capability on the SSNs and MPA of which we are in short supply, and on the Greenland-Iceland-United Kingdom gap, especially as he seems to be taking steps to cut the surface fleet and the ASW capability on which we have come to depend in recent years. That is a high-risk strategy, and if it does not come off there will be a lowering of the nuclear threshold, not merely in relation to reinforcement and supply and therefore in and around the sealanes of communication, but in the central region of Europe for which the reinforcement and supply are intended.

Equally disturbing was the Secretary of State's justification at his recent meeting with the Defence Select Committee for more sea-room for Britain's sea-launched ballistic missile force on the ground that
"the vulnerability to the Soviet submarine capability is likely to increase".
It is. The right hon. Gentleman knows that and I know that. Why, then, is he taking a chance on our ASW operational capability especially in that area where Soviet anti-submarine as well as submarine capability may soon be enhanced in the Eastern Atlantic for which Britain has a NATO command responsibility?

Of course, the Soviet maritime threat is growing and could yet become critical. Given the ever expanding Soviet fleet—surface fleet as well as submarines—why in Heaven's name is the Secretary of State undertaking such a fundamental shift in the balance of British naval forces; and taking a chance with this high-risk strategy? The changes will limit sharply Britain's naval strategy to one of reliance on strategic nuclear weapons and limited conventional capability and even non-conventional capability to help defend the North Atlantic sealanes.

The assumption behind the changes seems to be that ASW could be more cost-effective if conducted by a combination of nuclear submarines and maritime patrol aircraft. I have reminded the Secretary of State of the risk that he is running in that matter. The right hon. Gentleman may also feel that surface warships are no longer adequately defendable, that SACEUR must receive priority over SACLANT or that a short war is the most likely of an unlikely range of scenarios. Anyone who reads the speeches of the Secretary of State since he was appointed will get that impression, especially as he cautioned the House a year ago against thinking that the maritime scene in a future time of tension or worse is the one with which we are likely to be familiar from our experience in the war. Of course, it will not be the same, and I hope that the Secretary of State was not trying to give us the impression that, should the worst happen, the war will be short. As I have pointed out to the House, once we start thinking of a short war we have lost it. In any event, he will no doubt recall the words of Caspar Weinberger, his opposite number in Washington, who said in May last year that if his country and its allies valued their freedom they must be able to defend themselves in
"Wars of any size and shape. … and in any region where we have vital interests".
There is also the question of offset. The Secretary of State, in his recent evidence to the Select Committee as well as in his last statement to the House, held out prospects which must be debatable, to say the least. The record so far on rationalisation, standardisation and interoperability, as well as on the two-way street, is extremely disappointing. The Secretary of State must know that, but he seems to put a gloss on it.

The hon. Member for Woking, who talked about an exchange of letters with Senator John Tower, must know that the reality is different from what the Secretary of State claims. The present imbalance is about 3:1 against the United Kingdom and there is no prospect of improving on that ratio. In respect of Europe the ratio is 20:1.

Even if British firms get an opportunity to bid for business on the American missile programme their chances of getting much of a return cannot be rated as anything but dismal. What has been done by the hon. Member for Woking has also been done by other hon. Members with their opposite numbers in Washington in recent years.

Trident II needs to be rigorously examined against the background of the Alliance's strategy and objectives. We have already seen that the opportunity costs could lead to a disjointed and illogical refashioning of Britain's conventional contribution to the alliance. It will be determined increasingly by budgetary pressure rather than by operational means.

However, deterrence is all important. We know that it depends on a flexible response, which means conveying to the Russians that there is no scenario, whether of a long or a short war, that they can pursue with advantage. Trident II in the possession of Britain will add nothing to flexible response, and the cuts in surface ships strike at the other end of that flexible response spectrum, as well as at the maritime role to which Britain is historically bound.

If the division of tasks within NATO means anything it must mean the United Kingdom enhancing its maritime capability rather than duplicating United States nuclear capacity.

There are grave dangers if, at the present juncture, we fail to read our priorities aright. We may feel that we are good at everything—for the most part we are—but we must concentrate on that for which, by temperament, experience and geography, we, of all members of the Alliance, are uniquely capable—the maritime effort.

We ought not to require the recurrent problem of the Falkland Islands—if the Secretary of State checks with the Department he will find that this is not the first time that we have had problems in that area—to remind us that maritime surveillance and policing patrols—in short, the type of maritime presence that only surface ships can provide—are vital, not only to the West, but to the Third world countries from which we obtain so many of our raw materials.

The freedom of the sea is vital, for it ensures that the industrialised West and free world nations, particularly the poorer Third world nations, separated by vast distances, can maintain the economic, import—export contacts which are so necessary for the existence of both. That is a role and a peaceful contribution to which the Royal Navy is particularly well fitted, by both history and performance. Why, then, is the Secretary of State cutting the surface fleet?

I conclude by restating my belief that Britain's acquisition of Trident is both unnecessary and undesirable. It is unnecessary because it does not replace Polaris, but presupposes a new role, for which Lord Carver, a former Chief of the Defence Staffs, had difficulty in thinking of credible scenarios. It is undesirable because it must present a continuing threat to the effective performance of Britain's assigned conventional role within the Alliance and because Britain's acquisition at this stage of a counter force, rather than counter strike, capability must have a destabilising effect on START, which are necessary if we are to achieve a substantial reduction in missiles between the super powers. That runs counter, to say the least, to the spirit of non-proliferation and the comprehensive test ban treaty. Surely our role must be a redoubling of effort on behalf of multilateral, international nuclear disarmament.

7.10 pm

I am sure that all those who live in Britain wish that we lived in a world engaged in active disarmament. Unfortunately, the Government and House must address themselves to the world in which we actually live. The world outside, to the East and behind the Iron Curtain, is very unpleasant.

Soviet military power continues to grow. No allocation of resources is being debated in any public forum in the Soviet Union. There are no pressures or lobbies in Russia for less to be spent on nuclear weapons or, indeed, conventional ones. We live in such a world, with a super power succeeding in only one direction—ever-increasing military strength. We know from the debate that two new ballistic missiles have been added to the Soviet strength every week for the past 15 years. Those weapons tend to be of gigantic size. They are enormous. The SS18's warhead is estimated to be about 20 megatonnes. The size is almost beyond belief when one remembers that the warhead used at Hiroshima was about 20, 000 tonnes and not 20 million tonnes. On land, about 385, 000 men in the Soviet Union man those ballistic missiles. At sea, there is a large fleet of submarines. The newest types—Typhoons—are far greater and more powerful than those in the West. They carry the largest sea-going ballistic missiles—SSN20s.

Trident is no more awful a weapon system than Polaris or the V-bomber before it. They are all awful weapons. It is tragic we must have them, but I am convinced we must.

This is the third generation of weapons. First, were the V-bombers in the 1950s, when I was in the Air Force. Secondly, Polaris was introduced in the 1960s. What has changed since that time? Soviet military power certainly has changed. It has got greater, if anything, and has certainly not decreased. Our national wealth has not declined. We are far better off today than we were in the 1950s and 1960s. We can better afford such weapons today than we could in those years. All that has changed is the Labour Party. What a change there has been in it, from the days when Labour leaders understood the realities of the international scene and supported the nuclear deterrent for Britain.

Members of the Labour Party, of course, recently made a visit to Moscow so that they could influence the Soviet leadership. That made not the slightest impact on the views of the hard men who run the Kremlin. There was not the slightest indication that they would respond to any actions of the sort encouraged by the Labour Party in Britain.

The Labour Party in Newcastle is distributing through the letter boxes a leaflet which welcomes the massive growth of the nuclear disarmament movement in Britain and Europe, which it says has begun the fight for peace. I am sure that members of the CND are sincere in their aims. What a pity that there is no equivalent trying to win the fight for peace in the Soviet Union, for that country is the cause of all our anxieties.

The Socialist Government in France, in their economic course, seem to be falling into the same mistakes as those made by Socialist Governments in Britain. The French Socialist Prime Minister is, however, steadfastly going ahead with the French nuclear deterrent, spending a great deal more of his country's money on it than we plan to spend here. In discussions with NATO allies I have discovered that they all welcome our Government's decision to go ahead with the Trident programme.

Some hon. Members suggested that the cruise missile would be the solution and that such a missile is much cheaper and is a soft option. It is not surprising that the Social Democratic Party should be foremost in putting forward the cruise missile, because that whole party is a soft option. It would be easy to tell the people in Tynemouth that there is a much cheaper alternative. They would believe that, because they would like to.

Would the Russians and their leaders in the Kremlin believe it? They would not believe it for one moment. They know perfectly well how effective or ineffective these various missile systems are. They know perfectly well that the cruise missile would not be sufficient to overcome their defences. It would not act as a deterrent. The whole point of a nuclear system is the perception of the other side. They would not perceive the cruise missile as being effective. It would not act as a deterrent and the money would be spent to no good.

I shall not delay the House by discussing for long the technicalities of cruise missiles. However, from discussions on both sides of the Atlantic, I know that whatever the capability of the cruise missile, and however much it may be developed with increasing technology, the ballistic missile with the developments that will come to it will remain the more effective weapon system.

Each of the ballistic missiles has a number of awesome warheads. That is an important factor. One cannot equate one ballistic with one cruise missile. One must equate many cruise missiles with each ballistic missile. Cruise missiles are also more easily deterred by defences, shot down and destroyed. Therefore, many more cruise missiles would be required and, at the end of the day, they would be far less effective.

Reference was made to the Americans adding cruise missiles at possibly a strategic level. As I understand it, the scenario envisaged is that those cruise missiles travelling much more slowly would arrive in Russia several hours after the ballistic missiles. A different scenario would face them than our cruise missiles would face on their own. I am convinced that it is a delusion to think that there is any soft option and any practicable cost-saving by arming us with cruise instead of ballistic missiles. Cruise missiles would not only not be technically effective, but we would need many more hulls to carry them in adequate numbers.

There is a concept that one can fire salvoes of large numbers of cruise missiles off each ship. That is not technically practicable, for various reasons. One would therefore need to have a very much larger number of submarines to carry the cruise missiles, which would obviously increase the cost.

To say that we could use our existing submarines for that role is wholly counter to the argument that most people put forward. If one is putting strategic deterrents into conventional submarines—hunter-killer submarines—they are no longer available in the hunter-killer role. Therefore, one has reduced the conventional strength of NATO at a stroke. Nobody could foresee that one would send one's strategic nuclear submarines to the North Cape to try to deter Soviet surface squadrons.

Something was said from the Opposition Front Bench about the capability of Trident and that it has a much greater accuracy than previous sea-based systems. That was achieved through the vast capabilities of the United States. We do not need that greater accuracy. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said that it was simply a question of cost: it is cheaper for us to acquire a more sophisticated weapon than we need than it would be to acquire any adequate alternative.

Therefore, Trident D5 has a capability beyond that which we need. Perhaps it is a bonus, because some targets could be added which would need to be attacked with great accuracy. Basically, however, we are not seeking accuracy and it is nonsense to suggest that Britain, in any way, would fire first. There are no circumstances in which we would want to fire first. Apart from anything else, it would be ludicrous, because there are so many missile sites in the Soviet Union. There is no way that our Trident capability could destroy them all. Therefore, the whole argument is ridiculous.

On costs, there is no doubt that many Government Members are concerned about the reduction in the conventional strength of the Royal Navy. However, we must be realistic about this. Figures for equipment cost in the well-put-together "glossy" White Paper on Trident, on which I congratulate my right hon. Friend and his colleagues, state that the total spending on Trident will be no more than 3 per cent. of the defence budget over the 15-year build-up period. We should not obtain a significant and substantial increase in conventional naval strength with that 3 per cent. It is sometimes overlooked that one has the running costs of the fleet to bear in mind as well as the capital cost. I should have been happy if my right hon. Friend had managed to persuade his right hon. Friends that there should be a higher sum in total spent on defence. However, that was not to be and I must accept the division of the cake. To spend 3 per cent. on the nuclear deterrent is not, in my view, a wrong allocation of resources.

It would help if we could be told, in sterling, how much is to be spent on equipment for conventional maritime systems between 1980 and 1995, which is the period covered by the Trident programme. I suspect that the figure is enormous. It would help to restore balance to the argument if the figure were made available. The graphs at the back of the report show percentages. The figure of £7 billion is being bandied about for Trident as a gigantic sum. Unfortunately, the sums expended on all equipment are very large. Tornado is to be £11 billion, and Trident £7 billion. I should like the cost of all the conventional maritime systems to be expressed in £ sterling for comparative purposes.

I welcome the fact that parts for the United States Trident system are to be built in the United Kingdom. I know that my right hon. Friend and my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State are well aware of the need for success in this direction. I hope that members of the United States Administration and Congress will ponder the matter. It is important for the United Kingdom-American alliance that it is seen to be a two-way street. Too often in the past it has been a lane in one direction and a broad highway in the other. One well understands the reasons. An imbalance is almost inevitable, but I hope that our friends on the other side of the Atlantic will realise that it is important for American firms to take the opportunity to acquire as much equipment as possible in this country. My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary already has under his belt the success of selling Rapier to the Americans. I hope that he will have equal success in this new direction.

All war is dreadful. It is dreadful whether a person is killed by an arrow, lance, sword, bullet, bomb, shell, shrapnel or a nuclear weapon. The older methods are equally cruel. It is worth pondering that in the last war the human race killed 50 million of its own kind without nuclear weapons. We are all against war and spending money on weapons, especially when there are many other strong and valid calls on our money. Our aim must be peace with freedom. To achieve that we need strength. We cannot deter a nuclear power with only conventional weapons. Our people wish to live in peace. The Government's Trident programme is the best way to ensure that.

7.23 pm

Like the hon. Member for Tynemouth (Mr. Trotter) I, too, accept that the aim of any British Government must be to maintain and safeguard the security of our people. There is undoubtedly a nuclear threat. The question is whether the possession of a strategic nuclear capability is the best defence.

We must consider the question not only in terms of the ability that possession of a nuclear deterrent gives us to hit an enemy, but in terms of the cost in vulnerability. Possession of an independent nuclear deterrent and the deployment of United States nuclear deterrents on our soil mean that a potential adversary, in accordance with the deterrent theory, has to counter the possibility that those weapons will be used against him. He does that by targeting nuclear weapons on our homeland to make certain that if ever our weapons are used, accidentally or by design, we shall be destroyed. The price that we pay for Trident, and cruise for that matter, is to have nuclear weapons permanently targeted on us.

The new Trident deterrent is extremely accurate and enormously destructive. As has been pointed out, it is capable of knocking out nuclear silos. If, during a period of tension, a potential adversary believes that he is threatened by a first-strike attack—even though we do not possess sufficient Trident submarines to carry out such an attack our capability could be viewed together with the American Trident capability—we are in danger of having the nuclear weapons targeted on us detonated.

Whatever destructive power Trident endows us with, therefore, it renders us liable to a nuclear attack on an unparalleled scale. Such a disaster could occur through a dispute in which we had no direct part. As everyone knows, if nuclear weapons are once unleashed, the Soviet Union would not stop to consider where they originated from. We should be a direct target. For a nebulous deterrence we are placing our country at enormous risk. Those who argue for a deterrent have never faced that fact as fully as they should.

In essence, the argument advanced by those in favour of a nuclear deterrent is the same as that put forward in some countries for policemen or citizens to carry firearms. If some carry firearms, others use that as an argument to show why they themselves should carry them. The more widespread the possession of arms, the greater likelihood there is of people becoming innocent victims of gunfights. Contrary to the arguments advanced from the Government Benches that to possess nuclear weapons gives us greater security, I believe that it undermines our security.

Furthermore, as a number of my hon. Friends have pointed out at length, the fact that we have Trident means that we can no longer afford to make provision against other threats. In 1981–82 our defence programme provides for the expenditure of £12, 300 million, representing 5·2 per cent. of GNP. The Government postulate that the expenditure should grow by 3 per cent. per annum until the mid-1980s. When they announced their decision on Trident, the cost of the C4 system was estimated at £5, 000 million. The D5 will cost at least £7, 500 million. The chances are that the eventual cost will be £10, 000 million or more.

Despite the fact that the cost will be spread over a number of years and the peak expenditure years will not be reached until the latter part of this decade, the decision to go for the D5 means a considerable addition to our armaments expenditure. It means that, in the peak years, the Trident programme, now the D5, will pre-empt an increased part of the defence equipment budget and so limit expenditure on conventional forces more than previously envisaged, unless we expand the global armaments budget.

This country cannot bear an ever-escalating burden of military expenditure. If Trident goes ahead, it will mean ever-increasing cuts elsewhere in conventional expenditure. The cuts in the Navy and the Air Force in recent months will need to be stepped up considerably if the commitment to Trident is continued. In the long run, that will mean that our Armed Forces will be incapable of dealing with comparatively minor threats.

There are many examples in history of Governments which possessed immense apparent military power, but which collapsed without even a struggle. I shall quote the recent example of the regime of the Shah of Iran. Everyone imagined that that was a country with tremendous strength, because of the build up of its arms. However, it collapsed comparatively easily when a threat arose internally. For us in Britain to imagine that the country will be strengthened by a weapon that is far more accurate and destructive and capable of much longer-range destruction than the task for which the Government Front Bench says it is intended is sheer and utter nonsense. The burden of the defence programme will weaken the country and create tremendous difficulties for any future Government, particularly the Governments who are in power in the latter part of the decade.

For cost reasons, sooner or later we shall have to face the inevitability of becoming a non-nuclear power, just as we have had to come to grips with other realities in the latter half of the twentieth century. It would be far more sensible if we were to face that position now rather than hide our heads in the sand and pretend that we can continue to expend the vast amounts of money that are necessary to retain an unnecessary nuclear deterrent.

In the long run, humanity cannot survive if the nuclear arms race continues. I deplore the policies of all countries that are committed to increasing nuclear weapons—the USSR as much as the United States and this country. It is unfair for people to say that those of us who are associated with the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament confine our criticisms to one side. We are opposed to the Soviet nuclear arms build up as well as to the build up in the West or in any other sphere.

I believe that our action in moving towards nuclear disarmament should be linked to the objective of securing agreement on the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons on nuclear-free zones, and on exerting pressure on the super powers to reach agreement on strategic nuclear weapons. I strongly support and applaud the decision of my right hon. Friend the Member for Deptford (Mr. Silkin) today to speak out against Trident as a step towards that goal. Those of us who are fortunate enough to be alive today in this generation have a right to defend our way of life, but we have no moral right to threaten the destruction of civilisation and humanity.

The Opposition's pledge to cancel Trident will be seen by increasing numbers of people in this country and further afield as a positive stand for peace and sanity. In the long run, unless there are people prepared to take that positive stand, humanity will be doomed.

7.35 pm

Since the House has been in existence, it has not had the privilege of hearing from Eve. However, I believe that she has a contribution to make to the debate, however long after the event. She taught us that, once the apple from the Tree of Knowledge has been bitten, it can never be put back again.

One of the greatest fallacies in the disarmament case of the Campaign for Nuclear Disamament is the belief that, even if both sides rid themselves of their nuclear weapons, they would not scramble to produce them again as quickly as possible and use them first in a conventional war. There was such a fallacy among the people who believed that, by burning Galileo's books, the world would once more be the centre around which the sun revolved. That fallacy is implicit in the nonsense that the CND spreads among a somewhat gullible public.

The knowledge of how to make nuclear weapons is a fact, and will be so for all time. Therefore, the question that we must ask ourselves is: how do we prevent a war between the powers of the East and West? It is not: should we have nuclear weapons? It is the possession of nuclear weapons that rules out Russia inaugurating that war. As long as the NATO alliance possesses and is prepared to use strategic nuclear weapons, Russia will not attack it. However, were this to be so, as long as America alone had a monopoly of the possession of nuclear weapons in the West, so long would Russian policy be aimed at driving a wedge between America and the rest of the world, so that she could hope to overrun the rest of the Western world without bringing upon herself the holocaust of the American use of nuclear weapons. Ignoring that fact is the fallacy and rotten core of CND's case.

Those who describe themselves as a "peace movement" are those who make war much more likely, including a nuclear war. This cannot be repeated too often. There is no means by which the knowledge of how to produce nuclear weapons can ever be taken away from mankind, nor is there any way in which Russia can be prevented from using that knowledge. Moreover, the situation is worse than that. Russia, being the dictatorship that it is, with a controlled press—which it has—has a much better opportunity to manufacture nuclear weapons secretly than any democracy with a free press. That must also be a self-evident truth.

Therefore, the net effect of the self-styled "peace movement"—the net effect of the CND—is to bring war much further into probability. In so far as anything is certain, that would be a war that would end, if it did not begin, in the use of nuclear weapons.

History shows that dictatorships possess certain advantages in military terms over democracies. There is also another factor. It has been the historic position of democracies that they start weaker in war. With time—if time is vouchsafed to them and they have sufficient time to harness the energies of the free people—they have mercifully overcome the dictatorship that they have fought—but only just. If the war against Germany had lasted very much longer, with Germany possessing a new generation of U-boats with oxygen-enriched fuel, and if it had not believed that we had a nerve-gas too, whereas in fact we had DDT, it is far from certain what the outcome of the European war would have been. Do no let each generation in turn have to pay in massive blood for learning lessons which should have been learnt. It is the duty of the House to remind the public what those major lessons are.

I end as I began, by saying that we cannot destroy human knowledge. That is the most important single lesson. Secondly, an organised State will not knowingly and willingly destroy itself. Soviet Russia holds in military subjection countries whose independence it guaranteed by treaty. I wish that the right hon. Member for Deptford (Mr. Silkin) were in his place, because the list includes Lithuania, Estonia, Latvia, Eastern Germany, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Bulgaria, and countries which Russia has invaded, such as Afghanistan. None of these countries had the capacity to defend itself with nuclear weapons and not one belonged to an alliance which possessed them. All these countries have suffered the consequent fate.

Soviet Russia has four times the number of tanks that the Western world possesses. They are poised to attempt to sweep through Europe and it is hoped by Soviet Russia that they will do so before America can move its conventional land forces by air or by sea. Russia has nearly five times the number of conventional submarines that Germany had U-boats when it went to war and nearly starved Britain into submission. This is the reality of the conventional sphere to which the CND invites us to return. That is not a prospect of peace. That is not a prospect of security for our children. Let us remember these truths and impart them to others who do not have knowledge of them. That is our duty as a House of Commons and it is one which we should remember as we vote in favour of the Government's motion.

7.43 pm

I am sure that the hon. Member for Tiverton (Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop) will understand if I do not take up his remarks. Time is limited and many hon. Members on both sides of the House wish to participate in the debate. If what the hon. Gentleman said is true, it seems that we are all doomed and that the nuclear arms build-up will continue remorselessly until eventually we go into the nuclear abyss.

I shall address myself firstly and primarily to nuclear escalation, which is implicit in the decision to buy Trident II (D5) as opposed to Trident I (C4). Suffice it to say that I am against both systems. The Secretary of State and the Under-Secretary of State for Defence Procurement, who is to reply, must face the central issue that Trident II is a counter-force weapon. It is being developed by the United States specifically to have the capability to destroy Soviet missiles in hardened silos. That is why it is being developed as a replacement for Trident I (C4). In a letter to me on 22 February, the Minister of State for the Armed Forces stated:
"The Americans have stated publicly that while they do not consider the Trident I missile (C4) suitable for an attack on land based missiles and hardened silos they believe that Trident II (D5) will be sufficiently accurate to attack any target in the Soviet Union including missile silos."
The Secretary of State for Defence, in reply to a question posed by my hon. Friend the Member for Walsall, South (Mr. George), when the right hon. Gentleman made his statement on Trident II, stated:
"As for the hard kill capability, it is certainly true that D5 is a more accurate missile than C4 and much more accurate than Polaris. It can knock out a specific target in a way that Polaris could not. But that is not why we want it."—[Official Report, 11 March 1982; Vol. 19, c. 985.]
It is clear that we are talking about a counter-weapon, a weapon designed to destroy Soviet missiles. Any school child will understand that that can be achieved only if it is fired first. Counter-force undermines deterrence. It is all very well for Conservative Members to say "It is not our intention to fire it first". That may be so, but we cannot expect the Soviet Union to make that assumption. As my hon. Friend the Member for Harlow (Mr. Newens) said, it is not on for hon. Members to say that because we shall have only a limited number of submarines this will carry no great threat to the Soviet Union. Although it is an independent nuclear deterrent, we all know that it is part of the NATO system.

There is a real fear in the Soviet Union that the United States is building up a massive first-strike capability, and it is no use pretending otherwise. The House must recognise that we are talking about perhaps the most important development in British defence policy since we first acquired nuclear weapons. The build-up on the part of the United States and the Soviet Union has given a new upsurge to the campaign against nuclear armaments throughout Europe. That is why we have seen massive demonstrations in the major capitals of Europe. The great mass of young people, especially in Britain, are not prepared to go down the road that the Government seem to be preparing for them. Scotland is no exception to that. Indeed, this decision means that Glasgow and West Central Scotland is being compulsorily conscripted into the front line of the nuclear madness of the British and American Governments. That is why the issue figured so prominently in the Hillhead by-election.

I am sorry that the right hon. Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Dr. Owen) is not in his place. How can he reconcile with his argument the stance that the right hon. Member for Glasgow, Hillhead (Mr. Jenkins) took in the Hillhead by-election? How can he balance his right hon. Friend's hard-line opposition to Trident with his decision not to support the Opposition's amendment? The amendment calls for the cancellation of Trident and nothing else. I put it to the SDP that the decision not to vote with the Opposition is a betrayal of what the right hon. Member for Hillhead said to the electors before the election.

There is a massive accumulation of opposition to the Trident system throughout Scotland. I have no doubt that that will be reflected by the thousands who turn out to participate in the demonstration that is being organised in Glasgow on Saturday.

The hon. Gentleman is a responsible Member and he has referred to "massive opposition" to Trident in some parts of Scotland. Will he confirm or deny the newspaper report that is attributed to him that if the Government went ahead with Trident he would recommend workers in the factories that would contribute to the Trident programme to take civil action against the Government's policy?

I must make it plain to the hon. Member for East Grinstead (Mr. Johnson Smith) that I believe that it will never come to that, because the only party in the House that is committed to Trident is the Conservative Party. I earnestly hope that a Labour Party will be elected which will cancel Trident, but I do not rule out any of the remarks that I made in Perth at the annual Scottish Labour Party conference. If the hon. Gentleman is interested in what I said, I hope that he will take the trouble to consider everything that I said. I withdraw nothing from my speech.

The opposition in Scotland is reflected in the stance taken by the local planning authority, Dumbarton district council. It has made it clear that it is opposed to the development. I understand that the Ministry of Defence has not yet referred the issue to the Scottish Office. It must do so in due course, but I suspect that it will not reach agreement with Dumbarton district council, which is responsible for planning at Coulport on the Clyde. Therefore, the Secretary of State for Scotland must make the decision about whether there will be a public inquiry into the matter.

There will be a deep sense of resentment and outrage in Scotland if there is not a proper public inquiry. We realise that there is no statutory requirement for a public inquiry, but this issue merits a planning inquiry commission. We are talking about considerations of a national and regional importance and about a host of criteria that should be taken into account when the Secretary of State makes the decision about whether there should be a planning inquiry commission under the Town and Country Planning (Scotland) Act 1972. I remind the House that the Secretary of State for Scotland, to his credit, conducted a public inquiry into the extension of the NATO base at Stornoway. If there were a case for an inquiry at Stornoway, there must be a case for an inquiry into this development.

As the only Scottish Labour Member who will have had the opportunity to take part in the debate, may I serve notice on the Government that the people of Scotland are deeply incensed by this decision. It has led to a massive upsurge in support for the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, and I hope that the Government understand that the proposal will be resisted all the way.

7.52 pm

I agree with one thing that the hon. Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Strang) said. Time does not permit me to follow his arguments, although I would have dearly wished to take up his argument about what Scottish people believe and what was said at Hillhead, because I have a completely different interpretation of it.

Both during the debate and earlier I have wondered where is the change in maintaining a commitment that has stood for more than 30 years. Is the commitment changing, or is it a question of cost, because for over 30 years—which includes eight British Governments, four Conservative and four Labour—there has been virtual bipartisan agreement on the maintenance of our independent nuclear deterrent. The Labour Party has been inclined to say what it would do when it returns to Government and has then not done so. I imagine that it would be the same in the future.

The cost argument cannot be upheld. We have been told time and time again that it costs 3 per cent. of the defence budget. Any idea that 3 per cent. of the defence budget is eating into ships for the Navy or tanks for the Army is no longer feasible, and Labour Members must know that by now.

I accept the fact, leaving out the political views of others, that there is bound to be genuine fear. Everyone, unless he or she is not human, is scared of war and what it means, especially a war that none of us can possibly escape.

I remember well about 20 years ago, when the first nuclear disarmament campaign started, the late Iain Macleod saying in reply to a question that, as everyone else, he wished to see an end to nuclear weapons, all weapons and war, but, as my hon. Friend the Member for Tiverton (Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop) rightly said, one cannot change human nature and one cannot disinvent weapons that have been invented. Iain Macleod said that a million years ago man fought with his hands. Then one man picked up a stone, threw it at another and became the victor. Then spears were invented, then the bow and arrow, gun powder and bombs. Now the human race has invented a weapon that can never be used. He left the remainder to our imagination. That is why it is implicit that, especially in Britain, we maintain a nuclear deterrent.

Having said that about the worries of ordinary people, the position changes slightly with those who have political views about the matter. Apart from the Government, we have a very wide range of such from both parts of the Labour Party through the Social Democratic Party to the Liberal Party and the Scottish National Party. It ranges roughly from unilateral disarmament—both nuclear and conventional—through a host of half-way positions, to those brave spirits in the Opposition who will call for an independent nuclear deterrent provided that it is out of date.

I have no hestitation this evening in supporting the Government on this matter. It is not a case of saying that people are hypocritical or misguided. It is the first duty of any Government to provide for the defence of the realm. I have never known of a time in our 2, 000 years of recorded history when we decided to defend ourselves, but only with the second best weapons. Britain has always endeavoured to have the best for its people. When the machine gun arrived, we did not say that we would stick to single repeater rifles. The present proposal is merely the enhancement and development of a commitment that we have had for more than 30 years. We owe it to the British people.

Order. May I commend the previous five speakers, all of whom have restricted themselves to 10 minutes or less? Theirs is an example which, if followed, will enable more hon. Members to catch my eye.

7.57 pm

We have heard from various hon. Members that Trident II(D5) is a first-strike weapon. It has 14 warheads with an increasing ability to hit targets directly. Its aim is obviously to destroy nuclear silos on enemy territory and to avoid retaliation.

The Government appear to have accepted the American belief in the possibility of a nuclear victory. That is contrary to a resolution passed in Washington earlier this year. It is worth repeating that resolution in full:
"Whereas there is worldwide increasing anxiety of the possibility of large-scale nuclear warfare, and
Whereas recent studies have shown that nuclear warfare would inevitably cause diath, desease, and human suffering of epidemic proportion without any adequate medical intervention possible, and
Whereas severe trauma to biological and ecological systems would be extended far beyond the immediate bomb impact areas by virtue of transport of lethal radioactive debris by air and water, and
Whereas the only effective impediment to such an impending epidemic is the prevention of nuclear warfare,
Therefore be it resolved that the Council of the AAAS support national and international efforts directed towards the prevention of nuclear warfare, and
Be it further resolved that the Council of the AAAS supports Concurrent Resolution 44 which was recently submitted to the United States Senate by Senate Majority Leader Howard Baker of Tennessee. That resolution 'expresses the sense of Congress that the United States should not base its policies on the belief that it can limit, survive, or win a nuclear war'."war'."
I read out that resolution because hon. Members, particularly Opposition Members, should remember that people in the United States are also fighting to prevent the nuclear holocaust that we have spoken of in recent years. The Government have rejected a policy of peace and that is the meaning of their decision to go ahead with Trident. Why? Have they gone ahead with that decision because the preparations for nuclear war are highly profitable for a few multinational corporations? Alternatively, are they motivated by the belief that it is better to be dead than red? The Secretary of State referred to the Communist leadership in Russia that we may see tomorrow and felt that it would be in some way different from the present leadership. He spoke about Russia's determination to promote its interests by any means. He went on to mention playing chess and spoke of blackmailers, aggressors and threats. However, he was really saying that Britain needs a greater nuclear capability so that it can prevent the possibility of social change.

With that aim in mind the United States of America has been involved in wars in Chile, El Salvador and Vietnam. We talk about the United States of America as being the super power that is presumably 100 per cent. on our side, but hon. Members should bear in mind an article that appeared in the New Statesman on 26 March 1982. It is entitled:
"Trident: US insists that Britain buys blind."
What does that mean? It states:
"The Ministry of Defence confirmed this week that they had not seen it and did not know of its contents."
The article refers to a document whose formal title is "Naval Operations Instruction OPNA—VINST 5510." I have a copy of it in my hand. It refers to "general restrictions" and to the agreement about the purchase of the alternative to the Polaris missile. The document is issued by the Navy Department of the United States of America. It states:
"In the implementation of this delegation, DIRSS PO WASH DC will take particular precautions to insure that information in the following areas is not disclosed:"—
that means, not disclosed to the United Kingdom—
  • "a. Naval Nuclear Propulsion Information, classified or unclassified.
  • b. Strategic and operational planning information.
  • c. Tactical doctrine and information on the operational employment of the SSBN including command and control methods.
  • d. Communications doctrine, procedures, security and effectiveness."
  • Various other aspects of the so-called agreement between Britain and the United States of America on the purchase of the alternative to Polaris are contained in that official document. As I have pointed out, the Ministry of Defence confirmed only this week that it has not seen it and did not know of its contents. That does not suggest the type of relationship that we could accept, given the earlier statements today about the relationship between the United States of America and Britain over Trident and cooperation in its use.

    We should refuse to supply the United States of America with our surplus plutonium. I hope that the Minister will tell us whether the Government have decided to make such a supply available. We should cancel Trident and reject cruise missiles. We should tell Washington of our firm intention not to participate further in a nuclear arms race and we should phase out unilaterally all involvement in nuclear weaponry as quickly as possible. I see that the Minister of State for the Armed Forces is sitting on the Front Bench. Recently, I read in my local paper that he had made a speech on the subject of Trident. He is reported to have said:
    "Trident will safeguard the British people and their children into the distant uncertainties of the next century."
    He had not an iota of evidence to support that claim. I suggest that is a fraud and a deception. Until there is a major move towards disarmament and the establishment of peace negotiations—one wonders about the prospects of that, given the representatives that we shall send to the disarmament conference in June—we cannot hope to protect the interests of our chidren in the next century.

    I hope that the youth of today will rise up in anger against the decision on Trident and that the Christians within our midst will realise that this is also their fight.

    8.8 pm

    If the Christians rose up, many of them would put forward a different argument from that espoused by the hon. Member for Preston, South (Mr. Thorne), because if they supported the hon. Gentleman they would be writing their prescription for death. The argument about Trident is not a Christian argument anyway. However, I cannot go into the details of that point, because many hon. Members wish to speak. Let us keep Christianity and moral crusading out of this debate. The moral arguments do not lie with the Opposition, who have advanced such a stupid proposition.

    Successive British Governments have thought it sensible to have a nuclear deterrent because it deters and it helps to keep the peace. It has done so. Nothing has happened to make us change our minds since Attlee put forward that argument, which has been followed by Prime Ministers since the war. Apart from the argument that it was a deterrent and would help to keep the peace, there was the strong view that we must always try our best to bring about disarmament. It is not our fault that we have not succeeded. We know where we can put the blame.

    The view of Attlee's Government was also based on the premise—this was followed by other Governments—that we could not rely on the United States' guarantees for all time. There was a second premise—we heard this from my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State today—that Soviet perceptions will not always lead them to conclude that the United States will always come to Europe's aid.

    I want to discuss those two premises in the context of NATO 33 years on. I do so as a member of the NATO Assembly. Like other hon. Members who are also members of the Assembly, I have become vividly aware at first hand of the current strains and doubts which permeate the relationships within the NATO alliance.

    For many of our European parliamentary colleagues in NATO, President Reagan's remark that he could envisage a nuclear tactical conflict in Europe without the super powers necessarily engaging in a world nuclear war was ill chosen and ill timed, to say the least. For American congressmen and senators attending the Assembly, the peace movement has seemed at worst an expression of neutralism and at best a pretty flabby response to the increasing effectiveness of Soviet military strength.

    NATO has gone through crises of misunderstanding on both sides of the Atlantic before now. In my view, President Reagan is not a warmonger, hell-bent on war. There is no reason why he should sign a death warrant for 350, 000 American soldiers in Western Europe. The Governments of Western Europe are backed, thank goodness, by a majority of public opinion which still recognises the need to strengthen their armed forces and to understand the fallacies of the arguments put forward this afternoon by Labour Members, regurgitating the well-worn arguments of the CND. However, we cannot let discontent with the alliance rumble on.

    Europe has understandably been frustrated and puzzled by the American leadership, from the vacillations of Carter to the apocalyptic pronouncements of President Reagan. Europeans—or some of them—are increasingly troubled by what they see as insipient isolationism in the United States. On the other hand, the United States and the Americans can also be puzzled by Europe, which does not always speak with one voice. The Americans that I have spoken to are discouraged by the failure of some European countries to do more to help themselves.

    What has gone wrong? Have conditions changed that much? Labour Members who are opposed to a British nuclear deterrent have said this afternoon that conditions have changed, that Trident is too costly. I will not go into that argument. I believe that the Secretary of State has been frank with the House, and I believe that he has won the debate hands down. Labour Members believe that conditions have changed since the Attlee Government's decision to go ahead and make such a deterrent. I agree that some conditions have changed.

    First, the United States, as we know, is now vulnerable to a Soviet nuclear attack and may be less, not more, disposed to put its own cities at risk to save Europe.

    Secondly, the United States now perceives that it has military commitments well outside the NATO area to meet the emergence of the Soviet Union in the last decade as a global military power. We do not hear much of that from the CND.

    Thirdly, the United States considers that Western Europe, which is relatively stronger economically compared with 33 years ago, is now more able to relieve the United States of the growing pressures involved in being the dominant member of NATO. As we know, the cost of modern equipment—be it conventional or nuclear—is prodigious. If we were to deny ourselves the nuclear weapon tomorrow, all Conservative Members know—and I believe some Labour Members also know—what huge bills we would have to face in order to build a credible conventional force against the Soviet Union.

    Our allies in Western Europe—as has been confirmed by my right hon. Friend—expect and welcome the part that Britain will play, with a nuclear as well as a conventional response. If Europe is to pull its weight and get better value for money in the light of the huge costs of modern defence equipment, it must improve its method of defence procurement and collaboration. It must do that if it is to satify its people. As I said, I do not believe that by denying ourselves the Trident missile system we have in any way solved our problems.

    As we look into the question of how to pool our efforts in Western Europe—and to do far better than we have been able to do through the Euro-group—inevitably the question of a European nuclear deterrent will be raised. It will not simply go away by our denying ourselves the use of a deterrent, as has been suggested this afternoon. The French—as we have been reminded by my hon. Friend the Member for Woking (Mr. Onslow)—have always seen the need for a deterrent. As he said, that recognition goes right across the political spectrum. France recognises that it own security demands that the Soviet Union must never be in doubt that an attack on Europe which threatened France would and could be met by a nuclear response decided by a European power.

    The duplication of effort in Europe must and can be deplored, but one thing is certain. In no way shall we be able to reduce our costs and make more effective our use of resources unless, with nuclear weapons, as with others, we formulate European defence needs. That is why I hope that the NATO powers will respond to the call by the President of France.

    Western European Union may not be the ideal institution in which we can solve these problems of defence policy in Europe—[Interruption.] It may or may not be the ideal institution in which to solve the problems of defence policy in Europe and of cost procurement. We all know that Europe's economic and political defence interests overlap, and our inability to reconcile those interests leads not only to higher costs but to an increasing dependence on American technology—a point made earlier today.

    The Prime Minister is reported as having commented, on a visit to Brussels, that the offices of NATO and the Commission are both to be found in Brussels. Perhaps that is where the dialogue should begin. It could have a very practical impact on equipment costs. It could help to unify the discordant European voice. It could certainly make clear that war will not be less likely if we in Britain, as a European power, choose now either to reject a nuclear deterrent or to choose a nuclear weapons system which, in the eyes of the Soviet Union, is not a deterrent at all.

    8.16 pm

    We have had a wide-ranging debate and, as is usual with debates that last a long time, the odd comment sticks in one's mind. The hon. Member for Tiverton (Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop) said that one of our duties as Members of Parliament is to remind people of lessons learnt in the past. Clearly he was extrapolating that basic thesis to suggest that if one is not fully prepared for war war is likely to happen. There is an element of truth in that, of course, but one of the most obvious lessons of the past is that wars occur at intervals.

    I suspect that one of the reasons why CND has as much support as it currently has is the anxiety on the part of large sections of our young community to look for a way to avoid what they see as the inevitable next war, and the inevitable use of the kind of technology now available. I do not entirely agree with the conclusions of CND as to the best way out of our dilemma, but we are unfair to that movement if we dismiss its thesis and its fears as an absolute fantasy. The fears it holds are by no means a fantasy; possibly they are a quite realistic appraisal of the future.

    The Government's motion poses essentially two questions to the House. First, do we need or do we want an independent nuclear deterrent? If we get past that hurdle, the second question is whether Trident is the best buy.

    The Liberal Party has always been against the independent nuclear deterrent, Polaris. Therefore, it can hardly be any great surprise to the House if we have a basic objection to the principle of an independent nuclear deterrent when we reach the next stage of technology and the possible deployment of Trident. It seems to us that there is little purpose in our acquiring Trident at a cost of about £8 billion if NATO really exists as a coherent unit. The alternative is that NATO no longer exists as a coherent unit. In that case, we believe that two submarines somewhere in the oceans of the world are no answer to the problems that a possible Soviet invasion could bring. The only credible reason that has been presented to the House today by those who argue that Britain should have an independent nuclear deterrent has been £8 billion insurance against the possibility of United States neutrality. There have been arguments about how long we can maintain Trident—assuming that we have it—when the United States go neutral—if they do. Clearly it will be difficult to sustain Trident if there is a sustained period of American neutrality. The Liberal Party do not see Trident as a way out of American neutrality, if it were to happen.

    To the Liberal Party, the idea that there is any trembling in the Kremlin today because the British House of Commons is considering buying the Trident missile system is a fantasy of the first order. In our view, it is a decision that will hardly be discussed in the upper echelons of the Soviet system. It is not a significant decision, nor is it a significant contribution to Western defence.

    I want to make it clear that the Liberal Party supports NATO. We accept that that involves a willingness to deploy and use nuclear weapons in certain situations—God forbid that such situations ever arise. The Liberal Party is not unilateralist, but we cannot see any situation in which Trident or the independent nuclear deterrent may be used.

    In what sort of circumstances would the Liberal Party be prepared to use nuclear weapons? Will the hon. Gentleman speculate on that matter?

    Most of us have more sense than to run down that path, but we accept that until some serious negotiations take place and until there is a general de-escalation of armaments in the world, the Western NATO alliance must offer a nuclear deterrent to the Soviet Union. However, it does so only as a unit, and Britain cannot do so in splendid isolation. The only argument that has been presented today for Britain buying Trident is the fantasy of Great Britain Limited on its own against the Soviet Union, and that we do not see as a practical proposition.

    The Liberal Party welcomes the Geneva talks. We are by no means as pessimistic about their outcome as are other quarters of the House. There are enormous pressures on both sides of the super power argument to make real progress in this respect. This year we have read that the Soviet Union is forced to import incredible quantities of food just to keep its people in reasonable health. That must put enormous pressure on its budget. I suspect that the Soviet Union can no more afford expenditure on nuclear weapons than can the Western alliance. For that reason we believe that there is a real chance to make progress. The fundamental decision today is: do we want an independent nuclear deterrent? The Liberal view on that has been known for a long time, and remains "No." On the second question "Is it the best buy?", we believe that there is no need for us to study that question.

    8.23 pm

    The right hon. Member for Deptford (Mr. Silkin), who opened for the Opposition, was clearly uncomfortable. His reputation is that of a unilateralist, and the logic of unilateralism is neutralism. How sad it is that a once great party now finds itself led in defence by that right hon. Gentleman.

    I am an agnostic on Trident. I want to share some of my doubts with the House. I shall ask three rhetorical questions, I shall attempt to answer them, and then I shall sit down—all in five minutes.

    The three rhetorical questions are these. First, what sort of war is most likely? Secondly, under what circumstances would Britain be prepared to use the Trident system? Thirdly, what are the opportunity costs? It is generally agreed that the most likely war is a conventional attack by the Soviet Union in central Europe. If we fail to defeat that conventional attack by conventional means, the West will have no choice but to escalate through the nuclear ladder. That is generally agreed to be the most likely war of all that might break out. The idea that the Soviets would suddenly strike us with strategic nuclear weapons is unthinkable.

    Would not the fact that we ran down our conventional forces mean that the Soviets could win that type of war?

    If the right hon. Gentleman is patient, I shall come to that in the third of my rhetorical questions.

    Secondly, under what circumstances would Britain be prepared to use Trident? Would we use it first as a consequence of the defeat of NATO in a conventionally fought war in Europe? Would we use it first to protect us from invasion? I suspect that we would not, because, under those circumstances, to use our Trident missile system first would result in the destruction of the United Kingdom and would, therefore, be an irrational act. However, I think that we would use it second were our cities to be struck first by the Soviet Union.

    It is more complicated if, for example, the Soviets used a selective strike against Holy Loch. How would we then respond in nuclear terms? Would we destroy Moscow and, in return, be destroyed ourselves; would our bluff be called; or would we be capable of using the Trident system to aim at a particular weapons system, perhaps in Murmansk, as a tit for tat?

    The only value of having a so-called independent nuclear deterrent is, first, that for £7, 500 million we almost guarantee that no enemy will strike our cities first with its nuclear weapons and, secondly—here I shall shock some hon. Members—were we to be defeated in a land battle in Europe and the Trident system remained intact and at sea, we would have a high card to play in the negotiations between victors and vanquished, which would then enable us to come to terms with the Soviet Union and preserve a degree of independence. Those are the only two advantages of having an independent nuclear system. Some people may argue that it is worth £7, 500 million, others may not.

    My third point relates to "opportunity costs". My hon. Friend the Member for Ruislip-Northwood (Mr. Wilkinson)—who looks after the Secretary of State, keeps his drink filled and helps him on with his overcoat as Parliamentary Private Secretary—has recently published a book called "Uncertain Ally". It is a super book and costs £15. Those hon. Members who cannot afford it should read my review on Thursday in the Daily Telegraph, price 18p. In that great book my hon. Friend looks not only backwards but forwards. He argues the parameters of the next defence review, which will take place after the next election.

    The first task of a Secretary of State in a Conservative Government, assuming that we are re-elected, will be to have yet another fundamental defence review. If one looks at the conditions in the mid-1980s, one can only come to certain conclusions. First, there will be little or no economic growth. Secondly, a Conservative Government would be pretty reluctant to allocate additional resources to defence. Do not be deceived by the argument "All, we have given 3 per cent. extra in real terms". That commitment was entered into by a Labour Government and we fulfilled it. Over and above the rate of inflation, there will be a 6 per cent. increase in weapons procurement. Therefore, the graphs will cross in the mid-1980s.

    If we purchase the Trident system at that stage, the question will then be what commitment we cut. Whereas in the early 1980s the Foreign and Commonwealth Office was able to protect the British Army of the Rhine, will it be able to protect it in the mid-1980s? Indeed, in his great book, my hon. Friend the Member for Ruislip-Northwood advocates that half of BAOR should be withdrawn and disbanded. I shall not argue whether that is right, but why not go the whole hog and bring it all back?

    What would be the consequences of bringing BAOR back in the mid-1980s? What would be the consequences for European-American relations, British-German relations, British-French relations and German-American relations? If we are not prepared to station our army in Germany, the forces of isolationism and nationalism in the United States will grow stronger. The argument for recalling the American Seventh Army would be irresistible. When that happened, we should be uncoupled vis-a-vis the United States strategic nuclear deterrent and back on our own again.

    In such hypothetical circumstances—the Rhine Army being the real "opportunity cost" of the Trident programme—we shall find ourselves using the Trident fleet as the highest card in our negotiating hand following defeat in a conventionally fought European war 'when victor and vanquished get together and we are obliged to extract some advantage from that horrific situation.

    8.30 pm

    Tonight we have had the ceremonial wringing of hands by Conservative and Liberal hon. Members. They say how nasty nuclear weapons are, and how little they want to purchase them. But they will go abjectly into the Lobby and support the motion.

    The truth is that in both conventional and nuclear forces NATO is stronger than the Warsaw Pact and the Soviet Union. The evidence is set out in the annual report of the International Institute for Strategic Studies. In referring to military balance, the report states on page 111 that in 1980–81, for example:
    "Apart from having greater economic resources, Alliance countries, including France, maintain rather more men under arms than the Warsaw Pact. For Army/Marines the figures are: NATO 2, 860, 000; Warsaw Pact 2, 612, 000. And the Soviet Union has a large number of her divisions and men on the, Chinese border."
    That shows that the Soviet Union has a rather weaker presence in Europe than NATO.

    If those who support the deterrence theory stand by it, as many Conservative hon. Members do, they have some explaining to do. We reached the position of deterrence in 1963. At that time the United States had about 600 intercontinental ballistic missiles which could wipe out all the major Soviet cities. Was that the basis of deterrence? Was that the basis that stopped the "Russkies" advancing through Europe and ending civilisation and freedom as we know it? If so, why since 1963, year by year, have people such as those in the Tory Party been wringing their hands saying "All these weapons are dreadful but we must have more and more of them."? That is precisely what has happened. As the West has increased its stocks, so the Soviet Union has caught up. Where will it end? This debate is an example of that. Trident breaches the nonproliferation treaty that the United Kingdom signed in 1968 and means a vast escalation in our nuclear power. Each Polaris submarine carries more firepower than was expended by both sides in the 1939–45 war.

    We are talking about a vast capability for the mass extermination of humanity. What do we propose to do? What are all the Tories talking about in their platitudinous way when they say they will vote for Trident? They will be voting for a system that will increase the capacity of each submarine from 48 missiles to 272. A recently published book entitled "As Lambs to the Slaughter" by Dr. Paul Rogers, Dr. Malcolm Dando and Dr. Peter Van Den Dungen, who work at Bradford university peace studies department, states that the D5 missile has 17 warheads.— [Interruption.] If the moans and groans from the Tory Benches mean that I am wrong, let the Minister deny it. Let him say how inaccurate the remarks in that book are if academic research is to be treated with such disdain by the well-dressed gentlemen on the Tory Benches.

    The House is discussing a massive escalation in our nuclear firepower that will almost certainly be the reason for the Soviet Union trying yet again to catch up. What sort of position is that for a Government who bleat so often about the desire to reduce nuclear forces in the world? They are trying with might and main to increase them. Have they not learnt from history? Do they not realise that since 1963, as one side has increased its nuclear force, the other side has followed. Each side strives to catch up with the other. That is precisely what is happening with Trident.

    This stems from the repeated assertion by Conservatives and Liberals that the Russians are aggressive, increasing their aggression and spending more and more money on arms. That is the Conservative position.

    On 3 March 1981, in a defence debate, the vice-chairman of the Conservative Party defence group, the hon. Member for Plymouth, Sutton (Mr. Clark), said:
    "One could also suggest that the intentions of the Soviet Union in central Europe are not necessarily as aggressive as many of my hon. Friends claim. … If one measures the extent by which the strength of the Soviet Union has been eroded in central Europe by defections of one kind or another since that high point at the time of the Berlin airlift, one sees that effectively, it has lost Austria, half of which it occupied, and Finland over which it exercised almost total dominance. It has lost, irreparably, Yugoslavia. It has lost Rumania in all but name. In Hungary, the regime has become more relaxed and more inimical to Soviet influence. Finally, there are threatened developments for the Soviet Union in Poland. Seen from the Soviet side, this shows a steady pattern of retreat and disintegration."—[Official Report, 3 March 1981; Vol. 1000, c.193.]
    They are the words of a vice-chairman of the Conservative defence group and yet the Conservative Government are embarking on a £10 billion escalation of nuclear firepower.

    There is evidence, which I have adduced before, of NATO saying that the Russians are spending more than they are. Senator Nino Pasti said in 1980:
    "The truth is that NATO forces, both conventional and nuclear, are stronger than those of the Warsaw pact countries. During the last 10 years the Soviet military budget has remained stable. My colleagues were unhappy about this situation, because they could not justify increases in their own expenditure. So they invented a 'pricing' system. It is easy to see how the figures were inflated to show higher Soviet expenditure."
    Senator Nino Pasti is a former member of the NATO military committee and former deputy supreme allied commander for NATO nuclear affairs. His opinion cannot be brushed aside lightly even by the besotted intellects on the Conservative Benches.

    When I asked the former Secretary of State how he was so certain about Soviet expenditure he said:
    "Since the Soviet figures are so unreliable we have to make our own estimates of its expenditure and this is done in great detail every year by assessing the cost to the Soviet Union of all known items of spending, and aggregating them for purposes of comparison according to the NATO definition of defence expenditure."—[Official Report, 7 July 1980; Vol. 988, c. 54.]
    In other words, the Government are indulging in guesswork. The Government are building up a nuclear deterrent with more firepower than all the firepower used in the 1939–45 war and multiplying it on the basis of guesses.—[interruption.]
    —The hon. Member for Buckingham (Mr. Benyon) keeps chuntering from the corner. According to Salt II, the United States has 11, 894 warheads for strategic purposes and the USSR 6, 005. Those figures exclude Polaris, and we are escalating the odds in our favour. According to the International Institute for Strategic Studies, on an arriving warheads basis, the USSR has 819 warheads, including the SS20s, and NATO has 555, so the USSR has an edge there. In terms of tactical warheads, however—the difference between tactical and theatre weapons is merely the extent to which warheads can be projected or lobbed into an area—the hon. Gentleman will be pleased to learn that NATO has 7, 000 compared with the Warsaw Pact's 3, 500. By and large, therefore, our firepower massively outweighs that of the Soviet Union.

    I turn to the democracy in all this. The Secretary of State will be familiar with the details of civil defence whereby we defend our democracy by appointing supremos—people with supreme power who will be entitled to go into a bunker and shoot anyone who comes near. That is a funny way of defending democracy when we reach the nuclear holocaust towards which this and other countries are unfortunately drifting bit by bit. The Secretary of State will be familiar also with a great deal more information about the decision than is given to the House. The House is a democratic assembly. That is what it is all about. We are defending our freedom and democracy, but of what does that freedom and democracy consist? Certainly it does not consist of the Secretary of State giving information.

    If we have the almighty deterrent of Trident, I should have thought that we should let the Russians know how effective it is. I asked how D5 will be targeted—whether on civilian or military targets. Surely we are entitled to know what are the Government's tactics—whether they intend to exterminate people, or to exterminate military targets first and people next. Apparently, that is secret. I was told that
    "It has been the practice of successive Governments not to disclose the targeting plans for our nuclear forces."
    When I asked how many missiles there would be on the D5, I was told that
    "The number of warheads per missile will be matters to be decided by the Government of the day."
    However, when an informed academic makes an estimate, it is apparently greeted with jeers by the Tory Party. Tories prefer the silence and the anti-democratic attitude of the Secretary of State and his cohorts on the Treasury Bench to the idea of giving information to a democratically elected assembly.

    Does the hon. Gentleman believe that that question has been asked in Moscow?

    I have no doubt that it has been and will continue to be asked in Moscow. The notion that there are no peaceful forces in the Soviet Union is inaccurate. I have met a Soviet peace delegation which came to the House and interviewed hon. Members. [Interruption.] The hon. Gentleman asked whether there was a peace movement in the Soviet Union. I am saying that there is. I do not know what influence it has, but hon. Members were entitled to go to that meeting. I was present when those people were cross-examined about their independence and influence. They claimed to be independent and to be trying to shove the Soviet Union towards a more peaceful path than the road to which it is already committed. There is, therefore, a peaceful element in Russia. Tory Members may decry it. I am merely giving evidence of its existence.

    The evidence from the Secretary of State is much more slender. When I asked about the accuracy of Trident, I was told:
    "It is not the practice, for security reasons, to reveal the detailed operational characteristics, including accuracy, of weapon systems."—[Official Report, 26 March 1982; Vol. 20, c. 429.]
    That is a curious way of demonstrating our deterrent power to the Russians. If we have a more accurate, capable and horrific weapon, we should tell the rest of the world about it so that they do not attack us. All the arguments adduced by the Tories about the United Kingdom's deterrent apply to every other country. More than 100 countries do not have nuclear weapons. The Government's arguments are a recipe for proliferation on a massive scale.

    In 1968, the United Kingdom Government supported the nuclear non-proliferation treaty on the basis that there would not be an increase in nuclear weaponry. That was the basis on which many of the signatories supported the treaty. If we do not make a move in the direction of getting rid of nuclear weapons, more and more countries will decide to follow the example of the United Kingdom and start out on the nuclear weapons path. The more countries that do so, the greater will be the danger to the world.

    For the hungry section of the world, one of the most obscene aspects of this is the expenditure of £10 billion on arms when the vast majority of people do not have enough to eat, decent clothing or decent shelter over their heads. I do not know how the Secretary of State and his cronies on the Treasury Bench can rest easy in committing the Government to this massive expenditure when they know full well that our influence and our moral standing in the world would be immeasurably enhanced if we shifted those resources to keeping people alive rather than threatening them with mass extermination.

    8.46 pm

    I listened carefully to the hon. Member for Keighley (Mr. Cryer), and I stick to the question that I asked in my intervention, because I do not believe that that question could possibly be asked in Moscow.

    Two themes have run through today's debate. First, the world is an extremely dangerous place. Secondly, this debate could not take place in the Soviet Union. That is the difference between the two systems. Nothing is more dangerous than a dictatorship under pressure, and when the dictatorship has the characteristics of the Soviet system, with its ancient leadership, its shaky economy, the dissidents within its borders and the rumblings within the empire itself, the situation becomes very dangerous indeed.

    The essence of the matter is that the present situation in the Soviet Union makes that country's leaders nervous and unsure of themselves. It is important to appreciate the psychology behind what the Russians are now doing. We are informed by those who watch the Russians that it stems from a pathological fear of invasion and the overthrow of the regime.

    The logical Western response, after years of Liberal thought and discussion and so on, is that if we disarm unilaterally the fears of the Russian leaders will go away. In fact, the opposite occurs. It becomes an excuse to extend the empire. It is very difficult to persuade people of this. I find it difficult to put it aross to my constituents that in these circumstances one would merely increase the dangers.

    I should make it clear at the outset that I entirely accept that, if one is to have an independent nuclear deterrent, Trident is the right system—no alternative makes sense—and I commend the Government for obtaining a very good deal in this respect.

    The question that we must really ask is whether we should have such weapons at all. I am convinced that there is no argument for it from the foreign policy angle. This is the only point on which I come at all close to the hon. Member for Keighley. We receive no welcome overseas by simply being a nuclear power. Our welcome derives from our economic power, our ties of association and the other attractions that we have for overseas countries. They lead to the cordiality and friendship which produce good relations. With regard to France, however, I accept that there might be a foreign policy argument, in that otherwise France would undoubtedly assume the defence leadership of Europe.

    Is the deterrent a viable one if we have it? For me, that is the most difficult question to answer. Obviously it is viable in certain circumstances. My hon. Friend the Member for Aldershot (Mr. Critchley) touched on some of those. It is logical to ask why, if it is a viable deterrent, the United States has to have one 30 times as great. The trouble is that all the time we are thinking the unthinkable and believing the unbelievable.

    On the question of our conventional forces, I cannot believe that we can have Trident without its cutting into their equipment budget. Everything points to two developments—first, that there will be a nuclear stalemate, which will enhance the possibility of a conventional war, and, consequently, that an increased importance will be placed on our conventional deterrent. If Trident II means that we have a weaker conventional capability, particularly at sea, then paradoxically the situation is made more rather than less dangerous. I cannot but remark that at its height the Trident programme will cost the equivalent of six major capital ships a year.

    The most worrying questions still arise on the Navy, in spite of everything that has been said. I ask my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State as modestly and as moderately as I can whether he realises what changes have occurred in the morale of the Royal Navy since the cuts were made and have now been added to by the sale of HMS "Invincible" to the Australians. That involves not only the loss of the pride of the Navy but the reason advanced for the sale of the ship—that it was too costly to run. Yet almost the next day it was announced that HMS "Fearless" and "Intrepid", which are 15 and 17 years old respectively, are to be kept in service. I give that one example as evidence of the widely held view that the Navy is not receiving its right priority in the Defence Estimates.

    We must be reassured on this matter, because in a nuclear stalemate our enemies will see a maritime strategy as the best means of attacking Britain. A navy cannot be built up quickly.

    With those reservations, I have reached the reluctant conclusion that it is necessary to have an independent nuclear deterrent, and that it should be Trident. I have reached that conclusion if for no other reason than that pinpointed by my hon. Friend the Member for Aldershot that the future is so uncertain and that Trident is an insurance policy that no prudent Government can forgo. However, it must be allied to a major effort to achieve multilateral disarmament. None of us likes these weapons. We possess them with extreme reluctance but possess them we must until the world is made into a much safer place.

    8.53 pm

    A number of hon. Members have referred to the effect of Trident on our conventional forces. I wish to make a few remarks on that matter.

    First, there has been a great deal of emotional talk about the Royal Navy. The defence of the North and Eastern Atlantic against Soviet land-based aircraft with a stand-off capability and using non-nuclear weapons has changed dramatically the way that a sea war would be conducted in that theatre. When the Government came into office in 1979, the Royal Navy was, in some respects, in a similar position to that of 1939. It was badly equipped to meet attack from the air from land-based aircraft.

    In 1939 the Royal Navy had aircraft carriers which were equipped with string-bags—the Swordfish, which was a bi-plane. The Japanese showed us what could happen when monoplanes were used against capital ships when they sunk the "Prince of Wales" and the "Repulse". If ever we needed convincing that capital ships were vulnerable to attacks from fixed-wing aircraft, surely that convinced us.

    The air defence of anti-submarine carriers, such as the one that we are selling to the Australians, who do not face attacks from land-based Soviet aircraft, would place a big strain on our sea-air defence capability. The Navy requires a new type of ship capable of co-ordinating and cooperating with United Kingdom-based aircraft to meet the combined threat of hostile submarines and Soviet land-based supersonic aircraft which have over-the-horizon, stand-off fire weapons.

    The Trident submarine base has excited us in Scotland recently. I should like confirmation that Scottish consultant engineers and contractors will be given the chance to participate in the work at the Trident base at Coulport and that the southern England based PSA old-boy network will be told that Scottish engineers have to be given an opportunity.

    A scare story was spread in Glasgow last week during the by-election campaign. It was suggested that Glasgow would become a target because of the location of the submarine base. Of course, that suggestion overlooks the fact that the submarines at sea, and not those in the base, are the deterrent. Any first strike against the deterrent would have to be against the submarines and not against the base near Glasgow.

    The soft option of the SDP appears to be placing cruise missiles on submarines. The submarines would require deep water operations if they were to remain invulnerable, which means that missiles would spend a large part of their flight time over water. Cruise missiles are slow flying and rely on the contours of the land for protection against surface-to-air missiles and aircraft detection.

    Cruise missiles launched from submarines would travel slowly over the water and would be vulnerable to the look-down, shoot-down capability of modern aircraft. Therefore, they would not be a deterrent. They would be too easy a target to destroy.

    Another suggested option is cruise missiles carried by aircraft. We would need sufficient aircraft to have planes airborne for 24 hours a day. I served in the RAF at the time of the V-bombers when we had that 24-hour capability, but we would also need, as we had at that time, sufficient aircraft to provide a quick readiness alert capability, which would call for many airfields, a lot of aircraft and many more airmen to keep the planes and bases in operation. It would certainly involve many more resources than would be required by the Navy to operate four Trident submarines and one base. Therefore, all my experience tells me that that proposal is not a cost-effective way to provide a credible nuclear deterrent.

    The claim that because Trident may have a first-strike capability against a limited number of targets it is less of a deterrent seems to me to ignore the fact that a first strike by Trident against some Soviet silos would still leave Soviet submarines at sea, with all the capacity to destroy our cities. The deterrent remains because the Trident submarines at sea will be able to inflict an unacceptable level of damage on Soviet cities.

    The USSR is a massive conglomeration of races and creeds, whose military policy has been influenced by the 20 million deaths that it suffered during the Hitler war. In addition, the military is part of the Government of the USSR and the West must recognise that those two factors will limit the areas where agreement can be reached in negotiations. That is why we must accept that multilateral reductions must be on the basis that the political leaders in the USSR can persuade the military that what is being given away and what is being gained add up to an acceptable deal.

    Therefore, the decision to deploy cruise and Pershing II missiles in Western Europe was enough to bring the Soviets to the negotiating table with an alternative to the zero option. At least we were beginning to talk. In my judgment, the only realistic and cost-effective option open to Britain and NATO is to maintain a nuclear deterrent capability while being prepared to negotiate for verifiable arms reductions. That is why I shall support Trident.

    9.1 pm

    The debate has clearly shown how the three political parties—the official Labour Party, the Liberal Party and the Social Democratic Party—stand and differ on defence policy. In the limited time available, I must simply say that Trident II is perhaps the best bargain since the Nassau agreement for Polaris. It is vital that we should have an independent nuclear deterrent.

    My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said that he thought it was essential for the United Kingdom to have an independent nuclear deterrent capability. This has been endorsed by the United States in the exchange of letters between the Prime Minister and President Reagan. It is in our interests and the interests of the world for us to have that. I am certain that, of all the options open to the Government and the considerations they have given to them, Trident II is the best option. We cannot go on with Polaris, because it will cost far too much in maintenance. We would be short of spares and it would be impossible to make replacements. Therefore, Trident II is the only sensible option open to the Government.

    We know that Warsaw Pact countries have superior conventional forces to NATO. We need a deterrent to stop other countries from attacking us. Until some form of arms limitation has been reached, we need that deterrent. The only deterrent option open to us is to have Trident II (D5), which has been suggested and offered on favourable terms by the United States. The Americans are not likely to change their mind. Having given us the opportunity, I am certain that they will keep to their agreement as they did with the Nassau agreement. We shall have Trident II (D5) and, thereby, be able to preserve our position and negotiate from strength. From then onwards, one hopes, we will be able to guarantee arms limitations.

    My time is up and I thank the House for the extra few minutes that I have been given.

    9.3 pm

    A hallmark of the debate has been the total unanimity on the Opposition Benches among all parties in their opposition to the Government's decision to buy the Trident D5 missile system. The Labour Party opposed that decision for the reasons clearly set out in the amendment on the Order Paper. The decision increases the danger of nuclear war by encouraging the proliferation of nuclear weapons, lowering the nuclear threshold and placing a heavy burden on the British economy, which restricts Britain's ability to conduct an independent foreign policy.

    It is significant that the exchange of letters between the British and United States Governments and, indeed, the whole tone of the Secretary of State's comments in the House, plus the Government's motion, all tend to see the decision to buy Trident as some sort of extension—even a by-product—of the Polaris agreement of 1963. It is as if the world had stood still over the past 20 years. However, there have been substantial changes, both in the number of nuclear weapons and their sophistication. The nuclear stockpile is rising inexorably. There has been a profound change in thinking about the use of nuclear weapons.

    The Secretary of State should not, as he does from time to time, bemoan the fact that the consensus on British deterrence has broken down in the House. Instead, Government Members should try to understand why that has happened. I do not know whether the concept of deterrence has been the main reason why there has been no war in Europe for almost 40 years. I do not know the answer to that question and that may or may not be the reason. Nobody can answer that question with certainty one way or the other. However, it is clear that, especially over the past decade, the world of deterrence with its almost superficial stability, has been gradually supplanted and eroded. That has led to a different, more dangerous and bizarre world; the world of counter-force, first strike and limited nuclear war.

    Hon. Members on the Government Benches favour the French. We have heard many references to France. An article by a Frenchman in the last NATO review sums the matter up clearly:
    "Thirty years ago the inaccuracy of the delivery vehicles, the fearful destruction that would have been caused by the use of H bombs, made war 'unthinkable' and forced the strategists to come up with the idea of 'deterrence', whose aim was precisely to keep political confrontations below the nuclear threshold. Today, the advent of accurate miniaturized weapons and of modern delivery and control systems, means that for the first time since 1945, nuclear war becomes if not possible … at least thinkable in the way Clausewitz understood it."
    That is the difference. The unthinkable is becoming thinkable. The change has been caused by the nature of the weapons—by their sophistication and the fact that they are much more accurate. Technology has taken over, and it is, unfortunately, swifter than politics and diplomacy.

    The situation is summed up more concisely by Mr. George Ball, a respected former United States diplomat. Recently in the United States Congress he stated:
    "In Government circles one hears expressions of dangerous nonsense which thoughtful men and women had ruled out years ago—that we should regard nuclear weapons as weapons of war and not merely of deterrence."
    It does not suffice for the Government to say that they do not regard Trident D5 as a weapon of war. They may not. The fact remains that it is. The technology makes it a weapon of war. There is no way that we can work our way out of that.

    What matters in the nuclear chess game is not just the subjective intention of the holder of the weapon. Perhaps more important is the perception in the eye of the beholder. Trident D5 is seen as a weapon of war. That is the change that has taken place over the past 20 years.

    As has been said, in 1968 Britain, the United States and the Soviet Union established the nuclear non-proliferation treaty. The Government maintain that by buying the system from the Americans we are not breaking article 1 of the treaty. We are buying the missile system and not the warhead that contains the nuclear explosive. That may be technically correct, but there is little doubt that the Government are breaking the spirit of the treaty. What is more important, they will be seen to be doing so by other countries who will not be over-impressed by their Jesuitical interpretation of the words.

    If it is permissible for us to indulge in proliferation, why not other countries—West Germany, Japan or an oil rich Middle Eastern State that can afford to buy the system?

    It is for the same reason that we are permanent members of the Security Council. Certain powers set up the United Nations and its instruments after the last war which were on the side that possessed the weapons initially. That is why.

    I do not see any justification in that. If it is felt that nuclear weapons preserve peace and save a country from a potential aggressor, why should not every country have them? Why should we be the exception?

    Despite the clear act of vertical proliferation, the Government still have the effrontery to pay lip service at least to the efforts that they say they make to secure nonproliferation. Conveniently last week we received through the post a glossy brochure. It is produced by the Foreign Office and concerns arms control and disarmament. The Secretary of State should read it. He may find interesting facts in it. Paragraph 11 states:
    "Non-proliferation. Britain played a leading part in the second Review Conference of the Non-Proliferation Treaty in 1980. We have worked with other nuclear exporters to ensure that civil nuclear industries can be sustained without the risk of spreading nuclear weapons technology. We have advocated strengthening the safeguards system of the International Atomic Energy Agency on the transfer of fissionable materials."
    Having said that, we still find the Government embarking on this act of proliferation. If it is right for us, why is it not right for other countries to protect themselves from blackmail and a potential aggressor?

    One of the myriad reasons that are dragged out from time to time—we did not hear it today because the language has changed slightly—to justify continuing with the British nuclear capability is that it provides something called a second centre of decision making. Today that was called a complication factor—there has been a slight change in the language, but it is still the old second centre of decision making. Apparently that creates uncertainty in the Kremlin and in that way helps to keep the peace. If a second centre is a good thing, why should there not be a third, a fourth or fifth centre?

    If Paris is the third centre, let us have the fourth centre somewhere else. Then, presumably, we can sleep more soundly in our beds.

    The idea of creating uncertainty and of a second centre of decision making is ludicrous. If a nuclear war were to break out, that would be likely to happen at a time of grave international tension, similar to what happened in the Cuban crisis a few years ago, when one side, out of fear, error, and uncertain information, panics and is tempted to go for a first strike. In such a situation a second centre of decision-making creating uncertainty merely increases misunderstanding and encourages misapprehension and panic. Therefore, I hope that the Government will drop the notion that somehow they can defend their independent nuclear deterrent by those specious arguments.

    The right hon. Gentleman will accept that his Government continued to keep the nuclear capability in Polaris. Is he now telling us that if the Opposition were the Government today they would have done away with Polaris and would have destroyed that nuclear capability completely?

    We have said that we would cancel the Trident programme. [Interruption.] I will answer the question. I have tried to argue that the world has considerably changed over the past 20 years. It is right that, when the Government are embarking on a major change in our defence strategy, we should question the theories that are being found wanting.

    By going on with the purchase of nuclear weapons, the Government are demonstrating their contempt for the efforts that are now being made to secure some small measure of nuclear disarmament. They profess to be in favour of multilateral nuclear disarmament. What is the British Government's contribution to multilateral nuclear disarmament? What is the Secretary of State offering? Absolutely nothing. The Government are embarking on unilateral escalation of nuclear weapons. They are making no contribution and are taking no initiatives on their theory and the idea of multilateral nuclear disarmament.

    There are now talks in Geneva about the reduction in the deployment of cruise and Pershing missiles in Europe and about the Soviet SS20 missiles. The House and the Government know that the Soviet Union has always argued—I believe with some justification—that it is unrealistic merely to consider those weapons without taking into account the British and French nuclear systems and what are called the forward based systems. However, in the middle of those sensitive and crucial talks, knowing those facts, the Government are embarking on a major escalation that can only make the task of negotiation more difficult.

    I ask the Secretary of State why it is right to include in the zero option at Geneva cruise missiles based on Greenham Common, while apparently it is not right to include in those negotiations Trident missiles based on the Clyde. What on earth is the difference between a cruise missile fired from Greenham Common at Leningrad 3, 000 miles away and a Trident missile fired at Leningrad 1, 000 miles off the Gulf of Finland? The answer is that one lot are strategic and the other lot come under the term "theatre".

    I shall read from the publication that defines "strategic". I am ignorant of these matters.

    When I read the definition of strategic arms in paragraph 7 of the document——

    It is entitled "Peace and disarmament—a short guide to British Government Policy". Indeed, it is very short. It seems that there is not much policy. Strategic arms are defined as

    "land-based missiles and bomber forces of intercontinental range and the long-range missiles deployed on aircraft or in submarines with which the United States and the Soviet Union could strike each other's territory."
    There is nothing in the paragraph and nothing in the book, except in the appendix, about the British strategic nuclear weapon. It is not described as strategic, theatre or anything else. No attempt is made at giving a definition. What is the British weapon? Is it strategic or is it intermediate? Does it matter whether it is one or the other? Why does the Secretary of State not say that the Government are prepared to commit the Trident missile system either to the Geneva talks or to the strategic arms reduction talks which will start, presumably, before the end of the year?

    It does not matter much to which talks the system is committed. If the Government are genuine and if they believe in multilateral nuclear disarmament, why do they not take the initiative? If the Prime Minister gets to New York for the disarmament talks before the doors close, she will have a glorious opportunity to take that initiative and prove to the world that the Government believe in multilateral nuclear disarmament and not merely in talking about it. While the Geneva discussions and the talks on strategic arms reduction are taking place there is no argument for not including the Trident missile system if the Government believe in multilateral nuclear disarmament.

    We do not accept the estimate of £7·5 billion that the Secretary of State has produced. We believe that he has presented it mainly to convince his Cabinet colleagues and to get it past the Treasury. We do not believe that it will be the eventual figure. It is far from realistic. Expenditure at present prices will be at least £10 billion and possibly more.

    Indeed. The estimates of the cost of building the submarines are far too optimistic.

    We have had no experience of building submarines of this size and the costs when the Americans were building the first submarine escalated wildly. The Secretary of State has little idea of the final cost of the missile or the re-entry vehicle, both of which are to be built in America. He said recently that the Americans have a good record of developing missiles to cost. Has he read the recent Pentagon report to Congress, which shows that the cost of the Tomahawk cruise missile—I accept that it is a slightly different weapon—has increased on four occasions in the past year? By how much does he think the cost of the Trident (D5) system will increase? The right hon. Gentleman has no idea of the cost and he should admit that to the House.

    The Secretary of State is pleased that there is to be a ceiling on research and development expenditure. However, that ceiling is to be linked to inflation. I tabled a question to the Ministry of Defence last week as I wanted to know the indexation that is to be used for inflation. It seemed that the Ministry did not know. Are we to use the British RPI, the American RPI or some special defence index that will be concocted to suit the American armaments industry? The hon. Member for Birmingham, Selly Oak (Mr. Beaumont-Dark) nods his head in agreement. The Secretary of State has no idea what the cost of research and development will be at the end of the day.

    Is the right hon. Gentleman being fair to Vickers, which built the last Polaris, to suggest that it cannot estimate accurately when it succeeded in building one of our defence weapons for £3 million under the estimated price?

    Vickers has a long and good record in such matters. All that I am saying is that Vickers has not built such submarines. As the Americans found out, there are considerable difficulties in building such submarines.

    The Secretary of State also mentioned the possibility that, under an offset agreement, British contractors will be allowed to tender for American contracts. Again, if experience is any guide, little will come out of that. Even if the American Administration were to agree—the Secretary of State said that he had obtained a sort of undertaking from Caspar Weinberger—the matter will be decided by Congress. With all the budgetary problems faced by Congress, with high unemployment in America and with the stranglehold that the American armaments industry has over much of Congress, British industry will not see much benefit from the proposals. As so often in the past with defence projects, the costs of this foolish venture will escalate far more than the Government's present estimate.

    Has the right hon. Gentleman had the opportunity to discuss what he has just said with American senators to assess their interest in ensuring that we acquire this system, because they regard it as essential to mutual defence interests—or is he making it up?

    My little knowledge of the American Senate is that it looks after its own contractors very well. If the hon. Gentleman knows something about pressure groups in the United States of America, he will know the power of the American armaments industry over the senators, especially during election year.

    Whether the cost will be £7·5 billion, £10 billion or more, as some hon. Members believe, it will place an intolerable burden both on Britain's conventional defences and on our economy. It is time that the Government stopped the pretence that our conventional forces will not be affected. No one believes it. We have had some cuts in the Royal Navy, cuts in our air defence and more cuts will follow year after year as the cost of Trident escalates. By cutting our conventional defences and relying more on nuclear weapons, the Government are lowering the nuclear threshold. The risk will then be that, because of the inadequacy of conventional forces, there will be a temptation to use nuclear weapons that will escalate into the horror of a full-scale nuclear confrontation.

    The burden on the economy will also be heavy. To give one example, the Ministry of Defence admitted that almost half—45 per cent.—of the cost of Trident will not benefit the British economy by one penny. All of it will be paid into the United States in dollars straight across the exchanges. All that money will go into the pockets of the American armaments manufacturers. If we are correct that the cost will be £10 billion, that means that almost £5 billion will be paid in dollars to America and not a penny will come to the British economy except the little that can be obtained under the offset agreement.

    If that payment is spread over 10 years, it means a £500 million a year drain on the balance of payments. On top of that, if we take the £650 million drain for keeping the British Army in Germany, over a period there will be a £1 billion drain on our balance of payments purely for our defence commitments. If a British Government maintain the Trident programme, they cannot maintain the British Army of the Rhine, with the resulting defence and foreign policy consequences. It will have an effect not only on the economy, but on our defence policy.

    Ultimately, the Trident system is supposed to provide Britain with an independent nuclear capability. I know that the Secretary of State gets upset about the motion. Earlier, he spoke eloquently about Trident being an independent nuclear deterrent. Why on earth is that not mentioned in the motion? It was not included in the motion before us last time we debated this subject and it is not included now. Why not? I have merely asked a simple question and I should be happy if the Secretary of State would respond. Why not include in the motion mention of an independent strategic nuclear deterrent? Does it mean that Trident is not independent? What does it mean?

    Despite the problem with spares and so on, let us assume that Trident is independent. The rationale must be that we need it because the Secretary of State does not really trust the Americans. He must believe that the Americans may not be prepared, in the end, to come to Britain's defence. That is why the Government wish to make such a purchase. It is envisaged that the Russian armies might subjugate Western Europe, that the United States of America would not be prepared to help us with its strategic weapons and that Britain would be left alone with its four Trident missiles. The best comment comes, as usual, from Lord Carver, the former Chief of the Defence Staff. He said:
    "I can find no scenario, and I never have, in which it is realistic that we should employ our nuclear weapons in circumstances in which the United States had decided not to deploy theirs."
    That is the situation and that is where the case completely falls down.

    The purchase of this so-called independent weapon represents an attempt to get another country to provide us with the illusion of independence. It is as if the purchase was somehow seen as a substitute for empire and as compensation for the loss of the supposed glories of the past. The speeches that have been made, especially about France, have been very interesting. Hon. Member after hon. Member has said that, as France has its own nuclear weapon, we should have one. They say that only because they do not want France to have something that we do not have. If France has it, we must have it. Ultimately, that is the rationale. Trident is some sort of substitute for the empire and for past glories. However, far from increasing our independence, it will diminish it. Defence policy cannot be taken in isolation from foreign policy. Indeed, foreign policy must come before defence policy, because defence policy is established by one's perceptions of foreign policy.

    This purchase will make us more dependent on the foreign and defence policy of another nation—a nation with which we have close ties of peace and war, but still another nation that is different in size, geography, history and in its whole perception of the world. It is not good for Britain to tie its foreign and defence policies to another nation, albeit a friend and ally. However, the Secretary of State does not even ultimately trust America. There is no intellectual case for Trident and there is no moral case for it. There is no case for it on the basis of Britain's security. It imperils the peace of the world. Trident is a dangerous folly that increases the risk of a nuclear holocaust. By supporting the Opposition's amendment, the House will have the opportunity not only to stop the folly but to make a clear contribution towards ending the arms race.

    9.28 pm

    In opening the debate my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State used a quotation from Sir Winston Churchill's speech in 1955. I refer to it because in such a debate it is essential to relate our deliberations to the situation in the outside world.

    I could adduce a powerful case in support of the contention that since 1955 the world has become a much more dangerous place following the veritable explosion of Russian expenditure on military technology and hardware. However, for the purpose of the debate, I hope to carry the House with me on a much more modest proposition—that the world is no less dangerous than it was in 1955.

    It is essential that the House should have constantly in mind the wider context in which this Trident debate takes place. If Britain decided not to replace Polaris with a system of equivalent effectiveness in the context of the start of the next century, we would be taking a decision with profoundly serious consequences for the alliance. We would be choosing to reduce the level of our deterrent capability as a deliberate act of policy, with all the attendant risks and without any justification in terms of a reduction in the threat.

    There is at least one indisputable bedrock fact in this debate. At some future date the Polaris system will cease to be operationally effective. That will not happen overnight, but submarines age progressively and it is judged that by the mid-1990s their effectiveness will have diminished, not only because of their age, but because of their noise in what will by then be a relatively quiet underwater environment.

    Those who oppose Trident fall into two broad camps. The first camp contains those who totally oppose our possession of nuclear weapons in any shape or form. The second camp includes some who support strategic nuclear weapons but who oppose Trident on the grounds of its cost, its too high performance and its impact on our conventional capability.

    The case for unilateral nuclear disarmament has been put many times in the House and has yet to command majority support. The Labour Party has now taken up the cause formally in an attempt to revive its flagging fortunes. However, we are not told what a Labour Government would do about Polaris. The logic of the Labour Party's stated position would call for the dismantling of Polaris on coming into office, unlike what happened under previous Labour Governments. I notice that the right hon. Member for Llanelli (Mr. Davies) was silent on that point in answer to the question from my hon. Friend the Member for Gillingham (Sir F. Burden). It appears that we shall have creeping unilateralism whereby the Polaris force is allowed to run out over the years without replacement.

    My right hon. Friend extensively covered the arguments for possessing a strategic nuclear capability as the vital underpinning for our theatre nuclear and conventional forces. We know that the Soviet Union has no intention whatever of following any unilateral gesture that we may care to make. Therefore, a unilateral gesture would serve only to weaken our capability without any reciprocal advantage being obtained, as my hon. Friend the Member for Tiverton (Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop) said so powerfully. We must press ahead in the many conferences that are tackling nuclear and conventional disarmament and give our support to the United States in initiatives such as the zero option.

    The hon. Member for Harlow (Mr. Newens) made his usual speech. He suggested that the possession of Trident and cruise made us a target of the Soviet Union. He neglected to tell us what guarantees we would ever have that we would not be similarly targeted, even if we did not possess Trident and cruise. He went on to try to make the analogy of the carrying of firearms in civil life. I suggest to him that there is no supranational equivalent of a police force. Neither the Government nor I can agree with the unilateralist position. However, it is united totally with the Government in one sense. It must be the common aim of all of us to achieve a genuine and lasting peace.

    That is what we all want to see, despite the comments of the hon. Member for Keighley (Mr. Cryer), who, if I may say so, made his usual offensive speech. Whereas some people may try to be offensive, the hon. Gentleman does not have to try. He was particularly offensive about Conservative Members in suggesting that our desire for peace was not as sincere as his. I remind him and other hon. Members that, despite all the talking that there has been—I agree that there has been a great deal of talking over the past years about disarmament—a large number of agreements have been achieved. I remind him of the partial test ban treaty, the outer space treaty, the nonproliferation treaty, the seabed treaty, the biological weapons convention—which was initiated by a Conservative Government in 1972—the SALT II agreement, the ABM treaty, the threshold treaty and various other agreements that have been reached since. It may be unspectacular work, but it is more likely to achieve a lasting peace than anything that the hon. Gentleman is likely to suggest.

    Will the hon. Gentleman explain how the Government are advancing the cause of peace by increasing the nuclear missiles which are to be carried by the submarines from 48 to over 200? Is that not the path of nuclear escalation?

    The whole tenor of my speech will be to answer the hon. Gentleman's question.

    It is to the second camp of Trident opponents that I now turn. Some of this camp accept the concept of the possession of strategic nuclear weapons in a world no less dangerous than when Winston Churchill spoke in 1955, but they have various detailed objections to Trident as a system. I shall now attempt to deal with those anxieties.

    Much was made by the right hon. Member for Llanelli of the risk of cost escalation. He went so far as to pray in aid of his case the fourfold escalation of the Tomahawk system, although he knows full well that there is no analogy whatever between the Tomahawk and the system that we are discussing today.

    My hon. Friend the Member for Richmond, Yorks (Sir T. Kitson) reminded the House twice—in case the House did not catch it the first time—that the United Kingdom's Polaris system was brought in under budget. That was a remarkable achievement. There is no reason why that should not be repeated. We are not talking about a totally new system, a completely clean sheet of paper. This will be the fourth such system that the United States has produced, and the United States has had an extremely good record in the past.

    I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Richmond, Yorks in his question to the right hon. Member for Llanelli about the slur on the capacity of Vickers, Barrow. We are confident that Vickers will be able to meet the requirements. As for any problems that the United States may have experienced with the first of its Ohio class boats—a larger boat than we shall be building—we are confident that we shall be able to gain by that experience. We have included a contingency, as my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State told the Select Committee, of approximately £1, 000 million in the overall figure, and we see no reason to doubt that the programme will come into cost.

    Mention was made of Trident as a first-strike weapon. Some Labour Members continue to fly in the face of reality and to claim that with the acquisition of Trident II (D5) we are seeking to obtain a first-strike capability. I was surprised—perhaps I should not have been—that the right hon. Member for Deptford (Mr. Silkin), who spoke first for the Opposition, once again repeated that fallacy. Undoubtedly, D5 will be much more accurate than the current C4 system, but the idea that we are producing it in order to be able to destroy Soviet ICBM silos does not stand up to a moment's examination.

    Even if we were to deploy the maximum number of missiles and warheads possible—and we have indicated that we are not at present planning to do this—the total that we could have available at sea would still be well short of the total number of Soviet ICBM silos. There was an intervention earlier by my hon. Friend the Member for Stretford (Mr. Churchill) precisely on that point. That is without taking into account the 300 mobile SS20 missiles, two-thirds of which are within striking range of Europe, and nearly 1, 000 submarine-launched ballistic missiles, all of which are invulnerable to a first strike.

    We have said it before many times, and I am glad to repeat it now, that the whole posture of the NATO alliance is totally defensive. We have no interest in being involved in a first strike. If anyone were thinking of a first strike anywhere in the world, the idea would be to take out all the enemy systems at the same time—the so-called Pearl Harbour complex. If it is apparent that there are 1, 000 submarine-launched ballistic missiles somewhere at large under the sea which cannot be located or taken out, surely that lays to rest the absurd argument that this is a first-strike weapon.

    I want to draw attention to what was said by the hon. Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Strang). When challenged in the debate, he did not retract what he is reported in the newspapers to have said. I accept that all of us do not always get the quotations in newspapers that we either deserve or think that we have made. According to the newspapers of 15 March, he said, when addressing the Scottish Labour Conference at Perth, that
    "civil disobedience and industrial action should be used where appropriate to block deployment by Britain of the submarine-launched Trident nuclear missile."
    That was an absolutely scandalous assertion for any Member of the House to make. I notice that the hon. Gentleman did not withdraw the remark during this debate.

    The right hon. Member for Deptford and the hon, Member for Aberdare (Mr. Evans) both sought to claim that the purchase of Trident was contrary to the nonproliferation treaty. My right hon. Friend made it clear that article 1 of the treaty refers to the transfer of nuclear warheads from one State to another. There is no question whatever of the sale of Trident or any other nuclear-capable delivery system being in breach of the treaty. Its primary purpose is to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons to States which at present do not have them. There is nothing in the treaty which requires existing nuclear weapon States unilaterally to abandon their weapons or prohibits modernisation of existing capabilities. That is precisely what non-proliferation means—a concept which apparently the right hon. Member for Llanelli finds difficult to grasp.

    This is rather an important point, and I want it to be clear for the record. Is the hon. Gentleman saying that "nuclear weapon" refers only to the warhead and not to the means of delivering that warhead? Is that Her Majesty's Government's position? That will have an interesting effect on what other countries thought the nonproliferation treaty meant.

    I confirm that that is our understanding of the position. I do not believe that that would change other countries' views in the least.

    Article 6 of the treaty commits all parties to the treaty to pursue negotiations on measures of nuclear disarmament. The United Kingdom has accordingly given full support to the United States in negotiations to limit both strategic arms and intermediate range nuclear missiles. We remain committed to a comprehensive test ban treaty. We have fulfilled all our obligations under international treaties and agreements on nuclear weapons. We remain committed to realistic and balanced nuclear disarmament. It is thus completely false to claim that we are in breach of either the letter or the spirit of the non-proliferation treaty.

    I said in my earlier intervention that the logic of the argument put forward by the Government is as follows. They say that we cannot have a proper defence unless we have an independent nuclear deterrent. I am saying that, if that applies to Britain, Eastern European countries should not be dependent on the Soviet Union, and that Poland, Romania and Czechoslovakia, and all the other Eastern European countries, should have independent nuclear deterrents, and the same applies to all countries in Western Europe and Canada. That is what I want the hon. Gentleman to recognise.

    I understood what the hon. Gentleman said the first time he said it. The non-proliferation treaty was signed by certain nuclear powers to take account of the situation that was obtaining at that time. There was the well-known Irish story about the man who said "If I were you, I would not start from here". It is no good talking about a new situation or the so-called logic in the argument. We must deal with the non-proliferation treaty as it is.

    We now know that, in the Government's view, if any of the three main signatories transfers the missile system to any other country, that would not be in breach of the treaty. Is that so?

    I shall not give way. The right hon. Gentleman has had his opportunity—[HON. MEMBERS: "Answer the question."]—and I have given him the answer.

    The right hon. Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Dr. Owen) ran through the whole gamut of arms control negotiations. I can agree with much of what he said. On MBFR, the Government are committed to achieve a balanced agreement, but the refusal of the Eastern bloc to make any progress on the crucial issue of data, which prevented any such agreement when the right hon. Gentleman was in office, remains. If he can see any move that would suddenly make a breakthrough in the next year possible, I am sure that the Western negotiators would be delighted to hear about it.

    The idea of a battlefield nuclear-free zone, which the right hon. Gentleman mentioned in this context, is, however, a complete nonsense. Quite apart from the fact that all the weapons are dual capable and, therefore, make such a ban unverifiable, in any crisis the weapons could rapidly be moved into the area. In any case, it is not where weapons are based that matters, but where they can land. The Soviet Union has a vast range of weapons located well back on Soviet territory that would quite easily hit targets in such a zone.

    I can agree that a link between START and INF will eventually need to be established. Indeed, NATO has agreed that these should be pursued in the same framework. We fully support the need to maintain the antiballistic treaty. The right hon. Gentleman is probably aware that the question of a ban on anti-satellite weapons is under consideration at the conference on disarmament, and the United Kingdom has recently tabled proposals designed to carry forward negotiations on an effective and verifiable ban on chemical weapons.

    However, the major point on which I must disagree with the right hon. Gentleman is the idea that we can afford to delay a decision on Trident for four or five years to see how these negotiations develop. For reasons that I shall explain, that is simply not a practical proposition. The decision must be made now.

    We have been asked why we should not continue with Polaris and Chevaline. I confess that the speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for Stafford and Stone (Sir H. Fraser) baffled me somewhat. He said that he quite approved of the Polaris system and was content with that. However, he felt that it would be wrong to disturb the nuclear balance now. I remind the House that the decision that we are debating affects the entry into service of the Trident II (D5) system in about 1994. Therefore, we are not affecting the nuclear balance now. We are taking a decision now that will affect the balance in 1994. I was unable to follow my right hon. Friend on that point.

    As to the submarines that we shall continue in service, we would face quite serious practical operational and engineering problems if we were to attempt to extend their life beyond the mid-1990s when Trident comes into service. By that date our Polaris submarines would be over 25 years old. The maintenance and support task of keeping them running to that point would be major. To seek to go beyond that would lead to growing risks of unforeseen maintenance problems, which could lead to extended refit periods and, in the worst case, to an inability to maintain the control cycle unbroken.

    It goes without saying that the longer we seek to extend the lives of the submarines the greater the problems will become, as will the risks of not being able to maintain a continuous deterrent. Operationally, there will also be problems. The whole aim of a strategic nuclear deterrent submarine is to remain undetected by opposing antisubmarine forces. That calls, above all, for quietness in operation. Our Polaris submarines are extremely good in that respect, but the Soviet Union is improving its ASW capability.

    This matter causes great concern. During the NATO Ocean Safari operation the admiral in charge of submarines stated that the Russian diesel-electric submarines were deadly because of their silence. May we have an undertaking that our nuclear submarines will be as silent as the Russian equivalents, which have the edge on us?

    Nuclear submarines are noisier than diesel submarines. When a diesel submarine is operating at its best depth it is extremely difficult to detect.

    Some critics of the Trident decision argue that even if we cannot sensibly run the Polaris beyond the mid-1990s, the right course would be to instal Polaris missiles with Chevaline in new submarines. Even if one ignores all the arguments about the impracticality and imprudence of seeking to base our strategic deterrent on Polaris and Chevaline to the end of the century and beyond, that still does not make sense.

    If we contemplated that, we should have to build submarines capable at some point in their life of accommodating a different missile. As the recent open government document demonstrated, the biggest single element in the cost of the Trident programme is the submarines. On the question of a fifth boat, I have already explained why Polaris and Chevaline would not be appropriate as a strategic deterrent beyond the mid 1990s.

    The Trident programme is major and complex. Even in the United States it is not entering service until the end of the decade. That illustrates the complexity of the planning task ahead. Our submarine design must be undertaken in detail. The D5 weapon system is still being developed by the United States. We must develop our own support facilities to match the introduction of the new submarines. For these reasons we need a decision now if we are to ensure a smooth and effective introduction of Trident to take over from Polaris before its effectiveness falls to a point where the credibility of our deterrent might be in question.

    As the right hon. Member for Dudley, East (Dr. Gilbert) said, command and control is a key area. It involves the crucial question of the maintenance of Government control over our strategic deterrent in a sensitive area. Our objectives have been achieved by a high standard with Polaris. Our plans for Trident will build on that success and exploit improvements in technology. We have made appropriate financial provisions both in the estimated cost of Trident and, as appropriate, in other parts of the defence budget. We have considerable diversity and redundancy in our communications in that field. We already employ VLF capabilities, and we are pursuing improvements in that respect.

    Reference has been made to the United States. We are in close touch with the United States, and in particular ELF is a potential capability on which we are keeping in close touch with the United States.

    Many comments have been made outside the House about the importance of submarine-launched cruise missiles. In the interests of time I shall return to that on another occasion.

    Questions have also been raised about the effect upon the conventional capability. The Government have repeatedly made it clear that no other use of the resources that we propose to spend on Trident could possibly contribute as much to our collective deterrent. The Labour Government said in their 1975 defence White Paper:
    "The Polaris force …. provides a unique European contribution to NATO's strategic capability out of all proportion to the small fraction of our defence budget which it costs to maintain."
    We could not have said it better ourselves. Even allowing for the very substantial cost of procuring the Trident system to replace Polaris over the life of the force, it will provide a complete capability for a very small fraction of the defence budget, averaging 3 per cent. over the procurement period and less than 2 per cent. in running costs thereafter.

    I can also confirm, as I know that this has caused anxiety in some parts of the House, that the same arrangements for funding will obtain for Trident as obtained for Polaris.

    My hon. Friend the Member for Richmond, Yorks asked about the change in the percentages with the change from C4 to D5. The actual estimate of something less than 45 per cent. for our D5 plan reflects not only the extra cost of the D5 system but the change in the rate of exchange since the C4 decision was taken in July 1980.

    A number of hon. Members referred to the possible United Kingdom industrial stake in the Trident programme. This was treated with the usual gloom by the right hon. Member for Llanelli. We shall have to wait and see. The manufacture of the submarine and the warheads is to be undertaken in the United Kingdom. Those contracts alone will provide up to 20, 000 direct jobs and a further 15, 000 indirect jobs to United Kingdom industry during the peak years of the programme. In addition, there will be the work that we obtain under subcontract from United States industry on the missile itself.

    I do not think that there is time for me to give way.

    As a result of the discussion between my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence and Secretary of State Weinberger, I have no doubt of the sincerity of the current United States Administration in saying that they will allow United Kingdom industry to compete for subcontracts on equal terms with its United States counterparts and will do all that they can to assist it in making bids. The right hon. Member for Deptford suggested that past promises on this have not been met. That is simply not true.

    The hon. Member for Sheffield, Att ercliffe (Mr. Duffy) says that that is not true. I shall look at the record. I shall also tell him that the offset targets have been set, for example, on Subharpoon, TOW and Chinook and that there is no indication whatever that those targets will not be met. Indeed, on Harpoon and Chinook, United States industry is well ahead in meeting the targets set at the time when the contracts were placed. The offset arrangements, and the award in the past year of major United States contracts for the AV8B, the Hawk and the Rapier, with a potential value to the United Kingdom industry of more than £1, 000 million, show that United Kingdom industry can compete in the United States market. I acknowledge that last year Congress introduced measures in certain areas which caused difficulties, but we hope that those difficulties will be resolved in the near future.

    We have heard much today about the moral arguments. We believe that it is perfectly proper and morally correct for a British Government to take whatever steps they judge essential to safeguard not only the national interest but the physical integrity of this country. We must retain the ability at any time in the future to present a seamless web of deterrence to any foreign power seeking to have its way by force or the threat of force. There is nothing remotely immoral about that. Indeed, it is the instinctive belief of the British people that this duty will be properly discharged by any British Government, as it has been in the past 20 years.

    We know the Labour Party position. We are less than sure about the SDP-Liberal alliance position. The right hon. Member for Devonport apparently speaks for both parties, but the victor of Hillhead has told us that Trident will be cancelled and we have heard something entirely different from the Liberal Party. In deciding on priorities, one can only wonder what priority would have been afforded by the people of Poland and Afghanistan to their defences, if they had had the chance. They were never given that opportunity. The House has the opportunity today to support the motion.

    Question put, That the amendment be made:—

    The House divided: Ayes 215, Noes 301.

    Division No. 108]

    [10 pm


    Abse, LeoClark, DrDavid (SShields)
    Allaun, FrankCocks, Rt Hon M. (B'stolS)
    Alton, DavidCohen, Stanley
    Anderson, DonaldColeman, Donald
    Archer, Rt Hon PeterConcannon, Rt Hon J. D.
    Ashley, Rt Mon JackConlan, Bernard
    Ashton, JoeCook, Robin F.
    Atkinson, N. (H'gey, )Cowans, Harry
    Bagier, GordonA.T.Cox, T. (W'dsw'th, Toot'g)
    Barnett, Guy (Greenwich)Craigen, J. M. (G'gow, M'hill)
    Barnett, RtHon Joel (H'wd)Crowther, Stan
    Benn, RtHonTonyCryer, Bob
    Ben nett, And rew (St 'kp 'tN)Cunningham, DrJ. (W'h'n)
    Bidwell, SydneyDalyell, Tam
    Booth, RtHonAlbertDavidson, Arthur
    Boothroyd, MissBettyDavies, RtHon Denzil (L'lli)
    Bottomley, RtHonA. (M'b 'ro)Davies, Ifor (Gower)
    Bray, DrJeremyDavis, Clinton (HackneyC)
    Brown, Hugh D. (Provan)Davis, Terry (B'ham, Stechf'd)
    Brown, R. C. (N'castle W)Deakins, Eric
    Brown, Ron (E'burgh, Leith)Dean, Joseph (Leeds West)
    Buchan, NormanDewar, Donald
    Callaghan, Jim (Midd't'n&P)Dixon, Donald
    Campbell, IanDobson, Frank
    Canavan, DennisDormand, jack
    Carmichael, NeilDouglas, Dick

    Dubs, AlfredMaxton, John
    Duffy, A. E. P.Maynard, MissJoan
    Dunwoody, Hon MrsG.Meacher, Michael
    Eadie, AlexMellish, RtHonRobert
    Eastham, KenMikardo, Ian
    Edwards, R. (W'hampt'n S E)Miller, DrM.S.(E Kilbride)
    Eills, R(NED'bysh're)Mitchell, Austin(Grimsby)
    English, MichaelMorris, Rt Hon A. (W'shawe)
    Ennals, RtHonDavidMorris, Rt Hon C. (O'shaw)
    Evans, Ioan (Aberdare)Morris, RtHon J. (Aberavon)
    Evans, John (Newton)Morton, George
    Faulds, AndrewMoyle, RtHonRoland
    Field, FrankMulley, RtHonFrederick
    Fitch, AlanNewens, Stanley
    Fitt, GerardOakes, Rt Hon Gordon
    Fletcher, L. R. (Ilkeston)Neill, Martin
    Fletcher, Ted(Darlington)Orme, RtHonStanley
    Foot, RtHonMichaelPalmer, Arthur
    Forrester, JohnPark, George
    Foster, DerekParker, John
    Foulkes, GeorgeParry, Robert
    Fraser, J. (Lamb'th, N'w'd)Pavitt, Laurie
    Freeson, RtHonReginaldPendry, Tom
    Garrett, John (NorwichS)Powell, Raymond(Ogmore, )
    Garrett, W. E. (Wallsend)Prescott, John
    George, BruceRace, Reg
    Gilbert, RtHonDrJohnRadice, Giles
    Golding, JohnRees, Rt Hon M (Leeds S)
    Graham, TedRichardson, jo
    Grant, George(Morpeth)Roberts, Albert(Normanton)
    Hamilton, James(Bothwell)Roberts, Ernest (HackneyN)
    Hamilton, W. W. (C'tral Fife)Roberts, Gwilym(Cannock)
    Harrison, Rt Hon WalterRobertson, George
    Hart, Rt Hon Dame JudithRobinson, P. (BelfastE)
    Hattersley, Rt Hon RoyRooker, J.W.
    Haynes, FrankRoss, Ernest (Dundee West)
    Healey, Rt Hon DenisRowlands, Ted
    Heffer, EricS.Ryman, John
    Hogg, N. (EDunb't'nshire)Sever, John
    Hollond, S. (L'b'th, Vauxh'll)Sheerman, Barry
    HomeRobertson, JohnSheldon, RtHonR.
    Homewood, WilliamShore, RtHonPeter
    Hooley, FrankShort, MrsRenée
    Howell, RtHonD.Silkin, RtHon J. (Deptford)
    Hoyle, DouglasSilkin, Rt Hon S. C. (Dulwich)
    Huckfield, LesSilverman, Julius
    Hughes, Mark(Durham)Skinner, Dennis
    Hughes, Robert (AberdeenN)Smith, Rt Hon J. (N Lanark)
    Janner, HonGrevilleSoley, Clive
    Johnson, Walter (DerbyS)Spearing, Nigel
    Jones, Rt Hon Alec (Rh'dda)Spriggs, Leslie
    Jones, Barry (EastFlint)Stallard, A.W.
    Kaufman, RtHonGeraldStewart, Rt Hon D. (W Isles)
    Kerr, RussellStoddart, David
    Kilfedder, JamesA.Stott, Roger