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I am grateful to the Under-Secretary for his explanation of the circumstances last year. I agree that he had very little time. I just wished that some of the very important points which were raised on this side of the Committee could have been dealt with in his remarks.
Last year hon. Members on this side of the Committee were accused of having too little respect for the desires for peace of hon. Members opposite. If I may risk repeating the obvious. I want to go over the points on which I believe there is no difference at all between hon. Members.
First, all hon. Members are equally anxious for peace and equally anxious to do whatever is necessary and right to protect and defend the lives of the people of Britain.
Secondly, we can all agree that nuclear weapons present an entirely new challenge not only to us but to the whole world. They do so for two reasons, and I believe that there is general agreement on this. The first reason is that they are qualitatively different in the extent of destruction which they can create. When we talk about one hydrogen bomb creating as much destruction as all the T.N.T. of the last war, we all recognise the qualitative difference. The second reason is—I think that this has become true of the country as a whole in the last six months—that everybody now recognises the genetic danger of nuclear weapons which mark them off as something quite different. We have never before had to consider how what we in the House of Commons were proposing to do would affect future generations as well as our own generation.
Thirdly, I believe that we all agree—at least, I thought we all agreed until I heard the hon. Member for Rutland and Stamford, and here I return to the point that he made—that there is a very great likelihood that any limited conventional war will become a nuclear war through the process of escalation. Perhaps I am wrong and it is still a matter of considerable controversy, but I thought that it was accepted that there was very great risk of that happening.