§ 3.41 p.m.
§ The Minister of Defence (Sir Walter Monckton)
I beg to move,That this House approves the Statement on Defence, 1956, Command Paper 9691.It is a heavy burden for one who has held the office of Minister of Defence for only two months to undertake the opening of the debate on this White Paper, and I am as conscious of my inexperience and my shortcomings as I am of the interest and importance of the task which I have been called upon to perform. I want to say a word about the task to give the setting for the observations which I must make to the House.
As I understand it, I am responsible, subject, of course, to the Prime Minister and the Cabinet, for formulating proposals on defence policy, and, in the light of that policy, for shaping the defence programme as a whole and determining how the total resources available for defence in men, materials and money can best be distributed between the various main sectors of our defence effort. In that task, I have the help of the three Service Ministers and the Minister of Supply, and, on the home defence side, I work in close co-operation with the Home Secretary and the other Ministers concerned; I also rely upon the advice of the Chiefs of Staff, who in their corporate capacity are the military advisers of the Government.
Here, there is a change, to which I ought to draw attention as I pass. The change made at the beginning of this year, which took the form of the appointment of a Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee, has not in any way altered the constitutional position of which I spoke. We shall see how the change works in practice, but I think it has much to recommend it. The burden under the old system on the individual Chief of Staff who was acting as Chairman for the time being was a particularly heavy one. There are a number of international negotiations at whose meetings the United Kingdom has to be represented at Chiefs of Staff level. In addition to that, I think there is advantage if one member at least of the Chiefs of Staff Committee is spared the heavy day-to-day Departmental work. As to the 1018 appointment. I will add only one sentence. I have already discovered what a fortunate thing it is for me that the first Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee I am to have is Marshal of the Royal Air Force Sir William Dickson.
I wanted to say a word about the nature of my task, and, having done so, I now turn to the White Paper which I am commending to the House. As hon. and right hon. Gentlemen will have seen, it is based upon the proposition that the broad political and strategic foundation for defence policy, which was set out in last year's White Paper, has stood the test of more detailed study during the past year. This year's White Paper is accordingly concerned mainly with the application of the principles already established to the programmes of defence, the size and shape of the forces and the allocation of resources in their support.
When we come to try to apply the principles, one has to bear in mind from the outset, firstly, what are the likely threats that the forces should be prepared to meet; and what is needed in men, materials and money for that purpose; and, secondly, what we can afford. It has always been plain that we could never afford to do everything that might be regarded as militarily desirable. The review of the defence programme which has been going on since the last Statement on Defence was published has shown that the resources available for defence will be stretched to the utmost in meeting even essential needs. If we were to try to do more, we should impose an intolerable strain on the national economy and so defeat our own ends; in other words, full insurance cover is beyond our means, and some degree of risk is inevitable, but this risk must be a calculated risk.
What does the problem become? It becomes, I suggest to the House, a problem of priorities, and this question of priorities is about as difficult a question as a Minister of Defence can have to face. Nobody will dispute the need to put some things in front of others, but everybody will have his own idea about which things should come first. The Government have made a resolute attempt in this White Paper to get the priorities right, but our conclusions, which are set out in the White Paper, 1019 are not, of course, immutable or final. In the nature of things, they cannot be.
On the one hand, with the rapid technical advances which have been made, we cannot plan too far ahead without founding ourselves on mere guesswork. On the other hand, we must, in making proposals for this year or for any other year, have regard to probable developments over a longer period. It was for that reason that, as is explained in paragraph 13 of the White Paper, in our review this year we have tried to have regard to probable developments over the next seven years. In such circumstances, if this is the task that we are trying to do, it is of the first importance that, in matching our forces to the priority tasks which they may be called upon to perform, we should keep the plans flexible enough to make adjustments to meet changing conditions in the period over which we are looking, while, of course, avoiding drastic reorganisation every time it might seem to suggest itself.
What it comes to, I suggest, is that with our limited resources we have to make a selective effort and concentrate on the things that we really must do, leaving the rest on one side. This applies to all the problems—the problem of the use of manpower, the production programme, research and development, and the apportionment of resources between the various Services.
To deal with that, one must first consider what, in order of priority, are the tasks which the forces will be required to fulfil. Here, our first and chief objective must be to prevent global war. To this end, we must make our contribution to the Allied deterrent, for we believe that the increased power of the deterrent—the nuclear weapon and the means to deliver it—has made, and will make, global war less likely. We, on our part, shall never be the aggressors, but others must be deterred from risking aggression against us by the sure knowledge of the overwhelming retaliation which they would receive in return. That is the first task.
The next is that our forces must be prepared to play their part in the cold war. Their presence and their efficiency can help to maintain the stability of the free world and the security of overseas territories. If their first task is to prevent global war and 1020 their second is to play their proper part in the cold war, their third is to be capable of dealing with limited and local conflicts wherever they may break out. Fourthly, and it has to come fourth, they must play their part effectively if, in spite of all our efforts, global war should break out. In this sphere of their duty, they will be required to co-operate closely with the civil authorities. This assessment of the rôle of the Forces sets the general pattern of priorities. It is impossible to draw the lines of division too narrowly or too hard. To take an instance, the deterrent does not consist solely of nuclear bombs and strategic bombers or missiles. The forces which we make available to N.A.T.O. are part of the deterrent, so there is no exact division of functions.
If those, broadly stated, are the tasks for which our resources of men, materials and money are required, how are we to use them best for those purposes? At the outset, as we address ourselves to this problem, our aim should be to rely upon fewer men, better trained, more experienced, more mobile, and better armed and equipped. I will try to put into more concrete terms how we are setting about it, first in regard to the men themselves and, secondly, in regard to arming and equipping them.
First, a few words about manpower. We have two objectives: to limit the demands we make upon the country's economy, and to build up our Regular Forces. The more we can build them up the fewer men we shall need. In recent years the trend has been disturbing, as we all know. There has been a drop in Regular recruiting, and far too few men have been extending their service after their initial and, usually, short period of engagement. We want more volunteers, and we want them to stay longer. Long Regular service is more efficient and less wasteful, especially with the complication of arms and equipment as we find them today. In the White Paper on Pay and Pensions we have described what, I hope, can be regarded in all quarters as an imaginative effort to provide a solution to these problems. We are offering what I think can be described as good rates of pay and pension, and there is a real incentive to recruits to undertake long engagements.
I will give one concrete example of that abstract proposition. A man can 1021 attain the rank of a three-star private—a trained soldier—after about eighteen months' service, and is likely to get there at the age of about 20. At present, he receives in cash, 66s. 6d. a week. In future, if he is on a short engagement he will get 84s. a week, but if he is prepared to sign on for 9 years he will get another 35s. a week, or 119s. a week in all. That is an illustration of the pattern we have sought to weave. I suggest that therein lies a new and real incentive. We are now offering a worth-while career and a fair reward for service. I do not deny for a moment that it is an expensive venture, but I hope and believe that we shall succeed. I shall not make rash forecasts. I will leave time to show.
As regards numbers in general, the White Paper on National Service said that the size of the Forces would be reduced from about 800,000 to about 700,000 by the end of March, 1958. We are making good progress along those lines. By 1st April next we shall be down to just over 770,000, and by the following 1st April to 735,000. Last autumn we explained in the House how we intend to limit the intake of National Service men. I shall no doubt be told that instead of limiting the intake the period of service should be reduced, but whatever may be the position in the future, we are satisfied that, with the commitments we have at present, the course which we have adopted results in the most economical use of manpower and the maximum relief to the national economy. It means less call on our resources for training and less movement of troops than would a shorter period.
While I am saying this, I should like to add a word directly upon the financial Estimates which are given in paragraph 50 of the White Paper. Hon. Members will see that, in total, the Estimate for the coming year is very slightly higher than that for 1955–56. If one bears in mind the cost of the new pay increases, about which I have been speaking—which amounts to £67 million—and also the general increase in costs over the past year, the comparison at which one arrives shows a real reduction in the demands of defence upon the country's resources, and shows a continuous effort to economise on the part of all three Services.
I want to make one further observation with the figures in front of us. The Air 1022 Estimate shows a reduction from £540 million to £517 million, but in the current year the amount which has been spent—for reasons which I shall explain a little later—will be much less than the £540 million which is shown in the Estimate for last year. So, although less money will be provided in Estimates next year than was provided in this, we are intending to spend substantially more than we shall actually spend this year on the Air Estimates. In fact, we are asking Parliament to vote the largest sum which, in the light of experience, we believe it will be practicable to spend upon this essential part of our defences.
It would be quite wrong to infer, from a hurried look at the figures in this table, that there has been any lowering of the priority accorded to the Royal Air Force, or the importance attached to its work.
§ Mr. George Chetwynd (Stockton-on-Tees)
Can the Minister state the actual amount which will be spent?
§ Sir W. Monckton
I will give that a little later. I am not sure that I have the actual figure. Does the hon. Member mean in respect of the current year?
§ Sir W. Monckton
I think that I can give it a little later. If I forget to do so, perhaps I may be reminded.
Against the background of a strategy which demands fewer men with more striking power, and puts the contribution to the deterrent into the forefront, it is obvious that research and development must take a prominent place. The net figure of £185 million for the Ministry of Supply represents, in the main, expenditure upon research and development. The increase of nearly £40 million upon last year's figure is entirely under this head. if we add to that the work which the Admiralty finances from Navy Votes, the total to be spent next year upon defence research and development will be not far short of £200 million. Of this, the major part, as one would expect, is taken up with the development of aircraft, their associated equipment and armament, guided missiles and atomic weapons.
The increase in money needed is largely due to the fact that so many of the projects upon which we have been working during the past few years have now 1023 reached a stage at which extensive trials of prototype weapons have to be carried out. We have reached the stage where those trials are essential. That is particularly true of guided weapons, to which some attention has recently been given in the Press.
It is sometimes suggested, when we point to our important research and development in this field, that we might effect great savings in expenditure if only we were to co-ordinate our programmes more closely with the United States, and, indeed, divide the field between us. It is said that in this way we could avoid duplicating work on the same weapons without any loss in the state of equipment of our Fighting Forces.
First of all, let me emphasise that there is a continual exchange of information and co-operation in other ways between the United States and ourselves. There are, indeed, arrangements with the United States Government for the exchange of military information of all sorts, to our mutual benefit.
In the vital field of guided missiles, there are special arrangements for collaboration between the two countries. This was originally announced, I think, by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government, then Minister of Supply. in July, 1954. Ballistic missiles fall within these arrangements and, subject of course to the limitations which are imposed upon the United States by their Atomic Energy Act, we have the same collaboration in work on these missiles as on other forms of guided weapons. I am sure that I shall not be expected to go into detail in a matter of this kind, but I can assure the House that the British and American efforts in this field are by no means conducted in watertight compartments. I should add that, even where direct co-operation is not possible, we have in some cases been able to make arrangements for the manufacture under licence in this country of equipment developed in the United States.
§ Mr. R. R. Stokes (Ipswich)
Before the right hon. and learned Gentleman leaves the point, will he make clear, if it is in the public interests to do so, to what extent we acquired prototypes of guided missiles from the United States?
§ Sir W. Monckton
In the course of what is going to follow, I shall try to 1024 explain what sort of help we get in the region of guided missiles. I do not want to go further into details on that point here. I spoke about the manufacture under licence in this country of a number of pieces of armament which had been developed in the United States. I was going to add that I shall make it my business to see how much further it is possible for us to go in this direction.
Nevertheless, it would be quite wrong for me to suggest that it is possible, even if it is desirable, for the American and Britsh research and development programmes to be rolled into one and the various tasks divided between the two countries with complete exchange of information. To begin with, there is a limit to the dollars we can find to purchase United States equipment. In the case of the American ground-to-ground missile known as "Corporal," which is mentioned in the White Paper, we deliberately stopped research and development effort in this country at an early stage and decided to rely upon a United States product to meet the operational need of the Army. We decided in that case that the saving which could be effected in other ways would make the dollar expenditure worth while. It will not be so in all cases or to an unlimited extent, and we cannot always expect to be able to fall back on the United States to fill up the gaps in our research and development effort.
Apart from the financial difficulties, there is the existence of the Act to which I referred, the United States Atomic Energy Act. That precludes them from transmitting to us information which would reveal details of design or manufacture of American nuclear weapons. We cannot safely base our policy on the assumption that this situation will be changed.
Finally, there are practical difficulties which we find in some cases in making in this country equipment of American design and, in particular, of incorporating American-designed equipment into British ships, aircraft, etc. These difficulties are not necessarily insuperable, but anyone considering this business of co-operation would be unwise to overlook them. In a word, our policy must be to make the fullest use possible of the collaboration arrangements that we have with the United States, and indeed with other 1025 nations in the Commonwealth, in order to save research and development effort through the exchange of information. We shall continue and develop our close association with all these countries as time goes on. The Commonwealth countries are doing most valuable work, and their resources for research and development are steadily increasing. We must, however, continue with research and development on a wide range of projects which are vital to our common future defence.
Whilst we do this research and this development for ourselves, we have to recognise that, though there is no limit to the number of projects which the ingenuity of our scientists could devise to meet the requirements of the Services, there is a very definite limit to the number of projects that can usefully be tackled at once. Some of the troubles which the development of our new weapons has encountered must be attributed to the overloading of resources. This means that projects cannot be supported as they should be if they are to make satisfactory progress, and the result is delay. This overloading is making itself felt particularly in the development of aircraft.
The remedy must be to reduce the load, even if this means taking some risks. We shall have to be more selective in the re-equipment of our Forces. In some fields the Services may have to continue, for longer than we should wish, to use equipment which is not of the very latest type. That is a situation which is not very agreeable to have to accept, but it is much better to take a deliberate decision to go forward with 10 projects and do them properly than to make an unsuccessful attempt to cover 50.
However drastic a review of research and development may be, it cannot produce immediate results. Aircraft, and the major items of equipment on which our striking power is based, have a development period of anything from seven to 10 years between the statement of the requirement and the time when the equipment is ready to go into service. To the best of my knowledge this applies to the United States, with all their resources and facilities, as it does to ourselves. So it is not possible in one year, or even in two, to make a big reduction in the load without abandoning projects which have been developing satisfactorily over a number of years. To abandon them at that stage when they have 1026 developed so far may not always be a wise, and may be a wasteful, course.
I come new to this task, but I can assure the House that, with the willing cooperation of my right hon. Friends the Secretary of State for Air and the Minister of Supply, I am already giving this problem my close personal attention. I can hardly be expected to have reached conclusions in two months, but when I have done so I shall not hesitate to call on my colleagues to take action to give effect to them.
It would be idle for me or anyone to deny that in the re-equipping of the Royal Air Force with new aircraft and new equipment we have in the last year or so had a number of disappointments. The difficulties and delays in development of which I have been speaking have necessarily, in their turn, delayed production over the period of original design, research development and operation. That is what has made it impossible for the Royal Air Force to spend all the money which was allocated to it in the 1955–56 Estimates. I had in mind the figure for which the hon. Member asked me. I should say that not more than £500 million will be spent out of the Estimates, if as much.
When one considers the provision of aircraft for the Royal Air Force, one must first deal with the medium bomber force. That is first in priority, and one has to look first at that. It affords the present means of delivering nuclear weapons. We already have the Valiant in service, and by the end of the year we shall have a considerable Valiant force. I am not going to give figures on this occasion. We shall continue the build-up of the bomber force with the Vulcan, which will come into service this year. The Victor will follow. I am not going to prophesy beyond the end of this year when the next one comes in.
It has been suggested that the Government were mistaken in producing three types of medium bomber for the Royal Air Force and that it would have been more economical and efficient to produce one type only. But these jet bombers, which to be effective must have high speed, long range and be able to operate at great height, raise many new problems. If one had relied solely upon the successful development of one type, it would, I think, have been a reckless step and a quite unacceptable risk.
§ Sir W. Monckton
My right hon. Friend the Minister of Supply will give the figure.
The Valiant is an interim type, highly effective within its limits, but never intended to be the final answer to the operational requirement. Under the revised plans for the build-up of the medium bomber force, we shall in fact have fewer Valiants and a higher proportion of Vulcans and Victors than had been previously intended. By this means the operational effectiveness of the force as a whole will be prolonged.
§ Mr. George Wigg (Dudley)
The right hon. and learned Gentleman talks about the small reduction in the number of Valiants. In view of what he has now said, do we take it that the Vulcan and Victor programmes have been increased by the amount of money that has been cut?
§ Sir W. Monckton
I cannot carry the figures, nor would I like to give them to the House. I do not want to publicise the figures. I was saying that the policy has been one by which the Valiant has been reduced because the other two types are coming into survice, which means that this type of bomber force has a prolonged life, longer than it would have had if we had stuck to the Valiant alone.
I want to say about the Vulcan that it is the first large delta-winged aircraft we have ever built or which, so far as I know, has ever been built. While we have always had high hopes for it, hopes which I am glad to say are being fulfilled, we could not have been certain that this would happen; and if it had been a failure and there had been no other type of medium bomber under development, the whole build-up of the force would have been delayed by many years. This again would seem to be an unacceptable risk. The Victor should prove to be a fine aircraft in its own right, and it has features which may make it more effective and more suitable than the Vulcan for certain operational rôles. I have said this about the bombers, and I now want to say something about the fighters.
§ Mr. Paul Williams (Sunderland, South)
Can my right hon. and learned Friend explain exactly what is meant by 1028 a medium bomber? Is a medium bomber an aircraft which will, in fact, carry the heaviest bomb as far as anyone will want it to go?
§ Sir W. Monckton
Far be it from me to draw an elaborate distinction, but I would say that the medium bomber is a vehicle which can take the weapons we want taken, to be an effective deterrent where we want them taken.
I come now to the question of the fighters. Whatever their future rôle, they are for the present an essential part of our defence system. The first type which I must say a word about, because it has been criticised, is the Hunter. The Hunter is a robust aircraft with excellent flying qualities and, as I know from personal inquiries which I have made, it is well-liked by Service pilots. It is quite true that some limitations have had to be imposed on the firing of the guns vending the carrying out of certain modifications. But, even with these limitations, the aircraft remains an efficient fighting machine for the job it was intended to do, and if necessary it could fight tomorrow.
My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Air has already told the House how great an effort has been and is being devoted to the gun-firing troubles of this aircraft and that a programme of modifications is now in hand. In addition to the Hunter, the Javelin is now in service, and, with all the difficulties there were with the Swift, the fighter reconnaissance version of the Swift is being delivered to the 2nd Tactical Air Force, and another mark is to be used for gaining experience with air-to-air weapons.
§ Mr. George Brown (Belper)
On the question of Hunters, has the right hon. and learned Gentleman, in the light of what he now says, seen the article in The Times recently, based on its correspondent's visit to Whitchurch and, I think, Upavon, in which he quotes the pilots there as saying that they dare not fire their guns when in their planes? If they were at war they would fire and take the risk of course, but they dare not do so now. That does not add up to the somewhat complacent paragraph which he has now read.
§ Sir W. Monckton
I hope I was not being complacent. I said that there were modifications which had to be made, and these modifications ought to be made 1029 before the Hunter is in the condition in which we should like it to be. [An HON. MEMBER: "The same story."] I am going to tell the facts as I have ascertained them, whether they have been told before or not. All that I am saying about the Hunter is that the people who fly it—and I have seen a lot of them—say that it is a fine machine to fly. It has its difficulties with the guns. I fully appreciate that modifications are wanted, but I repeat that if it had to fight now it could do so.
I have candidly told the House that we have had our difficulties in these respects. It is very easy for hon. Members to say that this has been told them before. My duty in coming to this House is to tell hon. Members what the position is now and to add that this is something which we cannot cure in five minutes. It is not in one year or in two that we shall get these things right, but only if we look at the whole matter with a long distant view in front of us and try to set ourselves to that task.
§ Mr. James Callaghan (Cardiff, South-East)
Has the right hon. and learned Gentleman inquired whether the Americans had the same type of trouble with their aircraft at much the same time, and if they cured it long ago why have we not done so?
§ Sir W. Monckton
I have made these inquiries. Whatever may have happened with American aircraft, they have not mounted guns of the same power and strength as the ones which the Hunter carries—nobody has.
I have referred the House to the disappointments and delays which have impeded the supply of aircraft. In the White Paper which was issued last year on the Supply of Military Aircraft, a number of measures were indicated to improve the position. We are pursuing those measures. The first of them is what is known as the weapons system concept whereby an aircraft or guided weapon and its ancillary equipment are developed as a complete unit.
We have also adopted the policy of placing orders for development batches of aircraft, and we are continuing that policy in order to accelerate the introduction of new types into service. Just as in other fields of research and development, so here we have to concentrate our efforts 1030 in order to ensure so far as we can that in the fields we have selected what we undertake to do is brought into production more quickly. But, as I have said once or twice before, the process between design and production is of necessity long and measures such as I have described, though they will have their effect, cannot in the nature of things be expected to produce quick results. What do we need? What we really need is a solution of the immediate problems, and this can only be found by the brains and resources of the technical experts who are now trying vigorously to tackle them. There is nothing except brains and resources that can cure them.
I have dealt, because I felt it right to deal—although my right hon. Friend the Minister of Supply will no doubt cover it more adequately—with the aircraft position and the resources which the Air Ministry has, and now I want to say something about the allocation of resources to the other Services. This is not, of course, a question of just making a division between them on the basis of what is fair and equitable. That is not the point. Their tasks and functions have to be examined, and the yardstick of priorities must be applied to them rather than just to fairness to the Services. There has been, since the last defence debate, a careful review of the rôles and necessities of the individual Services, and the results are set out in the White Paper.
I have already explained that each Service has sustained some cuts in its spending power and that the relative importance of the Royal Air Force has not been diminished, although it might at first sight appear so. It is very easy to criticise in general terms, but opinions will differ as to where we can most safely retrench, what functions can be abandoned and what research and development can be stopped. That has to depend largely on one's appreciation of the immediacy of the particular threat which has to be guarded against. I very much hope that those who criticise the Government's allocation of resources will tell us specifically to what we should devote a greater share of our present effort, and what tasks at present entrusted to each Service can be curtailed or cut out.
I have seen it suggested that the Royal Navy has been allocated more than it 1031 should have been. I think, on the contrary, that the resources made available to the Royal Navy leave it very much stretched in fulfilling its essential rôles. The Fleet will be smaller, but it will be adapted for its duties according to the basic strategy which I have described. In limited war, the aim is to have immediately available, wherever it may be needed, a force of aircraft carriers equipped with modern aircraft and supplemented by cruisers and escorts.
§ Sir W. Monckton
The most modern aircraft which we are able to provide—about which hon. Members will hear. We have modern aircraft. It is a question of comparison, as hon. Members will hear.
§ Sir W. Monckton
If there are not any, is any hon. Member criticising our efforts in research and development to get them?
In situations in which aircraft carriers are not required, cruisers are the most economical units of sea power, because they can undertake sustained operations away from their base. So one gets the development of cruisers and this adaptation of aircraft carriers. Whatever one does about it, the Fleet, although it is smaller, has to be up to date. We must have the adaptations to the aircraft carriers so that, as modern types of aircraft come into service, they can operate from those carriers. In the same way, special attention must now be paid to measures to combat the submarine threat, because there is no doubt whatever that the submarine threat is greater than ever before. Further than that, in the three Services we have to consider going forward with the guided missile programme and research into nuclear methods of propulsion.
I do not want to detain the House too long, but I should like now to say something about the Army. A large part of the reduction in manpower between the present date and 1958 will necessarily fall on the Army. With this reduction in manpower, it becomes all the more necessary that it should be flexible and mobile. The calls made upon the Army by the cold war are many and various. They range from anti-bandit operations in the jungle to internal security operations of the type which it has been called upon to 1032 fulfil in Cyprus. The Army has embarked on a substantial reorganisation of divisional formations, and other changes which my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War will explain when, in a few days' time, he introduces the Army Estimates.
I should like to turn now to the fourth subject. We have had, first, the deterrent, then the cold war, the limited war, and then, if the global war falls upon us—
§ Mr. Stokes
Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman deal with guided missiles before he sits down?
§ Sir W. Monckton
I have already said something about guided missiles, and I shall have something more to say later.
I should like to say a word about preparations to deal with the situation if our attempt should fail and the horror of nuclear attack should fall upon us. We are bound to give first priority in apportioning our resources to the steps which we believe necessary to prevent war. It is only if we fail in this that we shall have to endure a grim struggle for survival. There will then be a joint effort on the part of the military and civil defence services. All our plans are on that basis, and it is part of my duty to ensure that the requirements of the Services and of the civil authorities are considered together.
In home defence we have to try to provide an adequate warning system, both of the attack itself and of the dangers of fall-out. We have to keep the public fully informed of the steps they can best take for their own safety and protection. and we have to do all that we possibly can to ensure the efficiency of what will be of great importance—the communications system. Then there is the problem of evacuation. Revised plans are being made for the evacuation of the priority classes. There will be a broader definition of these classes than that used in the last war.
§ Sir W. Monckton
If the hon. Gentleman will wait for a moment, he will hear that.
As I was saying, there will be a broader definition of these classes than that used in the last war. There will be included now mothers, young children and adolescents, generally, and the aged and infirm.
§ Mr. F. Beswick (Uxbridge)
Has the Minister now left the subject of the warning system? Could he say what kind of warning we could expect to get, so that we can have some idea of how long we would have for evacuation?
§ Sir W. Monckton
One has to do this on assumptions, and assumptions will be made in making the plans.
§ Sir W. Monckton
What I am trying to do is to show, first, that the priority classes will be different. Secondly, the areas to be scheduled as evacuation areas will be more extensive than those of the last war. In the preliminary estimate, which is all that we have been able to make at present, we estimate that all this would involve making plans for the movement of about 12 million people. That is an enormous undertaking—
§ Mr. John Strachey (Dundee, West)
The Minister speaks of evacuating 12 million people into wider scheduled areas. In view of the fact that his own pamphlet "Nuclear Weapons" shows that the effect of a bomb dropped on Liverpool would be lethal as far as the East Coast, can he tell us where the evacuation would be to?
§ Sir W. Monckton
The evacuation plans have reached this stage, and this stage only: we have considered which areas are those of greatest concentration and which are the areas of least concentration, and the next step will be to consider the plans in detail with the local authorities and others concerned. It is quite impossible, once one has the conception of having to deal with priority classes, to come now with a cut-and-dried plan. That will take months to work out.
§ Mr. Austen Albu (Edmonton)
Can the right hon. and learned Gentleman say what assumptions are made, in the case of fall-out from a hydrogen bomb, about the direction of the wind?
§ Sir W. Monckton
We shall no doubt have to take into account the prevailing wind, as one often has to in these things.
§ Mr. E. Shinwell (Easington)
In order to save a lot of time on Civil Defence, may I ask the Minister whether, in the preparation of that part of his speech dealing with that subject, he read the report prepared by the Labour Party, and does not that indicate that what he is saying is quite accurate?
§ Sir W. Monckton
I said a moment ago that one has to take into account the prevailing wind. I gladly shelter myself under the breath which has come to me from the right hon. Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell). I shall have the greatest pleasure in reinforcing myself, as in the short time I have not yet done, by reading the whole of the pamphlet, which would have made my case better had I been able to do so.
Difficult though the movement of evacuation is to conceive, it is more difficult to plan and still more difficult to plan in a hurry. Apart from that, there will be the redeployment of manpower to action stations. For example, some of the Civil Defence services, in particular much of the rescue and firefighting services, will be moving with their equipment to action stations on the outskirts of the areas which they serve. Similarly, the emergency ports will be manned by transferring labour from the main ports. These are the plans which, although we have not perfected them, we are working on now. Practical difficulties of transport and accommodation it will be our task to overcome, and to ensure as far as we can that our plans become workable and complete.
The first indication of the studies we have been making—no doubt I shall find this in the other document when I read it—is that a great number of lives can be saved if people are encouraged to take quite simple precautions to minimise the danger from fall-out. I want to draw attention to the desirability of having surveys, which are now being initiated, to see what can be done, without undue disturbance to every one, in the way of providing strengthened accommodation in houses so that they will become a better protection.
I have dealt with first things first, the preventive deterrent, the cold war and the limited war and such plans as can be made in advance with such resources as would be available in the terrible event, 1035 if it should come. I want to say one more word on the vital question of building up our deterrent forces to prevent war. Much has been said and written about the proposal for so-called graduated deterrence, which has its persuasive and powerful advocates. I am far from saying that any aggressive move against the West would inevitably be countered by the use of the hydrogen bomb. One cannot be specific in a matter of this kind, but one can imagine circumstances in which local aggression might be dealt with quite effectively by local retaliation. One cannot say that retaliation would not involve the tactical use of atomic weapons. One cannot say that in advance. It does not seem to me inevitable that the use of this weapon in such circumstances, if it did take place, would necessarily lead to full-scale global war.
That is to say no more than that the doctrine of economy of force, which is the basis of all sound military action, still applies today. Nevertheless, I do not think, I may say frankly, that it would be a practicable policy for any Government to define precisely in advance the circumstances in which it would use some weapons and not others. Any attempt to make a definition of that kind in advance could hardly be to our advantage. Indeed, it might help others, who may be pondering on the question of whether they could take risks, to see how far they might go without bringing down upon them the ultimate deterrent. I think an attempt to define in advance and to lay down hypothetical cases is doomed to failure.
Moreover, there is the further consideration that even if it were assumed that the adoption of the policy of graduated deterrence was right in itself, would there be any reasonable ground for believing that its adoption would ensure the adoption of a similar policy by the other parties to the argument? I think there are solid grounds for taking the other view. I have read what I could of the speech which was made by the Soviet Minister for Defence at the recent Congress of the Communist Party. As I understood, the Russians have evolved their own doctrine on the subject and we certainly could not rely on the response to graduated deterrence being similarly graduated retaliation.
1036 These, no doubt, are all grave problems. I fully recognise the sincerity and honesty of purpose of those who advocate the views I have been discussing, but, as I have indicated, I do not myself feel they represent a practical solution. I think a practical solution has to be sought in a comprehensive scheme of disarmament. For that the Government will continue to strive in the meetings of the Disarmament Sub-Committee of the United Nations, shortly to be resumed in London.
I have laid this White Paper before the House. I hope it will be approved and that we shall be enabled to go forward on the programmes we have prepared—programmes based on an appreciation of the priorities and the need for flexibility in the use of the resources which we can afford to use.
§ 4.36 p.m.
§ Mr. R. R. Stokes (Ipswich)
I beg to move to leave out from "House" to the end of the Question and to add instead thereof:regrets that despite the expenditure of five thousand seven hundred million pounds in four years, the Statement on Defence, 1956 (Command Paper No. 9691), discloses grave weaknesses in our defences; makes no provision for an immediate cut in the period of National Service nor for any specific plan for its eventual abolition nor for an inquiry into defence manpower; and contains no adequate proposals for a more economical and effective allocation of resources between the services.I hope that in the course of my remarks this afternoon I shall be able to prove conclusively that the Amendment ought properly to be supported whole-heartedly in the Lobby tomorrow night, although I do not suppose we shall get much support from hon. Members opposite, who have never been able to see the error of their ways.
I can feel for the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Minister of Defence. He said that he has come new to the job; so have I. He has other resources at his disposal which I have not. My only comment here would be that I think the trouble Her Majesty's Government are suffering from today is that they have had too many Ministers of Defence. We have had four in four years, and if ever there were a job in which a Minister ought to stay put I should have thought it was the Ministry of Defence. I suspect that what we have been witnessing in the last four years is not a Ministry of 1037 Defence at all but only a Minister, and that, therefore, it does not very much matter who he is.
As for the Minister himself, I am bound to say that I was surprised when he was appointed. [An HON. MEMBER: "So was he."] I do not mean that in any offensive way whatever. An eminent legal brain was turned on to this job when what we really want is a hard-headed business man. [Laughter.] I said hard-headed. I have come to the conclusion, after listening to the right hon. and learned Gentleman, that he is really a screen more than a probe, whereas a probe is needed. I am bound to admit to a certain amount of perplexity in this matter. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear.] I think anyone who has taken the trouble to study this defence problem or these new weapons is left in a whole heap of contradictions. Sometimes I am not at all sure that we are not being asked to do mutually contradictory things—and we get into a rare old muddle when we try to follow too many lines at the same time. I suspect that in a way that is what we are doing.
I do not see very much improvement in this year's White Paper. When I first read it, I thought it was a bit better. Of course, it was full of good intentions, but we know what that very often means. There is revealed a deplorable state of things, some of which I shall deal with this afternoon. In fact, listening to the Minister today, there was not very much difference certainly between his closing remarks and those of his predecessor, indicating to me and to my hon. and right hon. Friends that not very much progress has been made. That is what we are afraid about.
I have another gloomy reflection. When we faced a defence bill of £1,500 million in 1950–51, we thought that it would be only for three or four years. I know that the value of money has changed, but everybody now takes it as a matter of course that the account will be of this order; and I am afraid that if one studies the White Paper it is likely to be a great deal more. It is the staggering cost of it all that people should bear constantly in mind, and we ought to exercise our own minds in trying to bring about effective steps to introduce economy and reduce expenditure.
One of the most awful features is the rate of obsolescence. When about eight 1038 years is required to develop a big aeroplane which is out of date by the time is it built, and when one realises that a Valiant costs £600,000, one trembles to think of the appalling waste that is pouring down the drain all the time. All this makes it the more urgent that we should be careful what we do.
I want to recite to the House what I see as our main aim. I do not think there is serious dispute between us as to what the main military, or main military and political, aims are. We want to remain a great Power, and we must, therefore, have our own control of the major nuclear deterrent, but we must face the fact that, at the moment, it is in America and we do not have it. Then, we have to carry out our Commonwealth and other commitments in the event of an outbreak in the cold war, which means, in the main, the use of conventional forces. I have a note to ask the Minister to clarify what is written in page 4 of the White Paper in paragraph 6 with regard to the possible use of nuclear weapons—the possible use of nuclear weapons cannot be excluded.I am glad that the right hon. and learned Gentleman said something about this in his closing remarks.
In saying this, I voice my own personal opinion. We are all entitled to have a personal opinion. This is not a party issue at all. It seems to me very doubtful indeed that, if once we start using nuclear weapons, we will ever stop. It would go from one thing to another, and we would gradually end by using the hydrogen bomb. That is the horror we must all face.
The third of our objectives, as the White Paper truthfully says, isto establish peace and prosperity within which the peoples of the world can develop their lives in freedom.This means that we have got to do two things. First, we must prevent ourselves being annihilated—presumably, by the Communists—and then, what we wish to endeavour to do is to ensure that Communism does not spread everywhere. We can only do that by offering something better. There is no means of doing it by force. Of course, I accept that we must first survive if we are to do it.
The danger that I feel we shall come to is that we shall find ourselves overspending on defence unless we are very 1039 careful how we spend the money; and in the end we may find that we have played the Kremlin's game because we shall have no economic resources with which to go to the help of the peoples all over the world who are without resources. I once heard fanaticism described as redoubling your effort when you had forgotten the aim.
If we allow the military mind to take charge too much in these matters, I think we are in grave danger of finding that we have erred in that way and that we all are fanatics. Therefore, it is of the most urgent importance that we should see to it that both our home production, and production under N.A.T.O. is organised to the best effect. We shall have to take serious thought and scrap some of our old prejudices and traditions, however painful this might be. I do not think that the White Paper shows very much sign of this being done.
What we need is new thinking. At the danger of reciting the obvious, how it strikes me—and there are some unpalatable truths to be swallowed—is that no nation of 50 million people can any more stand alone. The great British public—not merely Members of the Government and Members of Parliament, but the great British public—must understand that. Nor can we go on behaving in a nuclear age as if nothing much had happened, or as if only a glorified Mills bomb had been handed over and that somehow we would deal with it. A lot of people still think like that and do not take matters seriously enough.
Then, we must sink some of our national pride and not be completely independent. I think that we engineers are the worst sinners of the lot. Whenever we have done something we are bored stiff with it, and want to do something better. I remember the story of an engineer—a much better engineer than I have ever attempted to be—who sold cranes to the Port of London Authority. Years later, he was invited down again, evidently for the purpose of getting a further order. He spent an hour or so explaining the benefits all the new inventions he had made would be over the old machine. He came away triumphant, knowing that an order would follow; and when it did, written across the bottom of the order was a note, "To 1040 two of your so and so cranes, with none of your b…improvements." I believe that there is a lot of wisdom in that.
I do not mean to be humorous on a serious occasion like this, but, as I have often said, one can make people either laugh or cry, and on the whole it is better to get through a serious topic with a little oil of that nature rather than the reverse.
Then, a number of traditionally accepted conditions must be scrapped. One of the things I place first among these is that, again, the great British public must recognise that the Navy takes second place. That is a pretty unpalatable statement, and people do not like hearing it, but it is right that it should be said. With that as a background. I want to start my speech.
I propose to examine the powers of the Ministry of Defence and of the Minister and to make suggestions concerning economy in manpower, which I believe to be the main point. If we cannot make more effective and economical use of the human beings which we have in these islands, we simply cannot carry out our whole programme both of seeing that we do survive and of seeing that the Communist menace does not spread by default over the face of the globe.
When I look at the White Paper and the Ministry of Defence Estimate, I ask myself whether the Minister has a hope of doing the job which I suppose he is meant to do. I am told by people who ought to know, and I know some who do know, that he has insufficient expert staff to enable him to take top decisions over Departmental Ministers and Chiefs of Staff. He has not a hope when he is up against the vested interests of the Departments. I am not talking about the numerical strength of the people whom the Minister has. I am not interested in that aspect. I am concerned as to whether he has enough people with authoritative knowledge to enable him to do what I suggested to the Prime Minister ought to be done—to bang their heads together.
I 'asked in the House if the Minister would have sufficient authority to take decisions himself and, so to speak, bang the heads of the Service Ministers together so as to ensure decisions being taken and the right things being made at the right time. The Prime Minister did not know the answer. He said that 1041 he would like to have notice of the question. The Prime Minister appears to be indicating dissent, but that is what he said. He can look it up in HANSARD. I agree that the right hon. Gentleman qualified his reply to the extent of saying that he thought the expression was unusual, and, I suppose, having regard to its possible implications, it was better to have a Question put on the Order Paper. I think that the Minister has not sufficient brain weapons to deal wth the vested interests in the Service Departments and get the best possible co-operation.
There is not much sign of what is frightfully important in manpower, that is proper co-operation at home on production and the rationalisation of our needs amongst the N.A.T.O. nations. Surely we should be able to do a great deal more. If we are all setting out in parallel to do all sorts of things, we shall not achieve what we want to achieve without sinking ourselves in the process. There does not seem to have been any attempt to unify the three Services in this respect. It was suggested by the noble Lord, Viscount Swinton in a debate in another place on 8th November that there could be integration of the medical services, hospitals, catering, clothing and, it may be, education, but we hear nothing of that. There is clearly an enormous waste when one considers how much of the effort that is required in the three Services is so closely intermingled.
Has this point been considered and, if so, with what result? At the moment, industry is simply crying out for manpower, especially for technicians and skilled men. They are very much in short supply, and yet we seem to slog along with the three Services all having similar tails to wag, though some tails may be somewhat longer than others. The Secretary of State for War agreed the other day that supply and administration accounted for nearly 50 per cent. of his own manpower. I do not suggest merely the rationalisation of the Services which the noble Lord, the Earl of Swinton suggested, but some sort of unification of the three Services on the lines suggested by the noble Lord, Viscount Montgomery of Alamein. I take the view that we should leave the Army alone at the moment, because its duty for the most part will be conventional, but could we not amalgamate in the two blues—the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force— 1042 for so much of what they have to do is concerned with similar new weapons?
Paragraph 28 of the Explanatory Statement on the Navy Estimates, 1956–57, states:The concept of the battle-group, centred round the modern carrier with its multipurpose squadrons of aircraft is nearing realisation.Then paragraph 35—and this is most important—states:Most of this extra money will be used in developing guided weapons and nuclear propulsion plant for the Navy and valves and electronic devices for the three Services.Surely in the two Services which use so much more of this equipment than does the Army some rationalisation between them should be possible.
In the case of the three Services with all the antennae that attach themselves to the tail—and I do not quite remember where antennae do attach themselves—should it not be possible to civilianise the tails? Should it not be possible to comb through the Services and see how many of the various duties performed by the tail could not be performed by civilian people? Might it not be possible to employ an age group of civilians thus reducing the manpower in the Services, making it more possible to get rid of National Service, and making the whole set-up of manpower in industry so much better?
§ Mr. Cyril Osborne (Louth)
What would be the net gain of all that to industry, for which the right hon. Gentleman is pleading for manpower?
§ Mr. Stokes
I am trying to explain all that. My point is that I should like to see an end of National Service, because I think that it interferes with the careers of young men at the wrong time and interferes with industry. Industry is starved of new men coming in. We want them very badly indeed. A great number of services could probably be carried out in the Services by quite a different class of person who would not interfere with industrial production. In other words, they would not be skilled men who are required in the aircraft industry and the like. I agree that in that case we should be replacing one with one, but it would be a different one.
§ Mr. Charles Ian Orr-Ewing (Hendon, North)
Would the right hon. Gentleman not agree that there would be a net saving 1043 in manpower if civilian contractors ran these establishments rather than civilians under military command. Would he not agree that the military are probably not the best people to command civilians, and that they are inclined to build their own empires?
§ Mr. Stokes
I do not object to that. It is a good idea. I should like to have an inquiry into the whole subject and see whether we can in this way comb out manpower and get more effective strength in the productive enterprises of the country and so increase our overall production.
What is the Minister doing about our strategic reserve? I have never understood why there is such a hurry to have it. We have been getting on quite well without it for quite a time. It is stated that it is contemplated to have two divisions, with a blitz airborne division—which has no aircraft to carry it according to a Government spokesman. I do not see why troops stationed in Germany should not form part of the strategic reserve. I take the view that Germany is not a bad place in which to keep a strategic reserve, because it is out of the way and if there was a global war the troops might be more useful there than here. That is one of the contradictions one gets into the moment one starts contemplating the use of nuclear weapons, which leads ultimately to the hydrogen bomb. I believe that one of the White Papers refers to the concentration on carrying troops who are in the pipeline by air. That must be a considerable saving. I welcome that.
As our Amendment complains, there is no real indication of the Government's policy on National Service. Over the years we on this side of the House have repeatedly asked for an inquiry. In the light of events we now know that had there been such an inquiry there would have been a reduction of the two years' period long ago. [HON. MEMBERS: "How?"] The White Paper which we discussed last year certainly admits it. I do not expect some of the right hon. Gentlemen opposite to admit it—that is quite another matter. The 100,000 men whom the Government now claim they are handing over to industry are, in fact, the equivalent of a nine months' reduction in National Service. Whilst it is per 1044 fectly true to say that the circumstances today are rather different and that in the view of Her Majesty's Government it may not be possible to reduce National Service now, if an inquiry had taken place at the time we asked for it there would have been a reduction then.
It is well for the House to remember that two years' National Service was only given to the then Labour Government because of the Korean conflict, and we are about the only N.A.T.O. nation which still has two years' service. I think that Turkey is the other one.
§ Mr. Stokes
That is a different matter. The Government's claim that deferment in call-up has been effective in providing manpower for industry certainly does not bear examination. I know that some pompous trade papers have welcomed it, but they are all run by Tories and one does not expect anything else.
I am not objecting to National Service. There is much to be said for a little of it because it does no harm to anyone, but we cannot afford it. The worst possible thing to do is to increase the period between when a young man leaves school and when he settles down in a job. We all know that, and we have constantly urged it on the Government without any effect. Also it is the wrong age group for industry and it has hopeless disadvantages for the individual. This all proves the failure of Her Majesty's Government in their recruiting campaign.
We welcome the White Paper on pay and pensions. It is generous and let us hope it will be successful. I do not think it will be a success because the Government have not yet dealt with the other things with which we urged them to deal when we discussed National Service last year. I agree that in the Army White Paper there is a remark about improving barracks, but not much is indicated there. There should be a much more comprehensive scheme of barrack building, so perhaps the Government could interfere slightly and transfer manpower from some of those glorious blocks of offices and swell flats which are going up. In that way not only would we get more barracks, but also more steel for industry. Make no mistake about it, my trade is suffering severely from a shortage of steel. 1045 [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] There is nothing to scoff at. I have no vested interest in the matter. Anybody in the engineering trade knows what a struggle we are having to get materials, and that having to go abroad and pay high prices puts up the cost of everything.
As I have said, what we recommended in October has never been attended to. I agree that there are better prospects in the Navy and that the Dartmouth changes are an improvement, but there is no indication of what is intended for people when they retire from the Services. There is no assurance of jobs on retirement, as was suggested, nor any training during Service which fits men for jobs when they leave. If the pay and pensions proposals were backed up with better barrack accommodation and facilities for education, we might get a better overall result, which would enable us to change the period of National Service.
There is no indication of future intentions. The Government do not say whether they are going on with the deferred call-up in 1958, which is only about a year and nine months ahead. Are they going up into the nineteen and twenty age groups if National Service is still here, or are they going back to the old scheme or do they intend to abolish conscription?
I am minded to remind the Minister of Defence of what he said to me recently when I asked him if he was aware that there was no reason why we should not reduce the period of National Service now. I added:…is he aware that there is a deep suspicion in the minds of most people that the Government are playing politics in this matter…and timing the abolition of National Service to match up with the next General Election?The Minister replied:One can only hope that the abolition of National Service will not be so long deferred.…—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 15th February, 1956; Vol. 548, c. 2346.]Did the right hon. and learned Gentleman mean that it is in the mind of the Government to abolish National Service before 1959, because if that is in the mind of the Government, we would like to know it.
§ Sir W. Monckton
The right hon. Gentleman will remember that a subsequent question was put to me asking whether that was in my mind, and that 1046 I was careful to say that I could not express an opinion or make a prophecy.
§ Mr. Stokes
But what was in the mind of the Minister when he said that to me? Was it one of those unfortunate "off-the-cuff" remarks? Perhaps the right hon. and learned Gentleman will give an indication of the date of the next General Election? That might help us.
I do not believe that if we leave the question of manpower to the generals, the admirals and the air marshals we shall get any change. We have arrived at the time when we should say to them, "This is all the manpower you can have and you must make do with it, cutting your coat according to what is available." Dribbling about, as we are doing, will not get us anywhere.
Now I come to the major part of our Amendment, to the question: are we getting value for the expenditure of £5,700 million in four years. What have we got? I shall tackle the aircraft situation. I made a note not to mention figures because of security and the Minister said likewise. In any case, as I read the White Paper, there are not many figures to mention. The Seamews are cut, the Hunters and the Shackletons are cut. As was said a few minutes ago, the Hunter is like a Mosquito without a sting because, even if it flies, it cannot fire a gun. The Valiants are cut and the Navy has not got the two aircraft it is supposed to have, the N.113 and the D.H.110. The Britannias, which are supposed to be the main transport supply, are not there and the flying brigade is without the Prestwick, as was revealed at Question rime yesterday.
How has all this happened? It seems to me that some of the aircraft industry have been living on their failures. Reference to an analysis made by one of the statistical bodies shows that in the last ten years, out of 166 aircraft projects 142 went into the wastepaper basket as useless, sixteen were partially successful and eight were successful. So £1,000 million have gone down the drain. Mostly this is the responsibility of this Government, though not entirely, because we were in power at the beginning of the ten years during which that has been spent.
But Her Majesty's Government must soon reach the stage when they will have to admit responsibility and cease saying that it is not themselves, but the wicked 1047 Labour Party which is responsible. Ministers try to get out of it sometimes by saying that they have only just become Ministers and the Government say the same thing. The Prime Minister said so at Question Time. I am saying that it is about time the Government took responsibility and that the British people are entitled to an explanation when £5,700 million have been spent in ten years. The fact is that there are no aeroplanes and it is no use pretending that there are.
The aircraft industry needs rationalisation, and I do not believe that we shall ever get what we want until we pool development and engineering. What is more, we shall not get it until we reward success and penalise failure. At the moment people seem to be as well off if they fail as if they succeed. That may be a nice philosophical approach, but it is of no use in production for war.
We must face the fact, in making a comparison between this country and America, that the Americans do things in a very different way. At present, America has a million men engaged in aircraft production, spread amongst twenty-one firms, roughly 50,000 people to a firm. What do we find here? We have 300,000 men engaged in aircraft production, spread amongst nineteen firms, representing an uneconomic unit of about 15,000 a firm. Anyone who knows about these things, and has spoken to me, thinks that a unit of under 25,000 is of no use and that probably 50,000 is right for, say, the V-bomber. Will the Government do anything about it or are they inhibited by their doctrinaire background and will not, therefore, consider forcible amalgamation? Because I do not believe that we shall ever get the aircraft industry right and get the production we want unless rationalisation is forcibly undertaken.
I have spoken for some time, but I want to impress upon the Government three more matters on which we should concentrate. To diversify too much wastes manpower, brains and material and will not give us what we want. We should concentrate on the V-bomber force and on the ground-to-air guided missile. I wonder whether it is not possible that we are spending too much money on fighter aircraft, because in a comparatively few years there will be no fighter aircraft. 1048 They will be "done in" by the ground-to-air guided missile. They may be wanted for conventional wars, but that does not mean that they need be nearly as expensive as they now are. Will the Minister seriously look into the costing of these machines? It is staggering that a Hunter should cost £120,000. I cannot see where the money goes, and I suspect that great economy could be effected, in monetary symbols, if these costs were investigated.
The Minister promised that he would say something about guided missiles, but I am sorry to say that he did not do so. What is the policy about ground-to-ground guided missiles? In his book, Jules Moch stresses that in a few years' time we shall have a weapon capable of travelling from here to New Zealand in sixty-six minutes, and the Russians have a ground-to-ground missile which is reputed to travel 5,000 miles. What is the Government's policy? Are we to develop these things ourselves, or are we to get prototypes from America and so not waste our brain power on doing something which has already been worked out?
That brings me to my conclusion. I have a few remarks to make about the H-bomb. I want to make it abundantly clear that I am not anti-American. I am very pro-American, and I realise that there is not the slightest chance of survival for what we term our Western civilisation, except by the closest possible Anglo-American co-operation. If, therefore, I criticise our friends across the Atlantic, it is not in any "anti" spirit, but pro-survival.
Can the Government make another endeavour to impress upon Congress—although I do not know how to do it—that it must change its attitude about nuclear weapons, nuclear energy and the H-bomb and that to do so is vitally urgent? Jules Moch also points out in his book that if one knows the size and scope of a factory, one can fairly accurately—to about 10 per cent.—calculate the output of fissile material. However, the longer operations continue, the more possible it becomes to accumulate and hide the stuff, because nobody can tell where it has been put and all that makes the possibility of agreement more difficult.
There is a second reason why it is urgent that something should be done 1049 about this now. I remember during the Second World War talking to David Lloyd George about the difficulty of negotiation and he said that once war started, it was a devil of a job to negotiate, because when one side was on top it was not willing to stop and when the other chap was underneath, he felt that he might be unfairly treated and that therefore you could only negotiate at a time when there was more or less a state of parity, and that very rarely happened.
Today the Russians and the Americans are pretty well at parity with the H-bomb—I do not know enough about it to speak with authority. I know that we are behind, for reasons into which I need not now go. I am not disputing our right to make, or the correctness of making, the H-bomb, but unless we hurry one of these frightful scientists will find something worse than the H-bomb and we shall have a state of disparity once again and negotiation will be impossible. [Laughter.] It is all very well for hon. Members opposite to laugh at that, but that could happen.
When the atom bomb was exploded people thought that was the end, but look at what has since happened! Here we have an Atlantic Alliance. We realise that we can only survive by being together and yet we cannot use our partner's weapons. After all, during the war we invented penicillin. We did not leave our allies' soldiers dying on the battlefield because we had invented penicillin and they had not and did not know how to make it. The same case applies to atomic energy. The first atom bomb was built as a result of our handing over all the know-how we had to America.
Why not now bring pressure on our American friends to realise that now is the opportunity to get some settlement on both the manufacture of these things and their bangs. I know that the Prime Minister is exercising his mind about getting the bangs stopped and if we were au pair with the Americans, then the three of us, the Russians, the Americans and ourselves, would have every opportunity of getting together and giving a lead towards the ultimate disarmament which everybody wants. If we do not do that we shall only increase the burden of armaments and we shall have no opportunity to fulfil our main aim, which is to raise the standard of living of peoples 1050 everywhere. We shall have proven ourselves fanatics for we shall have redoubled our efforts and forgotten our aim.
§ 5.19 p.m.
§ Sir Hugh Lucas-Tooth (Hendon, South)
There will be general agreement that the Minister of Defence is right in regarding the assessment of priorities, as between various aspects of defence, as the most important of his tasks. There are few people who will quarrel with the broad lines for priorities which he laid down: first, the deterrent, the means to hit any aggressor so hard that he will not make the attempt; secondly, that we should have adequate Forces for cold war and any local war; thirdly, purely defensive weapons and measures which would be used only in the event of the worst happening and total war breaking out, and included under that heading, of course, is Civil Defence.
Obviously, these priorities are not absolute. Nuclear weapons must come first, but, at the same time, we must have adequate forces for the cold war and for any local war. Also, we cannot leave on one side purely defensive weapons and measures. We must go ahead with them. An obvious example of a purely defensive weapon is the fighter aeroplane. No one will suggest that should wait on higher priorities. The question is not really one of priorities in one sense, but of preserving a proper balance between these things at any given time. In circumstances of stringency, and rearmament always produces stringency, there is a temptation to neglect the lower priorities in order to go ahead faster with the higher priorities; to neglect purely passive defence in order to devote our efforts to the hydrogen bomb. Certainly, that is the view which hon. Members will have heard expressed in their constituencies. I think that all hon. Members would answer that we cannot altogether neglect passive defence.
Were we the only possessors of nuclear weapons, it might be different; but when both sides are so armed and can use nuclear weapons against each other, it may be that the degree of passive defence possessed by one side would be crucial in deciding whether or not the aggressor would undertake a war. In this connection, it must be borne in mind that in this island we are under a natural disadvantage both because of our 1051 geographical position and the density of our population. There is also the great importance of ensuring that people see that we are taking some reasonable measure of protection in case the worst should happen, so that public morale is maintained.
The question we must ask ourselves is whether, in these circumstances, we are devoting the right proportion of our total effort to passive defence measures and in particular to Civil Defence. On the face of it, the sum of £45 million, referred to on the last page of the White Paper, is very small in proportion to the total of £1,500 million being spent this year on the defence programme.
I shall not try to canvass the question of what is the right proportion to spend on Civil Defence. Having had some responsibility in this matter until two months ago, I hasten to say that I believe the sum of £45 million is just about the right figure at the present time—and I underline those words. Because I have seen this problem from nearer than other hon. Members on the back benches, I wish to say how it looks to me from the new angle at which I now view it. I have, I hope, something of a stereoscopic view of the problem. May I start from what I think will be an agreed point?
Civil Defence in the conditions of nuclear warfare will be something quite different in kind from what it was in conditions of warfare which we have hitherto experienced. The purpose of nuclear weapons, the hydrogen and the atomic bomb, is not ancillary to other arms and weapons as was that of the ordinary bomb. It is not used to make it more difficult for the enemy to carry on with other forms of warfare. Its purpose is to try to knock out the enemy altogether. It is an attack on the nation as a whole. Under the threat of nuclear attack such things as special equipment and shelters, and so on, seem to me to have lost rather than gained importance. Under the new conditions it is far more important that we should have something else.
First, I would put the effectiveness of the arrangements made in advance of attack to avoid the concentration of targets both human and material; and then the ability of individuals to give themselves and their families the best chance 1052 of survival during an attack. Thirdly, there is the question of the effectiveness of the co-operation between the civil authority, both local and national, and the military authority after a disaster has occurred, in order to mitigate the damage.
It seems clear from the White Paper that this is the view of the problem taken by the Government. I could wish that it had been possible to have taken the matter further at this stage. Paragraphs 101–128 of the White Paper state the problems involved fully and fairly. They give a number of firm decisions on various aspects of the matter, but those decisions relate for the most part to rather smaller problems and the answers to the larger problems are left open—as indeed my right hon. and learned Friend was careful to state.
Paragraph 104 puts the position most clearly and fairly. It states:Nevertheless, within the proportion of our resources that can be made available for home defence, the Government's aim will be to take the precautions without which, should the worst happen, ordered society could not survive. The emphasis will be on plans and preparations to establish a system of warning and monitoring of radioactive fall-out and an adequate scheme of control, through the organs of central and local government, and to ensure the availability of the necessary communications; to build up local and national services, trained and equipped to deal with casualties and to mitigate the other effects of thermo-nuclear attack; to revise evacuation plans; to secure the continued functioning of essential public services; and to inform the public fully, both as to the dangers involved and the steps that can be taken to meet them.That states the problem as it should be stated, and my only regret is that the words are "will be" and that the verb is not in the present tense. I hope that within a short time it may be possible to deal with this matter in the present tense, stating specifically the solutions to these problems.
Financial priorities are not the paramount consideration. This is a matter in which a great deal can be done without any substantial cost in the first place. The essence of the matter is dispersal before a disaster and steps which would have to be taken after a disaster to deal with those who became refugees.
The essence of that is that there should be comprehensive and effective plans, one to cover the situation before the disaster and the other to deal with what happened afterwards. To perfect any such plans, 1053 there would in due course need to be expenditure—indeed, heavy expenditure, as the White Paper indicates. For instance, it would be necessary to have suitable arrangements for the provision of food, water, fuel, and so on, all of which would necessarily be expensive. But the first essential is the plan, which should be understood and should be capable of being acted upon quickly by the people of the country.
What is worrying people is that they do not at the moment see what that plan is. That is what is in people's minds. Generally, in defence matters, the extent to which the Government can take the people into their confidence is severely limited, as is recognised in all parts of the House. Of course, there are limits on the extent to which the Government can take people into their confidence in their plans for Civil Defence, but the limits are much wider in this respect.
I urge my right hon. and gallant Friend the Home Secretary and my right hon. and learned Friend the Minister of Defence to do their utmost to ensure that the plans as they come forward are made known as widely as possible. This would do more than anything else to make the plans effective and to maintain public morale whatever might happen. Not only would it maintain public morale, but it would maintain the morale of the men in the Forces, who, in a threat of war, might feel that they were in a safe position and that it was their families who were in the dangerous position. Therefore, it is of the utmost importance that they should know what the plan is.
I come now to a matter to which I have devoted a great deal of thought. When Civil Defence was first revived in 1947–48, by the Labour Party—
§ Sir H. Lucas-Tooth
When it was first revived by the Labour Government, the responsibility for Civil Defence was placed upon the Home Secretary. That was the obvious choice. The Home Secretary was responsible during the last war, and he is the Minister responsible for law and order and for the efficiency of the police and fire services. I think it was the right choice. The impact of nuclear weapons upon defence, however, has not only greatly magnified the importance of Civil Defence as 1054 part of our defences, but it has also changed its quality. Other civil Departments are now much more heavily involved than they were in the last war, and I believe that as modern weapons are developed other civil Departments will become even more involved in defence considerations. It is now recognised that the Service Departments themselves are brought right into the centre of Civil Defence. Indeed, some of the proposals in the White Paper are to the effect that the Fighting Services are to be used for Civil Defence purposes.
It is no secret that under the Labour Government, responsibility for Civil Defence matters was largely delegated to the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department; it was he who answered Questions and dealt with matters in the House. I certainly do not criticise that. It was the situation which prevailed when I went to the Home Office. But, obviously, an Under-Secretary cannot possibly deal with many of the kind of problems that are now raised by Civil Defence, because they go to the very root of our defence problems and, indeed, to the very root of national policy.
To take the most obvious example, the question of general expenditure on defence is far above the head of any junior Minister, as are questions of stockpiling, the appropriate amount of food and raw materials, and so on, and the proper availability of manpower for Civil Defence purposes to meet a possible crisis. These are the largest possible questions and cannot possibly be entrusted to a junior Minister.
§ Sir H. Lucas-Tooth
In those circumstances, such questions must fall to be dealt with by the Home Secretary personally. He is the Cabinet Minister responsible for Civil Defence.
These problems are incredibly complex and are getting more complex every day. The amount of space devoted to these problems in consecutive White Papers shows the increasing importance that the Government attach to them. I am sure that my right hon. and gallant Friend will agree that the holder of the office of Home Secretary has much more on his plate than any other Minister of the Crown, and the 1055 time will come soon when it will be physically impossible for him to deal with this ever-increasing problem.
The problem is not only increasing in bulk, but in complexity. Other Departments are being brought in, and as time goes on there will be greater conflicts between the needs and the views of different civil Departments which it will be extremely difficult for one Minister who is responsible for particular services to deal with.
In those circumstances, what will be the right thing to do? The Minister of Defence might himself be made directly responsible for Civil Defence in the sense that he had transferred to him the executive powers now exercised by the Home Secretary. I do not think that that would be a satisfactory arrangement. The Minister of Defence does not have such powers in the case of the so-called Fighting Services and it would make a lopsided and unsatisfactory pattern.
On the whole, I believe that it would be desirable to have a special Minister to be responsible for Civil Defence matters, in the same way as we have a head of each of the Fighting Services. I believe that that will soon be a desirable situation. The fact is, of course, that this is only an example of a difficulty which is making itself felt over the whole scene.
I hope the Government will feel that this is a time when it might be worth while reviewing the Ministerial set-up in this connection generally. I believe that it will soon be necessary to do so and, if it were done, it might lead not only to improvements in Civil Defence, but to a general improvement in efficiency in all our defence arrangements.
§ 5.40 p.m.
§ Mr. F. J. Bellenger (Bassetlaw)
The subject which the hon. Baronet the Member for Hendon, South (Sir H. Lucas-Tooth) has introduced into the debate is a very important one. It is a part of defence that we well understand, but I hope he will forgive me if I do not follow him into all the ramifications of that part of our defence preparations, because I look upon that as what I might call the passive part of defence, and I want to deal with the active part of defence, with which the White Paper mainly deals.
1056 I hope that the Home Secretary, having listened to his hon. Friend, is now prepared, on a matter with which he is greatly familiar and which concerns his Department, to listen to what I think will be the main theme in this debate today. Also, I hope that it will be possible for some of the Service Ministers or even the Minister of Defence to do so. It is no exaggeration to say that all general staffs everywhere more or less think in the same terms—the terms which they understand. It is the game which the chess player plays when he meets his opponent anywhere in the world. Therefore, it is quite easy to understand why general staffs generally think in terms of their past experience, and why the last thing which they are inclined to do is to speculate about the future.
The Statement on Defence proves no exception to that rule. Indeed, listening to the Minister of Defence expounding the White Paper itself—and very little more than that, I thought—we were listening to something that might just as well have been a lecture in the War Office, Admiralty or Air Ministry. It seemed to me to be really remote from the subject to which we have to apply our minds in this debate—not the wars of the past, but the possible wars of the future.
This White Paper is full of non sequiturs. One has only to pick out one paragraph and compare it with the next to see what I mean. First, we have paragraph 4, which states the strategic factors, and says:The increased power of the deterrent, that is, the nuclear weapon and the means of delivering it, has made global war more frightening and less likely.We have known that for many years. It does not need the Minister of Defence or his staffs to tell us that. What we are interested in are the Government's plans, in so far as they can make any plans with any assurance at all, and what they amount to. Our criticism this afternoon is directed to some of the omissions from the right hon. and learned Gentleman's speech and from the White Paper which he has presented to us.
Let us take paragraph 6 of the White Paper. What does it say, almost in the next breath, as it were? It talks about limited wars. Having first talked about 1057 the unlikelihood of global war, the right hon. and learned Gentleman then comes down to what he terms limited war, and tells us that in these limited wars the possible use of nuclear weapons cannot be excluded. I admit that, but what does it really amount to in relation to paragraph 4, which I have just mentioned? It means, in effect, that no longer can we count on any limited war if we use nuclear weapons. There will come a time when it is bound to happen. Indeed, the Russians have already warned the Americans that, if they go in for any limited wars with the use of nuclear weapons, the Russians have got the I.B.M.—the Inter-Continental Ballistic Missile—which can travel 5,000 miles, and which will be dropped on American cities.
I do not know whether the Russians have got that weapon or not. All I am saying is that it is futile for us to believe that we can limit the use of nuclear weapons, and, therefore, I think that all our plans ought to be directed to the possibility, if it should, unfortunately, happen, of full-scale warfare. I do not believe that the American "Corporal," which I do not think is a very satisfactory nuclear weapon, is really the answer to modern weapons. It is merely the development of an old form of artillery, which some of us who were gunners knew in the old days. It has a longer range, it can have a warhead fitted, and is a missile which will produce an atomic explosion.
Some of us have had the advantage of being present at manoeuvres in Germany, and I would say to the Minister of Defence that, if he is to stay in his present position for long, he ought to take the opportunity of looking at some of these manoeuvres, or, better still, of going over to America, which very few of our senior officers are able to do, and seeing what the Americans are doing in this sphere. I venture to suggest that he would be surprised, and that he might then come to the House and talk in more erudite terms than he has done this afternoon on the subject of defence.
The sphere with which I am most conversant is that of the Army—the military sphere—but I will venture to make an incursion into naval matters, and I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) will 1058 not mind. I will not impinge too much on what he may have to say when we discuss the Navy Estimates, but, nevertheless, it is part of defence and is so expressed in this White Paper.
The Royal Navy has certain resources allotted to it, and in the Memorandum accompanying the Navy Estimates we are told, in page 9, that there are five capital ships in reserve. I should like to know from the Minister who is to reply to the debate what is to happen to these five battleships, because, according to the answer which the Government give us, we shall better be able to assess whether they are thinking in terms of future wars or are merely carrying on the tactics and strategy of past wars.
There are the five capital ships—"Vanguard," "Anson," "Duke of York," "Howe" and "King George V"—excellent ships in their day, on which much money was spent, and which were the pride of the British Navy. What has happened to them now? Are they cocooned somewhere in one of the harbours round the coasts of this country and, if they are, what is the purpose of having them wrapped like that? Are they ever again to sail the seas in Fleet action? Will it ever be possible again to use them? I do not know, but I should like to know from the Government what they think is the future sphere of these capital ships, because Russia has an answer—400 submarines—as General Gruenther told us a few days ago in a speech which he made in this country, in which he said he did not know what they were lying in wait for.
I have a shrewd suspicion, and I say, in relation to these battleships, that I do not think the Russians have put their money on big ships. It is true that they have gone in for cruisers, and I agree with the view of the Government, expressed in this White Paper, that cruisers on the high seas are probably the best form of naval warship, but I suggest that the Government should give us an answer about what is to happen to these battleships now in reserve. If they are not going to use them, then they should scrap them. It will mean losing millions of pounds, there is no doubt, but in the long run it will save us tremendous maintenance costs and a great amount of manpower, because 1059 these ships require a substantial number of officers and ratings to keep them afloat and in action.
§ Mr. Bellenger
I now turn to a sphere with which I am more conversant—the Army. Here is something which baffles any ordinary description which I am able to give within the rules of order of this House. First, we are told that conscription cannot be done away with because of our commitments. The Secretary of State for War has said, time and time again, not only that we must have conscription, but that we must also have a period of two years' National Service.
Two years ago the Secretary of State issued an excellent map, attached to his Memorandum relating to the Army Estimates. I want to take the House for a tour of our overseas commitments as they were then expressed—because we must never forget that those commitments have always been the basis of the Government's argument, in and out of season, for the retention of the period of two years' National Service. Two years ago the British forces in Korea amounted to 20,000. In a few weeks' time those forces will be reduced to a very small token force. We are told that the numbers of terrorists in Malaya are gradually being reduced; indeed, generals occasionally tell us that the matter has almost been solved. Two years ago there were twenty-three battalions in that area including Gurkha and colonial battalions.
Part of my complaint is that the Government give us very little information upon which to base a substantial opinion. I want to refer to an article which appeared in The Times this morning. It is written by that newspaper's military correspondent and gives us more information than has ever been given to us by the Government. I imagine that that information is roughly accurate.
However, I will continue with the figures which I have been giving. In Kenya there were eleven battalions, including colonial Forces. Although that commitment is not absolutely ended, it is in process of reduction. If we are to believe official statements—and I suppose that we must do so in the absence of 1060 any information to the contrary—the trouble there is reaching its conclusion. It may be a few months or a year before it is finally settled, but large forces should not be retained in that area a moment longer than is necessary.
By the end of June or sooner, the whole of our forces in Egypt and the Suez Canal area—about 80,000 troops—will have been evacuated. What is the Secretary of State doing with them? He does not tell us, and we obviously cannot expect an answer from the Minister of Defence, because he has been in his present office for only two months, and would not know anyhow. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] I am justified in making these complaints. The Minister opened the debate with all the official briefs which he has at his disposal, and he told us next to nothing about matters such as this, which are of great interest to us.
Our Austrian commitment has gone as a result of the Russians deciding that they could sign a Peace Treaty. The one brigade that we had in Trieste is gone as a result of diplomatic action. We then come to the elements of the Regular Army and the Territorial Army at home. Two years ago there were 11⅔ divisions at home. We know that the Territorial Army has been dismantled, and that, under the previous Minister of Defence, the anachronism of A.A. Command was swept away in one night. That Command has probably been the biggest man-eater of all our commands, at any rate since the war.
I have shown that our major commitments of two years ago have now been almost all liquidated, and yet we are told that we must still have a two years' period of National Service. Why? The Secretary of State for War glibly and blandly tells us that it is necessary in order to form a strategic reserve. When we ask him what that reserve consists of in this country, he tells us that it would not be in the public interest for him to give that information in the House.
§ Mr. Ian Harvey (Harrow, East)
In making his survey of our commitments two years ago, the right hon. Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Bellenger) never referred to Cyprus. He has referred to the contingent reserve, which the right hon. 1061 Gentleman said was not needed and thought might be kept in Germany, and to A.A. Command, which he knows quite well was a purely voluntary organisation which did not affect the question of National Service to any extent.
I am not sure that I agree with the last point made by the hon. Member for Harrow, East (Mr. Ian Harvey), but if he will allow me I shall develop my speech in my own way, and I shall eventually come to the question of Cyprus. I have something very cogent to say about it, in its proper place. I am now trying to point out that the Government cannot have it all ways. If they want conscription for a period of two years they must give us better reasons than they have given us so far.
In his Memorandum, the Secretary of State for War says that he needs Regular Forces. I agree with the Minister of Defence that what we want are small, well-equipped and well-trained military forces. What I want to know is whether we are getting the ideal forces for the amount of money which we are being asked to vote. do not think that we are. The reason is quite obvious. The Secretary of State for War gambled upon persuading men engaged for the three-years' short period of service to stay on. As my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) has constantly reminded him, he was, from the start, making a big mistake in that respect. My hon. Friend elicited from the Secretary of State that he thought he could persuade 30 per cent. or more of those three-year term men to re-engage or to extend their service, thereby enabling him to build up his Regular forces. He has not got them, and the Army has been run down in terms of its Regular content because of the right hon. Gentleman's mistake.
All this boils down to the fact—and I suggest that the House should apply its mind to this—that the Statement on Defence presented this afternoon, in common with all the other White Papers presented by the Government, does nothing more than try to cut a coat for a John Bull figure with half a yard of cloth. They cannot make a proper coat out of it. I hope that, with the new rates of pay—which go a good way towards providing satisfactory terms for the Services—they will have more success.
1062 The trouble is not entirely due to lack of sufficient cloth with which to make a coat. The fact is that we have been saddled with the wrong tailors for four or five years, and it is about time we changed them. I understand that the Secretary of State for War is indisposed. I hope that he will be in better health and able to face the music on Thursday, because he has a lot to answer for. I would only tell him that his gamble has not succeeded. If it had done so, he would have deserved all the credit to which he would have been entitled, but he has failed in his endeavour, and every person who fails must pay the penalty for his failure. That is the rule with all gamblers. Unfortunately, the right hon. Gentleman has been gambling with public matters.
General Gruenther, to whom I have referred, made a very interesting speech the other day. He said:At the moment, the West is not strong enough to repel an act of aggression.He could not give an assurance that an invasion could be repelled in Western Europe. He is an authority on these matters. He is a fine soldier, so far as I have seen him and understood his military career. Therefore, when he says these things perhaps the House will think they are more valuable than when a private Member like myself makes a similiar statement. He went on to say that the actual position had improved compared with what it was five years ago, but he was in an unenviable situation, as was evidenced by his remark about not being able to repel an invasion. He added that as soon as he got the twelve German divisions into the line he could deal successfully with an invasion.
I know that some of my hon. Friends may disagree with what I am going to say. General Gruenther's last observation is one of the reasons why I consistently supported the idea of a German defence force, within the ambit of N.A.T.O. or some wider association or organisation, making its contribution to Western defence. I go further, and say that without that contribution it may be impossible to hold the line in Europe against aggression from Russia. That brings me to the point which I have put in this House by Question, and to which I have not yet received an answer. It has a bearing on conscription and on the 1063 Amendment to the Government's Motion which my right hon. and hon. Friends have tabled.
Today, Western defence lacks the French Army. In the main, French military forces have been withdrawn. We all understand why. We may not agree with French policy. The forces have been withdrawn from Western defence, and they are mostly in North Africa. What does that mean? It means that a greater burden is thrown on the four British divisions holding part of the line in Western Europe. Let us never forget that those four British divisions consist largely of two-year British conscripts.
I say, realising fully the implications of what I am about to say, that the undertaking which we gave, at France's instigation, to keep four British divisions in Europe for a large number of years should be a little bit more flexibly applied, now that the French have retracted to a certain extent from the Paris Agreements. If we could do that, particularly if the British, German and American troops are to be expected to hold the line, it might be possible, I will not say to eliminate, but to alleviate the hardships of one military commitment overseas which at the present moment swallows about 80,000 troops, according to the article in The Times by its military correspondent today. I urge the Government to take the matter up with our French allies, as well as with General Gruenther, the N.A.T.O. commander.
§ Mr. C. I. Orr-Ewing
I could not quite understand the term "flexibly," used by the right hon. Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Bellenger). Does he mean that because France has had to withdraw her troops from Western Europe we should contribute more troops to the shield?
§ Mr. Bellenger
No. The Minister of Defence has told us in the White Paper that the cost of maintaining British troops overseas, particularly in hard currency areas like Germany, will throw increasing burdens on our foreign exchange. What does that mean? It means, in the right hon. and learned Gentleman's own words, that if defence costs rise we shall have to cut our coat still further. It is appropriate that France, who has withdrawn these troops and at whose instigation we agreed to keep our troops there, 1064 should recognise facts like these. It may eventually come even to a reduction of our force.
Why should there be any magic about four British divisions? I know this is a very powerful and well-trained force, but I place considerably more reliance on twelve German divisions when they come into the line and are on their own territory, defending their own country.
Let me give the House one or two figures to show the comparisons that I want to draw. In The Times, from its own Paris correspondent, under the date line 19th February, we were told that the French State Secretary for the Armed Forces had been over to North Africa to try to decide how to make it easier for France's own conscripts. They are quite entitled to do that. We all want to do the best we can for our own conscripts. The correspondent went on to say:It is now proposed that each conscript should serve six or seven months in North Africa …First, he should undergo four months' infantry trainingin certain conditions. After all that, when he has left North Africa, he would servea further five or six months in a specialised arm in Europe.That adds up to sixteen months. That is what the French are aiming at in the reduction in the period of military service for their own conscripts. I hope that the House, whatever hon. Members may think about the proposals of my party regarding conscription, will say that that is not a fair proportion for the job in Western Europe. It is not fair that the French should insist upon our keeping four divisions of British soldiers there, mostly on National Service for two years, and then aim at a much lower period of service for her own National Service conscripts. If we are to be Allies we must pull together fairly; they are not doing it.
Incidentally, the House might be interested to know that the French regular Army, according to this report in The Times, consists of 28,000 officers and 112,000 other ranks. Compare that with the figure at which we are aiming for our own Regular Army, and see the disparity. Hon. Members may say, "Yes, but we have more overseas commitments than France has." I have dealt with some of those commitments. I hope the House will forgive me for saying that I see no 1065 reason whatever on military grounds why the period of National Service for our own troops should not be cut forthwith.
We can get a definite advantage out of it if we like. It will cost the Government less in manpower to reduce the period by six months of service than by staggering the age of call-up, as they propose, up to the age of 19 and—who knows?—upwards to 20. That would be a far greater inconvenience to impose on our young men than the present system. They have no wish, in the main, to serve in the Forces, but they are doing their duty. They hope that that duty will be over as soon as possible so that they can go back to civil life and get on with their careers.
I speak with some feeling on this matter. I hope that the House will forgive me if I mention that I have four sons who have been serving in the Army. One was a long-term Regular, one served during the war in different circumstances—if war comes the whole nation will respond—and the last of the other two boys is doing National Service. I know the inconvenience that it causes them. They do their duty, like all young men in this country, but Parliament is their protector. We should not keep that system of military compulsion one month longer than is absolutely necessary.
In answer to a Question by my right hon. Friend the Member for Ipswich (Mr. Stokes) a few days ago, the right hon. and learned Gentleman, in what I thought was an airy fashion, said that the Government's intention was to do away with the system altogether. I echo that, but I wonder—my hon. and right hon. Friends also wonder—whether the Government are going to use that as a political card to play when they think that the time is appropriate. The right hon. and learned Gentleman led us to think that that might be a card up their sleeves. I warn hon. and right hon. Gentlemen on Government benches. We on these benches have played our part on conscription for ten years in co-operation with whichever Government was in power. If what I have mentioned is, in fact, the Government's intention, they will do something to divide the nation in a way which will be bad for the nation if war should come and we have to call up our young men again for National Service.
There are one or two important points which I want to put briefly before I conclude. There is no mention in the White 1066 Paper of what I would call the psychological weapon of defence.
§ Mr. Bellenger
My hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Grossman) may well say, "Hear, hear." He knows, from personal experience, the potency and powerfulness of that weapon during the war. He was engaged in operating it. I hope that if he speaks in this debate he will reinforce the remarks which I am about to make. Where is that psychological weapon now? [Laughter.] I hope that the Secretary of State for Air will treat this matter a little more seriously. We all like our fun and games, but at the right moment, and I think that this is not the right moment.
We allow our enemies to get away with downright lies and half-truths. What do we offer in return against them. We suggest that we should jam their broadcasts. That is the only weapon in our armoury which I might call psychological defence. The Americans have their powerful radio transmitters and other appliances. Britain, in its psychological approach, cannot compete with the propaganda of its enemies. Hon. Members opposite may dismiss this as being insignificant in a debate of this kind, but those who have had experience during the war—both the Americans and ourselves—know the force of that weapon. It jumped over traditional frontiers and it got to the minds of the people. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Ipswich suggested in his speech, we require to have something more than military weapons if we are to win a long drawn-out battle.
The Foreign Secretary said yesterday that we were not afraid of ideas, that we welcomed ideas. Let us put some of them into practice. I am amazed when I read of the troubles in Cyprus—and I am now coming to the point made by the hon. Member for Harrow, East (Mr. Ian Harvey). The trouble there seems to be caused by schoolboys and schoolgirls, supported by a handful of professional saboteurs. The Secretary of State for War has told us that we have to keep fourteen major units there. That is the answer to the hon. Member for Harrow, East about our commitments in Cyprus. Our troops are running about all over Cyprus, while the Cypriots pass by on 1067 the other side of the road and watch our soldiers being shot down in cold blood. That seems to me to be out of all proportion. I have not the time to develop that point this afternoon, otherwise I should have had some very interesting proposals to put before the right hon. and learned Gentleman.
§ Mr. Ian Harvey
I think that the right hon. Gentleman has put his case rather unfairly. He has said that we have all these troops in Cyprus and has insinuated that they are there to deal with local troubles, when he must know that they are there for other reasons as well.
§ Mr. Bellenger
I can only go by what I read, and I try to read between the lines. Cyprus is a small island, and we have control of it, yet fourteen major British units have to be kept there to maintain law and order. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] According to the Secretary of State's own Memorandum, twelve of those major units are kept there to maintain law and order. He says so in his Memorandum. What does that mean? It means that if the Government's military or defence policy is right then our foreign policy or colonial policy is wrong. The Government cannot have it both ways.
I come to my final point. When it came to moving some of these units to Cyprus, what had we got to do the job? There has been a lot of talk about air transport. What does it consist of? Look at the operation the other day which lifted the Gordon Highlanders and the Royal Norfolks to Cyprus in old-fashioned out-of-date planes. Those troops were forced almost to strap-hang all the way to Cyprus. If that is the way in which we intend to move our mobile troops, then all I can say is that we shall hear some very unpleasant reactions from them. They are not going to put up, any more than the naval ratings are doing today, with such uncomfortable conditions. In war-time we all put up with a lot of discomfort, but we are not prepared to do so in peace-time.
The same policy applies with regard to helicopters. What helicopters have either the Army or the Navy got today? Yet almost every morning we can pick up our newspapers and read that helicopters have rescued lives. I think that the right hon. and learned Gentleman had better 1068 go back to his Department and get a new brief before he comes back to address us on defence matters next year—if he is then in his place as Minister of Defence.
I and other of my hon. Friends have complained previously about the lack of information from the Government—not top-secret information—which ought to be given to the House before we are asked to provide the money for our defences. What do we find? In the main, we have a string of platitudes, often from the Ministers and certainly in the White Papers which they present to the House. Some of my hon. Friends and I have asked for some sort of military committee to be set up, composed of Members drawn from all parts of the House. I am speaking not entirely for myself because I know that some hon. Members on the other side of the House are coming to the same conclusion. It has been suggested that a committee of the House should be set up to keep contact with the nationalised industries. If that is done, I think that there is even more reason for us to have a military committee, such as exists in France, Germany and America. We could then have more information on which to base sound judgments.
I do not want to develop that point. It would be unfair for me to do so because the hon. Member for Wycombe (Mr. John Hall) has an Amendment down for debate on Thursday when we consider the Army Estimates. It is in the following terms:That this House, whilst placing on record its appreciation of the outstanding services rendered to this country by the Army, believes that the requirements of modern warfare call for drastic and far-reaching changes in the defence structure and urges the appointment of a committee to examine the organisation of the Army and to make recommendations.I say to the right hon. and learned Gentleman, as one who has occupied a high military office and who knows the difficulty of the Service Ministers and the Minister of Defence, that he must not always expect to get away in this House with a charming, impeccable manner—what I might almost call the legal manner of an advocate opening his case in a court of law. Today, as we listened to him, the whole House seemed to be quiet, like a jury waiting for something. What we missed were the witnesses for defence. He did not produce them. He merely 1069 gave us an outline of his case. Therefore, I hope the House tomorrow night, when it comes to consider the verdict, will give the case against the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Minister of Defence.
§ 6.20 p.m.
§ Brigadier O. L. Prior-Palmer (Worthing)
I cannot follow the right hon. Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Bellenger) and meander through the whole of a tortuous speech in which he asked himself so many questions only to give himself the wrong answers, and in which he contradicted himself so many times. Having heard him speak many times before, and having had the honour to follow him on other occasions, I may say that this is the first time that I have heard him make an emotional speech. Usually his speeches are factual and well worth listening to.
I should like to take up his point about the use of the tactical nuclear weapon in the attack. This is very serious. I am speaking now a little "off the cuff." I do not say that I have given it deep thought, but this thought struck me during the right hon. Gentleman's speech. Are not nuclear weapons, whether large or small, in themselves a deterrent? Is not that the only possible excuse for making them? Is not that why many hon. Members opposite, and practically the whole of the country have applauded their manufacture, first, by the party opposite and then by this present Government, as a deterrent and not in any sense as an offensive weapon? Surely that is agreed. Therefore, if the major weapon is a deterrent, is it not conceivable that the knowledge that the opposing forces have nuclear tactical weapons would have had a deterrent effect in respect of an advance such as that into South Korea? It is as a deterrent that the tactical weapon is being issued to the Forces.
As recently as November we had a full day's debate on conscription and National Service; and I think it would have been so much better had the right hon. Member for Bassetlaw introduced that part of his speech dealing with that topic into the debate on the Army Estimates, where we could really "have a crack at it." There is no time in a wide defence debate such as this to answer all his points. I only say that every single one of his points was answered in the November debate, but I should like to repeat what, among 1070 many other things, I finally said on that occasion.
Most of the troops from the Canal Zone have gone to Cyprus. They are dealing with that situation and have been reinforced by two battalions from this country. There has been a big redeployment of the troops from Suez; they are not in this country. The object of the new pay code is to recruit Regular soldiers so as to make National Service unnecessary, but if right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite had their way and we immediately reduced or did away with National Service, what would be the result? The Regular element in the Army would have to serve more than its three years abroad, and that would begin a new run-out of the Regular forces. The whole incentive of the new pay code would immediately be nullified, and in three or four years' time we would have to reintroduce National Service in order to meet our commitments.
I have one comment to make to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ipswich (Mr. Stokes) and it is this. Heaven forbid that in a future war I, if serving in the Army then, would have to rely for the field evacuation of casualties on the organisation of a naval doctor who served in a battleship. I do not think that that is a practical proposition; and we have been many times before into his other suggestion of using civilians in the tail. The trouble is that a lot of the jobs done by the so-called tail are very highly-expert jobs. Furthermore, if we substitute a civilian for a soldier it costs a very great deal, and that will put up the Estimates even higher. Again, most of the "tails" have to be prepared to go to war with the formation or unit. But, as I say, we have had all this out before.
I should now like to make my own speech. First I should like to congratulate the Minister on the new pay code. I should also like to congratulate him on the incredible way in which, to my mind, he has managed to get his finger on to practically every aspect of his Department in so short a time. I have the utmost confidence for the future, when he will know still more of the subject. I should also like to congratulate both the Minister and his Ministry—and more particularly his predecessor, who was largely the architect of the new pay code—for what has been done. Nevertheless, I have two points of criticism to make.
1071 My first criticism is directed towards the education of Services children which, properly treated, is one of the greatest incentives there is for men to stay in the Army. Of all the pusillanimous things that have happened, surely one of the worst examples has been charging Income Tax on the £75 educational allowance at home. I know that the reason given is that it is an old Treasury principle enshrined in history and all the rest of it. It is about time that we broke some of these Treasury principles when they relate to the Services.
The relationship of the Civil Service to the Armed Services is very like that of the A.S.L.E.F. and the N.U.R. It is a question of differentials, and as soon as one gets an increase the other needs an increase to preserve the balance. I think it is time that the Cabinet broke the Civil Service closed shop and recognised that one cannot possibly compare conditions in the Armed Services with those of any other service at all—Foreign Service, Colonial Service or, indeed, the Civil Service. The civil servants know that if they sit down and remain good boys until they are 60 years old they will get a pension.
In the Services, married families are messed about—there is no other word for it. Every time a married family is moved in this country it costs that family £100 of its own money. They are sent abroad, they are pulled here, there and everywhere. To compare their conditions with those of the Civil Service is quite nonsensical, and I hope that the Minister will see if he can make the educational allowances of families in England tax free.
My next point is more particularly an Army matter, and I mention it in case I am not called in the debate on the Army Estimates. There is in the Army, and we all know it, a sort of floating population of majors; people who know quite well—and, in fact, have been told—that they will never get command. Jobs have to be found for those people. I suggest that they should be asked to go, but it is no use asking them to go unless they are given some incentive. We cannot throw them into the cold, civilian world without anything with which to start again. I believe that a list should be made of that type of officer: they 1072 should be given a thumping bonus and then a polite nod of the head and asked to make themselves comfortable in civilian life before it is too late—because when they are older it will not be so easy. The same applies also to the other Services.
I am very glad that the Government have taken such a realistic attitude towards the reorganisation of the Forces in the light of thermo-nuclear war. Nevertheless, the fact that we have thermonuclear weapons and are manufacturing them is not enough. It is absolutely vital that they should be capable of being transported to their targets, and there is disturbance in the House and in the country as to whether, at the moment, we can effectively transport them to the places where they may be needed.
The mobile brigade which I have been advocating here for nearly six years has at last come about—this airborne fire brigade of people is to be used to put out forest fires or, to put it another way, to deal with the footlights round the Iron Curtain which occasionally fuse. Again, those troops will not be very effective unless they can be airborne very quickly in adequate aircraft. Here, I would say that we have heard a lot of nonsense about Pioneers and Britannias. I do not believe that large quantities of aircraft of that nature can be kept in Transport Command just sitting on the ground, idly waiting in case one day they may be wanted. I think it would be far better to say that in the same way as in the case of troopships, the civil aviation industry must construct aircraft in such a way as to be able to carry troops. The charter companies and the public corporations should be able and prepared to provide aircraft in an emergency. Then, if Lady Tom Noddy cannot get to Paris, it is just too bad for her.
We still want a further step taken in the organisation of the Ministry of Defence, but we have had a step taken in the right direction by making an independent Chairman of the Chiefs-of-Staffs Committee. That was a very good thing, but still the Minister of Defence is only a cipher and has not any executive power over the three Service Ministries. He should have executive power, and the sooner that is given, the better. I am sure that if the Government did that they would have the support of both sides of the House.
1073 The other reorganisation which I believe should take place is in the sphere of supply. I have been saying this ever since 1945, and I wonder when someone will begin listening to me. It is vital that the section of the Ministry of Supply which deals with the supply of aircraft, tanks, arms, ammunition, etc., to the Services should come under the Ministry of Defence or should be hived off from the Ministry of Supply and, if necessary, come under some other Ministry, although at the moment I cannot think of any other Ministry which would be appropriate. It is quite wrong that that huge Ministry should continue trying to deal with all the civilian demands on its time and organisation while at the same time trying to produce adequate equipment for the Forces.
In war we came up against exactly the same kind of problem with tanks as that which we have had recently in regard to aircraft. A tank users' committee was set up. I had a certain amount to do with that. We got a far closer liaison between the manufacturers and users by that means. It would surprise hon. Members if they knew the amount of time which was cut from the production-time of tanks by that one simple measure. I believe that with all the complicated machinery of the Ministry of Defence, users have been kept much too far away from manufacturers in these matters.
I believe that the troubles in regard to the Hunter were due to this. Originally, the Hunter was designed to fire two guns, I believe, and now it has to fire four guns. If the manufacturers had known at the beginning that we wanted the aeroplane to carry four guns, the problem could probably have been solved in the early stages. Now an entirely new wing and practically a new aircraft has to be built. I believe this reform is long overdue, and I hope that the reorganisation I have suggested will take place.
Someone said in another place a few days ago that co-operation between the three Services was on the increase. From what I have heard, I do not believe it is on the increase at all. We have the Joint Services Staff College and also the Imperial Defence College, but they deal with the higher level. We want cooperation between the three Services at a much lower level. During the war I saw a squadron leader of a tank regiment 1074 in Italy able to talk directly from his tank to the aircraft above him and call down fire from that aircraft on to the enemy. I saw that organised, but most of it has now disappeared and we are back to the old inflexible method by which the message went to the division in the brigade; and in the end they usually bagged their own troops.
We shall not get proper co-operation unless we get it at cadet level. Let us have the Navy, Army and Air Force brought together in the cadet training stage of their careers, either at Sandhurst, Dartmouth or Cranwell, for a period of three weeks or a month, and let them be taught the elements of co-operation between the three Services.
The Home Secretary is not present, but I hope that in the very near future we shall get some indication of a realistic policy in regard to Civil Defence in the present situation as it would be affected by nuclear war. I shall not say more than that now because I should like a debate on Civil Defence to be arranged in the very near future in order that we can discuss the matter in greater detail and at greater length.
I end by saying that I wish the present holder of the office of Minister of Defence every fortune. I do not wish him to be denied promotion, but I do pray that he will be allowed to remain in his office for a considerable time in order to exterminate some of the "bugs" which now exist.
§ 6.35 p.m.
§ Mr. K. Zilliacus (Manchester, Gorton)
I will not follow the hon. and gallant Member for Worthing (Brigadier Prior-Palmer) in what he said, because I confess that the course of the debate so far—I do not wish to be offensive to any right hon. or hon. Member taking part in it—has filled me with a dreamlike sense of unreality. In the shadow of the hydrogen bomb, so much of what we are talking about has really very little relevance to what is likely to happen.
I want to deal with the fundamentals of whether or not our defence policy is based on a misapprehension of the elements of the problem, whether it is a hopeless failure or offers any hope whatever of preserving peace and preserving the solvency of this country, whether our statesmen know where they are going or present the melancholy spectacle, with 1075 due acknowledgement to Oscar Wilde's famous definition of foxhunting, of "the incorrigible in pursuit of the impossible." Are we meeting real dangers in defence policy or tilting at phantoms? Can we afford the cost, or is it bankrupting us? What are the assumptions and purposes underlying our defence policy?
I start with the point made quite a long time ago by Earl Attlee, then Leader of the Opposition, who expressed his endorsement of the view of the then Conservative Prime Minister,. the late Earl Baldwin, in a defence debate on 9th March, 1936. Earl Attlee said:The Prime Minister has rightly said that you cannot separate foreign policy from defence, and we do not separate foreign policy from defence. Defence is the result of foreign policy. Very often defence proposals show what is the reality of a foreign policy, and it is so in this case."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 9th March, 1936; Vol. 309, c. 1843.]I think that that is true in this case, also. I believe that our defence proposals impose an impossible economic burden on this country because our foreign policy is indefensible.
Again, I would refer to a statement by Earl Attlee, in his book, "The Labour Party in Perspective," in which he said:There is a deep difference of opinion between the Labour Party and the capitalist parties on foreign as well as home policy because the two cannot be separated. The foreign policy of a Government is the reflection of its internal policy.That, too, I believe, to be true and relevant to our situation today. We are going bankrupt because our foreign policy compels us to attempt the impossible in the way of defence commitments and expenditure. Defence stands with its feet in our economic situation and its head in our foreign policy. I want to examine whether the feet are standing on solid ground and whether the head is screwed on right.
In the first place, I am afraid there is no doubt that we are losing the arms race. To make that point, I would recall the declaration by the right hon. Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill) at Fulton, Missouri, on 4th March, 1946. I remember the exact words. The right hon. Member said:We do not want a quivering, precarious balance of power, but an overwhelming assurance of strengthmeaning an overwhelming preponderance of power. He thought that the American 1076 monopoly of the atomic bomb gave us, or could give us, that overwhelming preponderance of power.
Time moved on, and on 1st March last year, in the defence debate, the right hon. Member for Woodford pointed out that the Western Powers now conceded decisive superiority in conventional arms to the Soviet bloc and relied for maintaining that quivering, precarious balance of power, which he had previously said we do not want, on our lead in nuclear weapons. The right hon. Member then observed that he thought that the lead was short and would disappear in, at most, three or four years, and probably in a shorter time.
Time moved on again, for about ten months, and on 25th January this year, at Caxton Hall, the Minister of State pointed out that we had virtually reached saturation point already in hydrogen bombs, the eventuality that the right hon. Member for Woodford a year ago said would take us three or four years to reach. I recall the definition of "saturation point" in Low's cartoon of the N.A.T.O. general staff officer explaining triumphantly to some rather puzzled-looking civilians:It is all right, we shall win. Victory is ours, because we have ten times as many hydrogen bombs as are necessary to wipe the enemy off the face of the earth and he has only three times as many as are necessary to wipe us off the face of the earth.That is the meaning of saturation in hydrogen bombs.
The latest and, I think, quite authoritative statement of the position today is contained in this morning's The Times, in a long letter by Mr. Jules Menken. He is, I believe, regarded as an expert in these matters. Granting his political premises, I think the logic of his military argument is irrefutable. Of course, I do not accept his political premises because I am fundamentally opposed to our foreign policy. But those who do accept his premises should ponder his words.
To begin with, Mr. Menken says:The truth is that we have no adequate defence against the main dangers confronting us, nor do plans exist for adequate defence in the relevantly near future.…Consider deterrence, the foundation of our defence strategy. We seek first and foremost to prevent global war by the threat of overwhelming nuclear retaliation. But has the Anglo-American retaliatory threat the strength needed to achieve this? The British contribution alone 1077 certainly has not.…Existing American fortes and arrangements cannot redress this balance.That is the ground on which Mr. Trevor Gardner, in charge of that side of American defence, recently resigned, because he said that much more money needed to be spent and much higher priority should be given to this aspect of defence.
Mr. Menken's letter continues:The Defence White Paper says that the deterrent must include the ability of the forces of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation to hold the line by land, sea, and air until the nuclear counter-offensive has broken the back of the enemy assault.' But on February 23 General Gruenther said at Guildford that N.A.T.O. is not now strong enough to repel an act of aggression, and that he could not give an assurance that a Soviet invasion could be repelled…Against this background it should be plain that there is no room for further cuts in expenditure on defence. The contrary is the case; we have gone so far that our weakness puts us in the gravest peril. What is now needed is that we should recognise our danger and make the sustained effort needed to survive.According to the New York Herald-Tribune, at the N.A.T.O. conference last December S.H.A.P.E.—the General Staff of N.A.T.O.—reported that in order to complete their defence programme, the N.A.T.O. Powers would have to come close to doubling their defence budgets. The New York Herald-Tribune said that this idea was quietly shelved by the Governments because they thought their peoples would not stand for the idea. They showed a certain sense of realism in that respect anyway.
The Economist, last November, was on the same topic in the same sense. Then there was the report a few days ago in the New York Herald-Tribune from the Alsop brothers, who are fairly high-powered specialists in the inner workings of the State Department and the Pentagon, whose Washington reports generally give a fairly good picture of what is going on behind the scenes and who are, of course, strong supporters of the present policy.
This is how the Alsop brothers reported in the New York Herald-Tribune of 24th February as to official impressions in Washington of the recent Soviet Congress:The Soviet rulers are now genuinely and absolutely confident of their position.…Observers on the spot, like Ambassador 1078 Charles E. Bohlen, and Soviet experts in this country, agree that this remarkable self-confidence was the real hallmark of the 20th Congress of the Soviet Communist Party last week in Moscow. As Kruschev and his colleagues look about them, they can be pardoned for self-congratulation. Their home political base is wholly secure. They have in China a dependable and increasingly powerful ally. All Asia is leaning their way as Paul Hoffman has just sadly warned, so that there is now solid basis for Kruschev's boast that the majority of the population of our plant' is on their side. As Trevor Gardner has also warned, there is not the slightest doubt that the Soviets are now threatening to surpass us, not only in missiles, but in the whole area of air-atomic power. Finally, the Soviet Union is now most seriously challenging the supposedly unchallengeable industrial might of the United States.Of course, Mr. Dulles announced in an impulsive moment that the Congress showed the failure of Soviet policies; but it would be misleading to call Mr. Dulles a wishful thinker. A "wishful believer" or "wishful talker" would be nearer the mark. There is no doubt, I am afraid, that we are losing the arms race.
Let us now turn to the cold war. The Defence White Paper says in page 4:Apart from preventing global war we have to be prepared for the continuance of the cold war; that is, the constant and world-wide threat of Communist penetration short of direct military aggression.We are losing in this field, too. Men's minds are turning away from us. They are not turning to adherence to the Soviet bloc but are turning towards the idea of national independence, of being unattached to either bloc. That is largely because the Government's policy and American policy—mostly American policy, I think—of relying largely on military means and on alliances is giving to the Communist Powers and to the Communist parties what I call a monopoly of the international performing rights so far as three of the most powerful forces in the modern world are concerned.
Those forces are the idea of social justice and social progress, the idea of national independence, and the idea of peace. As regards social justice and social progress, if one reads a list of the names of our allies, clients and dependants in the Far East, Middle East and Europe, they read like a roll-call of reaction. In the Far East there are Syngman Rhee, Chiang Kai-shek, Ngo Dinh Diem, the Siamese Monarchy, and the Right in Japan; in the Middle East 1079 reactionary dictatorships in Iraq and Iran, a semi-dictatorship in Turkey and the Arab sheikhdoms; in Europe, Franco Spain, the Right in France, Germany, Italy and Greece.
What is happening in Europe alone? Let us look at what we have done to France. The United States kept France fighting for seven years in Indo-China when the French wanted peace. Before that, the Americans, by insisting that their so-called humanitarian aid should be given on condition that Communists should form no part of the French Government, disfranchised to all intents and purposes the greater part of the French working class. That threw the political centre of gravity so far to the right in France that subsequent Governments have been unable to tackle the social problems of France and have gone in for imperialist policies both in Indo-China and in North Africa. We destroyed the Mendès-France Government by bullying and threatening it until we pushed it into signing the Paris Agreements; that wrecked the Mendès-France Government.
§ Mr. Speaker
I think that this is getting rather far away from the Statement on Defence. The hon. Member seems to be talking about French politics, which I think is rather remote from the subject that is before the House.
§ Mr. Zilliacus
Very well, Mr. Speaker, I shall drop that.
Within the general framework of the fact that the West as a whole is losing the arms race and the cold war, what is our own position? Frankly, I think that we are a little ahead of the others in the Gadarene stakes. Pending perfection of the absolute weapon which will put us all in the same happy situation, we have already achieved a position of absolute insecurity. Others may be approaching and may have virtually reached saturation in hydrogen bombs. We are already long past immersion point. We are already six fathoms deep and still going down, because this island is totally indefensible against hydrogen bombs. Four or five hydrogen bombs or hydrogen-uranium bombs would make this land uninhabitable, and there are already medium-range rockets in existence which could deliver the hydrogen bombs within the distance required.
1080 At the N.A.T.O. Conference, in December, 1954, a S.H.A.P.E. general staff officer gave it as his opinion that a nuclear war would be over in thirty days and that this country could not last more than thirty hours. In that he was exaggerating. Air Chief Marshal Sir Philip Joubert, writing in John Bull on 17th September last had this to say:Earlier this summer the air forces of N.A.T.O. carried out a test of their ability to defend Europe against a full-scale attack with atomic weapons. The test was very satisfactory. It confirmed, in military detail, what we all knew in general terms, that a European war fought with these weapons would be ' short and horrible.' The vital thing that the exercise showed was just how short such a war would be. It was clearly demonstrated that one or other of the opposing forces would be destroyed within a few days, and that the result would have been decided even earlier. For this view there is the authority of the Chief of Operations, Allied Air Forces Central Europe, Air Commodore P. G. Wykeham-Barnes. He said that, had the number of atomic attacks simulated been real, one of the combatants would have suffered fatal damage within two days.
§ Mr. Osborne
Would the hon. Member please tell us what he thinks himself about these matters instead of reading so many extracts from the opinions of other people?
§ Mr. Zilliacus
At the moment I am rubbing the noses of hon. Members opposite in the mess they have made. It is an unpleasant operation, but salutary. I will come to my own conclusions soon enough, and the hon. Member will not like them.
Not only are we in this country wholly incapable of being defended, but we are liable to be wiped out at any moment by accident, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Blyth (Mr. Robens) pointed out yesterday, whenever a clumsy fanatic, in trying to win the cold war, prances to the brink of war once too often and tumbles over. In that case humanity will go out with a bang and not a whimper.
Then I suppose that Mr. Dulles and the other great statesmen responsible for this regrettable little accident will appear before the Pearly Gates with the classic excuse of the clumsy "skivvy" in Edwardian comedy and say, "Please Sir, the world came to pieces in me 'and like." When they do, they will find themselves translated to another place and spending eternity in a climate that will make the temperatures generated by the hydrogen 1081 bombs they released on earth appear cool in comparison.
We, pending this exhilarating prospect, are stumbling towards economic ruin under the load of armaments; and that brings me to the question of cost. The Statement on Defence devotes a section to that subject. But before I come to it I want to relate it to the economic background. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, opening the debate on the economic situation on 20th February, said:…I regard the situation as serious, and as one which easily might become dangerous…"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 20th February, 1956; Vol. 549, c. 44.]My right hon. Friend the Member for Blyth pointed out yesterday that, pending the consummation of the hydrogen bomb,…the financial and the economic burdens imposed by defence and the cold war are a major cause of the mounting cost of living and the widening trade gap."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 27th February, 1956; Vol. 549, c. 845.]We might also recall the words of Sir William Beveridge, as he then was, in his famous Report on social security, which was the basis of social legislation after the war. He said that the whole thing rested on certain fundamental assumptions. He said that the first assumption and the first condition for freedom from want after the war was that "the world after the war was one in which the nations set themselves to co-operate for production and peace rather than to plot mutual destruction by war, whether open or concealed."
Against this background, let us look at what the Statement on Defence says about the economic situation. Page 5 of the White Paper states:…the burden of defence cannot be allowed to rise to a level which would endanger our economic future…I contend that it has already surpassed that level and is endangering our economic future. An expenditure of £1,500 million a year on defence works out at nearly 13s. a week for every man, woman and child, from the baby in the cradle to the old-age pensioner. It represents over one-third of the total Budget and is a hideous burden.
The White Paper states:This burden does not consist only in the effect of high defence expenditure on the general level of taxation, important though that is Defence production falls in the main upon the metal and metal-using industries, 1082 which supply about half our exports and are of great importance in the re-equipment of British industry. They thus play a vital rôle in strengthening our balance of payments.The peace-time production and exports of our engineering industries are in direct competition for materials, labour, skill, machinery and all the rest with the armaments industry. We are not exporting enough engineering goods to make ends meet.
The next point made in the White Paper, and a subdivision, as it were, of the one which I have just quoted is:The claims of defence research must be balanced against the competing claims on our limited resources of scientific manpower.We have only one-tenth of the scientists we need. Moreover, the manufacture of the hydrogen bomb is absorbing most of our available nuclear fission materials which are sorely needed for use in reactor stations and atomic power plants, which are a most valuable and promising future line of export if we can only get in on the ground floor with them.
All this imposes a great strain on our balance of payments position, our labour, manpower and resources. The Chancellor of the Exchequer also said on 20th February:The real danger to our economy is in the fact that our money income persistently outruns our production…This is far the biggest reason why prices have never ceased to rise under all Governments…"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 20th February, 1956; Vol. 549, c. 58.]I received a reply from the Minister of Defence to the effect that the total sum spent on wages, salaries and allowances of men and women in the Forces and their dependants is £272 million a year. I could not get a reply from the Chancellor on the equivalent sum for the men and women and their dependants engaged in war industries, so one has to make a rough estimate. It is fairly plain, however, that even on a conservative estimate the figure cannot be less than £300 million—and £272 million and £300 million, total £572 million.
From this we may deduct the amount—£70 million to £80 million—bought by America in off-shore purchases. That leaves us with £500 million a year of wages, salaries and allowances of men and women in the Forces and in the war industries. This huge sum comes on to the home market as a demand for goods and services by people who are not producing any economic goods or services in 1083 return. In other words, it constitutes a massive inflationary pressure which is irresistible.
We cannot afford our present share of the arms race and the cold war. The burden of defence is so tremendous that we are sinking deeper and deeper into the economic quagmire under its weight. The Government and the Opposition must face the fact that no Government, however good their intentions and however able and energetic they may be, can stop the rise in prices or close the trade gap until we slash the defence budget, release men, materials and machinery on a large scale for civilian production from the Armed Forces and the war industries. and until we break down the barriers between East-West trade, because in the Eastern countries are some of the best markets for our heavy engineering goods.
We must make our standard of living, our social services and our solvency our first line of defence, because, if that line goes, it does not really help us very much to have a lot of armaments. It is as though one equipped a man with heavy armour and then starved him until he collapsed under the weight—he would not be much use as a fighting man in those conditions. We must give that first line of defence priority over arms when it comes to expenditure and commitments. We must stop wasting our substance and science on making hydrogen bombs. They are useless for defence, and the amount we can make will deter nothing and nobody except our own chances of economic survival.
In any case, since there is so much talk about deterrents, we cannot deter an accident. All we can do with the hydrogen bomb is to make sure that, when the accident occurs, it will be fatal. If, as I believe, fear and suspicion are the driving force behind both sides, the more we pile up arms, the more we increase fear and suspicion, and the more we increase the danger of war.
We must cut our defence coat according to our economic cloth and the H-bomb line. We on this side of the House have to face the fact that we cannot have a Welfare State in a warfare world. Our dreams of changing the world and making it a better place will remain dreams, and our programmes for domestic policy will remain paper pro 1084 grammes, unless we have a policy for ending the cold war and the arms race; that is, for making peace.
What is the possibility of that? Do we really have to stagger on under these burdens? Is all this really necessary? I think not. I think the situation is less gloomy than I have painted it. In the first place, let me remind the House that the level of armaments today does not represent any cool, exact calculation. The first big wave of rearmament after the war was let loose by President Truman's message to Congress in March, 1948, when he drew a gloomy and horrifying picture of what he called the clear design of the Soviet Union to overrun large parts of Europe.
§ Mr. Ian Harvey
The first big wave of rearmament after the war was when the Soviet Union did not disarm and the rest of the world did.
§ Mr. Zilliacus
Since the hon. Gentleman has raised the point, may I point out that at the end of the war the Soviet Union had 12 million men under arms. According to the statements made in this House by the then Secretary of State for War, he first estimated the figure, three or four years later, at 2,600,000 and later it was increased to 4 million, I do not know on what principle. Even accepting the higher figure, however, if there had been no demobilisation in Russia there must have been an abnormally high death rate in the Red Army to account for the figures falling from 12 million to 4 million in a few years.
The point about the 1948 wave of rearmament was that in October, 1948, the same autumn, there was a Congressional committee of investigation into government organisation in the United States. This reported under the chairmanship of Mr. Ferdinand Eberstadt, who was the head of the Army and Navy Munitions Board during the war. This report sharply condemned the American Intelligence Service, particularly the Air Intelligence Service, for turning in alarmist, misleading and tendentious reports, attributing to the Soviet Union the design to do the things that the intelligence officer estimated it had the physical capacity to do. It was on the basis of these misleading, alarmist, propagandist reports that the first great wave of rearmament was launched.
§ Mr. Zilliacus
The second big wave of rearmament was in 1951, at the time of the Korean war, when there was a big American panic—
§ Commander J. W. Maitland (Horncastle)
The hon. Gentleman has missed the most important point, namely, the events leading up to the Berlin airlift. Surely the airlift indicated the need to rearm.
§ Mr. Zilliacus
if hon. Gentlemen opposite wish to traverse with me all those questions, I am prepared to take them on, but if they will wait I will mention Czechoslovakia and Berlin in passing. I could argue the point out over every one, but it would take too long. However, I will take on hon. Gentlemen opposite in any debate anywhere outside the House, if they wish.
The second wave of rearmament was after the Korean war when the Americans panicked and thought that this meant the beginning of a general policy of military advance in all directions by the Soviet Union. In the heat of that panic the Labour Government were pressed by the Americans into attempting an arms budget of £4,700 million in three years. Afterwards, the Conservative Government sensibly lopped off about £1,000 million of that sum after they came into office. Incidentally, this disposes of the shibboleth that it is impossible to carry out any unilateral disarmament. I do not think that we are likely to get much disarmament until states yield to economic necessities and to political common sense in that respect.
The great point is that Western statesmen are today agreed that the main challenge from Communism is a political, economic and social, not a military challenge. Obviously, the more we load ourselves with armaments, the less able we are to meet the challenge in those other fields.
1086 I will quote two opinions on that matter to show where we stand. First, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford said in this House on 30th November, 1950:…the years that have followed our victory have brought enormous increases of power and territory to Soviet Russia. In one form or another they have gained control of half Europe and all China without losing a single Russian soldier."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 30th November, 1950; Vol. 481, c. 1332.]Five years later, on 17th January this year, Vice-President Nixon in a speech in Philadelphia, almost echoed the words of the right hon. Member for Woodford:Since World War II the Communist conspiracy has added 600 million people and a quarter of the earth's territory to the area which it dominates. The significant fact about this accomplishment is that the gains were made without the loss of a single Russian soldier in combat. What it adds up to is that the major danger the free world faces today is not defeat in hot war but defeat in cold war—a cold war in which potential enemies, undeterred by any moral restraint. use political, economic and psychological and other tactics which are just as effective in taking over territory as armed aggression—and much less costly. This is the way the Communist nations operate.A man regarded in the United States as being a leading authority on the Soviet Union, Mr. G. F. Kennan, who used to be head of the Policy Planning Staff of the State Department and who was United States Ambassador in the Soviet Union, explained in some detail in September, 1954, in a book he published on "The Realities of American Foreign Policy," that to the best of his knowledge the Soviet Government had never used war as an instrument of national policy but that it relied on other means for the spread of Communism in the world.
In the Readers Digest of March, 1950, he expanded this a bit—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] These are some of the things about which hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite should know something, because they have a great deal to do with the money which we are spending on defence and the mess we are making of our foreign policy. He said:Stalinist doctrine does not demand war. On the contrary, it teaches that eventually capitalism will fall largely of its own weight, i.e., as a result of the ' inner contradictions' which the Communists believe it embodies. They see the rôle of Communism as one of hastening the collapse of capitalism and assisting, as a midwife, at the birth of the Socialist order.1087 But theyregard this as primarily the task of the native Communists in each country, and not of the Soviet Red Army.There is nothing in Stalinist doctrine which would make it necessarily the main responsibility of the Soviet Union themselves to overthrow capitalism everywhere by direct military action. This premise would actually seem illogical and improper, from the Communist point of view; for it would imply that capitalism, in the absence of such an attack, would be basically sound and capable of coping permanently with its own ' contradictions.' But this is exactly what good Marxists do not believe…political expansionism by means short of war has been the real Soviet programme since the conclusion of World War II During this period the Soviet Government has not taken one inch of land by outright military aggression.
§ Mr. John Hall (Wycombe)
Would the hon. Member like to tell the House what is the use of quoting Stalinist doctrine when Stalinism has been completely discredited in Russia today?
§ Mr. Speaker
I would remind the hon. Member and the House that there are many Members on both sides of the House who want to address the House on the subject of the White Paper. I hope that hon. Members who have the Floor will confine themselves to that as much as possible so as to give the others a chance.
§ Mr. Zilliacus
The point is that we are discussing the cold war. That is raised in the White Paper. The conclusion, which is important to our whole defence policy, is that the Soviet Union is undoubtedly as ruthless, selfish, unscrupulous and short-sighted in pursuing its ends as any other great Power, but it is no longer a revolutionary Power and pursues national ends, security ends and economic ends. It does not pursue ideological ends and certainly it does not contemplate risking any national interest, or making any national sacrifice, for the sake of the blue eyes of Communist parties in any other country.
§ Mr. Percy Daines (East Ham, North)
Before my hon. Friend leaves his quotations, can he give us one quotation from any of his speeches where he has supported Labour Party foreign policy?
§ Mr. Zilliacus
I am doing so at the moment. My hon. Friend, who is in complete contradiction to the policy of the Co-operative Party as well as the Conference decisions of the Labour Party, is 1088 hardly qualified to ask me that question. Before I finish he will have seen where I stand on Labour Party policy. To begin with, I should like to say that I agree wholeheartedly with and endorse the exposition of Labour Party foreign policy made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Blyth yesterday.
If what I have said about the Soviet Union is correct, it does reinforce my case that what we have to face in the cold war is mainly a political, social and economic challenge and not any direct, military danger. I believe that the real reason why we are spending these colossal sums on armaments is that our policy pursues essentially interventionist aims. I think that the Defence White Paper makes that unfortunately all too clear.
It speaks about combating Communist infiltration and subverters even when masquerading as nationalism. As expounded in S.E.A.T.O. and N.A.T.O., it is fairly plain that what we reserve the right to do, is to intervene by political, economic, diplomatic and even military means in the internal affairs of countries where we think that the social order is threatened, or being subverted, as we call it. There are no fine distinctions between external aggression and the operation of internal forces.
That is clearly the policy in the Declaration of Washington and the Potomac Charter. It is clear in the Government policy with regard to Germany and Formosa and is the real purpose for which we are asked in the Defence White Paper to supply arms and money. The Government are in flat opposition to the purposes for which the Labour Party is prepared to take risks and make sacrifices. The Labour Party is diametrically opposed to wrecking a European settlement for the sake of including a united Germany in a Western military alliance. The Labour Party is opposed to building up anti-Soviet positions of strength in the Middle East through the Bagdad Pact.
In both cases we want Soviet cooperation and partnership through the United Nations. We are opposed to being dragged into war to defend Chiang Kaishek's position in Formosa, whether or not the United Nations is used as a camouflage for that purpose. During the Morecambe and Margate Conferences, the Labour Party passed resolutions, endorsed by the National Executive, 1089 warning the party against supporting anti-working class forces in international affairs, against condemning the risings of oppressed peoples as Soviet inspired plots. It said:We strongly oppose any suggestion that the arms now being built up to deter aggression should be employed to impose on any other countries changes in Government or internal policies or to vary by force existing treaties.The Government cannot carry out their home policy on the economic field without the support of Labour, and the trade unions are already turning against it, because they do not like the attempt to defend the existing social order at the expense of the workers. Still less can the Government make the workers of this country sacrifice their standard of living in an arms budget of £1,500 million a year, in order to pay for a foreign policy that is making a mess of things and pursues purposes to which Labour is wholeheartedly opposed.
§ 7.18 p.m.
§ Mr. Julian Amery (Preston, North)
In the past, when Marshal Stalin ruled over the Soviet Union., I used to reflect that if the hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Zilliacus) had been a Soviet citizen, he would almost certainly have been shot for being what I think was termed a petty bourgeois Philistine. This rather sombre reflection used, I confess, to increase the respect which I had for the Soviet State, at least as an opponent. I now feel just a ray of hope, in the latest news from the Soviet Union, that the new flexibility which is beginning to manifest itself in Moscow might lead to people like the hon. Member arriving in commanding positions in the Soviet Union. If that should happen, the danger would be obviously greatly diminished.
The hon. Gentleman at least had the frankness to say that he differed from the fundamental assumptions of the White Paper. But, despite what he said about Labour policy in the concluding passage of his speech, my impression from the wording of the Amendment and from the speeches which we have had from the right hon. Member for Ipswich (Mr. Stokes) and the right hon. Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Bellenger), was that although they differed on a great many points of importance they did not disagree with the assumptions of the White Paper. They did not think that the 1090 danger was either greater or less than my right hon. and learned Friend presented it, nor did they differ about the importance of the general overall policy which our defence preparations are intended to serve. I hope I am right in having formed that impression. For my part, I should like to approach the problem by trying to see how far the preparations we are undertaking in fact match up to the policy and commitments we have, in the context of the danger as we see it today.
One of the great difficulties here is the lack of information available to the House on the subject which we are discussing. In the age of swollen staffs in which we live there are hundreds of officers and civil servants who have a great deal of official information on the subject of defence. There are a number of Allied officers who know about it and a lot of newspapermen know about it "off the record." If we ourselves took the trouble to dig and delve, no doubt we could get information for ourselves. But little information is made available officially to Members of Parliament. The difficulty is plain. Anything which is said in this House is public property and any documents laid on the Table in this House are public property. There are many things which Ministers could tell us in confidence which they would not care to have attributed to them officially.
In the United States and French Parliaments they get over this difficulty by having defence committees. The right hon. Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Bellenger) suggested that we should do the same thing here. We have never had that kind of party committee system trying to control the policy of a Minister. I wonder whether, instead, it might not be a good thing to revert to the suggestion which was made more than once by my right hon. Friend the Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill) when in opposition, that we should have a secret session of this House on questions of defence—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."] I leave that to others to decide.
I welcome the White Paper presented today, because it seems to me that the questions raised in the White Paper last year are beginning to receive the right answers, and that we are proceeding along the right lines with priorities. The White Paper is absolutely right in putting first priority on the construction of the great 1091 deterrent. Right hon. and hon. Members will remember that last year there was a great deal of criticism, not so much in this House as outside, in the Manchester Guardian, in the Economist and in other organs of opinion, against the decision to build the hydrogen bomb in this country. We do not hear very much of that nowadays, and I am glad that that particular line of criticism has been dropped.
I think that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister was absolutely right in insisting that we should build the hydrogen bomb, just as Earl Attlee was right during the period of his Government in insisting that we should build the atom bomb. For technical reasons it has become clear that we have to make the bomb ourselves because our American Allies are not prepared to give our Government the necessary information; indeed they are inhibited from doing so by their own laws. We have to make it too for military reasons because the timing and targets of British military action would not necessarily be always identical with those of our allies.
Above all, we have to make it for political reasons. This cold war on which we are embarked will probably last a long time and we cannot very much longer, if we mean to have any influence in the world, go on depending—as we have for the last ten years—entirely on the protective shield cast over us by our Allies. It is a question of whether we are to be an ally or a satellite. If we are to play our part in the world as a world Power, we have to make a worthy contribution.
The Economist this week contains some criticism of the idea emphasised in the White Paper that Britain must preserve her standing as a world Power—
§ Mr. Amery
And in the Manchester Guardian.
Yet it would seem that the hydrogen bomb, when we have it, will make us a world Power again. The atom bomb rather put us out of the race because only big territorial expanses like the United States or the Soviet Union could stand up to atom-bombing and hope to survive. We should have been obliterated very quickly. But the 1092 hydrogen bomb is a great leveller. It cancels out the disparity between populations and big areas of territory and smaller ones. It would be just as dangerous for the Soviet Union or the United States to incur thermo-nuclear bombardment as it would be for us. We are thus once again, or we shall be, so far as defence is concerned, in the front rank of the Powers. Quality will take the place of quantity again. It may also be that thermo-nuclear power could be applied to industry as well as defence. Our power for destruction will then be matched by a power for construction which will put us back on a level with the other two great Powers in the economic as well as the defence sphere.
Certain things follow from the decision to build the bomb. The first is that, if we build the bomb, we must test it. I remember that during the war I was sent on an operation and given a pistol. I had never fired a pistol before and it seemed to me a most fearful weapon. Had I had to use it, I am sure that I should have fumbled the operation, but. fortunately, I did not have to. Nothing could be more foolish than to build the bomb and not try it out. I am rather sceptical about whether disarmament can be anything except the consequence of agreement, but on one thing I am clear; nothing could be more foolish than to spend money and devote energy and brains to the building of a weapon and then not try it out.
I can understand people like the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) being opposed to the testing of tine bomb because the hon. Member is against building the bomb itself. But the fact that responsible leaders of the party opposite who are in favour of possessing the bomb have officially asked that it should not be tested in this country has seemed to reveal an irresistible outlook—
§ Mr. Amery
If I did, I am glad that the hon. Member has given me a chance to correct myself. I meant by this country not in it. I was reflecting on a 1093 statement made some months ago by Earl Attlee that we should not have it tested.
The second consequence of the decision to build the bomb is that we must have the means to deliver it. I wish to ask whichever of my right hon. Friends will reply whether he can tell us if the statement of Mr. Menken in The Times is true or not, the statement that we have not got a bomber of sufficiently long range to carry this dangerous weapon to essential targets. If that is not the case I think it should be denied. I trust that we shall go ahead with the manufacture of ballistic missiles, with American cooperation if we can get it or without if we cannot.
Perhaps one of my right hon. Friends could tell the House whether the right hon. Member for Blyth (Mr. Robens) was correct yesterday when he said that an intercontinental ballistic missile would be in production in eighteen months. I understood that the time gap was longer. Could we also be told whether there is any truth in the statement recently made in Washington that there is an intermediate missile with a range of about 1,500 miles already in the possession of the Soviet Union? The hon. Member for Islington, North (Mr. Fienburgh)—I am sorry he is not in the Chamber—in an article at the week-end, deprecated the construction of long-range ballistic missiles in this country on the grounds of expense. I consider that it is no use having the great deterrent unless we have the means of delivering it.
I wish, however, to make one suggestion about how the expense might be diminished. It is prompted by the problem of paying for our Forces in Germany which looks like being cast on us, if not this year at any rate soon. If we look at it as a matter of economics the effect of keeping troops in Germany is that of an invisible import into this country amounting to some £70 million. The financial burden is not too great, but what is excessive is the burden it casts on the balance of payments. How can that be put right? In terms of economy it could be put right by sending four German divisions to this country. But that would serve no strategic purpose of any use.
Therefore, I should like to put the question—I do not want to be dogmatic; perhaps I have not thought out its implications sufficiently carefully—whether 1094 it would not be possible for the Germans to place armament orders with the British, French and American industries of an equivalent amount to the expenditure that we shall incur by keeping our troops in Germany. Might it not be well to form a kind of European armaments pool under the Western European Union in which French and German capital and technique could, along with our own, help in the development of some of these new strategic weapons? No doubt the Germans would require their share of the weapons that were made, but the production at least might be located rather further from the point of danger than it otherwise might be in years to come when new forces may come to the top in Germany.
A third consequence of the decision to build the hydrogen bomb in this country is that we must have bases from which it can be delivered. It is no use having bombs without bases. We need them both for launching the great deterrent and for supporting our Allies in the pacts which we have joined—for example, N.A.T.O., the South-East Asia Pact and the Bagdad Pact. Where the North Atlantic Treaty is concerned, we have the bases in this country; but what about the position in South-East Asia?
Hitherto, our presence in South-East Asia has been based upon Malaya, which in a comparatively short time is to become a sovereign dominion. I am confident that we shall get good co-operation in defence from the new Malayan Government and, no doubt, defence facilities in Malaya. Nevertheless, it might be a good thing if in that important region, from which comes most of the world's rice and most of the tin and rubber, and where the Indian and Pacific Oceans come together, we had a purely British base. I am not suggesting what that base should be—I have no definite ideas—but I should like an assurance that the defence authorities are considering where, outside Malaya, such a base might be established.
Nothing is more dangerous than to fail to co-ordinate colonial policy, foreign policy and defence policy. Certain consequences flow from the decision to give dominion status to Malaya. We must ensure that the defence consequences of that decision are faced and that something is done to meet the need which is created.
1095 The position in the Middle East is rather more complicated. Paragraph 33 of the White Paper states:With the redeployment of our Forces from the Canal Zone it has been possible to make progress with the build-up of the Strategic Reserve in this country. Its strength at any one time will, of course, depend on variations in our overseas commitments. We have recently, for example, reinforced the Middle East, and it is precisely this kind of requirement which the Strategic Reserve is designed to meet.That seems to be a very nice way of saying that the decision to evacuate Suez has been a failure and that we have had to send troops back to the Middle East, having first sent them away from it, so as to meet the new crises that have arisen in Cyprus, Jordan and Aden as a direct result of the decision to evacuate Egypt. I certainly do not want to spend very long in saying, "I told you so," but I think that if the Egyptian and Sudanese Agreements were presented to the House again, a great many hon. and right hon. Members on both sides would have second thoughts.
It is no use crying over spilt milk. The question we have to ask ourselves is whether the damage which has been done to the stability of Equatorial Africa by events in the Sudan and to the stability of the Middle East by the evacuation of the Suez Canal Zone is beyond repair. It may well be—I hope it will not come to this—that if the infiltration of Russian influence into Egypt goes further and becomes paramount we shall be compelled with our American Allies to go back into the Canal Zone. The only purpose of recrimination is to prevent the repetition of error. We must not repeat the Egyptian error in those other bases that we still have.
In that respect, I want to say a brief word about Cyprus. In the foreign affairs debate yesterday, the right hon. Member for Blyth spoke with great restraint on the subject of Cyprus, but he made his position perfectly clear by referring to a statement by his right hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths), the burden of which, I believe, was that the party opposite wished to see self-determination granted to Cyprus after a period of years. I think it right, therefore, that those of us who take a different view should make our position plain.
1096 For my part, it seems to me that in the foreseeable future we cannot give up control of either defence or foreign affairs in Cyprus; nor can we abandon the ultimate control of internal security in the island or concede self-government without safeguards for the Turkish minority among the Cypriot people.
Two things are at stake in Cyprus. First, there is the ability of this country to influence affairs in the Middle East and to protect our communications and our oil reserves. The second is the confidence of our Turkish, Iraqi and other Allies in that part of the world. I think that if they were to see one more retreat by British power in the Eastern Mediterranean, that confidence would go and we might well lose their support.
Cyprus is our last position in the Eastern Mediterranean, and until one reaches Aden and the Persian Gulf there in no other. I take this opportunity of welcoming the decision of the Government to send a battalion to Aden and of congratulating them upon the resolute action they have taken in defence of our interests in the Persian Gulf, particularly around Buraimi. I hope that the Government will continue to make the maintenance of a balance of armaments in the Persian Gulf a high priority equivalent in importance to their equally proper decision to maintain a balance of arms in the Eastern Mediterranean.
§ Mr. Crossman
Did I understand the hon. Member to say that, in his view, if Communist influence in Egypt increased, we and the Americans should then return to the Suez base? How would that be done under the Agreement that we have just signed with the Egyptians, which does not give any right to reactivate the base merely because of political changes in Egypt?
§ Mr. Amery
Let me finish my reply. All I said—I repeat it to make it quite clear—is that if the situation in the Middle East were to deteriorate seriously as a result of Communist influence becoming paramount in Egypt, I think we 1097 would have no alternative but to go back into the Canal Zone. I make the hon. Member a present of that view.
§ Mr. Amery
Let me pass from the Middle East and considerations of broader strategy to the state of our ground forces. In my view, we cannot have ground forces prepared to meet every contingency. They cannot be prepared to fight a thermo-nuclear war, a cold war and local wars without involving an enormous burden of expense. This is largely recognised in the White Paper. On the other hand, it would be foolish to believe that we could rely solely on the great deterrent and have no adequate ground forces. Unless we have ground forces, the great deterrent would be found to be so rigid and inflexible a weapon that it could only be used in face of a major attack and would be of little use against minor encroachments.
What is needed, therefore, is a substantial ground force, first, to prevent territorial encroachments, and, secondly, to gain time, if there should be a local war, to get the local issue settled peacefully before it developed into a full-scale global war. How large should those ground forces be? The larger they are, the bigger is the cushion protecting us, in the event of a local attack, from having to use the great deterrent. If we cannot find the necessary number of men, we can, to some extent, make up for the absence of men by the use of tactical nuclear weapons. It has been said in this debate—I think with truth—that a hard and fast line cannot be drawn between tactical nuclear weapons and strategical nuclear weapons. Nevertheless, the sole object of ground forces in the kind of situation which I have described is really to gain time, and the employment of tactical nuclear weapons will not necessarily at once release strategic nuclear retaliation.
Are our present ground forces strong enough for the tasks ahead? General Gruenther has said definitely that the N.A.T.O. forces in Europe are not, and I think that here there are some questions which we must ask from our allies. I understand that the American divisions are under strength. Our French Allies have built what is called the light division, which is really rather lighter than any of us expected.
1098 I do not want to say anything which will embarrass the French in their great difficulties in North Africa, but we have to think whether there will come a time in the next year or two when we shall be able to build up on the Continent of Europe the kind of strength which General Gruenther regards as adequate to perform the function of an effective screen. I would be the last person to advocate that the four divisions which we have in Germany should be withdrawn, but we have a right to ask our Allies to make a better contribution in building up the kind of system which General Gruenther has advocated.
I should like to say one thing in reply to the right hon. Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Bellenger). I understood him to say that he thought that if we could withdraw some of our Forces in Germany, that would help us to reduce the period of National Service, and that the fact that the French were very busy in North Africa and had had to send some of their forces there might give us the pretext for doing so. I think it would be unworthy of this country to try to curry favour with the electorate here at home by running out of our obligations. At the same time, I should like to refute altogether the curious insinuation that we were preparing to abolish National Service on the eve of the next Election. I do not think that either party in this House would stoop to that level of irresponsibility.
On the question of whether we have sufficient ground forces, it seems to me that the strategic reserve is slowly being formed, but is still quite inadequate for the obligations which we have accepted, either under the Bagdad Pact or the South-East Asia Treaty Organisation. It may be that, as the difficulties in Kenya and Malaya diminish, the strategic reserve will grow, but I feel that at present it would be absolutely premature to talk about abolishing National Service.
The British people have been extraordinarily patient in this matter, and it says a great deal for their public spirit and their inherent imperial instincts that they have put up with sacrifices and casualties and long periods of overseas service without grumbling. We have had none of that kind of "Bring the boys home" agitation of the United States, or the much more serious mutinies in France 1099 in protest against sending conscripts to North Africa. It would be the height of irresponsibility to raise hopes now which may only be disappointed.
I also believe that it is not very wise to think in terms of cutting the period of National Service. After all, National Service is required at present, as the White Paper explains, not so much to build up a reserve as to meet existing commitments. The right hon. Member for Bassetlaw argued that these commitments were diminishing very fast, but I am not at all sure that they are. I think that we must in logic and in all elementary prudence regard it as possible that they will grow again very fast. Nor do I think that we should set about deliberately reducing our commitments, because I think that the economic consequences of doing so might be infinitely greater than the small savings which might be made in the term of National Service.
There are other ways of easing the strain on our manpower, and here I welcome the decision to create an emergency brigade for meeting guerilla warfare. I should like to ask one question about that. I hope that recruitment for that emergency brigade will be rather distinct from recruitment for the rest of the Army. I believe that there are many men in the country who do not want to be Regular soldiers, but who would be interested in being Regular irregulars. We should also look again at the question of raising rather more colonial troops. I know that there are now two major objections to that proposal.
The first is political. It is argued that the Colonial Territories are becoming sovereign so fast that we might be spending money on the training and equipment of troops which we could not use. The Central African Federation is virtually a dominion, but it has sent a battalion to help in Malaya, and I think we could rely on the same thing applying to East Africa. In West Africa, the situation may be different, although I think that the Governments there will send us to help them to build up defence forces, and, in return for that help, they might well be prepared to allow us the use of some of those forces. It is not a thing to be done very fast, but I should like to see at any rate a pilot scheme in an attempt to create a new division in East and Central Africa.
1100 The other objection to the proposal is that it would call for too many officers and N.C.Os. Here again, as in the case of the emergency brigade, I believe that a quite different type of man would volunteer for service in the Colonial Army than would be attracted into the Regular Army. The Regular Army in Europe is becoming increasingly scientific, whereas in Africa there would still be some of the attraction which the old Indian Army used to possess.
§ Mr. Wigg
Surely, the hon. Gentleman must have overlooked the fact that there was a Conference in Lagos in 1953—Colonial Paper No. 304—which recognised the inability of the British Army to train officers for West African units, and suggested the fruitful idea of having a Commonwealth Sandhurst in Africa to train West African officers. Literally, nothing has been done about that, although the Opposition pressed the Government time and time again. What is the good of the hon. Gentleman coming along now and talking in this airy-fairy way about West African forces?
§ Mr. Amery
I do not see why the hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) should seek to restrain me from pressing what I and some of my hon. Friends have desired, but to which effect has never been given. I have every right to express that opinion in this House.
I have only one other suggestion to make for reducing the strain on our manpower, and that is a considerable increase in Transport Command. There is much to be said for placing Transport Command under the general umbrella of the Air Ministry, but under a civilian chief who would perhaps be in rather closer touch with the War Office and be more prepared to fight for the strength of Transport Command than an R.A.F. officer is likely to be, in view of the rather different priorities accorded to its different branches. If all these matters could be satisfactorily dealt with—the creation of an emergency brigade; more colonial forces and a better Transport Command—then and only then, and with the further proviso that Regular recruiting improves, would it be possible safely to reconsider the question of National Service.
1101 To sum up, the question is, how far do our preparations match our policy and our commitments? I welcome the decision to make and test the hydrogen bomb, and I am glad that we are making some progress towards achieving the means of delivering it efficiently. I should like an answer to the question of the range of our bombers, and also in relation to the progress we are making with the ballistic missile. I hope that we at last realise the importance of holding on to our remaining bases in the Middle East and in South-East Asia if we are to have a global British Commonwealth strategy. My only doubt is whether it is really wise, until we know more about the results of the recent pay and pensions increases, to plan deliberately for a run-down of the Army by 1958. I know that we are living in a time of continued economic difficulties, but security is infinitely more important than prosperity.
§ 7.51 p.m.
§ Mr. Michael Stewart (Fulham)
Every year, when we discuss this subject of defence, we are brought again to a realisation of the horror which now faces mankind, and we endeavour to make ourselves believe that the combination of defence expenditure and foreign and colonial policies will enable us to keep the peace of the world, to preserve freedom for ourselves and our friends and Allies who now enjoy it and perhaps, ultimately, to turn the energies of mankind into more productive channels. Those, at any rate, should be the aims of our defence, foreign and colonial policies, and to those aims it is our foreign and colonial policies—which we are not discussing today—which contribute most directly.
It is by the exercise of patience, firmness and imagination in foreign policy, and by the demonstration—especially by imperial Powers—of justice and generosity in colonial policy, that we can hope to have a world sufficiently well-disposed towards us to give us some chance of living in peace. We have to recognise, however, that those foreign and colonial policies have to be conducted at present in a world in which we are constantly hampered and injured by the determined attempts of Communist forces to prevent those policies, whatever they may be, from having any success.
When my hon. Friend the Member for Gorton (Mr. Zilliacus) was describing the 1102 various steps of Western rearmament after the war, I think we were all struck by the fact that those various steps had inevitably followed successive acts of Communist aggression. We are faced with this Communist force, with its implacable determination to extend its power by whatever means seem most appropriate at a given moment. The purpose of defence expenditure is simply to prevent us from being completely overrun and deprived of our power and liberties in the world, and to give us a chance to pursue the kind of foreign and colonial policies which may ultimately make the world a better place. That is the picture into which the whole subject of defence expenditure has to be placed.
The essentials of defence itself, as are made clear now—some of us would say "at last"—in the Statement, are only two in number. One is the hydrogen-bomb deterrent, and the other the capacity to use effective forces upon a limited scale over a very wide range of places all over the world. Several of my hon. Friends have been saying that for a considerable time. It might just as well have been said in last year's Statement on Defence as in this. It is good to find that this year's Statement has at least got as far as grasping the first essentials of the problem.
I do not use the word "deterrent" glibly, or without recognition of its frightful implications. In 1945, this country and her Allies were parties to the dropping of atomic bombs upon Japan, but if, at that time, we had known that Japan was in a position to retaliate similarly upon us, should we have been more or less likely to drop atomic bombs upon her? We all know the answer to that question; we should have been very much less likely to do so. Nobody could question that, and nobody could question, ugly as the conclusion is, that if we were in a position to retaliate with hydrogen bombs we should be less likely to be made the victims of attack.
That is not at all a happy situation; it is a measure of the dreadful political incapacity of human beings as a whole. But it is a fact at the moment, and it is a fact upon which we have to base our defence arrangements. The making of the deterrent; the arranging for its delivery and for Armed Forces capable of dealing with a cold or limited war— 1103 all these problems present us with a very heavy bill. That bill now amounts to one-tenth of the annual gross national income. The disquieting fact—and nothing yet said in this debate has done anything to remove that disquiet—is that we are paying out this considerable sum of money but are not getting what, upon assumptions agreed by us all, are the essentials of defence.
I do not propose to give more than one example of that fact; it is an example which must have been in all our minds since we heard the Minister's speech. I think that we were all astounded at the Minister's appearance and his words at the Box in connection with the subject of aircraft production. I think that the right hon. and learned Gentleman was a little inhibited by his own natural candour and integrity of mind. To him applies very fully the words of Adam Smith:It must be tiresome for an intelligent man to know that what he is saying is nonsense. or very little better than nonsense.Some of his predecessors have not suffered from that inhibition. We found the right hon. and learned Gentleman getting short-tempered with some of my hon. Friends. We all know him, and the situation must indeed be grave if he becomes short-tempered like that.
It was obvious from what he said—and left unsaid—that the position with regard to the production of certain types of aircraft was profoundly unsatisfactory. When my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) suggested that the Americans had solved a problem similar to that which has apparently baffled us in connection with the Hunter, what was the right hon. and learned Gentleman's reply? He must have known how silly that reply was. He sought to excuse our failure, against the apparent American success, by saying that we had tried to mount heavier guns. What is the use of doing that if, when it has been done, the guns cannot be fired without the aircraft being destroyed? As the right hon. and learned Gentleman put it, with his characteristic euphemism, "there was a limitation upon the use of the guns." If I have exaggerated the extent of that limitation, perhaps we can be told more precisely what was meant by that remarkable phrase.
1104 In the light of that, what can we really suppose is the position with regard to the actual progress in the production of the nuclear deterrent, whether bomb, rocket, missile or whatever it may be? We have in the White Paper only the most vague phrases. Apparently if we want a real opinion about what is happening to our armed preparations we must go to the columns of The Times and not to any statement produced by the Government, from whom we get all the time these intolerable phrases. When we come to a topic—aircraft—which we are able to probe, the results are so profoundly unsatisfactory that we are left wondering.
Government supporters felt that they ought to do battle for the principle that this country should have the hydrogen bomb. We on this side of the House agreed with them, but I am not ashamed to say we did so rather less enthusiastically. At the end of the argument, because of sheer inability to make the administrative machine work we have not got the deterrent. I do not believe we have. I believe we are a long way from being in the position in which we could say that we will have this deterrent and enjoy such measure of precarious security as it can give.
If we are to get out of these difficulties we must spend a great deal of money. The preparation of the nuclear deterrent and its delivery is extremely expensive. I do not believe it can be made until certain other parts of the arms budget are cut down. I do not think that this country can be adequately defended for much less than the £1,500 million which we have here. We might argue about a little either way, but I do not think there is anything very controversial about the total amount of money. A much bigger proportion ought to be spent on production and research. That means that we have to see where we can cut down. The right hon. and learned Gentleman issued a challenge in that connection. Let us look at it.
What is the real value of an aircraft carrier in any kind of conflict in which we might be engaged? When we consider its vulnerability and enormous expense, is it a desirable weapon compared with other craft today? Would it, if we are thinking of a major war waged with hydrogen bombs, have any relevance at all?
§ Mr. Stewart
The hon. and gallant Gentleman may disagree with me on that point. I am hoping that we might get an expert answer on the subject of a very expensive weapon the value of which is in doubt among experts. There is a dispute about the extent to which such a vessel can be protected. Is it merely a device for throwing millions of money into the sea for nothing?
We could at one time see the sense of anti-submarine precautions, but we now have to answer a difficult question. Is this country ever again likely to be in a position in which an enemy is trying to reduce it by submarine blockade? On all the assumptions on which we base our defence programme, that seems extremely unlikely. I know that all our instincts and memories make us feel that this is a terribly risky subject. We dread submarine blockade, but are we now spending a great deal of money trying to insure this country against a danger to insure which it will not in future be subjected? Let us consider that against the background that we cannot insure against everything. We have to run a risk somewhere.
We are improving our own submarine fleet. I wonder how important it will be in any future conflict? We are spending a fair amount on fighter aircraft how useful are they likely to be? Even in respect of guided missiles, can any Government say, as a result of the development of such missiles, "We are now so well equipped with guided missiles that we can guarantee that no enemy will be able to drop more than one hydrogen bomb on this country"? If we cannot say that, we cannot defend this country at all.
If we feel that guided missiles will be effective in defence, what guarantee have we that any deterrent of ours can reach its target? What is the expert opinion of the comparative effectiveness of guided missiles to divert hydrogen weapons, and of the inventions that can be inserted in hydrogen weapons to neutralise guided missiles? Again, may we not be putting a lot of money into a basket with holes in it? I do not know—possibly nobody knows—which of these various baskets that I have mentioned has the larger holes or whether they may not all be 1106 sound. All we can be certain of is that we have not enough resources to pour liberally and equally into all of them. My objection to the Statement on Defence is that that, in effect, is what it tries to do.
§ Brigadier Prior-Palmer
I agree with an enormous amount of what the hon. Gentleman says. Is he now saying that we have reached the stage at which we have to make up our minds whether we must prepare to defend ourselves in a global war or in the cold war? He has mentioned submarines, fighter aircraft and guided missiles.
§ Mr. Stewart
I do not think that the hon. and gallant Member for Worthing (Brigadier Prior-Palmer) has quite grasped what I have in mind. We may be engaged in limited conflicts in the future, possibly up to the scale of Korea, or we might, alternatively, be engaged in a major war. If a major war occurs it will be waged with these dreadful long-range weapons. In that case a great many of the things which we now call defences would not be defences at all, and I am wondering whether we ought not to scrap them.
I am not saying that we ought to give up the idea of defensive weapons, but that we ought to view the situation in the light of modern weapons. The answer of the White Paper, "Let us keep everything and not cut anything" is wrong. The Government have to face this matter more logically and boldly than they have done. One reason why there is great difficulty in getting the right answer has already been raised in the debate. It is the power, prestige and independence enjoyed by the three Services as against the Ministry of Defence. That makes it extremely difficult for any of these highly technical questions to be argued on their merits.
Having said that, I come to something which seems to follow logically from it, but will be, I am afraid, unpalatable to Government supporters. I am going to make a party point and give reasons why I believe that the political philosophy if Government supporters is partly responsible for these difficulties. I know that it is considered extremely unsporting to talk politics in the House of Commons. My speech will not be nearly as long as that of some other hon. Members who have preceded me, so perhaps I may be permitted to do this.
1107 Why have we not managed to get the power and prestige of the separate Services put into proper subordination to the Ministry of Defence? Partly because we have been afflicted with too much conservatism, with a small "c." That is to say, we are a civilisation that has allowed itself to get too much in love with old forms and trappings and is not capable of adapting itself sufficiently quickly to a new situation.
Another respect in which a conservative philosophy is inimical to the proper development of defence is connected with the economic side of the matter. I have agreed that we cannot substantially reduce this £1,500 million. We have to meet that expense. Then we have to see that the general industrial productive power of our nation and the skill of our people are maintained at a high and increasing level. As the years go by weapons will become more complicated, and we shall not be able to spend £1,500 million, or whatever its monetary equivalent is a decade from now, to advantage unless, by a policy of investment and education, we have provided ourselves with enough productive power and enough educated and well-trained people.
Another part of our defence expenditure has to be devoted to doing something for both public and private investment in the underdeveloped parts of the world. We all know—it has been repeated almost to weariness—that that is the other side of the general attempt to save mankind from being overrun by the forces of tyranny. All these things are imposing a great strain upon us. I believe that this country can meet that strain. I believe that our natural resources, the skill of our people and their energy are capable of that task, but on a certain condition—that our people realise the size of the challenge which they are up against.
They are not merely being asked to pile up £1,500 million worth of weapons; they are being asked to show themselves as part of a virile and energetic civilisation, capable both of defending itself and attracting others to it by its example. In the last few years, particularly under the guidance and encouragement of the present Government, people have been encouraged to believe that they are living in an age in which everybody is free to 1108 scramble after a little more private personal luxury than he happens to have at the moment.
We have seen highly-skilled labour and valuable materials wasted in the frivolities of commercial television. We have seen steel, which my right hon. Friend the Member for Ipswich (Mr. Stokes) pointed out is vital here, going into frivolous building. What do hon. Members opposite really believe is important? Is it more important to allow their fetish—unfettered private enterprise—to build offices here and petrol stations there and all the other abuses described in the economic debate last week? Is that more important than providing for defence by necessary investment at home and abroad?
Which is more important, the lowering of Income Tax on large incomes or the provision of a proper system of education? These are questions which we are really brought up against by these defence matters. I do not believe that this nation can survive unless it is prepared to see that it is facing a challenge which requires more austerity and more equality and social justice than it contains at present.
I believe that if we go on as we are now, future historians will see in us, as Gibbon saw the concluding stages of Roman society, a complete failure to face reality and a continuing habit of self-indulgence by the more fortunate sections of the community. It is not the first time that a civilisation has been betrayed and destroyed because it could not break loose from social and economic prejudices which had fettered it for so long.
What was one of the most powerful reasons for the failure of the Armada? The social structure in Spain at that time required that it should be given into the command of a man of sufficiently high birth, without any regard to his competence. What was one of the reasons for the disaster to Czarist Russia in the First World War? It was, as has been pointed out—and if any hon. Gentleman opposite doubts this he might read the work of his right hon. Friend the Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill)—the inability of Czarist Russia, even in mortal peril, to give up the age-old ambition that somehow it might be able to grab Constantinople, if only it could direct policy as it wished, and for that reason it failed to get proper agreement with its allies, and contributed to its own downfall.
1109 So have been repeated time and time again examples whereby a civilisation was so tied by its previous prejudices, and so enamoured of a particular social and economic order, that it could not face the challenge of the age in which it was living. We in this country believe—this is one of the reasons why we are attached to it—that government should be by the consent of the governed of, by and for the people, and that the question facing mankind is, as Lincoln said, whether any society so conceived and so dedicated can long endure. It can only endure if it is prepared to face the social and economic changes which are necessary to make democracy hold up to the challenge with which it is faced a stronger spirit than the one which attacks it.
§ 8.16 p.m.
§ Commander J. W. Maitland (Horncastle)
I am very glad to follow the hon. Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart) because I found that I was in agreement with a great deal of his speech. I agree entirely with his definition of the background against which we are having this debate. I agreed with many of the other points which he made and I shall follow them in the course of my speech, but he will forgive me, I know, if I do not follow him in the lecture which he gave to the House during the last five minutes of his speech.
§ Commander Maitland
I entirely agree with the hon. Gentleman when he took the economic background in particular and considered all the points in the White Paper against our present economic difficulties. Out of every difficulty one can generally wring an advantage, and the present economic difficulty which we are going through helps to present a clear picture of the peculiar and particular problems which we have to face in trying to meet our defence commitments. It underlines what all of us know in this House—that if we commit ourselves too much, we may very easily destroy ourselves in the cold war without having to wait for a hot one. So I should like to keep my few remarks to two or three 1110 points which I believe will definitely bring greater effectiveness to our efforts and, at the same time, provide some economic relief.
The first point I want to make concerns something which I was very glad to hear my right hon. Friend and also the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ipswich (Mr. Stokes) mention, because I think that it is, of all matters, the one in which there can be the greatest saving of economic effort and greater improvement in the effectiveness of our effort. That is the question about which we all know, the question of increasing integration at all points in the initial development of all types of projects with the U.S.A. All of us know the problem. I think that all Governments should never relax their efforts to try to induce the Americans to get over the great difficulty of their atomic law, which prevents them giving us help which would be of such tremendous advantage not only to us but to themselves.
The development of the atomic submarine is an obvious example. We shall be faced with years of effort if we go on with the atomic submarine, which might be cut to months if only we could have the hard-won experience and knowledge which the U.S.A. has gained one can understand the attitude of the U.S.A. to this matter. There has been terrible treachery as a result of which one can well understand America bringing in that Act.
At the same time, we must remember that certain other feelings also exist. It is perhaps too much to call them feelings of jealousy for they are normal and ordinary feelings which have existed between the two Services time out of mind. In years past, for example, the navies of the United States and of this country have had a not always friendly competitive feeling. It is only natural that such things help to prevent the United States from giving us those secrets which would help the effort which we are jointly making.
While, however, treachery has allowed Russia to catch up with both the United States and ourselves, we should not further handicap ourselves by lack of co-operation. The first stage of atomic development has probably been reached, and we are now dealing with what might be called the applied science aspect of 1111 atomic energy. In the newspapers the other day I noticed the rather sensible suggestion that the revelations which Maclean and Burgess are making are largely an effort on the part of Russia to keep open the small wound of suspicion existing between ourselves and the United States.
If that is so, I think that it is, in itself, the very finest proof that the Soviet Government dread the possibility of the United States and ourselves pooling our knowledge. That would, in many cases, increase the efficiency of development and production, while reducing the time taken and lessening the cost.
My next point is one which was raised by the hon. Member for Fulham, the importance—implicit in the White Paper—of trying to keep one's eye on the ball as opposed to trying to keep it on two balls at the same time. There seems, to my mind, to have been a deviation in the case of anti-submarine ships. Paragraph 24 of the White Paper says:Since the threat from submarines is much greater than anything this country has had to face before, the Navy is continuing to pay great attention to increasing the effectiveness of its anti-submarine forces by the building of anti-submarine ships and aircraft and the development of anti-submarine helicopters.Speaking entirely for myself, I cannot conceive of circumstances in which British ships were being torpedoed and in which convoys were being escorted, short of there being a full atomic war. If we are to deal with the submarine menace, surely the right way is to attack the submarine bases with atomic weapons at the very beginning. Surely we ought not to detract from the effort to provide the Navy with the ability to produce that sort of attack in order to go back to older methods of protecting our ships against submarines, submarines of outstandingly great efficiency whose efficiency is rapidly increasing each year.
Twice in thirty years has this country very nearly suffered starvation from submarine attack. It is only natural that we, as an island nation, should feel very sensitive on that point. Everyone knows that we feel sensitive about it. Might we not gain considerable advantage—perhaps considerable political advantage—if we were quite openly and definitely to discard what I believe to be an outworn method and say that we pin our faith 1112 entirely on atomic weapons? I can think of nothing which would so impress those whom we want to impress that in this matter we are in deadly earnest.
I sincerely and absolutely believe that we ought to bring National Service to an end as soon as possible. Of that I have no doubt whatsoever. I do not suggest that it should be ended solely from the economic point of view, although one often hears that argued. Nor do I wish to see it ended merely from the point of view of the young men concerned. Very often it does them a great deal of good. I suggest that it should be ended mainly, if not entirely from the point of view of the efficiency and effectiveness of the Services themselves.
I welcome as warmly as it is possible to welcome anything the very generous effort made to make the Regular Services a real career for those joining them. As I see it—and if this White Paper means anything—if we are to have smaller forces they will have to be more efficient because they will have more complicated things to deal with. The Services will do better if they have men of experience. It is those people whom we want. If we can get rid of National Service it will do away with what it is hardly too much to call the contempt in which the Services have been held. I am sure that it is the compulsory element alone that tends to bring long service into some form of contempt.
For those reasons I should like to see National Service abolished as soon as possible, but to do so brings me to my final point which is that it is absolutely essential that we should develop far more than we have the forces in our Colonial Empire. According to the White Paper there are 52,000 and that seems entirely inadequate in our wide Empire. I know the difficulties of providing training and leadership and the problem of whether they would be sufficiently mobile when formed. Those problems do not impress me or in any way take away the vital need to have those forces available. They would prevent the disease of subversion before it began.
We in this House are rather sophisticated on questions of patriotism, love of country and that sort of thing. We do not like talking about them very much, but there could be no better way of creating just those virtues than by building up forces with a great sense of loyalty 1113 to their own part of the country, a great sense of loyalty to their organisation. Those things in themselves, even if the troops were only lightly equipped, would do very great good to the Colonial Empire and would be a tremendous source of strength in times of need. It may not be quite analogous and it might be a bad example, but I cannot help thinking when I consider these matters of the agony going on in the Sudan at present and how it might have been avoided.
I can conceive that our next step, perhaps, has to be to try to keep our forces small, but certainly a proportion of them absolutely ready. For some years now there has been an expression "The finger on the trigger," which, of course, has been used as a term of abuse. We all know how it originated, but if one is trying to defend oneself a finger on the trigger is a good thing, so long as the hand and the brain behind the finger are cool and efficient. I want to see small portions of our Forces able to be absolutely ready within a few hours. It is very difficult to create circumstances like that, but that, surely, is the only way to fit in with the new conception of the deterrent.
I believe that this White Paper logically follows up the White Paper of last year. That White Paper showed us the way which, frankly, was not very clear before it was issued. I believe that we now see our way and that it is the right way. If one has listened to and read, as far as one can, the descriptions of what happened at the recent Soviet Congress, one must feel that this use of a deterrent by a people absolutely determined and who can trust themselves—they will never be aggressors—must be the right course.
§ 8.32 p.m.
§ Mr. George Wigg (Dudley)
It is ten years since I made my maiden speech in a defence debate and it was on the topic touched upon by the hon. and gallant Member for Horncastle (Commander Maitland). I then pleaded that development of the colonial forces would make a great contribution to the widening of citizenship in those countries. I went so far as to say that during the war years the Army had made a much greater development towards bringing the colonial peoples along the road of civilisation than the Colonial Office had done. I am at 1114 one with the hon. and gallant Member when he puts forward that view, but, ten years having passed, I am now under no illusion why we have not made greater progress towards developing colonial forces.
If the hon. and gallant Member looks at paragraph 92 of the present White Paper he will find the reference to Cmd. Paper 9520 describing an agreement between ourselves and the Union of South Africa. If we have an agreement with the Union of South Africa we shall have no colonial force. If hon. Members doubt me, let them turn to Volume I of the History of the War written by the right hon. Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill), where he tells the story of how in East Africa, after we had turned the Italians out, the Union was pressing for the withdrawal of West African forces from East Africa for reasons we can well understand.
§ Commander Maitland
I do not think I can accept that. I do not think that that agreement really affects the fact that we could raise more colonial forces. Of course, a great deal of responsibility for the present situation must fall on the Government in power in the first vital five years after the war, when the foundations should have been laid.
§ Mr. Wigg
I have read the Command Paper, also. It consists of correspondence between the present Foreign Secretary and the authorities in South Africa. Basically, we cannot have a development of the strength of the Commonwealth as long as South Africa remains within it. I regard South Africa as a moral outrage, and the sooner it is outside the Commonwealth the better I shall be pleased. I say quite frankly, develop the Commonwealth and let South Africa go its own way.
I think we have got off to a good start in this debate. I am very glad now that we are to have two days' debate on the broad policy of defence, followed by what one might call debates at a similar level on the three Services. This is the kind of pattern we want, but I hope the Government will respond to my efforts to get rid of the anachronism of having the Ballot on going into Committee of Supply. This is completely out of date. From time to time I have put Questions down about it, and I am sure that it would serve the interests of the Services 1115 and the House, and, indeed, the country, if we got rid of this "dotty" idea, which has no place in the Standing Orders of the House but is one of the old customs which we have carried on because so far we have lacked the energy to get rid of it.
Quite clearly, the country needs to be informed on the defence position. Not only that, but the House needs to educate itself in the realities of the situation which we begin to discuss in this two-day debate on defence. During the last ten years hon. Members on both sides of the House have put pressure first of all on the Labour Government and subsequently on the Conservative Administration to give us the maximum information. I am not asking that anything should be done which in any way impinges upon security—far from it—but I am saying that a great deal more information could be given to us than we have had so far.
For example, my right hon. Friend the Member for Bassetlaw (Mr Bellenger.) referred to "A Guide to British Forces Overseas" which appeared in The Times this morning. This guide identifies pretty well every line regiment of the British Army and its station. Either this is a grave breach of security or that information could have been given by the Government in the White Paper.
There are many other examples. For instance, the other day The Times—and I congratulate its military correspondent—identified the two West Country Territorial Divisions by name. If that information can be given to The Times, the House can be given like information. I very much hope that between now and this time next year the Minister of Defence will see whether a great deal more information can be given to us.
Obviously, we want to give our opponents nothing, but hon. Members and the public must be given the maximum amount of information in order to get the problem right, because that is how democracy works. It is only through discussion and the creation of an informed public opinion that the public are brought face to face with realities. The record of the British people whenever they have been brought face to face with reality is excellent; we have never shirked our task. At 1116 present, neither the public nor the House have as much information as they ought to have.
In the brief time available to me, I want to deal with two aspects of the White Paper. First, I find myself not in complete agreement with some of my hon. Friends who have said unkind things about it. Talking of the form of it, I would say that it is a much better White Paper than we have had for several years. I do not say that I agree with it all, but we can see what the Government are aiming at; there are signs of a lot of work and the application of an incisive mind, and there is a picture which, on policy, is based on the 1955 White Paper.
In the first paragraph of the present Paper we have a statement that it is a programme. It carries on the policy adumbrated in 1955 and reduces it to a programme based upon three considerations—the strategic, the political and the economic. It becomes abundantly clear—neither the White Paper nor the Minister of Defence hides it from us—that if we try to satisfy all three conditions we shall fail, but if we try to get 100 per cent. insurance politically and strategically we shall break our backs economically.
When we get into the White Paper we find a proposal for development over a period of seven years, and this is reduced to a three-year programme. That seems to me quite sensible. It is not final, and indeed defence policy should not be crystallised each March. It should be kept under review right throughout the year.
A fortnight ago, I was fortunate to be able to raise some of these matters on the Adjournment. We had an interesting discussion with the Minister of Supply. We had from him a very clear statement of the Government's policy on aircraft production. He made it clear that the Government recognise that the aircraft industry had been asked to carry far too much, and it was the Government's policy in future to cut down the number of projects which the industry should carry.
It was no good trying to get this infinite variety of every type of aircraft, which would end with none. Perhaps I went a little too far, and the Minister corrected me, in criticising the Labour Government. I was looking at the matter from the point 1117 of view that in the last ten years no fewer than 157 projects had been started, which was far more than our capacity to achieve. It was disastrous and resulted in a great waste of money.
It would not be fair to expect the Government to put this matter right overnight. It is bound to take several years to achieve. But it is a fact that not only in this sphere but in the sphere of National Service the Government have been very slow to act even when they have recognised the national problem. I do not blame the Minister of Defence or the Minister of Supply. I blame the situation primarily—and this has been touched upon by my right hon. Friend the Member for Ipswich (Mr. Stokes)—upon the way in which the Ministry of Defence is organised. The Ministry was established by legislation in 1946. I remember saying in a debate at that time that we should be unwise if we attempted to do too much.
If we had attempted that, we should have run headlong into some of the conflicting interests quoted by my right hon. Friend. It was far better to go too slow rather than too fast, but it is absolutely clear that the present Minister of Defence—and this was equally true of his immediate predecessor—exercises only the authority of his grey hairs. I beg the right hon. and learned Gentleman's pardon for that expression, but what I mean is that he derives authority from the position which he happens to have inside his own party. He has no greater authority than his political standing. That is very wrong indeed.
It seems to me that the Ministry of Defence needs to be given legislative teeth and that the Service Ministers and the Minister of Supply need to be brought into these matters with much less authority than they have had in the past. The Admiralty and War Office conceptions need to be reconsidered. We cannot organise modern forces on the basis of the present set-up.
To be specific, I think that the basic idea launched by the Labour Government of having a national Army was right in its context; that is to say that we should try to secure an amalgamation of the Regulars, the National Service men and the Territorials. Unfortunately, at that time Field Marshal Viscount Montgomery, 1118 because of his great eminence, was C.I.G.S. and, because he was a great and distinguished soldier, he became far too near to being a Commander-in-Chief of the Army than being its military head. That meant that the "A & Q" problems associated with National Service and the redeployment of the Army were never looked at at all, and that is the cause of a great deal of our trouble.
I have not much time, in the course of half an hour, to develop this point to any great extent, so I hope that later on we shall have another opportunity of discussing the relation of the Ministry of Defence to the other Service Ministries. Whether it be the question of the organisation of manpower or that of supply, I am sure that this Ministry must have teeth in it.
Even now, even with the change of heart and the new policy outlined by the Minister of Supply the other night, the conflicts as between the Navy and the other Services are most marked. For instance, one particularly silly thing which impressed me in reading these White Papers was the decision to set up a helicopter team for the Army and Air Force. That is excellent, but why is not the Navy in it? The Navy uses helicopters to a great extent, indeed it has far more than the Army—
§ Mr. Wigg
Of course, it is likely that the results of that experiment were passed over to the Navy, but the paragraph has been written in such a way as to give the impression of Service co-operation to keep out the Navy. I am all for keeping out the Navy. The greatest waste of public money I know of has been the 1119 expenditure of £331 million by the Navy—to produce what? To produce thirteen carriers when eventually we shall have a nuclear task force of three; and with what kind of aircraft?
It is staggering to find that the Navy has not got one wing-swept fighter aircraft. It has ordered some N.113s but, as far as I can see, it has only one. It has ordered a hundred D.H.110, an aircraft which the Air Ministry turned down; but it has none. It has the most wonderful collection of junk. There is one moment I would not miss for anything. I am waiting for the moment when we hear the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty defend the aircraft carrier. That will be a great moment, especially after his experiences at the Air Ministry. If there is one thing this country cannot afford, it is the collection of junk which is stacked on the aircraft carriers at present. I shall require a great deal of satisfying on the score of naval expenditure.
One question which is near to my heart is National Service and the need for it. I have long held the view that the main problems, particularly inside the Army, arose not because of the strain on our commitments, because the commitments are always a strain. At no time that I can remember was there not some new commitment coming up over the horizon. I have said before that if there is one going away, there is one overhead and there is another one coming up. We get rid of Suez and up pops Cyprus; we get rid of Cyprus and it will be somewhere else.
I do not approach this problem tonight in any mood of "I told you so." but I was always convinced that the application of the new three-year engagement introduced hurriedly on 1st November, 1951, was bound to produce certain results, and they have come about. Eighteen months later, in 1953, when many people and the Press, including The Times, were cock-a-hoop over what appeared to be the success of our recruiting policy, I uttered a warning note in the debate which followed the Supplementary Estimate in January, 1953. I was by no means convinced.
I hold the view that the nearest approach to a solution of getting sufficient Regulars was found by my right hon. Friend the Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell), when in August, 1950, he intro 1120 duced the differential. I have said it publicly and I say it again now. He is my right hon. Friend not merely in a nominal sense, but a very real friend. I was proud to be with him when he took politically a dangerous decision, because it was all against the traditions of the members of my own party. In August, 1950, he took the decision to give the National Service men a rate of pay different from that of the Regular. In the White Paper on Service Pay and Pensions the Government have taken the principle introduced by my right hon. Friend and carried it to its logical conclusion, and they have done it only just in time.
I do not care in what part of the House hon. Members may sit; let them be warned that this decision has been taken only just in time and that, clearly, it is not designed to get rid of National Service overnight. It is designed to do no more than hold the position. After all, the 1956 White Paper says that in the current financial year, 1955–56, we will get 62,000 recruits, but in the 1955 White Paper it was estimated that we should add 73,000; in other words we have 11,000 Regular recruits less than was estimated we should get in 1955, and the Government estimate that they will get 81,000 in the next financial year up to 31st March, 1957. Even if they get 81,000, they will on 1st April, 1957, still have in the Army a total Regular strength of 4,000 less than they will have on 1st April, 1956.
In other words, given the impact of the White Paper on Service Pay and Pensions, the position will not be held, but we shall be 4,000 down. The charge which I made against the Government in October, and which I now make again, is not primarily that they do not cut National Service, but that they cannot. That what appeared last October to be a choice between running down the Army by 100,000 to March, 1958—by limiting the call-ups to three a year—and by cutting, as was advocated by hon. Members on this side of the House, was not really a choice at all. The Government were forced by circumstances to do what they did.
Let us see where that leads us. The Government have bought two years. By March, 1958, they will either have to cut again or allow the age of call-up to rise to 20; or what? That is the big question. Frankly, this White Paper on 1121 Service Pay and Pensions has my support. I should like to say something more than that. I started my soldiering a long time ago and I got 3s. a day. I should like to start again. I have had ten very pleasant years in the House, but I also had eighteen very pleasant years in the ranks, and I only wish I could start again on these rates of pay. I should then be much richer after another eighteen years in the Army than I am after eight years in the House of Commons.
These rates of pay are fabulous, but, of course, they are a little dangerous and they show signs of some haste, because there are two problems with which to deal. The first is what are to be the rates of pay for the Territorial Army for the Reserve Forces? In the past they have always been linked with the Regulars, but once we tie Regular rates of pay to engagements, we have to find a new basis for paying Reserve Forces. The second point, which is not touched upon, is that in the past, whenever terms of Service have been altered, legislation has been required. I understand that as a result of the new Army Act, which will come into operation by Order in Council by 1st January, legislation would not be necessary.
However, it is clear that the Government have departed from a policy which a short time ago was regarded as progressive, namely, that men who enlisted on a 22 years' engagement should be able at intervals of three years to opt out. I want to know what the Government will now do, because clearly they cannot allow a man to sign on for a 12 years' engagement at 13s. a day and at the same time allow him to opt out three years later, without getting their money back. I should not have thought that that was likely to happen.
There is another point here that requires to be watched carefully. I remember that when the new rates of pay came into operation after the First World War they were quite simple normal rates of pay and trade rates. They became a little more complicated when, on 26th October, 1925, the Government reduced the rates of pay. I remember that that produced a little friction when we got some men doing a job at one rate of pay and others doing the same job at another. As a result of this White Paper, according 1122 to my calculations, a private soldier can draw one of seven different rates of pay.
I hope that this succeeds. I hope that it gives the Government all the recruits they want. But the position needs to be watched. I wish to warn the Minister of Defence and certainly the Secretary of State for War—I hope he will be well again by Thursday; I shall be disappointed if he is not—that this is what I think will happen. It is the normal pattern which has followed every substantial increase in pay. There will be a tremendous surge in the intake. I hope and believe that there will be a tremendous surge forward in extensions and re-engagements. It will probably last throughout this year and into next. I should not be surprised if the heads of the Service Departments come forward with Supplementary Estimates next January as a result of their success—and even the January afterwards.
When pay is increased, the tendency is to borrow from the future. There are men who are a little undecided about whether or not to join, but they cannot be held back from the recruiting office when they see what is in store for them. We shall only be borrowing from the future, and after the first flush things will tend to flatten out. In my judgment, we must wait for at least two years; in other words, until after this period of time which the Government have bought as a result of this White Paper, the Defence White Paper, and the National Service White Paper of October. It will not be until after that time that they will see whether or not they have succeeded.
Clearly, the Government will then face a position of great difficulty because by then the call-up numbers will be down; the number of men in the Forces will be down by 100,000. The age of call-up will have risen to nineteen and either it will be a question of letting it rise to twenty or taking the only other step of introducing a selective draft. I am afraid that this country is once again faced with difficulties because public opinion has not been informed, because it has not been educated, because the Prime Minister and the senior Ministers have been a little unwilling to "grasp the nettle." This is a subject which is regarded as politically unpopular and so they may not do anything, and we may find ourselves not only in one year's time, but in two, with a much 1123 larger bill than £1,500 million and in very grave difficulty indeed.
Therefore, let me make again the plea which I have made many times in the past. I have voiced the difficulties and my objections to the policy of the Secretary of State for War. As I said before, I am not approaching this debate in the spirit of, "I told you so." I am going to bury the hatchet. The real problem is, what do we do now? The position is that the three-year engagement has proved the failure that I thought it would be. It has cut not only quantity but, much more serious, quality.
Recently, I have received a letter written by the wife of an officer in a county regiment. She tells me that the battalion has only 45 out of an establishment of 100 corporals and lance-corporals and that there is no sign of being able to fill the deficiency by promoting Regulars. When that kind of thing happens and when, in addition, we cut into the core of warrant officers and senior N.C.O.s, the problem is very serious indeed.
I hope, therefore, that the Government will seriously consider the necessity of an all-party approach to this problem: we need an inquiry into the whole aspect of defence manpower not only of National Service, and its continuance but also of Regular recruiting; not primarily to ascertain the facts—the facts are well enough known—but so that the political responsibility for finding an answer to the problem, which would enable us to have effective defence forces at the minimum cost, can be shared by all parties.
§ 9.1 p.m.
§ Mr. John Strachey (Dundee, West)
As the debate has proceeded, it has become clear that the key both to the Statement on Defence and to the Minister's speech—naturally, they were very similar—was at their very beginning, in the opening paragraph of the Statement and in the opening words of the Minister.
The Statement referred us back to the opening paragraph of the previous year's Statement, which defined our defence policy. It defined it, in the manner which has become quite familiar to most hon. Members who have spoken, as a dual policy having a dual requirement—on the one hand, the nuclear deterrent and the effort by that to prevent the outbreak 1124 of global war, and on the other hand—not completely, but very largely, separate from it and needing very largely different forces—the requirement for dealing with local and limited wars, from the smallest type of police action up to about the Korean size of war. It will be common ground that those are not requirements which I am inventing. They are the real requirements with which everybody agrees and which the Government puts before us.
This year's Statement on Defence asks us to judge the Government's policy as an effort to translate that policy and those requirements into our defence programme. Therefore, we should be right to judge the Statement and the Government's defence programme by asking whether they do in fact translate that conception of the dual requirement into an effective defence programme.
To make that judgment, it seems natural, first, to look ahead to page 13 of the White Paper and at the amounts being spent on the different Services. The Minister of Defence alluded to that aspect. He was conscious, no doubt, that it would be commented upon. What has happened this year, in trying to reshape our defence programme to meet those two requirements and to do so in the nuclear age, is the change in the balance of expenditure whereby expenditure on the Navy has gone up a little and on the Royal Air Force it has gone down substantially—by about £33 million.
The Minister of Defence said that we must not take that too seriously or tragically, because it did not really mean that the expenditure on the Royal Air Force would in fact go down. What it means is that it will, in fact, do so. It is quite true that the intention again is to spend more than we did spend last year, but, if we compare like with like and Estimate with Estimate, it means that the emphasis, the balance of effort, swings away from the Royal Air Force, and, in this case, actually slightly towards the Royal Navy.
I put it to the Minister of Defence and the Government generally whether anyone, whatever his views, seeking to translate, in the Government's own words, into a defence programme that conception of defence policy which they themselves have put out—and in a nuclear age—would at this moment be reshaping our defence effort on to the Navy and 1125 away from the Royal Air Force? Nobody in his senses would be doing that, and I am not accusing the Government consciously of doing it. They have not done it. Actually, it is more serious than that; it has just happened. It has happened like that because, as the Minister of Defence indicated, they were unable to spend the money on the Royal Air Force.
That takes us to the point, made by many speakers on this side of the House, about the really dreadful failure which there has been, not merely this year, but for a series of years, on the air production side of our defence effort. I do not want to go over that ground in detail, because my right hon. Friend the Member for Ipswich (Mr. Stokes), himself dealt with it, but the facts really are very grave indeed. I can only quote again the figures which have never been contradicted but which have been made public, so that there is no harm in my giving them, figures which Sir Roy Fedden, a considerable personality in the aircraft industry, gave the other day. He said that, in his considered view, we have spent enough money—and it is, after all, a great many hundreds of millions of pounds—to have provided ourselves by this time with 2,000 swept-wing fighters and 500 V-bombers, whereas, Sir Roy Fedden said, we have some 600 of the former and 50 of the latter.
Without labouring the point, it is quite an extraordinary failure. To adapt a famous phrase, one can only say that never in the history of a rearmament programme have so many millions produced so few aircraft. I can only ask hon. Members opposite to imagine what they would have been saying about a Labour Government if we had produced results like that. Even in the details of this programme—and I have taken only the quantitative aspect—the qualitative aspect is serious. I do not want to belabour the Hunter now, because, goodness knows, it is the only fighter we have got. One right hon. Gentleman opposite once said of the Prime Minister "He is the best Prime Minister we have got"; so the Hunter is the best fighter we have, and I do not want to denigrate it.
Really, however, the Minister's defence of the fighter today was rather sad, because he said we have put this very heavy gun—the Aden gun—into the 1126 Hunter—and it is a very effective gun—and added that the Americans had never put a gun like that into their fighters. That is quite true, but the right hon. and learned Gentleman omitted to note that the Americans have not put a gun like that into their fighters because they have put guided missiles into them, which is, after all, the next step forward after the gun, so that that fact does not present us with much consolation.
§ Air Commodore A. V. Harvey (Macclesfield)
Would the right hon. Gentleman say which party was in power when the specification was written for the 30-millimetre gun?
§ Mr. Strachey
Of course, it is a step forward from the lighter gun, but that was a considerable number of years ago. It was more than five years ago, in the period of the Labour Government, and in four and a half years, the present Administration have not been able to correct, to put it no worse than that, any errors that had been made.
There seems to be an extraordinary failure to pay more than lip service to the principle which both the Statement and the speech of the Minister of Defence have set forth—this dual requirement of the nuclear deterrent and the force for local and limited war. How is it that no effort is being made to translate that policy into practice? I do not think there is any great difficulty in appreciating what has happened. Anyone who has had any experience in a defence Department knows how very difficult it is to prevent this sort of thing from happening.
What has happened this year is simply what has happened previously, year by year. The defence programme, like all Gaul, becomes divided into three parts; it is a cake carved up and divided between the three Services. It is carved up not really in reference to our requirements, as stated by the Government themselves, but according to the bargaining and pulling power of the Admiralty, the War Office and the Air Ministry respectively.
It is very difficult to avoid that situation, but it is imperatively necessary to do so, in the interests of our national safety. This situation has not been created by the right hon. and learned Member. As he said so engagingly at the beginning of his speech, he has not 1127 been in his present office nearly long enough to have caused it. It is not caused by the Chiefs of Staff. It is merely a resolution of forces between the three Services.
Can we find any principle upon which this tripartite division takes place? I believe that there is a principle, and that it is one with which hon. Members on this side of the House are rather familiar. It is done upon the principle of fair shares. Whatever else happens, the War Office must have its fair share; the Admiralty must have its fair share, and the Air Ministry must have its fair share. Although we are unrepentant in our view that fair shares is the right principle in national housekeeping. we do not say that it is a sound principle upon which to base and translate into practice a defence programme. I believe that the inability to grasp the essentials of a programme and to make a conscious division in accordance with the requirements of the nation is at the bottom of the very deep troubles and disquiet which the House obviously feels about this matter. The result that we see before us is a programme which has little relevance to the requirements as stated by the Government themselves.
Having said that, it is incumbent upon me to try to show in the very broadest outline—I cannot do more than that—the kind of defence forces at which we should aim in order to meet our dual requirements.
§ Brigadier Prior-Palmer
The right hon. Gentleman has told us what the disease is, but he has not prescribed a cure. Does not he agree with what I put forward earlier as a suggestion, namely, that the intrinsic weakness of the situation is the organisation? The Minister of Defence has no executive power. A cure could be effected by putting the three Service Ministries under the Minister of Defence, so that he could allot priorities and we no longer had this bargaining and argument for fair shares.
§ Mr. Strachey
The hon. and gallant Member for Worthing (Brigadier Prior-Palmer) is anticipating me. I do not put the matter in exactly that way, but a beginning can be made in that direction. I hope that I shall carry the hon. and gallant Gentleman with me when I say that even that suggestion cannot do any 1128 good unless the Minister of Defence and the Government generally have some overriding concept of the kind of Services which they want to produce.
I believe that we have reached the point where the function of the Army is essentially in regard to local and limited wars and not global war. A global war would be decided, as the Prime Minister himself told us last night, far over the heads of the Army, quite literally in the stratosphere. To say that is not to denigrate or minimise the importance of the functions of the Army. The ability to discharge our requirements for limited conflict is of the utmost importance if we are to succeed in preventing the outbreak of global conflict. I regard the Army as of the utmost importance, but in that context and for that purpose.
In addition to that, we must not forget that the Army has to make its contribution to the screen across Europe. I recommend to the Minister of Defence the phrase used by Sir John Slessor in his recent Berlin lecture, in which he said that it was no longer a question of fighting out a war on the ground across Europe but of the provision by the West of "a trip-wire" which would sound the alarm bell unmistakably if there was an attack from the East. It is an Army of that kind with which we have to deal. I am putting this point briefly tonight. It is more appropriate to discuss these matters on the Army Estimates. It is an Army problem, and for that requirement National Service is an extremely blunt instrument. It is not the way to produce an Army of that sort.
As has already been said on this side of the House, we produced National Service with the object of producing a large reserve Army. Now that purpose has gone. It has been formally announced by the Government as having gone. I therefore cannot believe that National Service is the correct instrument for our present purpose. On both sides of the House there is, I believe, a good deal of agreement on that point.
Now I want to say a word about the Navy. That problem is, indeed, baffling, much the most baffling problem which confronts us. I cannot feel happy about what we are told in the Statement on Defence. In the paragraph headed "Navy," at the top of page 7, we see:The Navy will maintain an effective fleet capable of supporting this country's influence 1129 and interests as a world-wide Power and a member of the Commonwealth and of N.A.T.O.I cannot help feeling that beneath that sentiment lurks the view that the Navy's purpose is almost only a prestige one. Useful as that would be, we cannot afford to spend almost £350 million without really knowing what requirement we are asked to meet.
Battleships, cruisers and aircraft carriers are no doubt useful and valuable things, but are they high enough up the list of priorities for us to be able to afford them? I wish sometimes that the military planners and thinkers would use some of the conceptions of my old field of interest, economics. A concept there which the hon. Member for Scarborough and Whitby (Mr. Spearman) will know is the "foregone alternative." Economists tell us that when we buy A we always forgo the purchase of B. Out of any given finite total, when we choose A we choose at the same time not to have B. Therefore, when we choose to spend £350 million on naval forces, useful and valuable as they may be, do we always realise that out of our finite programme we are choosing to have fewer V-bombers, guided missiles, nuclear deterrents and the weapons which, I put it to the Government and the House, really matter today?
Once again, it does not seem to me that this programme—the whole policy put forward in the Statement on Defence—really gives any sense of the Government having clear-sightedly thought out the things which we have absolutely got to have and concentrating on them, because I do not believe that we can have both them and all the other frills as well. That seems to me to be the real gravamen of the charge which we are bringing against the Statement on Defence—that it gives every sign of giving us a little of everything and not quite enough of anything really to count.
Some speakers have very well stated the traditional view of the dependence of this country upon the Navy. That is, no doubt, very true if we think of a war being fought without the use of nuclear weapons; but is that really an hypothesis probable enough to prepare against—a global war fought without nuclear weapons? It is a possible one, but is it likely enough to be right for us to spend 1130 so substantial a proportion of what we can spend on meeting it? If, after all, nuclear weapons are used, then they and they alone become decisive.
I would not suggest for a moment that the R.A.F. should be exempt from the pruning knife which should be used if a programme were shaped which would really meet the requirements that the Government have put forward. I should have thought that within the R.A.F. and within the very large expenditure which we make, or attempt to make, on it, there ought to be far greater concentration on the deterrent and possibly, if it really gives the promise of being effective, on guided missile defence.
How many more generations of fighter aircraft can we afford to have on which we spend an enormous proportion of our total expenditure, which so far—let us be frank about it—can give these islands very little effective defence at all? How much more of our resources can we afford to spend even on that instrument which is very much nearer the crux of the matter than some of our other objects of expenditure?
There again, I ask the Secretary of State for Air to consider whether the R.A.F. does give enough priority to guided missiles, because I cannot help feeling that there may be a certain reluctance in the R.A.F. to devote enough effort to something which does not fly in the normal sense of the word, which is not a manned aircraft, and it seems to me of the utmost importance that a really high priority should be given to that.
What I am pleading for, as the House can see, is a really ruthless concentration on meeting our requirements as perfectly validly set forward by the Government. I cannot tell the House whether I think that we could meet these requirements and yet get a net reduction in our defence expenditure. I should have thought that it was fairly obvious that we could meet those requirements and yet get a net reduction in our manpower. Whether we can get a net reduction in money is not so certain. It would be enormously valuable to our defence in the widest sense of the word if, of course, we could get the total bill down. I think that everyone will agree upon that. I believe that we could save tens of millions by cutting out, not useless things, but things of which the priority was not 1131 really high enough to justify our expenditure on them.
As someone has pointed out, the expenditure which we need to make on the essentials of the nuclear deterrent—and, of almost equal importance on conventional weapons for local and limited war—will be very great, so I am not sure where the balance would lie. All I would say, and it seems to be obvious, is that however much more expensive than we expect them to be, the essentials may prove to be all the more reason for our ruthlessly cutting out and cutting down the inessentials.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart) said, in what I thought was a notable speech, that he did not think that we could get the expenditure down. I am a little more optimistic, but, if his view proves correct, I think he would agree that that is all the more reason why we should ruthlessly cut those parts of the defence programme which are not essentials in modern nuclear terms. If we go on as we are doing, we are simply drifting, without any real plan, without really carrying into effect the purpose which is common ground to us all.
I am not unaware of the immense difficulties which would face the Government—and which would face the Minister of Defence in particular if and when he really began to carry out a reorganisation—in practice and not in words—of our defence effort on these lines. He would meet head-on some of the most formidable vested interests in the country. There, I come to the point raised by the hon. and gallant Member for Worthing, when he asked where we should begin. I entirely agree with him that we should begin in the Ministry of Defence itself.
I am bound to say that I feel that a very strong indictment of the Government lies there. As has been pointed out by my right hon. Friend the Member for Ipswich, the right hon. and learned Gentleman is the fourth Minister of Defence that we have had.
§ Mr. Strachey
Not in a year—the third in a year, and the fourth since the Conservatives came into office.
§ Mr. Strachey
Then I am underestimating my own case.
1132 The Defence Ministers have come and gone so fast that I have lost count of them. But I really do put to the Government the point that this is a frivolous way in which to treat this vital Ministry. What is it? Is it a Ministry or is it an anteroom? We see the Ministers flashing by, and I should really like to know whether the right hon. and learned Gentleman who now occupies the post can tell us that he will stay there long enough to learn the job. He told us, quite rightly, that he could not be expected to know it now. That we admit—no fresh Minister can be expected to know it, of course—but will he stay there? I am quite sure that he is quite capable of learning the job—he is capable of learning anything—but we are really sick and tired of this procession through the Ministry of Defence.
I remind the right hon. and learned Gentleman that Disraeli called Lord Goodrich "a transient and embarrassed phantom"; it is a whole series of transient and embarrassed phantoms that goes through the Ministry of Defence. How can we expect the defence programme to give more than a lip service to meeting our real requirements when nothing serious is done at the top level of the Ministry itself? What should be done if we had, for once, a Minister who stayed there long enough to impress his personality on the Ministry? In the first place, I suggest that he must get his machine right. I do not believe for a moment that the present very small skeleton machine of the Ministry of Defence is inherently capable of doing the job.
§ Air Commodore Harvey
Will the right hon. Member agree that although his party had only two Ministers of Defence only one was any good?
§ Mr. Strachey
The hon. and gallant Member for Macclesfield (Air Commodore Harvey) mistakes my argument. I am pleading for fewer Ministers of Defence, who would stay longer and do their job. That we had, in contrast to the position under the present Government. I put it to the Minister that he would have really to make a machine capable of doing the job. I do not pretend that I can tell him the exact way 1133 in which the Minister can do that. I do not think anyone who has not served there could do that, but it has to do certainly with his relationship, on the one hand, with the Defence Committee and with his relationship, on the other hand, with the Chiefs of Staff. He has to put himself into the full stream of defence policy making. I am quite sure that that is the nub of the problem.
Further to that, probably the most important thing of all is for him to possess himself of a machine which can give him what I would call "a neutral brief," a brief which is authoritative but genuinely neutral as between the three Services. How is that to be done? I think there is the beginning of that in the Defence Secretariat, but only a beginning. I know that it is not nearly strong enough nor big enough to do the job, and there is the whole question of the relations of the Ministry's secretariat with the joint planners and the position of the joint planners, with their double allegiance to their own Services and to the Ministry of Defence.
It is easier to point out the difficulties, of course, than to point out the remedy, but it might be that it is in some form actually as drastic as the amalgamation of those two bodies. I do not pretend to know, nor do I pretend to be dogmatic on the matter, but it is the making of a real machine which can do the job of planning of defence policy as a whole which is needed. I am sure that a beginning can only be made in that way.
§ Mr. Strachey
My right hon. Friend has had much more experience than I have, and he thinks that the machine is adequate.
§ Mr. Shinwell
I am sorry to interrupt my right hon. Friend, but when I say that the machine is there I do not mean that the machine is perfect or effective. It is not fully applied, but, if at any time, the Government wished to integrate the three Services—whilst retaining some autonomy in administration in respect of 1134 Departments, but in the field of strategy having overriding policy—the Government have only to give the Minister instructions, and that can be done.
§ Mr. Strachey
With great respect to my old chief, I do not feel that the machine is fully adequate to the task.
§ Mr. Richard Sharples (Sutton and Cheam)
I am interested in what the right hon. Member is saying. Would he go so far as to give the Minister of Defence financial control over the Services? That really is the point.
§ Mr. Strachey
Of course, the Minister cannot have financial control without reference to the Chancellor. He cannot spend as much as he likes. The final decision is with the Government; but in this matter of getting a programme which is not fair shares between the three Services but which meets our real requirements, I put it as a suggestion that a beginning could be made in the Ministry of Defence.
Be that as it may, it seems to me that it is high time—here we are all to blame, no doubt—that this country really took the problem of its defence planning seriously. We are spending £1,500 million, a third of our total Budget, one-tenth of our gross national product; and—according to the figure given by the Minister, which I was interested to hear—I reckon two-thirds of all the money being spent on scientific research in the country is going on defence.
Last week we discussed our economic situation, scrimping and saving, with the Government and the Chancellor telling us that we must save on the food subsidies and on education—matters on which the Chancellor must surely have been profoundly unwilling to save and which yielded very small amounts of saving. On the other hand, I do not feel that the Government are making a real effort to see that we get value for money in defence, in the sense of meeting our requirements, as they themselves have set them out, in the defence programme. They pay lip service to that again and again but I do not think the job is being done.
It seems to me that the figures of the distribution of expenditure between the three Services which I quoted prove beyond a peradventure that it is not being done, and it seems to me that in the 1135 House we have a right to demand, with our votes as well as with our voices, that the job should be undertaken. Either we must reduce this tremendous burden of £1,500 million a year or, if we cannot do that, we must at any rate get some defence for it; because we are getting very little at present.
§ 9.37 p.m.
§ Mr. John Maclay (Renfrew, West)
In rising to speak at this late hour of the evening it is difficult to avoid sounding like a Government speaker winding up the debate. I want to make it clear that although it is late in the evening I am winding up for myself and nobody else. It is perhaps wise for me to say that at the beginning so that there is no misunderstanding; but I doubt whether there will be any misunderstanding by the end of my speech.
The difficulty is that when one speaks at this hour one inevitably mentions speeches of many other right hon. and hon. Members who have already spoken, because on such a subject it would be surprising if some of one's pet ideas had not been fairly extensively covered by earlier speakers. It would not be amiss, however, for me to go back to the first Opposition speaker of the day—the right hon. Member for Ipswich (Mr. Stokes). His speech was extremely interesting, but I found it very difficult to treat it as the opening speech attached to an Amendment which is, in effect, a vote of censure on the Government.
The right hon. Gentleman opened by saying that he sympathised with the Minister of Defence, as he himself had also come fresh to the subject. From that, I imagine, he found himself in the same position as that of many of us today. It had been decided that he would open the debate and he probably thought it a simple proposition to attack the Government on defence. He then sat down to think about it and found, as he himself said very emphatically, and as many of us have found in studying the problem, that it is extremely difficult to come to clear-cut conclusions. It was obvious from the rest of his speech that he had not come to clear-cut conclusions. He made some suggestions, but I believe he would be thinking a good deal more about them if he had the responsibility of carrying them out.
§ Mr. Maclay
That is all very well, but how long would the right hon. Gentleman survive if he got rid of too many of them? That is one of the points which he would have to remember.
I want to deal with one part of the right hon. Gentleman's speech—a point which also appears in the Amendment and which was mentioned by the right hon. Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Bellenger), that part of the Amendment which deals with National Service. The right hon. Member for Ipswich here made some comments which need answering again and again. The hon. and gallant Member for Worthing (Brigadier Prior-Palmer) said, fairly enough, that it is a pity to have to deal with that subject again in this debate since it has been dealt with in earlier debates, and, presumably, will be dealt with in some of the Estimates debates. But when we have the Opposition Amendment dwelling again on this question of National Service and when we consider the words used in the Amendment, we must reply to the point.
The question of an inquiry is mentioned in the Amendment and reference has been made to it in several speeches. The hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) made what was at first sight an attractive suggestion. It was that at some stage, a little later on, this matter should be taken out of politics and the question of National Service and the structure of the Services should be the subject of study by an all-party committee.
It is an attractive idea, but is it really practicable? The Government of the day, of whatever party, have to take absolute responsibility for any decision made about National Service. This is not a responsibility which can be passed on to any outside body or to Members of Parliament. There would be a grave risk of there merely being a further complication in a serious situation. Attractive as is the idea, I do not think that it could be a starter when the time came.
What kind of inquiry has the Opposition Amendment in mind? Surely the right hon. Member for Ipswich (Mr. Stokes) knows that over a number of years past there has been a series of Departmental inquiries into the use of 1137 manpower in every Service. Could we obtain any more value from an inquiry by an outside body?
§ Mr. Stokes
I suggest a good inquiry in the Admiralty where we have half the number of ships and double the number of admirals.
§ Mr. Maclay
I agree that at the moment there might be room for inquiry into the application of "Parkinson's Law," but I doubt whether an inquiry by an outside body would result in any useful conclusions. In any event, we are talking about the size of the Army and the necessity for National Service and not about the number of civil servants.
§ Mr. Maclay
There have been other committees, including the Geddes Committee, and there are still doubts whether they did more good or more harm. I have heard these arguments for many years. This question of National Service is an acute public issue. None of us likes it. We all want to get rid of it, and it is terribly tempting to make speeches in constituencies and elsewhere stressing that that should be done now. But speeches about National Service should be made with a great sense of responsibility. It is no use talking about the subject in vague terms. The right hon. Member for Ipswich said that if we listen to the Generals we will never get rid of National Service.
I do not believe that there is a professional soldier who would keep National Service in being if he could possibly help it. The professional soldiers would get rid of National Service if they could see other means of securing the men to meet our commitments. We have had a survey of our commitments in the course of the debate and I shall not go over that ground again. I feel we must accept that the obvious, easy things to be said about National Service are really irresponsible, and it is a great pity that these things once again appear in an Opposition Amendment.
The next point is one about which I have been feeling increasingly strongly for a long time. An impressive feature of the debate has been the fact that almost every speech has touched in some way or another upon the powers of the Minister of Defence in relation to the 1138 Service Departments and the Ministry of Supply. It is an extremely good thing that this kind of discussion is starting in the House of Commons and out of it. A few years ago it would have sounded shocking to suggest that we could even talk in terms of taking away any of the powers of the political heads of the three Services and possibly making those heads subordinate to another Minister.
I suppose it is only the logic of events, but I believe that there is a great deal in the argument that the Minister of Defence must have more clearly defined powers in relation to the Service Ministers. I know very well that it is possible to get extremely good co-operation from the political heads of the Departments, whereas if there were one difficult one it might be a different story. But even if there is excellent co-operation at the top, so long as there are three completely separate Service Departments and a separate Ministry of Supply, there is apt to be more and more difficulty in cooperation, as one goes down the Departments. Sooner or later something will have to be done. I do not say that this is the moment to act, but the suggestion deserves careful consideration and study, and I hope that the Minister of Defence has noted how often the question has been raised in this debate.
Now I come to a subject which links up with a remark in the speech of the right hon. Member for Bassetlaw when examining National Service. He raised the issue of our forces in Germany and appeared to suggest that our forces might well be reduced because of what has happened with the French Forces, and also possibly because of the slow build-up in Germany. That was his suggestion?
§ Mr. Bellenger
My real suggestion was that the cost of those Forces in hard currency would eventually cause us to cut down our military programme, according to the White Paper, and might at some time even result in a reduction of those Forces in Germany.
§ Mr. Maclay
If the right hon. Gentleman is arguing about the financial clauses in the Paris Agreements, which are escape clauses in the event of a balance of payment crisis or for difficult economic reasons, that is one thing. If, however, it is argued that because one of our Allies in N.A.T.O. has had to reduce the number of her forces in Europe, we 1139 should go back on a commitment made at the time of the Parish Agreements, it is a serious matter.
§ Mr. Maclay
No, the hon. Gentleman cannot say that and it is the kind of remark which could lead to serious trouble. Do hon. and right hon. Gentlemen realise how important the Paris Agreements are to our entire theory of defence, not simply because Germany is to rearm and add some strength to the line across Europe, but for far more important reasons? The Paris Agreements were the first tangible evidence to the near-European nations that Britain was completely committed to the principle of being in with Europe from the very beginning of anything, instead of coming in later.
I know it sounds absurd in this country to suggest that any Europeans could doubt that we would be in a war if they were attacked, because they had the evidence in the 1914–18 war and in the 1939–45 war. The fact remains, however, that the commitment of four British divisions to the Continent of Europe over a long period has done more than anything else to satisfy those people in Europe that we mean business, that we should be with them not only after a war has started but with them in building up the defensive strength which might prevent a war happening, and that we would be there the minute troops moved instead of straggling across the Channel at a later date.
§ Mr. Fernyhough
Is the right hon. Gentleman suggesting that it would have been just as easy to push the Paris Agreements through this House if the House had known at the time, as it knows now, that there is little likelihood of the Germans making any financial contribution to the costs of those four divisions?
§ Mr. Maclay
That is an unjustifiable assumption. The position at the time of the Paris Agreements was clear as to what would happen first, and we are now waiting for the next stage. I shall not attempt to assume what will happen, because one cannot tell, but it is wrong to assume the worst straight away.
§ Mr. Maclay
The papers may say that, but they are making certain assumptions.
Memories are extremely short, and relatively few people except those who have studied the Paris Agreements today remember anything about them. They fail to remember that it was through the Paris Agreements commitments that we put four divisions in Europe. Last night I was delighted to hear the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs talk about Western European Union and the armaments control which is developing inside it. The Paris Agreements were a whole, and the commitments of British troops were an essential part of them.
If we want Western European Union to develop—and it is developing slowly through no fault of ours; its armaments control could be a model for a system of armaments control over the whole world—we must not appear to be withdrawing from our full commitment made under the Paris Agreements. I hope that it will go out from the House that we are determined to fulfil our part, even if for reasons of their own, some of our Allies are unable to do what they said they would do.
There is not only the armaments control element. There is a committee of which very few people are aware and which has only begun its work which is known as the Standing Armaments Committee, whose job it is to study the possibility of standardisation, in co-operation with N.A.T.O., and to see that the least wasteful use is made of the resources of the nations contributing to Western European Union. That is immensely important. Very little is said about it, which is a great pity. Great Britain's part in Western Europe depends on the conviction in Western Europe that we stand by our obligations under those Agreements.
If we do not take the lead and continue to take the lead in Western Europe, somebody else will and it is very difficult to know who that will be. There are several possibilities and none of them is very attractive to this country. That touches more on foreign affairs than on defence, but the two are irretrievably linked together.
Decisions that may be taken about Euratom or the O.E.E.C. can be very important in that connection and I hope that nothing will go out from the House to give the slightest indication that we 1141 would like to withdraw from our Western European commitments. I have put a heavy argument in reply to a not very extensive remark about four divisions in Germany, but I have done so because of similar remarks in newspapers and speeches elsewhere and it would be tragic if there got about the idea that that was anybody's serious view.
The White Paper is one of the most useful documents we have yet had. The ordinary individual, who is not a great expert on defence matters, as I am not, has for some years been hopelessly puzzled, but with the last two White Papers there has begun to be made clear the shape of the concept behind the planing of our future defence effort.
The speech of the right hon. Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Strachey) was peculiar, because at moments it sounded as though he was about to develop a fairly effective attack along the lines of the Amendment, that he was about to prove that the White Paper contained…no adequate proposals for a more economical and effective allocation of resources between the services.He was about to prove his case in those words, but he never did. All he succeeded in doing was posing questions which puzzled his party when in Government and which are now puzzling our Government and which will puzzle all Governments for a good many years to come. Moreover, it is not good enough to say that it is not the Opposition's job to give the answers, if they are putting down an important Motion of censure and all the right hon. Member did was to pose questions without giving the answers.
§ Mr. Strachey
I have no doubt that I failed to convince the right hon. Gentleman, but I spent a large part of my speech describing the type and size of the three Services which, rightly or wrongly, I thought met the requirements; and I made a positive suggestion about the reorganisation of the Ministry of Defence as the beginning of the way to get there. That is how to begin and what the goal should be. One cannot say much more.
§ Mr. Maclay
I accept that the right hon. Gentleman made a positive suggestion about the Ministry of Defence. But I followed closely what he was arguing 1142 about the three Services, and I did not hear anything positive come out of it at all. One wonders whether if the right hon. Gentleman were in office he would have the courage to make decisions along the lines he suggested. I do not think he would. Even in his speech he was questioning whether this was desirable. He was not certain. When we come to the Navy, to the question of whether one is to have battleships, I think the answer might be fairly easy. But the right hon. Gentleman was questioning whether the Navy was necessary at all.
§ Mr. Maclay
That was the implication of what he said, and that is going a long way. I do not think that he would abolish the Navy, but what would he do? Would he have no anti-submarine frigates, no cruisers, no aircraft carriers? Where would he make his decision and draw the line? He did not deal with that.
§ Mr. Strachey
In a word—that is all I am permitted to say—I put all those things in lower priorities than they are today.
§ Mr. Maclay
That may be, but it does not give a clear-cut answer. [HON. MEMBERS: "It is for the Government."] Of course, every Government is trying to decide on priorities. I think that the priorities will emerge pretty well in due course. The White Paper shows that we are moving in the right direction, to a Navy which can fulfil the necessary cold war functions. The fact remains that a very important element in the maintenance of peace in the world is that units of the British Navy can appear where they are needed at the right moment and the functions of the Navy in atomic war are clearly indicated in the White Paper—
§ Mr. Maclay
No, I am afraid that the right hon. Gentleman cannot ask me anything.
I should like to finish on this note. So far as the Army is concerned, this White Paper gives a clear conception of what the Army is for. It makes clear the conception of a brigade ready to move anywhere at short notice. The function of the Royal Air Force is becoming clear. References to Royal Air Force matters in 1143 this debate have been to production and not about the principles in the White Paper.
§ Mr. Maclay
I conclude by saying that whatever attack has been developed in this debate, it is difficult to make it amount to the strength of the Amendment on the Order Paper and one must admit that whatever Government may be in power is faced with extremely difficult problems. This White Paper, and the one before it, shows that this Government is moving steadily towards the right answers.
§ Mr. Stokes
May I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he considers that £1,000 million down the drain, with no aircraft produced, is a move in the right direction?
§ Mr. Maclay
I can give only one answer to that and it is such a boring answer that I hardly dare to give it—the responsibility goes back years and years.
§ Debate adjourned.—[Mr. E. Wakefield.]
§ Debate to be resumed Tomorrow.