|Previous Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|
There is also a growing number of failed states, where a combination of economic incompetence, corruption, internal conflicts, external attacks, political anarchy and repressive regimes has created intolerable conditions for local populations. The uncompromising threat of fundamentalist Islamicism, which has overtly transferred itself from a religion into a political ideology, is growing. In the Middle East, the price of peace seems to be higher than the cost of conflict, especially given the cash flow from the high oil prices, which contribute to that regional turbulence. Indeed, the price of oil is partly a function of the regional turbulence. In whose interest, therefore, is the regional turbulence?
The likelihood of nuclear proliferation is growing. It is probably safer to use military technology to counter it, if it happens, than military force to prevent it, because nuclear weapons remain unusable, as they have been since August 1945. I believe that we can be reasonably confident that no state that has even the semblance of a diversity of power will use them. None the less, we must have the best defence against them. For those reasons, I strongly support the principle of ballistic missile defence in Europe.
There are important obligations on the Government. First, they must keep Parliament properly and fully informed. Many of these issues are not state secrets. The decisions made must and should depend on the feedback from the people in a parliamentary democracy. Secondly, they must ensure that we have the financial resources to meet any commitments. I have said before that the Government have to choose between providing the resources to meet their military commitments and adjusting their military commitments to their resources. At present they are doing neither. Let us be aware that the economic prospects mean that the cash flow from taxation over the coming years will look pretty sick.
The fact remains that we are dependent on the United States for our key defence technologies. That is why I believe that we were silly to embark on competitive technologies such as the EU Galileo
10 Jan 2008 : Column 959
The Government must answer other questions, too. Are interceptor missiles, as well as the method of detecting missile attacks, to be stationed in the United Kingdom? I am very unclear about where we are on that and we must debate it. We will not necessarily all agree, but this must not be done surreptitiously. We have heard about the enormous scale of Menwith Hill from the noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire. I had not realised what a huge operation it is. It is important that local people should be consulted on the implications for them. Then there are the potential benefits for British business in developing these new systems.
Lord Hannay of Chiswick: My Lords, recent developments in the field of missile defence systems, in particular the unilateral US decision to deploy anti-missile missiles and their back-up equipment to eastern Europe and the extraordinarily shrill Russian response to that decision, have reminded us of the basic fragility of the security environment in which we live in this post-Cold War era. Some statements, particularly those from the Russian side, have sounded eerily like echoes of the Cold War. While I do not believe that we are in fact slipping back towards that era, we surely need to learn lessons from some of the mistakes that have been made and to try to remedy some of the damage that has been done. Because this issue has wider implications for the whole future of mutually agreed multilateral measures of arms control and disarmament, we need, I argue, to look wider than the single matter of missile defence. We need to know a lot more than we have hitherto been told about the role that the British Government are playing in these developments and, for that, we look to the Minister replying to this debate. For all these reasons, I warmly welcome the initiative taken by the noble Lord, Lord Wallace, and the Liberal Democrats in bringing this issue before the House.
I should say at the outset that I do not believe that either the United States or its allies can simply afford to ignore the potential future threat from weapons of mass destruction armed missile attacks, launched by one or more of the growing number of countries seeking to acquire such a capability. So I do not favour attempting to place a blanket ban on the development or deployment of any form of anti-missile defence. There I take the same view as, I think, the noble Lord, Lord Giddens, and certainly the noble Lord, Lord Marlesford. To do so, in my view, not only would be doomed to failure, but could leave the United States and its allies with no better form of deterrence against such attacks than the appalling prospect of massive retaliation. That form of deterrence may have worked in the special circumstances of the
10 Jan 2008 : Column 960
The initial approach of the US to the handling of the perceived threat seems to me to have been deeply flawed and to bear all the marks of that unilateralist approach to policy making that has inflicted such damage on the USs reputation and its alliance relationships over recent years. Was it really wise not to ensure firm support or at least clear understanding of the reasoning behind the policy in NATO before moving ahead? Was it sensible not to consult Russia at an early stage and at every level before firm decisions were announced, given the fraught negotiations that preceded the setting aside of the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty in 2002? My answer to both questions is, Clearly not.
The need now, surely, is to proceed much more circumspectly and cautiously towards any future decisions, particularly those on the timing and practicalities of any actual deployment of missiles, seeking to meet concerns where they are legitimate and to find ways around problems rather than bulldozing ones way through them. In all this, the element of timing is surely critical and, in the light of the recent US National Intelligence Estimate on Iran, there may be slightly more of that commodity available than was thought by some a short time ago. After all, a world in which the potential threats from North Korea and Iran have been met by peaceful negotiated responses will be a totally different world from one where the diplomatic approach has definitively failed, and we are not yet at a point where we can say one or the other of those two outcomes is the more likely. It would be good to hear from the Minister whether the Government are urging such a more circumspect and cautious approach on our US allies when it comes to deployment.
That brings us to the wider significance of this anti-missile defence issue to arms control and disarmament in general. Developments in this wider field since the turn of the century have almost all been negative. The major shift towards substantive measures of arms control and disarmament that marked the 1980s and 1990s ground to a halt and was then reversed. This was no random event, born simply of neglect or inadvertence. Any reader of Surrender is Not an Option, the recent memoir of the former US ambassador to the UN and Under Secretary for Arms Control, will see there the glee and enthusiasm with which the Bush Administration set about unilaterally dismantling existing agreements such as the ABM Treaty and destroying future ones on biological warfare verification and on a fissile material cut-off treaty, as well as blocking any prospect of bringing the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty into force. This in my view misguided policy
10 Jan 2008 : Column 961
That is what makes 2008 a crucial year for arms control and disarmament, one in which we can either stand aside helplessly as the world slides towards disorder and greater insecurity for all, or one in which we collectively begin to resume the process of multilateral arms control and disarmament and to strengthen the effort against the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. We should be under no illusion that those two matters are closely connected. If the 2010 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference is to avoid being the fiasco that its predecessor was in 2005, if the now certain major expansion of civil nuclear energy in the years ahead is not to lead to major proliferation risks from the increasingly widespread existence of countries controlling the full fuel cycle, and if the cases of Iran and North Korea are to be handled satisfactorily, the existing legitimised nuclear weapon states will need to honour their commitment to move towards nuclear disarmament. That is the view of a number of extremely distinguished US statesmen known more for their realism than for any ideological commitment to disarmament, led by two former Secretaries of State, George Shultz and Henry Kissinger. It surely should be the view, too, of our own Government, but on that I wait to hear the noble Baroness when she winds up.
This years election in the US provides an opportunity and is, indeed, a necessary precondition for such a reversal of recent negative trends, as probably is the emergence of Russia from its cycle of parliamentary and presidential elections. But the debate needs to go wider than that and it would surely be wrong if the British Governmentone of the legitimised nuclear weapon stateswere to regard themselves simply as a spectator in this process. Is it not high time that the Foreign Secretary or the Prime Minister set out fully and publicly the British Governments thinking on the whole range of issues covered in this debate? What are we ourselves prepared to contribute to the sorely needed renaissance of multilateral arms control and disarmament? What are we doing to bring about a concerted European view on these matters, particularly a view concerted with our fellow European nuclear power, France? What progress is being made at the International Atomic Energy Agency to take decisions and to implement the Governments proposals for a uranium enrichment bank or drawing rights?
In conclusion, I return briefly to missile defence. It is surely clear that addressing this matter on its own, in complete isolation from these wider considerations, is not likely either to work or to produce good results. We need to address it in a wider framework of resumed international co-operation over arms control issues. By this I am not suggesting any crude trade-offs or some obscure grand bargain. The suggestion is rather that, unless we can bring about a reversal of recent negative trends and a spirit of greater mutual confidence and co-operation, dealing with each individual issue, of which this is one, will be a great deal more
10 Jan 2008 : Column 962
Lord Addington: My Lords, when I put down my name to speak in this debate I was putting my toe into new waters. I did so because I have never really felt that the idea that you could knock out of the sky all the opposing missiles of any enemywhether they be big or smallwas one that stood up to any degree of scrutiny.
The noble Lord, Lord Giddens, pointed out that so far the answer to any of these defence systems has been simply more warheads. You fire more of them more frequently. They will come over but you will not be able to take them out with any of the proposed technologies. Thus the system may find a new justification as a rogue state may have the will and sufficient resources to equip itself with a sufficiently technologically advanced weapons system applicable to this form of defencea defence system which has not received universal or national backing for its technological capability.
Will it work? Does that really matter? If we do this at a very limited levelthose who are doing it may not launch it anywayand if the Americans, our allies, wish to pump vast amounts of money into this systemmoney which may well be better spent on accurate intelligencedoes it really matter? Yes, because it might work; yes, because the technology that is being acquired here is a threat to any other major state. Once you have the delivery system you can expand any weapons system, once it has been developed and once it is in a prepared state.
A disastrous outcome of this logic can be that huge amounts of money are pumped into a system which is inadequately deployed to meet most of the threats and others are inspired to take countermeasures. The countermeasures would, quite obviously, take out the early-warning systems, thus creating a situation in which one has to strike back earlier. That is a very familiar scenario to anyone who grew up, as I did, under the reality of mutually assured destruction. One would strike back earlier, there would be cut-off points and people would, I hope, back away. That is how the system appears to me.
I cannot do justice to some of the ideas that came out of the Star Wars project because I would be bound to get some of the acronyms wrong, but there are lasers and chemical weapons systems and so on, which apparently are technically possible but have not yet been perfected. There are systems that can strike early in the boost phase of a missile coming towards you. That is probably where the systems will work but, once again, you will have to consider striking
10 Jan 2008 : Column 963
We are using vast amounts of resources to meet a threat that does not exist, but which will annoy Russia. Whatever goes on in the mind of Russia, it is a country that, throughout its history, has shown a degree of fear and nervousness about its neighbours, which probably should be drawn to the attention of the rest of the world. It is potentially a threat to China and to India. If it is likely that the current approach will not work, the easiest way of deterring the threat is to take away valuable resources from what is going on, so alienating your potential allies who, between them, might stand a much better chance of cracking down on the problem.
What are we buying into? It is something that might blight some form of diplomacy in international relations in the future; it could build up a victim culture in all those statesbig and smallthat see it potentially being directed against them; and ultimately it will not work. I suggest that we remove ourselves from it. We need to get enough distance to say that it is not the way forward. If we do not do that, we will commit ourselves to something that is ultimately counterproductive.
Lord Judd: My Lords, I join those who have expressed their genuine appreciation to the noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire, for giving the House an opportunity to discuss this issue. As a long-standing governor of the London School of Economics, I long ago came to admire the powerful, tough and sometimes relentless analysisand the effectiveness with which it is usually deployedof the noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire.
Since the fall of the Berlin Wall there has been a total transformation of the context in which we approach defence. The nature of the threat has become much more complex and demanding than the relative predictability of the dynamism of the Cold War. Volatility and dispersed dangers, coupled with sinister nuclear, chemical and biological capabilities are the stark reality. The remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Addington, deserve careful attention. I sometimes reflect that what has been regarded in the past as unorthodox has indeed become the orthodox. It is impossible to eliminate the dangersagain, the remarks and observations of the noble Lord, Lord Addington, were very important in this respectbut they can be reduced to a minimum with irreconcilable extremism marginalised.
The battle for hearts and minds must therefore no longer be seen as a nice country weekend idea. It becomes a central, immediate, muscular priority in our strategy. A battle for hearts and minds requires vast resources for economic, social and educational
10 Jan 2008 : Column 964
Do they convincingly meet not only current challenges but challenges we may face in the future? Among the new preoccupations posed by terrorism, Iran, Israel, India, Pakistan, and the rest, what, if any, are the Russian and Chinese dimensions in all this? Will such developments contribute to locking us into a muscle-bound inflexible and inadequate posture? We have debated this issue before but I do not believe that we have really answered the question convincingly. We and our allies owe it to our hard-pressedindeed overstretchedservice personnel in the front line to be absolutely certain. It is to them and their needs that we should look first when considering defence expenditure.
Some may say that the proposed missile defence system is in any case a US initiative and that all we are doing is facilitating the priority of a friend and ally. That is naïve. The political implications and knock-on effects on our own priorities of our involvement are immense, and we need to be convinced that they are beyond question necessary in pursuit of what we believe are our own security interests, let alone those of Europe and the wider world. Surely, as the noble Lords, Lord Wallace of Saltaire and Lord Hannay, with his vast experience, argued, a multilateral approach is indispensable, as is the imperative of a regenerated commitment to global disarmament.
Against that background of the imperative for intellectual rigour we shall make an unforgivable mistake if, because of whatever misplaced emotions, we allow ourselves to be seducedas arguably we were in the saga of the Iraq warinto an increasingly irreversible momentum. We have never honestly resolved whether the route of travel was a wise, rational and justified one. There is a debate about this in the United States. Fundamental re-evaluation of strategy in both the Democratic and Republican Parties is taking place. This would be a disastrous time to add to a momentum that risks thwarting the potential of all that exciting new thinking across the Atlantic. The Government would deserve the widespread support of us all in deciding to pause, to think extremely hard and deep, and to help our American friends to do the same before proceedingif they decide to do so.
The noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire, raised the crucial issue of the status of the base. Defence is about defending a society that is qualitatively worth defending. One part of that reality in the United Kingdom that I passionately believe inI make no apology for finishing on this themeis the national parks. I declare an interest as a very active vice-president of the Council for National Parksindeed, I live in one.
In previous debates on US defence infrastructure in the United Kingdom the Government have provided assurances that any new missile defence system would not result in additional built development at Fylingdales, which is of course in the North York Moors National Park. A similar reassurance from my noble friend today would be good. I hope that she will give it. However, the fear must be that the major infrastructure needed will amount to a vast intrusion. I am thinking of the new and extra roads, buildingsthe noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire has already spelt out graphically what that meansfences and additional security, not to speak of the further loss of public access.
Unavoidably, there will be substantial public interest in any plan that would prolong the military use of Fylingdales and could lead to a major new development in a national park. It is important, therefore, that due process is followed. This means a full environmental impact assessment, which the Government require for new, renewed or intensified military use of national parks. They require that any proposals be tested against the guidance on planning policy. This guidance includes a presumption against major developments in national parks. A public consultation should therefore take place on the future use of the site, including on whether it should remain in the national park at all, should the Government wish to sanction its use for any missile defence system. It would be helpful to have the observations of my noble friend on all this when she comes to reply.
What the noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire, said is something that none of us can escape. Is this part of the sovereign territory of the United Kingdom? Does the law and practice of the Untied Kingdom apply? If not, why the hell not? We need clear answers on that.
I hope the House will forgive me I seize this opportunity to say that there has been, of late, increasing use of the national parks for military training. As a former commissioned serviceman and a former defence Minister, I obviously believe that military training is a vital part of any defence policy, but its use in national parks should be only what is absolutely essential. The national parks should, in a sense, be the last resort. We have to face the fact that the purpose of the parks is to provide psychological and physical breathing space for a stressed nation. We allow that to be removed at our peril, in terms of the quality of our society as a whole. These are not light matters, but an illustration of the very specific implications for our own national social priorities of a scheme of this kindquite apart from the defence implications. We have not begun to look at all that. As the noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire, said, the need for a major debate is absolutely imperative.
|Next Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|