§ 3.45 p.m.
§ The Prime Minister (Sir Winston Churchill)
I beg to move,That this House approves the Statement on Defence, 1955, Command Paper No. 9391.This Motion stands in my name, and it is supported by my right hon. Friends the Foreign Secretary, the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Minister of Defence.
We live in a period, happily unique in human history, when the whole world is divided intellectually and to a large extent geographically between the creeds of Communist discipline and individual freedom, and when, at the same time, this mental and psychological division is accompanied by the possession by both sides of the obliterating weapons of the nuclear age.
We have antagonisms now as deep as those of the Reformation and its reactions which led to the Thirty Years' War. But now they are spread over the whole world instead of only over a small part of Europe. We have, to some extent, the geographical division of the Mongul invasion in the thirteenth century, only more ruthless and more thorough. We have force and science, hitherto the servants of man, now threatening to become his master.
I am not pretending to have a solution for a permanent peace between the nations Which could be unfolded this afternoon., We pray for it. Nor shall I try to discuss the cold war which we all detest, but have to endure. I shall only venture to offer to the House some observations mainly of a general character on which I have pondered long and which, I hope, may be tolerantly received, as they are intended by me. And here may I venture to make a personal digression? I do not pretend to be an expert or to have technical knowledge of this prodigious sphere: of science. But in my long friendship with Lord Cher-well I have tried to follow and even predict the evolution of events. I hope that the House will not reprove me for vanity or conceit if I repeat what I wrote a quarter of a century ago:We know enough,I said,to be sure that the scientific achievements of the next 50 years will be far greater, more rapid and more surprising than those we have already experienced … High authorities tell 1894 us that new sources of power, vastly more important than any we yet know, will surely be discovered. Nuclear energy is incomparably greater than the molecular energy which we use today. The coal a man can get in a day can easily do 500 times as much work as the man himself. Nuclear energy is at least 1 m. times more powerful still. If the hydrogen atoms in a pound of water could be prevailed upon to combine together and form helium, they would suffice to drive a 1.000 horse-power engine for a whole year. If the electrons—those tiny planets of the atomic systems—were induced to combine with the nuclei in the hydrogen, the horse-power liberated would be 120 times greater still. There is no question among scientists that this gigantic source of energy exists. What is lacking is the match to set the bonfire alight, or it may be the detonator to cause the dynamite to explode.This is no doubt not quite an accurate description of what has been discovered, but as it was published in the "Strand" Magazine of December, 1931—twenty-four years ago—I hope that my plea to have long taken an interest in the subject may be indulgently accepted by the House.
What is the present position? Only three countries possess, in varying degrees, the knowledge and the power to make nuclear weapons. Of these, the United States is overwhelmingly the chief. Owing to the breakdown in the exchange of information between us and the United States since 1946 we have had to start again independently on our own. Fortunately, executive action was taken promptly by the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition to reduce as far as possible the delay in our nuclear development and production. By his initiative we have made our own atomic bombs.
Confronted with the hydrogen bomb, I have tried to live up to the right hon. Gentleman's standard. We have started to make that one, too. It is this grave decision which forms the core of the Defence Paper which we are discussing this afternoon. Although the Soviet stockpile of atomic bombs may be greater than that of Britain, British discoveries may well place us above them in fundamental science.
May I say that for the sake of simplicity and to avoid verbal confusion I use the expression "atomic bombs" and also "hydrogen bombs" instead of "thermo-nuclear" and I keep "nuclear" for the whole lot. There is an immense gulf between the atomic and the hydrogen bomb. The atomic bomb, with all its 1895 terrors, did not carry us outside the scope of human control or manageable events in thought or action, in peace or war. But when Mr. Sterling Cole, the Chairman of the United States Congressional Committee, gave out a year ago—17th February, 1954—the first comprehensive review of the hydrogen bomb, the entire foundation of human affairs was revolutionised, and mankind placed in a situation both measureless and laden with doom.
It is now the fact that a quantity of plutonium, probably less than would fill this Box on the Table—it is quite a safe thing to store—would suffice to produce weapons which would give indisputable world domination to any great Power which was the only one to have it. There is no absolute defence against the hydrogen bomb, nor is any method in sight by which any nation, or any country, can be completely guaranteed against the devastating injury which even a score of them might inflict on wide regions.
What ought we to do? Which way shall we turn to save our lives and the future of the world? It does not matter so much to old people; they are going soon anyway, but I find it poignant to look at youth in all its activity and ardour and, most of all, to watch little children playing their merry games, and wonder what would lie before them if God wearied of mankind.
The best defence would of course be bona fide disarmament all round. This is in all our hearts. But sentiment must not cloud our vision. It is often said that "Facts are stubborn things." A renewed session of a sub-committee of the Disarmament Commission is now sitting in London and is rightly attempting to conduct its debates in private. We must not conceal from ourselves the gulf between the Soviet Government and the N.A.T.O. Powers, which has hitherto, for so long, prevented an agreement. The long history and tradition of Russia makes it repugnant to the Soviet Government to accept any practical system of international inspection.
A second difficulty lies in the circumstance that, just as the United States, on the one hand, has, we believe, the overwhelming mastery in nuclear weapons, so the Soviets and their Communist satellites have immense superiority in what are called "conventional" forces—the 1896 sort of arms and forces with which we fought the last war, but much improved. The problem is, therefore, to devise a balanced and phased system of disarmament which at no period enables any one of the participants to enjoy an advantage which might endanger the security of the others. A scheme on these lines was submitted last year by Her Majesty's Government and the French Government and was accepted by the late Mr. Vyshinsky as a basis of discussion. It is now being examined in London.
If the Soviet Government have not at any time since the war shown much nervousness about the American possession of nuclear superiority, that is because they are quite sure that it will not be used against them aggressively, even in spite of many forms of provocation. On the other hand, the N.A.T.O. Powers have been combined together by the continued aggression and advance of Communism in Asia and in Europe. That this should have eclipsed in a few years, and largely effaced, the fearful antagonism and memories that Hitlerism created for the German people is an event without parallel. But it has, to a large extent, happened. There is widespread belief throughout the free world that, but for American nuclear superiority, Europe would already have been reduced to satellite status and the Iron Curtain would have reached the Atlantic and the Channel.
Unless a trustworthy and universal agreement upon disarmament, conventional and nuclear alike, can be reached and an effective system of inspection is established and is actually working, there is only one sane policy for the free world in the next few years. That is what we call defence through deterrents. This we have already adopted and proclaimed. These deterrents may at any time become the parents of disarmament, provided that they deter. To make our contribution to the deterrent we must ourselves possess the most up-to-date nuclear weapons, and the means of delivering them.
That is the position which the Government occupy. We are to discuss this not only as a matter of principle; there are many practical reasons which should be given. Should war come, which God forbid, there are a large number of targets that we and the Americans must be able to strike at once. There are scores of airfields from which the Soviets could 1897 launch attacks with hydrogen bombs as soon as they have the bombers to carry them. It is essential to our deterrent policy and to our survival to have, with our American allies, the strength and numbers to be able to paralyse these potential Communist assaults in the first few hours of the war, should it come.
The House will perhaps note that I avoid using the word "Russia" as much as possible in this discussion. I have a strong admiration for the Russian people—for their bravery, their many gifts, and their kindly nature. It is the Communist dictatorship and the declared ambition of the Communist Party and their prose-lytising activities that we are bound to resist, and that is what makes this great world cleavage which I mentioned when I opened my remarks.
There are also big administrative and industrial targets behind the Iron Curtain, and any effective deterrent policy must have the power to paralyse them all at the outset, or shortly after. There are also the Soviet submarine bases and other naval targets which will need early attention. Unless we make a contribution of our own—that is the point which I am pressing—we cannot be sure that in an emergency the resources: of other Powers would be planned exactly as we would wish, or that the targets which would threaten us most would be given what we consider the necessary priority, or the deserved priority, in the first few hours.
These targets might be of such cardinal importance that it would really be a matter of life and death for us. All this, I think, must be borne in mind in deciding our policy about the conventional forces, to which I will come later, the existing Services.
Meanwhile, the United States has many times the nuclear power of Soviet Russia—I avoid any attempt to give exact figures—and they have, of course, far more effective means of delivering. Our moral and military support of the United States and our possession of nuclear weapons of the highest quality and on an appreciable scale, together with their means of delivery, will greatly reinforce the deterrent power of the free world, and will strengthen our influence within the free world. That, at any rate, is the policy we have decided to pursue. That is what we are now doing, and I am thankful that it is endorsed by a mass of respon- 1898 sible opinion on both sides of the House, and, I believe, by the great majority of the nation.
A vast quantity of information, some true, some exaggerated much out of proportion, has been published about the hydrogen bomb. The truth has inevitably been mingled with fiction, and I am glad to say that panic has not occurred. Panic would not necessarily make for peace. That is one reason why I have been most anxious that responsible discussions on this matter should not take place on the B.B.C. or upon the television, and I thought that I was justified in submitting that view of Her Majesty's Government to the authorities, which they at once accepted—very willingly accepted.
Panic would not necessarily make for peace even in this country. There are many countries where a certain wave of opinion may arise and swing so furiously into action that decisive steps may be taken from which there is no recall. As it is, the world population goes on its daily journey despite its sombre impression and earnest longing for relief. That is the way we are going on now.
I shall content myself with saying about the power of this weapon, the hydrogen bomb, that apart from all the statements about blast and heat effects over increasingly wide areas there are now to be considered the consequences of "fall out," as it is called, of wind-borne radio-active particles. There is both an immediate direct effect on human beings who are in the path of such a cloud and an indirect effect through animals, grass and vegetables, which pass on these contagions to human beings through food.
This would confront many who escaped the direct effects of the explosion with poisoning, or starvation, or both. Imagination stands appalled. There are, of course, the palliatives and precautions of a courageous Civil Defence, and about that the Home Secretary will be speaking later on tonight. But our best protection lies, as I am sure the House will be convinced, in successful deterrents operating from a foundation of sober, calm and tireless vigilance.
Moreover, a curious paradox has emerged. Let me put it simply. After a certain point has been passed it may be said, "The worse things get the better."
1899 The broad effect of the latest developments is to spread almost indefinitely and at least to a vast extent the area of mortal danger. This should certainly increase the deterrent upon Soviet Russia by putting her enormous spaces and scattered population on an equality or near-equality of vulnerability with our small densely-populated island and with Western Europe.
I cannot regard this development as adding to our dangers. We have reached the maximum already. On the contrary, to this form of attack continents are vulnerable as well as islands. Hitherto, crowded countries, as I have said, like the United Kingdom and Western Europe, have had this outstanding vulnerability to carry. But the hydrogen bomb, with its vast range of destruction and the even wider area of contamination, would be effective also against nations whose population hitherto has been so widely dispersed over large land areas as to make them feel that they were not in any danger at all.
They, too, become highly vulnerable; not yet equally perhaps, but, still, highly and increasingly vulnerable. Here again we see the value of deterrents, immune against surprise and well understood by all persons on both sides—I repeat "on both sides"—who have the power to control events. That is why I have hoped for a long time for a top level conference where these matters could be put plainly and bluntly from one friendly visitor to the conference to another.
Then it may well be that we shall by a process of sublime irony have reached a stage in this story where safety will be the sturdy child of terror, and survival the twin brother of annihilation. Although the Americans have developed weapons capable of producing all the effects I have mentioned, we believe that the Soviets so far have tested by explosion only a type of bomb of intermediate power.
There is no reason why, however, they should not develop some time within the next four, three or even two years more advanced weapons and full means to deliver them on North American targets. Indeed, there is every reason to believe that within that period they will. In trying to look ahead like this we must be careful ourselves to avoid the error of 1900 comparing the present state of our preparations with the stage which the Soviets may reach in three or four years' time. It is a major error of thought to contrast the Soviet position three or four years hence with our own position today. It is a mistake to do this, either in the comparatively precise details of aircraft development or in the measureless sphere of nuclear weapons.
The threat of hydrogen attack on these islands lies in the future. It is not with us now. According to the information that I have been able to obtain—I have taken every opportunity to consult all the highest authorities at our disposal—the only country which is able to deliver today a full-scale nuclear attack with hydrogen bombs at a few hours' notice is the United States. That surely is an important fact, and from some points of view and to some of us it is not entirely without comfort.
It is conceivable that Soviet Russia, fearing a nuclear attack before she has caught up with the United States and created deterrents of her own, as she might argue that they are, might attempt to bridge the gulf by a surprise attack with such nuclear weapons as she has already. American superiority in nuclear weapons, reinforced by Britain, must, therefore, be so organised as to make it clear that no such surprise attack would prevent immediate retaliation on a far larger scale. This is an essential of the deterrent policy.
For this purpose, not only must the nuclear superiority of the Western Powers be stimulated in every possible way, but their means of delivery of bombs must be expanded, improved, and varied. It is even probable, though we have not been told about it outside the N.A.T.O. sphere, that a great deal of this has been already done by the United States. We should aid them in every possible way. I will not attempt to go into details, but it is known that bases have been and are being established in as many parts of the world as possible and that over all rest the United States Strategic Air Force, which is in itself a deterrent of the highest order and is in ceaseless readiness.
The Soviet Government probably knows, in general terms, of the policy that is being pursued, and of the present United States strength and our own growing addition to it. Thus, they should 1901 be convinced that a surprise attack could not exclude immediate retaliation. As one might say to them, "Although you might kill millions of our peoples, and cause widespread havoc by a surprise attack, we could, within a few hours of this outrage, certainly deliver several indeed many times the weight of nuclear material which you have used, and continue retaliation on that same scale." "We have," we could say, "already hundreds of bases for attack from all angles and have made an intricate study of suitable targets." Thus, it seems to me with some experience of wartime talks, you might go to dinner and have a friendly evening. I should not be afraid to talk things over as far as they can be. This, and the hard facts, would make the deterrent effective.
I must make one admission, and any admission is formidable. The deterrent does not cover the case of lunatics or dictators in the mood of Hitler when he found himself in his final dug-out. That is a blank. Happily, we may find methods of protecting ourselves, if we were all agreed, against that.
All these considerations lead me to believe that, on a broad view, the Soviets would be ill-advised to embark on major aggression within the next three or four years. One must always consider the interests of other people when you are facing a particular situation. Their interests may be the only guide that is available. We may calculate, therefore, that world war will not break out within that time. If, at the end of that time, there should be a supreme conflict, the weapons which I have described this afternoon would be available to both sides, and it would be folly to suppose that they would not be used. Our pre-cautionary dispositions and preparations must, therefore, be based on the assumption that, if war should come, these weapons would be used.
I repeat, therefore, that during the next three or four years the free world should, and will, retain an overwhelming superiority in hydrogen weapons. During that period it is most unlikely that the Russians would deliberately embark on major war or attempt a surprise attack, either of which would bring down upon them at once a crushing weight of nuclear retaliation. In three or four years' time, it may be even less, the scene will be 1902 changed. The Soviets will probably stand possessed of hydrogen bombs and the means of delivering them not only on the United Kingdom but also on North American targets. They may then have reached a stage, not indeed of parity with the United States and Britain but of what is called ''saturation."
I must explain this term of art. "Saturation" in this connection means the point where, although one Power is stronger than the other, perhaps much stronger, both are capable of inflicting crippling or quasi-mortal injury on the other with what they have got. It does not follow, however, that the risk of war will then be greater. Indeed, it is arguable that it will be less, for both sides will then realise that global war would result in mutual annihilation.
Major war of the future will differ, therefore, from anything we have known in the past in this one significant respect, that each side, at the outset, will suffer what it dreads the most, the loss of everything that it has ever known of. The deterrents will grow continually in value. In the past, an aggressor has been tempted by the hope of snatching an early advantage. In future, he may be deterred by the knowledge that the other side has the certain power to inflict swift, inescapable and crushing retaliation.
Of course, we should all agree that a worldwide international agreement on disarmament is the goal at which we should aim. The Western democracies disarmed themselves at the end of the war. The Soviet Government did not disarm, and the Western nations were forced to rearm, though only partially, after the Soviets and Communists had dominated all China and half Europe. That is the present position. It is easy, of course, for the Communists to say now, "Let us ban all nuclear weapons." Communist ascendancy in conventional weapons would then become overwhelming. That might bring peace, but only peace in the form of the subjugation of the Free World to the Communist system.
I shall not detain the House very much longer, and I am sorry to be so long. The topic is very intricate, I am anxious to repeat and to emphasise the one word which is the theme of my remarks, namely, "Deterrent." That is the main theme.
1903 The hydrogen bomb has made an astounding incursion into the structure of our lives and thoughts. Its impact is prodigious and profound, but I do' not agree with those who say, "Let us sweep away forthwith all our existing defence services and concentrate our energy and resources on nuclear weapons and their immediate ancillaries." The policy of the deterrent cannot rest on nuclear weapons alone. We must, together with our N.A.T.O. allies, maintain the defensive shield in Western Europe.
Unless the N.A.T.O. Powers had effective forces there on the ground and could make a front, there would be nothing to prevent piecemeal advance and encroachment by the Communists in this time of so-called peace. By successive infiltrations, the Communists could progressively undermine the security of Europe. Unless we were prepared to unleash a full-scale nuclear war as soon as some local incident occurs in some distant country, we must have conventional forces in readiness to deal with such situations as they arise.
We must, therefore, honour our undertaking to maintain our contribution to the N.A.T.O. forces in Europe in time of peace. In war, this defensive shield would be of vital importance, for we must do our utmost to hold the Soviet and satellite forces at arms' length in order to prevent short-range air and rocket attack on these islands. Thus, substantial strength in conventional forces has still a vital part to play in the policy of the deterrent. It is perhaps of even greater importance in the cold war.
Though world war may be prevented by the deterrent power of nuclear weapons, the Communists may well resort to military action in furtherance of their policy of infiltration and encroachment in many parts of the world. There may well be limited wars on the Korean model, with limited objectives. We must be able to play our part in these, if called upon by the United Nations organisation. In the conditions of today, this is also an aspect of our Commonwealth responsibility. We shall need substantial strength in conventional forces to fulfil our world-wide obligations in these days of uneasy peace and extreme bad temper.
To sum up this part of the argument, of course, the development of nuclear 1904 weapons will affect the shape and organisation of the Armed Forces and also of Civil Defence. We have entered a period of transition in which the past and the future will overlap. But it is an error to suppose that, because of these changes, our traditional forces can be cast away or superseded. The tasks of the Army, Navy and Air Force in this transition period are set forth with clarity in the Defence White Paper. The means by which these duties will be met are explained in more detail in the Departmental Papers which have been laid before the House by the three Service Ministers.
No doubt, nothing is perfect; certainly, nothing is complete, but, considering that these arrangements have been made in the first year after the apparition of the hydrogen bomb, the far-seeing and progressive adaptability which is being displayed by all three Services is remarkable. [Hon. Members: "Oh."] I understand that there is to be a motion of censure. Well, certainly, nothing could be more worthy of censure than to try to use the inevitable administrative difficulties of the transitional stage as a utensil of party politics and would-be electioneering. I am not saying that anyone is doing it; we shall see when it comes to the vote.
The future shape of Civil Defence is also indicated in broad outline in the Defence White Paper. This outline will be filled in as the preparation of the new plans proceeds, but the need for an effective system of Civil Defence is surely beyond dispute. It presents itself today in its noblest aspect, namely, the Christian duty of helping fellow mortals in distress. Rescue, salvage and ambulance work have always been the core of Civil Defence, and no city, no family nor any honourable man or woman can repudiate this duty and accept from others help which they are not prepared to fit themselves to render in return. If war comes, great numbers may be relieved of their duty by death, but none must deny it as long as they live. If they do, they might perhaps be put in what is called "Coventry." [Laughter.] I am speaking of the tradition, and not of any particular locality.
The argument which I have been endeavouring to unfold and consolidate gives us in this island an interlude. Let us not waste it. Let us hope we shall use it to augment or at least to prolong 1905 our security and that of mankind. But how? There are those who believe, or at any rate say, "If we have the protection of the overwhelmingly powerful United States, we need not make the hydrogen bomb for ourselves or build a fleet of bombers for its delivery. We can leave that to our friends across the ocean. Our contribution should be criticism of any unwise policy into which they may drift or plunge. We should throw our hearts and consciences into that."
Personally, I cannot feel that we should have much influence over their policy or actions, wise or unwise, while we are largely dependent, as we are today, upon their protection. We, too, must possess substantial deterrent power of our own. We must also never allow, above all, I hold, the growing sense of unity and brotherhood between the United Kingdom and the United States and throughout the English-speaking world to be injured or retarded. Its maintenance, its stimulation and its fortifying is one of the first duties of every person who wishes to see peace in the world and wishes to see the survival of this country.
To conclude, mercifully, there is time and hope if we combine patience and courage. All deterrents will improve and gain authority during the next ten years. By that time, the deterrent may well reach its acme and reap its final reward. The day may dawn when fair play, love for one's fellow men, respect for justice and freedom, will enable tormented generations to march forth serene and triumphant from the hideous epoch in which we have to dwell. Meanwhile, never flinch, never weary, never despair.
§ 4.30 p.m.
§ Mr. E. Shinwell (Easington)
We shall all agree that the right hon. Gentleman has made an impressive speech—one which will undoubtedly make its impact on many millions of people in our country and throughout the world. With many of his sentiments those of us on this side of the House are in full accord. That we should make as our primary objective peace through disarmament has long been the policy of this party, and this policy, upon which the Government, with qualifications, have embarked, should be pursued with the utmost expedition.
1906 Nor should we permit deep-seated prejudices or ideological differences to impede our progress, for it may well be, disliking Communist dictatorship as we all do, that there are some people—I should not say in our country; maybe in Europe and in Northern America and eleswhere—who, despite their intense dislike of totalitarianism, whatever form it assumes, may prefer Communist control to total extinction.
Prejudices must, therefore, be set aside and, in pursuance of our policy of total disarmament—because, as the Prime Minister has stated, nothing less will suffice—we must obviously be prepared to make concessions, as, indeed, the other side must be called upon to do. No rigid doctrinaire attitude, standing on points of punctilio, will do. Of course, we all recognise the difficulties which beset the search for this primary objective and the intransigence of the Soviet representatives at the Disarmament Conference early in the year. We all hope that the present conference will see a change of heart. But there may also be difficulties on our side, or, if not on the side of the United Kingdom, at any rate on the side of the United States of America, for there, as is natural, there is an intense hatred of Communism and all that it means.
I make these preliminary observations, first of all to indicate that we are with the Government in the search for disarmament, and also—I say this with all modesty—as a warning against intransigence on our side, whether from the United Kingdom representatives or from others.
Although the Prime Minister has made an impressive oration, I must say that there was nothing original in what he said. It has all been said before. We have on record the declarations of President Eisenhower. We have the record of the right hon. Gentleman's speeches in 1950, when he spoke from this side of the House about the frightful dangers which would beset the world if the atom bomb were unleashed. I recall that when he spoke to us on that occasion he talked about a speech which he had made in 1948, when he had referred to the same subject. No; there is nothing original in what the right hon. Gentleman said, nor is there anything particularly original——
§ Mr. David Logan (Liverpool, Scotland Division) rose——1907
§ Mr. Shinwell
—in the proposals to provide a deterrent.
I would remind the right hon. Gentleman that the provision of an effective deterrent was precisely our purpose in the creation of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation. The right hon. Gentleman has said that, unfortunately, it has now been discovered—and, indeed, it is the admission of all the military experts at S.H.A.P.E., operating under the umbrella of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation—that that suggested deterrent is no longer effective; and it is precisely because of its ineffectiveness, having regard to the possible situation which may emerge, that they have now departed from the conventional sphere and emerged into the sphere of the manufacture and ultimate use of nuclear weapons.
I want, first, to ask a question which I regard as of the utmost importance. In my view, it is the key to the discussion which we are having on this occasion. When I looked at the White Paper, and in particular at paragraphs 21 and 22, which refer to the possibility of an attack by an enemy, presumably the Soviet Union, and a retaliation on the part of N.A.T.O. with whom we are associated, I was rather confused—I make that confession at once—because I thought that the intention was—and this was implicit in the paragraphs to which I referred—that we should use nuclear weapons, the H-bomb and the rest, as a means of retaliation only if we were attacked with nuclear weapons. That was my assumption.
Having gone further into the matter and, in particular, having consulted the views of the Deputy Supreme Commander at S.H.A.P.E., Field Marshal Lord Montgomery, I am bound to say that I have revised my view. It now seems clear that N.A.T.O. have decided—and I ask hon. Members to note this point—that in the event of a conventional attack of any sort or kind, our intention is to retaliate with all the force of nuclear weapons. If the Prime Minister does not agree with what I have just said, no doubt he will comment upon it. Let me read the relevant statement which bears on this matter.
Let it be quite clear, as there has been criticism of Field Marshal Montgomery 1908 on the ground that sometimes he goes off at a tangent and speaks for himself, that obviously he could not have uttered, without consultation with General Gruenther and the staff on N.A.T.O., the words I am now about to repeat. This is what he said:I want to make it absolutely clear that we at S.H.A.P.E. are basing all our operational planning on using atomic and thermo-nuclear weapons in our defence. That is, it is no longer, they may possibly be used, it is very definitely, they will be used if we are attacked.He goes on to provide the reason:The reason for this action is that we cannot match the strength that could be brought against us unless we use nuclear weapons.Our political chiefs have never shown any great enthusiasm for giving us the numbers to be able to do without using such weapons.
That is very precise; it is very clear; it is very disturbing. In effect, what it means is that, should a conventional attack be mounted—it may be in any part of the West, it may be the Mediterranean, it may be in Scandinavia because I assume the Russian military advisers would never urge that an attack should be mounted at the strongest point selected by their enemy and there are some very vulnerable and weak points under the N.A.T.O. Command, particularly in the North—we would then have recourse, without hesitation or reservation, to the use of nuclear weapons.
It may well be that in the circumstances—I rather gathered from the speech of the right hon. Gentleman that this was his view—that would be the right course to take because, after all, if we are aware of impending defeat as a result of a conventional attack by an enemy possessing overwhelming superiority in conventional weapons, clearly we should retaliate with all we had got.
We had better be clear about it, because there are certain implications. The right hon. Gentleman was not clear about this in his very interesting remarks about the dreadful consequences of nuclear attack. There is some speculation about it, but all those who have studied this problem as, no doubt, most hon. Members have done because the documents areavailable—the United States has furnished voluminous documents on this subject; they are available to all hon. Members in the Library and contained 1909 in the records; they are also well known to the Civil Defence organisation of the Government, if it can be called an organisation—agree about the dreadful consequences, indeed terrifying consequences.
If the Russians should attack us and we respond on their wide open spaces, in spite of what the right hon. Gentleman said, there is one vulnerable target beyond all others. That is in London and in our ports. Does anyone really believe that we could withstand an attack of that kind? If so, for how long? Chaos, confusion, dislocation, everything disorganised—that is the prospect. "Prospect" is not the right term to use, but that is what lies before us.
Of course, we should retaliate. But the right hon. Gentleman said that millions of people will be killed. There is no particular satisfaction derived from the fact that when you are killed someone else will be killed after you——
§ Mr. Shinwell
The right hon. Gentleman, in his interjection, misunderstands our position.
I have said what it was necessary to say about disarmament. We agree that a deterrent of some kind is necessary and it may be that this is the most effective deterrent. If it is to be a deterrent, let it be really effective in order to avoid the possibility of a dreadful clash. There we agree. Where we part company is when the right hon. Gentleman wishes to pursue the deterrent objective, this dreadful deterrent objective, at the same time knowing what the consequences will be if an attack is launched and we retaliate, or if attack meets attack simultaneously. What we want to know is, why does the right hon. Gentleman cling to all the paraphernalia of the organisation, which might have served our purposes in bygone wars, but is not relevant to the situation which the right hon. Gentleman has described?
Before I proceed on this matter I should like to say one word to the right hon. Gentleman, more in sorrow than in anger, about his attitude when he sat on this side of the House. Hon. Members will recall how he used to say that if only he were in the Government, he and his right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary, their influence in foreign circles and inter- 1910 national circles would be of such a character that peace could be promoted. [Hon. Members: "Hear, hear."] Listen to the applause on the other side of the House. I did not detect any prospect of peace in anything the right hon. Gentleman said. The uncertainty, the insecurity, the fears, the apprehensions, the alarms—I go further, in spite of what the right hon. Gentleman said—the feeling of panic which must exist in the minds of millions of people—no, the right hon. Gentleman has failed in that respect and I shall tell him where his failure lies.
First, I come to the subject of Civil Defence—for note that if we should find that our deterrent is ineffective the civilian population will expect to have the assurance of some protection. Does anyone discover in the Command Paper, in that part dealing with Civil Defence, any hope of protection? From what the right hon. Gentleman said, the difficulties are very grave and nothing that his right hon. and gallant Friend the Home Secretary can say to us can obscure the fact that there is no adequate defence for the civilian population against nuclear attack.
I should like the right hon. Gentleman to note this fact, or rather factor, in the situation. The assumption is that in the event of war, a nuclear war, we should be attacked from the air, or that we should attack from the air. I am not so sure. If all the evidence that is in our possession—I am sure it must be in the possession of the Government—is correct, or anywhere near correct, the Russians before long—if not now—will be capable of launching rockets with atomic warheads of the nuclear variety from sites in East Germany. They will be capable of reaching London, 450 miles away, or Paris, 400 miles away, and capable of as much destruction—not so much as a hydrogen bomb, maybe—as anything that occurred, not in one night during the last war, but during months of that war. That is what we have to face, so it must not be assumed that the civil population are likely to derive any satisfaction or comfort from what appears in the White Paper on the subject of Civil Defence.
I am not going to discuss Civil Defence at any length, because Believe that most hon. Members are not only acquainted with the subject but are convinced that no adequate defence is possible. There may be dispersal on a minor scale or provision for dealing with casualties and the 1911 like, but I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman or the Minister of Defence, whose responsibility it is—because, after all, Civil Defence should be the fourth arm of our defence organisation—what kind of organisation is in existence to deal with protection for the civil population? There is a Director of Civil Defence, associated with the Home Office, a decentralised organisation of a kind throughout the country, and local authorities at their wits' end, not knowing what to do.
There is provision of £70 million in this year's Estimates for the protection of the civil population, including the amount set aside for stockpiling. Is that the way we propose to handle the protection of the civil population? If, on the other hand, the Government say there is no protection, the public should be informed. They ought to know where they are. I believe that the Government feel that because there is no adequate protection possible, they must rely exclusively on the deterrent in the hope that war can be avoided.
I come now to the question: where is the deterrent? Where is the United Kingdom deterrent? Three years ago, when the right hon. Gentleman spoke about the danger of an atomic attack and made us aware of it, one would have thought that, along with his Government, he would have created an organisation or a plan, at least in broad outline—I ask for no more than that—which would have enabled us long before the expiry of three years of Conservative Government to ascertain what was in the Government's mind.
What was in last year's White Paper? There was a reference to the dangers of atomic attack and broken-back warfare resulting. There is no talk about broken-back warfare now. That has gone by the board. How can there be broken-back warfare when millions of people are destroyed as a result of the launching of the hydrogen bomb, when ports are destroyed, when shipping and movements and transport are dislocated? If that is not envisaged by the right hon. Gentleman, then I am bound to say that there is a great deal that he has got to learn about this subject upon which he pretends to be a great authority.
I should like to say this to the right hon. Gentleman—and it ought to be said. 1912 He regards himself as the greatest military expert in the world, but I simply do not believe it any longer. Whatever he may have done in the past, it is certainly not right now. We rely—and the right hon. Gentleman will not deny it; there is no dispute about this—at the present time on the only deterrent there is, not through N.A.T.O., not in conventional forces, not even if all are combined. We rely at present exclusively on the American deterrent because that nation is in possession of the hydrogen bomb.
§ Mr. Shinwell
Someone mentions Malaya. These are the small minds that work after the massive oration we have had from the right hon. Gentleman on the consequences of atomic attack. Malaya is not in the picture at all in relation to this matter. [Hon. Members: "Oh."] Of course, it is not. In any event, I would not brag too much about what has been done in Malaya under the Tory Government. They have been in office for more than three years and they have talked about the great things that General Templer did; but they have got the same troops there as they had three years ago and the position is just as bad as it was then. I want to assure the right hon. Gentleman that I am not deriving any comfort from that fact. I think it is deplorable that it should be so, and I do not want to see our resources wasted in that fashion.
I repeat, the only deterrent we have after three years of Tory Government is not a British deterrent, not a N.A.T.O. deterrent, but an American deterrent, and upon this we exclusively rely. The right hon. Gentleman has said that in three or four years' time the situation will be different because we shall have the hydrogen bomb. In the meantime, we have to hope that Russia will not mount an attack, or change her mind. We have to hope that the right hon. Gentleman will use his profound influence in international circles to persuade the Russians not to do anything wrong or immoral. I am not sure that the Russians will be inclined to listen to the Prime Minister. [HON. MEMBERS: "They will not listen to the right hon. Gentleman."] It may be that they will not listen to anybody, but it is obvious that they are not prepared to listen to anybody on the other side of 1913 the House, at least as far as we can ascertain.
However, that is not the whole complaint against the right hon. Gentleman. When he became Prime Minister again, what did he say to the House? He said that he looked at the Ministry of Defence and at the Service Departments and found nothing there. What did he do? In his condition of nudity he decided to create seven battalions. Where are they now? They have gone with the wind. Then the right hon. Gentleman came to the House and, with a flourish, declared his intention to create mobile columns of a combative character. We do not hear a word about them now. In the White Paper nothing is said about mobile, combative columns. All we speak about now are mobile columns for the purpose of training men in Civil Defence.
Where is Anti-aircraft Command? It is no use the Government complaining about criticism in this respect, because 18 months ago the then Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Defence, now the Minister of Works, declared, in reply to my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Rowley Regis and Tipton (Mr. A. Henderson), that it was the intention of the Government to continue with Anti-aircraft Command even if guided missiles came over. But Anti-aircraft Command has been substantially reduced until now it is hardly worth talking about. With dislocation, it will go.
The right hon. Gentleman must feel more naked now than three years ago. He has divested one garment: after another. In fact, it is the best: striptease performance I have seen for a long time. All this in spite of the fact that the Government have spent more than £4,000 million in the process.
§ Air Commodore A. V. Harvey (Macclesfield)
When the right hon. Gentleman gave up the seals of office when did he expect the deterrent which he had arranged to be available?
§ Mr. Shinwell
We were not speaking in terms of atomic deterrents at that time. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] No, we were faced—[Interruption.] Hon. Members had better wait for it. They should not be too impatient. The facts are that before the Korean War there was international tension, but there was no question of any attack by nuclear weapons.
1914 When the Korean War occurred, all the conventional manpower and resources and equipment were made available in order to make our contribution. The present Government could not have come along subsequent to the end of the Korean affair and boasted about our successes in that affair if our men had not been equipped. We had all the conventional equipment that we required. Everything that has been said about a deterrent has come from the present Prime Minister since he assumed office.
§ Mr. Shinwell
The right hon. Gentleman speaks about the atom bomb. We did not believe that the atom bomb in itself would prove an effective deterrent. My right hon. Friend the Member for Waltham stow, West (Mr. Attlee) never came to the House and said that we were going to manufacture the atom bomb to—[An Hon. Member: "The right hon. Gentleman never told us."] Hon. Members are mistaken, because the present Prime Minister asked my right hon. Friend about the matter and he received a reply, and it was then known to the House that we had agreed to manufacture the atom bomb. That was well known and I should have thought that hon. Members were well aware of it. But it was never regarded as a deterrent in the sense that the right hon. Gentleman has spoken this afternoon.
§ Mr. Shinwell
The manufacture of the atom bomb followed on the decisions that we reached at the end of the war resulting from scientific discoveries both in this country and the United States, and it was decided to proceed with this, not necessarily as a deterrent against war. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh.'] If hon. Members wish to cherish the illusion that there is an argument at their disposal they can do so, and no doubt they will deploy it in due course.
If ever a Motion of censure was justified, this Amendment is justified, because of the content of the Prime Minister's speech this afternoon, for he has not said a word about defence in itself and there has been no defence of the Service Departments. The Service Departments, he said, had been adapting themselves well to the situation in the last three years.
1915 The right hon. Gentleman used to ask us when he was in Opposition, "Are we getting value for our money? "I repeat that question. Are we getting value for our money? Yesterday, it was ascertained in the House, as a result of Questions, that more than £300 million had been spent in the last year or two on the provision of air-frames and aero-engines, but what is the position now? Are we well equipped with aircraft? The Government will not say, "Yes" to that question.
In the matter of aircraft defence, anything which the Government have at present, for example, the Canberras which, according to the Memorandum on the Air Estimates, are regarded as some of our best machines, was provided during the lifetime of the late Government. That will not be denied. The Hunter, which, as the Minister of Supply said, is regarded as one of the finest aircraft in the world, was ordered by the Labour Government, and in the air document there is a statement of a most convincing kind that our present radar network is merely an improvement on what was started by the Labour Government. Therefore, the Government have nothing to brag about, inasmuch as that if there is anything satisfactory in the air defence position it is not attributable to what the present Government have done but to what the Labour Government did when we were in office.
I wish to refer further to the Memorandum on the Air Estimates. This is an example of the Government's planning. I refer to paragraph 9, and I think that I had better read the whole of it. This is what it says:The next twelve months will see the 'V' bombers beginning to come into service. But much more is involved than re-equipment with modern aircraft."—I ask hon. Members to note the remainder:We must select personnel of the highest quality and train them specially. We must provide the bases required in peace and war, bearing in mind that the 'V' bomber force must be capable of completing its mission even though a surprise attack might first have been launched upon this country. We must perfect methods of operation which would ensure success however difficult the conditions.The Government say that they "must do" this and "must do" that, but, having regard to the expenditure involved, we 1916 are entitled to know what the Government have achieved during their three years of office.
The same thing applies to the Army. If any man should hang his head in shame it should be the Secretary of State for War, when we consider the Memorandum on the Army Estimates and what it involves in confusion and disorganisation, in the admission of the Secretary of State for War that he does not know what to do because of the reduction in Anti-Aircraft Command, because of the shortage of technicians, because of the shortage of Regulars, because he has no longer seven battalions in the mobile, combative columns, because the Government are now switching National Service men from combative tasks to Civil Defence training.
§ The Secretary of State for War (Mr. Antony Head) indicated dissent.
§ Mr. Shinwell
That is what is conveyed in the Memorandum presented by the right hon. Gentleman, and that will be developed in the course of subsequent debate.
I claim that all the contentions which are contained in our Motion of censure are amply justified. I agree that many of the sentiments which have been expressed by the Prime Minister are acceptable to us—to pursue disarmament, to proceed with a deterrent—but in the field of achievement, in the field of planning for the future and in the decision to use nuclear weapons in the event of conventional attack, and in the absence of adequate or even partial protection for the civilian population, the Government have lamentably failed and should be indicted accordingly.
For the next three years, what are we to expect if the present Government remain in office? Can we be assured of effective planning? Is there an indication of effective planning in the White Paper? In my judgment, there is little or none at all. Let us hope that our disarmament objective will meet with some success because, in my view—in the absence of total disarmament, and nothing less than total disarmament, not achieved immediately but progressively; in the absence of a change of heart, greater good will and readiness to divest ourselves of prejudices; and unless we can succeed in impressing that view on a disordered and intense world—all the 1917 deterrents that can be produced can only lead, in the long run, to the destruction of hundreds of millions of people throughout the world. That is a terrible prospect to face. Anything that can be done by the Government through the medium of diplomatic channels should be effected.
I end by saying that I do not believe that the remedy lies in the hands of the Minister of Defence. It is much more likely that it resides in the hands of the Foreign Secretary. If he fails, there is nothing that the Minister of Defence can do to save the people of this country.
I beg to move, to leave out from "House" to the end of the Question and to add instead thereof:regrets that the Statement on Defence, 1955, while recognising that thermonuclear weapons have effected a revolution in the character of warfare, and that until effective world disarmament has been achieved it is necessary as a deterrent to aggression to rely on the threat of using thermonuclear weapons, fails to make proposals for the reorganisation of Her Majesty's Forces and of Civil Defence, to indicate what future defence expenditure may be called for; or to explain the grave and admitted deficiencies in the weapons with which Her Majesty's Forces are at present furnished, in spite of the expenditure of some £4,000 million for defence purposes over the past: three years.
§ 5.10 p.m.
Vice-Admiral John Hughes Hallett (Croydon, East)
On rising to address the House for the first time, I hope that I may claim the customary indulgence which is extended on these occasions. I hope also that the right hon. Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell) will forgive me if I do not follow him in the intricacies of his arguments, but I bow to the convention that a maiden speech should as far as possible avoid unduly contentious matter. Neither can I aspire to follow my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister in the majesty and sweep of his opening speech, in which he dealt with the great issues raised by the hydrogen bomb. I hope to refer to one or two far lesser but, none the less, by no means unimportant matters.
It is at least satisfactory to be debating a White Paper in which there is so much to be discussed. I begin by congratulating the Government on the slight reduction in expenditure. Whatever the causes and however small the amount, it is at least and at last a step in the right direction. And yet I have little doubt that there is still room for great and continuing economies. In particular, I have in mind 1918 the kind of expenditure which does not contribute directly towards fighting strength. I beg my right hon. Friends the Service Ministers to keep all such expenditure under a constant and somewhat unfriendly scrutiny.
With the permission of the House, I wish to say something of the relationship between the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force. But first, however, let me answer a criticism which, despite what is written in the White Paper and despite what we heard from my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, will, I feel, linger in the minds of many hon. Members. Why bother, they may ask, about matters of organisation which are dwarfed and rendered academic by the awful reality of the hydrogen bomb? I do not question that in the event of unlimited nuclear war immense destruction would fall on this Kingdom as an industrial country and that, pending great and imaginative extensions of home defence, that destruction would be accompanied by the killing of great numbers of the population.
I do not question these things; nothing is gained by trying to conceal or to forget them. But surely, the sanction of nuclear weapons has grown so tremendous that reluctance to use them might persist even after war had broken out. Indeed, one often hears it argued that it would almost be against this country's interests to take the initiative in starting atomic war, quite apart from the fearful moral issue that would be involved. For these reasons, and whether rightly or wrongly, an aggressor might well conclude that a swift campaign for limited objectives could safely be undertaken without provoking atomic war. But it would have to be swift; and this brings one to an important conclusion.
If we wish to avert war altogether, we must in no circumstances deprive ourselves of the means of defence by the older arms. [Hon. Members: "Hear, hear."] We must never reach a permanent position in which we can defend ourselves only by the use of atomic weapons. That was all right when America had a near monopoly. As we have heard from my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister today, it is, no doubt, still all right, and it will probably continue to be all right for a few more years, but there will come a time when it ceases to be all right, when our lead lessens 1919 sufficiently. To put it another way, the deterrent effect of the hydrogen bomb is so gigantic that once it becomes mutual it may no longer prevent aggression for limited aims, if those aims can be achieved quickly and without the use of atomic weapons.
Nothing in this line of argument affects our need for nuclear weapons of our own, and nothing that I have said lessens the risk that ultimately some madman may let loose atomic war. There will be no final safety until science can discover a radical counter to nuclear expldsives, until human intellect, which, after all, evolved these monstrous weapons, may learn one day to master them. Meanwhile, there is every justification for discussing such humdrum things as inter-Service organisation, which are at least of immediate concern to Parliament and to the Government.
There are those who think that ever since 1911 we have made a cardinal blunder by allowing ourselves to become involved in Continental warfare and that this has led to an attempt to maintain an Army which is too large in relation to our sea and air commitments. But we have always needed a large Army to defeat a Continental foe, and ever since M. Bleriot first flew the Channel it can be argued—as, indeed, it often has been argued—that the defence of this kingdom has moved to the Continent. Thus, I for one do not question the need for a strong Army. Indeed, the Army is fortunate in being required to fulfil a role which is not only essential, but is also exclusive in the sense that it calls for training and qualifications which are quite different from those required of airmen and of seamen.
It is when we turn to the relationship between the Navy and the Air Force that we find cause for anxiety and that we enter an area of the strongest controversy. Many people in this country, and, I believe, many hon. Members in this House, are deeply concerned about the future of the Navy. Of course, I welcome the re-statement in the White Paper of the Navy's role, and I welcome equally the unusually long and clear explanatory statement which my right hon. Friend the First Lord of the Admiralty has issued with the Navy Estimates. These statements certainly make it clear, 1920 if it was ever in doubt, that warships still play a part in our defence. Yet I doubt whether, taken by themselves, they will for long allay the concern which is so widely felt within the Navy with regard to its future size and composition.
My own view is that the future of the Navy is inextricably bound up with the future of the Royal Air Force. There is a wide field in which the functions of the two Services overlap. The defence against invasion, the defence of our trade routes, the blockade of an enemy, the carriage of troops and even, to some extent, the support of an Army are all functions which can be entrusted either to naval or to air forces, or to a combination of both. The extent to which it is expedient to rely on one arm rather than on the other is nearly always a highly technical and highly contentious question. It is, indeed, a question on which laymen find it hard to reach conclusions or even to adjudicate with any confidence. Yet so long as the expert advisers are officers from two different Services who—and let us be quite frank about this—have an interest in seeing their own view prevail, it is too much to expect that Ministers will always receive wholly objective advice.
There is much danger in this, and the danger is aggravated by the fact that for many years technical progress has usually tended to enlarge the scope of aircraft and to restrict and diminish that of warships. There are grounds today for believing that this trend may be about to change. The fact remains that hitherto the protagonists of a strong Navy have been forced into the embarrassing position of always seeming to deny or to belittle progress, while the champions of the air have too often been tempted to exaggerate, and sometimes grossly to anticipate, the march of invention.
May I give two current examples to illustrate this clash of interest? There is a school of thought today which believes that within the next 20 years the antisubmarine helicopter will not only have replaced all conventional fixed-wing aircraft but also all surface warships in antisubmarine operations. Whatever the merits of the case may be, it is a purely naval problem in the open seas; that is to say, it is a problem for the Admiralty whether we protect our convoys with escorts of frigates or with ships carrying 1921 helicopters, and it is a problem on which we can expect unbiassed judgments and decisions. But when we turn to the protection of coastal shipping, the position is very different because, if shore-based helicopters are to replace warships, the process will be accompanied by an expansion of the Air Force at the expense of the Navy; that is to say, at the expense of the careers of quite a number of officers now wearing naval uniform.
My second example cuts the other way. Imaginative people have argued for many years that some kind of warship—possibly submarines, but that is irrelevant—capable of launching ballistic rockets will before long become more certain and more economical agents for so-called strategic bombing than are the long-range bombing aircraft of today. And I must say that there are solid technical and strategic reasons to support that view. Its acceptance, however, would divert considerable funds from the Air Force back to the Navy.
After reflecting on these problems, I reached the conclusion about six years ago that the most prudent course might be to fuse the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force into a single Service as equal partners, and nothing that has happened in the years which have followed has led me to modify that conclusion. I can see no other certain way of bringing to an end the interminable and sterile arguments that have gone on for so many years between the champions of the Navy and the champions of the Royal Air Force. I was much encouraged a year ago to learn that the hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) has apparently reached a somewhat similar conclusion, as also I believe has my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Merton and Morden (Captain Ryder), together with certain other hon. Members on both sides of the House.
Those of us who advocate fusion can take comfort from the thought that there is much that is common in the training of an airman and a seaman. Both require knowledge of navigation, of radio communications, a ground work in electronics and engineering and, with the advent of guided missiles, both will need a fairly common weapon training. But if I were asked what is the secret of being a good seaman or a good pilot, I would say it 1922 was the same thing: an eye for relative movement, an almost instinctive appreciation of relative velocity: equally necessary, whether one is handling a ship, landing an aircraft or conducting sea and air operations from a plot.
In advocating a single air-sea Service, let me make it clear that I should be against anything sudden—no blue prints, no vesting days, no hybrid new uniforms are wanted. Rather I visualise a process which might be spread over many years, and a process which, in its detailed planning, can be empirical. I certainly do not wish to advance these ideas as hard and fast proposals, any more than I would claim that a reorganisation is either overdue or urgently necessary. I merely offer them to the House as a basis for further discussion, and I ask my right hon. Friend to preserve an open mind upon them.
Even so, the mere suggestion of reforms on these lines will excite opposition, I have no doubt, alike among reactionaries in both Services and also among those who perhaps are prepared, and even anxious, to see the Navy whittled away until perhaps it finally vanishes. I rather suspect that Field Marshal Montgomery holds that point of view, and it was certainly hinted at in what I thought was otherwise a most interesting and reasonable pamphlet on defence published by the "Daily Mirror."
May I remind the House that the Navy is no ordinary public service. It has become a part and parcel of our national heritage. Its high integrity and its great traditions have earned it the respect of the world and the deep and abiding affection of the British people. Such things should not lightly be allowed to wither and die. When, therefore, I speak of a gradual fusion between the two Services, I assume that a conscious effort will be made to preserve all that is best in naval tradition, together with all that is finest in the spirit of our airmen, and to graft them on to the new combined Service that might one day arise.
§ 5.27 p.m.
§ Mr. G. A. Pargiter (South all)
It is my pleasant duty first to offer my sincere congratulations to the hon. and gallant Member for Croydon, East (Vice-Admiral Hughes Hallett) upon his maiden speech.
1923 He comes to this House with a distinguished war record, he comes with a particular knowledge of the subject to which he has addressed himself, and, whether or not we agree with his views, the hon. and gallant Gentleman commands our respect for the restrained way in which he has put them forward. We shall hope to hear him on many occasions in the future on these matters.
Perhaps I may be forgiven if I do not follow the hon. and gallant Gentleman in his arguments, because I make no claim to be a strategist in any of the realms of warfare and we have plenty of experts on both sides of the House, on both Front and back benches, skilled in the statement, at any rate, of the arts of warfare, whether it be on the land, on the sea or in the air. What I am more concerned with, and what I want to talk about for a few moments, are the matters contained in the White Paper which are not acceptable from my point of view.
Whilst there is a good deal of confusion between strategists, there does not seem to be much confusion on the part of the scientists. The scientists admit frankly that they do not know. They are honest. Some scientists have said that in the event of a number of hydrogen bombs being released at the same time, they do not know what would be the effect on the world. Certainly they say it would be serious and probably disastrous. They do not even know, nor do we know yet, what will be the atmospheric effect if there is a continuance of the release of hydrogen bombs for testing purposes.
I can visualise that before very long, with the undoubted increase in radioactivity in the atmosphere, even with the relatively few explosions which have taken place, we shall all be wearing geiger counters instead of wrist watches and be de-activised at frequent intervals. Having regard to the known effects of radioactive diffusion at present and to what we and other nations intend to do, that is not so far-fetched as it may seem.
The appeal which I want to make I should like to be able to make to the House; but I am afraid that politicians are sufficiently practised in the art of self-deception and so skilled in argument that upon any given set of facts they will draw the conclusion they want to draw and will go home and sleep comfortably. I do 1924 not now find it quite as easy. I am grateful to the Government for having indicated their intention to manufacture the hydrogen bomb in the White Paper. I must say that had that been done by my right hon. Friends on the Front Bench in relation to the atom bomb, I might then have said what I am about to say; but we were committed to the manufacture of the atom bomb without having much to say about it.
We acquiesced—and I am not at all sure that it is creditable to us—in the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki by atom bombs. We justified it, exactly as we should justify the use of hydrogen bombs, on the ground that it shortened the war. Whether it effectively shortened the war, I do not know, but it was perhaps a good experiment from the point of view of seeing what an atom bomb could do. That is what Hitler did at Guernica. I am not sure, looking at it in perspective, that there is much difference between the two from the point of view of moral values.
As politicians, we get very much into the habit of confusing principles and expedients. It often suits our purpose to make principles of expediencies. I suggest that the threat contained in the White Paper that we should use nuclear weapons even in the event of orthodox weapons being used in war against us, is an expedient. To me it is a new statement, and I wanted our own Front Bench to tell us exactly what was their attitude to it because, from the Amendment as drawn at present, I understand that we acquiesce in the use of nuclear weapons in the event of an enemy using a preponderance of orthodox weapons against us.
If that is so, I think it should have been clearly stated, because it did not appear in the speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell). We ought to be quite sure that that is the intention, because so far the only statements which have been made are that we should not be the first to use atomic weapons but that we should retaliate with them if they were used against us. The White Paper changes that, and it is a marked change in outlook. We shall probably be told that this is the realistic outlook. Realistic outlooks usually lead to destruction anyway—destruction in which we should all be involved—but this seems to me to be a question to which we 1925 need a specific answer, as we do to the question of the manufacture of the hydrogen bomb.
Our lawyer friends seem to be able to find a way out of difficulties. There is a letter in "The Times" today from my hon. Friend the Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman)—I am sorry he is not here—which indicates that in some obscure way the Parliamentary Labour Party is not committed to the manufacture of the hydrogen bomb or the use of nuclear weapons. Lawyers, like politicians, are very skilled in the art of self-deception, for it seems to me perfectly clear that, both in the White Paper and in the Amendment as drawn at present, we are committed both to the use of nuclear weapons in the event of orthodox weapons being used against us and to the manufacture of the hydrogen bomb.
I wish there were enough people to join me tomorrow in abstaining from voting to indicate quite clearly that the House does not support either the Government or the Opposition in the manufacture of the hydrogen bomb. I make no particular claim to be more moral than my fellow citizens or to be a greater Christian, but I feel that I have gone pretty far down the slippery slopes to hell in the acquiescence which I have given up to now in the manufacture of weapons, and of the atom bomb, and I feel that it has to stop somewhere.
I was taught as a youngster that example is the best form of precept, and I was also taught to believe, if one has principles at all, that one cannot effectively combat evil with evil. That is precisely what we now propose to do. It is admitted on all sides that the hydrogen bomb is an evil thing; no one claims that it is anything else. It is an evil and dastardly weapon against civilisation, and yet we say, "Because the other fellow has it, we will have it too"; and, on top of that, we say that it has a deterrent effect.
When has history ever shown us that the manufacture of any weapon at any time has ultimately been a deterrent against its use? It is being argued that because this is a more effective weapon than has ever been known before, because it is so disastrous, it will not be used. But surely the same type of mentality applied to the simple people using bows and arrows when gunpowder 1926 was introduced, and it did not stop the use of gunpowder.
§ Mr. George Wigg (Dudley)
We are now dealing with an absolute weapon. If the hydrogen bomb is dropped on this country—one on London—it is a knockout.
§ Mr. Pargiter
I agree, but that does not destroy the validity of my argument, because in a short time the people in this country will be lulled into a sense of false security. Already it is on the way—a radar screen which will detect enemy aircraft long before they reach us, and no aircraft will get through without being effectively screened; a ground-to-air guided missile which is bound to home on its target—those are the sort of things which will be designed to suggest that our hydrogen bomb will get at the other fellow but his hydrogen bomb will not get at us. That is what we shall be told. [HON. MEMBERS: "It has never been said."] It has been the accepted policy of strategists ever since war first started—the ability to hit the other fellow and to make sure that he cannot hit you. It is not new. It always has been argued that way, and will so continue.
Can we go beyond that? Whatever we may say about using a gun or even an ordinary bomb and destroying a limited number of people, and even if we accept that, ought we not to say that the hydrogen bomb is a weapon which ought not to be used under any circumstances? Ought we not also to say that if such a weapon were used by others that does not justify our using it in return?
I should have thought that those who practise or profess Christian principles would have held this as one of the tenets of the Christian faith. Although we might not expect it from politicians, I think that we should have heard something about the hydrogen bomb from the Churches and something from those who, while not accepting the Divinity of Christ, give lip service to His teachings. Even from those who claim to speak for Moral Rearmament, who say that it does not matter who is right but what is right, might we have heard something more than we have heard up to now. We have a bewildered acceptance by the people, because they have been given no lead.
§ Dr. Bamett Stross (Stoke-on-Trent, Central)
That should not go out from 1927 the House quite in the way the hon. Member has put it. The Archbishop of York made a very plain statement in another place and, on 8th October, his Holiness the Pope said a very remarkable thing which I hope to quote if I am called.
§ Mr. Pargiter
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that statement. I was speaking in general. There will always be the individual, but there has been no great mass attack on this evil, an attack supported by the Churches as a whole. It has been nothing more than an individual attack, and the individual is apparently content to leave it there.
It is to these leaders that I address myself in asking them to agree with me that we cannot combat evil with evil and must at some stage or other give up expediencies for principles and that this is a principle for which we should stand now and that we will not be parties to this horrible thing. We will not be parties, not only to the manufacture of the hydrogen bomb, but we will not be parties to launching the hydrogen bomb from our shores. That should be made clear to our friends and to our enemies. Perhaps the result may be that in mass destruction, or even without mass destruction, we may not save our skins, but I hope that we shall save our souls.
§ 5.42 p.m.
§ Colonel Sir Leonard Ropner (Barkston Ash)
I hope that the hon. Member for South all (Mr. Pargiter) will forgive me if I do not follow him in the thoughts he expounded to the House. However much many of us may disagree with what he said, one admires the courage with which he stated his view.
No one who has read the Statement on Defence or listened to the Prime Minister this afternoon can be left with anything other than feelings of stark horror engendered by the thought of what might happen—indeed, what will happen—if the world goes to war again. If I am to level any general criticism of the contents or the emphasis of the White Paper, it is that too much importance is still attributed to conventional forces and conventional weapons and too little appreciation shown of the absolute finality of the attack which might be launched against a country, even against a continent, without the formality of a declaration of war.
1928 I firmly believe that the fact that Russia, if she cannot now, may and, indeed, probably will in the course of the next few years be able to explode a thermo-nuclear bomb is more important than that the Communist world is able to put 400, or for that matter 4,000, divisions into the field. But those are questions which must be dealt with by men much more qualified to judge than I am.
There are certain aspects of the problem of defence about which I venture to say that I feel qualified to address the House for a few minutes. It is surely odd, even surprising, that except by implication there is in the White Paper no mention at all of the Merchant Navy. Surely it is not forgotten that during two world wars our merchant ships, not wit less than our fighting forces, stood between this country and defeat. They will be called upon to do the same again if we survive the first few days, perhaps even the first few seconds, of any future war.
I want to ask hon. and right hon. Members on both sides of the House to consider paragraphs 29 and 120 of the Statement on Defence. Paragraph 29 deals with priorities in implementing "the task before us." First priority is awarded in paragraph 25 to building up our own stocks of nuclear weapons of all types and developing the most up to date means of delivering them.
But second place is given in paragraph 29 to making some provision for continuing operations after the initial phase, particularly at sea. Paragraph 120 draws attention to the vulnerable nature of our ports and claims that plans have been drawn up for the provision of alternative facilities including the use of smaller ports and harbours. Much practical work has been done to implement that.
If these two paragraphs are considered together, they direct attention to the importance of making the best possible arrangements to ensure first the survival of merchant ships after the first phase of a war so that the ships are available in sufficient numbers to maintain our essential imports and, secondly, to ensure the availability of a sufficient number of small coasting and short-sea vessels which alone are capable of using the small ports.
1929 With regard to the survival of merchant ships subsequent to the initial phase of a war, good progress has been made jointly by the Admiralty and by shipowners in studying the measures necessary to protect merchant ships against atomic attack. But a great deal remains to be done. In the end, the defence potential achieved will depend on the allocation of sufficient funds to enable the necessary structural and other work on the ships to be carried out in time of peace.
There seems to be a danger that this aspect of defence may fall between two stools—that of Service expenditure on the one hand and Civil Defence expenditure on the other. The White Paper gives no indication of what provision, if any, is included in the Estimates for enabling the ships of the Merchant Navy to be prepared against atomic attack. That being so, I want to ask the Government two questions. First, what provision has been made in the Estimates for the cost of structural measures recommended by the Admiralty for the protection of merchant ships against atomic attack? Secondly, under what heading of the Estimates does this aspect of the defence budget fall?
Regarding the use of small ports and harbours, the subject matter of paragraph 120, it is surely self-evident that the use of small ports and harbours presupposes the existence of small ships capable of using them. A large ship cannot use a small port. Consequently, without an adequate fleet of small ships the plans and practical work: referred to in paragraph 120 are of no use at all.
I should like an assurance from the Government that they are fully alive to the most disquieting position in connection with the availability of small vessels. I hope that the House will forgive me if I illustrate what I am saying by quoting a few figures. A year ago the number of coasting and short-sea ships on the register of the United Kingdom of less than 500 tons deadweight carrying capacity was only a little more than half the pre-war figure. I am sorry that I have not more up-to-date figures, but I am sure that the position is worse today. The same is true if the datum line is taken at 800 tons deadweight carrying capacity. There is hardly more than half the number on the register of the United 1930 Kingdom today. If the datum line is raised as high as 2,000 tons, the number of ships is substantially less than in 1939.
To take another division of small ships, the British coasters have shown a diminution of numbers of no less than 22 per cent. during the last five years. Those are startling and distressing figures. On a more appropriate occasion, I should be prepared to suggest means by which the decline in the number of small ships could be arrested. Today, and in this connection, I wish to ask the Government if, when they have under consideration the problem of dispersement and the use of small ports, they will take into account the fact that ships which might use small ports are declining in numbers year by year.
For the most part, shipbuilding yards are situated in big ports and crowded rivers. Both are highly vulnerable to attack and both may perhaps be the first objective in an atomic war. New ships will not be built very easily after the first phase of a war conducted with atomic or hydrogen bombs. May I therefore have an assurance from the Government that they are considering this problem? May the House be told what is being done to ensure that the British Government will have sufficient small ships if, unhappily, war should come again?
§ 5.55 p.m.
§ Mr. Denis Healey (Leeds, South-East)
I doubt whether this House has ever debated quite such an appalling subject. The imagination and intellect of each of us must instinctively turn away from the terrible facts of nuclear warfare. But our survival as human beings depends on our trying to think clearly about the implications of the scientific discoveries made during the last decade or so, and in trying to state our conclusions clearly, however unpopular they may be.
I wish to contribute a few tentative suggestions to a discussion which is bound to go on for many years, both inside and outside this House. I believe that most of us are agreed that nuclear weapons are most likely to be effective if employed as a deterrent to war. It seems to me that. for those of us who accept this general principle, two great questions arise. First, how can we limit the economic cost of maintaining the nuclear and other deterrents which are necessary; secondly, and in my view even more important, how 1931 can we hope to limit the cost in human suffering if those deterrents fail?
It seems to me that there is little moral difference between the atomic fission bomb and the hydrogen fusion bomb. If, as is the case both in America and Russia—and I hope here—we can build the fission bomb out of lithium, if we can build the so-called "dry" bomb, it is little more expensive to produce the hydrogen bomb than the atomic bomb. In fact, our stock of conventional atomic bombs could be turned into hydrogen bombs with infinitely greater destructive power at a comparatively little increase in cost.
The power of the deterrent with which we arm our forces is bound to increase its efficacy. If we are relying, as the Prime Minister suggested, on the deterrent of mutual terror, the greater the terror the greater the deterrent. The appalling ambiguity of the White Paper in this respect is that it does not make clear whether full-scale global thermo-nuclear war must be the inevitable consequence of aggression in Europe. If that is what is meant in the White Paper—and it can certainly be interpreted in that sense—I think that those who argue that we should cut to the bone our conventional armaments in Europe are justified. We cannot have it both ways, and Captain Liddell Hart and my right hon. and hon. Friends who argue this course are fully justified.
My own feeling is that we admit in any case that we are not prepared to use thermonuclear weapons against other Powers armed with thermonuclear weapons, except where there is a direct and obvious threat to our national survival. We are all agreed that we are not prepared to use such weapons in most cases of aggression outside the Continent of Europe, though perhaps our American ally is prepared to consider their use in parts of Asia where the threat to the United States is greater than the threat to Britain. I think we all agree that we must have some conventional forces for use in what I might call the "marginal" areas outside Europe.
The real question is what exactly does the White Paper imply in Europe? There is no getting away from the correctness of the decision which was reported as being taken by the N.A.T.O. Council in December, namely, that if we are to hold up the immense weight of manpower 1932 which the Red Army can deploy in Eastern Europe, we must be able to use nuclear weapons against those forces.
But the White Paper may well be interpreted as going a great deal further than that. It says that we cannot hold up aggression in Europe without usingthe full weight of our nuclear power.If I recall his words correctly, the Prime Minister, speaking this afternoon, said, "We must make it clear to the Russians that Communist aggression in Europe will provoke immediate retaliation on a far larger scale." There again there is great ambiguity. Much of the public discussion of this point has been confused by arguments about tactical or strategic weapons. There are no such things in nuclear warfare. Some so-called tactical atomic weapons are already a great deal more powerful than the bombs which were dropped upon Hiroshima and Nagasaki. There are only tactical and strategic targets.
The question we must ask ourselves if we are to clear our minds on this subject—and I hope that the Government will be able to clarify their intentions in this respect—is: Does the White Paper mean that we must be prepared to use thermonuclear weapons from the word "go" against a strategic target, such as a centre of population inside the Soviet Union—or does it simply mean that we must use whatever weight of nuclear power is required in a tactical area, that is to say, an area where land fighting is going on upon the Continent?
§ Mr. R. H. S. Crossman (Coventry, East)
Whatever is the answer to that question, what great difference does my hon. Friend think it makes? Secondly, does he think that Britain is a strategic or a tactical target from a Russian point of view?
§ Mr. Healey
I hope to be able to answer both those questions as I go on. If the Government mean that we are prepared to start bombing Russian cities the moment fighting starts in Europe, that is the doctrine of massive retaliation which was put forward by Mr. Dulles about a year ago and which, to my mind, was completely exploded at Dien Bien Phu a few weeks later.
This is a very important point, and I want to explain the difference between the two meanings of the White Paper. If the 1933 Russians even think that it is our intention to drop thermonuclear weapons upon their cities the moment fighting begins in Europe, then certainly the moment anything approaching a state of war develops in Europe Russia will start by dropping these weapons upon us. Being a dictatorship—and I hope that we all agree that Russia is the only likely aggressor nation—they will take the initiative. If the Government mean what they are being interpreted as meaning by people here and abroad, they are inviting a thermonuclear attack upon Britain in the first stages of war in Europe. This means that any local incident may lead to thermonuclear war, ending in the mutual destruction of both sides.
The Government may say, "Certainly, but that is why it is a deterrent." I suggest that that is not so. I do not think that any of the great Powers which possess these weapons is likely to initiate a war in which it could expect that similar weapons would be used against it, but it is quite possible that fighting might begin not as a result of decisions made in the Kremlin, the Pentagon or Whitehall but as a result of a clash between troops which, though local at first, gradually grew. It seems to me that the appalling ambiguity of the White Paper immensely increases the danger of a completely unnecessary thermonuclear war which might lead to the destruction of mankind.
Oddly enough, I think that all hon. Members agree that it is desirable, when giving a warning to a possible enemy, to make that warning as precise as possible. All the trouble in Formosa at present is due to the fact that the Americans gave the Chinese a warning which included a great area of ambiguity. In such circumstances, there is a great danger that one side or the other will miscalculate its opponent's intention. I suggest that the ambiguity of the White Paper in this respect creates a similar but even greater danger, and I hope that the Minister of Defence, or some other Government spokesman, will clarify this point later in the debate.
The second great danger, if the Government really mean that any aggression in Europe will result in full-scale thermonuclear war, is that any local incident in Europe will leave us with no alternative between self-destruction—with the use of thermonuclear weapons and the provoca- 1934 tion to use them against us—and appeasement. In that situation a democratic country and Government will always be tempted to choose appeasement, except upon an issue where its very survival is most obviously and directly at stake. If it becomes a question of competitive mutual blackmail at this level between a Communist dictatorship and a Western democracy, the Communist dictatorship is likely to win every time.
An imprecise threat of massive retaliation is an invitation to a tough-minded aggressor to call the bluff. That is precisely what the Chinese did to the Americans last year at Dien Bien Phu. Once one's bluff has been called it is difficult to make any further warning stick, because one is simply crying "Wolf." The uncertainty about the meaning of the White Paper is an extremely dangerous element.
Surely the right line for us to take is to say that we shall use whatever weapons are necessary to halt aggression. That means that upon the Continent of Europe we must use nuclear weapons to halt a possible onrush of the Red Army, but it does not mean that we must necessarily use those weapons against the territory of the Soviet Union.
§ Mr. Healey
I shall try to clarify my meaning as I go along.
My feeling is that one effect of the nuclear deterrent is that if fighting should break out anywhere in the world both sides—certainly the nuclear Powers involved—will try to limit both the area and the mode of the fighting to the maximum extent. That is what happened in the Korean War; that is what happened in the Indo-Chinese War, and there is a very good chance—I put it no higher—that it could happen in some sorts of European war. It seems to me that no Power with thermonuclear weapons is likely to attack the territory of another Power which also has thermonuclear weapons if it can possibly avoid doing so.
That is where—to answer the question put by my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman)—Britain's position must be considered. The really crucial argument for our having our own thermonuclear weapons and the means of 1935 delivering them is that it gives us this extra means of security against a thermonuclear attack which no Power not possessing these weapons can have. The conclusion I draw from this is that if we want to be in a position to limit human suffering, should that deterrent fail, we must have so-called conventional forces to fight a limited war if it should be possible. The fact that we have decided to use tactical atomic weapons in Europe means that we shall have to change the structure of our conventional forces and their method of fighting, but it does not mean that we can entirely dispense with them.
If we must have a thermonuclear deterrent and also a conventional deterrent against local aggression—if we must have a little of everything—it will be a tremendously costly business. I do not deny that this is certainly a great problem, but, in my view, no price is too high to avoid the mutual destruction of mankind which would be involved in a thermonuclear war. The question is, how can we hope to reduce the cost of maintaining all the necessary deterrents?
§ Mr. Healey
I would not dispute that for a moment, and I think that many of my hon. Friends will address themselves to that aspect of the argument later in the debate. I think that the question of reducing the cost can only be solved in one way, and that is by exploiting the economic effects of the strategic interdependence of the Western Union.
When N.A.T.O. was set up it decided to aim at producing a balanced international force. The failure of N.A.T.O. to develop adequately in the political field has meant that very little has been achieved. The biggest example of that failure is our own decision to go ahead with our own thermonuclear deterrent at the same time as the Americans have one. I can see the difficulty of achieving the economies of international specialisation on a completely Atlantic scale, but I think that the Western European Union which may now come into being should provide 1936 us with new opportunities of organising economies at least on a European scale.
I hope that the Government will show more interest than they have done so far in the project for some sort of European arms pool. Even if the French proposals already made are not adequate, something must be done if we are to reduce the cost of defence. It is no good saying that this cannot be done; the Russians have done it. The plain fact is that there is a defence and defence production organisation on an inter-continental scale on the other side of the Iron Curtain, and scarcely anything has been done in that respect on our side.
Incidentally, I would say to those who talk about our indifference to the disarmament plan that the Russians are to spend one-fifth more this year than they did last year on arms production and both Britain and the United States are to spend less.
§ Mr. James Hudson (Ealing, North)
My hon. Friend is interested in the issue that a deterrent is to be brought about by nuclear weapons. Is he now asking that in this arms pool Germany should be equipped to the same extent as we are with nuclear weapons of all types?
§ Mr. Healey
The essence of my argument was that, provided we have international co-operation there can be specialisation in the types of arms produced and even the types of arms held, and it is not inevitable that every country shall produce and hold every type of every arm.
§ Mr. Wilfred Fienburgh (Islington, North)
Is not the basis of my hon. Friend's argument that one can limit the use of nuclear weapons to tactical targets? He is saying, in other words, that we shall drop them on Germany, which may be the infrastructure, the base, of the advancing Russian army. Is not this a wholly nonsensical attitude to adopt, in view of the fact that my hon. Friend is, at the same time, trying to integrate Germany into the Western alliance?
§ Mr. Healey
I think there are difficult questions to answer.
If there is an advance by the Red Army we shall have to drop bombs on the Red army wherever it may be. My point is that it is surely better, if bombs are to 1937 be dropped, to drop them only on the Continent, and not on Britain and on the United States and the U.S.S.R. That is something, I should have thought, that we should have been agreed about. [Laughter.] I ask hon. Members to think twice before laughing about this. It has always been a fact in warfare that when war begins fighting goes on where the war begins, and that will be so in another war. I am suggesting that it is in our interest, if the deterrent fails, to limit the area and the mode of the fighting to the greatest possible extent. If that is incompatible with internationalism, I should like to be shown how it is incompatible with internationalism.
The basic fact of the atomic age is that defence is no longer possible on a purely national basis. No one believes that for Britain to have her own thermonuclear deterrent will make her independent in defence. It is quite inconceivable that Britain should ever use these weapons except in conjunction with allies, because the only defence against thermonuclear weapons and a condition for the only effective deterrent is the greatest possible dispersal on an inter-continental scale.
The whole burden of my argument in this respect is to ask the Government, and, indeed, all the Western Governments, to accept the diplomatic and economic implications of this strategic revolution. The Government are slowly facing up to the strategic implications, but, so far, there has been no progress in facing up to the diplomatic and economic ones.
§ 6.17 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for the Home Department and Minister for Welsh Affairs (Major Gwilym Lloyd-George)
I thought it would be for the convenience of the House if, at this point, I said something about the subject of Civil Defence, or, as I think it is better called in the White Paper, Home Defence.
In Chapter VIII of the White Paper we have tried to set out the problem, as far as we can at present assess it, and the proposals we have to make at this stage. As the White Paper makes perfectly clear, our plans must not be conceived in the terms of our experience in the last war, nor even of the threat posed by the atomic bomb, for we are now confronted by new and revolutionary problems, many of which have arisen only within the last few months.
1938 Those hon. Members who have studied the report, issued on 15th February, by the United States Atomic Energy Commission, will appreciate just how serious these problems are. They are, in fact, so formidable, and their ramifications so complicated, that I must tell the House quite frankly that today I can give only an interim report. Some time will be needed before we can embark on the full range of Civil Defence measures which are necessary.
In common prudence we must consider the worst which might befall: a number of thermonuclear weapons might be exploded in target areas in this country. Each would cause a wide circle of devastation around the centre of the bomb burst, and from each there might extend down-wind a wide area in which radioactive "fall-out" would constitute a terrible menace to health and to life.
Nevertheless, we should expect that there would be wide tracts of country that would escape, and it would be there that the battle for survival would have to be organised. There would be great numbers of survivors to be rescued, many of them sick or injured, and all would need help of one kind or another. Every person and every organised unit under central or local command would be involved in a grim struggle on whose outcome our continued existence as a nation might well depend.
So far as is practicable, our plans must be made in such a way that we could, if the emergency arose, rapidly expand the permanent Civil Defence structure to the proportions that might be needed in war.
Although we cannot now count on any part of our crowded island being immune from attack or free from danger, we must be ready to move as many people as we can from what we believe to be target areas into safer places, and be prepared to house and feed the population and keep order among them wherever they may be. We must see that the people have whatever protection against the new hazards is practicable. We must organise and train the life-saving forces who would go into action after an attack.
We have decided that these life-saving forces must be organised in three separate but related formations. There must be in each locality an organisation which, if the locality escaped danger, would help with the movement, feeding and 1939 general care of those who might have been made homeless by enemy attack elsewhere and which, if the locality itself were damaged, would collect and collate the information about damage and casualties on which the control of life-saving operations would depend, and would at least make a start with those life-saving operations—fighting fires, rescuing the trapped, helping the injured and directing the homeless. This is what we all know as the local Civil Defence services.
In support of those local forces we, as no doubt our predecessors in office did, contemplate that there shall be reinforcements of trained mobile forces, strategically disposed and ready to be sent to the help of the places hardest hit. The advent of the hydrogen bomb increases enormously the scale of reinforcement that would be required. The Statement on Defence shows how we are setting about providing the necessary reserve of men in the Mobile Defence Corps.
I do not think it is necessary for me to expand what the White Paper says about the Mobile Defence Corps. We are hoping to get 48 battalions, each with a strength of about 600, and we expect to pass about 10,000 men a year through the special training depots. We shall make a beginning in the course of this year. It may be asked why we have not set out to make a larger force. The reply is that it is as large as we can effectively handle at the beginning from the administrative point of view.
The Government felt, in view of the appalling possibilities, that more was needed. So we came to a decision which, I feel sure, will be welcomed in the House and in the country. It is that in future all members of the Armed Forces, including the Home Guard, will receive training in elementary Civil Defence duties as part of their normal training.
§ Mr. Shinwell
If the Armed Forces who are called up to National Service are to be given this training, why should not 1940 those who are exempted, students, agricultural workers and the like, equally be given the training?
§ Major Lloyd-George
Many of these people are already giving voluntary service. It is much simpler when people are already in the Services to get them to do this training.
§ Mr. Shinwell
Under the National Service Acts men are called up to serve. It is now proposed that instead of undergoing combatant duties—[Hon. Members: "No."]—they should, in the auxiliary period of three and a half years, be trained in Civil Defence, be formed into mobile columns and receive training. Why should those who are deferred under the same Acts not equally be called up and trained?
§ Major Lloyd-George
The right hon. Gentleman is getting two things slightly mixed. The mobile column is a totally different thing from what I have been referring to. All members of the Forces of the Crown will be given training during their period of service, not to the exclusion of their combatant duties, but in addition. That is different from what we have now.
§ Mr. Shinwell
The right hon. and gallant Gentleman is mistaken in thinking that I got it wrong. It is not so long since the Government announced that members of the Royal Air Force for whom the R.A.F. could not provide auxiliary training, combatant training, should be transferred to Civil Defence. That was the decision of the Government. If that is so, I assume that, during the period of auxiliary service, the call-up for 14 or 15 days, these men will receive Civil Defence training. In that case, why not do the same with the other people to whom I have referred?
§ Major Lloyd-George
I am sorry to repeat that the right hon. Gentleman has still got two things mixed up. We are not discussing the mobile columns. That is an entirely different thing. People actually serving in the Forces will, as part of their military training and during their ordinary service, have to do elementary training in Civil Defence.
§ Mr. Wigg
That means that the Government have now accepted the suggestion which I made in the last debate on Civil Defence, which was that during 1941 their two years' Service National Service men should be given part-time training in Civil Defence. The only unfortunate thing is that the Government are six months too late, as usual.
§ Major Lloyd-George
It shows how good a suggestion it was, coming from the hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg).
This new departure will ensure that all men, both in the active Forces and in the reserves, will have knowledge of the theory and practice of this kind of work. It means also that behind the Mobile Defence Corps would be the whole resources of the Armed Forces who were not actively engaged in repelling the enemy. We must not forget that there will be many duties concerned with Civil Defence, for example, clearing of rubble from roads, repairing bridges and railways, and providing emergency communications, which the Armed Forces are already equipped and trained to perform.
The help of the Armed Forces who had received specialised training would be of particular value in fighting fires and in rescue operations. For both these tasks it is essential that we should have a nucleus of trained, well-organised and highly mobile units. But they differ in this respect—that for fire-fighting we have the experienced regular fire brigades on which to build a war organisation, while for rescue there is no corresponding professional service.
For this reason, we have decided that the Royal Air Force H reservists, who will be available for a shorter period of specialised training than the Mobile Defence Corps, shall be trained infire fighting, so that in war they may be drafted into the regular Fire Service, which would then be under unified and central control. The H reservists are to be called up for a fortnight's training in each of the second and third years of their period on reserve, and the training will be given in Home Office establishments by instructors seconded from the regular fire brigades, though the men will be under the control of their own officers for discipline.
Training these men should start next July, and in the first year the reservists will be trained approximately up to the standard of the members of the Auxiliary Fire Service. In the second year, the instruction will be rather more advanced. 1942 There is obviously a limit to the degree to which we could dilute the peace-time fire brigades, and, in view of the possible need for expansion at a future date, we intend that some of the battalions of the Mobile Defence Corps shall be fire fighting units. They will be trained, commanded and controlled by the Service Departments, but will be at the disposal of the civil authorities in time of war.
The bulk of the battalions of the Mobile Defence Corps will be trained for rescue and ambulance duties. The men who compose them will receive a month's training during their whole-time National Service, and they will continue their training when recalled as units for a fortnight in each of their periods on the Reserve.
Some may suggest that this is inadequate and should be extended, or even that there should be a whole-time professional body of rescue brigades for Civil Defence. As to the first point, our experience with the Home Office Experimental Mobile Column shows that in two months or so it will be possible to carry through a training syllabus of real value. As to setting up professional rescue brigades in peace-time, I believe that the suggestion is impracticable. The brigades would have no steady peace-time tasks to perform, and, apart from the frustration and boredom that the men would feel, we simply cannot afford to divert large numbers of men permanently from more useful and productive occupations.
As I have said, I can give the House today only an interim report on Civil Defence. The new problems, and especially those that would arise from the extensive radioactive contamination caused by a hydrogen bomb explosion, are so complex and have confronted us so recently that our plans for dealing with them have not yet reached the stage when they can be made public, though they are, of course, receiving the most urgent attention.
The measures involved cover a wide field. Many are the responsibility of other Ministers, but I assure the House that there is the closest co-operation between us and the most careful coordination of our plans. The Statement on Defence mentions some of them, such as safeguarding communications, providing alternative ports and harbours, and building up reserve stocks of fuel and food and other essentials.
1943 Perhaps the most important of the measures mentioned in the Statement are the evacuation of the civilian population and the provision of shelter. My predecessor told the House last July that evacuation is fundamental to many other Civil Defence plans; but evacuation, to be effective, must be worked out in great detail so that the local authorities in both reception and evacuation areas know precisely what they must do. That takes time, especially when it is remembered that now practically any part of this country might be exposed to the danger of radioactive "fall out."
In the course of his speech, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Easington said that there was no adequate defence against the hydrogen bomb. [Interruption] I was only quoting what the right hon. Gentleman said, and, if he will wait a moment, I will tell him what I think. As far as protective measures for the civilian population are concerned, we have to face the fact that it is of no avail to try to provide deep shelters that would be proof against a hit or a near miss from a hydrogen bomb—[Hon. Members: "Why?"]—although fairly simple shelters further from the point of burst would give good protection against blast, heat and "fall out."
What is equally important now is to decide how protection can best be given to the vast numbers of people who might be exposed to the hazards of radioactive "fall out" far from the target in urban and rural areas. We are considering how this protection can best be given, but, before we reach decisions, we must be reasonably certain that the measures to be taken are on the right lines.
One obvious need that is not specifically mentioned in the White Paper is an organisation properly equipped with the necessary instruments to give warning and to make surveys of radioactivity in all parts of the country after an attack by thermonuclear weapons.
§ Mr. Victor Collins (Shoreditch and Finsbury)
The Home Secretary has spoken of moving large numbers of people to less dangerous areas, and he has made it clear that, according to the direction of the wind, an area may be safe or dangerous. What period of time is proposed for moving the people? The 1944 extent of the warning may be a matter of minutes, or at most hours. Will it be possible to move large numbers of people in that time?
§ Major Lloyd-George
That is the sort of thing which requires very intensive examination. I agree with the hon. Gentleman that there may be very little warning, but this must not be the excuse for not trying to make arrangements as best we can for as much evacuation as possible from the crowded areas. This is vital in our small island, with its immense concentrations of population in small areas.
I was referring to the need for a small organisation properly equipped with instruments to detect radioactivity, and I assure the House that the Government fully recognise theneed to ensure the production of the specialised instruments required in sufficient numbers for equipping the warning organisation that will have to be set up.
Tentative plans for a wide variety of Civil Defence measures are being tested out. They are tested in careful operational studies at the Civil Defence Staff College, and experts of all the services involved take part in these studies. As soon as new plans, matured in this way, are sufficiently crystallised, they are incorporated in the teaching given to students at the College and to Civil Defence instructors at the technical schools.
I should like to say a word or two about the importance of the local Civil Defence organisation. The decision that all members of the Armed Forces, including the Home Guard, are to receive training in elementary Civil Defence duties as part of their normal military training, is, I think the House will agree, a notable advance, and will place invaluable reinforcements at the disposal of the civil authorities.
This is a new departure of far-reaching importance, but I want to emphasise most strongly that the volunteer forces remain the foundation of our Civil Defence. We shall rely, as we have never relied before, I suggest, on the police, the Fire Service, the Civil Defence Corps, the Industrial Civil Defence Service, the National Hospital Service Reserve, the Women's Voluntary Services, the Red Cross Society, the St. John Ambulance Brigade and the members of all the civilian voluntary 1945 organisations. Indeed, we have decided to extend throughout the country the encouragement we have so far given only in the likely target areas for the larger commercial and industrial concerns to form units of the Industrial Civil Defence Service.
The volunteer forces would be the first to go into action: their local knowledge, reconnaissance and guidance would be essential if the reinforcements from the Armed Forces were to be employed most effectively: and, besides that, there are many civil defence duties—for example, many aspects of welfare work and the duties of the wardens' section of the Civil Defence Corps—which would lie outside the scope of the help that could be expected from the Armed Forces.
I should like to say once again, because it is very important that the country should know it, that no standing army of professional Civil Defence experts that we could afford to maintain would be large enough to do the job of Civil Defence in war.
§ Major Lloyd-George
A large organisation of trained local volunteers will be essential for all sections of Civil Defence.
I have endeavoured, as briefly as I can, to give the House an account of what is being done to meet the threat of thermonuclear attack. Naturally, I do not claim that the problem is solved, but at least we have advanced. As we learn more we shall have fresh plans and we shall announce them to the House and the country.
There are those, of course, who will say that anything of this kind is useless—that there is no defence at all against thermonuclear attack. I cannot believe that to be the view except of a minority in this country.
§ Mr. Ellis Smith
Has the right hon. and gallant Gentleman read the Home Office report about the experiences in Hamburg?
§ Major Lloyd-George
Yes, of course, and I have been to Hamburg. But I repeat: those who say that it is no good doing anything represent a minority of people.
In any event, it is a view which no Government could take. It is purely defeatist. 1946 I am sure that to do all we can to mitigate the effect of such an attack must be a right and proper part of our defence programme, for the best chance, surely, that we have of avoiding such an attack is to make it clear to the aggressor that we have made every possible preparation to meet it.
§ Mr. Ede (South Shields)
Would the right hon. and gallant Gentleman be a little more definite about the numbers and the allocation of the cost? How many does he expect to recruit into his various services, where he is bringing in the Armed Forces? How many does he expect each year from the time it starts? He mentioned that £70 million is being allocated to this programme. How much of that is for the services which he has described as being connected with rescue, fire fighting, and so on; and how much is for stock-piling and the other things not normally regarded by the general population as Civil Defence?
§ Major Lloyd-George
I cannot answer all those questions now, but I will give the right hon. Gentleman the information later.
The H Reserve is, I think, on the Home Office Vote. The cost of the other schemes will fall on the Service Votes. My recollection is that about 10,000 H reservists would be going through each year and another 10,000 would come into the scheme for the Mobile Defence Corps. H reservists would be trained for fire-fighting duties, and from the second year onwards, when we should have twice as many to train, we hope to double the training facilities. In addition, everybody in the Armed Forces would have to undergo training in Civil Defence.
§ 6.44 p.m.
§ Mr. Maurice Edelman (Coventry, North)
I was glad to hear that the Home Secretary, chastened, no doubt, by the experience of his predecessor, approached the question of Civil Defence and the hydrogen bomb with considerable humility. It is true that he has had the advantage of reading the report on the hydrogen bomb recently issued by the United States Atomic Energy Commission, and he seemed to have profited from the reading in order to announce today that evacuation will be one of the means used to guard against the effects of the hydrogen bomb.
1947 For my part, when I read that report, I could not help feeling that the passages dealing with evacuation were the weakest and the most inconsistent parts of the report, because it is perfectly plain from it that the greatest danger arising out of the hydrogen bomb comes from the radioactive "fall-out"; and that radioactive "fall-out," despite the tremendous scientific ingenuity which goes into the manufacture of the hydrogen bomb, is dependent on the whim of the prevailing wind.
If it is suggested that one measure of Civil Defence should be to organise evacuation from the major cities, it is possible to conceive that a mass evacuation should be started from London, for example, if a hydrogen bomb were dropped on Dover; and as evacuation westwards was proceeding, it might well be that another thermonuclear bomb might be dropped on Cardiff, the wind might change and one might find a collision of the streams of evacuation.
Quite apart from the fact that our island is so small as to make evacuation under existing conditions impracticable, bearing in mind the range and extent of the hydrogen bomb, I cannot conceive that, if one bears in mind the nature of the bomb, evacuation can be an effective technique.
But I hope, in a few minutes, to return to the central question of Civil Defence and passive defence against the hydrogen bomb and, in particular, to certain of the new facts disclosed for the first time by the report of the United States Atomic Energy Commission. The central theme of our debate today is not defence, but deterrent. By defence we mean the measures undertaken to repel an attack. Deterrents, on the other hand, consist in making the penalties of such an attack so great that no prospective enemy would dare undertake it.
It is now set out in the White Paper and suggested in the Amendment that, as the hydrogen bomb is the supreme strategic deterrent, it will be able to produce strategic independence for Britain and that Britain herself must manufacture the hydrogen bomb and, if necessary, use it. I hope tomorrow night not only to vote against the Government Motion, but also to record my disapproval of the Amendment in the name of my right hon. and hon. Friends by abstaining from 1948 supporting that Amendment. I wish to put before the House the reasons which have led me to that decision.
Listening to the Prime Minister, I was astonished to hear him suggest that the Soviet Union has not, in fact, got a hydrogen bomb or, alternatively, is not capable of delivering a hydrogen bomb in the same way as the United States. I believe it is within the recollection of hon. Members that the first thermonuclear explosion was set off by the Soviet Union. There seems to be little doubt of it because it was established. and could be established, by scientific measurement and calculation in the surrounding countries. When the United States first set off her thermonuclear device it was pointed out that that device was not actually a bomb but an instrument which introduced a thermonuclear explosion.
All along, in the various inquiries undertaken in the United States—in the inquiries concerning the activities of Dr. Oppenheimer—it was constantly brought out that, owing to Soviet scientific research, on the one hand, and the treason of some Western scientists, on the other, the Soviet Union was, in fact, a slight jump ahead of the West. Consequently, it has always seemed to me that even though we regard our possession of the hydrogen bomb and the possession by the United States of the hydrogen bomb as a deterrent it is only a counter-deterrent and that the Soviet Union, it has always been thought, is in possession of the means not only of manufacturing but also of delivering a hydrogen bomb.
Why it is that many hon. Members on this side of the House who are not pacifists recoil from the suggestion that the hydrogen bomb should be manufactured and used? That is a question which, I know, many of us have put to ourselves in order that we may not be affected only by emotion but be able to come to firm conclusions about this most vital matter. The answer is that the hydrogen bomb is not only different in size from what have hitherto been called conventional weapons, but also different in kind.
Here I state my belief that we have probably reached the stage in which the usual distinction between conventional and non-conventional weapons is no longer very important. A new distinction should be made between what I may 1949 call finite weapons and weapons of infinite capacity. When I speak of finite weapons I include the atom bomb; I describe them as finite weapons because, if we take the whole range of mankind's experience from the days of the bow and arrow to the atomic bomb, it will be seen that the power of those weapons has been limited to their physical nature.
The bow and arrow was limited by the power of the bow to discharge the arrow and the power of the atom bomb is limited by what is called its critical mass. In the case of the hydrogen bomb we come to a totally different kind of weapon. It is an "open ended" weapon, as the Americans call it; a weapon capable of infinite expansion. Because its power is potentially infinite I suggest that the hydrogen bomb is different in nature and kind from what I have described as finite weapons.
I was interested to note that even the Prime Minister made no reference whatsoever to the possibility of the hydrogen bomb being accommodated in casing such as cobalt which the very men who have developed the hydrogen bomb—men like Professor Teller, of the United States—have stated would be capable of infinite destruction. If I had to summarise my difference of definition between finite weapons and the hydrogen bomb, I would say that whereas finite weapons are capable of destroying men even in hundreds of thousands, infinite weapons are capable of destroying man himself.
It is suggested, and was suggested by the Prime Minister this afternoon, that in a thermonuclear war the West, with its highly developed techniques, its scientists, and with its general resources, would probably be able to out-fight and to survive an aggressor from the East. Let us for a moment examine that thesis rather more closely. I submit to the House that in a thermonuclear war the side that is best qualified to fight it, the side best qualified to engage in passive and civil defence is the side which has the lowest standard of living. It is not the side which has a washing machine civilisation, a civilisation based on air conditioning, or television. The side which is most capable of fighting a thermonuclear war is the side whose civilisation is closest to the life of the ant.
I can well imagine that if a thermonuclear war were to break out the sur- 1950 vivors would literally be not only those with the lowest standard of living but those with the lowest forms of animal life because they have a better experience of adaptation. They are more used to hardship and physically better organised to deal with the uncivilised conditions which would certainly develop in the event of a thermonuclear war.
Let us consider the question of evacuation. The Russians have had long experience of mass migration, dating from the time of Genghis Khan. During the last war they showed how, under a ruthless dictatorship, it was possible not only to move a population but to translate total races and nationalities from one end of Russia to another. It was done under most primitive and barbaric conditions, but the fact is that it was done.
The people who were moved did not expect to carry with them their motor cars; they did not expect to carry with them three meals a day. They were a primitive people, used to living in primitive conditions, a people who were accustomed to the rigid and unrelenting discipline of Communist rule. The result was that they were able to survive conditions which the more civilised people, if I may so call them, of the West certainly could not have endured. The only reason I am dwelling on this point is to make the submission that in a hydrogen bomb war it would be the side with the lowest standard of civilisation which would survive.
§ Mr. Edward Shackleton (Preston, South)
Is my hon. Friend also suggesting that the survivors would be the winners of that war?
§ Mr. Edelman
I have always noticed, in a boxing match, that the one who is knocked out is usually declared the loser and the one who survives is the winner. If there were any survivor I would say that the survivor was the winner. I dwell on this point because if I relate it to the report of the United States Atomic Energy Commission I cannot help feeling that, in present circumstances, some of the advice we are getting on how to deal with a thermonuclear attack would be ludricrous if it were not tragic. In the "Sunday Times," a couple of days ago, we were told that, in the event of a thermonuclear attack, if we were exposed to radioactivity the best thing to do would be to take a bath. I 1951 observe in the United States report that we are also advised to bath frequently if we are exposed to any form of radiation.
§ Mr. Edelman
It is rather like advising a child who has been playing a game of football to take a bath in case he catches cold.
There is a great difference between conditions after a hydrogen bomb attack and recommendations drawn up when the recommenders are sitting in an armchair in an office. I will give one example of that. The United States Atomic Energy Commission's report says that one of the greatest dangers arising from a hydrogen bomb attack would be the radiation of what is called strontium. Radio-strontium can be absorbed by the human organism either by inhalation or through liquids. If the advice given, no doubt, by the Home Secretary, and certainly given in that report, were to be followed, it would mean that before anybody takes the advice to have a bath, to remove the radioactive substance from himself he would first have to test his bath water to find whether there was strontium radiation inside it.
§ Mr. Edelman
My hon. Friend will correct me if I am wrong, but I believe that a common form of ingestion is to swallow one's bath water. I cannot help feeling that if there were a hydrogen bomb explosion, a bomb which, perhaps, was dropped in a reservoir and which had the effect of contaminating the supplies of water—and that, clearly, would be one of the first objectives of a potential enemy—anybody in a household, even taking the advice given in that report, would be subject to the atomic disease, as the Japanese and the Americans call it.
§ Mr. Manuel
Would not my hon. Friend agree that it would be very unlikely that any sort of water at all would be available?
§ Mr. Edelman
I think it not impossible that all the water available for the population might be contaminated, but I suggest that the contamination of vast supplies of 1952 water might well take place in these circumstances. I must add that radio-strontium, with its chemical similarity to calcium, tends to collect in the bones and there to produce the constant irradiation of the body cells which produce cancer and malignant growth.
I come now to the second effect. I feel obliged to refer to it, not to harrow the House, but because, despite the dire and terrible warning given by the Prime Minister in opening the debate, I think that the country ought to know what is now known in America. The second effect of radio-strontium is that it can harm or destroy the human foetus in the womb during the early proliferating state, particularly if it is absorbed into the prospective mother's body through eating either vegetables or the flesh of animals which have been fed on the radioactive substance. There is absolutely no doubt—and this is to understate the case—that there is a biological hazard present in the radioactivity which would certainly come from the explosion of a hydrogen bomb.
I believe that the scientists call it the mutation of genes, but to give it a less-wrapped-up and a more down-to-earth description, what that means is that if there were this irradiation of the body of a prospective mother, the result would be to produce monsters. When the Prime Minister spoke before about the onrush of the Mongol hordes, I could not help thinking that it would be a terrible paradox if, in using a hydrogen bomb to prevent the onrush of the Mongol hordes. we had at the same time created conditions for the production of a race of Mongol children. I do not believe it is morally right to acquiesce in any circumstances in the production of instruments which make the generation which survives a hydrogen bomb war into monsters. I do not believe that we have the right to create an age in which the happy mothers will be those who miscarry and the accursed ones those who give birth.
The alternative to the manufacture and use of the hydrogen bomb, the alternative to all these horrors, is in my view to have a top-level meeting as soon as possible to make disarmament a reality—to have a real disarmament conference, not one of the backstairs intrigues but a real disarmament conference, without cynicism and without propaganda, to turn our back, in America, Russia and Britain, 1953 on the apocalyptic engines and to use the knowledge and resources that we have acquired in order to promote the world's well-being.
§ 7.5 p.m.
§ Mr. Martin Lindsay (Solihull)
The Government are to be congratulated on the Defence White Paper, which courageously faces for the first time the very many unpleasant facts in the new strategic position in which we find ourselves. I venture to think that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister elaborated it in a speech which those of us who heard it will long remember. What a contrast it was to the speech that followed from the right hon. Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell).
I am quite certain that the Government are absolutely right in assuming that the first defence is deterrence and are right in their decision to proceed with the manufacture of the hydrogen bomb in this country, and that what is needed now more than anything is what the White Paper calls the "even higher priority for the primary deterrent." If this is true at the present time, when there is at least a chance, with better fighters and guided missiles, of shooting down enemy bombers, how much more so will it be so in the future, when supersonic long distance rockets, which there will be little or no chance whatever of intercepting, have been fully developed?
It follows, as the White Paper and the Prime Minister have stated, that we can be secure only when a potential attacker knows that we can bring down retribution of an annihilating nature if we are attacked. But, unfortunately, we are at the moment a very long time from having the bomber squadrons which will give us this safeguard and for which, as the Prime Minister said, we are so much indebted to our American allies. That is the reason for the disappointment, if dismay is too strong a word, at the facts which were disclosed in the White Paper on Military Aircraft. I do not know of any White Paper in recent times which had such a bad Press as that one.
What is the cause of so much delay in the production of military aircraft? We have in this country a most efficient aircraft industry. It is well known that, although the industry's order books are small, it has not lost a single order on the grounds of price. The super-priority 1954 introduced by the present Government has saved 12 months in the production of aircraft, and we understand that the relationship between the aircraft industry and the Ministry of Supply is working well.
I believe that in my right hon. and learned Friend the Minister of Supply we have a man of quite exceptional ability, but it seems to me that in these circumstances in which we find ourselves we must look to the Minister of Supply for a much more vigorous and decisive direction of aircraft production than has been considered necessary in the past. I hope that my right hon. and learned Friend's advisers will consider whether it is not the case that the operational requirements of the Royal Air Force have been altogether too ambitious in the past, so that the makers have never known where modifications have stopped and new design has started with ever advancing new design requirements. I hope that my right hon. and learned Friend will also consider what he can do to ease the chronic shortage of skilled men, technicians, technologists and scientists in the aircraft industry.
I think that there is today a very strong case for excusing from National Service skilled men in that industry. Today we are facing an emergency, and the case is infinitely stronger for these men than for miners and merchant seamen, so I hope that the Government will consider this aspect also. In my view, all matters connected with the supply of modern aircraft should today be treated as a national emergency, since our survival may well depend upon how quickly the R.A.F. can be re-equipped.
I agree with the Prime Minister that we must not only have the means of delivering the hydrogen bomb in overwhelming power, but that we must make it perfectly clear to our potential enemy that it would be our intention to use it with devastating effect from the start. I listened with interest to the speech of the hon. Member for Leeds, South-East (Mr. D. Healey), and I agree that there is ambiguity in the White Paper. It reminds me of the conditional clauses of the late Mr. Neville Chamberlain and Sir Horace Wilson. At any rate the Prime Minister underlined this aspect in his speech, and I hope that Government spokesmen will not fail to make clear our position. I thought that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Easington made heavy 1955 weather about the speech of Field Marshal Lord Montgomery when he stated that, if we were attacked, we would reply with all the means at our disposal.
§ Mr. F. Beswick (Uxbridge)
The hon. Gentleman said we should make it clear that thermonuclear weapons would be used from the start. Will he define more clearly what he means by "start"? The start of what? Would any trouble in Berlin, for example, on the 1948 pattern be considered a start and should we then use these weapons?
§ Mr. Lindsay
It is not for me to define it but for the Government. I would like it stated quite plainly; I am with the hon. Member for Leeds, South-East there. I think that the Russians should know exactly where they would be placed in any advance to the West or in any other direction.
The statements on Civil Defence in the White Paper are of the greatest importance. The Government are right to say that our will to survive is part of the deterrent, and that the strength of our resolve and our earnestness will be reflected in the efficiency of the arrangements which we make to protect the home base. As the Prime Minister said this afternoon, the power of the nuclear bomb is so great that it must always be a temptation to the enemy to think that we or our allies could be knocked out immediately. Therefore, we must make it obvious that we can still deliver a counter stroke, not only from our overseas bases but also from this country, even if our large cities were already demolished.
So it is necessary to disperse and conceal both the machinery of government and our offensive bases. This is an essential precaution, which is not touched on in the White Paper, nor was it elaborated by the Home Secretary. We must ensure that, even if London and the seat of Government were to be destroyed, the machinery of command would still continue to function. This could only be possible if decentralisation had been planned in advance, so that large areas, from which the battle of survival would have been organised, could carry on independently.
Therefore we must welcome the suggestions in the White Paper for the special network of communications, for stockpiling of essential commodities, and the 1956 re-appraisal of port facilities. I was glad, incidentally, that my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Barkston Ash (Sir L. Ropner) devoted much of his speech to that subject. All these suggestions are sound provided that the arrangements are put into force and are not simply paper schemes. For example, it is no use listing alternative ports for discharging our imports unless the necessary port and dock facilities are installed It is no use talking about stockpiling essential commodities unless the requisite storage facilities are provided in spite of all the expense that those will entail.
I wish I were so confident that we are realistic in talking about evacuation. In the last war we were able to evacuate women and children, but in a nuclear war it would be a question of evacuating whole cities, which is obviously impracticable, even if it were not necessary for production to be continued as far as possible. Nor am I so confident that the 48 reserve battalions of the proposed new Mobile Defence Corps are a practical proposition. I cannot see what they could do confronted with such widespread devastation as would occur.
Particularly do I dislike the suggestion that these men will be, as the White Paper states, "Selected from the R.A.F. and the Army." If ever troops are required for such a role, it will surely be the most exacting of all tasks, calling for morale of as high an order as has ever been required of British troops. Those of us who have seen the British Army in retreat know that we can only get morale of this order from a formation—whether it be a ship's company, a regiment or any other—which is incorporated under its own officers and has a strong traditional unit loyalty. At Dunkirk and in Norway we saw such units go through hell on earth and come through with their discipline unshaken—in marked contrast sometimes to other troops from rear formations whose less closely defined loyalties could not take the strain. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War was present and played a distinguished part in one of those operations, and I hope that he and the planners of this new Defence Corps will not forget the lessons of those days.
Finally, I regret very much that the Opposition have thought fit to try to make party political capital out of this issue. I can assure them that they have 1957 no monopoly of anxiety about the defences of this country, and for the party which voted to a man against conscription four months before the last war started, and whose reduction of the aircraft development programme has been responsible to such a large extent for the state of our defences today, it is laughable and contemptible.
§ 7.19 p.m.
§ Mr. George Wigg (Dudley)
The charitable thing to say about the speech of the hon. Member for Solihull (Mr. M. Lindsay) is that he has not read the White Paper or, if he has, it is the one for the wrong year. There is a test which one can apply to the value of the White Paper and to the value of the speech of the Prime Minister. We can pass right beyond the question of opinion and apply the test of how far the defence policy is understood. After the White Paper has been available for a fortnight, and after we have had an opportunity of listening to the Prime Minister, it is perfectly clear from the speeches of the hon. Members for Solihull and for Leeds, South-East (Mr. D. Healey) that we do not know where we stand on the central question: Do we use the nuclear weapon if we are attacked with conventional weapons?
I was very surprised that the Prime Minister did not intervene during the speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell). If he were not present, I am surprised that the Minister of Defence did not get on his feet to clear up this vital point. The fact that the Minister of Defence did not intervene either in the speech of the hon. Member for Solihull or that of my right hon. Friend seems to point to the fact that the Government have deliberately set out not to clarify the issue but to confuse it. I am willing to give way to the Minister of Defence if he will now tell us, the country and the world where this country stands on the issue of the use of the deterrent. If he will not rise and explain in categorical terms where the Government stand, I think I am right in assuming that they do not want us to know the truth.
The issue before the country is not whether we should build the hydrogen bomb or not—and I wish my hon. Friend the Member for South all (Mr. Pargiter) were here. For the last 10 years we have lived in a world which has worked out 1958 its defence policies in the knowledge of the existence of the atom bomb. I go further; I believe it to be a complete waste of time for my hon. Friends to spend a split second arguing whether we should build the bomb or not. I believe it is built. I believe it is already in existence.
Therefore, as an honest man, I must try to face the facts of the world in which I live. The hydrogen bomb is here with us, and in the long run perhaps it will bring certain blessings in its train; but at present, as a very wise friend of mine said—a very good man, much better than I am—" Mankind is touching the hem of God's garment." We are not good enough and wise enough to have this awful accession to power. Now we have it, we do not know what to do with it.
The fact is, we have it, and the Prime Minister has come to the House this afternoon to do what he did in 1951—to exploit the defence position for party political purposes. [Hon. Members: "No."] Yes. Since I came to the House almost 10 years ago, I have never missed a defence debate. In all the debates on all the Services, I have never heard a more disgraceful speech in my mother tongue than that by the Prime Minister on 14thFebruary, 1951. I believe it is to the credit of the Minister of Defence and the Foreign Secretary and others on his own Front Bench that they were opposed to the tactics which the Prime Minister adopted on this occasion.
He used the crisis created by the Korean war and the political situation in 1951 and what he thought was a split inside the ranks of my party to see whether he could get us out and put himself in. But in this life we take and we pay, and the Prime Minister is like the late Dr. Goebbels; they became the victims of their own propaganda.
§ Mr. Harvey
It is a scandalous comparison. May I ask the hon. Gentleman, since he has bandied accusations about, who used the phrase, "Whose finger on the trigger?"
§ Mr. Speaker
I suggest to the House that all this is pretty ancient history. We are dealing with a defence programme for this year. That is the matter before us.
§ Mr. Wigg
I am replying to the hon. Member for Solihull, who did not neglect to go out of his way to smear hon. Members on this side of the House with a vote against conscription even before the war. I am entitled to reply, within the rules of order, and if I am attacked I will reply. I have every intention of replying.
I come back to the point—that on 14th February, 1951, the Prime Minister set in train a volume of propaganda of which he himself was the victim, because when he assumed office as Prime Minister he showed that he believed, not only in what he said but in what he did, that an attack with conventional weapons by the Russians was imminent. He at once formed the Home Guard. He reformed seven regular battalions. Of course, he did not explain the reason for this decision; he certainly did not give the reasons which are given in the Secretary of State's Memorandum on the Army. He did not say, for example, there was a surfeit of manpower which had to be put into units.
What he sought to do was to castigate my hon. Friends, doubt their integrity and smear them with a statement that he formed seven battalions to replace seven battalions which had been imprudently cast away. They have been cast away again since, but the Prime Minister did not use the word "imprudently" on this occasion. The battalions existed for only three years and they have now gone. He formed 501 mobile columns. Was there ever a piece of greater military nonsense than that? The efficiency of the Army—heaven knows it is bad enough as a result of the Secretary of State's efforts—was made infinitely worse as a result of that decision.
That is not all. The Prime Minister came to the House on 5th February, 1952, and announced the decision, "Super-priority for all fighter aircraft." Yesterday we learned for the first time that super-priority was given to all aircraft—yet the hon. Member for Solihull says, "We have saved 12 months." All that happened was that all the projects which we were putting through took one pace 1960 forward, and were all back where they started.
§ Mr. Raymond Gower (Barry)
Nothing the hon. Gentleman has said in the last few sentences has justified his abominable comparison of the Prime Minister with Dr. Goebbels. Will he now take the opportunity of withdrawing such a disgraceful assertion?
§ Mr. Wigg
I am sorry that hon. Members opposite are so touchy. I did not say that. I said that the Prime Minister, like the late Dr. Goebbels, believed his own propaganda. I am saying that they believed in what they said. One died in a bunker and the other, the Prime Minister, after spending thousands of millions of pounds, has taken this country to the brink of disaster.
§ Mr. M. Lindsay
May I tell the hon. Gentleman that the British aircraft manufacturers have stated—and it is their statement—that the super-priority afforded by this Government has saved 12 months, because they were then able to get back the men they had been losing so rapidly?
§ Mr. Wigg
The hon. Member is a most curious person. He comes here very rarely, he does not read any White Papers and he does not listen to what is said. He does not even read HANSARD. Only yesterday we learned for the first time that the super-priority applied to bombers as well as to fighters, but on 5th February, 1952, the Prime Minister said it was fighters only. Eventually it turned out to be all aircraft. That is the cause of the disaster.
But of course that was not the only mistake which the Prime Minister made in 1952. When he arrived at the Ministry of Defence he thought—and again the evidence is to be found quite clearly in HANSARD—that the Ministry of Defence was as he left it in 1945. He did not realise that it was engaged in the task of co-ordinating the three Services and trying to make sense out of their production programmes in order that orders could be passed to the Ministry of Supply.
Against the advice of the Leader of the Opposition, he appointed Field Marshal Lord Alexander as Minister of Defence—a very distinguished soldier; but, I venture to say, there has never been a more 1961 disastrous appointment than that, because, for the reasons which my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition gave, what we needed at that time was somebody who would co-ordinate production and who would see that the Services did not get out of step.
But, of course, the Prime Minister was so taken up with his own faulty appreciation of the situation that he took absurd steps, with both the Army and the Air Force, and then, to cap it all, he appointed a Minister of Defence who had no sense of politics at all and who eventually left that Ministry in a disastrous state.
I want to ask hon. Gentlemen opposite, many of whom sit for county divisions and are much more closely concerned with the Territorial Army than we are, what they would have said had the positions been reversed and in April, 1953, a Labour Minister had told the House that in future guided missiles were to be controlled by the Royal Air Force. Of course, that decision meant that Anti-Aircraft Command would have to cease. Anti-Aircraft Command and the whole of the Territorial Army were bound ultimately to be affected by that decision.
Then we wait from April, 1953, to 1st December, 1954–18 months—before the Minister of Defence tells the House that Anti-Aircraft Command has gone. Even now, three months later, the Army has not yet been told what the effect of that decision will be. It affects most of the Regular Army, it affects all the Royal Artillery and it enormously affects the whole conception of voluntary service inside the Territorial Army.
I do not want to argue for the vested interests in the Army, because I want to argue against vested interests in all Services, but I should have thought that if we had had to get rid of Anti-Aircraft Command, we should not have thrown it in the dustbin.
§ Air Commodore Harvey
I am sure that the hon. and gallant Gentleman wants to be fair. As I understand it, in the last few months he has made a specialised study of aircraft production. He said that super-priority has been given to all aircraft production. So far as I know, he will find that super-priority was not given to Coastal Command, nor Transport Command, certainly not to the Canberra and not to some of the fighter programme. 1962 When he said we were not told about it, my recollection is that a statement was made in another place and the Undersecretary of State for Air referred to it here in an Estimates debate.
§ Mr. Wigg
The House of Commons does astonishing things. The House has never been informed. Super-priority was given to 11 different categories. It is true that on 3rd April, 1952, in another place there was an obscure reference by the Secretary of State for Air, but there has certainly never been a formal announcement of any kind in the House of Commons beyond the original statement by the Prime Minister which everybody to whom I have talked thought went no further than fighters. It was only yesterday that for the first time we realised that the Prime Minister had introduced something quite different, a step which he did not clearly understand.
I want to get back to this question of Anti-Aircraft Command and the Territorial Army. I should like the Minister of Defence to tell us when a scheme will come into existence which will define the future role of the Territorial Army. I should like the right hon. Gentleman to tell us whether the National Service Acts as we know them are to continue with their part-time liability. Will the National Service men in regiments, which have been disbanded or amalgamated, be allowed to escape their liability for part-time service in the T.A.? The reason I am spending time on the point is that it illustrates the irresponsibility of the Government in handling vital problems; but, of course, I shall return to it in more detail on the Army Estimates debate.
I am sorry I was led astray to talk about the air in advance of that part of my speech which deals with it. We are told that we are to havea deterrent and the means to deliver it. Hon. Members on both sides talk in a rather firm way as if the means of delivering it is already with us. Never in my life have I listened 1963 to such nonsense. There is no secret about it, although the public is not aware of the facts because the Press and the B.B.C.—quite apart from the ban—do not give quite so much time as they might to informing the country about the realities of the defence situation. However, I shall not give away any secrets which are not in print.
At present we have 10 Valiants—and they have aileron trouble—one Victor and one Vulcan. I should like the Government to tell us how many they think we will have one year from now. Will it be 20, will it be 30, will it be50? I certainly do not think that it will be 50. It may be 30, but my own view is that we shall be lucky if we get 20. It is perfectly clear that the engine of the Valiant is not wholly satisfactory. I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman when theR.A.28 will be fitted.
Until that V. bomber force is built up, it is idle nonsense to talk about the deterrent and the means of delivering it. The fact that we have a deterrent at the moment and the means of delivery arises from the fact that we are depending, as we have depended for the last 10 years, on the American Strategic Air Force. My main complaint against the Prime Minister's speech is that. he set out to deceive the House and the country. He used the discussion upon the hydrogen bomb as an alibi to divert attention from the White Paper itself.
§ Mr. Speaker
Once or twice I have had to object to the hon. Gentleman saying something which I do not think he intends to say, and that he is using words to suggest that another hon. Member intends to deceive the House. I must point out that that is contrary to the rules of order.
§ Mr. Wigg
Since babyhood I have been told so often to tell the exact truth that it becomes a habit. [Hon. Members: "Withdraw."] Certainly, if it conforms to the rules of order. To satisfy hon. Members—and I certainly want to satisfy you. Sir—I will substitute the word "mislead "for "deceive." The Prime Minister comes here and ascends into the stratosphere in the hope that other people will follow him and that we shall spend no time in discovering the real facts of the situation. What we have set out to do in the aircraft industry, as in 1964 the whole field of defence, is to try to do too much. We are only a small island of 50 million people who still attach much more importance to a first-class honours degree in greats than to a successful career at a technical college.
That produces certain results, and we do not have the ability to work out an effective system of Civil Defence, to build up an air power in conformity with our strength, or potential strength; we have not the capacity to keep in the field an army of 11 divisions, with a reserve of 12 divisions and maintain a great Navy. If hon. Members will study the reply I had yesterday to a written Question about the amounts that have actually been spent—not voted but spent—on defence from 1951–52 onwards, they will see the extent of our failure. If I use strong words and hurt the feelings of hon. Gentlemen opposite, I am very sorry, but I have a duty to discharge, and it is incumbent on all of us to discharge our duty.
I said a year ago that I was quite sure that a year hence we would be weaker than we then were. If the present Government remain in office we shall be weaker a year hence than we now are. It is impossible for us to build up a great day fighter force with the Hunters that are available and the Javelin all-weather fighter—and here I intervene to describe that aircraft as lamentable a failure as the Swift, and events will prove that to be so—if at the same time we are trying to build up a V bomber force with guided missiles and the hydrogen bomb. If we do, we will end up with the picture that is painted for us in the White Paper.
There is no way out. And, of course, if at the same time we spend £350 million on men-of-war, we have to provide aircraft for them, and spend £20 million on aircraft, irrespective of whether they are any good or not. That is the basic picture which this White Paper presents. It is a different picture from the one given by the Prime Minister who performed a record feat of moving a Motion on defence without mentioning the Defence White Paper. That certainly was a wonderful performance.
Now I turn to what is the biggest bottleneck of all, the bottleneck of manpower. This House and the country have approved the maintenance of four divisions in Germany in perpetuity, but they 1965 will not stop there for many years longer because we are not recruiting enough men to keep them going. As part of its N.A.T.O. equipment, the House decided that they should be reinforced by 12 divisions, but we have overlooked the recruiting figures. The House has approved the expenditure of £500 million on aircraft, but even had we the aircraft we have not the men to maintain them. If hon. Gentlemen opposite would spend a little time studying these problems they would discover the interesting fact that the United States, with its enormous and colossal resources, found that in Korea they could not keep a considerable number of their aircraft operationally available because there were not the technicians to maintain them. There is a warning for us. If the Americans are short of maintenance personnel, what about us?
When it comes to the question of the Army, we have the record of the Secretary of State for War. Every year the position gets worse. The right hon. Gentleman tells us that recruiting figures are down by only a little, only by 10 per cent. We have tried every known method to get from the right hon. Gentleman an explanation of whether his new three-year recruiting engagement has proved a success. We are told that we must wait until May. The right hon. Gentleman has told us—I must be careful because he does not like me to say that he hopes—but it is on record in his own words that the Government require 33 per cent. of the Regular recruits to prolong their service, if the Army is to have the long-service N.C.Os. needed. My forecast is that the right hon. Gentleman will not get 10 per cent. So this year the Army is weaker than a year ago. The Prime Minister talked in 1952 of seven battalions imprudently cast away, but now they are not "imprudently" cast away, because the Prime Minister is in office and not the Leader of the Opposition. There will be more battalions cast away next year.
What we need to do is not to boast about systems of defence which exist on paper, or present "phoney" White Papers to the House. The Government have not spent within £150 million the amount which they have asked the House to vote. Certainly during the last two years an amount of £150 million has been saved on production. The right hon. Gentleman has done something of which he should 1966 be thoroughly ashamed. For a period of two years he has called to the Colours the young manpower of this country. They have not been adequately trained. Much of the money has been cast away. Our Armed Forces are inadequately armed and trained. They have not enough N.C.Os. The corps of officers is not up to scratch. In the past year a sum of £1,500 million has been wasted, and during the Government's period of office a sum of nearly £5,000 million has been wasted by the right hon. Gentleman's administration; also a sum of £800 million has been spent on aircraft. In return, all we get is the Defence White Paper and the White Paper on military aircraft. If the Prime Minister is not ashamed, he ought to be.
§ 7.45 p.m.
§ Viscount Hinchingbrooke (Dorset, South)
There is no doubt at all that the hydrogen bomb has blown us into the upper stratosphere, and hon. Members have been returning to earth in most peculiar places and in frames of mind different from what one might have expected. The hon. Member for Southall (Mr. Pargiter), the hon. Member for Coventry, North (Mr. Edelman) and the hon. Member for Leeds, South-East (Mr. D. Healey) all made speeches very different from their usual form. Only the hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) has been true to himself. He made exactly the same speech as he always makes in this House—misleading, misinformed and misanthropic.
§ Viscount Hinchingbrooke
After some time spent on irrelevancies and harking back two or three years into the past, the hon. Member for Dudley did begin to say something relevant to the White Paper which we are discussing, and I should like to follow him in that. I think that for the time being the House has had almost enough of the hydrogen bomb, and we have not spent enough time on some of the other detailed and important proposals contained in this White Paper.
I must say that the table in paragraph 63 fills me with alarm. It is the table giving the total active strength of the Armed Forces. As the hon. Member for Dudley pointed out, the figures for 1967 Regulars have been steadily reduced, or are being steadily reduced, until by 1st April, 1956, we get to something quite alarming. Against that, we have the extraordinary position that the intake expected into National Service is to go up in the same year. I do not know what that is due to; it may be that there were more boys born in 1938 than in 1937.
§ Viscount Hinchingbrooke
Or perhaps it means that there is to be more drastic criteria for National Service so as to produce more men for the Fighting Services. Whatever may be the reason—and I hope we shall have some explanation—it paints a rather distressing picture; a picture of a nation undertaking its foreign commitments and discharging them increasingly on the basis of conscription and required service for the Colours and decreasingly on the basis of voluntary Regular full-time service in the Armed Forces.
I do not believe that that can be allowed to go on. Something will have to be done either to reduce the commitments, or to see that the burden of discharging them does not fall so heavily upon the conscripted element of the Armed Forces; or else something must be done to stimulate more effectively those who join the Regular Army as a career.
I have been looking at the American figures and they are very remarkable. The numbers drafted into the American Armed Forces, until recently, seem to be about 23 per cent. of the total of those serving; whereas in this country they appear to be 51 per cent.—according to figures recently given to this House by the Ministry of Labour. That means that out of the total of 289,000 available for call-up, 148,000 were actually called up—51 per cent.
How does it come about that this country, which is no more responsible for discharging the burden of the cold war than is the United States—or ought not to be with its smaller resources—is relying to the extent of 51 per cent. on those available for call-up whereas the Americans are relying on only 23 per cent.? The United States certainly has a larger manpower, and it is also a larger country with a more dominant position in the affairs of the world.
1968 I would further point out that in the last few weeks the Americans have cut their draft service by 50 per cent. They are now proposing to call up 11,000 a month instead of 23,000, which brings the proportion of drafted men of the total available down to 11 per cent. Has not the time come when our Government should think about some sort of very scientific and carefully worked out principles which would be thoroughly fair to every class and every profession so as to begin to approach a selective call-up?
§ Viscount Hinchingbrooke
We all know that the hon. Member for Dudley is obsessed with what the Prime Minister says or does not say. Whether the Prime Minister cares to review the speeches which he made on this subject is a matter for himself.
The Americans have very carefully graded classes of exemptions and deferments. The exempted classes consist of most of what they call World War II veterans, the only surviving son of families which lost one or more sons or daughters in the war, and ministers of religion and students for the ministry under specified conditions. There are special exemptions for doctors, dentists and veterinarians. They have a system of deferment which includes certain members of the reserves, married men with children, high school students whose scholastic record is satisfactory, but who have neither graduated nor reached the age of 20, and married students who have not completed their academic courses.
I should have thought that we could begin to set up a principle of service which would increase exemptions or deferment on medical grounds, educational grounds and on grounds of personal hardship or of connections with businesses in difficult circumstances. I very much hope that my right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence will be able to say that these ideas are not altogether outside the comprehension of the Government at this time.
1969 I quite agree that we must not by any means reduce the overall period of National Service. I do not consider that we can afford to dispense with any of the last six months of training which are the vital months from the point of view of effective service. Any one of those months which was whittled away would result in those who are called up being of very little use to the Services.
I propose to conclude with one or two remarks about the hydrogen bomb. I do not want it to be thought that in anything I say I am being at all dogmatic. It does not seem to me that we are required to strike political attitudes or to stand for party policies on one side or the other. This is a grand debate which will go on for many months, or years. At present, we are not faced with a crisis. There is no threat of war such as would involve the use of the hydrogen weapon, and I believe that the House and the country have plenty of time in which to assess the position, to assure themselves that the course upon which the Government have embarked is right, and to prepare themselves for the future into which we are moving.
My attitude towards the nuclear bomb is that it is a weapon which is different not in degree but in kind from any weapon that has gone before. All wars in the past have been fought in order to secure a higher condition of peace for the victor Powers, and all wars have been entered into with the prospect of throwing back the compressing and terrifying aspect which an enemy presents at a particular point of time, of increasing the area of security, and of enlarging the conditions of peace.
That applied, perhaps, even up to the middle of the last war. With the mass bombing of the last war, we entered a different era. If we or conversely the Germans had anticipated it, the war might never have taken place at all. From that moment on, with the development of these terrifying new weapons, it seems to me that wars will only result in conditions which would be altogether intolerable for mankind.
That places a very different complexion on the use or the preparation for the use of these weapons. I am glad that the bomb is being manufactured because I believe that the very fact that it is in existence proves that we are living in an age when such wars cannot be, entered 1970 into with any prospect of victory arising out of them. It seems to me that if every country in the world—I do not care whether it is Russia, Communist China, France or Germany—manufactured the bomb, the world would be a safer place. The more, as I said once before in this House, the awful canopy of fate is held over the head of mankind, the more likely we are to remain at peace.
But very different conceptions arise—and here I strike a more controversial note—when we consider not only the hydrogen bomb at the base with the aircraft and missiles ready to set out, but also the forward tactical atomic weapons. If the hydrogen bomb is designed by scientists for the purpose of making wars altogether intolerable, then it ought to be unique in its place. If we range in front of it a mass of small-scale atomic projectiles, working up from the strategic weapon at the base to the forward lines of a supposed enemy, we then get to a situation in which if one of those weapons is used in a local situation on the boundary the whole world may catch fire.
I deplore what Field Marshal Montgomery has been saying on the subject of the development of these forward weapons by the North Atlantic Treaty Powers. He has said that they would be used instantaneously if we were attacked. I do not know that we should use them if we were attacked, and I do not want them to be there to be used if we are attacked.
§ Mr. Paul Williams (Sunderland, South)
Will my noble Friend explain how Western Europe is to be defended if we are to denude ourselves of some means of defence?
§ Viscount Hinchingbrooke
Western Europe has been defended ever since the end of the war by the forces that have been created and placed there, and the diplomatic stand which we have taken. Do not let it be forgotten that the one serious incident in Western Europe since the war—the Berlin airlift—was overcome by a civil and not a military venture.
That is the situation as I see it. A still more controversial aspect applies to Civil Defence, if there is this unique difference in kind rather than in degree between the hydrogen and the atomic weapon on the one hand and conventional weapons on the other. What has made 1971 me more nervous about the United States than anything else is not the manufacture by that country of a hydrogen bomb but the fact that it is carrying out large-scale Civil Defence exercises—declaring on enormous placards that the roads are isolated and are to be used only for the evacuation of mass populations; making vast experiments in New York, isolating businesses, cutting off telephone services, turning off the electric light, and all the rest of it. If a nation gets itself into such a condition that it is fully prepared for war I believe that it may go to war.
I am not at all worried about the Russians having manufactured the hydrogen bomb, but I should be very alarmed if I heard that Moscow, Leningrad and other big Russian cities were being evacuated and that underground shelters were being built. If the Russians began that kind of propaganda in the Western world it might put us into a state of instant terror and readiness. Fortunately, that has not happened. If a man is armed both with a sword and a shield he is ready for war, but if he has a sword which, as we can see at this moment, is emblazoned at the edge with a blinding light—which is what the atomic bomb is—then perhaps he will simply hold it up as a symbol to mankind and not use it as an all-conquering weapon.
Other terribly practical conditions apply to any Civil Defence effort which matches up to this hydrogen bomb age. I am not talking about the ordinary level of Civil Defence exercises, and I am not adopting the attitude of the Coventry City Council. I am merely pointing out that not only upon the practical level but also upon the politico-moral level it is impossible both to manufacture this weapon and, at the same time, to undertake all the parallel ancillary services as well.
§ 8.4 p.m.
§ Mr. Wilfred Fienburgh (Islington, North)
Quite extraordinarily, it sometimes happens—and when it does it surprises both of us—that I form part of an uneasy axis with the hon. Member for Dorset, South (Viscount Hinchingbrooke). I do so on this occasion, because I find myself in considerable agreement with what he said in the latter part of his speech, after he had emerged from the statistical morass in which he found himself when trying to deal with the argu- 1972 ments of my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg).
We are making a terrible mistake if we act upon the assumption that the decision to rely upon the deterrent effect of nuclear warfare is a strategic decision, or one which flows from any form of higher statesmanship. It is nothing of the sort. It is, in effect, the gambler's last throw. It is the final "double or quits" of warfare. As the noble Lord pointed out, 50 years ago it was possible for profit to flow from warfare. At the end of a war there was a division of spoils between the victors, and the vanquished could lick their wounds and try to adjust themselves to the new power situation and regenerate their energies so as to be able to alter the situation at the earliest possible opportunity.
Thirty years ago the balance of warfare became very much more even. The difference between victory and defeat was less distinct—but it was still possible for nations who emerged victorious from battle to preserve their territorial integrity. They did not have to suffer occupation or see the destruction of their cities. Ten years ago, with the advent of mass bombing, territorial integrity disappeared. This time, not only was there no victor or vanquished in the old sense of the term, but in the aftermath of war the vanquished had to be sustained by the strong. His civilisation had to be maintained by the victor.
We have now passed that stage and have reached the final gambling throw of "double or quits." On one side of the coin—and this is our hope—is peace, and, on the other side, is complete annihilation. There is no comparison between the two. That is why I disagree so much with some of the verbal hairsplitting which has been indulged in by hon. Members on both sides of the House. We cannot compromise upon this final gambler's throw. On one side of the coin is peace, or the maintenance of a cold war situation, and on the other side annihilation, or a situation where, if only a few limping surviving bombers of a massive fleet manage to reach their target, they can destroy a community, its people, its civilisation, and its store of social capital which has been garnered and nurtured through the ages. It can, in fact, transmute the very nature of the human race.
1973 It is, therefore, only honest to admit that this is a gambler's throw, and we should not try to pretend that we have reached this destructive situation by any strategic considerations or any act of high statesmanship. The march forward of scientists and men of good intention has made politicians realise that this is the last throw, and placed them in the position of having to decide how they are going to use it.
I can see no alternative to the gambler's throw, but we should take the decision without any illusions. The Prime Minister was guilty of creating some illusions in this matter this afternoon. He implied that the existence of the new nuclear weapons afforded a possibility that the threat to any potential enemy would be as great as the threat to these tight and crowded islands. That is just nonsense, as we can appreciate if we care to visualise the mounting, the carrying out and the aftermath of a thermo-nuclear war. The earth will not be blown out of its orbit. There will still be some form of life upon the earth, even if, as Dr. Oppenheimer has said, it will require a great act of faith to regard it as human. In the gathering together of the scraps of civilisation afterwards we shall be in a much worse position than any present potential aggressor.
The vast spaces of Russia and China cannot be affected to the same extent as the small and tight spaces of these islands. The hardy peasant stock of those countries is not as dependent upon a high superstructure of civilised services as we are. If ships cannot come to us we cannot feed, but those countries can feed off the land. Already, many millions of their peoples are on the edge of survival, and those in the hinterlands would not be so terribly worse off than they are now. In this kind of war Britain is completely expendable, and we have to recognise the grimness of that fact in making up our minds whether or not we should accept the challenge of this final gambler's throw.
The gamble must not be taken. Hon. Members on this side of the House who have pleaded that we should not manufacture the hydrogen bomb have implied that there is an issue of conscience involved. The implication that there is an issue of conscience flowing from their lips amounts simply to this: that they, as 1974 one of them put it, having descended far enough into the pit and having individually decided that they are not going to descend any further, means that those of us who reluctantly, grimly and despairingly admit that we must manufacture the hydrogen bomb are, in their words, descending into the pit. In other words, our consciences are not as theirs are. In other words, they are of some finer mould and purer clay than we are.
§ Mr. Kenneth Robinson (St. Pancras, North)
I think that my hon. Friend is misrepresenting what my hon. Friend the Member for South all (Mr. Pargiter) said. He said that this country had gone far enough down into the pit and he was calling on this country to call a halt. He was not talking from an individual moral standpoint.
§ Mr. Fienburgh
I do not want to contradict my hon. Friend, but we can check it up in the morning and see who is right. He did say to my knowledge, and it is surely within the recollection of the House, that he reluctantly accepted the manufacture of the atom bomb and that he was individually determined that, having descended so far, he was prepared to descend no further.
The implication is that those of us who face up to reality a little further are somehow afflicted with a different kind of conscience, that we do not care and are not bothered, that we have not children whom we do not wish to see involved in an atomic or thermonuclear war. I say that is not so. It is not a matter of conscience. It is a matter of judgment. The judgment upon their side is that war can still be undertaken and that we can somehow survive if nuclear weapons are not manufactured.
The issue of judgment on my side is that I believe—I may be wrong, but I believe—and I desperately hope that the very manufacture of these weapons will provide the deterrent which will prevent that war from happening. That is not a matter of difference between my conscience and anybody else's conscience. It is a different judgment between myself and someone else, and I resent the implication that we are in some way different in conscience upon this matter.
I want to take issue with those on this side who think that there is some form of compromise, and in particular I want to 1975 take issue with my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, South-East (Mr. Denis Healey) in his assumption that it is somehow possible to try to draw a line between the tactical and strategical uses of this kind of weapon. I made an interjection in his speech upon which, I think, those who heard it will know what I have in mind.
The point that my hon. Friend was making was that we must not too much fear the global destructive effect of thermonuclear war, that if we had the hydrogen bomb in our possession and the enemy had the hydrogen bomb, too, then we should, for our own protection, come to a mutual, exclusive pact, an implied pact, not a written pact, whereby we should drop our bombs only on the lines of communication of the enemy's advancing armies—which would, inevitably be Germany—and that they, because they did not wish to have bombs on their own cities would drop their bombs on the lines of communication of our contending armies, which would inevitably be in France.
If this is to be the strategy of thermonuclear warfare, where is the deterrent? The only people who would be deterred are those who have not got that type of deterrent. I cannot imagine the Kremlin, I cannot imagine the Politburo or Presidium suddenly saying, "My goodness, the possibility is that if we launch warfare the hydrogen bomb is going to be dropped on Germany. What a terrible deterrent that is."
We have to face this implication through to the bitter end, and the bitter end is that only when this terrible deterrent is threatened against aggression, and not at the periphery of aggression but threatened at the strategical centre then, and only then, do we get a small glimmer of hope out of this terrible weapon. If we try to pretend it is possible to continue with some form of conventional warfare, using the H-bomb as a sort of bonus, on one side or the other, not only do we not provide a deterrent but we destroy any hope of Western integration and of the use of N.A.T.O. as a form of Western economic co-operation to help us meet the cost of this thing.
We ought to face it. There is no compromise either in unilateral disarmament and refusing to be involved, and there is 1976 no compromise in the hope of a mutual, exclusive implied pact between one possessor of the hydrogen bomb and the other, that we shall chuck this thing around but not drop it on one another. The first point I would sincerely direct to my hon. Friends who oppose the use of this weapon is that it is hard to visualise a future war of major proportions without the use of this weapon at some time or another—if not at the beginning then in desperation at the end. There is no hope in pacts and signed agreements.
I agree with what the noble Lord said, that if we tried to use nuclear weapons as tactical weapons with ground forces the danger will always exist that the big one will be used sooner or later. I do not think that we can possibly avoid it. The moment it is used this island is expended and has no further part to play in war and can only hope to try to reorganise the bare bones of life for those who survive.
We must, therefore, ensure that war is not started. There are two ways of doing that. The first and infinitely the more desirablemethod is that of disarmament. There can be no argument about that. We are all united on that point. Unless, however, we can get a form of disarmament which embodies inspection and covers all forms of weapons then we are not just running a risk of an international war starting, but we must face the fact that sooner or later a hydrogen bomb war will start, even though in the initial stages the hydrogen bomb may not be used. Therefore, there must be complete disarmament, and with inspection.
If that is not obtainable, and at the moment it does not seem to be obtainable, then the alternative is to make it clear that if there is to be war, and we as a nation are to be destroyed, we shall pull the temple down about the ears of the world. That is a terrible thing to have to say, but the only defence of this island, and the only defence of humanity against these weapons, is to say that if it is used then we shall pull the temple down about our ears. In those circumstances, I hope, and my confidence is, that it will not be used.
Here I turn to an indictment of the Government, because I think that the censure motion is quite justifiable. I do not want to ramble over the points about the number of soldiers, or whether 1977 the period of service should be two or three years. However, the Government, having made their strategic appreciation, having accepted the gambler's last throw, have done very little to ensure that we have at least a chance of success in the throw. I, at least, want to make sure, if I am to have a gambler's last throw, that the dice are loaded on my side or, at least, to make sure that they are all right. At present, the dice are loaded against us by the inanition, the incompetence of the Government, due to their failure to adapt either their tactics or their strategy, or the organisation of the Services to the new situation. The Government have failed lamentably in fulfilling their responsibility. What is more, they show no sign of being able to live up to their responsibility within the next year or so.
It means a complete and radical reorganisation of all the Services, including Civil Defence. It means that we cannot afford nor do we need, if the deterrent is our weapon, a large conscript Army. We need a tidy, compact, striking force with its own tactical air force, able to move by air, with its own lines of communications, food supply and services of all kinds which will be able to pop around and be used like a fire brigade for all kinds of work, not only in Europe but, most likely. in the Far East, wherever trouble may develop.
It means that we need a new kind of Navy. I do not want to go into detail on these points, because they can be taken upon the Estimates, but to talk of producing capital ships, whether aircraft carriers or cruisers, even though they deliver projectiles which have no pilots and have special spraying devices to wash radio-activity off them after they have been bombed, is nonsense, in face of a situation where a battleship can be plucked out of the sea, thrown in again on its stern, turned over and sunk. This happened to one of the ships in an experiment by the United States with a relatively minor weapon some time ago.
There must be a complete reconstruction of the Navy, which the Government, for sentimental and traditional reasons, or from sheer incompetence, or from a failure to settle conflicting priorities among the Service chiefs, have completely failed to do.
§ Mr. D. Healey
I am very interested in my hon. Friend's argument, but if he is prepared to pull down the pillars of the temple why does he want to spend anything at all on these other Services?
§ Mr. Fienburgh
I shall do my best to show my hon. Friend a little later on, if he will just wait. AH the Armed Forces must obviously be reorganised. I do not say that they should be scrapped completely.
I come to the next indictment of the Government which is on the very point which one of my hon. Frends made, the dangerous imprecision of the White Paper. It is possible and easy to visualise two different sets of circumstances. One is the launching of a major war. There would be no doubt that it had happened, because it would be easily recognised. The other is the overspill of local actions, which would need to be dealt with quickly by a type of fire-brigade action.
The major deterrent problem is a European one where frontiers are defined, where political and ideological line-ups are clear, and where there is little confusion. An entirely different situation exists, in the Far East, for example, where there is always the danger of infiltration, subversion and uprising motivated by forces outside, which then rush in to help. These are an exploitation of little situations, of little bites leading to further bites.
In those circumstances, I would emphasise that we ought to have and be able to use the more limited, more refined and tightly-knit conventional striking forces which we need. One danger in this Government White Paper is its complete failure to indicate what is in which category. The Prime Minister made a confession when he said there was one dangerous blank about this strategy of the deterrent; that of the madman who suddenly pulls the trigger. I accept that this is a dangerous blank. There is another, the dangerous blank of not quite knowing where anybody stands at any given time, the dangerous blank of imprecision, of feeling that one is on the right side. One may feel, "If I can get away with this it will not mean that a nuclear deterrent will be used. This is something that I can try on the side." This would constitute a dangerously in definite situation. It is the purpose of a foreign affairs debate to define it, but 1979 there is the dangerous blank of confusion, out of which we may create the very thing we want to avoid.
§ Several Hon. Members rose——
§ Mr. Fienburgh
May I make my final point, before I am overwhelmed by the rush of hon. Members that will obviously launch itself upon me when I sit down?
We must realise that there can be no technical expertise, no hair-splitting and no delicate balancing judgments and guesses in this matter, such as were quite proper in the days before this terrible and absolute, this overwhelming, weapon had been created. We have to take the absolute decision, take it clearly and take it in the knowledge of all its consequences. We have to explain it to the people of this country, in the desperate hope that the gambler's throw that we are making will turn out the right way.
§ 8.26 p.m.
§ Mr. Dudley Williams (Exeter)
I entirely agreed with the first and last parts of the speech of the hon. Member for Islington, North (Mr. Fienburgh), but I found it a little difficult to understand the criticisms he made of the Government in between those two parts. In my remarks I will try to follow the hon. and gallant Member for Croydon, East (Vice-Admiral Hughes Hallet). I would add my congratulations to those which he received on coming through the ordeal of a maiden speech in so gallant a fashion. I hope that we shall hear many contributions from him in the years to come.
My hon. and gallant Friend suggested that a useful step could be taken by working towards the amalgamation of the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force. I thought that point was a little bit controversial. He said that there would be no need to introduce a new uniform. I am wondering whether my hon. and gallant Friend wants the Royal Air Force to exchange its uniform for that of the Navy or wants the Royal Navy to join the Royal Air Force.
There are many obscurities in the defence problem about the functions of the various Armed Forces, but one thing is clear. In any major war which is likely to take place within the next twenty years the Royal Air Force will be our prime defensive weapon. I take 1980 the period of twenty years, because between ten and twenty years hence guided weapons will be introduced and extensively used and we shall probably see further radical changes.
It is, of course, the policy of the Government to place upon the shoulders of the Royal Air Force the burden of operating ground-to-air weapons, taking the place of Anti-Aircraft Command. No one can possibly judge at this moment whose responsibility it will be to operate all types of guided missiles when they are more fully developed, and I think it would be foolish to conjecture which Service will be charged with that responsibility.
When I say that it is the Royal Air Force which will be our prime offensive weapon in any war, I do not mean in any way to imply that the duties of the Army and the Navy are to be unimportant, or that either Service can be dispensed with completely. I do not think it would be possible to use the Royal Air Force effectively in war unless the other two Services were playing their full part, but it should be clearly understood that it is the function of the Army to hold the enemy back as far as possible and of the Navy to ensure that we have the necessary supplies brought to these islands so that the Royal Air Force can continue its work, but it should be clearly understood that their functions will be auxiliary to that of the Royal Air Force, and that the other two Services will not be able to play the major part.
In this deadly struggle that we envisage, there is no doubt whatever that we shall not be able to use our air power effectively unless it retains the greatest amount of flexibility and unless the power to concentrate our air weapon is under one control. If responsibility is divided between two Services, without any doubt there will be slowness in coming to decisions, inter-Service controversy will cause acute bitterness and there will be failure to respond at the correct moment.
The principal point which I wish to make tonight is that there is already some concern that inter-Service controversy is about to break out again between the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force on the question of the control of Coastal Command. There is considerable concern in Royal Air Force circles that determined attacks are to be made on the 1981 control of this Command within the next few months by certain highly placed naval officers. It is feared that there are to be attacks made with the object of getting this Command under the control of the Admiralty.
I hope that, if this matter is brought to his notice, my right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence will fight against any such move. I believe that any decision to place Coastal Command under the control of the Admiralty would be quite disastrous, and I think it would lead to such a division of control of our air arm in wartime that we should be brought face to face with defeat, and for this reason alone.
In the event of war we should be faced with a very drastic reorganisation of our air forces under the stress of war, and there is plenty of evidence to support my contention. In the last war, the air war—quite apart from the fine part played by the Fleet Air Arm—was not won by the forces under Coastal Command alone. At times, Coastal Command drew bombers from Bomber Command and fighters had to be drawn from Fighter Command, and these had to be transferred back to these Commands as soon as they were no longer required for the particular purpose for which they had been transferred to Coastal Command.
If Coastal Command is transferred to the Royal Navy, then, without any doubt, there will be a demand that that Command should have within it fighter and bomber wings so that it can function properly. In that event, we should find that the fighter and bomber wings were getting so large as to tend to affect the size of the force left available to the Royal Air Force. I cannot imagine a more disastrous state of affairs.
I was in Coastal Command in the 'thirties, when a struggle was going on between the Royal Air Force and the Royal Navy on whether the Fleet Air Arm should be under naval or Air Ministry control. At that time, I was a junior officer. I found nothing in my relations with officers of the Royal Navy which made it difficult for me to carry out my duties. There was great sympathy between all junior officers. It was the more highly placed officers who carried on this argument, which, I think, caused great distress to those of us who had the 1982 humdrum jobs to do, and we certainly thought it was unnecessary.
I am not denying, of course, that the senior officers who carried on the earlier argument, and those who are likely to carry it on in the future, carried it on with the best intentions in the world. They certainly believed, as those who are likely to start it in the future will believe, that they were acting in the best interests of the Service to which they belonged; but those in the 'thirties—and, again, those today—did not see the damage they were doing to the whole of the country's air power by such behaviour.
Many of these appeals for the transfer of Coastal Command to the Admiralty are due to some concern felt by naval officers about the future of their own Service. To my mind, there are likely to be so many revolutionary changes in the functions of the Services over the next thirty years that no one can say what the duties of a particular Service are likely to be over the next generation. All that the Government can do at this juncture is to hang on to certain fundamental principles, and, in my opinion, the most important is that air power should be concentrated under one control so that it can inflict the maximum damage on any possible enemy potential. I maintain that this cannot be done by splitting the Royal Air Force into two.
§ 8.37 p.m.
§ Mr. Edward Shackleton (Preston, South)
In previous years I should have found myself in very considerable agreement with the hon. Member for Exeter (Mr. Dudley Williams). I have always taken the Coastal Command point of view, but I am afraid that Coastal Command, along with the Navy, is rather out of date in the present situation. Nonetheless, I think it would be admirable if all three Services made a kind of non-aggression pact that they would stop trying to pinch bits of the territory of another Service.
I should like to draw the First Lord's attention to a rumour which is going round. I considered very carefully whether I should mention it, but it is now so widespread that I believe some official statement should be made on it at some time. It is that the future First Sea Lord is alleged to have said to his officers in a private meeting in Malta that 1983 he would not be back in this country for more than two months without getting hold of Coastal Command. I say this advisedly. I have no reason to know whether it is true, but the rumour is very widespread, and it would be a good thing if that canard could be laid. I hope the Minister will realise that I have raised the question in the interest not only of the R.A.F. but of all others concerned.
Let me turn to the motion of censure. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, North (Mr. Fienburgh) and others, who dislike the hydrogen bomb as much as I do, that it is a weapon of a completely different kind. It is, I believe, a weapon of absolute decision, and that is why I believe it is unavoidable that it should be made; and I think it is essential that those of us who feel very unhappy about it, as do some of my hon. Friends who have spoken today, should bring ourselves to face the probability that if war breaks out on a major scale it is almost a certainty that the hydrogen bomb will be used.
My desire to recognise this fact is because I believe that, if it is recognised, then we increase the chance that everybody will be aware of what war means and that war will therefore be avoided.
Although the Government have been attacked from both sides of the House on the ground of ambiguity, they seem to have come down in favour of the view which I have just outlined. Paragraph 24 of the White Paper reads:…the free nations must base their plans and preparations on the assumption that if a major war were precipitated by an attack upon them they would have to use all the weapons at their disposal in their defence.Unlike some of the views of my hon. Friends, that seems to me to be a clear statement that they are prepared to use the hydrogen bomb in certain circumstances. Obviously one would assume that it would be used only when war in the biggest and widest sense was going to break out. It is most important that that statement should be made absolutely clear. It is rather unfortunate that the White Paper rather mars the effect of that statement by the rather excessive emphasis on conventional weapons.
I turn again to the implications of thermonuclear strategy. If we accept that—and I think that the intentions of the Government in this respect are clear—they 1984 must carry their conclusions further. The Minister of Defence is in a difficult position. He has three fairly unruly children—the Navy, Army and Air Force—children who are older than their parent, which is an added difficulty. There has been great competition between the three Ministries to put out the best story. I think this year's essay prize was won by the Admiralty, and lost by the Air Force with the War Office somewhere in between. That may be a consolation to those sailors who were rather distressed by last year's rather dim statement.
I am sure the Minister of Defence, who as an experienced politician is feeling his way carefully, will move to the point where he is able to do something about these competing interests. I think it is accepted by everyone that the ultimate pattern of defence is, to a large extent today, determined by a certain measure of competition and bargaining between the three Services. We have, for instance, the wonderful statement on the Navy in the White Paper thatThe development of weapons of mass destruction is the most recent of a long series of changes which the Navy has had both to meet and exploit throughout the centuries.I can imagine a day coming when the Navy might say that the end of the world is the last of a long series of changes that the Navy has had to face through the centuries. Quite frankly, although perhaps not unfairly, I am regarded as having a certain amount of prejudice on this subject, I cannot for the life of me see, in the light of the declared intention of the Government in regard to thermonuclear warfare, how we can justify the expenditure of £350 million on the Navy. That goes not only for carriers but also for anti-submarine work.
When the Minister of Defence was in Opposition, he once frightened the House by talking about 500 and, on one occasion, 1,000 Russian submarines. I believe the Russians have put over an extremely successful bluff in regard to naval strength and have been aided by the British Admiralty. The Admiralty issued a statement during the summer about 500 submarines, but the Minister of Defence and the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty know perfectly well that large numbers of those submarines are of a degree of obsolescence which would have rendered them ineffective in the last war. If the Minister of Defence is to write a 1985 better White Paper, if he should ever have the opportunity to produce one again on defence—we do not know when the General Election will be, but supposing that next year he is still there—I believe he has somehow to start in train actions which will lead to an end of this inter-Service competition.
I do not subscribe to the view which certain hon. Members have expressed, including the hon. and gallant Member for Croydon, East (Vice-Admiral Hughes Hallett) in a very interesting maiden speech, that we can solve these problems merely by joining the Navy and the Air Force. There are many reasons that we could adduce against that as a satisfactory answer. The problem is not merely to find an outlet for the officers and men in the Royal Navy, but to give this country an effective national defence. I think that the breaking down of three empires into two is not going to help this. I would like to see some sort of steps being taken towards that end.
It is not only the Navy whom we regard as being possibly out of date. In another 10 or 20 years, the Air Force may be out of date. We hope that by then the Air Force will have had some of the bombers that it has been promised, and by the time that it has had them we may be moving into an age when guided missiles take the place of the piloted bomber.
Despite all the difficulties, we should now quite seriously ensure that there is some investigation and attempt to find out what steps are necessary to produce a single defence force. If we were today to sit down and plan for the first time the defences of this country, one thing of which I am quite sure is that we would not start off with a Navy, an Army and an Air Force. We would start on a completely different principle. If we could move towards some form of unified force along the, lines already proposed by senior officers of great distinction, one of whom, General Weeks, I think, came out with a proposal that of all officers of staff rank or above the rank of captain, colonel or group captain should automatically hold commissions in all three Services, that would be a step towards that integration. These officers would not necessarily have to change their uniforms, but at least that arrangement would convey the idea of a unified 1986 approach. I therefore urge that it should be considered.
I believe that the Government in the White Paper have lamentably failed to follow logically through the consequences of their own principles. Furthermore, they have not attempted to set out the real difficulties that lie in the way of an effective disarmament programme. It might be unfair to suggest that a White Paper is the right place for that. In 1946 or 1947, the proposals for international control and ownership of atomic energy had a reality; they were possible. It was possible, I believe, to carry them out. I do not believe that those particular proposals would today be effective. They must involve a much wider measure of pacification and must mean general disarmament as well.
I therefore urge the Government that whatever they do with regard to the Armed Forces—and I do not think they have done as well as at one time they thought they would do—they should press on with the disarmament theme, making clear to the general public at home and abroad that it is the only answer, that there are tremendous difficulties in carrying it out, and that until that day comes we must base our defence and our protection no longer on a conception of armed defence, but on the principle that if war breaks out we all commit suicide together. It seems to me that we have reached that point today, and that if we face up to that boldly, war can still be prevented and ultimately we shall get to the point when general disarmament becomes possible.
§ 8.48 p.m.
§ Mr. Julian Amery (Preston, North)
Hon. Members who follow football results will perhaps think it appropriate that the representatives of Preston should be in the semi-finals tonight. The course of the debate today has shown that the critics of the Government, in this as in some other matters, are rather divided. Some attack the Government for having done too little and others for having done too much, while a few attack the Government for doing anything at all.
The hon. Members for Aston (Mr. Wyatt) and Dudley (Mr. Wigg) and other hon. Members opposite have for some time been alleging that the failure, as they call it, of the weapon programme of the 1987 present Government has endangered the national security. I should like, first, to try to face that problem.
It is difficult for an amateur to pronounce on a matter of this kind, but I wonder whether our present preparations are really inadequate to meet our present dangers. Is it suggested that Soviet bombers—not the prototypes, but the ones in the general service—are superior to our existing defences? Surely it is not the contention of hon. Gentlemen opposite that the Soviets yet possess operational long-range missiles to drop on this country.
Is it even sure that they have the hydrogen bomb, let alone the power to deliver it? I think the "Economist" rendered us a service at the weekend when it pointed out that there is no reliable evidence yet that either the Americans or the Russians have produced a hydrogen bomb that can be dropped out of an aeroplane. We have to remember all the time that these catastrophic developments in the art of warfare still lie in the future. It is one of the merits of the White Paper that most of it is written in the future tense.
We must also remember that the basic assumption on which it is written—it is, indeed, the same basic assumption on which the Chiefs of Staff worked in 1947—is that we are still living behind the protective shield of American supremacy in nuclear weapons. The Government may be right or they may be wrong in this assumption, but it is irresponsible of the Opposition to say that we are unprepared to provide the nation with the security which it requires.
It is irresponsible to make that charge, unless, like the hon. Member for Coventry, North (Mr. Edelman), they are prepared to challenge the basic assumption that there will be no war so long as the period of American nuclear supremacy continues. Are hon. Members opposite prepared to challenge that assumption? We ought to know that. If they are not, then they must accept that we have an interlude in which we have time to negotiate and to prepare.
The second charge we on this side of the House have to answer is whether we shall be prepared not for present dangers, which are not particularly grave, but for 1988 the hour of crisis when it comes; the time when, to use the phrase of the Prime Minister, saturation point is reached?
I think that the critics of the aircraft production programme rather failed to assess the changes that have taken place in the problem of supply. Before the advent of the atomic bomb the problem of supply was one of production. Today, it is one of development. In those days we needed many aircraft to drop comparatively small bombs at fairly short ranges. Quality was important, of course, but it counted much less in relation to quantity than it does today. The low speeds, low altitudes, fairly simple weapons—all helped to simplify the problem of design.
That situation has now changed completely. What are needed are small numbers of aircraft to drop big bombs. To some extent that simplifies the problem of production, but just because the numbers are small and the costs are great, quality has to be very high. Moreover, as the aircraft are moving into higher speeds, longer ranges, and higher altitudes all the time, we are entering into spheres of which we have little experience and which calls for constant adjustments.
It is no longer a question of designing an aircraft and then creating it, but of designing it and then developing it. It is the difference between the seven day creation of the Book of Genesis and the evolution of the "Origin of the Species." The basic principle of the Darwinian theory was the survival of the fittest. Shall we be among the fittest when the moment of crisis comes? That is the test. If hon. Members have reason to doubt it—I have heard no arguments advanced to sustain any doubts of that kind—they will have a right to vote against the Government tomorrow night, not otherwise.
There are other critics who take the line that we are trying to do too many things at the same time. That view was put up with considerable clarity and, in the words of the editor of the "New Statesman," with considerable courage by the hon. Members for Dudley and Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman). They took the line that we must make the hydrogen bomb, but that we should cut our ground forces to the bone and rely on the diplomatic skill of a hypothetical Labour Government to achieve a success in the field of disarmament.
1989 It is an attractive argument to say that conventional weapons are obsolete and to ask why, in that case, we should waste the time of our young men and the money of our taxpayers by maintaining ground forces which do not count any more. It is quite a well-timed argument politically, but it seems to me remote from strategic as distinct from electoral realities.
We are really only on the edge of the hydrogen age and about a decade, perhaps more, from the long range intercontinental guided missile. For the time being, and perhaps permanently, the deterrent power of the hydrogen bomb depends upon its being combined with ground forces. If there were no ground forces, the Soviets could over-run Europe in a very few days, and they would then hold a tremendously powerful bargaining counter. They would be situated in a place where most of us—perhaps not the right hon. Member for Leeds, South (Mr. Gaitskell)—would hesitate to drop atomic bombs. They might be powerfully mauled by reprisals or retaliation, but, even so, they would be in possession of a very powerful asset.
We have, therefore, got to have a holding force on the ground in Eastern Europe or Central Europe to prevent the Soviets over-running the Western part of the Continent while our superiority in nuclear and thermonuclear weapons takes effect. The need for the 12 German divisions is, therefore, as great as ever, and even with them we shall probably only be able to form an effective covering force with the help of tactical atomic weapons.
There is one other reason why I think ground forces are particularly important. This island is peculiarly vulnerable to nuclear and thermonuclear attack because of its small size. One day that very smallness may be an advantage. It may be that when the scientists have discovered the antidotes to control the terrible powers which they have let loose, living in a small area will give one the advantage of being able to concentrate the means of protection. But that time has not come yet.
For the moment we face two dangers. First, there is the danger of the bomber. To some extent we can meet that danger with radar, with fighter aircraft and by counter attacks against enemy bomber 1990 bases. There is the other danger of the long range ballistic rocket, and against that there is no defence at all. Fortun-nately, no one has made such a rocket yet. There are short range rockets, but they had better stay where they are, on the other side of the Elbe.
It seems to me essential, therefore, for the survival of this island that we should pursue the strategy of what has been called "forward defence." The need for Western Union and the German contingent is as great as ever, and I think it would be tragic if there were, as the hon. Members for Dudley and Coventry, North have urged, any weakening in British support and membership of this cause.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell) made a speech which I can only describe as moving a motion of censure by innuendo. There was no outright attack on any aspect of the broad strategy of the Government, but there were lots of side attacks. One of them I thought very disturbing. I had thought that the Amendment meant that the Opposition accepted the need for the building up of deterrent power in this island. I am bound to say that the speech of the right hon. Gentleman cast a certain doubt upon this. He seemed to be saying that we should not be justified in using the deterrent nuclear power against an all-out attack by conventional weapons.
§ Mr. Shinwell
I did not myself express an opinion on that matter. I merely asked the Prime Minister what was meant by the statements in the White Paper. I did not get a reply to my question. I quoted what Field Marshal Montgomery had said on behalf ofN.A.T.O., from which I gathered that nuclear weapons of high quality would be used in the event of a conventional attack. I wanted to know whether that was the proper interpretation of what appeared in the White Paper, and I still await an answer.
§ Mr. Shinwell
I am extremely sorry. The Official Report will record my view on the matter and I assure the hon. Member that I have not made any correction to it. I did not express a view myself. I merely wished, as I have always said, 1991 to have the Prime Minister's interpretation of what appeared in the White Paper.
§ Mr. Amery
I am sorry if I have misrepresented the right hon. Gentleman in that way. No doubt it was the way he asked the question that left that impression on my mind.
I believe that that kind of view—and it was taken by other hon. Members on that side of the House—is terribly dangerous. It is terribly dangerous to say that we are ready to have the hydrogen bomb as a deterrent, but with an inward reservation that if it ever came to the test, we would not use it. Nothing could be more dangerous in this matter than to bluff. It is no use having a deterrent unless you have the moral determination to use that deterrent. There is no sign from the other side of the Iron Curtain—if they have a nuclear weapon—that they will weaken.
It is very tempting to rely on a deterrent with the reservation of contracting out, but it would be a fearful mistake. The danger of war may have diminished through the advent of the new weapons. It may be likely, but it is not certain that we shall be able to avert another war. In ancient times even civilised nations were prepared to risk losing half their people in a battle. It would be foolish to underestimate the significance of Mr. Molotov's remark that another war would be the end not of civilisation, but of capitalism. The danger is real enough. The event would be unspeakably grim, but that is no reason to capitulate to Communism in advance. The hydrogen bomb may be a great leveller, but there is no total equality in these matters. To paraphrase George Orwell's "1984," all would be annihilated in a nuclear war, but some might be more annihilated than others. It may be foolish to talk about winning a hydrogen war, but I am certain that one can lose such a war. The great strength of the Government is that they have proclaimed their determination to face this power rather than to submit to Communism. Napoleon once said that the British never knew when they were beaten. It is this attitude which alone may prevent a war and ensure that if war should come, something at least should be saved.
§ 9.3 p.m.
§ Mr. Woodrow Wyatt (Birmingham, Aston)
I think that the hon. Member for Preston, North (Mr. J. Amery) is the first speaker from the Government side really to attempt to defend the Government against this motion of censure that we have moved. I hope to show that his defence is not fully adequate to the occasion. This debate has emphasised that no one can claim to have a complete answer to the problem of defending this country in the future. We admit that. It is therefore a fair question to ask why we have put down this Amendment. It is because it is right and important to censure the Government for failure to plan for the known possibilities and failure to provide weapons on which so many millions of pounds have been spent.
The known future possibilities in war are, I think, in four broad categories. The first one is that nuclear weapons will be used against the home countries of the participants. The second is that nuclear weapons, by tacit consent and because of the self-interest of the promoters of the war, will be used only in the area of the battlefield. The third possibility is that nuclear weapons are not used even on the battlefield in a major war because the belligerents are afraid that they cannot be confined to the battlefield and fear the consequences of their use against their own civilian population. I thought that point was put very effectively in the remarkable maiden speech of the hon. and gallant Member for Croy-don, East (Vice-Admiral Hughes Hallett).
I think that we should not rule out both those two last possibilities that I have mentioned. Once we do completely rule them out, we are committed to an act of national suicide in our own self-defence. I do not put it any higher than the proposition that they are possibilities.
The fourth possibility is that there are no further major wars but, as a product of the cold war, there may be local wars of varying degrees of size and intensity. These last may be so large as to engage very large parts of the armed forces of the belligerents. They would certainly involve the use of every new development and invention of modern weapons short of the nuclear. Indeed, this last category of war may be the war against which we have chiefly to guard, and Korea has set the pattern in this field.
1993 These possibilities present a perplexing prospect to the defence planner, and we can sympathise with the new Minister of Defence in approaching his task. But there are some constant factors on which the Government can plan and should already have planned. One is the dominating importance of power in the air, whether it is required as a deterrent for the delivery of nuclear weapons in the ultimate and most ghastly form of war, or whether it is needed in the lesser forms of war to defend this country from the air, to cover the seas and to protect and assist our ground troops in battle.
From this undisputed fact of the decisiveness of power in the air flows the other constant factor. It is that the best organisation and the most highly developed weapons to deal with the acute but lesser forms of war also provide the greatest hope of clinging to life and survival in the most severe forms of war. It is these constant factors which ought to be, and ought for some time to have been, the theme of our defence planning.
The Prime Minister referred again this afternoon to his astonishment when he read the speech of Mr. Sterling Cole, which I think was made on 17th February last year, describing the effects of the hydrogen bomb. That hydrogen bomb explosion took place over a year before, and we cannot believe that the Government had no inkling whatever that such an explosion had taken place or was about to take place. It is a little late now, more than two years after that explosion to say that they have not been able to make any new arrangements in their planning. They have indeed greatly neglected these two constant factors.
The Prime Minister made no reference whatever this afternoon to the part of the motion of censure—the Amendment—which affects these particular aspects. He gave no answer to the criticisms in the Amendment, and I believe that was because he did not feel that there is an adequate answer. He used his familiar technique of talking as much as he could about something else in order to divert attention from the main motion of censure.
I should like to begin with the situation with regard to power in the air. Briefly, the position is that, apart from some 300 Canadian-made Sabre F86's, ordered by my right hon. Friend when he was 1994 Minister of Defence in the last Government, there are no British modern fighters able to fly with 100 per cent. operational effectiveness. We have disbanded the greater part of Anti-Aircraft Command, but we have no guided missiles with which to replace it; although the Americans have already ringed important centres in the United States with protective missile-launching platforms.
In their White Paper on the supply of military aircraft, the Government claim that we have an effective air defence against anything which a potential enemy would be able to bring against us, and that by night we have a better defence than anyone else in the world. Both those claims are ridiculous, especially the latter. They are both dangerously misleading, and I do not think they should have been made, thus deluding the country.
The Meteor and the Venom night fighters on which a great part of this claim to have the most effective night fighter defence rests are both incapable of catching the present Russian bombers which we might expect to have used against us.
§ Mr. Wyatt
The ones which have been flying at between 500 and 600 miles an hour and about which we have seen reports in the newspapers. We can be quite sure that there are others about which we have not heard.
As I have already said, we have no guided missiles, so that we have to rely entirely on our admittedly highly efficient system of radar warning and control, without the ability to put into the air anything with which to counter the bombers which we may know are overhead. That is the whole extent of the Government's claim to have the best night fighter defence in the world, and we are hardly better off by day. On 16th April, 1953, Lord De L'Isle and Dudley said:It is no good imagining that our relative position in the air … … is good—and I speak not so much of numbers as of performance …"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, House of Lords, 16th April, 1953; Vol. 181, c. 883.]Practically nothing has happened since under his administration to improve it. We have some 80 Hunters not yet fully airworthy. They cannot fly in formation, which is an indication that they are out of control. When I say "not yet fully airworthy," I mean not able to fire their guns at certain altitudes without damage 1995 to the performance of the aircraft. I think that is an admitted fact, indeed, Ministers have admitted that in this House on several occasions recently. We have no Swifts that can perform a fighter versus bomber role.
§ Air Commodore Harvey
The hon. Gentleman has made a statement which may appear in the foreign Press and which may do this country great harm. He said that the Hunter could not fly in formation at all. But an all-party delegation went to see them only 10 days ago, and saw them landing in formation.
§ Mr. Wyatt
We have also, I am afraid, a grave prospect ahead over the all-weather plane, the Javelin Fighter, to which my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) referred this afternoon. I understand that it has a fuel capacity of only 800 gallons, which gives it a very short time in the air—far too short a time for the tasks which it may be called upon to perform. If the present Javelin flies slowly the tail sinks and the wing blanks out the tail to that there is no control over the plane. I think that it would be very optimistic to expect to see it in service for some years to come.
Even on the deterrent side, we are sadly behind schedule. We rely on obsolete Canberras and Lincolns, and the other bombers are not coming on as they should, as my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley pointed out in his very able speech today. Everybody knows that there is a grave crisis in aircraft production. The Government like to claim that it is the fault of the Labour Government. Although we have not been in office for three and a half years, nevertheless anything which goes wrong is still our fault. It shows a rather touching faith in our ability to foresee the future and to govern even when we are not in office.
First, the party opposite says that the decision that supersonic flight was not possible for manned aircraft was at the root of the trouble. That decision was only operative for a few months. No Gov- 1996 ernment could have overridden the scientific advice received on the matter at the time. If they had, and if there had been fatal accidents, the then Opposition would rightly have been able to criticise that Government.
Secondly, we are told that the 1949 economic crisis cut off much-needed finance. I am perfectly willing to concede that caused some slight delay, but this was before high priority was given to rearmament in the 1950 and 1951 rearmament programmes, which were later taken over by the present Government. I do not think that this fact can be said to have had a good deal of effect upon what has happened since this Government have been in power. Thirdly, we are told that the trouble is caused because the Labour Government planned too big a step forward from the old type of aircraft to the swept-wing type, without having any intermediate aircraft. Although it is important, that does not account for the Government's failures in the last three and a half years.
Upon coming into office the Government gave us a clean bill for what we had done in the matter of the supply and production of aircraft. Time and again Government spokesmen congratulated us upon what we had and forecast a rosy future. I could quote for another hour from Government speeches illustrating this point, but in order to save the feelings of the Under-Secretary of State for Air I shall not do so. I shall, however, quote a little of what he said in a moment. At the same time that they were giving us a clean bill the Government announced a scheme of super-priority to get fighter aircraft, and, later, bombers into production. That was at about the time when the Prime Minister said that he felt naked. The Government then had no feelings that there would be any difficulty over production.
During the debate upon the Air Estimates in 1952, in referring to the concern about delays which had been expressed by the hon. Member for Brentford and Chiswick (Mr. Lucas)—who knows a great deal about these matters—the Under-Secretary said:He suggested, also, that none of the Swift and Hunter fighters would be introduced into service in 1952-53 or, perhaps, even in 1953-54. It is unwise to prophesy, but I shall be disappointed if this suggestion is not proved wrong in the event."—[Official Report, 18th March, 1952; Vol. 497, c. 2273.]1997 It is indeed unwise to prophesy. Next year the Prime Minister said that the rate of deliveries of aircraft and equipment was in most cases satisfactory and up to expectations. During the debate upon the Air Estimates in March, 1953, the Under-Secretary of State said:We intend to form our first squadrons of Swifts towards the end of the year and Hunter squadrons will follow."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 12th March, 1953; Vol. 512, c. 1515.]Where are they? In the Memorandum to the Air Estimates in 1953 we were told that a Valiant bomber would be entered in the London—New Zealand air race in October, 1953—which showed that the Government thought that preparations for it were well advanced. When October came there was no Valiant; only an excuse. The Under-Secretary also announced that he hoped that the Valiant would be in operation in 1954, but it is still not in operation.
It is unfair to go on quoting from speeches by the Under-Secretary, because he has been made the victim of his Government's policy, and we know that he is only the ultimate spokesman for what has been done by other people. I think that all hon. Members on this side of the House admire his courage and tenacity in dealing with Questions and other difficult topics which are thrust upon him. Nevertheless, the words are there, and I do not think that we can refrain from bringing them out once again. Last year he said:…because of the immensely improved cannon which the Hunter and Swift will carry, the rate at which the day fighter force as a whole will be able to hurl high explosive against the enemy will be increased by more than nine times in the coming year."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 4th March, 1954; Vol. 524, c. 1366.]That is not so.
In the face of all these promises, after the Government had been in full possession of all the facts for months and, in some cases, for years, no charges whatever can be laid against the late Labour Government. All these promises of future expectations have been made by the Government with knowledge of all the facts and without any sideways blame—and not very much credit—being given to the Labour Government.
The Hunter has been delayed partly because there has been a certain amount of disorganisation in the firm making it. This is only a minor reason, but it is a 1998 reason, and I understand that the Ministry of Supply has now told the firm to cut down the building of this aircraft from 30 a month to 25 a month until certain alterations and processes are completed. This is not the fault of the firm. It has never had adequate supplies of parts, and super-priority has not been able to give it even a smooth flow of copper piping. Consequently, there have been many idle hours in this factory. This is typical of the sort of thing which has been going on in the aircraft industry. There have been 325 modifications of one mark of the Hunter alone. I agree that the modifications were not in all cases very serious ones, but nevertheless there were 325.
When this plane first flew in the autumn of 1951, it was discovered that the air brakes were completely unsatisfactory, and it was not until last summer, nearly three years later, that manufacture began on the modification to make the air brakes work. That was the fault of the Government's arrangements; it could not have been the fault of the Opposition.
The Minister of Supply said yesterday that there were no modifications made to the Hunter since October, 1951, which were intended to extend its performance beyond that originally conceived. I understand that one such modification was made only recently. It was a major modification to the wings in order that more fuel tanks could be fixed so that the plane could take on more fuel to give it more flying time. That is a modification intended to extend the performance beyond that originally conceived. Modifications, as the hon. Member for Brentford and Chiswick knows, are at the root of many of the delays in the production of aircraft, and they come about, broadly speaking, in three ways. First, at the request of the Ministry of Supply inspectors to bring the plane up to the safety standards or other Ministry of Supply specifications; secondly, as the result of the experience of the pilots flying the planes; thirdly, as the result of requests of the Royal Air Force to add something to the performance of the plane that was not originally intended.
This constant demand for modification, coupled with the inability of the Government to make up their minds, has caused the delay with this plane, the Hunter, and the other planes of which we have had 1999 all these complaints. The Government can in no way blame that on to us. Super-priority failed miserably because it gave priority to everything, and not to one or two things in particular. That it failed and that the wrong method was being used is shown by the fact that on 1st March, 1954, the Minister of Supply announced a completely new system to clear up the muddle created by the Government in the aircraft industry. If super-priority had worked—and it had been in operation then for two years—the Minister of Supply would not have found it necessary to make a special announcement in this House—and a very long one—describing the arrangements for the new system to supersede super-priority.
If we are to get these aircraft and guided missiles, we must first of all have a vigorous, energetic and forthright Minister, because I do not think that the fault has lain so much with the structure of the Ministry of Supply as in the way it has been operated. The Prime Minister knows this, or he would not have appointed Lord Beaverbrook as Minister of Aircraft Production during the war. Somebody of at least equal enthusiasm ought to have been appointed to drive through these projects. Instead he appointed the present Minister of Housing and Local Government, and I do not think he will object if we feel it was not a very successful appointment.
The Minister of Supply must cease to be a post office. He ought to be second in rank to the Minister of Defence. He ought to have the authority to veto the additional modifications demanded by the Services as and when he thinks fit. Other wise there will be no end to the modifications. There ought to be some kind of control over the electronics industry. By their financial policy the Government have encouraged the electronics industry to stop work on defence and to work almost entirely on making television sets. There have already been considerable hold-ups ——
§ Mr. Wyatt
I cannot give way to the hon. Gentleman. I was saying that there had been considerable hold-ups in the delivery of radar equipment for aircraft, and there are going to be even more grave delays. Perhaps the Minister of Supply 2000 when he speaks tomorrow will deal with the point which the hon. Member tried to raise.
A number of aircraft firms of longstanding reputation have now fallen down on design. Some contracts ought to be cancelled where this is the case. We are trying to make too many types of aircraft. At the moment we are trying to make some 50 or 60 different types, and we have not the technicians to do it. These ought to be ruthlessly cut down to some 15 at the outside. In other words, we must attempt to rationalise the aircraft industry if we are to get a supply of aircraft. So much for the aircraft. I want very briefly to refer to the Navy.
Some authorities now agree that the future of the aircraft carrier is at least questionable. All authorities agree that the future of the battleship and the heavy cruiser is non-existent. Yet the Government still——
§ Captain Robert Ryder (Merton and Morden)
The hon. Gentleman has just made the assertion that some authorities agree that the aircraft carrier is no longer required. How does the hon. Gentleman propose to afford protection to our ships at sea?
§ Mr. Wyatt
I said that the future of the aircraft carrier was questionable. I was not suggesting that they should all be scrapped. We should certainly keep some, particularly for use in cold war operations. I said that the future was questionable. I do not think the aircraft carriers justify the great expense we have had on them so far. We certainly cannot afford the expense of refitting some of the battleships, like the refitting of the "Vanguard," which is completely pointless. We are laying up men, munitions and money on some of these ships which are useless and would be floating death traps if a war came.
The Government have been trying to invent new roles for the Royal Navy because of the great affection and esteem in which the Royal Navy has always been held in this country, but I do not think they correspond with the realities of future war. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Preston, South (Mr. Shackleton), who said that if we could begin again on defence we would have only one Service. That is correct. At least we might make a start by 2001 attempting to move towards a merger between the Royal Air Force and the Royal Navy. We could have the Fifth Sea Lord sitting on the Air Council and an Air Marshal sitting on the Board of Admiralty, and we should make the personnel of Coastal Command and the Fleet Air Arm interchangeable. Moves of this kind would be towards the integration which must come.
The Explanatory Statement on the Navy Estimates is the saddest document I have read for years. It is a brave document, which tries to look into the future, whereas the memoranda produced by the other Forces do not make any attempt to do so at all. For that the Navy must be congratulated. The document is the epitaph of the old Royal Navy, as we knew it. That is now as dead as Nelson.
I would like to hurry from the Navy to the Army, which isof prime importance in cold wars, and in a major war should nuclear weapons be used only, tactically and not away from the battlefield? I have no hesitation in saying that, if war broke out in Germany today, even if it were only the cold war variety—say, a war in which Eastern Germany, supported by the Russians, attacked Western Germany, which would be supported by ourselves—the four divisions which we have in Germany would be massacred, even without the use of nuclear weapons. In Normandy, we just managed to maintain the cumbrous British divisions when we had overwhelming air superiority with which to do it. Today, it is the Russians, with over 20,000 front line aircraft available for a war in Europe against our 6,000 front line aircraft, who have overwhelming air superiority. It is not us, and we in this country have not yet realised that.
The British division contains over 22,000 officers and men and 5,000 vehicles, and an armoured division has 6,000 vehicles. In the event of war, these would be blasted to pieces without recourse even to nuclear weapons. The Government are putting the British Army in Germany, in its present state of organisation, into an extremely grave and dangerous position. The Memorandum on the Army Estimates is complacently satisfied with our organisation, as though we were at the tail end of the last war instead of being in entirely new conditions.
2002 The British division ought to be entirely remodelled. In my view, it should not contain more than 10,000 men, and we should remember that the Germans, who are more expert than anybody in warfare, are going to start with divisions of less than 12,000 men, and will be very content to do so. The division should be something like an enlarged brigade group. It is known that, to have any chance of success, the supply of troops in forward areas must be done almost entirely by helicopter in time of war and not by means of lorries. No attempt has been made to make the helicopters available, and paragraph 119 of the Memorandum on the Army Estimates speaks of their quantity production as being "some way off." When this Government say that something is "some way off," we need not expect to see it in our lifetime.
Air transport, both to carry troops and to supply them, is so important tothe Army now that I think we should try to get the same sort of merger between the personnel who have to use the aeroplanes and the Army as we should have with the Navy, and I would also make certain members of the Air Council and of the Army Council interchangeable members of that Command.
The heavy tank, like the battleship, has a future which is also highly questionable. It is far too slow and is a very easy target. [Interruption.] I am sorry if I am saying too much for the Secretary of State—
§ Mr. Wyatt
There should be drastic reorganisation of the whole chain of command in the Army in order to make it far more manoeuvreable and mobile, and there should always be available enough aircraft to transport a whole division anywhere where it might be required. If that were done we should easily be able to do without a strategic reserve, and perhaps cut three months off the period of National Service, because we certainly have the right to fly a division in Germany, anywhere we like in an 2003 emergency, and that would dispense with the need for a strategic reserve. There is not the slightest sign of any such transport, except that the Government, true to their principles of free enterprise, have been giving contracts for trooping to private charter air companies, which is quite disgraceful.
§ Mr. C. I. Orr-Ewing rose—
§ Mr. Wyatt
The hon. Gentleman is only taking time from his hon. Friend who will follow me. I could debate this matter with the hon. Gentleman till tomorrow morning if he wants. [Hon. Members: "Give way."] I cannot give way.
The transport required to move the equivalent of a divisionought not to be in private hands but in the hands of the Government. The Army ought to be constructed on more flexible and simpler lines with far smaller divisions supplied by helicopters and transportable by aircraft. It would then be far more efficient than it is today. In nuclear wars such smaller divisions would have a far better chance of fighting, despite the disclocation and chaos which might be going on all round. In something less than nuclear war the Army would be far more effective in such a shape in resisting any onslaught which might be launched against us. In cold war tasks, a streamlined Army would be far more efficient in jungle, hill and other difficult country.
On every count there is an unanswerable case for the complete reorganisation of the Army, but none whatever is indicated in this document, except in the very distant future; and we are not told when that will be. A part of the trouble is that the new infantry soldier's weapon, the new British rifle, is not available and will not be available for some years. We cannot reorganise our Army until our basic element of fire power has been provided, and the reason we have not got it is Government failure.
If we had had the British rifle it would have been in full production by now in ever-increasing numbers and units would now be in the position of being steadily supplied with it. An attempt was made by the Secretary of State for War the other day to blame us for that, too. I have looked up the references, and the Prime Minister very handsomely said, a 2004 year ago, in the debate on the rifle, that he had cancelled my right hon. Friend's decision to proceed with the rifle and for the British rifle had substituted the Belgian rifle; and he went on to say, "I take full responsibility for that."
We were told that we had to have the Belgian rifle because of the need to standardise with other countries. The Secretary of State told us last year that this would save us a year in production.
§ Mr. Wyatt
I do not want to go on indefinitely. I will read it out tomorrow when the Minister of Defence is speaking; I will interrupt him. I can assure the Secretary of State that if he cares to look up the report of last year's debate he will find that one point he made was that we should save a year in production—which was completely wrong, because the Belgian rifle is still nowhere near in production.
When we tried to persuade the Americans to adopt the rifle, it was re-designed in inches measurements. The Americans still refused to adopt it. Even the Canadians are not certain that they will adopt it. The new rifle, when it is ready—if ever it is ready, and one must have some doubt about that if this Government are to be in charge of it—will not even be standardised with the Belgian rifle. We have gained nothing whatever by the delay. As for the argument that at least it will be standardised with Canada, Mr. Claxton Brooke, then Minister of Defence in Canada, told my right hon. Friend that the Canadians would be quite happy to adopt the British rifle provided that they could also manufacture it in Canada. There would have been no difficulty whatever about that.
The Government's policy has delayed the reorganisation of the Army to fit its present r61e, and that is a very serious matter. We cannot have a smaller division without increased fire power if the means to increase the fire power have not been provided by the Government.
If we have a major war with nuclear weapons, then the role of the Army will primarily be one of civil defence at home. and I believe that the Home Secretary's statement this afternoon was inadequate 2005 on this subject. It is not enough to give National Service men training in Civil Defence. What we ought todo is to make use of perhaps as much as half of the Territorial Army, which would amount to about 250,000 men, and train them in their part-time training for civil defence roles, giving them tasks to perform and areas to cover. It might be that upon themwe would depend for some semblance of survival and government if utter chaos came upon the country. We have not gone far enough. I believe we should have a home defence command with a general at the head of it, who should be coordinating the whole of this field with the local authorities.
The Government, on their own showing, have failed in production. They have failed to reorganise the Forces to meet threats which they admit exist. They have failed in planning. Today we live in a completely defenceless island even if a potential enemy were to launch an attack without having the full range of nuclear weapons. In the Paris Agreements we have just committed four divisions to Germany which even in a cold war type of war would be in serious danger of being slaughtered. We are not giving our men a chance, and it is the fault of the Government. The Prime Minister spoke of a transition period; we are not passing through the transition period fast enough.
It may seem extraordinary that a Conservative Government which prides itself on taking special care of our defences, headed by the present Prime Minister, should have fallen down on defence, but these are the hard inescapable facts. The Government have spent well over £4,000 million in the last three and a half years and have got very little for it. They have spent some £700 million on the development and testing of aircraft and have practically no aircraft. It is the most startling and dismal situation in the long history of our armed Services. We are moving the Amendment in the hope of stirring the Government into energetic activity. We are moving it to try to prevent further waste of money and to preserve the safety of the country. If we succeed in those objects we shall be satisfied.
§ 9.42 p.m.
§ Mr. J. R. H. Hutchison (Glasgow, Scotstoun)
This momentous subject has been treated in the debate which is concluding tomorrow and has been running today with the gravity and the solemnity 2006 that so important a question demands. The Government have made available a series of their most eminent Ministers. The debate was opened by the Prime Minister himself, the Home Secretary intervened on Civil Defence, tomorrow the Minister of Supply, I understand, will be dealing largely with the question of aircraft and the debate will be closed by the Minister for Defence. That is an important galaxy from the Government side, so much so that one journal this morning described it as a "prima donna debate." I make no claim to be a prima donna. I certainly am not prima and probably not donna, although nowadays there seems to be a certain amount of doubt in these matters.
As a back bencher, I wish to offer some thoughts, particularly on what the hon. Member for Aston (Mr. Wyatt) concluded by saying, perhaps on some other remarks which have been made, and to offer some views of my own. I am accustomed to the arguments of the hon. Member for Aston. For a number of years he has levelled them at us. I was sitting on the Government Front Bench and he was putting to us those arguments from the second bench opposite. I am glad to see that he has moved down to the Front Bench whereas I have moved up to a back bench.
The hon. Member seemed to me largely to be reading out a series of alleged shortcomings which, if not refuted, could do this country a great deal of harm. He brought forward very little in support of his argument and his statements and was reluctant—I believe out of consideration for myself—to allow my hon. Friends to intervene to question him. I hope that tomorrow we shall be able to show that a great deal of what he said was exaggerated and had little foundation in fact.
The hon. Member supports the Amendment which the Opposition have moved by stating that we have failed to produce anything worthwhile in the period in which we have been responsible for the defence programme. I should like to draw the hon. Member's attention to paragraph 53 of the Army Estimates, which sets out a very considerable Army programme, including the completion of a programme for the introduction of new wheeled vehicles—and there are a great many wheeled vehicles in the Army; the introduction of the Conqueror tank, the L.70 light anti-aircraft gun, the F.N. rifle, 2007 about which the hon. Member has been speaking, and the new machine gun. Then there are some notable innovations on the naval side—the Gannet, the mirror landing device, the angled deck and the launching catapult equipment. [An Hon. Member: "No aircraft."] Those are, it seems to me, introductions in two of the Services, at any rate, which represent very considerable forward progress.
The hon. Member went on from that to discuss and criticise the statement made by my right hon. and learned Friend the Minister of Supply on his all-weather and night defence statement. I am glad that my right hon. and learned Friend will have a chance tomorrow of dealing with those points and, indeed, of dealing with what the hon. Member spent a lot of time in criticising and examining: the whole of our aircraft production over the last few years—the Swifts, the Hunters, the Canberras, which the hon. Member described as the deterrent bomber part of the programme, and then the Valiants, also.
The hon. Member went on from there to deal with the Army and to state that the four divisions that we have in Western Germany, with or without nuclear warfare, would simply be massacred. All I can say is that that is not General Gruenther's view and not the view which he has on many occasions expressed about the progress that we have been making.
General Gruenther, who commands at S.H.A.P.E., is, of course, anxious to have an accretion of strength to those divisions and is in favour of the proposals for the German contribution of 12 further divisions. But if the hon. Member for Aston thinks that the position of these British and other allied divisions in Germany is one of such peril, surely he is thereby showing the need for atomic support of those divisions to redress something of the disparity in the balance of strength between the Russian army and ourselves, about which we know.
The hon. Member went on to say that our divisions—indeed, the whole of the Army—needed a complete overhaul and reorganisation. I point out to the hon. Member, however, that in paragraph 48 of the Defence White Paper, that is exactly what we are examining at the 2008 present time. In that paragraph, it is said that:Experimental organisations and a revised scale of weapons and equipment, including transport, are being worked out. These will be tried out in manoeuvres this year.There have been contacts with our allies on the possible set-up and size of the division. The Defence White Paper also underlines something else that the hon. Member said: the need for flexibility, for quick dispersal and for quick reconcentration, and the need for moving a lot of the Army's tail by air or transferring it into an airborne supply system. Indeed, a great deal of what the hon. Member ended by saying in his speech is what we are examining at the present time.
The hon. Member ended with the question of the famous F.N. rifle. I do not want to go into that in detail—it is a long and rather tedious and complicated story—but my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War will, I believe, when the Army Estimates are being dealt with, revert to that theme and be able to set right some of the misstatements which have been made by hon. Members opposite. This was the broad position. Immediately after the war the Army expressed a requirement for an automatic rifle. The next thing that happened was that at a conference of Defence Ministers of the various interested countries, which was held at Washington in 1951, it was decided to set up a working party to test various calibres.
Therefore, if anybody is to be adjudged to be a failure, I contend that it is the Government of the right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite. They knew that the Army wanted a new rifle at the end of the war and they passed over to us a situation where, in the summer of 1951, all that was happening was that a working party had been set up to test various calibres.
§ Mr. Shinwell
May I point out that when we went to Washington it was at the request of the United States and Canadian Governments, because there was some doubt about whether the British rifle should be accepted? We pressed the other Governments to accept the British rifle and, when we left Washington, there was no working party set up with our consent. We left on the firm understanding that they would again consider whether the British rifle would be 2009 accepted and we never withdrew from that position at any time.
§ Mr. Hutchison
As I said, I do not want to get entangled in the complications and details which will be dealt with by my right hon. Friend when the Army Estimates are debated. All I wanted to say was that there were five or six years in which this need was there, and that nothing was produced by the end of those six years. It lies ill in the mouths of right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite to accuse us of having done nothing when they had six years available to them.
May I now introduce into this debate, as a back bencher, a few thoughts of my own? This White Paper has not been hesitant—and it is right not to have hesitated—in showing the horror of nuclear warfare. All the emphasis is laid on deterring. That, indeed, is the role of the hydrogen bomb, but let me point out that if it plays its part in deterring, it makes the probability or the possibility of cold war all the greater since hot war will be deterred.
This debate today has tended far too much to ignore the problems of cold war and the need to make provision for it. A deterrent deters only when the full nemesis of that deterrent is known and is widely known. I wonder how much of what we have been discussing today is known to the ordinary people behind the Iron Curtain. The other day Mr. Molotov said, in Russia, that if a nuclear war broke out only the capitalist countries would be destroyed. Is that really the sort of thing that the people in Russia believe?
I believe that it is one of our tasks to make certain by every device which lies to our hands that the people of Russia and all those behind the Iron Curtain know exactly what would be the outcome of nuclear warfare. It is a theme I have argued before, that there ought to be within N.A.T.O. an international organisation of equal power and equal penetration with the Cominform and, for want of a better name, I used to call it the "Truthinform."
This organisation should by every means bring to the knowledge of the people who live behind the Iron Curtain not only the methods of living in this country and the conditions we enjoy—those cherished rights such as the right to 2010 strike, the secret ballot and all the other things we consider that a human being should be entitled to have—but. above all, it should be able to emphasise and to portray to the Russian people what will be the effect upon them of the outbreak of a nuclear war. Only a madman wants to see his country turned into a wilderness, and only a madman wants to conquer one.
Organisations exist which can help us in this direction. There is, for example, the organisation known as N.T.S., which succeeds in infiltrating leaflets behind the Iron Curtain and has had some effect upon desertions among the troops of Iron Curtain countries. It is the organisation which gave the Kremlin such a headache that there was the attempt, fortunately without success, to kill one of the leaders in the West of the organisation by the famous cigarette case revolver method. There are other organisations, and they should be used, and we should unite our psychological warfare, particularly now, in a way we have never done up to now.
There is one other point. Emphasis has been laid upon the speed at which we live, the speed at which war may be unleashed and the speed at which everything will move if that war ever comes about. We have perhaps avoided—as the Prime Minister said many years ago; I still remember it—a world war already by having been one jump ahead of our adversaries and what it is likely that they will be able to produce. We must at all costs keep ourselves that one jump ahead. Therefore, we must not, I believe, economise in research or in the speedy application of research.
It is one of the inherent difficulties of democracy to move at speed. Democracy has been described as being like the perfect wife—lovely, but not fast. The trouble is that we have got to be fast now if we are to be able to keep that jump ahead. I wonder whether we cannot find a method of streamlining our system, at any rate among the Services, and still preserve the democratic system. Democracy is slow, meticulous and careful. Industry, accountable only to itself, can make quick decisions. A dictator, accountable to nobody, can make quicker decisions still. Somehow, we have to evolve a system whereby we can keep pace with what they can do.
2011 Anybody who has had anything to do with it knows how slow and ponderous the system is just now. After complicated consideration within a Ministry, the problem probably goes to the Chiefs of Staff Committee, and thereafter perhaps to the Board of Admiralty, the Army Council or the Air Council. Then other Departments which may be affected have to be contacted. The Treasury also comes into the picture. Finally, there is the Ministry of Defence, and possibly the Cabinet. After all that, Parliament may have a go at it. In the background are the Public Accounts Committee and the Estimates Committee. Then it may be that it is a question which concerns N.A.T.O., and it will have to go before N.A.T.O.
After all this procedure we can get down to the placing of the contracts, and that is a long job because our system has always been, and rightly so, that we should take the cheapest contract consonant with quality. I believe that my right hon. Friend should set on foot an inquiry within his own Department to see whether it is possible to cut out some of this wasted time. Speed is of the essence of the matter, and I believe that this is well worth while inquiring into.
As I finish perhaps I might revert to the speech—I thought it a lamentable speech—by the right hon. Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell). He said, first of all, that we were clinging to the old paraphernalia. He then complained that the broken back warfare had gone. He said that we had got rid of Anti-Aircraft Command and seven battalions, and yet his case was that we were clinging to the old paraphernalia. He cannot have it both ways. He cannot blame us for moving with the times and then, in the next sentence, blame us for keeping things as they used to be. He said that if the Foreign Secretary failed there was nothing that the Minister of Defence could do. I never thought the right hon. Gentleman could fall into such an abyss of despair and defeatism. Contrast that speech with the speeches made by the Prime Minister during the war. Which do hon. Gentlemen think the country would rally to, the sort of speech made by the right hon. Member for Easington or the speeches made by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister? I prefer to remember the words of Henry V—
§ It being Ten o'clock, the debate stood adjourned.
§ Debate to be resumed Tomorrow.