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Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, we are into the 17th minute now.

Lord Redesdale: My Lords, I apologise; I have gone over the time. I had a piece of paper that referred to 20 minutes for starting.

I end with a point raised in the First Special Report. It states:

The Government have countered that argument in their response. This debate will not finish at this point; however, this is the starting point for any debate.

My Lords, I beg to move for Papers.

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7.26 p.m.

Lord Powell of Bayswater: My Lords, looking at the list of speakers for this debate, I rather get the feeling that I am gate-crashing a private party. Listening to the opening speech of the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, I am a bit worried that it is the sort of private party at which hallucinogens will be passed around. However, I am grateful to the noble Lord for initiating this debate, which gives me the chance to put a rather different point of view.

My involvement with missile defence goes back some 20 years, to the discussions that the noble Baroness, Lady Thatcher—the then Prime Minister—had with President Reagan about his strategic defence initiative in 1983. Like her, I have always supported the concept but recognised from the beginning the immense technical difficulties of building a defensive system, which meant that it would inevitably be many years before a deployable system would be available. Also, it was clear that it would never be 100 per cent effective, which is why it is essential to retain nuclear deterrence alongside defence.

In the 20 years that have passed since President Reagan's initiative, substantial progress has been made. Technical advances have now brought a first-generation system of missile defence within sight. It is not by a long chalk President Reagan's original vision of a global space-based system; it is a land-based system, which will provide a degree of protection against missile attack from rogue states with limited arsenals and against accidental launches.

One would have to be particularly ostrich-like to fail to recognise that both of those dangers have increased and will increase further as a growing number of unscrupulous yet relatively unsophisticated states get their hands on long-range missile technology. Indeed, the need for missile defence becomes clearer almost every day. The North Koreans have resumed testing of their ballistic missiles, just as the noble Lord the Minister warned this House on 15th January they were likely to do. They have the declared aim of developing the capability to strike the west coast of the United States before long. It does not require much of a jump from the evidence of North Korea's programme to understand the likely long-term ambitions of other rogue states in North Africa or the Middle East, whose missiles could one day—possibly quite soon—pose a threat to Britain and Europe as well as to the United States.

Ballistic missile defence also has a vital role in preventing the US and the UK from being deterred by rogue states. To make the point: if Saddam Hussein today had nuclear-tipped missiles capable of hitting London—let alone New York—would British and American troops be on Iraq's borders? My answer is: only if we had missile defence to protect ourselves.

Of course, missile attack is not the only danger facing the US and the UK, as 11th September demonstrated. But just because ballistic missile defence does not protect against every conceivable threat, that does not mean that it is unnecessary or repugnant. In practice, ballistic missiles are likely to

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remain the rogue state's weapon of choice. They are easy for dictators to control, and they have a higher probability of getting through than alternatives such as hand-carried WMD materials, against which the United States is strengthening homeland defence. In that perspective, ballistic missile defence can be seen as an adjunct to improved homeland defence.

The downside of ballistic missile defence has been consistently exaggerated and distorted. Over the years, we have heard endless dire warnings from European governments and from the opponents of missile defence in this country that pressing ahead with such defence would be destabilising, would undermine arms control and would jeopardise relations with the new Russia. Actually, none of those calamities has happened or is likely to happen. Instead, developing missile defences has gone hand-in-hand with a commitment to a far greater reduction in ballistic missile and nuclear warheads than we would have dreamed possible only a few years ago. Therefore, missile defence is needed, and it is compatible with reductions in other weapons and with strategic stability.

Turning to the present issue, now that the Americans are confident enough of the progress of the technology to prepare for deployment of a first-generation system, they are seeking to upgrade, here in Britain and also in Greenland, the radar facilities whose role will be to give early warning of any attack on the US. It is hard to think of a more benign purpose than that—providing warning of an impending attack so that our closest ally can defend itself.

The Government have been absolutely right to indicate willingness to agree to the upgrading of Fylingdales, which will be an essential part of a future defence network. That is, of course, only a first phase, and I have no doubt that the Americans will have further requests to make in the years ahead—to which I hope our response will be equally prompt and positive.

For the reasons that I have given, we should also consider how the United Kingdom and Europe can benefit directly from the protection of ballistic missile defence. In his Statement of 15th January, the Minister said that the Fylingdales upgrade would indicate no commitment to further missile defence deployments. I accept that it is too early for decisions on that. But I hope that the Government will, at the very least, monitor closely the progress of ballistic missile defence technology within the United States so that they are able to understand the potential implications—and the obvious advantages—of missile defence in protecting the United Kingdom as well.

Informal studies have shown that the cost to the United Kingdom of buying a first-generation, land-based defence system would not necessarily be prohibitive or detract from other essential defence programmes. Moreover, given our important role in the defence of the United States against missile attack, we are surely well placed to bargain for access to missile defence on highly advantageous terms in exactly the same way as we have benefited from the

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Trident missile programme. And not only should we benefit from the defence but we should participate in the technology and eventually the production of the defensive system.

In conclusion, I encourage the Government to look ahead in their defence planning to ensure that Britain has the whole range of systems needed to defend us against new threats, an effective nuclear deterrent, beefed-up homeland security and, in time, the protection of missile defence.

7.33 p.m.

Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer: My Lords, I declare an interest as the vice-president—or, at least, one of them; there are several of us—of the Council for National Parks, and I shall speak first in that role.

The Minister will be aware that the decision to change the use of RAF Fylingdales, which is what the term "upgrade" means, raises the possibility of the need for further development. That has particular implications in planning terms because RAF Fylingdales is situated within a national park—the North York Moors National Park. As my noble friend Lord Redesdale said in his excellent introductory speech, the term "upgrade" is rather disingenuous.

The initial lack of consultation with the park authority and, indeed, with the public on the change of use runs contrary to well-established policy. It was greeted with dismay by many, including the Council for National Parks and, I believe, the Commons Defence Committee. In PPG7, planning guidance is clear on the matter of development in a national park. I know how much this Government value the purpose of national parks because that was restated frequently by the Government and by Members of these Benches in this House during the passage of the Countryside and Rights of Way Act.

I believe that the types of issue that must be considered by a development test include the requirement for a demonstration of exceptional circumstances and of public interest before any major development can proceed. They must also include the availability of alternatives—both alternative sites and alternative ways of meeting that need. In my opinion, that test may prove to be especially important. Does Britain, let alone the park, need this development? Lastly, the development must pass the test of the impact on the statutory purposes of the park and on the local economy.

Therefore, I am pleased that Dr Lewis Moonie, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Ministry of Defence, met representatives of the Council for National Parks and agreed a way forward. I believe he has given a written undertaking that any major changes at RAF Fylingdales will include a wide and timely public consultation and, indeed, clarification concerning the use of RAF Fylingdales to track space debris, both military and civil. I believe that the Ministry of Defence is preparing an environmental report that will address the planning and environmental impact and sustainability issues raised by this so-called "upgrade".

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That is particularly welcome, as is the greater recognition that the Ministry of Defence intends to give to the protected landscape status of any of its core sites that fall within a national park. I should place on record the help given by the Minister's noble friend Lord Judd in ensuring that both sides—the Council for National Parks and the Ministry of Defence—were able to resolve upon that path within a fairly short time. I hope that, in his concluding remarks, the Minister will be able to put on record that the events in the North York Moors National Park were an exception. I also hope that the Minister has re-emphasised to his department, as I believe he has, the value of protected landscapes.

I turn briefly to my own feelings about this matter. It evokes for me strong memories of the early 1980s at Greenham Common. If Fylingdales is developed as a base in the way that the US Government envisage, I believe that we may well see another Greenham Common-type protest against the use of our country as a kind of island outpost of the United States. The anger that people in Britain felt then will be rekindled. The protests of recent weeks have made the Government aware that people in this country do not wish to be part of the United States' current military plans. People may well not wish to be part of any future US military plans, and certainly not without much consultation.

Greenham Common politicised a generation of women and enabled many of us to find our voice. I believe that recently a new generation has found its voice. At present, it is using that voice to express its disquiet about the situation concerning Iraq. Young men and young women, along with many of the older generation—I do not believe that they are ostrich-like, as the noble Lord, Lord Powell, implied a moment ago—simply do not believe in the same vision of the future. I believe that when the situation with Iraq is resolved one way or the other, people will expect the Government to consult widely on whether to allow Britain to become a missile launch pad. People will expect to be able to use their voice during that consultation.

7.39 p.m.

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, I declare an interest as someone with a house in Yorkshire who intends to retire to Yorkshire. One of the main pleasures in my life is walking through Yorkshire's national parks. Although the pyramid of Fylingdales is not a particular eyesore, the "golf balls" of Menwith Hill are one thing that hit me every time I walk from Airedale into Wharfedale.

I particularly welcome the contribution of the noble Lord, Lord Powell, to the debate and I wish that there were more like him. As he rightly said, this is a very important issue. The issue of weapons of mass destruction is one of the most difficult on the international agenda and we all need to discuss it.

One problem with the way in which the Government have handled the issue is the pretence that it is purely a technical decision. They announced that they had

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received a letter from the United States on 17th December and that they were to consult widely, but on 15th January they announced that after wide consultation, during a period in which most people were happily occupied with other issues, they were minded to accept the proposal.

This is not a technical change; it is a fundamental change in the main purpose for which Fylingdales was intended. Fylingdales was a radar base intended to detect missile attacks from the Soviet Union in a Cold War context. We are now talking of Fylingdales being part of an American missile system based on different threats.

As regards the threat, I am increasingly sceptical about the way in which an American-led debate talks of weapons of mass destruction as though nuclear, chemical and biological weapons all fall into the same category. Nuclear weapons are easily delivered on ballistic missiles. I am not sure that I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Powell, if I understood him correctly, that ballistic missiles are likely to remain rogue states' weapons of choice. There are many other possible delivery systems now, including the dreadful, what I should perhaps call dual use technologies such as civilian airliners, container ships and so on. They are so much cheaper than ballistic missile systems that I fear that we are moving towards those different kinds of delivery systems. Incidentally, we are discovering that the threat from rogues in the world—not necessarily from rogue states, but non-state actors—is that they have the ability, particular with chemical and biological weapons, to deliver with a high degree of accuracy and they may not require to use nuclear weapons.

What should be the appropriate response of Her Majesty's Government? The first question that we should ask and what worries me most about this is whether we should look for containment of the threat within an arms control regime or whether we should leave it up to the United States to define the nature of the threat and of the response. After all there is a long history of a number of people—Donald Rumsfeld being one—wanting to bust the nuclear arms control regime and space-based arms control and to put into effect a dominant American approach to global security.

The SDI has been mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Powell, but the current debate started with the 1998 report to Congress commissioned by a Republican majority in Congress led by Donald Rumsfeld. Since the new Administration came into power the drive has been led by the most ideological Republicans. John Bolton was here in November telling us all that we had to get on board because the Americans were going ahead anyway.

I am unhappy about an allegedly left of centre British Government accepting an agenda defined by the right wing of a rather divided Republican Administration in Washington. The Minister shakes his head, but that is what it looks like. The absence of any attempt so far by the British Government to put the matter of missile defence back into a multilateral context causes us concern.

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On an appropriate response, we have to ask whether we are happy to tag along behind an American system, designed to protect the United States without any reference to the European allies. Yesterday I was reading a Heritage Foundation paper on my computer that said that of course it is in America's interests to keep the Europeans as divided as possible because then they will not pose any threat to the United States. We continue to define the nature of the case. In recent months they have been successful, as the Heritage Foundation paper said, in ensuring that the Europeans stay divided. The British may have helped in that regard.

On the nature of the current threat, it now comes from the south and the east. The Americans may be better off if this kind of radar were in Bulgaria or Italy. A European framework appears appropriate. In terms of the credible potential threat, if missiles cross British territory they are likely to travel first across Italy, France, Greece and the Balkans.

On UK sovereignty and British democratic accountability, I am becoming increasingly used to the idea that in matters of national security the Government operate on the basis of the Royal prerogative and do not report to Parliament. Yesterday, when reading up on the subject, I was struck by how differently the Danish Government have approached the same request to upgrade the Thule radar. Much more detailed information was available to the Danish Parliament on what the United States have asked and there was information on how the Danish Government will respond.

The Minister kindly sent me a letter on the leasing issue in response to my unanswered question of some months ago. It points out that there is no lease to govern Menwith Hill or Fylingdales because the agreements are not legally binding. It also points out that under assurances given to the American authorities in 1955, and again in 1976, the site will be made available for a period of 21 years. Unless my arithmetic is wrong, that means that the assurances ran out in 1997. Perhaps the Minister could tell me where we are now, why Parliament has not been informed at least in principle about the state of play and why the Danish Government can inform the Danish Parliament of such matters when the British Government believe that it is not necessary to do so.

There are real questions about democratic accountability and about British sovereignty. Fylingdales and Menwith Hill are not US sovereign base areas, but the British Government appear to operate as though they are. I understand that there are almost no Americans attached to Fylingdales. I gather that the current number is one. I also understand that there were over 1,000 American personnel at Menwith Hill and since 11th September 2001 that number has increased considerably. That has not been reported to the British Parliament, but that is the word that has filtered through to people like me.

We also understand that Menwith Hill is used not only for space-based infra-red systems related to the missile system, but also for a whole range of other

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activities, including, if recent reports are to be believed, listening in on America's allies in relation to what policy they may take on votes in the UN Security Council.

The democratic acceptability point that my noble friend Lady Miller suggested is a real one. At a time when we have declining trust in the United Kingdom in the overall approach to global security of the current American Administration, the acceptability of the current arrangements is likely to be thrown into question.

That leads me to two other points. What about the potential cost? I love the phrase used by the noble Lord, Lord Powell, that the cost will not necessarily be prohibitive. I think that means that it will cost an awful lot of money, but it may not mean more than, say, a 25 per cent increase in the defence budget. I hope that that is the case. If the United Kingdom is not simply to serve American needs then we need a more open debate about how far we need to participate. If the United Kingdom is to go down that road, we need to do so with partners. How far do we tag along behind the United States or do we raise this matter with our partners in Europe with whom we share the likely threat? I repeat that arms control regimes are cheaper, as well as better. The pursuit of robust multilateral enforcement regimes is a preferable response to the unilateralism of the kind propounded by John Bolton, Donald Rumsfeld and others.

Then there are references to hopes that British industry will benefit if we join in. In the early stages of the strategic defence initiative, I remember well that being one of the supposed advantages for Britain. We did not gain very much. It is likely to be an illusion again. Treatment of the British defence industry is so different from that of other sectors of industry. Our hope that our defence industry will be cut into these deals is increasingly open to question. We are also told that in order to keep the industry going we must approve active pursuit of defence sales to countries which are not entirely stable. There are also some large issues there.

I end by saying that we on these Benches strongly endorse the criticism of the House of Commons report published in January on the way in which this decision has been taken. That was very strongly put. I entirely agree with it. We call for a much more cautious approach to an issue which is important, to a decision which is not purely technical and to a broad new threat which we need to discuss with all our allies and not simply to accept a ideologically-driven debate by the Right of the Republican Party in the United States.

7.51 p.m.

Lord Vivian: My Lords, we are grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, for introducing this debate today. Your Lordships have expressed a number of most interesting points.

On these Benches we have consistently supported the Fylingdales upgrade and have warned of the potential risks and loss of trade to British industry if

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we do not participate. In our opinion there is no dispute about the threat. The need for missile defence is beyond doubt and we should be fully committed in principle to global defence now.

An assessment has been made that currently there is no significant immediate threat to the UK from ballistic missiles. However, Iraq, North Korea, Iran and Libya cause serious concern as they have developed, or are seeking to develop, or acquire ballistic missiles of increasing range. Some already have active and relatively sophisticated ballistic missile programmes and weapons of mass destruction. However, in this debate there is no time to comment any more on the ballistic missiles of North Korea, Iran and Libya.

Iraq is the most immediate threat to global security as it possesses the combination of missiles and weapons of mass destruction—and has used them in the past—and is seeking to develop long-range ballistic missiles. There is no time to go into specific detail, but what has happened to the 25 Scuds and their 50 warheads covertly retained by Iraq? What has happened to the remaining Al-Samoud 2 missiles and their 567 Volga engines and what has happened to the documents relating to the propellant used in these prohibited missiles?

Iraq possesses and has useable offensive chemical and biological weapon capabilities, which include warheads for the Scud missiles filled with nerve agents, anthrax, botulinum toxin and aflatoxin. It has used chemical and biological weapons and killed horrific numbers of Iranians and Kurds, and hundreds of thousands of its own Marsh Arabs. Very recent press reports reveal that Iraq has built secretly a new and potentially lethal unmanned drone that could spray chemical and biological weapons on advancing troops. That was recorded on page 14 of the latest 173-page report from the United Nations weapons inspectors, which was declassified last Friday. This find appears to support allied claims that Iraq has continued to produce the means to deliver banned weapons of mass destruction. It was not declared by Iraq and is a further violation of UN resolutions.

Turning to chemical and biological agents, where are the 550 x 155 mm shells and the 450 R400 aerial bombs filled with mustard gas and the remaining 80 tonnes of mustard gas? Where are the 6,500 chemical weapon bombs? What has happened to the VX nerve agent, the 11,000 litres of botulinum toxin and the 10,000 litres of anthrax? All these chemical and biological substances could be delivered by ballistic missiles if Iraq continued to produce those missiles.

Terrorist organisations are unlikely to use long-range ballistic missiles as a means of delivery as it would be beyond their financial means and even acquisition from off-the-shelf is unlikely. These terrorist organisations are more likely to deliver weapons of mass destruction by covert means such as in suitcase bombs or packages.

However, the role of Fylingdales should enable the USA to develop and enhance its ideas and emerging technologies to produce ultimately a layered missile

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defence system. The plan is not to destroy large numbers of missiles as in Star Wars, but to provide a capability with a less extensive global protection system against a limited strike programme involving far fewer ballistic missiles. Royal Air Force Fylingdales has been in operation since about 1963 as one of the radars that provide early warning of ballistic missiles against the United Kingdom, western Europe and the USA. It monitors continuously what is happening in space and the launch and track of rockets from sites within its field of view.

Implementation of the agreement to the US request would give the USA protection from missiles from the Middle East, but it brings no immediate defensive missile cover to the UK unless ground or sea-based interceptors are also located in south-eastern Europe. Some local people are concerned that the upgrade to the hardware and software programmes will increase radiation emissions to dangerous levels. The current levels are safe and many times lower than the safety limits set by the authorities. The Secretary of State has said there will be no change in the power output of the radar and no health risk to people or livestock should arise.

However, there is no need to co-locate interceptors with the radars. The upgrade of the USA radars at Fylingdales will provide us, at no cost to the United Kingdom, with a vital building block on which missile defence for this country and for our European neighbours could be developed if the need arose. Surely we should preserve the possibility of such defences protecting the people of the United Kingdom. Some argue that Fylingdales will become a target once it has been upgraded. However, there is no evidence that it will be at any more risk than it is now even with a terrorist threat, and since the end of the Cold War it could well be argued that it is less of a risk.

Some of the implications stemming from missile defence are that the United States is now looking at working closely with friends and allies to develop defences, which enhance global security in the face of potential threats from rogue states. It has also refocused its efforts on the much more limited and realistic aim of defending against potential threats. The United Kingdom needs to maintain the ability with its allies to intervene in regional crises where our national interests or international stability are threatened, or the will of the international community is being flouted. We need to be prepared for a scenario in which a state carries out a regional act of aggression, and then seeks to deter intervention by threatening population centres with ballistic missiles and weapons of mass destruction.

The agreed upgrade does not in itself commit the United Kingdom to any greater participation in the United States missile defence programme. It does, however, keep open the prospect of acquiring missile defence capabilities for the UK, should we desire such protection at some point in the future, but it may well be a very expensive, although necessary, option. The risk to the UK from ballistic missiles and hence the desirability of a missile defence system will be driven by the inimical intentions of other states and

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improvement in ballistic missile technology and accuracy, and not by the existence of the US missile defence programme. Safety lies in recognising threats as they arise, and in taking proactive steps to address them.

On the issue of international stability, the aim is to tackle limited threats from states of concern with emerging missile capabilities, which seek to acquire and threaten to use ballistic missiles and weapons of mass destruction in contravention of widely accepted conventions.

It has been said that we are trying to protect ourselves and friends and allies from threats from countries that may not be deterred by our possession of nuclear weapons, reserving the right to use them in specific circumstances. However, future decisions on the existence of effective missile defences should help to dissuade any states that might be weighing up whether to embark on the costly and technically difficult path of developing or procuring ballistic missiles and weapons of mass destruction in the first place. It is important to consider missile defence in the context of emerging threats from states that pay no attention to the safety and welfare of their own people.

I end my comments with statements from the Prime Minister and the Chief of Defence Staff. The Prime Minister said:

    "There is a threat to our security from unstable states acquiring nuclear weapons . . . and if you can develop a defensive system, and this is a defensive system, that can give us some protection against that, I don't think that is the wrong thing to do. On the contrary I think there is merit in it".

The Chief of the Defence Staff said:

    "If there is a defence system around which we can make use of, then it must be essential for us to investigate it . . . It would benefit the Country in the longer term".

I agree with those statements and that it is right for the United Kingdom to have agreed to the upgrade for the Fylingdales radar, not least because of the importance of the United States/United Kingdom special relationship. In addition, the upgrade will improve the vital early warning capability and we shall retain the opportunity to keep open the prospect of future missile defence for the United Kingdom and the potential for UK industrial participation.

Missile defences threaten no one and the capability would have to be used only if a ballistic missile had been fired. Once such a missile is in the air and threatening a devastating impact, it is unthinkable that anyone could not want to be in a position to shoot it down. I reiterate that we should be fully committed to global missile defence now.

8.2 p.m.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Bach): My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, on securing the debate and all noble Lords for their contributions. It has certainly been an interesting discussion. However, having heard both defence and foreign affairs spokesmen for the Liberal Democrats, I am left in a dilemma. The noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, may be able to assist me. In spite of the many words spoken

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with passion by both noble Lords, I still do not know whether the Liberal Democrats support or oppose the decision made by Her Majesty's Government. That is not an academic point; it is an important one. The Liberal Democrat Party is a serious political party. It must have views on whether the Government's decision is a good or a bad thing. I hope that we shall hear what is its view.

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