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Arms Control And Disarmament (Privileges And Immunities) Bill

Volume 124: debated on Thursday 10 December 1987

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4.16 pm

I beg to move, That the Bill be now read the Third time.

It is appropriate that we should be considering this Bill in what has been a very significant week for arms control, and for the development of East-West relations generally. As the House will be aware, the Bill was given its Second Reading on 22 October, and subsequently considered in Committee. The debate on 22 October and the Committee stage gave wide opportunities not only for discussion of the main provisions of the Bill, but for a wide-ranging review of arms control issues generally. I thank my colleagues on both sides of the Standing Committee for the insights and contributions that they made. I should particularly like to thank my hon. Friend the Member for Staffordshire, Moorlands (Mr. Knox) for his exemplary and good-humoured chairmanship of the Committee.

I am sure that the House will not want me to cover the same ground as my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State in his speech on 22 October. However, it might be appropriate briefly to recapitulate the purposes of the Bill. I hope after that, if it is consistent with the rules of order, to say a few words about the historic agreement on the removal of the INF missiles signed in Washington on Tuesday, to explain both the main provisions of the Bill as they affect the United Kingdom and how it may be employed to give effect to the INF treaty.

As it now stands, the Bill is intended to give effect to the outcome of last year's Stockholm conference on confidence building and disarmament in Europe. The conference called for privileges and immunities to be extended to inspectors carrying out on-site verification, and to observers invited to military exercises notified under the terms of the Stockholm document—which is itself a major confidence-building measure between East and West. We believe that it is a significant and rather underrated development.

The United Kingdom's representatives have carried out one inspection in the German Democratic Republic this year and have observed 15 exercises since the document was signed. Eight of those observations were in Warsaw pact countries and seven in other NATO countries.

For the first time, we had an opportunity to play host to observers from Stockholm signatory states, including all the Warsaw pact countries except Romania, during Exercise Purple Warrior in Scotland last month. The observation programme passed off smoothly and attracted compliments from East and West observers on the efficiency with which it was organised and on the commitment to openness and transparency that it demonstrated.

The Bill provides for privileges and immunities to be conferred by Order in Council, to give effect to arrangements superseding the Stockholm document or to furthering arms control and disarmament generally—for example, the INF agreement, to which I shall return in a moment.

The purpose of extending the Bill by Order in Council is to ensure that, so far as possible, we avoid the need for primary legislation each time there is a new arms control agreement. The verification arrangements of such agreements might involve the granting of privileges or immunities. I assure the House—I hope that I made this clear in Committee — that such extensions will be performed under the affirmative resolution procedure, which will give hon. Members a full opportunity to debate any order. I believe that that is a sensible way to proceed, and that it will reduce the administrative burden on the House.

A number of probing amendments were tabled in Committee, the effect of which would have been to limit the granting of privileges and immunities to the Stockholm document alone and require the introduction of fresh primary legislation every time that a new arms control agreement was implemented. I am pleased that, in the light of some discussions, sponsors of the amendments agreed to withdraw them. The fact that no further amendments were tabled on Report suggests that the framework that was set out in Committee is acceptable to the House. I am glad about that, as these issues should, so far as possible, not be the subject of partisan considerations but should command the confidence of everyone.

I should like to make one point clear. The Bill does not make any changes in the privileges and amenities that are given; they remain exactly as set out in the Diplomatic Privileges Act 1964. All it does is extend for a very brief period the category of people who are entitled to enjoy those privileges and immunities. In practice, this will have little effect on people who are here for a very short visit and very limited in numbers. For instance, under the Stockholm document, inspectors—a maximum of four per inspection team — and observers — a maximum of two per country — will enjoy, among other things, inviolability of the person, immunity from criminal jurisdiction and, with some minor exceptions, immunity from civil and administrative jurisdictions. Those privileges are enjoyed by diplomats who are currently accredited here. Many of those observing exercises in the United Kingdom — this was the case with Purple Warrior—will be service attaches accredited here. Many of the small Stockholm signatory countries send no observers at all.

In the case of inspectors, the time limits are clearly specified in the Stockholm document, and no inspection may last for longer than 48 hours. It is envisaged that inspectors will bring auxiliary personnel, as the British inspection team did when it went to the German Democratic Republic in September. Auxiliary personnel are equated with administrative and technical staff at diplomatic missions in London and will enjoy inviolability of the person and immunity from criminal jurisdiction. Such immunities will be limited to acts performed in the course of their duties.

In Committee, questions were asked about the hypothetical extension of the Bill to a range of potential arms control agreemens. I assured the Committee., and I repeat my assurance to the House, that at present we envisage the extension of the Bill to only the INF agreement, in so far as it affects United Kingdom territory. We intend to avail ourselves of clause 1, which provides for its application to other arms control agreements, in this respect. I am unable to tell the House precisely when we shall do that, because much will depend on the timing of the Bill's remaining stages, and other matters relating to the ratification of the INF treaty, which we hope will occur in the new year. I hope that it will be completed in time to allow an Order in Council to be tabled speedily. Indeed, we would want to table it before the treaty comes into force.

I said earlier that the INF agreement was signed on Tuesday after much painstaking negotiation and considerable difficulty. Despite the doubts of Left and Right, which were expressed at different times, the two super-powers have achieved what their negotiators have long had in their sights — the global elimination of United States' and Soviet longer and shorter range intermediate ground-based missiles.

While the Minister is on this subject, will he say when the INF treaty will be available to the House? Is the text available now? Has the Minister seen a copy of it, and will it be available in the Library?

Order. Before the Minister deals with that point, may I say that I am sure that he will bear in mind that his remarks must be related to the content of the Bill. We cannot broaden the Third Reading debate into a general debate, or anything like as wide a debate as we had on Second Reading.

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Without intending any discourtesy to the Minister, surely what my hon. Friend has asked for is highly relevant. The Bill confers privileges and immunities on Soviet inspectors who will be coming here in fulfilment of the provisions of the treaty. If we are conferring privileges and immunities on foreign inspectors coming to Britain, to the constituency of, among others, the hon. Member for Newbury (Mr. McNair-Wilson), surely we have a right to see the text of the treaty under which the Bill will confer privileges and immunities? Surely, therefore, it is highly relevant to this narrow Third Reading debate to ask to see the treaty?

I wanted to remind the House that the debate cannot be broadened to a general debate on the treaty; it must relate to what is in the Bill. I have heard nothing out of order yet, but I thought that it might be helpful to fire a warning shot.

The principal treaty between the Soviet Union and the United States was signed on Tuesday. The basing country agreement between the United States and Britain regarding inspections on United Kingdom territory at the two areas where missiles are deployed will be signed tomorrow. Subsequently, a document between the United Kingdom and the Soviet Union will have to be signed, whereby the Soviet Union will agree to abide by the arrangements that have been entered into, and that will not be done for some time. With regard to the first two documents, we shall make them available as soon as we have clean texts. We have copies of the text, but they are not in clean form.

We have been kept in touch with the drafting as it has gone on, and as I have explained to the hon. Member for Hamilton (Mr. Robertson), all the arrangements affecting the United Kingdom had to be cleared with us before they were accepted. A clean copy of the treaty in proper form will be deposited as soon as possible. —[Interruption.] I am sorry that the hon. Member for Hamilton finds this funny. It is typical of the hon. Gentleman to start carping on a day when all of us—

It is all very well the hon. Gentleman telling me not to be rude; it is like the kettle calling the pot black. This treaty should be a cause for rejoicing. We have no interest in keeping it a secret document, and when we have a proper copy of the text available from Washington it will be disclosed. At the moment, copies come in the form of diplomatic telegrams of a kind that we would not wish to deposit in the House of Commons. A proper copy will come very quickly, and I can assure the hon. Gentleman that there is no great secret that he needs to have uncovered.

In a moment. I have told the right hon. Gentleman that I shall give way when I choose and not when he stands at the Dispatch Box, in breach of the rules of order of the House, and shouts at me. I shall make my point and then, if the right hon. Gentleman wishes to intervene, I shall give way—but not before.

As we intend to introduce an Order in Council that would permit inspectors diplomatic immunities and privileges under the Bill, pursuant to their work on the INF treaty, I shall give some details of the verification arrangements as they will affect the United Kingdom, if right hon. and hon. Members on the Labour Front Bench will permit me to do so.

The hon. and learned Gentleman talks of verification arrangements. Will the note agreed between the United States and the United Kingdom set out the number of cruise missiles at Greenham Common and the number to be removed? The Minister will have seen the report in today's Independent, which seems to give the impression that there are more cruise missiles at Greenham Common than the Government knew about. Will the hon. and learned Gentleman tell the House the figures? Are there 24 launchers and 96 missiles, or 29 launchers and 101 missiles? How many missiles and launchers are there at Greenham Common and how many will be removed?

That is well wide of the mark, and I shall not deal with that point. I think that I have the assent of the Chair in saying that. The Bill deals with privileges and immunities for inspections. There will be draw-down arrangements to provide for the missiles to be removed at a certain period. I am not here to answer Ministry of Defence questions about how many missiles there are. The right hon. Gentleman, who purports to be shadow Secretary of State for Defence, knows that that is a Ministry of Defence matter and not a Foreign Office matter.

I shall not give way. The right hon. Gentleman can stand there till doomsday and I shall not give way. The right hon. Gentleman knows that, if he wants that information, he must seek it in a proper way and not from a Foreign Office Minister speaking on a quite different matter.

The INF' treaty has proved that to negotiate from strength and maintain Alliance solidarity is the way to achieve arms control agreements. The agreement has established the principle of asymmetrical reductions —heavily asymmetrical, as it turns out—with the Soviet Union coming down from much higher levels. It will eliminate the threat of SS20s, SS 12s and SS22s to our cities and airfields. For the first time in the nuclear age, nuclear weapons will be reduced. The verification regime is the most stringent to be put in place by any arms control agreement so far and will set new standards for future agreements. The inclusion of on-site inspection represents a considerable breakthrough. If it is faithfully implemented, the agreement will help to build up the trust between East and West without which no lasting improvement in relations is possible.

I come to the verification regime, which we hope the House will permit to take place under the privileges and immunities set out in the Bill. How will the INF inspection regime affect the United Kingdom? The details of the inspection arrangements, which are the same for all the countries concerned, whether they are associated with United States or Soviet Union INF facilities, are set out in an inspection protocol appended to the principal treaty. As I said, tomorrow in Brussels the United Kingdom, along with other basing countries, will sign a basing country agreement with the United States. This will establish the practical procedures and provisions necessary to enable the United States to discharge its obligations under the treaty in respect of facilities not on United States territory.

Under the exchange of notes with the Soviet Union, which will be signed shortly after the basing country agreement, the United Kingdom will grant the Soviet Union the right to conduct inspections on United Kingdom territory. In return, the Soviet Union will undertake to comply with United Kingdom laws and procedures, thus establishing the triangular nature of the legal relationship which is crucial to the respect for United Kingdom sovereignty which we wish to maintain, as well as playing our full part in—

The right hon. Gentleman is being grotesquely discourteous. He is not even allowing me to finish my sentence.

Any question that the right hon. Gentleman asks is likely to be simple, but that does not mean that I wish to give way to answer it.

The basing country agreement and the exchange of notes will guarantee the United Kingdom direct powers to ensure observance of United Kingdom laws and sovereignty, and any future changes in these arrangements that affect the United Kingdom will not be agreed by the United States without our prior approval.

Before I give way to the right hon. Gentleman, let me say this. Throughout the Second Reading debate we were pestered to give details of the verification arrangements under the treaty. I was unable to give the House those details, for the perfectly straightforward reason that the treaty had not been concluded. Now that it has been concluded, and I am giving the details, we have these monkey-house noises from Opposition Members who have no desire to listen but who are interested only in making their own debating points gleaned from a 15-minute reading on the tube of the latest wild speculations in today's newspapers. If the right hon. Gentleman wishes to reveal more of his morning reading, I shall give way to him.

I do not know why the Minister is being so tetchy. I was merely going to ask him whether the treaty or the basing agreement to be signed by Britain and the United States — I am sure that the hon. and learned Gentleman has seen the treaty—sets out the number of missiles and launchers at Greenham Common and therefore the number to be removed. Does the treaty say that?

Order. I do not want to be difficult with the House, but it is my job to see that the rules are observed. I am sure that the Minister will bear in mind the scope of the Bill in answering the question that has been put to him. Mr. Mellor.

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The missiles at Greenham Common and Molesworth will be dealt with in the verification proposals in the treaty, so they are perfectly within the scope of this discussion.

That is not the subject of the Bill. We had better get on with the debate.

Order. It would be better if the House left it to me to judge whether remarks are in order.

Further to the point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. However brief the debate may turn out to be, it is important for us to clarify at the outset the limits within which it can take place. As I said on an earlier point of order, the Bill confers diplomatic privileges and immunities on Soviet inspectors who are to come here. The Soviet inspectors will operate with the privileges and immunities conferred by the Bill, but under the terms of two documents, and it is impossible for us to debate the Bill adequately without discussing those documents, which the Minister alluded to but which are not available to the House. We are being asked to provide powers on which no satisfactory information is available.

One of the two documents to which the Minister referred is the inspection protocol. We are dealing with privileges and immunities to be conferred on inspectors. I do not begin to see how we can adequately debate a Bill under which we are to confer powers under an inspection protocol, not one word of which is available to this House. Furthermore, the Minister said that tomorrow the United Kingdom would be one of a number of countries signing a basing country agreement. That basing country agreement will affect the soil of this country. It will affect two constituencies. One is that of the hon. Member for Newbury (Mr. McNair-Wilson) and the other is the constituency of the Chief Secretary. Yet we are asked to confer powers, as a Parliament, under a basing agreement—

Yes, we are. This is Parliament. We are asked to confer diplomatic privileges and immunities. It is Parliament that is doing this, not the Government. We are still a parliamentary democracy. We are being asked to do that, and those powers will be conferred under a basing country agreement. That is an agreement to which the Government are a direct signatory. Yet there again we do not know the agreement under which we are conferring the powers.

It seems to me that the debate ought not to proceed in this way, because we are being deprived of important material in which we are conferring powers.

Is it further to the point of order of the right hon. Member? If not, let me answer the right hon. Gentleman's point.

The right hon. Gentleman has really answered his own point, in the first part of his point of order, when he said that he conceded that this debate is comparatively narrow, in that it deals with the powers of the inspectors and the extension of those powers. Of course, it would be appropriate for passing reference to be made to the documents in the context of this debate, but it would not be in order for the details of the document to be debated on the Third Reading of this Bill.

I am grateful for your ruling, Mr. Deputy Speaker, but your response highlights the problem. We cannot refer to the details of the documents, since no one on the Opposition Benches has seen a word of them.

I think that it would be better to let the Minister get on with his speech.

If I may say to the right hon. Gentleman, I assume, having great respect for him, that this is a deliberate rather than an accidental misunderstanding of the situation. The point that he put to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, is wholly erroneous. The Bill as drafted deals only with allowing inspectors and observers under the Stockholm arrangements the privileges and immunities confirmed by the Diplomatic Privileges Act 1964. Any subsequent privileges and immunities to be granted will only be granted by permission of the House once an Order in Council has been laid and an affirmation resolution has been sought from the House.

If it be objected that the privileges and immunities sought in relation to the intermediate nuclear force treaty arrangements are wrong, the proper time to make that point is when the affirmative resolution is debated in the House.

In just a moment.

Here one sees the error into which one falls if one tries to be accommodating in one's approach to debates in this Chamber at the request of the Opposition. When initially we sought in Committee simply to deal with the Stockholm arrangements, on the proper basis that other future arms control agreements lay outside the immediate scope of the Bill and that parliamentary procedure was provided for that to be done, that was regarded as unhelpful, a bad spirit developed in the Committee and in the end we agreed, with the kind permission of the Chairman, to be allowed to discuss in little modules wider arms control matters within the context of the privileges and immunities that might in future be granted under this Bill.

In that same spirit, although the Bill as it passes into law will confer no rights or entitlements whatever on any inspector who might be appointed under a treaty that has yet to be ratified and will not come into force for a number of months, I thought that it would be helpful to the House to have an opportunity of setting out, since it would be our intention to use the Order in Council procedure provided for under this Bill in due time, so that inspectors might enjoy privileges and immunities when going about the business of the INF treaty inspection, to give details of the arrangements.

Instead, we find ourselves plunged into an even worse thicket, in which an attempt is made to suggest that we are now taking the debate forward without documents being available. This is the logic of the asylum, not of a parliamentary Chamber.

May I make it clear to the hon. and learned Gentleman that I do not criticise him for the way in which he has come equipped to the debate this afternoon. I think that he has been placed in an extremely unfortunate position because he has been asked to request the House to give a Third Reading to a Bill two days after one of the agreements which will trigger off the Order in Council procedure. Without in any way belittling the hon. and learned Gentleman— I have regard for him, as he knows — the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs ought to have come here this afternoon in order to present to the country, on the first available occasion, his thoughts as Secretary of State on how this Bill will operate. I say that in no way belittling the hon. and learned Gentleman. This is a very important debate, despite either the length of the Bill or the length of the debate.

I am grateful for the manner in which the right hon. Gentleman makes his point. I am happy to say that my right hon. and learned Friend has the same confidence in me that the right hon. Gentleman has been kind enough to express. Be that as it may, I want to assure the House that all the arrangements pursuant to the Stockholm agreement are in the public domain. That is the area in which privileges and immunities are directly conferred by the Bill as drafted. Any matters that need to be considered, that are novel in relation to the INF agreement, can be considered when the affirmative resolution procedures come to the House. In the interests of preparing the ground for that, I am happy, consistent with the rules of order, to give such information as I can about the nature of the inspection regime. I was beginning to do so when we were taken into the interesting highways and byways that we have been following for the past few minutes.

Going back to an earlier point, the INF treaty itself will provide for the draw-down over a three-year period of all intermediate-range missiles, including those stationed at Greenham Common and Molesworth. Some six flights, consisting of 96 missiles, will be removed from Greenham and one flight consisting of 12 missiles from Molesworth. It is these two sites in the United Kingdom which will be liable to inspections, and these are the United States-operated facilities that I have already mentioned.

Under the terms of the treaty all the cruise missiles—I have given the numbers—will be eliminated within three years of the treaty coming into force.

There will be four types of inspection at Greenham Common and Molesworth. First of all, there will be a baseline inspection between 30 and 90 days of the treaty's entering into force, to verify the data exchange; secondly, there can be short-notice challenge inspections until missiles are eliminated, and inspections in the United Kingdom will be part of an annual quota of 20 such inspections in the three years of the elimination period; thirdly, close-out inspections, when all missiles have been eliminated; and, fourthly, continuing short-notice challenge inspections for 10 years after the end of the three-year period — in other words, extremely rigorous verification. It is, therefore, a period of 13 years altogether.

I understand from the details of the treaty which are published in The Daily Telegraph today that there is to be a special verification commission. Will that come within the remit of this Bill, and will its members be able to come to any of the Royal Air Force bases in the United Kingdom that may be involved if there were a dispute over the question of verification?

As I understand the position—but I will write to my hon. Friend in more detail on this point—the purpose of the commission is to ensure that these arrangements are carried through smoothly, and all relevant assistance will be given to those who need to do that. Precise details of this, of course, and the arrangements under which they would come here remain to be worked out.

I should just like to make one point in relation to what I said about the flights at Molesworth. Contrary to what I said, it is 16 missiles at Molesworth, not 12.

As the hon. and learned Gentleman has had to correct himself, it would be helpful if, for the sake of clarity and for the information of the people in the country, he will tell us how many missiles will be removed from each site.

I gave the figures and I am sorry that the right hon. Gentleman, who either interrupts and ask questions or jibbers from a sedentary position, seems determined to be profoundly unhelpful. It is not a convincing performance. Ninety-six missiles will be removed from Greenham Common and 16 from Molesworth.

So far as the last category of short-notice inspections is concerned, there is an overall annual quota of 15 Soviet inspections for the first five years after elimination and 10 for the next five years. No more than 50 per cent. of the inspections can be made in any one basing country.

All inspections in the United Kingdom will begin with the arrival of a Soviet aircraft at RAF Greenham Common, and a maximum of 10 Soviet inspectors will be involved.

There are strict time limits. A single inspection could last for up to 90 hours from entry into the United Kingdom to departure, but most will be shorter than this. United Kingdom authorities will be informed immediately by the United States of Soviet requests for inspection. As little as one hour's notice will be given to clear a Soviet flight plan. How soon after this Soviet inspectors will arrive will depend on the point of their departure. United Kingdom and United States officials will jointly meet the aircraft carrying the Soviet inspection team and will form part of a permanent escort of Soviet inspectors during the period of inspection.

All inspection personnel will require United Kingdom visas. Inspectors will be drawn from a list approved in advance, about which the United Kingdom will be consulted. United Kingdom customs procedures will apply at the point of entry and British officials will then join their United States counterparts in examining equipment introduced for the purposes of inspections, to ensure that it is within the agreed limit.

I shall not give way to the hon. Gentleman.

While carrying out their inspection duties, the inspection personnel will be granted privileges and immunities. It is for this purpose that the Government will seek an Order in Council to apply the terms of the Bill to INF inspectors. These privileges and immunities will be consistent with, and in some respects more limited than, those granted by the Vienna convention on diplomatic relations of April 1964, and they will be set out in an annex to the basing country agreement, which will be made available to the House shortly, together with the INF treaty and protocols and the United Kingdom-Soviet exchange of notes.

Although the negotiations are behind us, we cannot, nor should we, put the INF agreement out of our minds. It must be ratified by the United States Senate. We Europeans must leave the United States Congress in no doubt about our support. It must be implemented and the verification provisions must be shown to work. We and he other European basing countries will be closely involved in this. This process will provide the backdrop to future arms control negotiations. We hope that this will cover 50 per cent. reductions in strategic weapons, eliminating the conventional imbalance and achieving a global ban on chemical weapons.

The Government hope that the INF agreement signals a sea change in the prospects for realistic, multilateral, verifiable disarmament. We shall play our part in ensuring that the opportunities offered by it are exploited to the full. Successful arms control can help to build trust and confidence between East and West. Verification of arms control arrangements through on-site inspection is a tangible piece of glasnost. The Bill will facilitate this and I have no hestitation in commending it warmly to the House in the hope that it will receive a speedy passage in the other place.

4.55 pm

I apologise to the House because, if the debate goes beyond 6 pm, I shall be unable to remain for the closing stages. I have to take part in a public encounter with the right hon. Member for Chingford (Mr. Tebbit), during which we shall no doubt discuss the Bill.

I repeat, in the same spirit in which I made an earlier intervention, that it is wrong that the Foreign Secretary is not here to tell the House how the Bill will operate under the INF treaty. It is particularly offensive because he has distributed to every hon. Member a letter, via the Letter Board, in which he talks about making an early statement. This letter is the early statement. It is offensive to the House of Commons that the Foreign Secretary should write a circular letter to individual Members of Parliament, rather than stand at the Dispatch Box and answer questions across the Floor of the House, which is what parliamentary democracy is about.

The Minister has given us some details of the verification procedures under which the inspectors will be operating, under the privileges and immunities conferred by the Bill. It is a long-term piece of legislation, even under the first of the Orders in Council. Ten years plus three years makes 13 years, which will take us into the 21st century. If we get a strategic arms reduction treaty within the next few months, as all hon. Members hope, that will be taken further as the verification proceeds and as more inspectors are given the privileges and immunities under the Bill to carry out that verification.

We are not being provided with the information required to debate the Bill adequately. The Minister has told us how many missiles will be moved from Greenham Common and Molesworth. He has had to correct himself, although I do not blame him for that. On a matter such as this, the Minister must be briefed, and there was a mistake in the briefing which aroused some uncertainty about the accuracy of the material. Several newspapers —I have here The Guardian and The Daily Telegraph—make estimates about the number of missiles.

The Bill will be enacted by Parliament and will operate on our soil—that is particularly true in the cases of the two constituencies involved which are represented by Conservative Members — yet we were given the information about the number of missiles to be inspected under the scope of the Bill after the Soviet Union had been given the information. It is unacceptable that a foreign country, involved in a treaty to which we are not party, should be given information about how the Bill will work before the House of Commons, which is being asked to enact the measure, receives such information.

Until the Secretary of State for Defence told the House the other day, we did not know that there were missiles at Molesworth which will be inspected. The Soviet Union knew about that before the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, into whose constituency these missiles were surreptitiously slipped. It is not possible for the House properly to debate the Bill. As a Parliament, we are making a law and conferring powers on people from overseas who will be given privileges. It is totally unacceptable that we should be asked to debate a Bill without simple statistical material being given to Parliament before it is given to the Communist party of the Soviet Union.

Secondly, I say again, as I said on a point of order when I intervened in the Minister's speech, we are conferring privileges and immunities which will operate under the Bill. The Minister is mistaken in saying that they will operate under the order and that therefore we have no locus to debate that today, because the order-making power is made by clause 1(2) of the Bill. Until we pass the Bill and until it is given Royal Assent, no order-making power will be available. That being so, for us to discuss what will happen under an order which the Minister has already said the Government intend to make under the Bill when it is enacted is germane to our discussion. Therefore, the Government should have postponed this debate for a few days so that we could have had the two key documents — the inspection protocol under the treaty, and the basing country agreement.

The Minister says that there is not a clean text, but there is a text of the treaty which contains, or has added to it, the protocol under which the Bill will be triggered. Before the Bill came before the House of Commons for Third Reading, the Government should at any rate have laid the inspection protocol before the House so that we might know under what terms the privileges and immunities will be conferred.

The Minister said that later this week the Government will sign the one document to which they are a party—the basing country agreement. I say again, these privileges and immunities are being conferred under the Bill in accordance with the basing country agreement, to which the Government will be a signatory. The Government must surely have that document in their possession. It must have gone through the Ministers' boxes and through the Prime Minister's box. I cannot imagine that such a major agreement would not have been thoroughly inspected throughout the Foreign Office, the Ministry of Defence, the Prime Minister's Private Office and the Cabinet Office. I cannot imagine that it has not been available for weeks now. It may not have been available in final form, but the drafts must have been going through those various offices. It is unacceptable that we should confer on people from other countries powers to carry out inspections in constituencies represented by Members of the House without our being able to see the basing country agreement under which they will operate.

I do not want to spoil the right hon. Gentleman's debating point. I simply say to him again that no power is provided in the Bill until an Order in Council is laid and until there is a debate in the House and an affirmative resolution is passed. By that time, all the documents will be available. I am sorry to disappoint the right hon. Gentleman on one matter. It is right that at every material point the text, as it affects the United Kingdom, has been subject to the most scrupulous examination, but the idea that a clean, or even a substantial, copy of the treaty must be available for weeks is wide of the mark. The negotiators were working until the day before the treaty was signed and completed, and that is the basis upon which all this has been done. As I made clear in Committee, it was a race against time to finish it. When the clean text is available, it will be shown to the House. The right hon. Gentleman is sufficiently good at finding good points that he does not need to dwell on what I am afraid is a bad one.

It is a bad point only because the Minister misheard what I said. I was not talking about the treaty. Clearly the treaty has not gone through all those offices and been gone over in the way that I described—although I would have hoped that the Prime Minister might have had a peek at it before she entertained Mr. Gorbachev. I hope that she saw the treaty before she saw the lunch menu at Brize Norton.

I was referring not to the treaty but to the basing country agreement — the document to which either the Foreign Secretary or the Secretary of State for Defence, or possibly both, will append their signatures. That document must have been going through the Government machine for weeks. If it was not, the Government were damed irresponsible in not looking at it carefully since it relates to activities that will take place in Britain. That document, to which the Government are a party, should have come before the House of Commons and it should have been on the Table for us to see before the debate started.

The right hon. Gentleman is not doing himself justice. How can we lay before the House a document that has not yet been signed? He suggests that the basing country agreement has an existence independent of the principal treaty. That is true only in part. Of course, the basic formulation—the content—does not relate — [Interruption.] May I have the right hon. Gentleman's attention? It is difficult for him to hear what I say and for me to say what I want to say if I am subject to constant interruption. The right hon. Gentleman, as I know well enough after four years at the Home Office, does not need that much briefing.

The basing country agreement is available and known in its bare form, but its contents follow the contents of the inspection protocol, which is part of the principal document. Therefore, the basing country agreement cannot he concluded before the principal agreement and its inspection protocol are completed. All those arrangements fall together.

I am saying this in order to be helpful. If the only consequence is to stir up further recriminations, I shall not trouble further. In the hope that the right hon. Gentleman is concerned about the reality, I can tell him that he will get the document at the earliest opportunity, and that can only be after it has been signed tomorrow.

It is not satisfactory that the House of Commons should see a document, which is not controversial, only after it has been signed. The House of Commons has been asked before now to give its assent to treaties. It is a peculiar proposition that only when the Government have signed something should the sovereign Parliament of Britain be allowed— [Interruption] —Parliament is sovereign—to have a glimpse of it.

I had better explain this clearly to the Minister. He talks as though the order to which he refers with regard to clause 1(2) is an entity, complete, entire and free-standing. It is not. It is a subordinate piece of legislation made under the Bill when it becomes an Act and which cannot be made until that time. Therefore, it is completely relevant for us to refer to the potential content of an order which can be made only when the Bill receives Royal Assent.

I say this to the Government, I say it to the Minister, and I wish that I could say it to the Foreign Secretary who, I repeat, should be here. The Opposition completely support the Bill. There is no problem about it going through the House and there is no problem about it going through the House of Lords when it has completed its stages here. On the other hand, in so far as we are referring to the order-making power under subsection (2) with regard to this week's INF agreement, the Bill will not be triggered until the United States Senate has ratified the treaty. That means that, although we are perfectly happy to facilitate the Bill's passage, there is no tumbling hurry. The Bill could easily have been debated in the first week back after Christmas, when we would have had the relevant documents. As I said, the Government have seriously mishandled the matter. In addition, they have created a difficult position for the House of Commons.

I agree with the Minister when he praises the agreement. As I said on Second Reading, it is the most hopeful development for humankind since the atom bomb was exploded at Los Alamos in 1945. The Government are trying to dodge the implications of the agreement under which the Bill will operate. It is totally absurd for the Minister, and for the Foreign Secretary in his word-processed letter, to claim that somehow or other, what they call the twin-track approach is responsible for the treaty under which the Bill will be brought into action. The idea that the Russians are so terrified of 400 cruise missiles that they are ready to destroy 1,600 missiles gives us a very interesting sidelight on what the Government believe is the Russian inferiority complex. If the Russians have such an inferiority complex, I do not understand why the Government are so afraid of them. If the agreement under which the Bill is to operate were a tit-for-tat agreement, an agreement to destroy 400 for 400, or 1,600 for 1,600, the Government might have had some claim that the twin-track route had worked.

The agreement that will be policed in Britain under the Bill is a tribute to the good sense of the United States and the Soviet Union coming to a rational agreement that will benefit all. It has nothing to do with the Government allowing cruise missiles openly into Greenham Common and secretly into Molesworth. The Government had better get off the silly point—the only point on which they can hang their hat—of trying to pretend that somehow or other they had any role, except as a bystander, in an agreement under which the Bill will allow foreign observers and inspectors to come to Britain.

We are delighted that that is happening, but the fact that it is happening owes nothing whatsoever to the policies of the Government. Indeed, we all know that if the Prime Minister had had her way, she would have stopped the agreement coming into force.

We have been discussing properly the consequences for the implementation of the Bill of this week's INF agreement. The President of the United States and the General Secretary of the Communist party of the Soviet Union are this week in Washington — to our great satisfaction—continuing discussions which we all hope — and there seems to be a reasonable amount of optimism — will lead to a 50 per cent. reduction in strategic nuclear weapons—a giant step forward — in addition to the modest but epoch-making step forward which occurred this week.

Of course, the provisions of the Bill will stand to he implemented again if there is a START agreement, because the inspectors will be coming — with their privileges and immunities—under a separate and much wider arrangement. We have to consider the implications of a START agreement, in view of the fact that, under such an agreement, the Soviet inspectors will also be given the opportunity to come here. They cannot inspect Polaris, because Polaris is an independent British deterrent. We own the warheads and the missiles and we are capable of servicing them.

That will not be the case under the Trident agreement, because we will not own the Trident missiles. They will come from a pool at King's Bay, Gerogia. There will be implications for inspection if the United States reduces the number of its Trident missiles in King's Bay, Georgia, because such an inspection will include the inspection of our missiles when they go back for servicing. Even though we will not be a party to the agreement, the missiles which we are leasing from the United States for seven to eight years will go back to the pool at King's Bay, Georgia.

If the Soviet Union and the United States come to an agreement under which those missiles are reduced by half —as we all pray they will—the missiles temporarily in the possession of the United Kingdom, as our independent nuclear deterrent, will be subject to inspection at King's Bay, Georgia, under powers parallel to those in the Bill. That demonstrates the total emptiness and hypocrisy of the Government when they claim that the successor to Polaris will be an independent deterrent. It will be part of the American deterrent, which we will be allowed to borrow temporarily at a cost of £10 billion to the British taxpayer, and which, of course, we will never be able to use independently, if there is ever the folly for it to be used at all.

The Prime Minister is obsessed with the possession of nuclear weapons when the Soviet Union and the United States sensibly acknowledge the destructiveness of possessing such weapons. She is now a unilateral nuclear armer when the Soviet Union and the United States are becoming nucler disarmers—and all praise to them.

Although the Bill and the powers conferred by it demonstrate that the Government are merely spectators of the marvellous process that is taking place in the world they are in no way activists, catalysts or assistants to it.

No. These are my last two sentences and it will spoil the flow of my speech.

Although the Government demonstrate that they are out of step and out of date, in terms of world processes, the Bill fits well into the policies that the Labour party will be advocating throughout this Parliament and at the next general election. That is why we wholeheartedly welcome it.

5.16 pm

I am sorry that the right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman), for whom I have considerable respect, finds it so difficult to give more than a grudging welcome to the Bill, which is such a vital accompaniment to the INF treaty which marks the first reduction in nuclear weapons in the history of the world since 1945. Although it is a small Bill, in its own way it is extremely important. Since you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, have allowed the debate to go a little wider than the Bill itself, perhaps you will allow me to go a little wider, to the extent of putting my remarks into a context for which I believe the Bill allows.

I wish to remind the House that on 18 June 1980 the then Secretary of State for Defence told the House that cruise missiles were to be deployed at RAF Greenham Common and RAF Molesworth as NATO's response to the Soviet Union's deployment of SS20 missiles, and to the threat that those arms posed to Western European security.

On 15 November 1983, the first cruise missiles arrived at Greenham. Throughout the four years that have elapsed since then, the Government, their defence policy and my constituents have been under almost continuous attack from the Opposition, from CND and from those women who describe themselves as Greenham peace women, who have had a squalid encampment at Greenham Common regardless of the nuisance that they knew they were causing to my constituents. Those three groups — the Opposition, CND and the Greenham peace women —have tried to inform the nation that they are the people who care about peace, disarmament and humanity.

Order. I have allowed the hon. Member a preamble, but he must now relate his remarks to the Bill.

I was about to do that, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Those groups argued that we on these Benches and our American and NATO allies were the warmongers determined to maintain the arms race. Today, four years later, the Government have brought forward the Arms Control and Disarmament (Privileges and Immunities) Bill for its Third Reading.

The Third Reading comes at a fortunate time, because it means that the INF treaty, can be implemented as soon as it is ratified by the United States Senate and the Supreme Soviet, and that those who are to be authorised observers for the Soviet Union will have diplomatic immunity to enable them to discharge their duties. As a result of the Bill and the INF treaty, we in west Berkshire will no doubt be welcoming Russian personnel, as we have welcomed American service men, on the same basis as we accepted cruise missiles — to play our part in maintaining the peace and security of Europe.

As I understand it from the outline of the INF treaty printed in today's Daily Telegraph—nobody has suggested that that outline is inaccurate — under article 11 observers will be arriving at RAF Greenham Common and RAF Molesworth within 30 days, and not later than 90 days, after the treaty comes into force. The outline of the treaty in the Daily Telegraph states:
"each party shall have the right to mount 20 inspections a year in the first three years, 15 in the next five and 10 in the last five."
Since the article also states that the right to inspect applies not only to Molesworth and Greenham Common, but to support facilities — and clearly effective verification must involve those facilities—can my hon. and learned Friend give any indication of how many establishments in the United Kingdom are likely to be involved? Will all those who come from the Soviet Union be accompanied wherever they go by RAF personnel?

The Bill refers to inspectors, observers and auxiliary personnel, all of whom will enjoy diplomatic privilege. My hon. and learned Friend the Minister seemed to suggest that that would not mean an increase in Soviet personnel in the United Kingdom who enjoy diplomatic immunity. Has the Soviet embassy stated whether it will want to increase its staff by the numbers suggested in the Stockholm agreement, or are all observers, inspectors and auxiliary personnel to be flown in and out to perform their verification duties without any long-term residence in the United Kingdom? Perhaps that last question is peripheral to the Bill.

Nobody will argue that effective verification is anything but essential to the INF agreement. The Bill shows that the United Kingdom is willing to play a full part in that. It will involve Soviet inspections of INF missile deployment sites in the United Kingdom, and it underlines the fact that the Government are working in close consultation with the United States. The United States will be responsible to the Soviet Union for obligations in the treaty, but United Kingdom sovereignty and security will be fully respected through the agreements with the United States and the Soviet Union to which my hon. and learned Friend referred.

I said that the Bill was an essential accompaniment to the INF arms agreement. We all appreciate that that arms agreement is a good deal for NATO. We will lose missiles and launchers capable of delivering fewer than 400 warheads. The Soviet Union will surrender similar systems capable of delivering almost 1,600 warheads. We will accomplish more than we set out to accomplish when we demanded in 1979 that the Soviets withdraw their SS20s from Europe.

In addition, the Bill provides for effective verification, including, for the first time, on-site inspections in the Soviet Union. Because the INF treaty requires the elimination of an entire class of nuclear weapons, verification will he made easier. The treaty and the Bill vindicate the difficult decision to deploy intermediate range missiles taken by NATO in 1979. It will prove conclusively that strength, not appeasement, influences Soviet behaviour. As such, it should guide Western defence strategy and serve as a model for future arms negotiations. I commend the Bill and its intentions.

5.24 pm

I welcome the Bill, as do hon. Members on both sides of the House. I thank the Minister for his co-operation. After the first session in Committee, at which we had to force information out of him by long speeches, he did co-operate and gave many details to the Committee about the various stages of negotiations as they were taking place. He gave the Committee and the House some worthwhile information.

The Bill is about privileges and immunities for Soviet inspectors who, will inspect INF missile sites on United Kingdom territory. You said earlier, Mr. Deputy Speaker —I noted it down—that it would he all right to make a passing reference to the INF document. In my preamble I should like to make some reference to that document, which was signed in Washington by the United States and Soviet Union.

Order. I did say that, but the emphasis was very much on the word "passing".

Yes, indeed.

The treaty is a welcome beginning. The Foreign Secretary and the Secretary of State for Defence sent a joint letter to all hon. Members prior to this debate, obviously to influence the debate. In that letter they call the treaty a historic agreement because for the first time ever the number of nuclear weapons in the world will be reduced by treaty. We are not sure of the figures, but I believe that the world's stockpile of nuclear weapons will be reduced by between 3 and 7 per cent. That is a welcome start, but we have to move on to further reductions, not increases.

The Minister and the hon. Member for Newbury (Mr. McNair-Wilson) said that the agreement came from strength. I do not believe that. The agreement came about for various reasons. One of those reasons was overkill. There is a vast number of nuclear weapons in the world. I believe that there are 60,000 with a capacity that greatly exceeds that of the bomb that destroyed Hiroshima. Another reason is the pressure applied by the peace movement and the Greenham peace women. They have applied continual pressure on Governments, to which they have had to respond. Another reason is the over-stretched and crumbling economy of the Soviet Union and the West. There is pressure on those economies mainly because of the burden of defence spending.

The joint letter from the Foreign Secretary and the Secretary of State for Defence says that the agreement
"shows the possibility of negotiating an effective means of checking that neither party to an arms agreement is able to cheat."
That is right. Verification is about checking to ensure that there is no cheating. Therefore, I welcome the rigorous verification process. It is the most rigorous that we have yet seen in an international agreement. However, I should like to see more details about that process.

The Foreign Secretary and the Secretary of State for Defence referred in their letter to cheating. It is important that neither the Soviet Union nor the West cheats on the agreement. As has been said, the Bill facilitates the INF agreement. Therefore, it was disturbing to see the Secretary of State for Defence at Monterey looking for ways around the treaty, for compensatory measures, and for what the Prime Minister calls modernisation, but which is really an increase in nuclear weaponry outside the INF agreement. Cheating is outside the spirit of the INF agreement.

The Secretary of State for Defence had meetings with his French counterpart to consider the Eurobomb. The Eurobomb would be a worrying development, and I hope that the Government will not go along with it.

The Secretaries of State were right to talk about cheating in the context of the Bill. I hope that the verification process, especially with the use of satellites and other high technology, will stop cheating. But cheating will stop if both sides approach the matter in the spirit that brought about the agreement in the first place.

The Minister mentioned the 96 missiles at Greenham Common and the 16 missiles at Molesworth. I understand that many missiles, particularly those at Molesworth, were installed only last week. They were rushed in so that they would be in place before the INF agreement was signed. That was wrong and a waste of money. I asked a question about the cost of Molesworth and Greenham to NATO and the British Government. The figure is £174 million. What a monstrous waste of money. Missiles have been at Greenham for only four years.

Order. The hon. Gentleman is straying wide of the Third Reading debate. He was addressing his remarks to inspections and inspectors" powers. He is straying from that matter now. He must refer to the Bill.

The point that I want to make is that the missiles at Greenham and Molesworth, which are subject to verification and inspection by Soviet inspectors, will be in place for a maximum of another three years. I put it to the Minister that they should be taken out as soon as possible to prevent the waste of any more money. The Government are just throwing money down the drain.

I wished to raise a matter by way of intervention, but the Minister would not allow me to do so because he was concluding his remarks. He referred to the lists of inspectors, over which Her Majesty's Government will have a say. That remark raised a serious worry. Presumably, expulsions could take place. They have taken place in regard to other diplomatic lists. There is a tit-for-tat aspect, and it would be worrying if it arose out of the arrangements and applied to inspectors. If we expel some of the Soviet inspectors, and if the Soviets expel some of the United States inspectors, what will happen to the treaty and the verification arrangements? I realise that the matter is hypothetical, but it is not so outrageously hypothetical that that could not happen. It is appropriate for the Minister to respond to that point. I hope that such expulsions will not take place. President Reagan said "trust but verify". I hope that we can have trust and verification.

There was discussion in Committee about the need to ratify the treaty in the Senate. We pressed the Foreign Secretary to urge the Prime Minister to tell recalcitrant conservative Senators that they should ratify the treaty without delay. We have still not had a response from the Prime Minister. I hope that the Foreign Secretary will say how his discussions with the Prime Minister have gone on that matter. It is about time that we had a statement in clear, unequivocal language from the Prime Minister that she will not give conservative Senators a hostage to fortune and will say that the treaty should be ratified without delay.

Conservative Members cannot claim triumph for the treaty. It is a treaty between the United States and the Soviet Union. Any claims about triumph, particularly in respect of cruise missiles, sound hollow. Conservative Members are saying that they had put cruise missiles at Greenham Common and Molesworth. That is where the inspections will be held and to take them out and put them at, perhaps, Holy Loch if they are air-launched in order to get around the agreement does not sound like much of a triumph to me. It would have been a triumph if the Government had included British-owned nuclear weapons in the process. They could then have been subject to similar verification procedures. If the Trident system, which has a minimum of 512 warheads more than Polaris's 128, had been scrapped, or at least brought into the verification process, that would be a triumph.

I welcome the treaty and the verification process. It is important that the Government become involved in arms reduction and do not stand aside, as they have done, by not involving British-owned nuclear weapons. They must become part of the arms reduction process.

5.36 pm

Conservative Members have been amazed at the churlish way in which Opposition Members are reluctant to congratulate not only my hon. and learned Friend the Minister but also the Prime Minister on the significant role that she played in acting as a go-between for the two super-powers. It was only obvious that NATO consulted our own Peter Carrington and that the Prime Minister was kept fully informed at all levels by the Soviet side and the United States side.

The shadow Foreign Secretary was wrong on one point. He said that the treaty must be ratified by the Congress and by the Senate. It must also be ratified by the Supreme Soviet. Mr. Gorbachev himself is not so confident that he can get ratification just on the nod. He is making tremendous progress in his own country. He put forward a plan that could not be visualised even a year ago. He is moving carefully forward. The churlishness of Opposition Members could not reflect on his performance in his country. We must watch that we do not expect too much from Mr. Gorbachev. When he succeeds, we must be wholeheartedly behind him in what is the most difficult job any Russian General Secretary has ever had to do.

The Bill must act almost as a photocopy for other countries that have cruise and Pershing missiles on their soil. I refer, for example, to Holland, Germany and Italy. The more rational way to play the verification process is to make sure that the cruise and Pershing missiles that were flown in by the United States air force are flown to one central verification point. It is nonsense that there will be many verification points throughout Europe. At the moment we are concerned only with Europe. The missiles concerned are movable and adaptable to air freight transport.

I should have thought that, if only for simplicity and the maximum use of limited manpower, a verification team could be used at a verification centre. It emerged in Committee that inspectors and observers are not numerous and have not had much work to do. Even the verification staff of the Western European Union have not had a lot of work to do on the verification of stockpiles of weaponry. There must be some co-operation between the countries that have used cruise and Pershing, so that there can be a verification centre.

I am worried especially about the number of inspectors and observers who will be available. Up to now, we have been talking only about Russian inspectors and observers. We know from experience that they will be existing diplomatic staff from the various embassies throughout Europe. Indeed, they will probably have a dual role as members of the KGB and inspectors or observers. However, we do not know; that is one of the little problems that one encounters when dealing with the complete change of heart that Mr. Gorbachev has brought about.

Verification by human beings must be backed up substantially by verification by satellite. This is probably not the debate to raise this, but we have heard little or nothing about the percentages and performances of verification by satellite. That is important, because all the missiles in the verification process are extremely movable. At a moment's notice, they can be dispatched from one end of Europe to another. I am thinking especially about behind the iron curtain. In our future debates we need to know exactly how effective is satellite verification and the sort of processes that will be involved. We need to know about accuracy and the state of our existing satellites for high definition verification.

Order. As the hon. Gentleman has rightly said, that is not the subject of this debate.

I raised a query in Committee about verification by human beings, but I am not completely reassured. Although my hon. Friend had obviously done his best, the question that I asked is hypothetical. It concerned the number of countries and the numbers of back-up staff to the inspectors and observers who would be involved in the verification process. Many people are afraid that hundreds of iron curtain warriors will tread the by-lanes of Newbury and Molesworth. I have also heard it said that they will sit at the gates with the peace women. I hope that that is not true, because I can see all sorts of national problems in that. Knowing the numbers of nuclear warheads that will have to be verified and dismantled — no-one has yet mentioned dismantling, although it is in the Bill—we need to know the number of people who will be required to carry out the inspection and dismantling process.

I have been conscious that, if one considers the problem as a quid pro quo, it would not work out. We are giving up 400 nuclear warheads, but it is a statement of fact that the USSR will give up about 1,600 warheads. We do not know whether the warheads that the Soviet Union is to give up are at the end of their life span. The SS20, for example, has been a major weapon in Eastern Europe for some considerable time. We do not know—although the figures are out of balance — whether the equivalent destruction values are approximately the same. It might be as well to know those things, as that would certainly hearten those who are a little in doubt, such as Opposition Members, who have been terribly nervous about it. They seem to think that the balance is wrong and that perhaps we should give up 1,600 nuclear weapons to balance those 1,600 SS20s.

The main thrust of the Bill does not go into great detail on what the INF agreement is about. We are told that that is in the Daily Telegraph and, apparently, The Independent has an extremely good article on it. I am pleased to see that the shadow Front Bench read the better press because that is another move to the middle ground. The Daily Telegraph has always been my favourite reading and I am pleased that it is also the favourite reading of the shadow Foreign Secretary.

At no time in Committee did we mention that we did not have a draft INF agreement before us. We did not go into the nitty-gritty. We considered the positive plan to give diplomatic immunity to those people who will have to verify. I know that my hon. Friend the Minister enjoys a tremendous reputation in Europe for being on top of his job, especially in this area. We have talked almost constantly about the Russians coming into the United Kingdom, but we could say the same about the Russians going into Holand, Germany or Italy.

However, what will be the diplomatic immunities for those who will have to go behind the iron curtain? I am thinking, for example, of the travel restrictions there. We do not have such restrictions in Europe. Inspectors and observers behind the iron curtain will be closeted all the time and we should consider that fact. I was going to say that they may be followed by men in large trilbies and long black leather overcoats. However, when I watched my television last night, I realised that they were all in Washington, so that danger does not exist.

We are too myopic when considering conditions for the inspectors and observers. I hope that many will be inspectors and observers from the Western European Union. I always boost that wonderful institution, which has been involved in the verification process for many years. I hope that we shall go further and find out exactly what plans and immunities are being put forward to safeguard the inspectors and observers who come from western Europe.

5.48 pm

In Committee I had the pleasure of joining my hon. Friends in pressing the Minister on several points. Today is clearly the day on which, I hope, the Minister will gibe some concrete answers. Like all hon Members who have spoken, I welcome the treaty and therefore, this measure that follows directly from it—that we should have inspectors in this country to determine the fact that intermediate nuclear weapons will have left the country. As one of the people who believe that the peace movement contributed substantially to that process, I want to welcome it warmly.

I should like to ask the Minister whether he believes that the political climate has anything to do with building trust and confidence. I believe that it has and that the issue is not simply one of the technical measures before us.

Again, I press the Minister to tell us that the Government will make it clear to the country that there is no intention to circumvent the INF treaty by permitting or bringing in air-launched or sea-launched intermediate weapons to substitute for those which we are trying to get rid of as a result of the treaty.

How will it be possible for the inspectors and observers to verify that we are keeping the agreement? How will it be possible for them to know that there have been no secret flights of United States planes into United States-controlled bases in Britain carrying air-launched cruise missiles? The United States has repeatedly flown missiles and nuclear warheads into the country. That is why what the Secretary of State told us this week about the missiles at Molesworth was such a revelation. It is clear that this House has not been privy to that information.

Therefore, I ask the Minister to make it clear how the Soviet inspectors would be in a better position to verify that no substituting warheads had been brought into Britain, when the House of Commons has signally failed to discover that information in the past.

The hon. Member for Newbury (Mr. McNair-Wilson) referred to the right to inspect support facilities, and I trust that the Minister will be specific about that. I am aware that, at times, there has been controversy about the use of RAF Welford and RAF Alconbury in connection with the storage of warheads for cruise missiles and the movement of convoys from the main bases of Greenham and Molesworth to those locations. If confidence and trust is to be built up, it must be clear to the Soviets that missiles have not been taken out of the main bases and put somewhere else.

The Minister said that the agreement was triangular, but I find that difficult to accept. I believe that, given what has been said by representatives of Her Majesty's Government, they have not welcomed the moves that ultimately led to the INF treaty. That treaty has been negotiated between the Soviet Union and the United States. We are all aware that the Prime Minister went to Washington to urge the President not to make a deal with Mr. Gorbachev. That will not be forgotten by the House or the British people.

I am sorry to intrude upon fantasy land —to do so is probably a pointless operation— hut the hon. Lady has only to look at the document that I read out in Committee — the communique regarding the Prime Minister's meeting last November with President Reagan, in which the two leaders committed themselves to an INF agreement—to see that what she has just said is nonsense.

Order. It is not for me to say whether we are in fantasy land, but we are in great danger of going beyond the rules of order.

Not at all: I stand by the point that I made.

Subsequent to that communique, the Prime Minister has said that there has been enough nuclear disarmament. That is clearly contrary to the views of the President of the United States and the General Secretary—

Order. The hon. Lady is now going very wide of the Bill. We are on Third Reading. I realise that the hon. Lady has not been here long, but on Third Reading it is in order to refer only to what is in the Bill.

I am learning fast. I was trying to respond to the points made by the Minister, but let me conclude my questions.

The Minister has referred to the granting of visas to the Soviet inspectors, and he gave a clear indication that it would be possible for Britain—indeed, that would be correct — to refuse permission for any particular individual to enter this country. Under the agreement that is yet to be signed—the basing country agreement—will the United Kingdom retain any right to veto a Soviet inspection per se? Will the issue of the timing of inspections, the numbers and so on entirely rest on agreement between the United States and the Soviet Union? Are there any specific arrangements by which Britain will contribute inspectors to visit the Soviet Union under the terms of the agreement that has been reached?

5.54 pm

I support the Bill because I believe that it is a testimony to the policies of this Government, the United States Government and the Governments of our NATO allies. That policy is the prudent pursuit of multilateral and verifiable disarmament. There were many reasons for entering into negotiations, but when one considers the international situation that prevailed in 1984, one realises that one of the prime reasons was that the NATO Alliance was not prepared to be browbeaten. NATO intended to match weapon increases with weapon increases. It did not intend to be bullied and would negotiate only from a position of strength. I believe that, without the deployment of cruise and Pershing missiles, and without the mere threat of the American strategic defence initiative, it is unlikely that the Soviet Union would have negotiated on a serious basis about serious disarmament.

The Prime Minister, my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary and my hon. and learned Friend deserve credit. I do not believe that it gets us anywhere when the Opposition refuse to give such credit.

We are about to enter a tremendous era of disarmament, and things that were undreamed of a year or two ago are now before us. We have been given a chance, and it is wrong for people to decry the tremendous efforts that have been made by the Western Governments. Our Government were a key element in the negotiations, and I wonder how far the United States would have gone to reach such an agreement if Britain had disagreed with such negotiations taking place.

Order. I hope that the hon. Gentleman is coming to the end of his preamble and will now address his remarks to the Bill.

I especially support this treaty because I believe that it heralds a new epoch—the first nuclear disarmament in history. Although the INF treaty does not have great significance for the military balance, it is a trend setter. However, one bad trend may be over-expectation.

A key point in prudent, multilateral, verifiable disarmament is trust. The key elements of that trust are verification and integrated, balanced agreement. Obviously we must not consider that nuclear balance or nuclear disarmament is a good thing if there is a massive imbalance in conventional, biochemical and space weapons. All disarmament must be considered integrated, multilateral and verifiable.

The Bill covers four main elements of verification. Many of the INF weapons are mobile—this is especially true of the Soviet weapons—and it is vital to have on-site inspection. We cannot rely exclusively on space-based surveillance. I also approve of the short notice challenge system. If we are to have on-site inspection, it is vital that we give diplomatic privileges to the personnel in those inspction teams.

It is understandable—I know that it comes in a trend —that because of terrorist actions in London and other countries we are trying to cut back on diplomatic privilege for one reason or another. I also support that. This is an extenuating circumstance, and we should think constructively of extending privileges for these inspctors. They need protection, and they also need to be afforded efficient passage. Life in the Soviet Union is very different from life in western Europe, and the ability of people to move about freely is a different concept. We must strive to make sure that the privileges that we grant by passing the Bill—I hope that it will be passed tonight—are reciprocated by the other side, not only in writing, but in real intent and practice. Our inspectors should be afforded the same ease of movement as we afford to people from the Soviet Union while they are in the United Kingdom.

I agree with the need for site verification, but what about out of sight on-ground verification? With regard to diplomatic privileges afforded to Soviet teams coming here to places such as Greenham Common, which is close to my constituency, will Soviet teams come to what would have been considered possible launch sites, and even the routes to launch sites, of cruise missiles in the Winchester and Alton area? Likewise, will we be afforded those privileges —if they are granted—on the other side? Will the on-site inspections be restricted to the base, or will we be allowed to look at possible launch sites and routes to them?

Another key element of verification—the third—is dismantling. The breakdown and disposal of the missiles is the key to the verification process — especially dismantling. Where and how will they dispose of all those materials? It is paramount that our inspection teams are afforded full access to ensure that that is properly done. It is no use looking at empty sites if the missiles, or even the missile material, are available either for immediate deployment or quick assembly in other areas to which the inspection teams do not have right of access. Dismantling is a key element that I would like my hon. and learned Friend to cover this evening.

The fourth key element that I want to discuss is that of intent. One must build up verification. One cannot see everything in the world, especially when looking at missiles such as these. Intent is important. We see the Soviet Union agreeing to the treaty, but at the same time we see it modernising its military forces — fewer troops, more high-tech forces—and moving from labour-intensive to capital-intensive armed forces. And this is at a time when the United States appears to be over-extended, not only in diplomatic terms of granting visas, but in budget terms. If there are cuts in the United States budget deficit, they may well end up as defence cuts in American deployments to western Europe. I find that worrying, because I see a possible imbalance under the INF treaty, which throws even more weight on the verification, which must be extended to looking at Soviet intent. Obviously my hon. and learned Friend cannot comment on that this evening, but I hope that he will take the point on board.

I fully support the Bill and the measures outlined in it. It is a short Bill, but vitally important. It will be relatively easy to explain to our constituents the fact that Soviet personnel will be landing here. That is a strange, but not a bad, thing. Indeed, it is a good thing, because the era that it unfolds is one of genuine nuclear disarmament—the beginnings, the first steps. I am all for that. I want to emphasise to my hon. and learned Friend that I hope the reciprocal arrangements made on the other side will be not only in black and white on paper but in reality. Given the different type of environment and the huge expanses of some of the areas in the Soviet Union, I hope that we will have a matched verification ability, which will be the key ingredient in the whole matched INF agreement, which I entirely support.

6.5 pm

The Bill is designed to implement the Stockholm agreement to build up confidence measures between the United States and the Soviet Union. For that purpose, privileges and immunities are being conferred on inspectors. However, the House tonight — not unnaturally — is concentrating on clause 1(2), under which, under an Order in Council approved by the House through the affirmative procedure, the immunities and privileges can be extended. Quite rightly, the House is looking forward to dealing with those orders to implement the INF treaty, which has been brought about by the bold and courageous leadership of Mr. Gorbachev. I hope that the Minister does not want to disagree with that, because the Prime Minister, who used those words when she met Mr. Gorbachev during refuelling at Brize Norton, would sack him if he did. Therefore, we must recognise that we will be concentrating on clause 1(2). It is right that that should be so: it is an important step forward.

I do not think the Prime Minister can claim much credit, as she has gained an international reputation as a defender of nuclear weapons. She may have had a couple of telephone calls from someone in NATO — such as Peter Carrington—or from someone else, to tell her how the negotiations were going, but she can claim no credit for this INF agreement. The Minister is muttering from a sedentary position. In his winding-up speech he can tell us to what degree the Prime Minister has been involved. How many telephone calls has she had? How many discussions in the negotiations has she had? Of course the Minister cannot answer that.

Order. I hope the hon. Gentleman will not invite the Minister to do that, because, were he to be tempted along that road, he would be out of order.

I said what I said in passing, Mr. Deputy Speaker, because the Minister is muttering under his breath the whole time. I feel constrained under that sort of provocation to make some sort of comment on the rubbish that the Minister is muttering under his breath; but I take your guidance, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and I shall resolutely ignore the tortuous nonsense that seems to be pouring from the Minister's lips in his sedentary position.

As regards clause 1(2) and the INF treaty with which we are primarily concerned, there should not be any cheating in the application of the treaty, because we are anxious to deal with the affirmative resolution under clause 1(2), and if there were any cheating, that clause would not be brought into operation. There have been suggestions that there might be a development of air or sea-launched cruise missiles to make up for the 112 missiles that the Minister claims would be removed under the treaty from Greenham Common and Molesworth. The Prime Minister has not made a clear statement about the position of air and sea-launched cruise missiles and their possible adoption to cheat on the INF agreement.

I am desperate to see another order under clause 1(2) of the Bill come before the House. As the order under the Bill is brought before the House and given its affirmative passage and the missiles are dismantled, under the verification procedures set out in the Bill and because of the immunities and privileges conferred on the inspectors, what will happen to Molesworth and Greenham Common? Will they be used for a productive use, such as growing wheat for Ethiopia? The Minister laughs, but the then Secretary of State for Defence went to Molesworth with 2,000 police officers and more troops than stormed Goose Green to evict 16 peace people because they were growing wheat for Ethiopia. I do not want to go along that path, but I say that by way of explanation.

As the verification procedures are carried out and the missiles are sent packing back to the United States, where they belong, what sort of positive development will take place at Greenham Common and Molesworth? For example, will there be consultation with the Greenham Common peace women who, for many years, have stayed there against the sneers and taunts of the pin-striped hooligans who dominate the Conservative party? Those women went there and said that they would stay until the cruise missiles had gone. They have been proved right. The House is providing in legislation the verification mechanism that will carry out the belief that the Greenham Common women had when they went: many years ago to set up camp outside the Greenham Common gates. Despite all the dodges and harassment by the police and Army and the legislative dodges produced by the Government, those women have stuck to their task, and credit is due to them.

I look forward to the time when we have an order under clause 1(2) for verification procedures that will allow inspectors to come to Britain to check that we have got rid of Trident. The Minister mutters sedentary nonsense about the Prime Minister not being a warmonger. Perhaps he will tell us why we are keeping Trident when we are all supposed to be pleased that nuclear weapons are to be eliminated. I offer an opportunity to the Minister. If he believes in market forces, why does he not apply market forces to Trident? If he did, we would use all the more rapidly the legislation in the Bill.

Why does the Minister not put Trident out to flag-day collections and use the £11 billion for something more useful? If the market will not give him the money, we could establish verification procedures under orders under the Bill. People could then come to Britain and see that we had got rid of Trident and were joining the 121 non-nuclear nations that have signed the United Nations nonproliferation treaty renouncing nuclear weapons. If we did that, we would be joining the majority of the world's nations, and that is an important development for which the legislation provides.

Quite properly, the House is dealing at some length with the intermediate nuclear force provisions under clause 1(2) of the Bill. It is a small first step, but it is welcome in all parts of the House. However, it represents only an 8 per cent. reduction in the total number of nuclear warheads that are available to exterminate civilization— [Interruption.] The Minister mutters that it is 3 per cent. Various newspapers have suggested that the number of warheads is larger than was at first thought because there has been a certain amount of deception about the number of warheads in this category that have been deployed. That would not be surprising, because time and again the Ministry of Defence has deceived the House about the number of operational United States bases in Britain. If there has been a sleight of hand, an economy with the truth, over the number of missiles, that would not be startling. Even if it is only the 3 per cent. that the Minister claims and not the 8 per cent. that some newspapers claim, it is at least a step in the right direction and is welcomed by everybody.

It is not a giant step; it is a modest step brought about in large measure by the bold and courageous leadership of Mr. Gorbachev. The Prime Minister said that at Brize Norton. We must not argue about negotiations from strength, of which the hon. Member for Newbury (Mr. McNair-Wilson) spoke. He said that by keeping our nuclear weapons we forced the Soviet Union to the negotiating table. That is a peculiar argument and does not comply with the information provided by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in a letter sent to all hon. Members. It sent a letter instead of sending a Minister to the House to make a statement, as any democratic Minister should do. The letter says:

"under this INF Treaty the Soviet Union will be giving up some 1,500 deployed nuclear warheads, nearly four times as many as the United States, removing the enormous Soviet advantage in this category of weapon".
Therefore, we have negotiated not from strength but from weakness.

In the negotiations we have achieved a success that has brought about an INF treaty with the Soviet Union, which has an enormous advantage in the number of warheads. That shows that there can be successful negotiations from weakness which will lead to the removal of a far greater number of nuclear weapons from the other side.

Is the hon. Gentleman trying to advance the argument that, if we had had no intermediate nuclear weapons, the SS20s would have been withdrawn anyway? Surely he does not mean that. He must accept my argument that, because NATO showed itself willing to deploy weapons of an equivalent type, the Soviet Union recognised that it would not be able to get away with nuclear superiority and that there was no point in pursuing that approach. The Soviet Union recognised that it would be better to remove its weapons if we removed ours.

Order. I am sure that the hon. Member for Bradford, South (Mr. Cryer) will come back to the Bill.

I should like to say something by way of explanation before I come to clause 1(2), which is the important part of the Bill. I say to the hon. Member for Newbury that the Soviet Union has always faced technological innovation by the West. It has been catching up all the time, but it has not had an overall nuclear weapons superiority. That is the sort of propaganda put about by NATO and the Ministry of Defence in order to justify their own position.

We shall never produce more orders under clause 1(2) for further verification inspection arrangements if we argue that we can only negotiate from strength. That is the essence of the arms race, in which each side says that it has to be stronger than the other or it will not be able to negotiate. How can we look in the eye the 121 non-nuclear nations that signed the United Nations non-proliferation treaty and tell them that they cannot have nuclear weapons, that having them is very foolish and we do not want to proliferate, if that is what we are doing?

It is important for us to start the procedure for dismantling Trident, and the Government should bring before the House an order under clause 1(2) by way of the affirmative procedure, for which the Bill provides, and say to the Soviet Union that we are joining it in demonstrating our emphasis on the need to get rid of nuclear weapons. We should say that we recognise the importance not of our peripheral nuclear weapons, but of the stockpiles held by the United States and the Soviet Union.

That is really why the INF treaty has been brought about. It is in place not because of the increase in the deployment of cruise missiles, but because the Soviet Union has recognised that it was the only way to end the arms race. It recognised the possible use of nuclear weapons either by accident or by design. Thank goodness the Soviet Union took the initiative of a test ban for 18 months and other important initiatives that have been met from time to time by the President of the United States. That is all to the good.

The major initiatives for the agreement came from the Soviet Union, because it recognised that at the end of the arms race there is a great danger that one or more weapons will be used by accident or design. That is why the peace movement poured out in its millions throughout Europe to demonstrate the fear that the end of the arms race would result in nuclear annihilation.

Order. I realise that the hon. Gentleman is doing his utmost to link his remarks to clause 1(2), but the link is now getting very thin.

I shall bring my remarks back to a solid base. I had intended to take only a few minutes, but Conservative Members have been muttering under their breath at me. As you will appreciate, Mr. Deputy Speaker, this acts as a provocation and I have had to defend myself against the pin-striped nuclear fanatics on the Conservative Benches—

The hon. Member for Stretford, who has taken his carpetbag and shifted elsewhere so that he can keep his seat, says that the Bill is the voice of appeasement. The verification inspection arrangements in clause 1(2) have been welcomed by Conservative Members, yet the hon. Member for Davyhulme (Mr. Churchill) has strolled into the Chamber and said that it represents appeasement, because he is fundamentally opposed to any sort of properly negotiated treaty, and the provisions of clause 1(2).

I am sorry that the hon. Gentleman should be so misinformed. I represent the same constituents as I have represented for the past 17 years, although the name of my constituency has changed, through no choice of mine. I have been in strong support of the verification provisions of the agreement. It has been solely thanks to the strong policies adopted by NATO and the Government that the agreement has been achieved, and no thanks to the policies of appeasement of the Labour party.

I am grateful, Mr. Deputy Speaker, for your indulgence in allowing me to say that the hon. Member for Davyhulme has wandered in at the close of the debate and slings out a word such as "appeasement", when he has no knowledge of what has gone on. I am pleased that he supports the legislation. I do not apply the term "appeasement" to this legislation. The Stockholm agreement on building confidence measures, at which the Bill is aimed, and the INF treaty, signed by Mr. Reagan and Mr. Gorbachev, are very important steps. If we are to invoke clause 1(2) to provide verification and inspection orders through the affirmative procedures of the Bill—the hon. Gentleman would not be familiar with that, but that is what the Bill contains—we must contribute to measures for peace by getting rid of Trident nuclear weapons, which represent an escalation in nuclear weaponry and are in breach of the solemn United Nations non-proliferation treaty that we have signed.

The Bill is a small but valuable step in the preservation of civilisation on our planet. It is recognised as an important step by the United States and the Soviet Union, but the steps must become larger if we are to get rid of the threat of a nuclear holocaust.

6.23 pm

I hope that the hon. Member for Bradford, South (Mr. Cryer) will forgive me if I do not follow him too closely. In his period of enforced absence, the hon. Gentleman's politics has not improved; now his remarks are even more extreme. He fails to recognise that the joint nuclear deterrent of East and West has kept world peace since the last war. The unique understanding between our Prime Minister and Mr. Gorbachev, which his leader could never have attained with Mr. Gorbachev has resulted in Mr. Gorbachev coming to Britain to see our Prime Minister and consult her before going to Washington to sign the historic intermediate nuclear forces agreement.

The Conservative Government, NATO and the West have been determined that at all times we should be armed and able to resist nuclear blackmail. That has resulted in the Russians being brought to the negotiating table, and 8 per cent. of the world's nuclear missiles have been negotiated away. The Government and the Prime Minister have every reason to congratulate themselves.

I refer to the verification provisions in clause 1(2). Much has been said about the welcome visitors who will come from behind the iron curtain to verify the removal and complete disestablishment of the nuclear missiles at Greenham Common and Molesworth. Have the Government given any thought to the extent to which the verification could take place by satellite? I understand that the missiles will be deactivated, which is quite a sophisticated job and will be carried out under the supervision of Soviet observers.

It may be possible that agreed sites in Britain, Europe or Russia could be deactivated and slit lengthwise, with all the nuclear fissionable material removed completely, but the equipment left there so that a spy satellite could check on it. Photography by spy satellites is so exact that it could check that the missiles not only are made ineffective under the inspection of the official visitors, but will remain ineffective for all time, hopefully as a rusting monument to the success of the negotiations.

I ask the Minister to tell the House, perhaps through the Order in Council, the number of persons who will be involved in verification. In this period of glasnost, when our relations with the Russians are very good, they would not be likely to send unpleasant people here under the cover of inspectors, but we must have some scrutiny by the team of visitors.

The Long Title of the Bill states that the visitors will be "observers or inspectors, and auxiliary personnel". We do not want to limit the number—other hon. Members and I believe that the more who come and the sooner they come, the better. Will the Minister tell us what the categories in the Long Title mean —although I suppose "observers" is obvious. Will he also tell us how many visitors will come and how long they will stay in Britain? I presume that they will visit the sites in Molesworth and Greenham Common. Will they stay here until the missiles are completely deactivated and rendered useless? Will they be accredited to the Russian embassy as part of the normal Russian detachment? I hope that my hon. Friend the Minister will tell us what is going to happen.

It is only two days since this wonderful treaty was signed. It would be helpful to know whether the observers who arrive for the purposes of verification will be officially accredited to the Russian embassy and whether they will reside there. Presumably the accredited number will swell while they are in this country, and when their welcome task is finished they will leave.

The Bill mentions the Orders in Council that are to be published. Has any date been set for the publication of these necessary and welcome orders? I understand that the usual process is that Orders in Council are debated and approved by the House. Is that likely to happen in January? If so, I would be grateful if my hon. Friend could tell us whether the Orders in Council will be produced in time for us to consider them before Christmas so that we can be ready for the debate early in the new year. It is a remarkable coincidence that we are debating the Bill today. Indeed, we could almost pay tribute to the party machine for that. It is a remarkable coincidence that we are debating the Bill at a time of international rejoicing, and I congratulate all concerned.

6.31 pm

A number of questions have been raised in the debate and no doubt the Minister will endeavour to reply to them. I have a few questions to ask. The Minister mentioned the treaty. He will understand that it is a voluminous document, containing 31 pages of treaty and 100 pages of what is described as a "memorandum of understanding" or an appendix. I am not sure whether the Minister said that a copy of the treaty would be deposited in the Library. I hope that he will make clear which documents will be deposited in the Library, preferably before the Order in Council is brought before the House.

Will a copy of the treaty be deposited? Will the 100 pages of appendix which I understand contain a certain amount of United States classified information—which will be available to the United States Senate — be deposited? The Minister referred to various other documents, including an agreement between us and the United States, which I understand is called a "basing" document — although I am not sure what that will include—and a exchange of notes between us and the Soviet Union. Which of those documents will be deposited in the Library so that they can be examined before the debate in the House on the Order in Council that will give effect to the verification procedures in respect of the INF treaty?

Questions were raised about the destruction of missiles and warheads. I understand that that destruction will not take place in Britain. Presumably that will happen in the United States. The warheads will be placed on aeroplanes and flown out just as they were flown in; the rockets will also be flown out. Will the Minister confirm that there will be no physical destruction in Britain? As this is within his knowledge, despite the fact that it will happen in the United States, will he confirm that the nuclear material in the warheads, both Russian and American, can be freely used for other nuclear weapons? As I understand it, the treaty does not provide for total disposal of the nuclear material. The material will be available to be used in other nuclear weapons or, if it is technically possible, for commercial nuclear purposes.

Several hon. Members referred to travel arrangements and asked whether the Russians would be allowed to travel. Will the Soviet inspectors be allowed to travel far from Newbury, or will they be stuck in Newbury — which is a pleasant place? When they travel around the country, will they have special branch officers travelling with them? What arrangements will be made for travelling? Will the inspectors be restricted to particular sites, or will they be allowed to travel?

There is no point in going over the arguments in the Bill again. It provides not only for the granting of immunities in respect of the Stockholm agreements, but, according to the Long Title, for
"arrangements for furthering arms control or disarmament."
Once the Bill is enacted, it will become the Act under which an Order in Council will be made in respect of the INF treaty. It will also establish the machinery to ensure other verification proposals for other treaties. I very much hope that there will be other arms reduction agreements that can be covered within the Act.

The Minister looked ahead to a 50 per cent. strategic arms reduction treaty and we all look forward to that. I believe that the verification problem has largely been cracked — I would not say solved — and the steps forward on verification contained in the INF treaty will make it easier to reach agreement on a 50 per cent. strategic arms reduction treaty. Verification will obviously be more difficult in START because not all the weapons will be destroyed; half will remain. The political impetus behind the INF verification agreement is a great step forward. It will make negotiation of START easier. Indeed, negotiations on START have already begun and are moving rapidly. That should make it easier to reach agreement on a 50 per cent. arms reduction treaty.

The Minister also referred to a chemical weapons treaty. We are enacting tonight the machinery that will enable observers and inspectors to verify such a treaty. The verification of chemical weapons will pose a difficult problem. The Minister also referred to a conventional arms reduction treaty. As the Minister stressed, this legislation will enable us to provide verification in that area.

I would be out of order if I considered conventional arms reduction. However, every time that the hon. Member for Southampton, Test (Mr. Hill) speaks, he gives a plug for the Western European Union. I have not always agreed with that body, but today I will give it a plug although I am not a member of it. I want to plug the WEU's recent report on the conventional arms balance in Europe. That is probably the best report on the subject. I would subscribe to most of the report, which more or less gets it right. The report will make it a little easier—it will not be easy — to reach a realistic arms reduction agreement when negotiations hopefully start between NATO and the Warsaw pact some time in February or March.

While the Minister was looking forward to other treaties, he did not refer to a treaty on the elimination or reduction of battlefield nuclear weapons.

I note that the Minister says, "Quite right." We have debated this subject before and we will debate it again, but we should not debate it tonight. Apparently all the other treaties are fine, but the Government are making fools of themselves over battlefield nuclear weapons. Most NATO Defence Ministers would like to see simultaneous negotiations over those weapons. Indeed, the Federal Republic of Germany is desperate for simultaneous negotiations. I hope that the Government will think again. I do not know why they should be against it. We are not talking about giving up weapons independently; we are talking about multilateral negotiations.

The Bill establishes far-reaching verification procedures. I do not believe that those procedures would have been agreed without the political impetus that created the treaty in the first place. There have been arguments about why the treaty has come about: one side says that it is because the West negotiated from strength. However, as my hon. Friends have pointed out, the Russians have three or four times as many missiles. That is a curious definition of negotiating from strength.

I believe that there are two main factors. First, public opinion was a powerful factor. Whatever their views about nuclear weapons, people in western Europe and the United States did not want any more of them. They felt that there were plenty around, and most people wanted them to be reduced. In the United States, the pronouncements of theologians and of the American Catholic bishops had an enormous effect on President Reagan, especially before his most recent re-election as president.

Order. The rules of the Chamber must apply to the Front Bench. The right hon. Gentleman is straying from the Bill.

I was paying tribute to the political impetus that brought about the verification procedures in the Bill. Without that, delegates would have been sitting in Geneva for years, trying to solve the difficult problems of verification. The details can be worked out, but without political will it is not possible to reach an agreement. That will has come from the President of the United States and the General Secretary of the Soviet Communist party, both of whom, I believe, abhor nuclear weapons and want a nuclear-free world.

I conclude with a tribute to all who have campaigned for the removal of nuclear weapons. I hope and believe that this will lead to other treaties, although it will not be easy; it will probably be more difficult. I hope that the United States Senate will ratify the treaty—

The hon. Member for Southampton, Test (Mr. Hill) mentions the Supreme Soviet. Mr. Gorbachev himself has said that he has to get the treaty through the Supreme Soviet, but I hope that the United States Senate will not stand in the way — although I am sorry to say that its track record in ratifying treaties is not very good, from the League of Nations, to SALT 2. I hope that, for its own sake, the United States will realise that this treaty is not just about America, as, in a narrow sense, SALT 2 is. It is about weapons in Europe, although those weapons are American.

All those senators who will be flexing their muscles without enjoying themselves and putting down amendments should see the treaty in a wider context, and think of the damage that will be done to the United States in Europe if they do not ratify it. I hope that there will be no amendments under the old rule of "tacking"—which the other place can still do, but we cannot—and that the Senate will not tack on to the treaty matters which, while important. are extraneous to it. Otherwise, damage will be done to the United States and, as a result, to the West.

We welcome the Bill. I am sure that its progress in the other place will be speedy, and we look forward to the Order in Council which will enable us to debate more fully the documents with which, no doubt, we shall by then have been supplied by the Minister of State.

6.43 pm

By leave of the House, I shall be happy to respond to as many as possible of the points that have been raised. There have been a number of intelligent and interesting contributions — and, of course, the hon. Member for Bradford, South (Mr. Cryer) also spoke.

The right hon. Member for Llanelli (Mr. Davies) ended on an important point. I am glad to he able to agree entirely with him, and indeed to commend his words and the vigour with which they were spoken. Whatever else we may fall out about in the House — and some hon. Members have gone to considerable lengths tonight to manufacture differences, even by travestying the words of others—it is clear that the House is united in welcoming the INF treaty. That is also the united position of NATO, which cannot be said too often. We do not want any member of the United States Senate to feel it necessary to ride in, like the knight in shining armour on the white charger, to rescue Europe from the consequences of the treaty. We are well content with it, have played a full part in ensuring that it came about and want it to be ratified as quickly as possible.

The right hon. Member for Llanelli asked me a number of questions, which I shall do my best to answer quickly, so that I can respond to other points. The treaty documents published by the United States will be deposited in the Libraries of both Houses. As the right hon. Gentleman rightly said, there is a memorandum on data, but it has not yet been published by the United States, and may never be. If it is not published, we cannot deposit it in the House, but anything that the United States publishes in relation to the principal treaty will be lodged in the House of Commons Library as soon as possible thereafter, as will the basing country agreement and the exchange of notes. We want people to know what has been done in their name.

The right hon. Gentleman was also right to say that there would be no physical destruction of warheads in Britain. Nuclear material which has been extracted can be used again.

Echoing a number of hon. Members—including my hon. Friend the Member for Harborough (Sir J. Farr) in his interesting speech—the right hon. Gentleman asked about inspectors. That, of course, is of particular relevance to my hon. Friend the Member for Newbury (Mr. McNair-Wilson), whose presence in the House is always welcome to us, for we know the courage with which he has faced up to physical disabilities that would have destroyed a lesser man. I say that with all the sincerity that I can muster. My hon. Friend has done a formidable job for his constituents, who have been at the sharp end of making the Alliance's policy of standing firm work. All of us whose constituencies are remote from the issue should pay tribute to their fortitude, and to my hon. Friend's spirit in ensuring that their points were not ignored in the House.

Inspection will be restricted to two bases in the United Kingdom, which are the declared sites. I return to the point about satellite reconnaisance made by my hon. Friend the Member for Harborough. The treaty —although this will not necessarily be true of its successors —makes it much easier to be confident about disclosed sites, because it is possible to know by various means—satellite photography, no doubt, being one — what is present, and where it is.

Inspectors will be accompanied at all times by United Kingdom as well as United States personnel. They will enter the country for a limited period, and will not be permitted to travel outside the places which relate to their immediate needs—the site that they are inspecting, the airfield from which they come and points on the journey inbetween. Inspectors of military exercises will often be diplomats accredited to missions already in the country, and may stay for longer. I should say, however, that the observation of Exercise Purple Warrior lasted only two or three days.

The right hon. Gentleman set out the Alliance's negotiating position—

I have a good deal of work to get through if I am to answer the debate in full. I do not mean to be discourteous, but I must try to answer the debate in 10 minutes, which is not easy.

The INF agreement and the START agreement on conventional and chemical weapons form not only the United Kingdom's but the Alliance's negotiating position.

The West Germans subscribe to the Alliance's policy, like everybody else. Faced with the huge chemical and conventional threat, we believe that chemical weapons must be eliminated and the imbalance in conventional weapons redressed before we consider the negotiations on short-range nuclear forces.

I am not confident that the verification regimes for those matters, which will be more complicated than those for the INF agreement, could be contained in the procedures set out in the Bill. It is likely that they will require primary legislation; that is almost certainly the case for chemical weapons. It may well be the case for START, but it is not the case with regard to the INF agreement.

I am sorry that the Labour party persists in saying that the United Kingdom was and is irrelevant to these discussions. I suspect that the British public will take more notice of Mr. Gorbachev's views about the United Kingdom's relevance than the views of the Leader of the Opposition and his spokesmen. It is worth recalling what Mr. Gorbachev said at Brize Norton during his historic visit on Monday:
"We have covered this road together—the Soviet Union, the United States, Great Britain and your allies and partners."
On 8 December Pravda said—

I would have thought that the hon. Member for Bradford, South (Mr. Cryer) would treat Pravda with respect. [Interruption.] It is all grist to our mill these days. Pravda said:

"Both sides emphasise that the INF agreement was not only a result of the efforts of the Soviet Union and the USA but also due to the fact that they had acted in agreement with their allies. Here, Mr. Gorbachev emphasised Europe's role, which was not only indispensable, but increasing."
In saying that Mr. Gorbachev merely stopped off for a cup of airline coffee, the Labour party exposed how out of touch it is with events. I hate to rub salt into the wounds that gape every time Labour Members rise uncertainly to their feet to talk about these issues, but we have had 17 years of Labour government since the war, yet during that time a General Secretary of the Soviet Communist party never considered it remotely worth while to come to the United Kingdom. The Labour party must understand that things have changed.

The hon. Member for Leyton (Mr. Cohen) was kind enough to thank me for trying to respond to detailed debates in Committee. I am grateful to him; he and I have been over a few courses in Committee and I have no doubt we shall do so again. He asked about inspectors; there will be a list of inspectors but they could be refused entry. An inspection must take place within the terms of the treaty. One of the key matters that we considered necessary to protect British sovereignty was the right of veto of an unsuitable inspector, and we shall not hesitate to exercise it if need be. The hon. Gentleman was right to say that we shall not want to get involved in tit-for-tat arrangements. Plainly, everyone will want to use their best endeavours to ensure that inspections go smootly.

The hon. Member for Leyton asked about the draw-down period. We expect the missiles at Molesworth to go within a year and that the others will go within the three-year period of draw-down, after which there will be a liability for inspections for a further 10 years.

The hon. Member for Leyton mentioned deployment at Molesworth, and I should make it clear that it was always part of the Molesworth deployment schedule that the first flight would become operational before the end of this year—as soon as the base was ready for them. Efforts to meet that end have been under way for several months, and had matters taken their normal course, the base would have become fully operational—four flights of missiles would have been established—by the end of 1988. Although the treaty cannot come into force until it is ratified by the United States Senate, the Alliance has agreed to suspend deployment following the signature of the agreement. The Alliance has been desperate to achieve consensus on that, and I am sure that there is agreement among hon. Members on that matter.

My hon. Friend the Member for Southampton, Test (Mr. Hill) plays a leading role in the Western European Union, as well as in the House. The WEU is a useful body, as I discovered when I was there last week. Hon. Members participate in it to try to achieve agreement within the Alliance on key issues. My hon. Friend asked about the number of inspectors. We expect it to be not more than 10, which is a relatively limited number. He asked about conditions for inspections behind the iron curtain —[Interruption.] That is the phrase that was used; whether it fits in with the right hon. Gentleman's views is another matter. Those who go to eastern Europe and the Soviet Union to carry out obligations under the INF treaty will have precisely the same terms and conditions as Soviet inspectors coming here.

The hon. Member for Lewisham, Deptford (Ms. Ruddock) repeated the brazen assertion that she made on Second Reading — that the INF treaty came about because of the peace movement. That brazen assertion was also made during a radio interview in which I was taking part by Monsignor Bruce Kent, who plays Rasputin to the Lady's Tsarina in the peace movement. He is every bit as brazen as the hon. Lady, although he is not so attractive.

I concede that, in the spirit of honesty and candour that informs these issues. I try to be nice to the hon. Lady when I can; there was little in her speech that was favourable.

The reality is that this arrangement came about because the so-called peace movement was defeated at elections in the United Kingdom. The hon. Lady unattractively mingled paranoia and a dislike of the United States in her speech. All the examples that she gave of avoidance of obligation concerned the United States. I wish that the hon. Lady would get it into her head that we should also ensure that the Soviet Union is not avoiding its obligations. If the hon. Lady looks for violations of treaties, she is as likely to find them on the Soviet side as on the other.

We hope and believe that the regime of verification that has been undertaken, which is more obtrusive than anything contained in any East-West agreement in the past, will enable everyone to be sure that these arrangements are stuck to.

The hon. Member for Deptford travestied the Prime Minister's position. The Prime Minister and President Reagan agreed a negotiating strategy, which was subsequently agreed by NATO as long ago as November 1986. The hon. Lady said that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister had said that nuclear disarmament had gone far enough. That was a description of the position after the INF and START treaties had been completed and had nothing to do with her suggesting that there was no need for START negotiations; she is as anxious as any of us for them to be successful.

After this interesting debate, I hope that we shall agree to give the Bill a unanimous Third Reading. Whatever else we may disagree about, we agree about the Bill.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read the Third time, and passed.