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Volume 106: debated on Wednesday 3 December 1986

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I should inform the House that Mr. Speaker has selected the amendment standing in the Prime Minister's name.

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I seek your guidance, as do many other Conservative Members, on what procedures are available for there to be an emergency suspension of this sitting for a few minutes. I understand that the Labour party abstained on the last vote, and will abstain on the next vote, and it may wish to have some time to ring Mr. Turnbull in Australia to obtain some instructions.

That is a matter for argument, but it is not a matter for the Chair.

7.47 pm

I beg to move,

That this House reaffirms its support for Britain's continued membership of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation; and believes that membership of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and the security of Britain are incompatible with a policy which combines the unilateral abandonment of Britain's nuclear deterrent, the expulsion from Britain of the United States nuclear contribution to the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and the rejection of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation's long-standing policy of maintaining both conventional and nuclear deterrence whilst pursuing negotiated disarmament.
Incidentally, Mr. Deputy Speaker, we have just seen your admirable use of the deterrent theory applied to Labour Members, and I congratulate you on using it so effectively. It is interesting that Labour Members should be so frightened of debating their policy in the House that they have sought to limit this debate to the shortest possible time.

But I begin by tackling the amendment tabled by the Prime Minister. If the words are changed around, they are broadly in line with the words in our motion, except for the sentence that seeks to criticise, and
"rejects…the policies of the Liberal and Social Democratic Parties, which advocate the maintenance of a British nuclear capability below the minimum required to provide effective deterrence beyond the mid 1990s".
That sentence apparently makes two claims: first that our policy of deterrence would be ineffective and, secondly, that the Government have some knowledge about the state of the world beyond the mid-1990s which, I must confess, is certainly denied to me.

But it is worth concentrating for a moment on the Government's amendment. I start with what I hope is an agreed and obvious statement. One of the first obligations of Government is to provide effectively for the defence of the country. There is no question about that. We have never doubted that that is the Government's motivation and purpose, although we may disagree with them about particular decisions that they make within that framework and about particular weapons systems to which they seem attached.

I hope that the Government would also agree that there is a second obligation on any Government in this country, and that is to use their best endeavours to turn down the ratchet of the arms race and, in particular, of the nuclear arms race. It is on the second part of that heavy obligation to the public that I believe that the Government can be faulted.

The concern about the increased development of nuclear weapons, both in their capacity and quantity, on both sides of the iron curtain is not a concern limited to a few pressure groups or a few people who march on wet Saturday afternoons. There is a genuine public concern, which is even greater now in the wake of the Chernobyl accident. It is born of anxiety not that militaristic Governments, whether here, in the Soviet Union or in the United States, will suddenly unleash nuclear war on the world, but that the more of these weapons that there are about, and the more sophisticated they are, the greater is the risk of some terrible accident befalling us.

Any responsible Government must be heavily motivated towards tackling this problem in a coherent and effective manner. As a firm believer in multilateral disarmament, I have to say that those of us who are multilateralists do not have much to show for our longstanding faith. That is why it is important, whether we look as far forward as the mid-1990s or just to the next two years, for the electorate to know that there will be a Government that are prepared to make a constructive and positive contribution to a reduction in the nuclear arms race. Instead, they find themselves faced with a British Government that are committed unilaterally to increasing the nuclear arms race through the escalation of the Trident programme.

Mr. Patrick Thompson (Norwich, North) rose—

I hope that the hon. Gentleman will forgive me for not giving way, but the debate was late in starting, and I have not even finished my first point.

I read the speech made by the Secretary of State for Defence in the debate that we had two or three weeks ago, and I noticed his reaction to interjections and interventions about the two-stage disarmament programme on which the super-power leaders have set themselves. The theory is that, over the next decade, in two stages, Mr. Gorbachev and Mr. Reagan might succeed between them in moving towards a completely non-nuclear world. That theory is greeted by the Secretary of State for Defence with a certain amount of understandable scepticism, but when asked what contribution Britain would make to this, he said that if the super-powers made a great deal of headway, we would consider joining them. There was no sense of initiative or direction from the British Government to make this process become a reality. I strongly object to that.

This attitude was shown most clearly not by the speech made by the Secretary of State for Defence but by the action of the Prime Minister. She rushed off to Washington to try to protect the Trident programme, even at the cost of coming to a foolish political deal with her friend the President of the United States, and agreeing to support his stance on arms shipments to Iran in return for a guarantee that the Trident programme would still be about in years to come. In other words, there is a nervousness that there might somehow be a super-power success that would result in the cancellation of the Trident programme, a prospect that terrifies the British Government. I noticed the other day a report in the Daily Telegraph, which can hardly be accused of being a subversive, Left-wing newspaper, that the Government are actively looking at non-Trident alternatives to maintaining a deterrent, in case that event should come about. In the meantime, the Prime Minister's attitude is that we must hang on to the Trident programme, come what may and regardless of the criticisms that have been made of it.

I criticised the phrase "the mid 1990s" because we must proceed on the basis that the world is not necessarily going to be the same in the mid-1990s as it is now. We must hope, and the alliance is not ashamed to hope, for a change in the American Administration. Even now, looking at the remainder of this American Administration, it is possible to see, out of the wreckage of Reykjavik, some new initiative which may yet lead to major reductions on both sides, and which would be the first major breakthrough in global nuclear arms reduction.

For all these reasons, we started from an important point of disagreement with the Government. We have always advocated the case that Europe as a whole, and Britain in particular, should maintain a minimum deterrent capacity. The Secretary of State and I have argued this point in broadcasts on many occasions, and no doubt we shall continue to do so. The basis of our argument is that he believes that it is essential that in the future Britain will maintain a deterrent capability equivalent almost to that of the United States, to be able to take out Moscow if need be.

We do not share that analysis. Because of the superiority of conventional weapons on the Warsaw pact side, it is necessary to have some deterrent capacity in Western Europe that is independent of the United States, although linked with it. A deterrent that is capable of inflicting unacceptable damage on a potential aggressor, and thereby deterring that aggression from taking place, is different from the Trident programme, which is designed to be equal to something that the United States can deliver and to duplicate an ability that it already has to attack Moscow. That is not necessary.

As long as superior Warsaw pact forces face us and as long as there is a question mark over whether the United States guarantee in Western Europe will remain indefinitely—a question mark that has been raised by many sources from Henry Kissinger to Sam Nunn most recently—it is prudent for Britain, in her present state of non-success of arms reduction talks, to maintain its capacity at a minimal level. That is clearly our policy.

Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that perhaps the needs of the United States and ourselves may not be the same, and it is essential that we keep the Trident programme, which protects us, but not so much the Americans?

I do not agree with the hon. Gentleman. the only point in maintaining a deterrent capacity is the threat of a superior conventional force that we wish to deter. That is the only reason for maintaining any independence; otherwise why do we bother to have a NATO alliance? The motion is about the effectiveness of the NATO alliance.

As long as the Polaris system exists, and continues with its modernisations, there is little problem in maintaining this position, but it becomes more difficult as Polaris comes to the end of its useful life. It is no secret that that has caused us some little problem in recent weeks and month, and there has been a serious debate. I put it to the Secretary of State that the more that I discuss this, whether with academics in the defence sector or with ex-defence chiefs or others who have strong views on this subject, the more I find that there are zealous advocates of particular post-Polaris solutions for a minimum deterrent. They all have one thing in common. They are all so zealous for their own solution that they reject all others.

It is for that reason that I, as leader of the Liberal party, and my colleague the leader of the SDP, feel that Admiral Lewin, whatever the value of his other criticisms, is right to say that the precise weapon systems are the ones that should be made and chosen by the Government in office at the right time. It is not for Opposition parties to decide, clouded as they are with conflicting advice and denied information available to Government. I am glad to see the Secretary of State nod agreement.

I have given way once, and I wish to make a short speech.

As the Secretary of State for Defence has, on previous occasions, challenged me to say what the options are, I propose to do so. I do so with the safeguard of saying that I frequently criticise some of my colleagues for making speeches on the options, because it is extremely difficult to do so without giving the appearance of being an ardent salesman for one or the other. I am not a salesman for any of them. I hope that the political and international conditions will be such, looking forward to the mid-1990s, that none of these options will be necessary. Nevertheless, we must prepare them and trawl through them.

There are six options. The first is extending the life of the existing Polaris submarines and missiles to allow continuation well into the next century. This has its drawbacks, but it is possible and has strong advocates. The second is the fitting of M4 French missiles into Vickers submarine hulls. Again this has been discussed on many occasions. The third is that British Aerospace has the capability to produce a new British ballistic missile if the Government so choose. The fourth is the purchase of American cruise missiles to be fitted either into penetration aircraft such as Tornado or to a large standoff aircraft such as a converted Airbus. The fifth is that American cruise missiles could be fitted either into Vickers submarines or into SSNs. The sixth is that British Aerospace has the capability to develop a Euro-cruise missile. It has been studying that possibility for some time, and joint co-operation with the French on that project could be feasible. I have been through these discussions on enough occasions to understand that each one of these options can be taken and dissected, and that its advocates, even within the Ministry of Defence—I have no doubt that the Secretary of State has sat through as many meetings on these options as I have—can pursue the case in favour of it to its logical conclusion.

I am saying that we do not have to take the decision now, and that there should be no pressure on the Government to take it. It is a decision, however, that may face the next Government or the one after that. That is the position on which I rest, and that is the basic disagreement between myself and the Government on the phrase "a minimum effective deterrent".

No, I shall not give way. I want to make progress and to make some other points.

I turn to the motion itself—

Before the right hon. Gentleman does so, will he allow me to intervene?

I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will be kind enough to indicate his preferred solution before he addresses the motion.

I shall be frank with the hon. Gentleman. I have a preferred option, as I am sure most people have who take an interest in these matters, but I do not intend to tell him which one it is. I believe that it is not a decision that should be taken by politicians who are in opposition. I cite in support of that belief the article which Admiral Lewin wrote which appeared in The Guardian only the other day. I agree with Admiral Lewin on that score.

I wish now to address the motion, having dealt with——

Order. The right hon. Gentleman has made it clear on more than one occasion that he does not intend to give way again.

The motion refers to the future of NATO policy, and that is the subject of the debate. It is proper that in this place the different political parties should bring forward different proposals for changing the policy on NATO, but it is unacceptable to abandon unilaterally the British nuclear deterrent capacity and to expel the United States nuclear bases from within the United Kingdom. It is the combination of the two acts that renders the continued cohesion of NATO impossible, in my view.

I have some good authorities for that proposition, of which I shall quote two. The first is as follows:
"Whether we like it or not, it is the stability of the military balance between NATO and the Warsaw powers which has kept Europe at peace for over 30 years when 20 million people have been killed in wars outside Europe. NATO's nuclear strategy is an essential part of that balance. To threaten to upset that balance by refusing to let America base any of her nuclear weapons in Britain would make war more likely, not less, by tempting America into other and more dangerous strategies in which she was less dependent on the co-operation of her European allies."
That is part of a speech which was delivered by the right hon. Member for Leeds, West (Mr. Healey) to the Labour party's policy school in 1981.

Did my right hon. Friend intend to refer to the right hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey)?

Yes. I am sure that my hon. Friend subscribes to the right hon. Gentleman's view as well.

The simple question is what has changed over the past six years to make that analysis wrong. If it was right in 1981, why is it not right now? I shall refer in part to the statements made by the deputy leader of the Labour party in 1983 when he, the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley), was analysing what went wrong with his party's policy in the general election. The first part of his statement has been quoted frequently but the second part is equally important. He said:
"We said that NATO remained our protection. But we refused to accept our NATO obligations."
That is it in a nutshell. If we believe that NATO should be our protection, it is necessary to maintain our NATO obligations.

Why is it that the right hon. Member for Leeds, East, who has served in a Labour Government as Secretary for Defence, and the right hon. Member for Sparkbrook, who has served as a Foreign Office Minister, allowed the present leader of the Labour party to go on such an extraordinary tour around the United States, which could be subtitled "Death of a Salesman"? The right hon. Members for Leeds, East and for Sparkbrook know perfectly well the policy that Britain requires if it is to remain a member of NATO. They know that it is impossible to square the circle. It is possible to adopt a policy of abandoning entirely all nuclear weapons, or all weapons, if that is what one wishes——

No, I am not giving way.

It is possible to opt for that abandonment, but it would not then be possible to remain a loyal member of NATO.

Over the past four months I have talked to seven Foreign and Defence Ministers in Europe and not one of them believes that it is possible to pursue an abandonment policy and for NATO to remain intact as it is now That is the view of our European allies across the political spectrum, across the divide.

There is nothing wrong with Members of this place and parties hoping to find political friends in the United States and hoping that the policies of one Government may change for another. Equally, there is no harm in hoping to enjoy a close relationship with those who may be in power in Washington. The Prime Minister had done precisely that with the present occupant of the White House. That has led us down strange avenues at times, with Libya, Iran, and an excessive worship of free market policies, but I do not criticise the basic strength of the political alliance.

Similarly, it is reasonable for Opposition parties to look for friends and allies in the United States. Over the past few months I have warmly welcomed the decision of the Democratic Institute to join Liberal International. Under that umbrella I have enjoyed conversations on these issues with people such as Walter Mondale and Senator Hart. They too have no time for the policy that is being advocated by the Opposition.

Congressman Solarz is a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee and a regular friend and visitor to this Parliament. In a letter to me the other day he made it clear that the American people
"could hardly be expected to permit US forces to remain in Europe if we were stripped of our capacity to deter and, if necessary, defeat an attack against them".
That is it in a nutshell. If we do not allow the United States to have bases in Britain, why should we expect them to maintain forces in Europe to help to protect us? Let us remember that Senator Sam Munn's amendment was defeated only narrowly when it was put to the vote in the American Congress.

There is no serious body of United States political opinion which supports the Opposition's policy. The task of any future Government should be to seek to increase our influence in Washington and to strengthen the European pillar of NATO. The Washington Post, in a telling editorial that was printed on the day that the Leader of the Opposition arrived in the United States, said this:
"The strength of the Western alliance has never been purely or even primarily military. It has always depended on qualities of spirit and political conviction to which the European's contributions have been essential."
The reason for our motion is that we fear very much that if we are not careful there could be a future Government of this country that would not be prepared to make any such contribution.

8.8 pm

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

"rejects the non-nuclear defence policies of the Labour Party, based as they are on the abandonment of Britain's independent nuclear deterrent, the expulsion of United States nuclear forces and bases from Britain, and the withdrawal of Britain from the protection of the American nuclear umbrella, thus jeopardising the United Kingdom's security and the cohesion of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation; and the policies of the Liberal and Social Democratic Parties, which advocate the maintenance of a British nuclear capability below the minimum required to provide effective deterrence beyond the mid 1990s; and reaffirms its support for the Government's firm defence policies founded on the need to maintain credible nuclear and conventional forces for Britain within the NATO Alliance.".
I am nearer to being struck speechless at the beginning of contributing to a debate in this place than I have ever been before. That is the state in which I find myself after the truly extraordinary speech of the leader of the Liberal party, the right hon. Member for Tweeddale, Etterick and Lauderdale (Mr. Steel). He appears to have embarked on an odd exercise. This is one of the rare occasions on which the right hon. Gentleman can choose a subject to be debated on the Floor of the House, and he has chosen a subject in the recognition that the country has been longing for weeks, indeed for months, to learn what, if anything, is the Liberal party's policy on defence. Against that background, he has tabled a motion in which the Liberal party's policies on defence are not mentioned. I did not think that the right hon. Gentleman could cap that extraordinary feat, but he has done so by the unusually extraordinary speech which he delivered in opening the debate, about which I shall make one or two brief comments.

The right hon. Gentleman complained that the Government should be criticised for there not being any drive towards increased emphasis on arms control and a reduction in weapons. Where has he been for the last few months? There is more discussion and more debate, and more effort is being made by the negotiators for arms reduction today than there has been for 25 or 30 years. That is entirely because the Government and their allies in the West, from a position of strength, have insisted on forcing the Soviet Union back to the negotiating table. If the right hon. Gentleman does not understand that, he simply cannot be giving any attention to the matters that face the country.

The right hon. Gentleman said that he was a firm believer in multinational disarmament. Jolly good. What did he say to the Liberal party assembly in Llandudno in 1981? He said:
"The Liberal Party in Parliament, especially in future, in government, must take heed of that mood and use its best efforts to promote unilateral disarmament."
He then went on to say that he was quite sure that a deterrent was needed for sound defence. The hon. Member for Leeds West (Mr. Meadowcroft) looked distinctly uncomfortable at that moment. He probably always does. I should like to know whether the hon. Gentleman and the hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes) agree with their leader's remark that a deterrent is needed. If they are of that view, I hope that they will say that clearly at the next CND rally that they attend.

The right hon. Gentleman went on to state—this is a remarkable passage, for which we are indebted to him—his alternatives to the Trident system. He started by saying that he had talked to so many academics that he did not know which system was best or worst. He thought that he would list them all. He had heard them paddling their own canoes and their own solutions. He said that he was convinced that the parties in opposition should not, and could not, make decisions until they were in government and able to know the facts. That is great, but he has made a decision, apparently with all the ignorance of opposition—that is his own description of it—to abandon the Trident system.

If the right hon. Gentleman does not know which system to buy or which system is the right system, how does he know that the Trident system is not right? Why is there not, in his list of six items, a seventh item? Why is there not a Trident system in the list for the right hon. Gentleman to tell us that he does not know either whether it should be abandoned or adopted? This part of what he said simply fell apart, and the attitude of the House reflected that in every way. The right hon. Gentleman failed lamentably in his one opportunity to put across some idea to the country of what the Liberals' defence policy is. If it is possible, we were far less clear about what it is or is not than we were before he spoke this evening, and that surely is a pity.

There are three options before us: there is the motion tabled by the right hon. Gentleman, an amendment tabled by my right hon. Friends and myself, and also an amendment tabled by the Leader of the Opposition. "Death of a Salesman" was the right hon. Gentleman's comment on the fortunes of the Leader of the Opposition in America at the moment. The Leader of the Opposition has great competition from the right hon. Gentleman himself, if it comes to unrealistic speeches on defence. After tonight's speech, he is in the top league.

The Labour party's amendment is a sad one. This is the first time that we have had an officially backed Labour party advocating the abandonment of Britain's independent nuclear strategy. Mr. Attlee, Mr. Bevan and Mr. Gaitskell must be turning in their graves this evening.

If we move from that aspect of the right hon. Gentleman's amendment and examine the words written in it, we see that the Opposition have the courage to put into their amendment a condemnation of Her Majesty's Government for cutting expenditure on non-nuclear defence. That is rich, coming from the right hon. Gentleman, whose party's last budget for defence was about £8 billion. Today, the budget for defence is nearly £19 billion. The budget is running at 20 per cent. higher in real terms than when the Labour party left office. Opposition Members have the cheek to state in their amendment that Her Majesty's Government are cutting expenditure on non-nuclear defence. If that is an example of the veracity and correctness of the drafting in the Labour party's department for doing these things, it calls into question the remainder of what it writes.

I do not have time to list yet again the threat that we in the West face from the superiority of conventional forces that face us in Europe. It is all in the White Paper. It has been repeated many times, so I shall not repeat it tonight. Nor is there any shortage of examples of places where the Soviet Union has used its military power, or threatened to use it, to achieve political aims. We should have to be blind indeed to forget the lessons of Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Afghanistan and Poland. It would be the height of folly for any British Government to follow the advice which the right hon. Member for Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale gave and which the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition is giving across the Atlantic with such a lack of success at the moment. It would be the height of folly for any British Government to gamble on the uncertain intentions of the Soviet Union by abandoning the policies that have secured our peace for over forty years.

Successive British Governments—Conservative and Labour—have pursued these policies by means of the collective security offered by membership of NATO. NATO exists solely to prevent war. Its whole strategy is defensive. For that strategy to work NATO must have—and be seen to have—sufficient forces to convince any potential aggressor that he has more to lose than to gain by an act of aggression. NATO requires for this purpose a range of forces—conventional and nuclear—to enable it to respond appropriately at whatever level aggression occurs. Of course, we cannot achieve parity with the Russians in every form of weaponry, but we must have sufficient forces to convince an aggressor that it would be in his interests to cease his attack and withdraw. The Labour party now tries to suggest that conventional forces alone can offer a credible deterrent. Even if a Labour Government spent every penny of the money that is being devoted to the Trident programme to increase conventional defence, that would do virtually nothing to alter the conventional imbalance in Europe.

Would it not also require national service to resume in this country?

My hon. Friend may be right. I would not be at all surprised if that were so. At the very most—being most generous to it—such a move might buy one or two extra armoured divisions, comprising an extra 300 tanks. What difference would 300 extra tanks make when the Soviet Union already has about 30,000 more tanks in Europe than NATO has? The Labour party is offering an uncertain protection against conventional attack, but no protection whatever against nuclear blackmail.

Does the right hon. Gentleman believe that that gap, as he sees it, can be bridged, or does he believe that it is unbridgeable?

By purely conventional means, the gap is definitely unbridgeable. It is unbridgeable even if we dig a ditch and put slurry into it—or whatever it is that the Leader of the Opposition has been trying to suggest. The concept of doubling or trebling the amount of all our hardware in Europe to try to match the vast amount of conventional hardware that meets it at present would not only be extremely difficult to achieve, and possibly involve national service, as my hon. Friend suggested, but would make life quite intolerable in those parts of western Europe where that hardware was supposed to be stationed.

In that case, why did the hon. Gentleman say to the IISS on 19 November that the gap was not unbridgeable in respect of the conventional gap?

The gap is bridged by the other means that NATO has to meet the threat. That is the point. That is not only what the right hon. Gentleman does not seem to understand, but it is the key factor in what the Leader of the Opposition patently does not understand and, as a result, is saying absurd things in America.

We yield to no one in our commitment to improve conventional defences. We have bought Tornado. We have bought new battle tanks and warships. We have bought new weapons, from small arms to artillery systems. We have made the pay of our forces fair and competitive. All these changes have made us safer, but, at the same time, we have faced the need to modernise our nuclear forces, recognising that nuclear weapons are absolutely central to NATO strategy. Britain's independent deterrent, which is committed to NATO, plays an important part in that strategy. It represents a second centre of nuclear decision-making within NATO. This complicates the ability of a potential aggressor to judge the likely response to any attack on NATO in Europe, and thereby reduces the chances of an attack.

Our deterrent is the ultimate guarantee of our security, but deterrence is a matter of perception. There can be no doubt about the commitment of the United States to the defence of Europe. The independent deterrent is our insurance policy against the risk of the Soviet Union miscalculating the strength of that commitment.

The Labour party would not just abandon our independent deterrent; it would forsake the protection of the United States nuclear shield as well. The right hon. Member for Islwyn (Mr. Kinnock) has some excuse, I suppose, for advocating such a dangerously naive policy. He has never had to shoulder the responsibilities of Government office. But there is no such excuse for the right hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey). I shall not repeat the apt quotation of the words of the right hon. Member for Leeds, East made by the right hon. Member for Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale. It is a tragedy that the right hon. Member for Leeds, East does not stand up for what I think he still believes—the fact that NATO's nuclear strategy is an essential part of the balance that has kept the peace for more than 40 years. It is a pity that the right hon. Gentleman is no longer prepared to make such speeches.

The alarm felt in the United States at the Labour party's policies are not by any means confined to the present Administration. The right hon. Member for Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale made a point on that. I shall quote the words of Mr. Stephen Solarz, a leading liberal Democratic Congressman, who said:
"On this issue Mr. Weinberger speaks for most Americans. What Labour intends to do would bring the biggest crisis in the NATO Alliance since the Soviets built their wall in Berlin. The removal of our nuclear missiles would inevitably lead to the removal of all American troops from Britain. Our soldiers require the protection of the nuclear umbrella."
No wonder, with that background from a liberal Democrat, the Leader of the Opposition is having such a uniquely unsuccessful time in his efforts to sell this idea to the United States.

I hope the Labour party realises that, in effect, it is saying that if Britain were faced with the threat of aggression, a Labour Government would say to the Americans, "Stay out. We do not want the protection of your nuclear shield. We would prefer to surrender."

Not only does Britain need to retain its independent deterrent, but it needs to retain a deterrent that will work. If our capacity to deter is to remain unbroken well into the next century, we need to start modernising that deterrent now. I hope that the right hon. Member for Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale will note that point. We need to make this decision, not next week or next month, or in five or 10 years' time, but now. The right hon. Gentleman cannot put it off a day longer.

The life of our existing Polaris deterrent cannot be extended beyond the mid-1990s. By that time, Polaris will be 30 years old. The submarines will be nearing the end of their hull life, the ability of the boats to patrol undetected will be much less certain, and the ability of the missiles to penetrate strengthened anti-ballistic missile defences will be less assured than it is today. In 1980—not in 1986—this Government took the decision that Trident was the most cost-effective replacement for Polaris. It can be delivered in the time scale required and at a price we can afford. More important, it offers a deterrent with the minimum capacity necessary to remain effective in the face of improving Soviet capabilities.

Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that the answer to the question, "What is the missile system that is needed to penetrate the increasingly sophisticated defences of Moscow?" might well be, "Trident"? If asked a slightly different question, "What do we need to deter in terms of inflicting unacceptable damage on the Soviet Union?", there is a different answer, because a range of other systems, including Polaris, open up. Does the right hon. Gentleman recall that on 12 October 1986, on "This Week, Next Week", he said that we need

"to have a larger number of warheads to be able to penetrate what will be very much more sophisticated defences. That is the whole reason why we need Trident. If we didn't have that we could carry on Polaris for a long time to come"?

I am mystified about the point that the hon. Gentleman is trying to make. What he says might carry some weight if we had some idea of his view on what we should do, but, as he has no idea, and as the leader of the Liberal party has made it clear that he has no idea and will not even try to get such an idea for years to come, the whole exercise of a defence policy in the Liberal party is a complete non-event from start to finish.

Over the life of the programme, Trident will take only 3 per cent. of the total defence budget, or 6 per cent. of the equipment budget. That is a smaller slice of the defence budget than some conventional programmes, such as Tornado. The Trident programme is well on course. It is six years since the decision was taken to purchase it. Nearly £3 billion of a total £10 billion has been spent or committed already. The first submarine keel has been laid.

Of course, there are those who suggest that this programme should be abandoned, and we heard something of that today. On that sort of logic, at this stage in the programme, in another context we should build half the Channel tunnel, then stop and start building a bridge instead. Such people suggest that Trident represents a massive escalation of our nuclear capability. Only the other day I read that the office of the Leader of the Opposition had produced an information paper claiming that Trident represented an increase in our firepower of between eight and 14 times. If that is an information paper, I think that a "misinformation paper" would be a far more accurate description.

It is no secret, and never has been, that Trident will carry more warheads than Polaris—but far less than the theoretical maximum. This means that the increase at most would be about two and a half times—nothing like the eight or 14 times that has been bandied about. I point out that, since 1970, Soviet strategic warhead numbers have increased fivefold. Even if current proposals for 50 per cent. cuts in strategic arsenals are agreed and go through, the number of Soviet warheads will be three times as high as in 1970.

This enhanced capability is essential if Britain is to continue to have a credible deterrent well into the next century. The replacement for Polaris will have to operate in a quite different environment from the one in which Polaris operates today. We have to plan for the improvements which the Soviets are making to their own defences.

Let us not forget that they possess the only deployed anti-ballistic missile system in the world. If our deterrent is to work, it must have an increased capability to penetrate increased defences. If Polaris represents the minimum deterrent in today's world, Trident is the equivalent of that minimum deterrent in tomorrow's world.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that Trident permits far greater deployment of the submarines to avoid detection than any of the schemes suggested by the right hon. Member for Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale (Mr. Steel)?

My hon. Friend is right. Indeed, I was going to touch briefly on that aspect in a moment. The alternatives of the right hon. Member for Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale were so incredible in all their aspects that we need not take them as seriously as that.

It would be perverse for any party to accept the need for Britain to have an independent deterrent and then to choose one that did not work, but that is exactly the compromise which the leader of the Liberal Party and his allies have come up with after months of wrangling—a policy to maintain a nuclear capability below the minimum required to provide an effective deterrent beyond the mid-1990s. I have explained why that is so. The latest flimsy attempt at a compromise—the so-called Liberal "defence initiative"—proposed the cancellation of Trident and the retention of a minimum nuclear capability with a capacity frozen at a level no greater than that of Polaris.

The Liberal party, as we have heard this evening, cannot even say what that capability will be. It does not know what system it will be, who will operate it, how big it will be or when it will be ready. In addition, the Liberal party wants a long time to think about it before it even decides any of these matters. It claims that a decision is not yet needed. That policy is nothing short of a policy for one-sided nuclear disarmament by the back door, and it is no wonder that the hon. Member for Leeds, West supports it and feels that he can live with it.

I have had a quick look at my 1981 speeches and find that there is no such quotation. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will get the Conservative central office to alter his briefing. Surely he accepts that if we go for a minimum deterrent capacity which does not seek to strike at Moscow we can have a level of safeguard on penetration and survivability and costs that are lower than those in the Trident programme. Let us admit that there is a difference of opinion between us, but let him not try to pretend that the system is unworkable. The right hon. Gentleman sets the ground rules, and if he wants to attack Moscow he must have Trident. We do not.

I have not mentioned attacking Moscow. We make no pretence about naming targets in our discussions on this. The problem is whether a missile system will get through the defences, never mind the target that is being attacked. It has to be realistic and credible, and the right hon. Gentleman's suggestion is not credible.

The Liberal party says that it has a number of alternatives, and in his speech the right hon. Gentleman listed some extraordinary ones. They are all a mirage. The right hon. Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Dr. Owen) said that to use French ballistic missiles would not even be cheaper than Trident. He admitted that they would be much more expensive. I shall go further by saying that such a system could not possibly be developed in time to replace Polaris in the mid-1990s, when Polaris will be at the end of its useful life. To run Polaris beyond then is neither a realistic nor a safe option. A deterrent based on cruise missiles is also unrealistic.

The range of submarine-launched cruise missiles is shorter than Trident, the sea room in which the submarines will be forced to operate is more limited and the missiles take longer to fire. For all these reasons, cruise missiles would be more vulnerable and their ability to penetrate Soviet defences, whatever they were trying to hit, by the year 2000 could certainly not be assured. To overcome the problem would require more missiles at even greater cost, and even then it would be inconceivable that any effective cruise missile alternative could be developed and deployed in time to replace Polaris.

There are signs in the alliance of back-tracking even on this. The right hon. Member for Devonport is at last beginning to realise the truth of this awkwardness, too. What other explanation could there be for the recent shift in his position when reviewing the options for a British minimum deterrent in a BBC TV programme on 18 November? In that programme he spoke about
"a very much reduced Trident missile, with reduced deployment—three submarines and less warheads".
That seems a most extraordinary volte-face by the right hon. Gentleman and completely conflicts with what his right hon. Friend said in this debate, which amounted to an outright rejection of Trident in any circumstances.

It seems unlikely that the Liberal party would endorse any option based on Trident, and to judge from what he said I am sure that the hon. Member for Leeds, West would not do so. The recent Liberal party conference at Eastbourne repeatedly voted in support of unilateralist views. Unless the alliance can make up its mind on an issue as important as the future of the British independent deterrent, it will have no right to be taken seriously.

Why are we having this debate? The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Liberal party uses precious time for this matter, but he has been exposed as an emperor without clothes. In spite of that, he has come along today to flaunt his nakedness on this vital subject. His motion puts the Government in quite a difficulty. As far as it goes, I agree wholeheartedly with the right hon. Gentleman's motion, but as a motion on defence for Britain it is totally inadequate because it does not even mention any positive policy by the party which has tabled it. For that reason I ask my hon. Friends to vote against the motion and to add the sound and sensible policy outlined in our amendment.

8.36 pm

This is not the only occasion on which we can debate the conventional balance or imbalance. It is a difficult subject and we shall have to come back to it on another occasion. Nobody denies that an imbalance exists, the question is how much and in what areas. The Secretary of State sought to give the impression that the gap was not bridgeable. He said that the only way it could be bridged—if that is the right word because one is in a different area—is by nuclear weapons.

As I understand it, that is not what the right hon. Gentleman said on 19 November when he spoke to the Institute of Strategic Studies. I have the report of that speech but I shall check it and come back to it. Quoting the right hon. Gentleman it says he said: "the gap is not unbridgeable". There is nothing there about bridging it with nuclear weapons. He also said:
"we do maintain a technological superiority in a number of key areas".
He also said something else that I was glad to read. He said:
"simple number crunching can be misleading".
That is what we have had from the Secretary of State and his predecessor in speech after speech on the Defence Estimates. They indulged in simple number crunching—how many tanks they have and how many we have. In his speech to the Institute of Strategic Studies he went on to say:
"IISS figures are broadly similar to the MoD's"
The IISS figures did not show an unbridgeable gap in conventional defence. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman should go back and check some of the things he has said in order to make sure that he is not saying one thing to a group of so-called experts and something else in this House.

The Secretary of State asked why we were having this debate. Having listened to the leader of the Liberal party it seems to be that the only reason is the right hon. Gentleman's desperate desire—although he was not very successful—to paper over the cracks in his party's defence policy and the policy of what is apparently described as the alliance. I am sorry to say that he did not make a serious contribution to these fundamental and difficult issues.

The right hon. Gentleman hardly addressed himself to the motion. The motion says nothing about Britain's independent nuclear deterrent. [Interruption.] The amendment was not tabled by the right hon. Gentleman. We are debating the motion and I shall try to stick more closely to it than did the right hon. Gentleman. Perhaps I shall get into trouble in this difficult area, but in these matters I am a masochist and I am quite happy to carry on.

The right hon. Gentleman got himself into terrible difficulties when he tried to pretend that somehow there was some alternative to Trident. We agree with the Government about Trident and believe that decisions have to be taken, if not now, pretty soon, and as far as we can see Trident is the only option if one wants to go down the road of acquiring a third generation of British nuclear weaponry. We do not think that it is necessary to go down that road, and believe for all sorts of reasons that it is foolish. We have debated that in the House before and will be quite happy to debate it again. At least the Labour party has a clear view on that and so has the Government, but the Liberal leadership and the Social Democratic party are still wallowing in a hopeless and hypocritical fudge.

The motion is quite extraordinary. The leader of the Liberal party mentioned Reykjavik. I shall come back to that. He also spoke about disarmament and the need to cut strategic weapons. However, the motion says nothing about that.

Coming from the Liberal party, the motion is quite extraordinary. Conservative Members may agree with the motion, although I understand that the Secretary of State intends to vote against it. The confusion deepens in that respect. However, the motion gives complete and unquestioning support to the NATO strategy of what is described by its advocates as the "flexible response" and by its detractors as the "strategy of first use of nuclear weapons". The choice of phrase depends upon one's position in the argument. However, the motion gives total and uncritical support to the policy of first use.

The motion appears to me to have a whiff of arrogance and absolutism. We may have heard the voice of the right hon. Member for Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale (Mr. Steel) in the Chamber today, but I detect the hand of Esau in the motion. I certainly would not have expected this kind of motion to be tabled by the leader of the Liberal party.

There is overwhelming support for the first half-sentence of the alliance motion, which reads:
"That this House reaffirms its support for Britain's continued membership of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation".
At conference after conference, the Labour party has by massive majorities fully supported our membership of NATO. We have repeatedly made it clear—and I do so again now—that under the next Labour Government, 95 per cent.—as under this Government—of defence expenditure will be committed to NATO in terms of men and equipment.

I am delighted to do that. I did not think that the right hon. Gentleman would give way.

An American Senator made it clear at the weekend that if American nuclear weapons were chucked out of Britain—weapons which defend American troops in this country—there is no way in which the Americans would allow us to remain in NATO.

The hon. Lady's intervention was very interesting. She said

"There is no way in which the Americans would allow us to remain in NATO."
Is she suggesting that they would not let this country—which contributes £18 billion or £19 billion, which has 55,000 troops on the Rhine, with its Air Force on the central front, with its frigates, destroyers and submarines in the eastern Atlantic—remain in NATO? I am sorry that I gave way to the hon. Lady if that is the kind of point that she wants to make. No country can do more, and we will make a contribution of 95 per cent. of our defence expenditure to NATO.

I must say that 95 per cent. or £19 billion is quite a lot. The hon. Gentleman is being very insulting to the British troops in Germany.

Not yet. He is very insulting to the British Forces in Germany who are there to defend and work within NATO and who may have to give their lives. It is extremely insulting for the hon. Gentleman to say that that is "damn all".

We do not have time to give way to people like the hon. Gentleman.

We will cancel Trident. As we have said before, we will use the money saved by the cancellation of Trident for non-nuclear defence, and in that way we shall strengthen the conventional balance—about which the Secretary of State is concerned—and especially in central Europe.

The right hon. Gentleman attacked my hon. Friend and he should give way.

Order. It is very clear to me that the right hon. Gentleman is not giving way.

We cannot support the remainder of the Liberal party motion and, it seems, neither can the Government. It gives almost total and uncritical support to the strategy of first use of nuclear weapons. Under that strategy, in the first few days of a conventional war NATO could well, and probably would, seek to fight a nuclear war in central Europe. That strategy would destroy the very territory that we would be seeking to defend and it would annihilate friend and foe alike.

Can the right hon. Gentleman confirm whether the Labour party intends to maintain defence spending—if it ever forms a Government—at the current rate in real terms?

I understand that it is Labour party policy to bring defence spending as a percentage of the gross national product in line with that of other European nations. Will he tell us the timescale involved as that would imply a reduction in defence spending?

That is not possible, and would not be possible within the lifetime of the first Labour Government. Our priority is to get rid of nuclear weapons. The corollary to that priority must be to spend on conventional forces the money saved by getting rid of nuclear weapons, thereby improving the conventional balance about which the Secretary of State is so concerned.

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for giving way. Will he set out precisely what that money will be spent upon as an enhancement of conventional forces?

Indeed, if the hon. Gentleman wishes me to prolong my speech I shall do that. There are areas within the Royal Navy where money could be spent. The Secretary of State will not be able to maintain even 50 frigates and destroyers. Some of the money will be spent on that. So far, the Secretary of State has put no money into the budget for the European fighter aircraft. We are committed to the European fighter aircraft. Much could also be done in the Army—[Interruption.] I know that Conservative Members do not like this, and that it is difficult for them to accept. However, I will continue to repeat in the House and in the media that the next Labour Government will maintain defence spending at present levels in real terms taking account of inflation—or whatever the phrase is—and that money will be spent on conventional forces.

As I have said clearly, we are opposed to the strategy of first use of nuclear weapons. There is a strong implication in the motion that we cannot remain in NATO with our present policy. The motion implies that, apparently, the independent sovereign and democratic states that constitute the NATO Alliance have no rights to challenge any real aspect of NATO strategy, however foolish that might appear and despite the fact that their electorates have voted for such a challenge. That is not the NATO that most of the NATO states themselves recognise or desire.

NATO is not a monolithic grouping. It is not a tight federation in which states have a veto on the policies of other members and nations. It is not the Warsaw pact—although, from the speeches of some Conservative Members, it might appear to be the Warsaw pact. It is not. It is a collection of individual nation states that make a contribution to the defence of democracy and of the West.

Does the right hon. Gentleman seriously believe that other European members of NATO would be willing to maintain their share of the nuclear umbrella while allowing a British Government under his auspices to pull out of the responsibility?

I am intrigued at the idea of a "share of the nuclear umbrella" but I will come back to that. I shall not evade the right hon. Gentleman's question, although the nuclear umbrella was not mentioned in his motion or in his speech.

NATO is not the Warsaw pact. It is made up of independent sovereign states. The worst thing that could happen and which could lead to the break-up of NATO would be if the democratic peoples of the nation states of western Europe and the United States were not allowed to change or argue for change in NATO policy. Such fetters on democratic action would endanger NATO far more than any challenge to parts of its policy.

In January 1986 the Secretary-General of NATO, Lord Carrington, said that in NATO
"anything is possible; there are no hard and fast rules".
I think that he went too far there. He was too lax about it. I should not go so far as to say that anything goes in NATO and that there are no rules at all. Of course there are rules. The rules are that each member country makes a substantial contribution, according to its resources, to the collective defence of western Europe. That is the NATO that most member states recognise. The rigidity of NATO implied in the motion does not accord with the actions of individual states in the past. Almost half the members of NATO will not have American nuclear weapons on their soil, but they are still members of NATO and still make their contributions according to their lights.

So far as I can see, the British Government take little account of the views of NATO in their defence cuts. I do not criticise the Secretary of State for his absence, as he told me why he had to leave, but it is extraordinary to pretend that there have been no cuts in defence expenditure. One has only to look at the public expenditure review for the next three years to know that. I do not recollect the Government seeking NATO approval for their cuts in defence expenditure. Sir John Nott, whose 1981 defence review would have decimated the surface fleet, paid little regard to our NATO commitments in the eastern Atlantic. He did not tell the House that he could not reduce the surface fleet because NATO would not allow it. He simply went ahead. He may have mumbled a few words about consultation, although I am not even sure about that.

As for the United States, when President Reagan made his famous star wars strategic defence initiative speech in 1983 he declared that nuclear weapons were immoral and should be made obsolete. In the first sentence of that speech he unilaterally turned on its head 40 years of NATO nuclear strategy. I do not recollect any consultation before that speech was made, and I do not criticise President Reagan on that account. I do not recall the Ministry of Defence having a forward draft of the speech. The President simply exercised his right as the head of a sovereign state to make that speech. If the Conservatives think that is all over now, they should realise that the consequences of that momentous unilateral action are only just becoming apparent. No British Prime Minister, Labour or Tory, no previous American President and perhaps even no general secretary of the Soviet Communist party had ever made such a statement, but the President of the United States unilaterally turned NATO strategy on its head.

President Reagan did the same thing at Reykjavik to such an extent that General Rogers rushed off to the Pentagon and General Metz, the German deputy supreme commander of NATO, almost had apoplexy, saying that Reagan had destroyed the whole of NATO strategy. I do not recall there being much consultation before that action, but again it was taken by a member of NATO. Perhaps Lord Carrington is right that there are no real rules.

The motion goes on to make the extraordinary claim that the abandonment of British nuclear missiles is incompatible with NATO membership.

I apologise for missing the beginning of the right hon. Gentleman's speech. He has referred to the Americans and others saying that nuclear weapons were immoral. I remind him that his own party regards nuclear energy as dangerous and is committed to phasing it out. I have asked him this several times before but have not received an answer. What would a Labour Government do about hunter-killer submarines, which are powered by nuclear energy? How does the right hon. Gentleman square his party's commitment to phasing out nuclear energy with the continuation of submarines which are, in effect, floating nuclear power stations?

The hon. Gentleman asks what we would do about hunter-killer submarines. My answer is that we shall build more of them, and we shall build them at Barrow.

The hon. Gentleman has had the answer before. If he reads his local newspapers and listens to his local radio station he will hear the answer time and again.

The motion implies that abandoning Britain's nuclear rockets, missiles, deterrent or whatever is incompatible with NATO membership.

Let us see exactly what it says, as the right hon. Gentleman never touched on this although he spoke for 20 minutes. The motion states:

"That this House…believes that membership of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and the security of Britain are incompatible with a policy which combines"—
whatever that means—
"the unilateral abandonment of Britain's nuclear deterrent".
The implication is that if we did not abandon Britain's nuclear deterrent everything would be all right, but I will leave that point and move on.

Let us consider the next part of the motion, to which I gather the right hon. Member for Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale subscribes, which suggests that it is incompatible with membership of NATO to expel from Britain the United States nuclear contribution——

I shall consider that word in a moment, but I wish to dwell on the word "incompatible".

I notice that the Government amendment—of course the Government draft these things a little more carefully than the Opposition—does not use the word incompatible. It is not as extreme, rigid or inflexible as the motion tabled by the leader of the Liberal party. It contains some rather vague phrases about gloom, doom and so on.

I ask you for your protection, Mr. Speaker.

The Government's motion talks about cohesion and jeopardising in a rather vague way. The Government do not dare to say that not having nuclear weapons on the soil of a nation state is incompatible with membership of NATO, as they know that is not the case. The moment the Government say that it is incompatible with membership of NATO, that signifies that somewhere there are rules laid down, and presumably they have been broken by seven NATO countries including Norway and Denmark. The Government do not dare to use the word "incompatible" because they are concerned about the other countries of NATO. They, at least, have some regard for reality because they will not say—I challenge the Minister to do so—whether it is incompatible—I use that word because it is a clear word—with membership of NATO. Of course it is not, and the Government know that.

Let us consider the American nuclear contribution in Britain. We have Poseidon submarines at Holy loch, cruise missiles at Greenham common and hydrogen or nuclear bombs at Lakenheath and Upper Heyford. Our contention is that their removal from Britain would not militarily damage NATO in any way. Even the United States navy admits that Poseidon submarines at Holy loch are of rapidly diminishing importance. That navy is now in the process of being equipped with the newer Trident C4 system which, according to congressional statements can cover the potential targets on departure from their base in Kings Bay, Georgia without the need for a lengthy transit.

The cruise missiles at Greenham common should never have come here in the first place. They certainly were not placed here for military reasons. No sensible military man would put nuclear missiles on land in such a small and somewhat cramped island like Britain. Richard Perle put it clearly in the Boston Globe of 2 June 1983:
"cruise missiles never had much military utility because they are so vulnerable to attack."
In the same year, in an interview with Newsweek, Robert MacNamara said:
"There is no military requirement for NATO to deploy Pershing II and cruise missiles to maintain a stable deterrent."
Cruise missiles are at Greenham common mainly because Chancellor Schmidt, egged on by Henry Kissinger, started to have grave doubts about the American nuclear umbrella, but I gather that Dr. Kissinger does not think much about that umbrella these days.

Chancellor Schmidt thought that the rather shattered concept of a nuclear umbrella could be patched up by apparently scattering nuclear missiles all around Europe. If those missiles are in Europe, so the argument goes, an American President is more likely, or more certain, to risk the nuclear destruction of Washington in the defence of Hamburg, London or any other European city.

The presence of missiles in Britain does nothing to remove or diminish the dilemma that such a President would face. An American President, whose first duty, quite properly, is to his people, would properly make such a decision, at that time, in the interests of the American people—the people he represents.

No, I must get on. [HON. MEMBERS: "Give way."] I would be happy to give way, but others wish to speak so I must get on.

The F111 aircraft are described in the jargon of this business as being dual capable. Some are held back to drop nuclear bombs on the battlefields after the first few days of a war in Europe. It does not make any sense to drop hydrogen bombs all around the battlefields. It will not do much good for that part of Europe that we are trying to defend. It will not do much good for the 55,000 British troops stationed on the Rhine or the 200,000 American troops in Germany. It does not make any sense and it is not a credible military policy.

At one time flexible response may have made total sense. It might have made sense when the United States had a nuclear monopoly or indeed a massive nuclear superiority. It might have made sense in 1964 when the Soviet Union had 65 nuclear warheads and when, according to Kissinger, the United States had about 1,000. But it makes no sense at all today when the United States has 11,000 nuclear warheads and the Soviet Union about the same.

What I find depressing about the debate, the Liberal motion and the Government's amendment is the fact there is no recognition at all of the changes that have taken place in Europe over the last 30 years. There is no real recognition of Chernobyl—Chernobyl might not have happened and Reykjavik might not have taken place. Ironically, the real debate on these matters is, surprisingly enough, taking place within the Republican Administration of the United States and between the Republican Administration and what I call the Henry Jackson tendency within the Democratic party.

I crave the indulgence of the House merely to quote from a interview that George Shultz, the Secretary of State, gave to Frank Lehrer on American television on 17 October following the Reykjavik meeting. George Shultz said:
"But I think it would be a better world from our point of view if we didn't have these offensive ballistic missiles. And apparently the Soviets think so from their point of view too.
Lehrer: What about Senator Nunn's concern, however"——
I remind the House that as well as being a member of the Henry Jackson tendency Senator Nunn is also the Senator for Kings Bay Georgia——
"that it would make for a less stable world"
to get rid of these ballistic missiles.
"It would make for a less stable world. It would make our defense more vulnerable than they are now.
Shultz: What's so good about a world where you can be wiped out in 30 minutes? If ever anything starts, 30 minutes later it's over with these awesome ballistic misssiles, and there's nothing left of them"——
that is, the Russians——
"and there's nothing left of us. I don't see what's so good about that".
He went on:
"If you say, 'why, then, is the Soviet Union interested?' The Soviet Union has shown over many wars that they're heroic in defending their homeland. How they'll do invading somebody else is another question, but they're heroic in defending their homeland. And so they also must be concerned about the ballistic missiles that we have that can wipe that homeland out. So that's basically the essence of it."

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I am sure you are aware that the opening speeches from the Front Benches have now taken one hour 20 minutes, leaving 54 minutes for the replies and Back Benchers. I hope that you will give your mind to that.

I should point out that two speeches were made by the Conservative Front Bench and the Leader of the Liberal party which were highly critical of the policies of the Opposition. I think I am entitled to take slightly longer. Incidentally, there were also a number of interventions. I was chided for not giving way, although I was happy to do so. I apologise to the House, but I shall now bring my remarks to a close.

All I can say is that the debate goes on. It does not go on in the Liberal motion. The Government are burying their head in the sand and, sadly, it seems that the Liberal party is doing so as well.

9.4 pm

A lifetime on the Back Benches has at least enabled me to keep my speeches short. In The Standard yesterday there was a MORI poll on the position of the Conservative, Labour and Liberal parties. Why was that? It surely cannot be anything that we have done. Playing away in Australia is no way to win a victory, but we owe our new-found success to the defence policies of the Labour and Liberal parties. We owe it to the so-called non-nuclear defence policy of the Labour party. That non-nuclear defence policy has put a cap on the votes that the Labour party will win at the next election. I have a cheerful feeling that history is about to repeat itself. We should not forget the Liberal party. The battle at Eastbourne, otherwise described as the lightweight championship of the world, at which I was present, has done marvels for the support of the Conservative party all over the country.

What would be the effect of Labour's non-nuclear policy on the United States? To put it in a nutshell, it would add hugely to what has already become an inglorious state of confusion. NATO is a nuclear Alliance or it is nothing. For as long as our adversaries have nuclear weapons, so should NATO. We can argue whether the British should have weapons, but we are unable to assert that NATO should become a non-nuclear Alliance in a nuclear world.

Surely the almost unanimous view in Washington is that if a major nuclear power such as Britain were ever to give the United States notice to quit, we would run a serious risk of starting the process of unravelling NATO. We must ask whether that would matter. Everyone, save the Labour party, thinks that it would. Russia fears not just Western or western European arms alone, but our ideas and prosperity. An unarmed Europe would be a political threat to the Soviet Union and would be an acute political threat to its control over eastern Europe, but an armed and independent Europe would pose an even greater threat than an unarmed Europe. The Alliance must remain essential for East-West stability.

On British nuclear weapons, Labour has surrendered to the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament while at the same time remaining committed to our membership of NATO. But the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament remains hostile to our membership of NATO. Therefore, should we not ask when the process of the Labour party being subsumed within the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament will end? For as long as the Warsaw pact has nuclear weapons, a NATO without nuclear weapons would be a sham. It is no good advocating a defence policy in central Europe which is based on no first use—certainly not if we are to postulate that the Soviet Union is the aggressor, that we are the weaker of the two sides and that we would face defeat in a war fought with conventional weapons.

No first use is fool's gold. All that one can aspire to—conceivably by spending more money on British conventional forces in Europe—is no early first use. That is the practical side of the dilemma. Where is the morality in Britain hitching a ride on the back of United States nuclear power? Where is the common sense in expelling from our country the nuclear forces of our major ally? Those whom the gods wish to destroy they first make mad.

Before I call the next speaker, I must say that the Front Bench speeches will begin at 9.40 pm. I appeal for short contributions because many hon. Members wish to take part in the debate.

9.14 pm

What is already apparent from the debate is the confusion on defence policy in the majority of the parties whose members have spoken in the debate thus far. The confusion on the Tory Benches was not as clear tonight as it has been in previous debates on defence, but there is a clear contradiction between the continuing residual commitment of large sections of the Conservative party to the notion of deterrence, and the removal of that option according to the latest thinking on United States policy. It does not make sense for the Tory party to continue to endorse deterrence, which relies upon mutual destruction, while its senior ally apparently regards that as immoral. The Prime Minister's approach in seeking to save Trident after the Reykjavik summit shows that the Government are determined to hang on to a deterrent which is no longer regarded as credible or moral.

We have also heard from the Conservative party, although not tonight, that we should support the strategic defence initiative research project and that there should be an SDI shield for Europe. However, expert scientific opinion on both sides of the Atlantic seems to believe that that is completely impossible.

Although the Government reiterate in their amendment to the alliance motion their broad defence approach, it contains a series of fundamental contradictions. There are also contradictions in the alliance defence policy, although we heard little about such a policy this evening. The right hon. Member for Llannelli (Mr. Davies) stressed that point. We did not hear much about the minimum European deterrent that has been canvassed, what delivery systems that would have and how it would operate. That is right, because the system could hardly be called a contribution to disarmament. It would contribute to an escalation in nuclear weapons in Europe——

I am told from a sedentary position that it is not a policy. We were not told clearly tonight what the policy is. If that is not the policy, what is? I was under the impression, from following the internal debates and reading the joint commission document, that this might be the policy. Now we are told that it is not. It is clear that such a policy would lead to conflict between the more nuclearised states in Western Europe—France, Britain and, presumably, West Germany—and the rest of Europe.

We should approach defence policy so that the next generation in Britain and in Europe sees the non-nuclear contribution that Britain can make to de-escalating the arms race in Europe. It is important to stress that the non-nuclear defence option that is contained in the CND programme—the Labour party officially supports that programme—is a scaling down of Britain's defence posture. After all, a non-nuclear capability can mean many things. It starts with the decommissioning of Britain's nuclear weapons and it is followed by a requirement for the removal of some nuclear bases from British territory, although not necessarily—as in the Labour party's policy—of the intelligence and control capability. It also extends to an attempt to de-nuclearise NATO strategy in Europe by moving away from the first-use strategy and the reliance by NATO in Europe on nuclear weapons.

Finally, the approach should lead to questioning the notion of the United States nuclear guarantee as security for Europe. That is what we mean by moving towards non-nuclear defence. The long-term goal must be the construction of a European security system that is determined not by the super-powers but by Europeans themselves. That is what might have been agreed at Reykjavik.

I shall not give way because of the time factor and because of Mr. Speaker's request.

Mr. Speaker is not the arbiter of whether an hon. Member should give way.

I shall not give way. I am coming to a rapid conclusion, and I do not wish to interfere with my delivery system.

The emphasis after Reykjavik should be an understanding among Europeans that if it is legitimate for intermediate nuclear forces talks between the superpowers to propose the removal of nuclear weapons in Europe, it is high time that Europeans took part in such discussions. That is the lesson that we must learn from Reykjavik.

9.19 pm

This debate is about deterrence and disarmament, or should be. Three arguments are popularly advanced against the possession of Trident.

First, it is argued that Trident would represent an increase in the level of nuclear forces, so would be likely to be in breach of the non-proliferation treaty. I must say to the right hon. Member for Llanelli (Mr. Davies) that while it is true that Trident will enhance the capability compared with Polaris, that is inevitable, given that we must provide an effective deterrent well into the next century to face improved Soviet anti-missile defences. It has been made clear that the Government do not intend to use the full capability of the system. Indeed, when it enters service in the 1990s, Trident will represent only the same small proportion of Soviet strategic forces, even if they are reduced along the lines of the United States START proposals, as did Polaris when it entered service in 1970. United Kingdom strategic forces will continue to be of a minimum size compatible with ensuring a cost-effective deterrent at all times.

The second argument is that we should not have nuclear weapons because other NATO countries do not. The most persuasive argument in favour of nuclear weapons in Europe is that that provides a second centre of decision-making. If we are not to be that second centre, where is it to be? Is it seriously suggested that it should rest alone with France—a country which does not commit its military forces, other than its navy, to NATO exercises? It is suggested that there might be a joint agreement with France, but surely that is wholly impractical and undesirable.

The third reason is the cost of Trident. Yet it is now well understood that it will cost less than the Tornado aircraft system. It is the cheapest form of deterrent available.

The right hon. Member for Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale (Mr. Steel) told us that politicians in opposition should not take this decision, so he has disfranchised himself from making any decisions. I can understand that when he iterates the various options and cannot determine which should be preferred. He spoke of extending the life of Polaris. Presumably when his car is falling to pieces on his drive, he merely pretends that its life will be extended and that he will not have to replace it. He suggested putting cruise missiles into aircraft without contemplating the disadvantages of range and vulnerability. He also suggested that cruise missiles could be put into SSNs, without contemplating the reduction in their effectiveness in their primary role.

The right hon. Member for Llanelli argued his case for the Labour party, but his party is destined to make the same mistake as it did in 1983, because it has yet to understand that some of its staunchest supporters believe in the defence of the realm and will not be persuaded by a party which leaves the country completely defenceless.

The United States Congress is in advance of this House on the support for a comprehensive test ban treaty. We are closer to the mechanics of a proper nuclear weapons control agreement than we have been for a long time. Neither side will trust the other on an arms deal, unless such an agreement is capable of adequate verification. Therein lies the key.

The Government's commitment to a comprehensive test ban treaty is often overlooked by the so-called peace lobby. As early as 27 March 1982, in a speech at Harrogate, the Prime Minister stated:
"We want a Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty…it remains this Government's objective."
That commitment to a verifiable comprehensive test ban treaty has been reiterated by Ministers subsequently.

Together with the United States and the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom participated fully from 1977 to 1980 in trilateral negotiations on a comprehensive test ban treaty. The United Kingdom has played a full and active part in multilateral discussions at the Geneva conference on disarmament, where a nuclear test ban working group was established in 1982. In a debate on 7 June 1985 my right hon. Friend the Member for Shoreham (Mr. Luce) than a Minister in the Foreign Office, pointed out:
"we are not looking for perfect or 100 per cent. verification."—[Official Report, 7 June 1985; Vol. 80, c. 617.]
As a signatory of the non-proliferation treaty, we are required to show that we are using our best endeavours to make progress towards nuclear disarmament. The final declaration of the third review conference of the NPT held in Geneva from August to September 1985 called upon the United States, the Soviet Union and the United Kingdom to reconvene their trilateral negotiations on a comprehensive test ban treaty by the end of 1985. We all know that that has not yet happened. Although our commitment to a comprehensive test ban treaty is not unique, we have a particular role to play in acting as a catalyst and in seeking to remove obstacles.

The British Government have submitted a paper to the conference on disarmament entitled "Seismic Monitoring for a Comprehensive Test Ban", which is a full and technical document dealing with the matter, and acknowledges that seismic monitoring offers the only practical long-range means of ensuring compliance with a treaty banning underground nuclear weapon test explosions.

The United Kingdom's paper argues that a negotiated ban on underground nuclear testing would demand setting up a global seismic network for monitoring at teleseismic ranges. It concludes that such a network would serve to detect and identify all normal underground test explosions with yields greater than the 1 kiloton. However, it is believed that with the development of the high frequency seismometer, explosions as small as one tenth of a kiloton can be identified.

In 1984, a group of six world leaders came together in New Delhi and issued a joint statement of their intention to become a third party in arms negotiations between the super-powers, known as the five continents peace initiative. That initiative has been promoted by Parliamentarians Global Action, an international body of some 600 Members of Parliament from 36 different countries, to which many British Members of Parliament belong.

From October 1985, the six had continuing correspondence with President Reagan and General Secretary Gorbachev on the issues of a testing moratorium and verification of arms control agreements. In November 1985, at the Geneva summit, one major obstacle to the advance of verification measures was removed by the Soviet Union reaffirming that it was prepared to have internal seismographic stations installed on its own territory. That was a major shift from earlier policy in the 1960s, when it was the Americans who wanted on-site verification and the Soviets who claimed that it would be an unwarranted intrusion into their sovereignty.

In the summer of 1985, Parliamentarians Global Action commissioned a scientific study on verification of a time-limited testing moratorium, the first study of its kind, which was written by three top American seismologists. The conclusions of that study encouraged the group of six to make a series of verification proposals to the United States and the USSR. In April 1986, officers of Parliamentarians Global Action met Soviet Foreign Minister Shevardnadze and other high-level officials to discuss verification of a test ban.

Shevardnadze said that his country would permit seismic devices provided by the six leaders around the Soviet test sites, and after meeting members of the National Academy of Sciences it was decided that a group of American and Soviet scientists would be brought together in Moscow to examine in detail the possibilities of third party verification measures. At the conclusion of the meetings, an agreement was signed between the Soviet Academy and the New York-based Natural Resource Defence Council to launch a joint study of seismic events around the test site near Semipalatinsk.

The agreement also stated that Soviet experts were willing to participate in similar projects in the USA around the Nevada test site. A team of United States and Soviet technicians was created, and in July they placed their instruments in the ground near the Soviet test site. It was the first time that American scientists had operated a verification system inside the USSR, and last month those Soviet scientists were in the United States deciding where the corresponding American test site would be.

On 6 August 1986, the anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima, the group of six issued detailed technical proposals to Reagan and Gorbachev in which it offered to monitor a full nuclear testing moratorium covering all test sites. The six nations are prepared to finance all the costs of that verification plan. This was the first time in history that a third party had offered finance and personnel to verify a testing moratorium. In the United States Senate, a vote which was designed to coincide with this initiative was passed by 64 votes to 35 on a resolution calling upon President Reagan to resume negotiations towards concluding a verifiable comprehensive test ban treaty. In a most significant open letter to the group of six, Chancellor Kohl of West Germany, said that he had
"followed with great interest the initiative of the Six Heads of State or Government. My Government is committed, just as the Six expressed their commitment in the Delhi Declaration, to a Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban at the earliest juncture."
That was the first open message of support from the head of an important NATO country. I yet hope that this country will also support the proposals.

Of course there are difficulties still with verification, and there is not yet enough confidence in the capabilities of seismological monitoring to ensure that such verification will be accepted without demur by all countries. Nevertheless, a major advance has been made. If a complete ban on nuclear explosions were ever agreed between the United States and the Soviet Union, any system of verification would need to provide assurance that neither side were cheating. I do not underestimate the problems associated with adequate verification, but these are capable of solution soon, if not now.

The United Kingdom is committed to a comprehensive test ban treaty. This in itself will not give greater global security because the potential use of nuclear weapons is not inhibited by banning testing. We still need to find a system of international arbitrament of disputes which is universally acceptable and removes the need for possession of weapons of mass destruction. Only then will there be the capacity for prolonged peace but, as is acknowledged by the British Government, a comprehensive test ban treaty is an important step forward, and they are pursuing that objective. It is within our reach if we are prepared to stretch and grasp it.

9.30 pm

This is a crucial subject, and, as all parties will be facing a general election at some time, it is important that their policies are set out as clearly as possible. All loyal party Members have to accept their party policies, no matter what their individual policies might be, and continue to argue for those party policies. This goes for Conservative Members as well. No doubt the hon. Members for Newcastle upon Tyne, Central (Mr. Merchant) and for Gainsborough and Horncastle (Mr. Leigh) who put down an early-day motion in 1984 calling for a review of the Trident programme, have not changed their position, just as the right hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) has not changed his position.

The discussions and negotiations that have led to the alliance policy have resulted in an approach that is central to the defence of our country and compares well with the belligerence shown by Conservative Members and the isolationism shown by Labour Members. It does nothing for the defence of the country to have a Labour party policy that concentrates more power in the hands of the Americans, from whom the Labour party professes to distance itself. It is not in the interests of this country to pursue the belligerent increase in nuclear fire power represented by the Trident programme.

I am under instructions to sit down at 9.40 pm and I can do that only if I do not give way, much as I should like to do so.

In all these discussions we have to back our judgment as to where we shall be in government, and this is as true of the alliance policy as of any other. Our policy has three factors which I am prepared to support. They are that we shall freeze the current capability and negotiate down from that. That is fundamental to our policy and is a worthwhile aim which the public will support. Secondly, it requires no decision about the modernisation of any deterrent until the mid to late 1990s. There is no reason why it is not possible to go into government and look carefully at that within he lifetime of that Government. Thirdly, it sets out a moratorium on the deployment of intermediate nuclear weapons, and that means no cruise or Pershing at Molesworth.

We must all make judgments about what will happen in defence. At our party conferences, who could have imagined what would happen at Reykjavik and what would be put on the table there? I hope the Government will accept that the existence of SDI means nothing in relation to the intermediate nuclear forces and that they will go back to the negotiating table to use every possible influence on the Geneva talks so that the zero option for Europe is pursued with the utmost vigour.

It is not possible for me to give way.

I hope the Government accept that, if the Reagan Administration continue with the research on, and deployment of, SDI, that will change the whole concept of deterrence. The alliance accepts that we cannot continue with SDI and deterrence, because the former destabilises the latter. Following the speech that he made to the Royal United Services Institute for Defence Studies on 14 March 1985, I do not believe for a moment that the Foreign Secretary has moved at all on the trenchant criticisms that he made of SDI. Nevertheless, the Conservative party and the Government continue to support the Americans in their policy to deploy SDI. I believe that it will be possible when we come into Government in the next Parliament to perceive that the existence and continuance of SDI has an effect across the spectrum of defence spending and defence policies.

I am anxious to ascertain whether it is possible to find a way between the belligerence that comes from those on the Tory Benches and the isolationism that comes from those on the Labour Opposition Benches. I believe that it is possible to produce a policy which will be way ahead of those two approaches and which will be acceptable to our parties.

The hon. Gentleman has referred to his party's policy and its endorsement of it. Will he confirm that the policy in the motion is endorsed by, for example, the alliance candidate for north or south Thanet, the candidate for Newcastle-under-Lyme, who is a member of CND, and the Liberal candidate for Hereford, who at Eastbourne voted for unilateral disarmament?

The answer is yes. It is endorsed as the policy of the alliance on which it will fight the next general election. Members on both sides of the House contribute to the formulation of their parties' policies. Having done so, they draw a line before the next election and say, "We shall fight the election on this policy."

It is crucial that politicians address themselves to the effect that their defence policy has on the overall defence policy and the nation's defence commitment. I am concerned that it is understood that, whether we unilaterally escalate our firepower or nuclear capability, or unilaterally abandon it, we shall have some effect on what happens throughout the continent and across the Atlantic. If we believe that we can act in isolation, we shall do a disservice to the electorate and the security and safety of the nation.

Foremost in our thinking must be a recognition of the need to seek to achieve a European initiative and European unity that will allow us to move away from the idea that the only way in which we can defend ourselves is by being part of a nuclear alliance which depends permanently on increasing firepower and by ratcheting up the different systems and methods of delivery. As long as we are faced with that attitude on the one side, and by a policy of abandonment on the other—"Let us abandon it and wash our hands of the whole business"—we shall never come to the view that our future lies in Europe rather than across the Atlantic.

The initiative upon which the alliance has determined it will fight the next election is one which is popular with the electorate and which can be sustained. If Conservative Members choose to listen to the siren voices which suggest that security lies only in strength, they will delude themselves. If Labour Members believe the siren voices which tell them that we can abandon everything and still remain secure, they are foolish. I support the initiative that we have taken and I hope that it will be supported when the Division takes place.

9.43 pm

The motion highlights the problem of the Liberal party in this place and in the country. The Liberal party comprises those who have sincere and deeply held views on nuclear defence, but they are diametrically opposed views. The unilateralists among the Liberals will be appalled by the motion and, I fear, dismayed. I put it to the leader of the Liberal party, the right hon. Member for Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale (Mr. Steel), who was quick to say that he had not made a speech in September 1981, that I have a copy of the Daily Telegraph, which quotes him as saying:

"The Liberal party in Parliament, and especially in future, in government, must take heed of that mood and use its best efforts to promote unilateral disarmament."

I have said once to the Secretary of State for Defence—I hope that the hon. Gentleman will accept this from me—that the quotation that he has used is not something that I have said, whatever a misprint in a newspaper may say.

Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman would like to take up that matter with the Daily Telegraph as well as with my right hon. Friend.

The interesting aspect of the debate is that it seems that the SDP is comfortable with the Government's policy, but the Liberals are in difficulty. So far as their so-called partnership is concerned, each time the Liberals manage to line up on a pitch laid out by the right hon. Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Dr. Owen), they find that he has moved the wickets. First, Trident was not an option, but even then the Liberals had difficulty in cobbling together a policy to reconcile the irreconcilable within their party to try to meet the right hon. Gentleman. Now the right hon. Member for Devonport has moved the wickets again. He has said that Trident is an option for the British nuclear deterrent. On the programme "This Week, Next Week" he said that one of the options was a very much reduced Trident. I do not know whether the option of a very much reduced Trident for the SDP is the same as a minimum nuclear deterrent, with whatever necessary modifications it requires, for the Liberal Party. There seems to be considerable difficulty among them on that matter. It is clear that there is a split between them.

The motion meets the SDP's view, but it misrepresents the Liberal party's view. It identifies the all-pervading problem that faces the Labour party in particular and the alliance in general. As Liberals are instinctively in favour of a secure defence policy backed by effective nuclear weapons, they are not convinced. As Liberals are instinctively opposed to nuclear weapons, they find the notion utterly repugnant. In the west country, the Liberal party and the SDP cannot even agree on a bypass. Voters will find them neither dependable nor in possession of a clear policy on defence, and will certainly reject them at the next election.

9.47 pm

This has been an interesting debate. On occasions, it has generated more heat than light. Certainly, at times it has shown more aggression than defence. The Secretary of State attacked my right hon. Friend the Member for Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale (Mr. Steel) for making what he called an extraordinary speech, and then went on to make his own extraordinary claim that the progress in arms control in recent years had something to do with the Government. That is a dubious claim, I must say, for a Government who are dragging their feet on the zero-zero option.

The Secretary of State also challenged us on the Trident programme as set out by the Government. He must know that our doubts about Trident are well established. We do not regard the Government's Trident programme as a natural replacement for Polaris. The Government have been coy about the total number of warheads to be deployed. Even if we accept what the Secretary of State said about a 2·5 per cent. increase in destructive power, it is a substantial one.

We do not accept the argument that to deal with the anti-ballistic missile system around Moscow, we simply have to have more warheads. Such systems can be dealt with by decoys and the like. As my right hon. Friend said, why do we continue to set up the Moscow criterion as the one to meet? It is possible to have adequate deterrence based on an ability to threaten unacceptable damage to the Soviet Union somewhere other than Moscow.

There is a new stance on ballistic missiles since the Reykjavik summit. The United States President offered to phase out ballistic missiles over 10 years. We know that Trident D5 will not start its flight tests until 1987. It will not be deployed for the first time on an American submarine until 1989 at the earliest. It is not likely to be fully operational until 1992. Against that timetable, there must be doubt about the ability of the Government to obtain Trident when the time comes.

The Prime Minister may be satisfied with the undertakings she has received from President Reagan. As we all know, the President will not go on forever. If there is to be between the super-powers an agreement which phases out domestic missile systems, it is inconceivable that the United States will supply either the missiles or the back-up system for servicing and so on, on which the system will depend. Therefore, there is bound to be some doubt about the Trident system.

The Secretary of State alleged that the alternatives to Trident that my right hon. Friend set out were some sort of mirage. So much of a mirage are the air-launched cruise missile systems that the United States air force is deploying over 1,400 of them. By 1989, 180 B52 bombers will be equipped with air-launched cruise missiles. As for the sea-launched cruise missiles, 21 American attack submarines are now equipped with Tomahawk systems; by the mid-1990s, the entire United States fleet of 101 attack submarines will be equipped with Tomahawk systems and there will be another 82 surface ships. That does not suggest that the system is a mirage.

We heard from the Secretary of State the usual attempt to rubbish the cruise system as some sort of inferior weapons system.

I shall not.

The Secretary of State seems to be completely unaware of the state of the advanced cruise missile system in the United States. It has a substantially increased range with stealth technology, which makes it much more effective in evading radar, and laser guidance systems. It is an extremely effective weapons system moving into the next generation. Although it is not the only option that we advocate, it is a powerful one.

I turn to the motion and the lengthy speech of the right hon. Member for Llanelli (Mr. Davies)—34 minutes. Unfortunately, he did not tell us anything about the policy of digging tunnels filled with explosives, which he was still advocating as recently as Friday and which, apparently, has since been exploded by the Labour party.

The right hon. Gentleman is quoted in the Western Mail of 29 November, last week, as advocating

"the possibilities of digging tunnels filled with explosives".
[Interruption.] The right hon. Gentleman, on occasions, has advocated the Labour party's policy on nuclear weapons as being the most radical that this country has ever seen. I think that that is a fair description. It needs to be taken seriously on that basis.

Our motion draws attention to the three elements in the Labour party's policy which we think are individually dangerous but which, taken together, are destabilising to NATO and threatening to this country's security. The first is the renunciation of Britain's nuclear weapons. That is largely a domestic issue but, if we follow that policy through, the only nuclear weapons state in NATO will be the United States. That situation would not improve the transatlantic relations between the European and the American members of NATO.

The second element is the policy to remove United States nuclear weapons from Britain. It is worth remembering that these are not simply United States weapons—they are assigned to NATO. Greenham Common and Molesworth are bases that are the direct result of a unanimous decision by NATO in December 1979. If this country renounces that decision, how can we complain if other European nations follow our line? As hon. Members have pointed out, there is a psychological impact on American public and political opinion if the British, of all people, pursue a policy of saying, "Yanks go home," in respect of our nuclear weapons system. There is the risk that Americans will take the view that they should not go on committing large sums of taxpayers' money to defend Europe if the Europeans are not prepared to accept their share of the commitment.

The third element in Labour's strategy is a strightforward challenge to basic NATO nuclear strategy. The hon. Member for Aldershot (Mr. Critchley) was right when he said that NATO has rested on the ability and the willingness to use nuclear weapons from its beginnings. If a British Government rejected——

I have two minutes left.

If a British Government rejected that essential tenet of NATO strategy, I do not see how it could logically remain a member of NATO. It would be like trying to stay in the temperance league when one was becoming a confirmed drunkard. It is all very well for the right hon. Member for Llanelli to refer to other members of NATO that do not have nuclear weapons on their soil but accept the basic nuclear strategy of NATO. That is what the Labour party now claims it will not do. The fallacy of that position by the Labour party was cruelly exposed by somebody as well-intentioned towards that party as Mr. Anthony Howard. In The Observer on Sunday he called the Labour party's commitment to NATO, "a nonsense". He said:
"There is no way in which a member-country can unilaterally, without consultation, announce its intention of removing the main-spring from an alliance and still declare that it regards itself as being ready, as always, to fulfil all its obligations to its partners."
That is a fair assessment of the Labour party's position.

I am not at all surprised that we have again seen in this debate the unholy alliance between the two Front Benches—[Interruption]—each of them propping up the other like a pair of faded bookends on each end of a mantelpiece, and each of them saying that it is Trident or nothing. We reject that approach. It is perfectly possible to maintain an effective nuclear deterrent without going down the road of the Government's Trident programme.

We believe that a majority of our people reject the bigger and better nuclear weapons policy of the Government and equally reject the give-it-away neutralist policy of the Labour party. A majority of people support the maintenance of a deterrent on broadly the same level as the existing one, and that common-sense option will be put before the British people at the next election.

9.51 pm

My comment to the hon. Member for Woolwich (Mr. Cartwright) is that the one place where there has not been an alliance during this debate has been on his own benches. Hon. Members will forgive me if I do not refer specifically to each speech. However, the contribution by my hon. Friend the Member for Aldershot (Mr. Critchley) was one of the most pithy and telling in favour of NATO's nuclear policy that the House has heard.

I should like to deal with one aspect of the defence policy of the official Opposition and then an aspect of the defence policy of the Liberal and Social Democratic parties. The policy of the official Opposition proposes not just a single blow for British defence interests. It would be a major blow for United Kingdom, American and NATO defence interests. The Government and the country at large believe without any question that the policies to which the Labour party has committed itself are quite the most damaging and disastrous to which any British political party has committed itself in 40 years.

The combination of scrapping Polaris, coupled with the decision not to proceed with Trident and the extraordinary commitment by the Leader of the Opposition, who says that he will remove Britain from the American nuclear umbrella, means that a Labour Government would leave the British people more exposed to nuclear blackmail, or worse, than any other NATO country. That is the reality.

As some hon. Members have said, the Labour party policy on American bases in Britain has the most disastrous implications for the commitment of the United States to western Europe. There is no doubt that if that policy were implemented it would result in other European countries also seeking to reduce the extent of their commitment to NATO's nuclear policy. Even more serious, it would result in increasing pressure from the American Congress to withdraw American conventional forces from western Europe and that would mean the unravelling of NATO. That would be set in hand by the policies of the Labour party.

I turn next to one new aspect relating to the implications for NATO of a non-nuclear policy. Most of the attention has been addressed to the strategic implications of a non-nuclear Britain. I remind the House that, as the Leader of the Opposition confirmed only yesterday in a speech in Boston, the official Opposition are committed to removing tactical nuclear weapons as well as strategic nuclear weapons. That has the most profound implications for the military cohesion of NATO. It would remove a significant proportion of SACLANT's tactical nuclear assets in the eastern Atlantic and a considerable part of the nuclear capabilities of the second tactical air force in central and northern Europe, and it would create a major gap in the nuclear deterrence provided by NATO's land forces on the central front by removing the nuclear capability of the 1st British Corps.

The House must consider what a profoundly impossible military position would be created if there was a four corps army group—such as NORTHAG—with three corps that were nuclear capable and one corps that was not. That would be the effect of the Labour party's policy. The House will note something that has been grasped by those serving in the British Army of the Rhine and those who are part of the regular and Territorial Army reinforcements to the British Army of the Rhine. If the Warsaw Pact was to face a four corps army group, three corps of which were nuclear capable and one of which was not, one does not need to be a military expert to predict on which corps the main weight of attack would be launched. It would fall on the 1st British Corps, disarmed unilaterally by the Labour party.

I would like to consider the position adopted in the debate by the Liberal and Social Democratic party alliance. The position was vividly exposed by the speech of the leader of the Liberal party. The right hon. Gentleman's speech contained an extraordinary Contradiction. He said that as a party of opposition, it was unable to make up its mind about the deterrent and how an Opposition party should meet the minimum deterrence obligations and commitments. The right hon. Gentleman was in such difficulty that he had to list a total of six separate options that the party was considering for maintaining the minimum nuclear deterrence of this country.

There is an extraordinary contradiction here. The Liberals and the Social Democrats are unable to make up their minds in opposition between the six alternatives. However, when it comes to Trident, they can make up their minds instantly and decide that Trident should not be proceeded with. It is a fundamental contradiction for the leader of the Liberal party and Liberal Members to say that they cannot make up their minds about the deterrent but they can decide not to proceed with Trident.

The degree of division that exists on the alliance Benches was exposed when the right hon. Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Dr. Owen) listed his options. He came up with a different set of options for the minimum deterrence from those proposed by the leader of the Liberal party. The right hon. Member for Devonport, was interviewed on the "This Week, Next Week" programme and was asked to outline his options. He said:
"a ballistic system not Trident; or a very much reduced Trident missile, with reduced deployment—three submarines and less warheads".
There is the so-called united position of the so-called alliance party. The Leader of the Liberal party outlines his six options without a word about Trident and only a few weeks previously the Leader of the Social Democratic party set out his options on television and said that the Trident missile in some shape or form was one of the options under consideration.

The posturing by the alliance parties that they are united on defence is nonsense. They have cobbled together, through political expediency, an attempt to paper over the cracks and once again tonight they have been exposed as fundamentally divided on the defence issue.

The Labour party favours having no deterrent at all. The alliance favours an inadequate deterrent. Only the Government have a soundly based defence policy.

Question put, That the original words stand part of the Question:—

The House divided: Ayes 22, Noes 217.

Division No. 20]

[10 pm


Ashdown, PaddyLivsey, Richard
Beith, A. J.Meadowcroft, Michael
Bruce, MalcolmOwen, Rt Hon Dr David
Carlile, Alexander (Montg'y)Penhaligon, David
Cartwright, JohnRoss, Stephen (Isle of Wight)
Freud, ClementShields, Mrs Elizabeth
Hancock, MichaelSteel, Rt Hon David
Howells, GeraintWainwright, R.
Hughes, Simon (Southwark)Wrigglesworth, Ian
Jenkins, Rt Hon Roy (Hillh'd)
Johnston, Sir RussellTellers for the Ayes:
Kennedy, CharlesMr. David Alton and
Kirkwood, ArchyMr. James Wallace.


Adley, RobertCranborne, Viscount
Aitken, JonathanCritchley, Julian
Alexander, RichardCurrie, Mrs Edwina
Alison, Rt Hon MichaelDorrell, Stephen
Ancram, MichaelDouglas-Hamilton, Lord J.
Ashby, Daviddu Cann, Rt Hon Sir Edward
Atkins, Robert (South Ribble)Dunn, Robert
Atkinson, David (B'm'th E)Durant, Tony
Baker, Nicholas (Dorset N)Dykes, Hugh
Baldry, TonyEdwards, Rt Hon N. (P'broke)
Batiste, SpencerEvennett, David
Beaumont-Dark, AnthonyFairbairn, Nicholas
Bellingham, HenryFallon, Michael
Benyon, WilliamFarr, Sir John
Best, KeithFletcher, Alexander
Biffen, Rt Hon JohnFookes, Miss Janet
Blaker, Rt Hon Sir PeterForsyth, Michael (Stirling)
Body, Sir RichardFowler, Rt Hon Norman
Bottomley, PeterFox, Sir Marcus
Bottomley, Mrs VirginiaFranks, Cecil
Bowden, A. (Brighton K'to'n)Fraser, Peter (Angus East)
Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich)Freeman, Roger
Brandon-Bravo, MartinGale, Roger
Bright, GrahamGardner, Sir Edward (Fylde)
Brinton, TimGarel-Jones, Tristan
Brooke, Hon PeterGlyn, Dr Alan
Brown, M. (Brigg & Cl'thpes)Goodhart, Sir Philip
Browne, JohnGoodlad, Alastair
Bruinvels, PeterGorst, John
Bryan, Sir PaulGower, Sir Raymond
Buck, Sir AntonyGreenway, Harry
Budgen, NickGregory, Conal
Bulmer, EsmondGriffiths, Peter (Portsm'th N)
Burt, AlistairGround, Patrick
Butterfill, JohnGrylls, Michael
Carlisle, John (Luton N)Hamilton, Hon A. (Epsom)
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)
Carlisle, Rt Hon M. (W'ton S)Hanley, Jeremy
Carttiss, MichaelHargreaves, Kenneth
Cash, WilliamHarris, David
Chalker, Mrs LyndaHaselhurst, Alan
Chapman, SydneyHawkins, C. (High Peak)
Chope, ChristopherHayes, J.
Clark, Hon A. (Plym'th S'n)Hayward, Robert
Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford)Heathcoat-Amory, David
Clay, RobertHeddle, John
Colvin, MichaelHenderson, Barry
Conway, DerekHeseltine, Rt Hon Michael
Coombs, SimonHickmet, Richard
Cope, JohnHicks, Robert
Cormack, PatrickHind, Kenneth
Couchman, JamesHolt, Richard

Howard, MichaelRobinson, Mark (N'port W)
Howarth, Alan (Stratf'd-on-A)Roe, Mrs Marion
Howarth, Gerald (Cannock)Rowe, Andrew
Howe, Rt Hon Sir GeoffreySackville, Hon Thomas
Hubbard-Miles, PeterSainsbury, Hon Timothy
Hunt, John (Ravensbourne)Sayeed, Jonathan
Hunter, AndrewShaw, Giles (Pudsey)
Jackson, RobertShaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')
Jenkin, Rt Hon PatrickShelton, William (Streatham)
Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)
Jones, Robert (Herts W)Shersby, Michael
Kellett-Bowman, Mrs ElaineSilvester, Fred
Key, RobertSims, Roger
Knowles, MichaelSmith, Tim (Beaconsfield)
Knox, DavidSoames, Hon Nicholas
Lang, IanSpeller, Tony
Latham, MichaelSpencer, Derek
Lawler, GeoffreySquire, Robin
Lawrence, IvanStanley, Rt Hon John
Lee, John (Pendle)Stewart, Allan (Eastwood)
Lightbown, DavidStewart, Andrew (Sherwood)
Lilley, PeterStewart, Ian (Hertf'dshire N)
Lloyd, Peter (Fareham)Stradling Thomas, Sir John
Lord, MichaelTaylor, John (Solihull)
Macfarlane, NeilTaylor, Teddy (S'end E)
MacKay, Andrew (Berkshire)Temple-Morris, Peter
Maclean, David JohnThompson, Donald (Calder V)
McLoughlin, PatrickThompson, Patrick (N'ich N)
Madden, MaxThurnham, Peter
Madel, DavidTownend, John (Bridlington)
Major, JohnTownsend, Cyril D. (B'heath)
Malins, HumfreyTracey, Richard
Malone, GeraldTrippier, David
Marland, PaulTwinn, Dr Ian
Marlow, Antonyvan Straubenzee, Sir W.
Mather, CarolWaddington, David
Maude, Hon FrancisWaldegrave, Hon William
Maxwell-Hyslop, RobinWalden, George
Mayhew, Sir PatrickWaller, Gary
Merchant, PiersWalters, Dennis
Mills, Iain (Meriden)Wardle, C. (Bexhill)
Mills, Sir Peter (West Devon)Watson, John
Miscampbell, NormanWatts, John
Mitchell, David (Hants NW)Wells, Bowen (Hertford)
Neale, GerrardWells, Sir John (Maidstone)
Nellist, DavidWheeler, John
Nicholls, PatrickWhitfield, John
Norris, StevenWiggin, Jerry
Page, Richard (Herts SW)Winterton, Mrs Ann
Pattie, GeoffreyWinterton, Nicholas
Pollock, AlexanderWolfson, Mark
Portillo, MichaelWood, Timothy
Powley, JohnWoodcock, Michael
Proctor, K. HarveyYeo, Tim
Rathbone, Tim
Rhodes James, RobertTellers for the Noes:
Rifkind, Rt Hon MalcolmMr. Michael Neubert and
Rippon, Rt Hon GeoffreyMr. Mark Lennox-Boyd,
Roberts, Wyn (Conwy)

Question accordingly negatived.

Question, That the proposed words be there added, put forthwith pursuant to Standing Order No. 30 (Questions on amendments):

The House divided: Ayes 208, Noes 35.

Division No. 21]

[10.12 pm


Adley, RobertBeaumont-Dark, Anthony
Alexander, RichardBellingham, Henry
Alison, Rt Hon MichaelBenyon, William
Ancram, MichaelBest, Keith
Ashby, DavidBiffen, Rt Hon John
Atkins, Robert (South Ribble)Blaker, Rt Hon Sir Peter
Atkinson, David (B'm'th E)Body, Sir Richard
Baker, Nicholas (Dorset N)Bottomley, Peter
Baldry, TonyBottomley, Mrs Virginia
Batiste, SpencerBowden, A. (Brighton K'to'n)

Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich)Hawkins, C. (High Peak)
Brandon-Bravo, MartinHayes, J.
Bright, GrahamHayward, Robert
Brinton, TimHeathcoat-Amory, David
Brooke, Hon PeterHeddle, John
Brown, M. (Brigg & Cl'thpes)Henderson, Barry
Browne, JohnHeseltine, Rt Hon Michael
Bruinvels, PeterHickmet, Richard
Bryan, Sir PaulHicks, Robert
Buck, Sir AntonyHind, Kenneth
Budgen, NickHolt, Richard
Bulmer, EsmondHoward, Michael
Burt, AlistairHowarth, Alan (Stratf'd-on-A)
Butterfill, JohnHowe, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey
Carlisle, John (Luton N)Hubbard-Miles, Peter
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)Hunt, John (Ravensbourne)
Carlisle, Rt Hon M. (W'ton S)Hunter, Andrew
Carttiss, MichaelJenkin, Rt Hon Patrick
Cash, WilliamJones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)
Chalker, Mrs LyndaJones, Robert (Herts W)
Chapman, SydneyKey, Robert
Chope, ChristopherKnowles, Michael
Clark, Hon A. (Plym'th S'n)Knox, David
Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford)Lang, Ian
Colvin, MichaelLatham, Michael
Conway, DerekLawler, Geoffrey
Coombs, SimonLawrence, Ivan
Cope, JohnLee, John (Pendle)
Cormack, PatrickLennox-Boyd, Hon Mark
Couchman, JamesLightbown, David
Cranborne, ViscountLilley, Peter
Critchley, JulianLloyd, Peter (Fareham)
Currie, Mrs EdwinaMacfarlane, Neil
Dorrell, StephenMacKay, Andrew (Berkshire)
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord J.Maclean, David John
du Cann, Rt Hon Sir EdwardMcLoughlin, Patrick
Dunn, RobertMadel, David
Durant, TonyMajor, John
Dykes, HughMalins, Humfrey
Edwards, Rt Hon N. (P'broke)Marland, Paul
Evennett, DavidMarlow, Antony
Fairbairn, NicholasMather, Carol
Fallon, MichaelMaude, Hon Francis
Farr, Sir JohnMaxwell-Hyslop, Robin
Fletcher, AlexanderMayhew, Sir Patrick
Fookes, Miss JanetMerchant, Piers
Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)Mills, Iain (Meriden)
Fowler, Rt Hon NormanMills, Sir Peter (West Devon)
Fox, Sir MarcusMiscampbell, Norman
Franks, CecilMitchell, David (Hants NW)
Fraser, Peter (Angus East)Neale, Gerrard
Freeman, RogerNeubert, Michael
Gale, RogerNicholls, Patrick
Garel-Jones, TristanNorris, Steven
Glyn, Dr AlanPage, Richard (Herts SW)
Goodhart, Sir PhilipPattie, Geoffrey
Goodlad, AlastairPollock, Alexander
Gorst, JohnPowley, John
Gower, Sir RaymondProctor, K. Harvey
Greenway, HarryRathbone, Tim
Gregory, ConalRhodes James, Robert
Griffiths, Peter (Portsm'th N)Rifkind, Rt Hon Malcolm
Ground, PatrickRippon, Rt Hon Geoffrey
Grylls, MichaelRoberts, Wyn (Conwy)
Hamilton, Hon A. (Epsom)Robinson, Mark (N'port W)
Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)Roe, Mrs Marion
Hanley, JeremyRowe, Andrew
Hargreaves, KennethSackville, Hon Thomas
Harris, DavidSainsbury, Hon Timothy
Haselhurst, AlanSayeed, Jonathan

Shaw, Giles (Pudsey)Trippier, David
Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')Twinn, Dr Ian
Shelton, William (Streatham)van Straubenzee, Sir W.
Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)Waddington, David
Shersby, MichaelWaldegrave, Hon William
Silvester, FredWalden, George
Sims, RogerWaller, Gary
Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)Walters, Dennis
Soames, Hon NicholasWardle, C. (Bexhill)
Speller, TonyWatson, John
Spencer, DerekWatts, John
Squire, RobinWells, Bowen (Hertford)
Stanley, Rt Hon JohnWells, Sir John (Maidstone)
Stewart, Allan (Eastwood)Wheeler, John
Stewart, Andrew (Sherwood)Whitfield, John
Stewart, Ian (Hertf'dshire N)Wiggin, Jerry
Stradling Thomas, Sir JohnWinterton, Mrs Ann
Taylor, John (Solihull)Winterton, Nicholas
Taylor, Teddy (S'end E)Wolfson, Mark
Temple-Morris, PeterWood, Timothy
Thompson, Donald (Calder V)Woodcock, Michael
Thompson, Patrick (N'ich N)Yeo, Tim
Thurnham, Peter
Townend, John (Bridlington)Tellers for the Ayes:
Townsend, Cyril D. (B'heath)Mr. Gerald Malone and Mr. Michael Portillo
Tracey, Richard


Ashdown, PaddyMeadowcroft, Michael
Benn, Rt Hon TonyMichie, William
Bruce, MalcolmNellist, David
Carlile, Alexander (Montg'y)Owen, Rt Hon Dr David
Cartwright, JohnPenhaligon, David
Clay, RobertPike, Peter
Cohen, HarryRoss, Stephen (Isle of Wight)
Corbyn, JeremyShields, Mrs Elizabeth
Freud, ClementSkinner, Dennis
Hancock, MichaelSteel, Rt Hon David
Howells, GeraintThomas, Dafydd (Merioneth)
Hughes, Simon (Southwark)Wainwright, R.
Jenkins, Rt Hon Roy (Hillh'd)Wigley, Dafydd
Johnston, Sir RussellWrigglesworth, Ian
Kennedy, CharlesYoung, David (Bolton SE)
Kirkwood, Archy
Lewis, Terence (Worsley)Tellers for the Noes:
Livsey, RichardMr. David Alton and
Loyden, EdwardMr. James Wallace.
Madden, Max

Question accordingly agreed to.

Mr. Speaker forthwith declared the main Question, as amended, to be agreed to.


That this House rejects the non-nuclear defence policies of the Labour Party, based as they are on the abandonment of Britain's independent nuclear deterrent, the expulsion of United States nuclear forces and bases from Britain, and the withdrawal of Britain from the protection of the American nuclear umbrella, thus jeopardising the United Kingdom's security and the cohesion of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation; and the policies of the Liberal and Social Democratic Parties, which advocate the maintenance of a British nuclear capability below the minimum required to provide effective deterrence beyond the mid 1990s; and reaffirms its support for the Government's firm defence policies founded on the need to maintain credible nuclear and conventional forces for Britain within the NATO Alliance.