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Column 352Europe is proven. And then in Moscow on 23 September, she accepted that those changes are irreversible, but the belligerent slogans continue.
At the end of last year, Professor Sir Michael Howard wrote : "We demanded that the Soviet Union should leave Afghanistan. He has done so. We demanded that he should scrap the SS20s and their smaller adjuncts. He did it. We demanded that such scrapping should be verified by obtrusive on-site inspection. He agreed. We demanded that troop reductions in Europe should be made assymmetrical. He agreed to that as well. We demanded that the offensive deployment and training of Soviet Forces in eastern Europe should be abandoned for an overtly defensive posture. He has made the military examine their doctrine." Since Sir Michael wrote that article, we have had Gorbachev's announcement, at the United Nations in December, of cuts in Soviet conventional forces, his announcement in Moscow in May of the withdrawal of 500 short-range nuclear weapons in Europe, and his offer in Strasbourg in July to make further cuts in their tactical missiles in Europe. To all that, the Government give the impression of resolutely refusing to take yes for an answer.
The problem really lies with the Prime Minister's understanding of the word "deterrence", and presumably the team share that misconception. She has tried to set the tone of the contemporary defence debate with her slogan that the only defence is a nuclear defence. Last year she told the Conservative women's conference that the British people recognised that
"our national safety cannot be guaranteed except by nuclear weapons."
In December 1986, she told the hon. Member for Surrey, South-West (Mrs. Bottomley) :
"Money spent on nuclear weapons provides far more deterrence than the same amount spent on conventional forces."--[ Official Report, 16 December 1986 ; Vol. 107, c. 1052.]
It is not surprising, therefore, to find the White Paper repeating the slogan. Paragraph 108 states that history shows that conventional weapons
"cannot by themselves prevent war. Only nuclear weapons can do that".
History shows nothing of the sort.
Mr. Hughes : I should have thought that the examples that spring to mind of non-nuclear powers refusing to be overawed by nuclear powers include Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan and, above all, Argentina. The Prime Minister, and thereby the White Paper, are simply wrong. Nuclear deterrence works on two criteria : first, that the power or person being deterred is also a nuclear power and, secondly, that the power or person being deterred is rational enough to be deterred. The suggestion that the possession of nuclear weapons makes this country a great power, which is at the root of Tory defence policy, is nonsense. Their obsession with nuclear weapons has got the Government into the most--
Column 353unkind and recall the words of Christopher Coker about the Chairman of the Defence Select Committee, but I shall not do that this evening.
Their obsession with nuclear weapons has got the Government into the most terrible muddle when we consider their attitude to flexible response and tactical nuclear weapons. At page 11, paragraph 5, of the White Paper we see what Ministers have been proclaiming for a decade. It states that flexible response--we have heard this over the past two days--
"is the only strategic concept that makes sense for a defensive alliance in the nuclear age."
The Government act as though flexible response were in the sermon on the mount--one of the great truths that can never be amended. They talk about flexible response as though the strategy has remained consistent for 40 years.
At Question Time on 25 April this year, the Prime Minister stated :
"The strategy that we are discussing is the strategy of NATO, which has protected peace for 40 years."--[ Official Report, 25 April 1989 ; Vol. 151, c. 799.]
As we would expect, Defence Ministers have consistently repeated that statement at the Dispatch Box. However, the only consistent thing has been the consistency of the Prime Minister and her team in getting it wrong. The strategy of flexible response--we should always remember that it is a strategy and not some vague theory of deterrence--was enunciated in 1962-63 and eventually adopted in 1967. But, even in those four or five years, the strategy changed considerably. The strategy today--more than 20 years later --is fundamentally different from that first proposed to NATO. What was proposed as a strategy for raising the nuclear threshold has resulted in a strategy for lowering the nuclear threshold.
Mr. Ian Bruce : I am somewhat confused--I think that all Conservative Members are confused. The planners in the MOD must have welcomed the fact that the Labour party's official policy is now to maintain nuclear weapons while the Warsaw pact forces have nuclear weapons. The hon. Gentleman seems to contradict Labour party policy. Could we have a clear statement of what it is?
According to the author of the strategy, instead of the early massive use of nuclear weapons, it permitted a substantial raising of the nuclear threshold by planning for the critical initial response to Soviet aggression to be made by conventional forces alone. The strategy was based on the expectation that conventional capabilities could be improved sufficiently to make the use of nuclear weapons unnecessary. Even if that expectation turned out to be false, any use of nuclear weapons would be late and limited.
Because the essential element of the strategy--which the Government claim has been held consistently for between 20 and 40 years--has never been realised, there is a general acceptance of the fact that any attack by Soviet conventional forces would require the use of nuclear weapons, and some have argued that they would have to be used within a matter of hours. Frankly, I am astonished that neither the Prime Minister nor her team seem to
Column 354understand that. It is the conscious and deliberate decision to go nuclear first, and to go nuclear early, that has caused the most concern, particularly because of its potential to cause an escalation to a strategic exchange.
The weakness in a first early use of tactical nuclear weapons in central Europe is manifest. Short-range weapons, by definition, because of their range and location, would be vulnerable to Soviet attack. Since NATO's plans are to use short-range weapons early, our command would be forced to choose between using them quickly or running the risk of their being overrun or destroyed.
The location of short-range weapons at a time of acute international tension could serve as an enormous incentive for the Warsaw pact to get in first. Operational utility creates further, major problems. Approximately 30 per cent. of West Germany's population and 25 per cent. of its industrial capacity lie within 60 miles of the inner German border. Land- based short-range nuclear missiles are limited to that NATO territory, and what possible credibility can there be in nuking ourselves?
I have always thought that the old adage still stood--that one cannot build a credible deterrent on an incredible action. I find it difficult to understand the effectiveness of a deterrent which, when used short-range hurts oneself and when used long-range hurts the enemy, but in an immediate, escalatory sense.
The Secretary of State said yesterday that we had to stand by the credibility of a flexible response. In that case, we have to ask, "What is the purpose behind the Government's refusal even to countenance an agreement to eliminate short-range nuclear weapons in Europe?" The White Paper states that NATO will aim for, in conjunction with the establishment of a conventional balance and the global elimination of chemical weapons, tangible and verifiable reductions in United States and Soviet land-based nuclear missile systems of shorter range, leading to equal ceilings. That is the rub. It is not an agreement to lead to the mutual elimination of weapons, but to equal ceiling.
According to the Prime Minister and the rest of the team, we need short- range nuclear weapons--or we did--because of the conventional superiority enjoyed by the Warsaw pact. To use the phrase of the hon. Member for Ruislip--Northwood (Mr. Wilkinson), there seems one way out of this conundrum--if we negotiated conventional parity, there would be no need for tactical nuclear weapons. Well, not exactly. I asked the Secretary of State a simple question on 26 July 1988. I asked whether the Government believed that conventional parity was compatible with a flexible response. He replied :
"Yes, it is a very compatible aim that we should get conventional weapons on each side down to parity, while the whole question of the flexible response enables us to have a variable range of different types of major weapons".--[ Official Report, 26 July 1988 ; Vol. 138, c. 247.]
The Deputy Prime Minister, in his then role as Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, was given the opportunity to clarify that position in the "On the Record" programme at the end of last year. He was asked a specific question about conventional parity and tactical nuclear possession. He replied :
"We shall have to address that part of the agenda when we get to that point, and not necessarily for the removal of all, but for the consideration of the question Well, let's first of all recognise that it will take quite some time before we get
Column 355to balance, if we do. Let's then recognise that, alongside conventional weapons, a key part in our defensive capability has been the nuclear capability, and I think will remain so."
I think that the word that he was looking for was yes.
Since we adhere to flexible response--because there is not conventional parity, or so we have been told--the answers from the Secretary of State in July and from the former Foreign Secretary seem somewhat strange. Therefore, I sought clarification from the Minister of State for the Armed Forces on 10 January this year. He left me in no doubt. He said, in effect, "Yes, we still need flexible response, given conventional parity"--and for good measure he threw in any new weapons systems in the future.
The only explanation for this new thinking--that we keep our tactical nuclear weapons even after the Warsaw pact has got rid of its conventional superiority--was that the basis of flexible response had changed. Once again, I returned to the Secretary of State and asked him whether that had happened. He assured me that there had been no change, but that it would be a very different situation if there was conventional parity. That is very true--although it is not what he was saying seven months before, and it certainly is not what his deputy was saying four years before. It is not what he was saying the previous July and it is certainly not what his Minister of State was saying four weeks previously.
There is nothing new about this confusion on flexible response. On 14 April 1981, Secretary of State John Nott, in reply to a question by the hon. Member for Rossendale and Darwen (Mr. Trippier) actually stated :
"The idea that we have nuclear weapons to fight a war is an absurdity. That is not a part of NATO's strategy and never has been."--[ Official Report, 14 April 1981 ; Vol. 3, c. 138.] In reply to the former hon. Member for Tottenham, Norman Atkinson, he went further, stating that a localised tactical nuclear war was absurd. That does not sound much like the "pressing the button brigade". But if the Tory Secretary of State for Defence in this Government did not know that it was part of NATO's strategy to use tactical nuclear weapons, it is no wonder there has been so much confusion on Conservative Benches.
If there has been confusion about flexible response and conventional parity, that becomes clarity itself when one asks the Government about their assessment of a short-range nuclear attack on us.
I conclude by referring to some more answers that I was given earlier this year. On 7 March I asked the Secretary of State whether the Government took seriously the threat of a short-range nuclear attack on NATO's fixed assets in Europe. He told me that we were members of the NATO Alliance. I could not disagree with that, but it was not exactly an answer to my question. I then asked the Minister of State the same question the following month and he told me that the Government took seriously the strategy of flexible response. Well I knew that as well, but it still was not the answer to my question, so, in May, I asked the Secretary of State. He told me that he took seriously all the weapons that the Warsaw pact has.
It was not until the Minister of State finally wrote to me in May of this year that he admitted that the Government take seriously the threat of a tactical nuclear attack on our assets in Germany. That begs a simple question ; if that is the case, why will they not agree to the elimination of a particular weapon in which the Warsaw pact has a 16 : 1 advantage?
Column 356The sad reality is that there is absolutely no reason to believe that this Prime Minister, and therefore this Government, would ever agree in any circumstances, at any time, through any negotiation with any super-power, to the removal of nuclear weapons from this planet. That is why their defence policy is no such policy. It is a great power posture and it deserves to be exposed and rejected. I commend to the House the amendment in the name of my right hon. and hon. Friends.
The Opposition started with a most amazing contribution from the hon. Member for Rhondda (Mr. Rogers), who gave us a rather strange history lesson and seemed to be asking Conservative Members to support the action of Mr. Chamberlain and others in the 1930s. The hon. Member for Glasgow, Hillhead (Mr. Galloway) seems to go down the same road. We were grateful that my right hon. Friend the Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Mr. Amery) was present, as he was able to put the record straight.
The hon. Members for Rhondda and for Hillhead referred to the contribution made by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State at the Conservative party conference at Blackpool. It might help if I read an excerpt from a newspaper about this matter : "We have regrettably too many who adopt"--
--[Interruption.] If the hon. Member for Rhondda listened it might help.
"We have regrettably too many who adopt an ambiguous and inherently dishonest attitude. Gerry Adams and other Sinn Fe in spokespeople unapologetically proclaim support for cold-blooded murder that leaves a pathetic and all-too-often overlooked tragic multitude of widows, widowers, orphans and friends.
To admit Gerry Adams and colleagues to the public halls of civilised democratic debate is increasingly and properly perceived as deeply offensive and repugnant to Christian and humanitarian standards."
That quote came from the Irish News , a paper read by nationalists in Belfast.
At Blackpool my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State did not accuse all Labour Members of being supporters of Sinn Fein, but he said, "Protest all you want, Mr. Kinnock, wave as many red roses as you want, those were members of your party that did that and the country must never forget it." That meeting was organised by the hon. Member for Islington, North (Mr. Corbyn), a member of the Labour party, and it would not have taken place if he had not organised it.
It so happens that the Secretary of State for Defence received a letter from the Leader of the Opposition. After the awful thing that the Minister has just said, I hope that he will allow me to quote it. It said :
"Dear Tom Your Party is in great difficulty and I was not surprised that in your speech you resorted to abuse and wild distortions You have every reason to know that neither I nor my colleagues who form the great majority of the Labour Party give any quarter to Sinn Fein, whatever form it takes, and that I believe"--
"I believe that those who applaud Gerry Adams and his associates are profoundly wrong and that I have told them so in very direct terms You are also aware that I have no power to prevent people who have committed no known offence being in Brighton or speaking to a public meeting. Neither, in a free country, have you."
In the same way, that is why the Tories invited neo-Nazis and Fascists to speak at the Conservative conference. The Secretary of State for Defence is indicting and is a smearer, a half-truther and a Goebbels.
Mr. Hamilton : No Conservative Member has invited a neo-Fascist to a Tory party conference and that man never came to the Tory party conference. Even if he had come, he is not a murderer. The fact remains that Gerry Adams is responsible for a murderous organisation and was asked by an Opposition Member-- [Interruption.] I did not accuse the Labour party but certain Opposition Members, and the fact is that it was an Opposition Member and that fact cannot be avoided. [Interruption.] It would be good if we moved on to the debate.
Mr. Cryer : Would the Minister be prepared to condemn Lord Whitelaw who, in 1973, invited the executive of the Provisional IRA to talks in this country? If it is a matter for condemnation on the one hand, surely it should be a matter for condemnation of a member of a Conservative Government.
Mr. Hamilton : My right hon. and noble Friend said that it was a mistake, and that incident canot be compared to giving a political platform to the man who runs Sinn Fein. I do not know how the hon. Member for Bradford, South (Mr. Cryer) can make the comparison. The hon. and learned Member for Fife, North-East (Mr. Campbell) raised the question of search and rescue services at RAF Leuchars. He asked if we would continue to monitor the new arrangements which we have made there. Of course, I will give that undertaking and we shall keep a check on it and ensure that it is working through. He also referred to the decline of the Merchant Navy-- which is of concern to the House and the Ministry of Defence. The decline is not as rapid as it has been in the past, and we are keeping a careful eye on it. We do not feel that the position is dangerous at the moment, but we shall clearly have to watch for the future. He also accused the Government of having a weak commitment to arms control. I do not know how he can say that, because we are heavily involved in the process of arms control and are concerned that this should move ahead at a fast pace.
The right hon. Member for Dudley, East (Dr. Gilbert) raised the question of recruits from ethnic communities, which has been concerning us for some time. We are worried that the percentage is low, although he and I know that we do not count the numbers of ethnic recruits in the services, although we have some form of monitoring those who come in. A consultant's report reached the Ministry of Defence in July which we are looking at. He also mentioned the UKADGE, and I can assure him that the results of an independent audit commissioned by the Ministry of Defence are being assessed by both the Ministry of Defence and the contractor. I know that he will understand that I cannot comment any further.
Column 358My hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Drake (Dame J. Fookes) raised a question which I also wanted to bring up and which is pertinent. The amendment talks of a defence review, and we all know that a defence review means cutting defence expenditure. It is not necessary for the Government to cut defence expenditure. We are extremely proud of our record and of the fact that we are spending 16 per cent. more in real terms since we came to power. Most of that money has been used on extra equipment and the procurement budget. We have a proud record and the forces are benefiting no end from the extra money that we have spent.
My hon. Friend the Member for Wealden (Sir G. Johnson Smith) suggested that next year's defence estimates should include an essay on the financial and military implications of arms control. My hon. Friend would not seriously expect me to say at this stage what the "Statement on the Defence Estimates" for 1990 will contain, but I can assure him that the Ministry of Defence is giving a great deal of thought to the implications of any arms control agreement. We shall certainly bear that in mind.
My hon. Friend the Member for Drake and the hon. Member for Wallsend (Mr. Garrett) mentioned the problem of members of the Territorial Army suffering by losing unemployment benefit when they are paid for their work in the TA. When TA members lose benefit it is as a result of receiving pay for training, which will usually be significantly more than the lost benefit. An exception to that would be the case of evening training attracting only a portion of a day's pay. To cover such contingencies we introduced a scheme allowing the issue of pay and the receipt of benefit on 16 such days in a year. I hope that the hon. Member for Wallsend will agree that that goes some way to dealing with the problem.
The hon. Member for Hillhead, in an early-day motion, suggested that it would be a good idea if the Ministry of Defence introduced a medal for the Armilla patrol. We announced before the summer recess that there would be a clasp to the General Service medal for the Armilla patrol--that might be a good reason for not leaving early-day motions on the Order Paper for too long.
The hon. Member for Dumbarton (Mr. McFall) mentioned a distressing case, and I was sorry to hear of the tragic loss in naval quarters of three small children. I shall certainly investigate whether the electric wiring was the cause of this awful disaster, and I shall come back to the hon. Gentleman.
The hon. Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone (Mr. Maginnis), who is not with us now, raised the issue of the UDR and I pay tribute to the role he has played in it. I know that he is a robust supporter of all that it does. As the "Statement on the Defence Estimates" explains, the task of supporting the civil power in Northern Ireland remains the services' largest peacetime commitment. The Army provides most of the personnel, but the other services provide vital assistance. As long as it proves necessary in the fight against terrorism, the armed forces will continue to support the RUC. The fact that troops have now been deployed on these duties for 20 years is no cause for celebration, but it is a sign of our determination to afford the citizens of Northern Ireland, as part of the United Kingdom, the highest protection that the Government can provide in the face of a murderous and futile terrorist campaign. The terrorists have yet to learn that, having been rejected at the
Column 359ballot box, they can gain nothing by violence except further alienation from the community. It is vital that the Army's operations in support of the RUC be impartial and be seen to be impartial and in no way above the law. There is no place in Her Majesty's armed forces for anyone with divided loyalties. The UDR is an indispensable element of the Army's efforts in support of the RUC and it is subject to the same standards. Members of the UDR are as keen as anyone else to ensure that those standards are met and, as one would expect, are co-operating fully with the Stevens inquiry.
Further improvements are being made in the process of screening new recruits to the UDR, transferees for other Army units and in carrying out reviews as appropriate. Among these new measures is the establishment of an enhanced and dedicated screening unit. Our aim is to ensure that no one with associations with paramilitary organisations is recruited to, or serves in, the regiment.
Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow) : In view of the decision in the Appeal Court today, may I expect a considered reply to my speech on Colin Wallace yesterday about the possibility of a public inquiry into what happened in the 1970s in relation to the Kincora boys' home? Do not events in relation to the law in Ireland make it desirable to clear that up one way or the other?
It is regrettable that, of the 40,000 individuals who have served with the UDR since it foundation in 1970, 17 soldiers have been convicted for murder. Twelve of the 15 murdered persons were killed because they were Roman Catholics or because they were suspected of terrorist links. Other UDR soldiers have been convicted of serious offences involving, for example, passing information to loyalist paramilitaries.
The House should be in no doubt that the Government and the UDR regard these crimes as inexcusable and abhorrent. We must not, however, allow the actions of a few to tarnish the reputation of the overwhelming majority of the UDR, who carry out their duties professionally, loyally and impartially.
We must not forget the pressures on those who serve in the regiment, a point that was made by the hon. Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone. Both on and off duty they are constantly under threat of murder by terrorists. Since its formation, 180 serving members and 46 former members of the regiment have been murdered by terrorists. They have also seen friends and relatives murdered by terrorists who in many cases are known to the security forces but have escaped justice due to the lack of admissible evidence that would be sufficient to secure a conviction in court. In addition, UDR soldiers can sometimes be subjected to direct pressure from extremist or paramilitary organisations which exist in the Loyalist community. In the circumstances, it is a tribute to the discipline and training of the majority of soldiers who have served in the UDR that they have acted with restraint and resisted the enormous pressures upon them. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland said yesterday that we must not make the mistake of throwing away the barrel of good apples because a few are bad. The UDR is determined to ensure that the highest possible standards are maintained. One
Column 360would expect nothing less from a regiment which formed an integral part of the Army. The improvements to the screening process that I mentioned earlier should be seen in that context. Now, as much as at any time in the past 20 years, the service men in Northern Ireland deserve our praise for their professionalism and bravery in a most difficult and often thankless job.
I shall now turn to the question of security. I thank the hon. Member for Clackmannan (Mr. O'Neill) for not making party political points on the problems of security. We take security very seriously. We know the terrible price that is paid when our guard slips. It is no mere figure of speech to say that our security is kept under constant review. It is the truth, and it is appropriate to remind the House of the very sad news that another Royal Marine musician, Bandsman Christopher Nolan, who was aged 21, died on Tuesday evening from injuries sustained during the bombing at Deal on 23 September. I know that the House will join me in sending our deepest condolences to his friends and family.
Mr. Frank Cook (Stockton, North) : I have it for a fact that, in the very week that the Deal bombing took place, in at least three units in West Germany the wives of serving personnel were actively and positively canvassed with a view to their engagement as security guards on the gates. Can the Minister tell the House on whose authority those surveys were conducted and whether any countermanding orders have been issued since the Deal event?
Mr. Hamilton : I have never understood the attitude of the Opposition to the question of security. A massive outrage was prevented in West Germany by a German civilian, an unarmed boilerman who surprised the IRA and was hit over the head for his pains. He stopped a major outrage. In terms of security, we need people who are observant and who notice what is going on and report it to the authorities. I see no reason whatever for women not having a role to play. The Labour party believes in equal opportunities, and it is a great slur on women for the Opposition to say that women should play no role whatever.
We introduced a programme of physical security measures over and above those already planned or in hand. The House will gain an idea of the scale of the programme when I say that about £40 million has been allocated in 1989-90. We expect this increased programme to continue on that scale for as long as necessary.
I shall now deal with the talks that have been going on in Madrid about the Falklands. I am sure that my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary will make an announcement in due course, but I know that the House expects me to say something about the Anglo-Argentine talks which concluded today in Madrid. The talks were held in a very constructive atmosphere and the Government regard the outcome as most positive. It would be inappropriate for me to comment in detail on the wider aspects of the talks beyond saying that agreement was reached on a formula on sovereignty which respects the position of both sides and that good progress was made in a number of areas in support of the wish of both Governments to normalise relations between the two countries.
I must say something about defence issues. First, I welcome the confirmation of the commitment of both countries to respect the obligation to settle disputes
Column 361exclusively by peaceful means, and to refrain from the threat or use of force. Secondly, I am very pleased that both Governments now regard all hostilities between our countries as having ceased. Thirdly, I welcome the agreement to establish a working group to consider views and proposals from both countries, intended to build confidence and to avoid military incidents.
To demonstrate our own commitment to the aim of strengthening mutual confidence, the United Kingdom Government have announced that they intend to dispense with the current requirement of prior agreement for Argentine merchant shipping to enter the Falkland Islands protection zone, and to align the limits of the zone with those of the fishery conservation zone. Both changes will come into effect at an early date, and we shall at the same time be extending the territorial sea around the Falklands, South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands from three to 12 nautical miles, in line with current Argentine and United Kingdom practice.
I must make it absolutely clear that the changes do not involve any reduction in our commitment or ability to defend the Falklands, if that were ever necessary. The protection zone remains in force, and Argentine warships and aircraft will continue to be excluded. The alignment of the protection and conservation zones is a sensible, practical measure which will permit more effective fishery conservation. Although it will involve a minor reduction in the size of one portion of the protection zone, that is of no military significance. I hope that the House will join me in welcoming today's news from Madrid and congratulating President Menem's Government on the constructive attitude to negotiations.
The House has heard much over the past two days about how the Government have maintained and are improving the country's defence. We are now constantly searching for better value for money, and trying to upgrade the quality of our equipment and trained service men. The Government have worked in the mainstream of NATO to enhance the role that we are playing in the common defence of the West, and I am proud that our NATO allies recognise the great contribution that we are making.
By contrast, the policies agreed by the Opposition at Brighton will undermine the whole basis of NATO defence strategy--a strategy that has always recognised the need for both nuclear and conventional defence. At Brighton, Labour made an enormous fuss about its change of defence policy, but there was no change. There was a change of wording, from "unilateral" to "multilateral", but, as Labour's version of multilateral disarmament contains a commitment to negotiate away our nuclear weapons as soon as possible, the result will be the same : Britain's nuclear weapons will all go, and the Soviets will be left with thousands. I cannot understand why the right hon. Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benn) gets so agitated ; unilateralism is still alive and well in the Labour party, although it now goes under a new name.
During this debate we have heard from the Opposition the constantly recurring theme that our problems are now over--that there has been a permanent change in the Soviet Union. How can they say that? The stated intentions of the Soviet Union may have changed, but its awesome capabilities remain. Even after the promised cuts
Column 362in troops and equipment, Warsaw pact forces will still heavily outnumber those of NATO. Despite the talk of reduced tension, Soviet production of modern, improved tanks, aircraft, ships and submarines has continued apace.
The Opposition have talked as though conventional arms negotiation and control had been not only signed up but implemented. We may achieve agreement next year, but how long will it take the Warsaw pact to destroy more than 30,000 tanks? Not until it has done that will it come down to the present NATO levels. Meanwhile, where is the Soviet Union going? Perestroika has been much discussed, but there is not much evidence that it is working, and the effect of glasnost is that all the republics in the Soviet Union are now reasserting their nationalism, and centrifugal forces are under way.
As my hon. Friend the Member for Bosworth (Mr. Tredinnick) said, we could now be facing a very dangerous period in East-West relations. All that is guaranteed is continued uncertainty about where the Soviet Union is heading ; yet, against that background of uncertainty, the Labour party advocates disarmament and recommends that our nuclear weapons should be negotiated away at the earliest possible moment, and that the proven policy of flexible response be abandoned--although that policy has served us so well. The Labour party still cannot be trusted with the defence of this country. It is prepared to see us nuclear naked. What might that mean if Libya were ever to end up with nuclear weapons?
Question put, That the amendment be made :--
The House divided : Ayes 186, Noes 319.
Division No. 330] [10 pm
Adams, Allen (Paisley N)
Archer, Rt Hon Peter
Ashley, Rt Hon Jack
Barnes, Harry (Derbyshire NE)
Benn, Rt Hon Tony
Bennett, A. F. (D'nt'n & R'dish)
Bray, Dr Jeremy
Brown, Gordon (D'mline E)
Brown, Nicholas (Newcastle E)
Brown, Ron (Edinburgh Leith)
Buckley, George J.
Campbell, Ron (Blyth Valley)
Campbell-Savours, D. N.
Clark, Dr David (S Shields)
Clarke, Tom (Monklands W)
Clwyd, Mrs Ann
Cook, Frank (Stockton N)
Cook, Robin (Livingston)
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)
Davies, Ron (Caerphilly)
Davis, Terry (B'ham Hodge H'l)
Dunwoody, Hon Mrs Gwyneth
Evans, John (St Helens N)
Field, Frank (Birkenhead)
Fields, Terry (L'pool B G'n)
Foot, Rt Hon Michael
Garrett, John (Norwich South)
Garrett, Ted (Wallsend)
Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John
Godman, Dr Norman A.
Golding, Mrs Llin
Grant, Bernie (Tottenham)
Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)
Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)