§ [THIRD DAY]
Order read for resuming adjourned debate on Question [5th November]:
That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, as follows:
Most Gracious Sovereign,
We, Your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, in Parliament assembled, beg leave to offer our humble thanks to Your Majesty for the Gracious Speech which Your Majesty has addressed to both Houses of Parliament.—[Lady Tweedsmuir.]
§ Question again proposed.
§ 2.42 p.m.
§ Mr. George Brown (Belper)
In discussing defence questions at this stage—what ought to be, in some ways, about half-way between one White Paper and another—it seems to us particularly useful to take this half-way opportunity to see whether the policy to which Her Majesty's Government have committed us looks, in the light of the developments, still to be right or still to be wrong; and, secondly, to recognise that we meet under the shadow or under the glow of the Russian Sputniks.
One must have a look at our defence policy in the light of what we deduce from the success of these missiles getting into the air and staying there. One is bound to observe that the Minister of Defence has a third Sputnik to worry about. He has an ever-present Sputnik in the shape of the right hon. Member for Carshalton (Mr. Head), who seems to be circling over the Minister's head almost unceasingly. We have no part in this private war, except to say that we would be very interested to see whether this Sputnik comes to earth any sooner than the others now flying about up there. Today's debate may provide him with an opportunity, if he can solve the re-entry problem, of coming down to earth.
Before we come down to the detailed points, we must try to examine from a defence angle the significance of the Russian successes. There have been many attempts to explain them, not only in this country and elsewhere, extending from simulated disregard on the one 315 hand to exaggerated panic on the other, and, as always, the truth seems to lie somewhere in the middle. There are, however, some things we should and can say, which we wish to leave on the record.
Clearly, this is a great achievement, and I speak as one interested in defence, though there are other questions of foreign affairs and politics generally to be taken into account, and we had better recognise for our own good that it is a great achievement. It will have a very considerable impact upon the minds of a lot of people elsewhere in the world. If we seem to deny it, they will wonder why we deny it.
Secondly, and this is a little more controversial, it clearly changes the defence scene, and in some very important respects; not least the fact that America is now clearly as vulnerable to rocket attack as we have been for some time past. I think we want to recognise this, not necessarily because it is our business, but because one does not know what America's final conclusion will be from that realisation, and it is by no means certain that her final reaction will be what it is now. We have to frame our defence planning and all we want to say and think about interdependence, recognising that this event has made big changes in this and some other respects, though most certainly in this one.
Thirdly, it not only means that Russia has made a terrific advance in scientific achievement in getting these satellites into the air, but it also probably means that she has the answer to other missile problems. While this is bound to have—or should have—a very considerable effect on our defence planning here, it makes it certain that the delivery system and the defence arrangements and other plans which have been made on the basis of a feeling that these systems would be valid until 1965, or beyond, will be invalid before that date. I have used the word "certain," but I will now withdraw it and say instead that it makes it likely. The things upon which we have relied as deterrent capacity may be out of date before 1965. What we have relied upon to deal with the possibility of an attack westwards up to that date may be out of date before that time.
These considerations are important ones, which have to be taken into account 316 in trying to learn the lessons of our defence policy. There is one consideration of particular significance, though it is no part of my brief, and I mention it only because we must not get the picture out of focus. Its overriding importance will be emphasised in tomorrow's debate. It is the moral lesson which the uncommitted world will draw from the almost fantastic Russian advance. Clearly, this is amongst Mr. Khrushchev's greatest aims—to see that these lessons are drawn in these quarters—and we have to remember that not only have our reactions and deductions to be right, but that there are problems among these other people which, if we go to their help early, quickly and competently, may well do a good deal to offset the propaganda value of this achievement to Mr. Khrushchev and the Communist world. I do not pursue that matter at the moment, because my right hon. Friend the Member for Derby (Mr. P. Noel-Baker) will do so tomorrow. We must, however, keep this in mind.
What are the lessons for us, either as actual or would-be defence planners? First, to accept firmly and fully, no matter what our private reactions to Communism may be, the fact that there is nothing in the Soviet system which somehow gives democracies an advantage in these matters and in solving different problems. While it may be true of intangibles, the things of the spirit and those things which make a man stand up against terrific odds, as in the case of Hungary, Russia's size, resources and her ability to plan and to concentrate ruthlessly on the job in hand enables her to achieve enormous things in a scientific age which for democracy are very much more difficult to do.
We need not be terrified by this. It is a great point of mine not to be terrified by known opposition; the terrifying thing is not to see and to know how big the opposition is. The intangibles no doubt do help enormously, but it must be recognised that all this must give greater point to the need to remove, if we can, any points of conflict between East and West, to lessen the tensions and make some progress towards disarmament. Even if it were only in the realm of inspection and control of what arms already exist in certain areas, that would have a considerable steadying influence in this situation, and if further types of weapons were also dealt with, that would be a great 317 help. But all these points are for tomorrow's debate.
Just as the need to re-think defence policy has received a shot in the arm from the Sputniks, so I think the need to rethink foreign policy and the attitudes and postures we adopt in that field is vital. Defence answers must be sought first of all. Not much of what I am going to say will be at all new. As many have said, these answers must be sought in combined action by the democracies, and notably by us and the United States. To give only one example, it seems to me it would be costly almost beyond dreams and pointless now for us to seek to replace our V-bombers with missile delivery systems, either from land or from submarines, all by ourselves. There is not only the money to be considered; in the light of the Sputnik, the question of time would rule us out if the money question did not.
That is why I welcomed the Prime Minister going to Washington, and when I first heard it I welcomed the communiction he issued; but the welcome must rapidly dwindle unless this time it means action, The Prime Minister is not present, but no doubt he will read what I say. He must understand that if one calls this into account it is not for the sort of political purpose in which we normally delight and in which I take my full share, but because we have we have had it all before in these very words. What the Prime Minister is now telling us is the result of his recent visit to Washington we were told by the present Minister of Defence when he was Minister of Supply. He made the same odyssey in 1954. One can only observe that no doubt he meant it to be true then, but if it had been true then there would have been no room for improvement today.
Therefore, it was clearly not true then and one is bound to ask for more evidence than a repeated assertion. To refresh the memory of the Minister of Defence, since he cannot carry all his speeches in his head, I will read from the Manchester Guardian leader of 25th October quoting the right hon. Gentleman about the arrangements he had made on his visit to Washington during the Whitsuntide Recess:These arrangements, which have since been formally confirmed by the two Governments, 318 will, I am sure, be of mutual benefit. In particular they should enable both countries to make the most productive use of their available scientific and technical resources in this field and should help to speed up the development and introduction of guided missiles, which are urgently needed for common defence.They should have done, but did not do so, and a repeated assertion that some new arrangements should do so does not take us a long way. Was there an agreement in Washington, or was there an agreement that some people should proceed from here to Washington to discuss having an agreement? There is a world of difference between the answers to those two questions. Has anything more detailed been fixed? Do we know anything more about the weapons we are talking about pooling? Have we any information about the weapons we are no longer to make, the weapons we are to get from there and the weapons we are to contribute? In what sense is this really interdependence?
One has to be sure that inter-dependence never becomes dependence; there are two different meanings to those two different words. I could not be more clear on the need for interdependence, but I would be very frightened of it slipping, because no one checked it at this stage, into dependence. The risk and urgency of all this for the people are sufficient for us to press the Government to give more details than probably the security experts would like them to give, because not only are the Government involved, but the Opposition also, in the risks inherent in the situation.
I ask this next question as one who fought for German rearmament against considerable odds at times. I should like to know what this interdependence means so far as Germany is concerned. I think a lot of people in this country who took what they thought the realistic and logical view earlier would need to know what interdependence means if it is to bring Germany into the rocket and nuclear field. I am not saying in advance that I would disagree with the answer if I knew what it was. There are so many things which cannot be the subject of secret annexes to communications about which the rest of us know nothing at all. Such fanciful stories are now circulated. Look at the story which was in every newspaper yesterday. I have a catholic selection of newspapers which 319 suggest that the Prime Minister had committed us to a super-cabinet in N.A.T.O. In one it is suggested that this control is passed to the Ministerial Council of N.A.T.O. and that the whole thing has become a real political Europe.
I was, of course, worried, although I did not really believe it, but I understand that yesterday the Minister in charge of co-ordination of information—[An HON. MEMBER: "Where is he?"]—he is here—had a meeting with political journalists. The purpose of the whole meeting, in the words of one who was present, was to explain what it was the Prime Minister did not say. It is a rather difficult situation we have now reached in which we have a meeting at which a special Minister makes sure that journalists know what it was the Prime Minister did not say. I understand he did not take on the job of telling them what the Prime Minister did say, but what the Manchester Guardian said today is a comment on it:now Mr. Macmillan, having flown a kite at a reasonable height (as he thought) finds that too many have tried to look at it through the wrong end of their binoculars….Later, the newspaper says:The official explanation is than Mr. Macmillan's reference was expressed as no more than 'a general truth.' There was no intention in his words to announce something new, and certainly no hint of plans for a 'super-cabinet.'…Mr. Macmillan's prime ministerial habit of enunciating 'general truths' in rather grand language has been apparent for some time. The latest incident may make more commentators reflect on it.Once before the present Prime Minister cheated on Europe, or was thought to have cheated on Europe. He left behind him, as a result of the tremendous feeling he and the Minister of Defence once built up among Europeans concerning what they would do on the reality of political Europe and then did not do, such a wave of resentment, cynicism and disillusionment that all of us who have been to Strasbourg know has lasted for a long time since. I do not think he ought to fly kites of this kind at any height if at the end when someone thinks he means something real he has to send another Minister to say that he did not mean anything really.
Surely our defence policy and the White Paper concept should be reviewed. In March or April it looked to us like over- 320 reliance and unreal reliance on the alleged ability to deliver the mass deterrent, the suicide weapon, the weapon that is a weapon until you use it. Then we had some discussion with the Minister of Defence about it, and I do not think he will think it unkindly to repeat that many of the commentators reported, when he had been questioned by myself, my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman) and others on the limitations of this strategic concept, that he showed in his answers that he had thought staggeringly little about it and was extremely unsure of what the position should be. I ask him seriously, has be thought again since then? He must have done, because this is clear to those of us who have been thinking about defence in the meantime.
Has the Minister of Defence come to different conclusions than he did then? Has he read Mr. Dulles's recent article in Foreign Affairs? Mr. Dulles had been thought by many to be both the architect and the main general upholder of the argument for massive retaliation. Does the Minister of Defence realise that he is now left standing alone on the brink and that whoever else had gone to the brink has now exercised "brinkmanship" and withdrawn? If he reads Mr. Dulles's article he will see this very clearly.
Does the right hon. Gentleman want to remain on the brink alone? Had he not better review, moderate and modify the concept in the White Paper? I heard a right hon. Gentleman opposite say "graduated deterrent". There is nothing more fatal in the world than to let certain words and slogans subsequently bedevil all discussion and all debate. Some of those who espoused the arguments and the slogan of a graduated deterrent gave them a wider meaning than I could possibly have given them, and they have now become a sort of catchword which is thrown into the ring every time we debate this subject of considering something less than massive retaliation. There is something in between. Let us not hear these words too often, or "Rear Admirable Buzzard", if that helps. Let us realise that there is a concept which, of all major parties in the world, only Her Majesty's Government are holding.
Remember that the deterrent is much more present in the means of delivery than in the actual possession of the 321 bomb. I am told that one can make bombs, when one is over a certain limit, relatively easily and relatively cheaply, but they are not much use sitting in a strong store here unless we have the means of delivering them. That means not only a bomb in the bomb bay of an aircraft, but it also means the warhead on a missile. One thing which I learned from my trip to America, where I was very grateful to the American defence people who talked so freely to me, is that a warhead is something more than that which is screwed on the nose of a missile. We cannot divorce missiles and warheads in this way; they are an integral part of the weapon and of the whole problem of the McMahon Act and many other problems.
If what I said earlier is true about replacing our V-bombers at some stage, and about having no alternative, it will be very costly to us. If we take the line that any issue which may have been met at another level of arms can no longer be met there because as a matter of policy we have rejected it, then the corollary of all that is being said about interdependence is that the control of the delivery will at some stage in the near future be much less in our hands than it has been up to now. Indeed, we may never again—I do not think this is an exaggeration, but we shall see as time goes on—have a means of delivery entirely in our own hands. To tie ourselves, as I think we are, to a concept which excessively relies on the H-bomb strategy and the mass deterrent must, if my guess about the future is right, mean that before very long, possibly while many of us are still in the House, we may have reached the stage where we have tied ourselves to a strategic concept which is in somebody else's ultimate control.
I have committed myself to the view that the H-bomb has a rôle, a view which I still hold, although I do not think it has the rôle which the Government give to it. Part of the reason for committing myself was in order that the ultimate political control should never wholly pass from this country. If we land ourselves only with this strategy we run a very grave risk of reaching that stage.
Some malicious columnists—and I know that there are some, because I suffer from them sometimes—have 322 written, notably last Sunday, that the Defence Minister reached this concept not on merit nor, as I understand it was charitably put, on understanding, but simply to provide the Government with a rationale to cover the cuts in defence which the Prime Minister had arbitrarily ordered in advance. It may be that when the Sputnik from Carshalton comes to earth we shall hear a great deal more about this.
I have been reluctant to believe it of the right hon. Gentleman, but I am bound to say that, if he persists in this view now without being willing to think through the complications, then he will be providing a good deal of apparent confirmation for the view. We have to be clear about the purposes of defence provisions and the limitations of the suicide weapon if we are to have a realistic defence policy. The weapon has a rôle, but not, I believe, the rôle which the Government give it. Nor, in my view, must we swing from one extreme to the other.
One of the problems is the way in which the defence policy in this country is getting into a pendulum-swinging phase. In April the Minister swung the pendulum too far towards the massive nuclear retaliation. Now others seek to swing it back with great vigour towards what they call conventional forces, but the conventional forces of the future—while we need them and while I gather that the Minister thinks we need them—will not be conventional in terms of what was conventional a year or two ago. They will be conventional in the light of the problems and possibilities of the present age.
We must have some guidance and steadiness here, because nothing is worse than this lack of steadiness for national morale or national defence or the chance of getting recruits into the Forces. Unless people feel that there is a purpose, a determination and a clear logical thread running through, we shall not succeed. If we swing this way and then that way, people become very uneasy and unsteady.
The Minister has the unenviable job of establishing the rôle which forces on the ground are to play. As long as he is there—it may be that he will not have to do it for too much longer, and he can take courage from that—he has the responsibility of establishing the rôle 323 which they must play and establishing the nature and size which is needed for them to play that rôle. He has to establish the amount of transport and equipment. He must establish what kind of transport and what kind of weapons, how much transport and how many weapons they need in order to play that rôle.
I must not deal with the Air Force and the Navy, although it is a temptation to do so. My right hon. and hon. Friends will do this. I will concentrate, somewhat reluctantly, but for the reason which I have given, on the Army.
In the light of what I have been saying, our belief is that the size of the Army must be dictated by the functions it has to perform. As I have said before and I repeat, if we do not want to provide that kind of Army, we should not provide one half as big or one half as well armed, because none of us dares repeat the experience which some went through before us of sending men in inadequate numbers with inadequate popguns to meet a great mass of metal and manpower on the other side.
If we reject the concept which I understand is to be the subject of a book shortly to be published on the whole business of passive resistance, we must accept that the kind of Army we have must be dictated by the functions it has to perform. This does not mean that we start by believing in a big Army. All my researches have brought me to the view that there is not a military case for a large standing Army.
I cannot see the military purposes of an Army the size we have had in the last few years and that we had before the war. Even more do I fail to see the military case for passing masses, the majority, of our young men through the Army at the age of 18 to get two years' inadequate training, knowing full well that the training for this kind of function and purpose is almost certain to be illusory in the main, that their chances of mobilisation in an emergency are extremely slender and that having to deal with them in training prevents the Regular soldiers from getting the training which they should be getting in the job which somebody will have to do. It seems to me, however one looks at it—and I am torpedoing, "shorthanding", my arguments, though they can be developed at great 324 length—that there is no military case for a large standing Army, and I pick out three arguments that I think are tremendously important which I should like the Minister to answer, even though he may reject them.
If I am right, the case for National Service does not now exist. I say that, not because there appears to be a difference of opinion between the two Front Benches about this—and I shall return to that later—but in order to establish my view about it. There is no case for National Service if there is no military case for a large standing Army and a gigantic, partially-trained Reserve. On this side, we did not start the exercise from a point of view of saving money, but in order to see what were the functions we wanted the Armed Services to perform. If it saves money, that is useful and good, and one should be pleased about it.
The only question that remains is: must we compel a tiny minority of men to serve in the Armed Forces, in which the vast majority are not compelled to serve, in order to close the gap between those who will volunteer and the numbers required? I think that this is the only question left to argue about. Is there a gap between volunteers and requirements that we cannot close for lack of 30,000, 50,000, 70,000 men—whatever the figure may be—and have we to compel, by selection, by lot, by ballot, by local draft boards up to 70,000 of the 310,000 or 320,000 who become 18 every year to go into the Forces in order to make up the lack in the numbers of volunteers?
I do not argue this on figures alone—one can tie oneself up on figures about this—but I will give some figures. The experts on figures are apt to forget the old joke: "Figures can't lie but all sorts of peoples can figure." They do their exercise merely as if they were feeding it into Leo or Ernie, but there are things with which Leo and Ernie cannot help one.
For example, though we might have this kind of mixed force, mixed forces will always be difficult to manage unless the conscripts do the same period of service, and serve on the same terms, as do the volunteers. If we had a force where, let us say, 50,000 were conscripts and 110,000 were volunteers, and if the 50,000 325 were in for only two years and were then going out again, while the 110,000 were serving for six, nine, twelve or twenty-two years, we would be presented with exactly the same problem as now.
The conscript chaps would not be there long enough to feed into the machine properly, and, as a result, they would disrupt the units. Too much time would he spent on their training by the Regulars. There would still be too much time spent on movement irrelevant to the jobs of the Forces. Therefore, without going into great detail, I say that selective service may be giving the rose a better name—or a better smell—but it leaves us with all the complications and difficulties in the way of an effective, compact, flexible Army with which the National Service Army leaves us.
I invite the Government to come clean. The Minister of Defence is committed to ending the call-up in 1960. He is committed to getting a wholly Regular Army by 1962. Other Ministers introduced what I thought were some reservations about all this; the White Paper introduced a reservation about all this, but, in answer to my questions in the last debate, the Minister of Defence introduced no reservations at all. He is personally committed to both of those dates.
I would point out, however, that both dates outlive the life of this Government. The National Service legislation runs out at the end of 1958—next year. So long as the Government do not deal—and, as I shall show they have not dealt—with the complications of getting a Regular Army of a size they deem necessary in 1962—so long as they avoid that, there must be ground for suspicion—I put it no higher than this—that the Minister of Defence is deliberately seeking to take the political popularity gained in this Parliament by announcing the end of conscription and leaving to someone in another Parliament the difficulties, the complications and the problems of putting it into effect. If he says that that is an unworthy suspicion and that people should not say these things, then he is bound, in this present Parliament, to do something about getting his Regular Army.
We on this side always said that that was a four-year operation. I moved the first Motion on this subject in 1956. We repeated it last year. We said that it 326 should be a four-year plan; that getting the Regular Army must go along side by side with running down the conscript Army; that we should discuss the plans with N.A.T.O. and make our final decision in the light of the implications and the consequences, and so on, to that organisation. Had that idea not been rejected in 1956, we should now be nearly half way through the four-year programme for getting rid of conscription and half way through the programme of bringing up the Regular Army, and we should be starting to see what were the consequences of both decisions.
The Government rejected that proposal in 1956. They rejected it early in 1957 but accepted it later in 1957. Having accepted it, six months go off one half of the programme—that for running down the conscript Army. So far, they have declined to say what they are to do about running up the other half. Therefore, we have already lost six months of the four years. Even if they came forward now with far-reaching proposals, they would still be six months behind in their programme, so the right hon. Gentleman must have been put out of gear by this, even though he refuses to admit it.
The problems go much further than that. He is not only running down the conscript Army, but is making a very successful attempt to run down the Regular Army. We have looked at these figures as best we can. We have looked at the figures of monthly recruiting and at those for quarterly recruiting. We cannot get beyond September—we have not yet got the October figures—but I think that we have been fair. I do not see how we can arrange the figures to give an Army much bigger than 70,000 or 80,000 by the time the operation is over. That is rather less than half the Army the Minister says he wants. I cannot know what numbers the Army's commitments require or whether all the commitments that are being retained are essential, or whether they might not be more elastic. I have a suspicion that some reduction may still be possible. All my friends will not agree, but I have that feeling.
If the War Office were not so obstinate in refusing to do what the Americans and all our other allies are doing in the way of reorganisation of their armies on the 327 basis of the pentomic division and stopped this ridiculous obsession for the brigade groups—and I can find no senior officer who served in the last war who believes in those groups—if they would do what all our allies are doing and have the pentomic division, I believe that our commitments in Germany, our commitments here for a strategic reserve, and our commitments in the Middle East could be met with far fewer men than we are now thinking of—
§ Mr. Brown
When I was at school it meant something to do with fives. The division is arranged into teams of five. The man who writes most clearly on this in this country is Captain Liddell Hart. I will send to the noble Lord, not the whole book, but three articles that appeared in the Daily Mirror which are quite useful as a simple man's guide to what it all means. But if I have misled the noble Lord, the War Office certainly knows all about it, though it is puzzling to me.
One does not have to be an expert to know that while our allies—the Americans, the French and the Germans—are organising in this way, we persist in an organisation which does not give the sort of command it should, and involves the use of more troops than we really need. If I am wrong, let the experts say so, but I suspect that there could be a saving there.
This is the measure of the failure of the present Prime Minister and the present Minister of Defence since they had this job. I do not know yet whether 165,000 is the Army's view and the Minister's view of the irreducible minimum of soldiers that they want. Are they keeping something up their sleeves for subsequent disgorgement to make the figures come right? I do not know if this is the figure which the Chiefs-of-Staff gave as an irreducible minimum. All we have had are a lot of fancy words—what I call a façade of toughness behind which awkward decisions are dodged. I believe this party must face the problem if the Government will not do so.
Assuming for the moment—I do not know if I am right—that an Army of 328 this size is required, getting 300 or 400 men a week to choose the Army in preference to other employment is going to be no cakewalk for any Government. The Government's dilatoriness in carrying out the four-year operation makes the position a lot worse now. But I do not regard it as impossible. I should like to rehearse some of the reasons why I do not believe it is impossible.
I will not use loads of figures—I have given some—but, looking at the figures any way one likes, one comes to the conclusion that we need a figure equivalent to about 11 per cent. of the total number of men who become 18 years of age in a certain year to choose the forces in preference to other jobs. Of course, a certain number of those men will be medically unfit, and therefore we may make an adjustment to that figure—say to 12 per cent. If we look at the prewar figures, we find that we got just about exactly that in every steady year before the war. The only difference between then and now is that we had the whip of unemployment. Against that, we shall not now have as many physical rejections as we had then, because the physique of the people is higher.
There are some compensating factors to be considered here. I do not know which one outweighs the other, but we are talking about getting seven or eight additional young men out of every 100 available to join the forces in preference to taking other jobs. I believe that is the measure of the problem—to get seven or eight additional young men to choose the forces. I do not believe that can be an impossible job. It seems to me as a Socialist and as a trade unionist that it is the same sort of job that one finds in manning the mines. Bernard Shaw a long while ago asked, "Who does the dirty work under Socialism?" Who does the dirty work in an age of full employment? We have got to persuade some fellows that there are compensations for doing this or that.
I will give a list of what I think will do it. Only the Minister can make his priorities. Whether we choose a six-year, a ten-year or a twelve-year engagement makes no difference.
§ Mr. George Wigg (Dudley)
Obviously there is an enormous difference between whether one multiplies a number of men 329 by three or by twelve. The terms of engagement before the war were fantastically different from what we have now. Obviously we cannot do this in a four-year plan, because it will take several years.
§ Mr. Brown
I gave way to my hon. Friend to avoid being discourteous, but I was afraid that he wanted to use my speech to make his own speech. As I have a feeling that I lose two friends for every five minutes that I speak over 35 minutes, I do not want to lose too many this week. I only hope that the referee, whoever he is, will recognise that a great part of my time has been deducted for stoppages.
This is a fair argument between the hon. Member and myself in which, I think, he exaggerates the marginal effect of these differences. However, it is up to him to make his point. The Minister must make the priorities. He must choose the price that he is prepared to pay and he must decide where he is prepared to pay it.
The first inducement clearly is pay. Pay is not everything, but most of us begin that way, especially if we are in that particular pay range. We must get the pay in the forces nearer to the pay that men can earn in ordinary civilian life. We must stop talking about so much a day. I believe this is psychologically very discouraging indeed. A man knows about weekly earnings, and we should talk to him like that. What exactly the pay should be I cannot say. Estimates have been made in this House and out of it. All I can say is that if we want a Regular Army of this size, we will not get the men to choose the Army for a lot less than they are getting outside.
Secondly, there is this question of future security. The position of men coming out into civilian life rather late in their lives is a complicated and, for them, a discouraging matter. There is a need for discussions between the Government and the T.U.C.—if the Government are on speaking terms with the T.U.C.—and with the B.E.C.—and I am not sure whether there is a breach there also; but certainly there should be discussions with the T.U.C. and the B.E.C. about the way that this could be done.
I wish to draw the attention of the Minister to a leader in The Times the 330 other day which gave an excellent description of how the Canadians do this, with pensions and other arrangements which ought to be looked at.
Status in the forces is very important. Men will not choose the Army, if everything else is right, if they are going to get the kind of pushing about which they will not take and are not asked to take outside in civilian life. I have a most important letter from a colonel, of which I will read an extract. He is not a colonel in this House, not even a brigadier on the other side. This is a much better source than that. This is a very well liked colonel in one of our important regiments.
§ Mr. Brown
Not Yorkshire, and not Derbyshire either. Referring to what I had said about sergeant majors and colonels, he says:You are quite right about sergeant majors, a little less right about colonels…. You are quite right about recruiting. You would be quite right if you said"—and I apologise to the House for his language—that no man but a bloody fool or a Goddamned idiot would join the Regular Army under the present uninspired unintelligent leadership…. Intelligent treatment of the soldier as an individual is almost unknown…. The problem is not insoluble"—and he goes on to say how the problem can be solved. That letter is from a Regular colonel, the sort who would look much more comfortable on the benches opposite than on this side of the House, to show that this problem is not the imagination of trade unionists and others who have never served in the Army but is very strongly felt by people who know.
Next is housing. Priority housing for anybody whom we want to drag to an unpleasant part of the land or to do an unpopular job has always been an important part of the policy of attraction, and it is as true here as anywhere else.
Next there is a need for further civilianisation of Army functions and services. A lot more work can be done in the Army either by civilian contractors or by direct civilian labour, and need not be part of the soldiers' job at all.
I could go on. I wanted to ask the Minister about transport. There is so much that is urgent. If we get the men, 331 where are the weapons with which to equip them? Where are the aeroplanes to get them to the scene of operations more quickly than a tramp steamer got them to Suez? We are still limited to seven-knot tramp steamers. We are shutting down the Beverley freight production line. Aeroplane manufacturers have replacements on the stocks again and cannot get authority to go ahead with the development of them. All these matters should be faced.
Many people have said that this is the worst Government in modern times. I think that membership of it will be a thing that grown and stout men will hide from their grandchildren. But to have been a Minister of Supply, a Service Minister or a Minister of Defence in this Government will be an indelible brand. They have wasted between them fabulous sums of money to get down to a position where we have no defence policy and no forces relevant to such a policy. Finally, in March of this year, they got round to producing a new look. I believe they got the answers wrong then, and I believe that in all the developments since last April our criticisms have been proved profoundly right.
§ 3.30 p.m.
§ The Minister of Defence (Mr. Duncan Sandys)
There was much thought in the speech of the, right hon. Gentleman the Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown) which, I have no doubt, interested the House as a whole. We all know not only that the right hon. Gentleman is a keen student of defence problems in the abstract, but that he has taken great pains to travel to foreign commands and other countries in order to see things for himself. Therefore, anything he says, I am sure, commands attention in this House and outside. His concluding remarks, however, were perhaps not quite on the level of the earlier part of his speech.
In the Defence White Paper last April, as the title indicated, we gave in very general terms an outline of our future defence policy over the next five years. The translation of that general outline into precise plans and decisions was bound to involve much detailed study and discussion among ourselves, with the Commonwealth, and with our allies. We have been intensively pursuing those studies and discussions during the last six months and a number of important issues 332 have been settled. I shall refer to some of them during the course of my speech today.
To obtain the best return in terms of real, effective defence from the expenditure we incur in money and manpower and other resources, it is essential that we should, as far as possible, plan for a reasonable period ahead. That is what we are trying to do in the White Paper I say "as far as possible" because it is no easy matter, with the ever-increasing rate of technological progress in the world today. Only twelve years ago the first atom bomb was dropped, and it is only five years since the first thermonuclear explosion. Parallel with these things, we have seen startling developments in the means of delivering the new weapons, such as the long-range ballistic rocket and now the atomic submarine.
In deciding what emphasis should be placed on the various potential threats and dangers, in trying to visualise what kind of military operations we might have to undertake, and in all the studies which I am making, I am trying wherever I can to visualise particular operations, particular circumstances, in which we might need to deploy our forces. If one thinks always in the abstract, one finds one never does get down to anything very precise. In determining the future roles of the various arms and branches of the Services and planning their weapons and equipment—in all this one has to be something of a crystal-gazer. That we must recognise. The view one takes of the course of future events may not always be correct, but one thing is quite certain: if we were to base our decisions only upon those things which we knew for sure and which were quite clear, we should almost inevitably be wrong and almost always be late.
The uncertainty of the future must not tempt us to try to provide a little of everything to meet every conceivable eventuality, however improbable. In that way, we should make quite sure of having not enough to do anything effective anywhere. In defence, as in other things, we have to take certain considered risks. Our resources are not unlimited, and we must concentrate on those things which at the time appear most important. We must try as far as we can to foresee future developments, if we cannot foresee everything.
§ Mr. Sandys
I think that this is pertinent to the situation in which we are living today, and it is much better to be quite frank about it and, indeed, quite humble about it. If events turn out differently from what was expected, then changes of policy inevitably have to be made. That is in the very essence of defence planning. Having said that, I will add that I see no reason as yet to modify the main conclusions of the White Paper. Not even the Sputniks, in my opinion, have altered the basis of the White Paper. They have gone a very long way to justify it and to meet some of the criticisms which were levelled against it.
One of the outstanding features of the Defence White Paper was the acceptance that we were rapidly entering the rocket age.
§ Mr. Sandys
That the world is rapidly entering the rocket age. We were criticised in some quarters for deciding that the life of the fighter aircraft for the defence of this country was coming towards its close and that, therefore, we should not be justified in starting development or going forward with the development of more advanced types, since, by that time, we should be well into the period when rockets and guided missiles would be the order of the day. I say, therefore, that the recent events, far from requiring us to alter our views, have served only to confirm the general approach and, if anything, emphasise the need to accelerate the process but not to change its course.
One of the most important questions to which we have been giving much thought is the proper distribution of our forces in the different theatres. I thought it right, before arriving at firm conclusions, personally to visit the principle commands overseas and to discuss these matters with the Governors of the Colonies affected, with the Commonwealth Governments and with the Governments of allied countries most directly concerned. During the three Parliamentary Recesses this year I went to Cyprus, Malta, Gibraltar, Aden, Kenya, Singapore, and Hong Kong, and I visited 334 Australia and New Zealand also. As a result, I now have, I think, the necessary information and the opinions of the Governors, Service commanders, and Governments concerned, and we are now in a position to reach decisions about the deployment of our forces overseas and to settle the future command structure.
Certain decisions have already been taken, as, for example, with regard to the Middle East Command, about which I should like to say a word or two. Last July, I informed the House that the Government were reviewing the command structure in the Middle East. It is clear that in the present situation the British forces in Arabia and in East Africa can be better controlled from London than from Cyprus. We have, therefore, decided to create a separate—[An HON. MEMBER: "It takes a long trip to decide that."] It is not simply a matter of deciding principles. Quite a lot of matters which are relevant have to be considered before a decision of that kind can be reached.
We have decided to create a separate integrated command at Aden responsible direct to London. The commander will control all British land and air forces in the Arabian Peninsula and in British Somaliland and the naval forces allotted to the Persian Gulf. These arrangements will come into force on 1st April next.
For the same reasons, we have decided to separate the East African area from the Middle East command. We propose to station an element of the strategic reserve in Kenya. These troops will thus be readily available as reinforcements either to go to the Arabian Peninsula or to go to the Far East. The use of these troops will be controlled from London and by arrangement with the three East African Governments they will be administered by the General Officer Commanding, East Africa. This plan, I assure the House, will not involve the construction of any new headquarters or base installations in Kenya.
§ Mr. R. T. Paget (Northampton)
Where are they to be based? Is Aden to be a command post or a base? If it is not to be a base, where are these troops to be based?
§ Mr. Sandys
I said "base" because I think there were some ideas that something like a great new Suez base was to 335 be erected in Kenya, with vast installations and workshops, at immense expense. I wanted to assure the House that the stationing of troops there, available as reinforcements for other theatres, would not involve the setting up of a great base organisation.
§ Mr. Sandys
It is not necessary to have a great base organisation in order to have units available in a handier position to go to other areas for reinforcement.
§ Mr. Sandys
If they went to the Far East, we do not need a new base in East Africa—but I do not wish to pursue the matter at this stage. I shall explain later.
Vehicles, heavy equipment and items of that kind for any reinforcements which go out to these overseas theatres will be kept on the spot overseas and, therefore, it will not be necessary to have—[HON. MEMBERS: "Where?"] I mentioned the Far East and Aden. The vehicles and heavy equipment which these troops in Kenya would require if they were sent to Aden or to the Far East will be stocked at those two places so that they would not have first to be moved, with all the business of transportation; nor would they have to be maintained in Kenya.
§ Mr. John Strachey (Dundee, West)
We are rather puzzled by this. Kenya, I understand, is the same distance from the Persian Gulf as London. It is difficult to see the advantage of this arrangement if no base is being made there especially.
§ Mr. Sandys
I do not see the great advantage of putting a base there if the necessary installations are already in Aden and Singapore. That is my point. It is my business to try to ensure that we do not go on building more and more bases all over the world and incurring great expenditure.
§ Mr. Frank Beswick (Uxbridge)
The right hon. Gentleman has said that there are to be troops in Kenya, but no equipment or vehicles. Is that the case?
§ Mr. Sandys
I think I made myself quite clear. As I said, I do not wish to pursue the detail of this. I have, however, made it clear that the vehicles and heavy equipment for these troops would be kept in Aden and in Singapore so that they could be quickly transported—[Interruption.] I explained that the purpose of those troops—[Interruption.] I shall not go on over and over again. If the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) would listen, I would tell him that the purpose of having those troops there is an additional element of the strategic reserve in a convenient and a healthy place. Our thought is not that they will have to conduct operations in Kenya. Therefore, it seems desirable and convenient that the heavy equipment which would delay their transportation should be kept in the theatres where they might have to operate. When the hon. and learned Member considers it further, I think he will see that that makes sense.
We intend eventually to establish an integrated Army and Air Force command in Cyprus under a single commander. The internal situation, however, makes it necessary for the time being to postpone this amalgamation. As at present, the British land forces in Libya will continue to be controlled from Cyprus. The decision to detach the forces in the Arabian Peninsula and East Africa from the Middle East Command will make possible substantial reductions in staff and base organisations in Cyprus, and will enable certain headquarters to be combined.
The right hon. Member for Belper said a word or two about the importance of air mobility, although he did not dwell on that subject. We have been giving a good deal of thought to this important question. At present, for strategic mobility we are relying on the Comet and Hastings aircraft of Transport Command. The Hastings, in due course, will be progressively replaced by long-range Britannias, of which we have ordered twenty. I should like to associate myself with the expressions of sympathy and regret at the tragic accident which has taken place and to add that in spite of the difficulties which the Britannia has been encountering, we still have every confidence in the future of this fine aircraft.
The Comet and Hastings aircraft at present in Transport Command can carry 337 about 1,800 troops and the twenty Britannias by themselves will carry over 2,000 troops over longer distances. In an emergency, it would, of course, be possible to make use of other Royal Air Force aircraft, together with aircraft from the charter companies, some of which are normally employed on trooping in any case.
It may be said that the process of building up the strength of Transport Command will take some time—of course it will; but it must be remembered that the primary purpose of this policy is to compensate by increased mobility for the reduction in the total number of our forces overseas. This process of reduction will itself be spread over several years. Our object is to ensure that the build-up of Transport Command proceeds parallel and in step with the reduction in the strength of our overseas garrisons.
One of the problems to which we have also been giving a good deal of thought since the publication of the White Paper is that of clarifying the rôle of the Royal Navy in present conditions. I think it can be said that the Royal Navy has three main tasks. The first is, in peacetime, to carry out Imperial police duties, including the protection of British shipping and generally to do what is called "showing the flag", which anyone who travels overseas will recognise to be a not unimportant function and one which may often avoid trouble that might otherwise occur.
In limited war the rôle of the Navy is to escort troops and supplies to the theatre of action and to protect them from attack on the way and to give them support in operations near the coast. In global war its rôle is to make an effective contribution to the combined naval forces of the Western alliance.
The areas in which limited war seems most likely to occur, if it does, are in the Far East and the Persian Gulf. Apart from our membership of the Bagdad Pact and S.E.A.T.O. we have in those areas British military commitments which in the event of trouble we should have to discharge on our own without assistance from any allies. These factors, with the general uncertainty in those parts, make it desirable that Britain should maintain east of Suez a balanced, all-purpose naval force of substantial strength.
338 This eastern fleet will be based on Singapore. Its ships will operate singly or in groups as necessary, coming together at intervals for joint training and exercises, and a small number of vessels will be maintained on station in the Persian Gulf and at Hong Kong.
In the Atlantic, Mediterranean and home waters the problem is different. Apart from colonial responsibilities, the Royal Navy would have to operate in that area not by itself but as part of the Western alliance. Therefore, in this area our primary object should be to contribute the most effective British element we can to the combined naval forces of N.A.T.O.
Russia's vast and still growing submarine fleet undoubtedly constitutes the principal menace at sea, and one which must be of special concern to an island people. Clearly, therefore, the most useful and appropriate part for the Royal Navy to play in N.A.T.O. is to concentrate to an increasing extent on antisubmarine operations.
The right hon. Gentleman asked me whether I had any new thoughts about the nuclear deterrent. I certainly do not propose today to advance any new theories about nuclear weapons or their use. In the White Paper we made it clear that we recognised the necessity for three elements in defence: the deterrent, that is to say, the power of nuclear retaliation; atomic tactical defence; and the normal conventional forces. I am certainly not going to forecast the circumstances in which these three elements might have to be used.
The development of improved tactical weapons may well make it possible to deal with a situation short of global war by means less terrible than wholesale retaliation, but I have no doubt whatsoever that the existence of the ultimate deterrent, as it has been called, still constitutes the major stabilising factor in the world today.
The House may, however, be assured that the bulk of our military effort will continue to go into conventional forces for a long time to come, and there is no change in that. I really do not know why the right hon. Gentleman, who supports our policy of making the hydrogen bomb, a policy which has now secured general acceptance by the party opposite, criticises us for placing 339 "excessive" emphasis on the nuclear deterrent. I have already said in public that the strategic deterrent represents about 15 per cent. of our total defence effort. If we are to have an element of deterrent at all I really cannot see that an element of about 15 per cent. of our resources can be regarded as excessive.
§ Mr. Sandys
It is open to question exactly what items one includes in this calculation. It is probable, if we take one extreme or the other, that it goes somewhere between 12 per cent. and 18 per cent., but that would be the absolute, outside extreme, according to just what we included in that 15 per cent. I think it is a fair estimate, and it includes the defence of the deterrent also.
§ Mr. E. Shinwell (Easington)
Is the right hon. Gentleman speaking in terms of expenditure? If so, does he include the expenditure of the Ministry of Supply?
§ Mr. Sandys
I have tried as fairly as possible to include all the elements which are relevant to this point, that is to say, the bomb, the means of delivery, and the defence.
§ Mr. Wigg rose—
§ Mr. Sandys
I do not want to give way again. I have been fair to the House. I know the hon. Gentleman wants to speak in the debate. I do not like to think that he may, perhaps, be squeezed out of the debate by my speaking too long.
§ Mr. Sandys
I do not think we should try to go into too much detail precisely now. I think I have been quite fair with the House. I have explained the position. Obviously, one can make slight adjustments in the figure one way or the other according to what overheads one takes into account. I have explained the matter fairly and given the House an indication.
The remaining 85 per cent. will go into conventional forces, including a small element for tactical atomic weapons as they come along.
340 Whatever may change and become obsolete one thing will not become obsolete as long ahead as I can foresee, and that is the ordinary soldier standing on his two feet. That brings me to the problem to which the right hon. Gentleman devoted some attention, and that is the question of recruiting. In the White Paper on Defence we calculated that we should aim at:…stabilising the armed forces on an all-regular footing at a strength of about 375,000 by the end of 1962.We went on to say:The Government have accordingly decided to plan on the basis that there will be no further call-up under the National Service Acts after the end of 1960.The position remains as stated there.
It is only six months since the White Paper was issued, and obviously it is far too soon to try to form any worthwhile opinion about the number of recruits we shall be able to enlist over the next five years. I am glad that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Belper did not associate himself with the idea that this is by any means impossible, or that it will not be achieved. I certainly do not share the pessimism which has been expressed in certain quarters, and that pessimism—I might almost call it defeatism—on this subject would certainly come very ill from any Member of the party opposite which, as recently as last February, advocated that National Service should be ended two years sooner than the Government propose.
In the White Paper on Defence we said quite frankly:The task of increasing regular recruitment to the required level will not be easy.The radical changes which we have been making in the three Services were bound to be unsettling, and we fully anticipated that while this process was going on it would have a depressing effect upon recruiting, and it certainly has, but this adverse factor will, we believe, progressively diminish as the position becomes more clarified. The decisions already announced on retirement and on redundancy and on the reorganisation of regiments have, of course, helped to reduce uncertainty about the future. But we recognise that that by itself will not be enough. If we are to get the flow of recruits needed, positive steps must be taken to attract them.
341 This will not be achieved, I believe, by a few sudden and spectacular measures but rather by a sustained and continuing effort. Service pay is obviously a factor which influences a man's inclination to join the forces, and this matter is at present under review by the Government. But pay is only one factor and not necessarily the most important. My attention has been drawn to a number of anomalies and grievances relating to Service allowances which are causing a sense of injustice and irritation and are discouraging men from prolonging their service and from recommending others to join.
I take two small examples. A disturbance allowance at present is payable only once during the period of a normal tour of duty, although postings may, in fact, occur more frequently. Another illustration is that many men serving in Aden and the Persian Gulf cannot have their families with them, because of the shortage of accommodation, and yet, owing to an anomaly, they are not at present entitled to the privilege of home leave to go back to see their families, which is enjoyed by soldiers in certain other overseas stations. These are just examples of irritating anomalies which I am sure have a dispiriting effect and are bad for recruiting. Measures to remedy these and similar grievances will be announced in due course. Another matter to which we are giving attention is the improvement of uniforms and clothing, particularly for the Army, and I believe this to be a matter of some importance.
One more serious discouragement to recruiting is undoubtedly the inadequacy of Service accommodation. Although some fine new barracks and a considerable number of married quarters have been built since the war, many of our troops are still very poorly housed. Successive Governments have resolved to improve matters, but the rate of progress has been disappointing. One of the reasons, I think, has been the continuing uncertainty about the size and distribution of the forces. This has often delayed decisions to start building and has resulted in money voted being left unspent.
Our new defence policy, by settling the size and distribution of the forces over 342 the next five years, will, I believe, now provide a stable basis for planning. It is our intention to proceed with a steady programme to provide modern barracks and more married quarters, and to continue until our forces are housed in a manner worthy of the services which they render to our country.
§ Major H. Legge-Bourke (Isle of Ely)
Would my right hon. Friend say, in that case, that the building of married quarters will not be in the least affected by the Chancellor's decision regarding ordinary housing?
§ Mr. Sandys
Before making the statement which I have just made, I naturally took the precaution to consult my right hon. Friend and I have made this statement with his full authority. We believe that the changes in the Army Works Organisation, announced by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War the other day, will help to get these buildings erected more quickly and more economically, and we are grateful to Lord Weeks and his Committee for the help that he has given us in planning this reorganisation.
The House will see that we are resolved to take action to make material conditions in the Services more satisfactory. We believe that as these measures are implemented they will have an appreciable and cumulative impact upon recruiting. In addition, we feel that it will be useful to initiate a comprehensive review of Service life in all its aspects, against the background of the social, industrial and technological conditions of today. In particular, we think that there should be an independent examination of the factors, psychological as well as material, which affect the willingness of men and women to join the forces. We have, therefore, decided to set up a strong outside Committee for this purpose. Sir James Grigg has kindly agreed to act as chairman of the Committee, which will include members with special experience in industrial and educational matters.
Apart from the conditions of service, one of the most important factors affecting recruiting is the attitude of the public and the Press towards the forces. In the main, men join the Services not so much for the pay but for the life, and, above all, because they feel that they are doing 343 a really worth-while job. And what is said by their friends and what they read in the papers has quite an influence upon their attitude. While the new defence policy has had an unsettling effect in certain respects, the discussion which it has provoked in recent months has helped to emphasise the vital rôle that the three Services play in preserving peace and freedom in these dangerous times.
This increased consciousness of the importance of the Services is, I believe, beginning to have a slight effect upon recruiting. It is, of course, too soon to be sure, but the recruiting figures for September, which have just been published, are appreciably better than the poor results of the last few months. In particular, the number of long-term engagements for the Army, which I think all will agree are the most critical figures, are, in fact, better than the corresponding figures for September a year ago.
The figures for October, which are just beginning to come in, are of particular interest, because that will be the first month after the ending of the three-year engagement for the Army. It was natural that this would increase the number of long-term engagements, but such indications as we have had so far suggest that the rate of long-term engagements in October will show a really welcome improvement. Let us hope that this trend will continue. I shall certainly not be complacent about it. As I have already said, it will depend to a large extent on the attitude of the public towards the Services.
It is the aim of all political parties to step up recruiting to the level needed to enable National Service to be brought to an end. I therefore appeal to hon. Members in all parts of the House to do what they can to give a lead, both nationally and in their constituencies, to help forward recruiting. I am sure that they will do so. If they thought it useful, I would be very happy indeed to meet hon. Members of all parties from time to time and tell them how recruiting is going and to consider with them, if they were willing to do so, how we could best co-operate together to secure the success of an enterprise which is part of a policy that is common to us all. I hope I may ask for that help and support and encouragement of the recruiting campaign, because 344 if it were to fail it would be embarrassing to the whole country.
The House will, I think, wish me to say something about the Russian Sputniks, to which the right hon. Gentleman made some allusion, and to try to assess as far as we can their military significance. It would be an absurd act of self-delusion if we attempted to minimise the remarkable achievement which these two satellites represent. It is no use trying to laugh off the little dog, although I did notice that one newspaper devoted almost as much space to announcing triumphantly the birth of Britain's first baby rhinoceros at Whipsnade.
The Soviet success in getting these two artificial satellites into orbits around the earth deserves our unstinted and ungrudging praise. This feat has been accomplished only as a result of long research and development over many years by teams of scientists and technicians of the very highest quality, not only in the realm of pure science but equally in the practical sphere of advanced metallurgy, fuel technology, electronics and high precision engineering.
The Russians have told the world that the purpose of these satellites is purely scientific and peaceful. That may be literally true. The Sputniks could not, at any rate for the present, be used as weapons of war. However, they are without doubt a by-product of the massive effort which the Soviet Government have been putting into the development of long-range rocket weapons. Equally, there is no doubt that the information about the conditions in the outer atmosphere, which the satellites are now telemetering back to Russia, is of the highest military value in the development of intercontinental ballistic missiles.
Before an effective long-range ballistic missile can be produced there are three problems to be solved. First, one needs a rocket, or a combination of rockets, with the necessary thrust to carry up a megaton warhead to a sufficient height and speed to obtain the required range of about 3,000 to 4,000 miles. Secondly, a control and guidance system must be devised of sufficient precision to maintain an accurate trajectory. The third problem is to prevent the rocket from being burned up by frictional heat as it reenters the earth's atmosphere.
345 The most significant feature of the second satellite is its remarkable weight. This proves beyond question that the Russians have successfully developed all the motive power needed for an intercontinental missile. We do not know, of course, how closely the orbits in which the Sputniks are now travelling conform to those which were intended, but the ability to propel a satellite to a height of several hundred miles, and turn it over smoothly into a horizontal position while travelling at something approaching 20,000 miles an hour, obviously indicates a high degree of precision in control.
The satellites have not, so far, provided any evidence as to whether or not the Russians have solved the critical problem of re-entry into the atmosphere, but, considering what they have achieved on other aspects of the problem, we would be unwise to assume that they have failed to find an answer to this part of it. Whatever we may think of the Sputniks, they certainly have helped to precipitate closer collaboration with the United States of America.
§ Mr. Sandys
Since the publication of the White Paper, last April, entirely fresh possibilities have now been opened in the recent talks between my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and President Eisenhower. The Declaration of Common Purpose and the new impetus towards unrestricted collaboration between Britain and America, and with other friends and allies in the free world, offers new prospects which we dared not hope for a few months ago.
For a number of years there has, of course, been a good deal of collaboration between our two countries on research and development, and the right hon. Gentleman referred to it in his speech. In the main, however, it has been limited to an exchange of information. Although this has been of great value, it has not prevented the necessity for wasteful duplication of effort by Britain and by America all along the line, both in research and in production. As a result, we have had to continue scientific work over virtually the whole field, and, since our resources are naturally much smaller than those of the United States, we have in many matters inevitably fallen behind.
346 Moreover, this has been aggravated by the progressive restriction of the area of effective co-operation through the operation of the Atomic Energy Act. At first, the restrictions, in practice, affected only the exchange of information on the design and manufacture of nuclear bombs but—and I think that this was the point which the right hon. Gentleman was making—with the development of nuclear warheads—and as he rightly said, one cannot separate the warhead from the rest of the weapon—for anti-aircraft missiles, artillery shells, ballistic rockets, and many other weapons, the area of co-operation which was barred to us progressively expanded. Indeed, we have reached the point where agreements to collaborate in almost any field tend often to be frustrated, in practice, by reason of the fact that practically every modern weapon of importance now carries a nuclear warhead.
But exchange of information, even if it were quite unrestricted, is not enough. If we are to make full use of the resources of brain and skill and experience and experimental facilities here and across the Atlantic, we must go as far as is practicable in the direction of planning and carrying out a common, rationalised programme of research and development. Within this joint programme each country must undertake tasks and responsibilities in accordance with its capacity, and both must assist one another to the utmost of their ability in carrying them through. Only in this way shall we deploy to the maximum the capabilities and powers of our two countries.
We must recognise, of course, that the United States can bring into a common pool immensely greater resources of manpower and money than we can, and that, consequently, America is bound to be the major partner in this joint enterprise. But the Americans themselves are the first to acknowledge that Britain has a large and valuable contribution to make. We have many highly qualified scientists and engineers, some of world-wide reputation.
In our Government establishments and in industry we have built up extensive research facilities and experience. We have more than once led the world in military science. Radar was invented in Britain. We were the pioneers of the jet engine. The Royal Navy initiated the 347 angled deck, the mirror landing device and steam catapult launching. Britain played a prominent part in developing the first atom bomb. In the civil field we are now in the forefront of the design of atomic power plants.
While conscious, therefore, of our more limited resources, we shall, I hope, be able to renew this partnership with America, which existed very closely during the war, in the confidence that we shall be able to make a thoroughly worthwhile contribution to the joint effort.
I have tried to give the House some account of the action which we have taken over the last few months to implement the defence policy in the White Paper. There is still much to be done, but I think hon. Members will recognise that we have not been altogether idle. As I have indicated in my speech, a number of very important decisions have been reached and action is proceeding upon them. I will continue, as opportunity offers, to report further progress to the House.
§ 4.23 p.m.
§ Mr. John Stonehouse (Wednesbury)
We have just heard an appalling statement from the Minister of Defence. This debate was held in order to throw some light on the defence situation today, but as we have sat in the Chamber we have become more and more confused as to our present position. We have not had any adequate indication as to the forces which are available to us and the responsibilities which we are to undertake in our relations with the United States.
As my right hon. Friend the Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown) said, we have to adjust our defence effort to what we are aiming to do. I want the Minister of Defence to clarify at some time what he has in mind as the defence responsibilities which we are undertaking. He indicated that he had been giving some thought to the sort of responsibilities which we should have to undertake and he referred to the thinking which he had been doing on the subject. How far are we to commit ourselves to responsibilities in all parts of the world? We should know where our responsibilities are to be undertaken. We cannot be responsible for a world-wide defence system which is well beyond our resources.
Reference is often made to the defence of the free world. We hope that one day 348 Ministers will clarify what they mean by the free world. Do we include Spain in the free world? If there were a rebellion in Spain on the death of Franco, and the resentment of the people against the Spanish régime were shown by a civil rebellion within Spain, should we make it part of our defence arrangements with the United States to help to sustain the American forces established in Spain? Should we make it part of our defence requirements to bolster up the present Spanish régime?
We could ask the same question about Portugal. How far are we committed to defend the present régime in Portugal, which even the correspondent of the New York Times has referred to as "a velvet-gloved dictatorship." A general election has been held there recently which makes a farce of democracy. Are we committed to defending the present régime in Portugal? I most certainly hope that we are not. The Minister of Defence has asked hon. Members on this side of the House to help him to recruit our constituents to serve in the Armed Forces, but I should certainly not advise any of my constituents to enlist in the Armed Forces if I believed that it was part of our defence system to holster up dictatorial régimes in the West.
Adequate answers have not been given to us about the defence arrangements and Kenya. I am sure that we are glad to have some indication that there is not to be massive investment in a military base in Kenya. There was some protest in Kenya and also in the House when the Minister of Defence came back from his world perambulations some time ago and, as reported in The Times, stated definitely that a defence base would be established in Kenya.
§ Mr. Sandys
The hon. Member is wrong, and I should be glad if he would send me any cutting from a newspaper which reported that. Some newspapers said that there would be a base in Kenya, but, certainly, I never said so. Nor did I see that I was ever reported as having said so.
§ Mr. Stonehouse
There was a lot of agitation on the subject from the hon. Member for Stafford and Stone (Mr. H. Fraser). Following that, the Minister of Defence went to Kenya. On his return from Kenya I believe that several newspapers reported that he had said that a 349 base would be established in Kenya. I am very glad that apparently that is not the case. I will look up the newspapers to which I have referred and send him the reports which were brought to my attention. There was certainly a great suspicion in Kenya that such a military base was to be established. We are glad to hear that that is not the case.
The Minister's references to these subjects have not entirely clarified the situation. May we ask him how many troops are to be established in Kenya. Where are they to live? What equipment will they have in Kenya? Is it suggested that the troops established there will have to draw their supplies from Singapore? Apparently that was the position which he described. I think it is most unwise to establish defence bases in countries such as Kenya without taking very fully into account the feelings of the local people, among whom I include the mass of the indigenous population. The African people in Kenya should be consulted on such a subject.
We have not had a proper assessment of the nuclear deterrent in the Minister's speech today. Are we left with the statement made in the Defence White Paper that the nuclear deterrent is the major part of our defence system? Does the Minister of Defence still believe that it is possible for our bomber bases to be defended—the bomber bases which would provide the delivery of our deterrent? In view of the Russian successes in developing intercontinental ballistic missiles, does he still believe that we can defend our bomber bases in England against attack?
We have not had very much light thrown on the present joint arrangements with the United States but, fortunately, Mr. Dulles has made several statements to the Press which have given us more information than we have received from the Minister. A recent statement of his, published in the New York Times, indicated that already intermediate-range missile bases have been established in Britain. We should hear from the Minister who is responsible for manning these bases.
Who is responsible for controlling these missiles, and who will give the orders when they are launched? Is there a joint force at each base, or are the bases run exclusively by American personnel? Does the Minister have to be consulted 350 before any orders can be given? I very much hope that in going into research arrangements with the United States, and in co-ordinating our defence with the United States—which, I agree, is essential to us—we do not intend to accept the philosophy of defence now being preached in that country.
Lieut.-General Mickelsen, Commanding General of their Army Air Defence Command, has just been reported as saving:…the facts of the present world have caught up with the adage that the best defence is a good offence. The facts of today…are that the atomic weapon, with the steadily improving methods of its delivery, gives a great advantage to the unopposed attacker. We must, therefore, be capable of an exceptional defence from attack if we are to survive to wage war.We are informed in that same New York Times report that this was a very much "tamed-down version" of the speech he had meant to make. What is going on in the United States? Are we to be tied to the philosophy that if we are to win a war we must start it? We should not be in that position.
I believe very strongly that the world needs a moral example. We are in a position to give a lead in the control of the use of nuclear weapons. Some country must eventually give a lead, and as Britain is perhaps the most vulnerable country in the world in the event of a nuclear war I believe that it is up to us to give that example in order to remove the danger of a nuclear-bomb war. Our first step must be unilaterally to discontinue the hydrogen bomb tests—
§ Mr. J. A. Leavey (Heywood and Royton)
Is the hon. Member pleading that we should give a moral lead on a moral basis, or am I to understand from the fact that he regards this nation as being most vulnerable that we should give a lead on the basis of expediency? We would all be interested to know on what basis he makes his plea.
§ Mr. Stonehouse
On both. If we were brought into a world war, this country could survive hardly more than a week. I think that hon. Members on all sides recognise that we would be eliminated. It is, therefore, essentially our job to prevent a next world war occurring at all. That is brought out very clearly in the Defence White Paper. Our only possible 351 chance of survival is to stop a next war, and I submit that our only way of doing that is to persuade countries to give up the use of hydrogen bomb weapons—to renounce them altogether—
§ Mr. Cyril Osborne (Louth) rose—
§ Mr. Stonehouse
No, I have already given way once. The hon. Member will have a chance to speak later.
§ Mr. Osborne
The question I want to ask is fundamental to the point that the hon. Gentleman is making. Does he think that the pacifism that was expressed in the 'thirties, as sincerely as he is now expressing his, had the slightest effect on the Germans, on their rearmament and on their determination to fight?
§ Mr. Stonehouse
I say at once that I am not a pacifist. I believe that we must have conventional arms and that, in certain circumstances, we should go into war. I am not a pacifist. I want to make that quite clear, but if we use the hydrogen bomb in the next war, or have it used against us, it will mean the elimination of this country, and none of us wants to see that.
We have to choose the right means of avoiding another world war, and if we can persuade other countries—particularly the U.S.A. and the U.S.S.R.—of the horror and absolute stupidity of using these weapons, we have a chance of survival. Therefore, we have to take the lead in this and renounce hydrogen bomb tests immediately. We should follow that up by renouncing the use of the hydrogen bomb altogether, as an example to the rest of the world.
I do not suppose for one moment that the U.S.A. or the U.S.S.R. would give up their hydrogen bombs at once, but I hope that our example would at least prevent other countries from building up their hydrogen bomb stocks. That is, perhaps, the most dangerous thing that could occur. If every small country could make or buy hydrogen bombs, the possibility of the world surviving for a decade or two longer is very uncertain indeed.
We have not yet heard from the Minister what will be the expense of this nuclear deterrent. He has referred vaguely to 15 per cent. of our total 352 defence expenditure. That will be, perhaps, less than £300 million a year. It would be useful were he to give us some figures of the costs of developing this weapon, and say whether they include the development of the missiles and of the bombers with which to use this deterrent. We must know what is the cost to our economy.
We can only escape from a third world war if we give more of our sovereignty to the United Nations. I believe very strongly that what the Prime Minister has said, the hints he has thrown out, and, also, what the Minister of Defence said at the Conservative Conference a week or two ago, was on the right lines as indicating that we must give some of our sovereignty to international bodies.
In particular, I think that the development of a United Nations force is essential for the peace of the world. I hope that, before very long, we shall hear of the concrete steps that the Government are to take to assist the United Nations to build up a permanent military force as a means of preventing those local outbreaks and conflicts that could trigger off a third world war.
All the Members on this side of the House—as on the Government benches—are fully conscious of the need to have adequate defences. I am not advocating that we cut down our essential conventional forces, or contract out of those defence arrangements that we have made with some of our allies, but what I am appealing for is a realistic assessment by us of the commitments that we are undertaking in going into unlimited arrangements with America or some of the other countries with whom we are allies. In this connection, I believe that it would be most dangerous if we were to allow Western Germany to have stockpiles of atomic weapons, because that would mean that they would be in most dangerous hands.
We are not advocating that Britain should cut down all her defence forces. What we are saying is that we are in a vulnerable position and, therefore, cannot take dangerous steps which will bring a third world war nearer. As far as we can, we have to reduce tension, because we are not in a position to survive the next world war. We also have to bear in mind the ability of our economy to undertake 353 wide defence commitments. That is a subject which I am sure the Minister of Defence will have discussed at length with the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I hope it will mean that our cloth will be cut according to our ability to carry our defence burdens, and that we will not undermine the future welfare of our people and our capacity to invest in our future by having too large a defence burden.
§ 4.42 p.m.
§ Sir Victor Raikes (Liverpool, Garston)
I thank you very much, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, for calling me to take part in this debate. This is the last occasion upon which I shall have the honour of addressing this House and it may therefore be that I shall find my speech rather more difficult to make than usual. At the same time, there is something to be said for being in a position to produce one's own political obituary notice.
I wish mainly to refer to that area in which I regard the outbreak of a third world war as most likely under present conditions, namely, the Middle East, but before doing so I want to say that I am glad that both Front Benches appear to realise the need for the maintenance and continuance of effective conventional weapons, quite apart from the overriding knowledge of what H-bombs can and may do.
I disagree with the thesis of the hon. Member for Wednesbury (Mr. Stone-house), that the way in which to make a third world war unlikely is, first, to announce that we are so vulnerable that we could not possibly risk being H-bombed and, secondly, to give up the H-bomb. The two results that I would fear of such a policy would be, first, that every ally that we now have in the world—and we still have some—who relies upon the strength of this country at any rate to maintain its freedom against encroachments by other countries, would feel that by unilaterally giving up all atomic weapons we were indicating that our alliances were not worth the paper they were written on and, secondly, that the influence which we must exert upon the United States in the years that lie ahead would utterly disappear. I believe that the United States, in the new arrangements which have been reached in Washington, will play a valuable part only if she works in equality with us and listens to our views—and she 354 would never listen to our views at all if we walked completely out of the atomic sphere now.
In my view, the real dangers of a third world war are two in number. If, at some moment, the Soviet Government were to believe that they had such overwhelming fission power that they could strike a deadly blow without retaliation the danger of a third world war would be great. They have not reached that stage yet; but then there is the other danger, which is the one which I want to concentrate upon tonight, namely, the danger of a third world war breaking out almost as a matter of accident.
At the present time, the Soviet people are very stirred up with enthusiasm as a result of their remarkable scientific achievements. The Russian Government have the feeling, which many of their leaders have expressed from time to time, that if sufficient pressure is put upon the West for a sufficiently long time they may run a slight risk, but in the end the West will withdraw from some strategic point. Those things happened after the Treaty of Yalta, and on various other occasions, which I need not enumerate, in the course of the last few years.
In the long run it may well happen that some adventure will be undertaken by Russia on the calculation that it will be over quickly and that the West will take it as a fait accompli—and they will be wrong; the West will not take it as a fait accompli, and then, to everybody's surprise, the whole world might be landed in a real nuclear war.
It is our duty to consider most closely how, by arrangements with our allies, we can indicate plainly in advance those territories which we are not prepared to allow to be threatened. If it once becomes clear, for example, that an attack upon Turkey or Israel would mean a world war there will be far less danger of such an attack being made than if the situation is left utterly and completely fluid.
I believe that our new combination with the United States can be of value to the free world, to the United States and to ourselves, provided always that it is an alliance based upon equality, because a Britain carried as a tail of the United States would lose her identity and force for good in the world. I believe that the lessons that have been learnt in the last 355 few years would make possible an alliance based upon such equality.
There are other factors in defence, apart from the mere possession of weapons. If I may turn for one moment to Eastern Europe, I would say that one of the things which has made it more difficult for the hope and salvation of the satellite countries to be found in the West, and one of the things that has caused the deepest depression, is the fact that last year we were obliged to stand by during the slaughter of Hungary.
After that war many of the refugees from Hungary were taken over and placed in Britain, Canada, the United States and elsewhere. But there are still camps in Austria, as every satellite country knows, where 20,000 Hungarians are living without any real hope for the future. Not only did the West not intervene in Hungary but, beyond that, the West apparently could not absorb the whole of the remainder of these refugees. The first step, in my view, for strengthening our prestige in Eastern Europe, is for Britain, the U.S.A. and the Empire to overcome the by no means impossible task of taking the remainder of these unfortunate men and women and giving them a happy life.
Now, to turn to the future. The United States have, I think, learned that the Eisenhower doctrine in the Middle East is not the answer to all the claims of the world. That doctrine has been based mainly upon dollars, and dollars are not the only things that affect the lives of men. We have had our differences with the United States. I do not want to go into the past over Suez—everyone knows my views on Suez—but I think that the whole House would agree on two things. It is difficult for us in this country to forget, whatever the merits or demerits of Suez may be, that the action of the United States did frustrate the British policy of the day. Whatever may be the merits or demerits, to have to stop half way in the middle of a military campaign must inevitably lead to a loss of prestige throughout every area which watched that conflict.
Since then, we have indeed lost prestige as the result of stopping half way. There is no mistake about that. The Eisenhower doctrine has now also been played out. What has it led to? Has it led to the building of new defences for the free 356 world between Britain and the United States? What it has led to is that Nasser, and the Egyptian Government, saved by American action, appear to be singularly ungrateful to their protectors. We see Syria today almost a Russian satellite. We see arms provided by the United States to Jordan, and the United States being told, in reply, that they will all be used against the Jews.
Finally, there is the chief benefactor of the Eisenhower doctrine, namely, King Saud, a very dubious character in any war under any conditions. The Saudi Arabian Government, unlike Iraq, has failed to use its vast oil royalties to make a modern State in the interests of the people; it is a Government which, even in the course of the last few months, has endeavoured to disturb the relations between this country and her legitimate allies of the Trucial States; a Government which shows no gratitude at all to the United States for the dollars which have been poured out to her.
I think that the time has come when we can have a reorientation of policy, both sides realising that neither Britain nor the United States are always completely right in their policies.
I want to say a word or two about the two countries which, in my view, are the key to Middle Eastern defence—Turkey and Israel. Those are the two countries which could most speedily be the battlegrounds for a new world war. Persia is a danger but in a different way. I think that the infiltration of Communism rather than attack will be the method of the Russians upon that signatory of the Baghdad Pact.
Turkey, with the best army in the Middle East, stands the guardian of the Straits, the key of the Bagdad Pact, the one barrier against Russian infiltration into North Africa. She has been subjected to a great war of nerves in the course of the last few weeks, and I think that it is only right to say that most of us admire the absolute calmness which Turkey has shown under very considerable provocation.
There are three things which, I think, we need in regard to Turkey. Every effort should be made to encourage and stabilise her eastern neighbour; Pakistan; and whatever may be the solution of Cyprus—and I am not going to speak of Cyprus tonight—there should be no solution which would injure the justified and 357 justifiable rights of Turkey and Turkish citizens in that area. Finally, I welcome the statement made a little time ago by the United States Government that if Turkey were attacked, in any quarter, by any force, that aggression would be halted and that those who were behind it would not of necessity find that they were free from paying the cost of a war, perhaps inspired by another country.
I should like to see the same guarantee added by Britain to the United States for the security of Turkey and the defence of Turkey under all conditions at the present time, because Turkey is the key to the Middle East. There are those who say, "Well, after all, if Turkey were to lose half a province, what would it matter?" We have to go the whole way if we are to retain allies, and we also have to show them that we mean to go the whole way. I think that the knowledge that any attack on Turkey could provoke an immense conflagration ought to secure her. We have to be prepared to play our part in that defence.
In my last speech in the House I want to say a few words about Israel, because Israel is, in a way, the greatest problem of all. Everyone who knows the Middle East knows full well the bitter hatred, hostility and fear of the State of Israel which is felt throughout the Arab States and which has grown in intensity since 1948. From pro-British Iraq to anti-British Syria there is the same rallying point, and yet one thing is plain. Israel has become a State and Israel, as a State, cannot and should not be destroyed to appease the aggressive interests of any country.
The right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) suggested in the Press only a short time ago that Israel should be isolated from the conflicts of the Middle East. He suggested a conference of the great Powers, to include ourselves, France, the United States and Russia, which would guarantee her boundaries in a way which would take Israel out of the picture. That is pure wishful thinking. All that would happen would be, either pressure upon Israel to reduce her boundaries even to a limited extent, in which case that State would be finished—let us make no mistake about that—or Russia would not attend the conference.
The whole Russian plan of anti-Israel activities has taken place only within the 358 last few years and has been played up to give Russia her influence with the Arab world. Russia could therefore never sign an agreement that broadly guaranteed the State of Israel because that would be to lose the support of the Arab world. On the other hand, a conference which failed would be of no value at all because it would leave the situation completely untouched.
I should like to see Western Governments, including ourselves, offer a different kind of guarantee. The Tripartite Declaration stands, in theory, but no one believes that it means anything today. The Western Powers should guarantee, subject to minor adjustments, the present frontiers of Israel, adding that if Israel were to advance into Jordan or the Lebanon at any time, that guarantee would be withdrawn.
Much of the Arab fear is of Israeli expansion. We find it everywhere. If we gave such a guarantee, we might be very unpopular at first even with our best friends in Iraq. For a time. The guarantee, however, would be tied up with an absolute determination to prevent Israel having an opportunity—which I do not think she wants—of grabbing land from the Arab States. When the implications of the guarantee were realised there would be a calmer temperature in the Middle East, and we might be able to find a solution of the refugee question, which is still a running sore. It can be settled only if there is a prior settlement of the general territorial situation so that the refugees cannot any longer be used as political pawns. The total refugee problem could be dealt with and settled within six months.
If the Turkey situation and the Israel situation were dealt with in defensive Western pacts, that would show clearly to Arab countries and Russia that if they were to attempt aggression it could be the beginning of a third world war. We should thus be paving the way for a real rather than a "phoney" disarmament conference which would be far better in the years that lie ahead than so-called "moral gestures", which in some cases are interpreted as fear and in other cases actually are inspired by fear. One thing which happened at the time of the Suez crisis is often forgotten. Although there was a large number of Russian or Czech volunteers manning the newest Egyptian planes, nevertheless when France and Britain 359 marched to Suez those planes were not used and the pilots retired into the Sudan. That made it clear that, in spite of their bluster and noise, the Soviet Government were not prepared to risk in November, 1956, a conflagration which might have spread into a third world war.
The United States and Britain should work together in equality with France and other Western nations in this matter of the Middle East. That is the only way towards a disarmament conference in the years to come which gives hope of real success. We need a policy of courage. The British are always courageous when it comes to the showdown, as we saw in the 1914–18 war and in the 1939–45 war. Sometimes one feels that if more courage had been shown in the years before the wars we might have prevented those conflagrations from breaking out. By taking risks now we might pave the way to greater security in the future which we might otherwise not have.
I have been in this House for twenty-six years and I have received at all times courtesy from all quarters of the House. Parliament is greater than any Government. I see the toleration which we generally show towards views with which we may disagree, and I realise that we try to understand them. The British Parliament can play its part in the wider sphere by using the same tolerance in trying to understand the views of other countries. The trouble with totalitarian States is that they never try to understand the views of others as we do in this House.
I beg the House not to forget that point when we are attacking the Government of the day. The value of the Government of the day depends very much upon how good a Parliament there is and upon whether we have a good or a bad Opposition. A bad Opposition can make even a good Government lazy and can make a bad Government rather worse. I wish the best of all good fortune to the present Government. However independent I may be, I have always been a Tory and I always shall be.
At the same time, I also wish good fortune to any other Government of any political complexion that may succeed them; provided that that Government 360 will stand for the interests of this great country, and provided also that, whatever Government are in office, they are not forgetful of the obligations which today we have and must have to nations throughout the world who look to us in the long run to give them that heritage of freedom which should be the due of every single member of mankind.
§ 5.11 p.m.
§ Mr. E. Shinwell (Easington)
There will be general regret in every quarter of the House at the disappearance of the hon. Member for Garston (Sir V. Raikes) from our debates. I have known him for quite a long time. I came to the House some years before he arrived and I have known him as a most active Member taking his full share in our debates, and also as a vigorous protagonist of the party to which he belongs. I am not aware of what the hon. Gentleman proposes to do when he departs from this assembly, but I have not the least doubt that he will make a success of his new avocation; at any rate, we wish him the very best of luck.
We may not agree with all that the hon. Member said, particularly about foreign affairs, but we can all agree wholeheartedly with the sentiments he expressed in his final utterances. We have a great affection for this assembly, and I agree with the hon. Member that our affection is not always conveyed so far as the Treasury Bench, unless one happens to be a resident of that Bench, which may occur from time to time.
Whenever we embark on a defence debate we end up by discussing foreign affairs. Even my right hon. Friend the Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown) made foreign policy the basis of his speech, and so did my hon. Friend the Member for Wednesbury (Mr. Stonehouse). It is not at all surprising. It has happened before, and it will happen again, for the simple reason that it is impossible to dissociate the subject of defence from that of foreign policy.
Of course our aim is similar, we all want peace. We seek to promote disarmament. We want to be on good terms with our neighbours whoever and where-ever they are, even in spite of threats and, if I may say so with the utmost respect for Mr. Khrushchev, even if they indulge occasionally in some boasting and bragging, which seems to be in inverse 361 ratio to their repeated desire for peaceful co-existence. We want to be good friends, but it is not a one-way traffic. It does not lie completely in our hands. It is in the hands of other nations great and small. But we all agree about the objective, peace and disarmament. The question is: how are we to promote it?
Various solutions have been suggested over and over again, here, in the United Nations and in the various commissions and committees which have been appointed from time to time, either under the agency of the United Nations or under other auspices. But, somehow or other, peace and disarmament elude us. What are we to do in the circumstances? There are two sections of thought, and there are variations even among those sections, but apparently there are two clear and distinct lines of thought. One is that we must throw overboard our defensive organisation; that we should seek a unilateral solution of the problem.
I can understand the sentiment behind that suggestion, but unfortunately it is not acceptable to the Government of the day; it is not acceptable even to the majority of the party sitting on this side of the House, and I doubt whether it would be acceptable to the majority of the people of the country. Therefore, we must seek some other means of solving the problem. It has been suggested that we might seek a solution through the medium of a United Nations force. My hon. Friend the Member for Wednesbury embarked on that proposal. It has been suggested before. I remember it before the 1939 war, and, indeed, before the 1914 war, when Lord St. David and others associated with him propounded this concept of a united nations force.
If we are to tackle the problem of the prevention of a major global war, it would require not a unit of 5,000 such as we now find in the Middle East; it would require hundreds of thousands of men of various grades in the defence organisation, and that is completely beyond the capabilities of the nations concerned. It would also require tremendous organisation and expenditure, and I doubt whether in the end it would prove successful. Therefore, I propose not to discuss foreign affairs at all, but the subject which it was intended we should debate today, that of defence.
362 I wish to discuss two aspects: first, the external aspect, and secondly, the internal considerations that relate to this matter of defence. I was very interested in what the Prime Minister said on his return from Washington. There are varying interpretations of his pronouncement, but as I understand it, there was some agreement in Washington, tentative perhaps, provisional, not too specific, not detailed, but some agreement that we should work more closely together, we and the United States, than in the past. Whether that emerged because of what happened in the Middle East last year or because of the advent of those satellites, rockets, Sputniks and the rest, I am not aware. Nevertheless, I welcome the pronouncement, and I will tell hon. Members why.
Some hon. Members appear to think that were we to be associated closely with the United States in matters of defence it would sap our independence. We must be realistic about this matter; we cannot "go it alone". That is not an original thought. It has been said front this side of the House and elsewhere over and over again. We might go it alone perhaps in some minor operation. But it is quite inconceivable that in any major, much less global, war the United Kingdom could engage in an extensive operation with any hope of success. And we have to consider this matter of defence—here, I believe, is the crux of the whole problem—in the context of a possible global war, an act of aggression of a major character.
If such an act of aggression occurred, then obviously the very closest association in all matters concerned with defence against aggression in the military sphere, in the economic sphere and in supply is essential if there is to be any hope not only of success, because I do not believe success is possible in a global war, but of preventing complete disaster and the elimination of the United Kingdom.
I am aware that there are many hon. Members who dislike the idea of too close integration with the United States. Some of the things that happen in the United States are disliked intensely in this country. No doubt there are some matters in this country which are disliked by the people of the United States. But, whether we like it or not, and whether it affects our sovereignty, there must be the closest 363 possible integration, and we must strive to that end.
It seems to me that we must make that our primary objective so far as the external aspects of defence are concerned. I am not afraid that that will sap our sovereignty to the extent of changing the character of the British people. I do not believe a word of that. After all is said and done, there are many of those who disagree with what I have just said who would wish us to abandon our sovereignty and ally ourselves wholeheartedly, in a completely integrated sense, with the United Nations. I have no objection to that, but, clearly, one of the first steps must be association with the country which occupies a very powerful place in the councils of the United Nations.
I am not at all happy about the attitude adopted by the United States in matters of co-ordination of research and the like. I had something to do with those matters when I was Minister of Defence. For example, we had discussions at Washington, New York and elsewhere on weapon supply, weapon production, and we often disagreed. I may say in passing that there was disagreement about a particular rifle, and after we left the Government—we could not help ourselves—the Government opposite decided to produce a rifle other than the one which some of us, including the War Office and the Minister of Defence, preferred. That rifle, as far as I know, is still not in use and we should like to know a little more about it.
That is only an example of the difficulties of co-operation, unless we can instil into the mind of the Administration in the United States and into the mind of our own Government, and not only of the Government, but of the people of this country, that without this integration, this understanding, this close association, we might as well abandon our trumpery defence organisation entirely. I want to say again with emphasis that the defence organisation which we possess at the present time in weapons, in artillery, in aircraft and in research, which is, of course, a potential source of weapon supply, and in manpower would be of little or no value in a global war unless in association with the United States. That is my opinion.
I speak about this matter realistically, and, therefore, we must address ourselves, 364 firstly, to the external problem. I want now to say a word about the subject of N.A.T.O. I know that it is easy to say, "I told you so," but for many years hon. Members have heard me say in the House, and my colleagues have heard me say it in our councils, that I place very little reliance upon some of the nations associated with N.A.T.O. Most of them failed to make a satisfactory contribution to the defence organisation of the West. That may be for various reasons, but I am interested in the facts and not in reasons. We in this country made more than a satisfactory contribution to the defence organisation of the West.
The time has come for a complete reorientation of the defence technique and organisation of N.A.T.O. I say that with the greatest respect to General Eisenhower, the first Supreme Commander, to that very able and delightful person General Gruenther who did so much to encourage the forty nations associated with N.A.T.O. to build up a strong organisation, and to that most amiable person, General Norstadt, the present Supreme Commander.
Hon. Members will recall the time when we were told in the House that at Lisbon they had decided on 100 divisions, fifty active and fifty reserve. We were told that by Sir Anthony Eden and by others. They have not emerged. Indeed, it would be very interesting to know how many divisions are at the disposal of N.A.T.O. I doubt whether there are more than twenty effective divisions which could go into the field tomorrow if there were trouble, even of a minor character.
Therefore, the time has come, without going into details, to tackle the question of organisation, supply, technique, the type of weapons to be used, the amount of manpower and who should provide it. There is need, as I say, for a reorientation of the whole defence organisation in the West. I hope that something will be done at the forthcoming conference of the N.A.T.O. countries. If the Prime Minister attends and if Mr. Eisenhower attends, all the better. The conference should be at the highest level and should not be left merely to Ministers of Defence and Secretaries for War.
I now come to the internal problem and am bound to say to the right hon. 365 Gentleman the Minister of Defence that it is very surprising that we have had seven Ministers of Defence since I left that Ministry. There was the right hon. Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill). No one knows more about defence than he, but he was no great success. Then there was Lord Alexander of Tunis, a famous soldier, but a very poor administrator. He had to go. Then there was the present Lord Monckton, an agreeable person. He is now devoting himself to banking, a much more peaceful and pleasing occupation despite the 7 per cent. Bank Rate. Then there was the present Prime Minister, then the present Foreign Secretary and then the right hon. Member for Carshalton (Mr. Head), whom we expected to speak in the course of this debate, but who, it seems, decided for various reasons not to embarrass the Government. Last of all there was the present Minister of Defence himself. Seven of them in the course of six years or so. Yet the right hon. Gentleman told us this afternoon that he has now got to indulge in crystal gazing and that nothing has been settled.
What success has been achieved? No success whatever. It may be difficult to get a settled policy in these ever-changing circumstances, but it is possible to do one thing, to determine that we are not going to waste the taxpayers' money. It is possible to do more than that, to eliminate every kind of waste that exists in the Services. It is possible to go further still. Many of us have asked that we should proceed towards, not a gradual, but as speedy as possible integration of the three Service Departments. The Prime Minister came to us some time ago, and, dealing with the reorganisation of the Ministry of Defence, said that we must proceed gradually. How long will it take? It will take as long as there are vested interests inside the Service Departments, and the right hon. Gentleman will be hamstrung. Let him take note of that.
I ask for something more—to abolish the Ministry of Supply at the earliest possible moment. This is not the first time I have said it; I said it many years ago. Indeed, I would inform hon. Members that I said it when Minister of Defence, because I realised that it was simply an encumbrance. Much of the work, most of the activities undertaken by 366 the Ministry of Supply, could well have been undertaken by the Ministry of Defence, with a little expansion in matters of research and development, leaving the production of weapons to the firms engaged in their production, some private and some under the jurisdiction of the State itself. That could have been done, and ought now to be done.
We are spending at the rate of £275 million a year on the Ministry of Supply, and what do we find? There are hon. Members present who are members of the Select Committee on Estimates and the Public Accounts Committee. Let us peruse these documents—the Reports which they have submitted. We find over and over again evidence of gross waste, and we are always promised that it is going to be attended to.
I have told the Secretary of State for War, as the right hon. Gentleman knows, of the gross waste in the North, and he promised to attend to it, but every time I travel North I see the evidence before my very eyes. When is it going to disappear? What is it costing? The fact of the matter is—I make this categorical statement—that there is far more obsolete material in the possession of the War Office than useful weapons that could be used in a conflict. Let the right hon. Gentleman reply to that, if he can, and if he will not agree with me, let some independent inquiry investigate it. Let him appoint a Select Committee on which hon. Members from both sides of the House can sit down and examine the problem. Let us have the evidence. I think we should be able to prove conclusively that there is enormous waste and extravagance in the Service Departments.
I want to turn to another aspect of the problem. I do not wish to speak about the Britannia, because the recent crash may have been unavoidable, and in any event there will be an inquiry, but some of us are very much disturbed about what is happening. I want to mention the bombing exercises which have taken place in the United States. What does the Minister of Defence say about them? We have not done too well. I do not know what the Americans are thinking about the accuracy of our bombing and about our aircraft in general, but this story of the production of aircraft, the testing of aircraft and the activities of our aircraft is a very disquieting story indeed.
367 It was so when I was at the Ministry of Defence. The present Permanent Under-Secretary to the Ministry of Defence was brought in from the Admiralty for the sole purpose of dealing with the aircraft industry. We did not deal with it; we did not have the time. The fact is that the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues have now had six and a half years in which to tackle it, and yet this aircraft industry of this country is as confusing today as it was many years ago. Something has to be done about it.
I do not want to go on talking about these matters, and I will tell the House why. I believe that defence is necessary. I wish it were not so, because it is a costly business, but if it is necessary, how long can we go on spending £1,500 million a year, which is one of the principal causes of inflation? How long can we go on spending £275 million a year on a useless Ministry of Supply? I agree that if we transferred many of the activities of the Ministry of Supply to the Ministry of Defence or to an integrated Service Department, it would still cost a fair amount of money to be spent on research and development; but it would not cost £275 million a year.
I believe that some defence is necessary in conventional weapons, and also that there is need for nuclear weapons. May I give the reasons, which are well within my experience and the experience of my colleagues in the last Government? Hon. Members will remember the Korean war. They will also remember the expressed intention of General MacArthur to bomb the Yalu River and to proceed into the interior of Manchuria. We prevented him. Why do I say that? The United States authorities said that we did it, and so did General MacArthur himself. Indeed, General MacArthur went so far as to blame us for his dismissal by President Truman because we had interfered and had prevented him going further, as he intended to do.
Why were we able to do that? Hon. Members may recall that the present Earl Attlee, then Mr. Attlee and Prime Minister, proceeded to Washington to have discussions with President Truman, and we were able to make our contribution to the Korean forces in the form of 368 a Commonwealth brigade. Because we made our contribution, we could negotiate from what is called strength. At any rate, there was our contribution, and if we had not made it, our views would not have been accepted about General MacArthur's intention to bomb the Yalu River and so on, which might have led to a global war. Apart from the brigade of troops, we also had warships operating in the seas adjacent to Korea. What applied then applies equally now.
If we are able to make a useful contribution, and if we can promise a further contribution, then we can negotiate with other countries from a position of some strength and they will not disregard us and set us aside. Some of my colleagues have gone so far as to put on record—but their views may be more appropriate than mine, and, of course, they speak with the utmost sincerity—that if we could abolish tests and abolish the bomb this would have a moral effect on Russia. I do not believe a word of it. After all is said and done, now Mr. Khrushchev is bragging, why does he not stop the tests? He has got the rocket and all the facilities for using inter-continental ballistic missiles, and it is for him to stop them. There is unilateral action of the kind that we should encourage. It is not for us to do it.
Therefore, I say that we want some measure of defence, but that we want defence which is effective and not extravagant and wasteful. That is the job of the right hon. Gentleman. I suggest to him, with the best will in the world, that he has not achieved much in the last six months. He has gone to various countries, to Singapore, Hong Kong and Australia, and has seen a great deal of the reorganised commands. His speech this afternoon I found sadly disappointing. He was talking about chicken feed, minor details that do not affect the new concept of the defence organisation—the reorganisation of defence in an intergrated sense. These are the things on which he should fix his attention and which he must tackle. Is it the generals and the brass-hats who control these matters?
Many of our failures to promote a successful defence organisation in the past few years have been blamed on Ministers. I know that Ministers have to accept responsibility, but we are not supposed to attack those generals who are very secretive in wartime but very garrulous 369 when they retire. Take the example of Major-General Sir John Kennedy and his devastating attack on the politicians—the attitude of those people who say, "Leave us alone and we will show you how to win wars." It would have been a calamity if it had been left to them with no political direction. I say that although I recognise that the right hon. Member for Woodford was guilty of many blunders. Nevertheless, we must have political direction.
By the way, why do we not abolish the post of Chief of the Imperial General Staff, and that of First Sea Lord and Marshal of the Royal Air Force? Why not have a Minister of Defence running the whole show with a number of Ministers of State with Under-Secretaries and one Chief of Staff under his control, not this conglomeration, which was all right in the Victorian era or the Edwardian era, or the days of the Crimea, but which is not related to the present situation?
I am saying this quite earnestly. The last thing I want to do is to attack these people; I was very good friends with them. I am saying it for their own good. I am also saying it for the good of the nation.
Finally, how much I agree with what the hon. Member for Garston, who is about to leave this Assembly, said about the virtues that reside in the people of this country. There is tremendous potential courage here, and it would be available if ever the time came. There is great character and force in the people of this country. Do not let us be alarmed because people threaten us. Let us make the best use of our resources and he realistic and up-to-date, not outmoded as some of these Service Departments are.
I hope, therefore, that we are going to deal with defence in its proper context, not dismissing, of course, foreign affairs—we cannot—in promoting peace and disarmament and better relations with our neighbours. Of course we must do that and keep our powder dry, but at the same time we should keep it dry not at too great an expense, because this country simply cannot afford it.
§ 5.42 p.m.
§ Sir James Henderson-Stewart (Fife, East)
It was a good thing to hear from the right hon. Member for Easington 370 (Mr. Shinwell) so emphatic a statement that he believed we had to have defence and that it was essential for us to make a proper contribution to the defence of the West, because that must be the basis of all our thoughts and actions in this matter of defence. Unless we are agreed that we have a substantial part to play and that that involves the maintenance of considerable defence forces, there is no good in having a discussion of this kind. That is the assumption.
I do not want to deal with these higher topics, but to follow the right hon. Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown), who towards the end of his speech referred to the very practical issues of recruiting and that kind of thing. I understand that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War is to reply to the debate, and what I have to say in the few minutes I shall occupy refers to matters directly under his jurisdiction. We are all agreed, I think, that it was a good thing to decide to abandon National Service—a good thing, I mean, from the general point of view of the country. I am not sure that it was necessarily a good thing from the point of view of the young men who will not then go into National Service.
My own son, for example, under the new régime will miss his two years' service—he will not have to do it. I think that is a pity, and I think he too feels it a pity that he is to miss that opportunity. I am glad to say that he intends to play a full part in the Territorial service when he comes of age, as I think every young man ought to do. But that is the personal angle. From the general national point of view, I think it was a good thing and the proper thing to decide to abandon National Service.
Why was it done? I think the fundamental reason is that the greatest part we can play in the defence of the West is in the economic field. We have all read our history. Is it not an interesting fact that in all the great wars of the past, in Marlborough's wars and Napoleon's wars, it was the economic strength of this country which carried the allies through to victory? It is true that we had great military achievements and produced great military leaders, but it was the economic strength of this land that kept going one coalition after another and, therefore, ultimately overcame the then tyrants. We are in the unfortunate 371 position that we are no longer the greatest Power in the world with the British Navy commanding the seas of the world. We have, unfortunately, to recognise that the great land forces to the West and to the East are greater than ours in martial power. We cannot make the military contribution overwhelmingly that we once could make.
Our greatest contribution now and in the future is going to be an economic one. For that reason, I thought it essential and right that we should abandon National Service in order to bring back to our factories, our workshops and farms the maximum number of men to achieve the maximum economic output. For that reason, I approve the decision to abandon National Service, and I hope we shall maintain that decision; but, if we do that, we have to put something in its place. We have to put in its place two things, principally—a voluntary full-time Regular Army and a voluntary part-time service such as the Territorials.
It is those two things I want to examine. Unfortunately, I was called out on an official matter just before the Minister of Defence dealt with the problems of recruiting, but I am informed that he indicated he was not unduly worried about the state of recruitment for the Regular Army today. If that was a proper report I was given, it surprises me. Perhaps I have no right to question the judgment of my right hon. Friend on this matter, because he knows a great deal more about it than I do, but I think I speak for most people outside when I say there is anxiety in the country lest we shall not get in time sufficient men joining the Army voluntarily on long-term service. I should very much like my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War to be good enough to develop this theme a little in his reply in order to give us the satisfaction we want.
My view, for what it is worth, is that we have not succeeded—not nearly succeeded—yet in making the Army attractive enough as a full-time profession for young men. The right hon. Member for Belper compared the young men we want to give full-time service with the miners. He said that a dirty job has to be done and we should pay them extra money for doing it. I would not put it 372 that way. I would say that it is an essential job they have to do. The voluntary Army of the future will have a job which is as essential as that of the miner. If it is right in principle—we all accept that it is—to pay miners and steel workers substantially higher wages than we pay other workers, without hesitation we should put soldiers in the same category.
Therefore, I think the pay of the Army should be much greater than it is today. If it were doubled, I should not think the country was wasting its money. On the contrary, for the reasons which I was developing earlier about the necessity for developing our economic strength, I should think it would pay the country economically if we could get the men in the numbers we require. Improved housing and other conditions are of course associated with this. I should like once again to see a man proud to say he was a soldier of the Queen, proud of his uniform, proud of his regiment, proud of the work he had to do and feeling that his day-to-day duties were really worth while.
In the past we have all had complaints from National Service men that their time in Germany was wasted or was utterly boring. Fortunately great numbers have said the reverse and have thoroughly enjoyed it. My impression is that a boy who looks at life properly ought to enjoy his period of National Service. From my own researches, I feel that when we have had complaints in respect of units in Germany, they were very often due to the misjudgment of the commanding officer, who, perhaps, had not the gift of knowing how to handle his men and keep them busily employed in mind and body. I feel that we should regard service in the Army as one of the great essential services of our country for which we should pay fully in every direction.
I should like to know a little more about what the Government are doing about the part-time voluntary services, the Territorials and the Army Cadet Corps. We have had various statements about the Territorial Army, but I am sure it would not do any harm if the Secretary of State took a little time tonight to tell us a little more about the rôle and future development of this force.
The Territorial Army is of immense importance in the east of Scotland. The tremendous traditions of the Territorials 373 in Fife and the east of Scotland are equal to any of the traditions of our land. I should like it to continue like that, but there is no doubt that the structure has been somewhat shaken by the changes which have taken place in the last few years. I refer not to action by the Government, but to general world changes. If it is believed, as I believe, that voluntary part-time service is of vital importance to the country, we must make this branch of the Queen's Service attractive too. I should like a further statement from my right hon. Friend on that matter as well.
We have recently had a Report from the Secretary of the Committee on the Army Cadet Force. In paragraphs 122 and 123 there is reference to the school units. These school units ought to play a much bigger part than they do in our voluntary service scheme. When I was at school I was in the school corps, which was then called the Officers' Training Corps. That was in 1913, 1914 and 1915. There is no doubt that that body produced a considerable number of young men who subsequently played a useful rôle in leadership, and I am sure that it was a very thrilling and satisfying experience for all of us.
The Report tells us that these school detachments, and there are only 130 of them, are nearly all in small independent or grammar schools. It says that there is a much larger number of grammar schools without any cadet corps at all. I am talking not about Eton and Harrow but grammar schools. It also says:There are very few detachments in secondary modern, technical, and comprehensive schools, where the number of boys remaining to the age of 16 or above is increasing rapidly.The Report also states:There is, therefore, a very favourable opportunity for the expansion of the Army Cadet Force in schools.It recommends that the Territorial and Auxiliary Forces Associations should do something about it.
Perhaps my right hon. Friend would care to tell us a little about the views of the War Office on this subject. My right hon. Friend knows that I am interested particularly in one school where the corps is undergoing very substantial changes. It used to consist of 800 or more boys, but it is now to be cut down to 200 or 300 Is that the idea? Is the corps to 374 be something different from what it was previously? Is my right hon. Friend satisfied that the new plans for these units are good ones? Are they designed to make the boys keen and to build up character and, therefore, to create from these eager young boys of 16, 17 and 18 the leaders subsequently in the Queen's Service in voluntary bodies such as the Territorials? I do not wish to develop this subject, because my right hon. Friend knows my interest in the matter. I merely make these few remarks in the hope that he will deal with the subject.
To summarise, we have resolved to rely on the voluntary rather than the compulsory system. I ask my right hon. Friend to let us know what steps the Government are taking in the many directions which are open to them to inspire, build up and strengthen the voluntary system.
§ 6.0 p.m.
§ Mr. R. T. Paget (Northampton)
The hon. Member for Fife, East (Sir J. Henderson-Stewart) was a little out of date in his thinking when he talked about the major contribution of this country to a future atomic war being economic. I remind him that our great economic contributions to wars in the past were possible because we were protected by a moat and were out of the firing line. One's economic contribution to a war effort, as the Germans found, even with only high explosive, ceases to be very effective, and I cannot conceive a future atomic war being decided by economic efforts, because economic efforts will cease to exist.
We are facing very different problems today. We have to consider three things: firstly, the major deterrent, which for this island is a suicide weapon; secondly, N.A.T.O., which is a commitment to something which may be a good deal less than global warfare; and, thirdly, our Asian and African commitments. Those three conceptions must be kept apart.
Firstly, the major deterrent, the hydrogen bomb, linked to the capacity to deliver it; in a sense that is going backwards in importance precisely because of its overwhelming character. As Mr. Henry Kissinger has pointed out in a very notable book, which ought to be compulsory reading for those who take part in these debates, as the power of the deterrent is increased beyond a certain 375 point so its credibility is decreased, and its credibility is the thing that matters.
I do not mind whether the Russians have got the inter-continental ballistic missile or not. The Americans have reason to believe that they may have or probably have, and it is that which matters. The Americans have the bases and the Russians have every reason to believe that the Americans can deliver the hydrogen bomb on their cities. With those two beliefs in being, the Russians and the Americans are like two people pointing revolvers at each other across a table. It does not matter whose revolver has the larger calibre if both are lethal. That is the sort of position into which we are getting with the hydrogen bomb. Will the Russians—and this is the important question—believe that the Americans will risk hydrogen bomb destruction because of something which happens in Europe?
Unless the Russians do believe that, the American hydrogen bomb is not a protection for Europe. That is the main reason why it is important that Britain should have the hydrogen bomb. The fact that we who are Europeans also have this deterrent makes the Elbe more credible as a bomb line, and that is almost the whole reason why we should have the hydrogen bomb. Again—and I emphasise this—the important thing is not whether we have a hydrogen bomb and not whether we have the means to deliver it. The important thing is whether the Russians think that we have. We undoubtedly have the hydrogen bomb, but it is not enormously important whether we are energetic in the production of more hydrogen bombs, because I believe that the Russian intelligence and general staff are bound to advise their Government that we have the bombs which we have the capacity to create. Any intelligence would be bound to give that sort of advice.
I want now to deal with the delivery of the hydrogen bomb. We should not go in for the ballistic rocket, partly because our contribution to this method of delivery will not materially add to the whole since the American contribution will be so much bigger and secondly because it may be that the Russians believe that they can defeat that method of delivery. Delivery by ballistic missile means sending something at a very great 376 speed and very high. Sputnik has shown us that we can follow it on a radar screen, and if anything is being sent that high at that speed there is nothing to confuse the radar. The scientists may say that they can guarantee to be able to pick up such a missile on the radar and it should be scientifically possible to shoot off controlled rockets on converging courses. If the scientists say that they have worked out that they can get the rockets and missiles to meet within the lethal distance of an atomic war head then they can stop those missiles. The scientists may well be wrong, as scientists are inclined to over-rate the infallibility or reliability of their devices.
The Russians may be advised that they can stop ballistic missiles, but it is extremely unlikely that they will ever be advised that they can certainly stop low-flying aircraft. It is difficult to see how atomic anti-aircraft missiles can be used against a number of low-flying aircraft taking different routes. I should be very surprised if the General Staff, particularly air staffs, who tend to be more cautious in estimates of their capacities than do scientists, were ever to advise the Russians that they could guarantee that they could stop more than about 10 per cent. of low-flying aircraft. Again, we are speaking of the effect on the minds of the Russians.
It is not necessary that these low-flying aircraft should have the range for a two-way trip. In the ghastly, appalling, suicidal nature of such a war—and it is only at the suicidal point at which we would ever resort to the hydrogen weapon—there would be no shortage of men to take those aeroplanes realising that they had to crash them afterwards and take what chance they had of getting some where on their feet. The important thing is that the Russians would believe it. If we have the hydrogen bomb and very fast low-flying aircraft, and if we are committed to deliver the bomb by that method, then in the minds of the Russians we are providing the maximum deterrent.
That is especially so since our contribution to the deterrent is quantitatively so small as compared with that of the Americans. The major Russian effort, therefore, must be directed against the American method of delivery, which is the ballistic missile. If they have to direct their anti-aircraft against two different methods, a much larger commitment is placed on them. I therefore urge 377 that we should do it differently and proclaim that we shall do it differently, that we will do it by low-flying aircraft, because I think that is the method which the Russian General Staff is less likely to say it can prevent with certainty.
So much for the major deterrent—possibly one should also have some atom-launching submarines. If that is our deterrent, it should be kept absolutely separate from anything else so that it would be quite removed from any local wars. It should be there as a constant threat, a strategic deterrent force used for no other purpose.
Now I turn to the N.A.T.O. contribution, and I believe that the N.A.T.O. commitment does not by any means necessarily mean global war. There might be a Hungarian situation in East Germany and there might be fighting on the Continent of Europe, but it would be quite unrealistic to take the view that that sort of clash necessarily involved us in committing suicide. Our N.A.T.O. commitment is a commitment to the sort of war which we might survive, but the global deterrent commitment is not. It is tremendously important that we should maintain our N.A.T.O. commitments, because as people follow a man who says that he will give £1,000 to charity provided others give a similar sum, so every soldier we put into Germany has the effect of making other people put soldiers there. If we cut down on our commitment of four divisions in Germany, we shall create a situation in which everybody else will do the same and the loss of power would be enormously larger than our saving. That is something which should be constantly borne in mind.
Equally, although the fifty divisions originally conceived at Lisbon have not emerged by about four-fifths, none the less I do not think we should regard the N.A.T.O. commitments as being at all impossible, because in Europe the Russians have suffered a weakening in Hungary and in Poland which in military terms is vastly more important than a whole host of Sputniks. In East Germany the Russians have got 22 divisions. Those 22 divisions depend exclusively on Polish communications. Under an atomic threat does anyone think that even the Czechs are going to risk offering communications to the Russian divisions?
378 Again, if one were commanding those 22 Russian divisions in East Germany, what would one in the existing circumstances think of the Polish communications, particularly if the Poles were warned rather effectively and constantly, "If you do not deal with these chaps' communications, we will do so with atomic bombs"? Those 22 divisions are in considerable peril. If a Hungarian situation arose in East Germany and a rising of the people compelled those divisions to be concentrated, they would be utterly at the mercy of the N.A.T.O. Command. They have not got room to dispose themselves for their protection. Their communications are in the air. They are at the mercy of the N.A.T.O. air force.
§ Mr. J. Grimond (Orkney and Shetland)
I agree with a lot of what the hon. and learned Gentleman is saying, but could he clear up one point? I understand him to say that he does not think the West should drop nuclear weapons in the event of an international war breaking out in Eastern Europe. He now seems to say that we should threaten the Poles with an atomic bomb in such a war. Does he mean that he would not drop the hydrogen bomb, but that he would drop an atomic bomb? If so, does he not think that the dropping of an atomic bomb would lead inevitably to the dropping of the hydrogen bomb?
§ Mr. Paget
What I am saying is this. For years we have said that N.A.T.O. holds a line of great peril, and that if the Russians advanced we have "had it." In fact, the Russian s have not advanced because they do not want to provoke a nuclear war. I am saying that the position has now changed. In the realities of the situation it is the Russian divisions which are in the greater peril. I do not say that we should go to war on those divisions. I do not say that we should use atomic or any other weapons on the Poles. But I think that in this struggle of nerves we should make it clear that we now have the capacity to do so.
The Russians have reduced their pressures in Europe because they are weak, and are applying them in the Middle East where we are weak. We should indicate to them that we realise their weaknesses. We should make a little clearer in Poland and Czechoslovakia what our military 379 capacities are. The N.A.T.O. commitment is not the building up of a force which is in any event inadequate. It is a force which today would be effectively adequate, a force which could exert very effective pressure on the Russians, because if they got into any sort of Hungarian trouble in East Germany there would be great anxiety amongst their soldiers; and Governments, particularly totalitarian Governments, might be awkwardly placed with that sort of thing happening.
The third commitment concerns our Asian and African defences. These, to my mind, require quite different equipment and different men. If we are going to fight in Aden or among the Trucial tribes, the slower that we can get an aeroplane to fly the better will it be for our purpose. The modern army is not only unnecessary; it is actually less valuable than the old one for this type of fighting.
Again I do not think it is necessary to have the same quality of men. We are told—and I do not challenge this figure—that 165,000 men constitutes an adequate army. I am dealing with the army for the moment. I have always believed in a professional army, but the one thing which I have pointed out, both when we and the party opposite have been in Government—I have believed this ever since 1948—is that while a conscript army was not suitable for modern war a professional army, even though it will be a much smaller army, will be a much more expensive one.
The great error of the present Government was to promise that they would save not only men, which I think was possible, but also money, which is impossible. Would any farmer or industrialist say, "I am going to get the same production from my farm and factory with less men and cut down my capital investment"? If we heard anyone say that, we would know that he was talking nonsense. So is anybody who says that we can save men and money and produce an equally effective force.
§ Major Legge-Bourke
The Secretary of State for War himself in the last debate on the Army Estimates said that the least economy which we would be able to make was in the monetary field.
§ Mr. Paget
That may have been said, but we were promised an economy. There will not be an economy.
There ought to be a heavy expansion. Therefore, money is the first thing with which I will deal. This may go rather wider than this defence subject. There are periods in our history, nearly always with tired and effete Governments, when the £ becomes our master instead of our servant. That is precisely what is happening today. I would accept that the advantages of having an exchange rate for the £ at 2.82 and not 2.50, or whatever it might be, would outweigh the disadvantages, but I am quite certain that they do not outweigh the disadvantages to the extent of being worth destroying the Armed Forces of the Crown.
Again, as far as internal purchasing power is concerned, under full employment when production and employment are booming and are at their best, rising prices are simply the transfer of purchasing power. It is nothing else. Every penny which is taken from the purchasing power of the old-age pensioner is added to the purchasing power of somebody else. Nothing is happening to reduce the quantity of the goods which are available for purchase. That can be adjusted. But once the morale and effectiveness of the Armed Forces are destroyed, we cannot put them back. Therefore, to give priority to the battle for the £, or whatever it is called, over the effectiveness of the Armed Forces upon which our safety and perhaps the safety and peace of the world depend, is a crazy and effete reversal of priorities.
I next want to refer to men. I do not myself think that we shall get 165,000 men by recruiting methods, however high we make their pay and whatever we may give them. I do not myself believe that we need to, because it is not, in fact, necessary to confine ourselves to the British Isles. I believe that the gap can be filled by recruitment in Africa, in the West Indies, and in Europe. I have in mind Italy and Hungary, where there are people of the sort we need in, for instance, the Royal Army Service Corps, the R.E.M.E. or the ground forces of the Royal Air Force. Italians, who are most excellent mechanics, could well be employed in those branches. Italians traditionally have exported their labour, and 381 they would welcome long-term contracts of this sort. They are very brave men when properly led. There are many Hungarians who would come. West Indians also would come if these alternative sources of recruitment were opened.
I believe that we could get our Army in that way, but I do not believe that we shall do it unless we are prepared to adopt that course. What is more, now is the time. It is no use waiting. Negotiations must be started with Italy and with the Governments of the various West Indies. We must think now what is to be done about where and in what capacities these people can be used and how our forces will be arranged. It is no use waiting until the moment when we have not got the recruits, and then, for political purposes, leave the whole problem unsolved.
I welcome the Kenya base, whatever it is, although I was astounded at the Minister's replies to questions put to him on his speech. He spoke about this part of the Reserve which is to be in Kenya, but he did not seem to have considered even where its base was to be, where its workshops were to be, or where its spare parts were to be. He then gave the most remarkable answer, that it would have equipment and transport in Singapore and Aden. Shall we have a situation in which there will be an unarmed force in Kenya which will fly to one set of armaments in Aden or to an alternative set of armaments in Singapore? Is that the conception? I just do not know, and some clarification really must be given. Is it really the conception that we are to have a mobile floating base? There is a great deal to be said for that. I do not myself believe that we shall be able to get the airborne forces we require. If they are to be permanently waterborne and their supplies and base are to be permanently waterborne, there would be considerably more mobility than would be obtained if we simply had to embark in troopships to be assembled. That may be the alternative. I do not know.
I believe that the forces are in a sad state today. They are in a sad state of morale. They do not know what is going to happen. A very precious thing is being destroyed, and it is being destroyed, primarily, because we are too effete and 382 we have lost the will to pay the bill. Paying the bill is the essential here. The prestige, the greatness, and the future of England depend infinitely more on maintaining the effectiveness, the morale, the tradition and the power of our Armed Forces than upon retaining the £ at any particular level of exchange.
§ 6.23 p.m.
§ Major H. Legge-Bourke (Isle of Ely)
I find myself in more agreement with the last remarks of the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) than with some of his other observations. Once again, we have heard put before us an argument which is now becoming customary from hon. Gentlemen opposite, both inside and outside the Chamber, namely, that there is a case for saying that we should be the last people to do the things which are necessary for ourselves and we should always get somebody else to do them if we possibly can. I deplore that attitude of mind, although I am always anxious to improve the Colonial Forces as much as possible and do not wish them to regard themselves as bound only to do service in their own Colonies. Nevertheless, it would be quite wrong to give people the impression that we could provide a Regular Army from Hungarian refugees, Italian unemployed and colonial people.
§ Major Legge-Bourke
The priority in this country, I should have thought, ought always to be its own defence, and if the attitude is to be that defence is something unimportant which one need only get somebody else to do for one and things will be all right, then we shall be in trouble. Such an approach is entirely wrong and would inevitably lead to the return of National Service.
§ Major Legge-Bourke
The hon. and learned Gentleman says that his suggestion referred only to non-combatant units. Surely, he will agree that, however small one makes it, the tail is a vital part in any force.
As my right hon. Friend the Minister asked us to bear in mind, the emphasis in this debate ought to be upon encouraging more and more of our young men 383 to volunteer for the Regular forces. That is what we should be trying to do today, rather than giving the impression that, if only we are clever enough, we can find somebody else to do the job for us.
When the National Service Act, 1947, was first introduced in the 1945–50 Parliament, in peace time, I accepted it, very much against my own desires because I felt that it was a regrettable necessity. I have always thought that we ought to have Regular forces only, and I regard it as a deplorable reflection on the judgment of people that they should feel that it is better to compel men to go into the forces than to ensure that there are sufficient volunteers coming forward.
I am very glad to see my right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence returning to his place, and I am very grateful to him for coming. It is most regrettable when hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite make their speeches and then promptly disappear from the Chamber and are not seen again. There are one or two points I should like to have taken up with the right hon. Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown) and with the right hon. Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell). I noted that the right hon. Member for Belper again trotted out the old fallacy, of which I thought we had disabused the mind of the Opposition when we were in opposition in 1945–50, that if there is large-scale unemployment in our country one automatically has better recruiting. That is quite untrue, and the figures between the two wars prove it. I think I am right in saying, in fact, that during the peak of unemployment between the two wars Regular recruiting was as bad as it was at any time between the two wars.
This problem will not be solved by standing men off from industry or anything like that. The solution lies in making sure that the attraction of the Services is sufficient to draw men in the first time. There is a great difference between what we do to induce a man to join initially and what we do to keep him in when he has once done that. We have never in the history of our country, so far as I know, been prepared to pay our Regular soldiers more than they would earn if they stayed in civilian life. I believe that that has never been done and we have, therefore, never attracted 384 more than a certain proportion of our young people, of the right age, who would be ready to come in. We have yet to see what would happen if the initial rate of pay, on joining, was more than the soldier would earn if he stayed in civilian life.
The right hon. Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Strachey) mentioned a figure, which he and I once discussed, of £9 to £10 a week on joining. It may well be that we shall have to pay £10 a week. I have never felt that any price was too high a price to pay if it meant that we were to have peace in the end. The right hon. Member for Easington asked tonight how long we were to continue to carry this enormous burden of expenditure for the sake of defence. I would answer that we must carry it just so long as it helps to keep the peace, and it may be cheap at the price today.
As we are debating a Motion for a humble Address, perhaps I may say that I find it quite extraordinary that, with Army rates of pay what they are today and the need for Regular recruiting what it is, not only is the matter of pay for the Armed Forces not mentioned in the Gracious Speech but we are told of increasing Government expenditure on social services before we are even prepared, apparently, to increase the pay of the Regular Forces we need so badly.
I have as much sympathy as anybody in this House with the plight of the old-age pensioner, but it seems to me quite extraordinary that we should introduce a Measure which will increase everybody's pension, whether people want it or not, instead of concentrating on ensuring that those who really need it get it through National Assistance. That is my approach to the problem. I have always felt that defence comes before social services. If peace fails, what is the point of having social services?
I am particularly glad that my right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence has returned to his place, because there are one or two matters I want to put to him. I have always had a very great admiration for my right hon. Friend, because I remember very well that he was not always unduly inhibited by the risk of impinging on official secrets in order to say what he thought to be right and in the interests of his country. I realise that what I am about to say is, perhaps, 385 on the borderline. I hope that I shall not slip over the border. If I do, I apologise, but the one thing that I am more anxious about than anything else is that I should not get anybody other than myself into trouble.
It seems to me that a serious situation is developing as between the Minister of Defence and the Minister of Supply. I think we would all agree that one of the most important things of which we should be assured is that the Minister of Defence is getting the best possible scientific advice.
There is an officer in his Department who is described as Chief Scientific Adviser, a most honourable man whose name I know; I shall not repeat it here, because that is not the point. One would have thought that the Chief Scientific Adviser would be an extremely high-level scientist. I understand that, in fact, he is not. I understand that he has considerable experience in administering scientists and I know that he has other interests outside science altogether. I am not in any way attempting to criticise the character or the honour of that man, but what I do say is that I have reason to relieve that some of the advice—whether it came through him, I do not know—that the Minister of Defence gets is not always as good as it should be.
I do not thing that any of us would expect the Minister to be an expert in aerodynamics; I hope he does not expect me to be an expert in them either. My view is that there is quite definitely today a feeling of great discontent among some of our highest-level scientists who have concentrated most on aerodynamics that the advice that the Minister of Defence is getting is not all that it should be.
I have these grounds for saying that. In the second paragraph of a letter which the Minister wrote to me some time ago, he challenged two particular theses or principles which have, I understand, been recognised by the highest scientists in the land regarding aerodynamics and which have been recognised by the Royal Aircraft Establishment at Farnborough. My right hon. Friend challenged the validity of both of the two principles. As far as I can make out, the fact that they were challenged has caused considerable consternation. It is an extremely serious matter if the sort of advice that the 386 Minister is getting from his own Department flies completely in the face of the highest level of advice that, for instance, the Minister of Supply is getting.
This all hinges on one great problem. I understand that the biggest problem facing aircraft designers today is that of overcoming the difficulty of getting a stationary aircraft up through the lower altitudes, through the subsonic speeds, up to the altitude at which, at supersonic speed, the aircraft would fly at maximum efficiency. The angle of the sweep-back of the wing is the crux of the whole issue. The trouble, as I understand it, is that to get the aircraft up to the correct altitude that is necessary, the wings cannot be swept back more than a certain amount. A very interesting series of articles appeared in Flight in, I think, December, 1954, written by a man named Fozard, a recognised authority on the matter, citing the various problems which confront, for example, the designer of a supersonic fighter.
I should have thought that the obvious answer, which stares one in the face in reading all these things, is that if only we could somehow find means of varying the geometry of an aircraft, many of these problems would be overcome.
What I find extremely worrying at the present time is the announced decision of the Minister, presumably after most careful consultation with the Chancellor of the Exchequer, that the Government intend to cut down drastically the amount of money which they allow to go to research.
This is not a matter which concerns only the military sphere. If a country is to have a good grand strategy, that grand strategy must operate in peace as well as in possible war and is not confined solely to military matters. It is concerned also with political matters, economic matters and matters affecting scientific research. If we are to have as efficient a grand strategy as possible, it is vital that research should be allowed to continue. I would far sooner see £100 million cut off the social budget of the country than that we should curtail research, both in civil aircraft and in military aircraft, in order to overcome the vital problem of getting the aircraft up to the right altitude so that it can fly at maximum efficiency.
§ Major Legge-Bourke
I am talking about defence. I have made it clear that I would rather see a stalling in the granting of pensions to everybody, whether people want them or not, than that we should in any way endanger defence. Is the hon. Member trying to find a cheap party point which he can take round his constituency so that he can say, "Look what the wicked Tories will do if they get back"?
§ Mr. Stonehouse rose—
§ Major Legge-Bourke
The hon. Member will have to be content with what I have already said. This is a matter which ought to transcend the ordinary cut and thrust of party social politics. Surely, this is a matter of vital importance.
I hope that in what I have said my right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence will not think that I have been unfair to any particular individual. I assure him that I have done my best to obtain the best information I could get on this matter, and the information I have received leads me to the conclusions which I have tried to put before the House this evening. I think my right hon. Friend would agree that even if I am wrong, as I hope I am, the matter is certainly worthy of the consideration of this House and of very great importance to the defence of the country.
I should like to dwell for a moment on the meaning behind the talk of co-operation, interdependence and the integration of the efforts by the free world in stemming the tide of Communism. I appreciate very well the two most important objects for this country to have, one in its foreign policy and one in its home policy. In our foreign policy, we should prevent Communism spreading any further, whether the spread is by military or by any other means, and at home we should ensure the continuance of our own freedom. I regard these two things as absolutely vital. That is one of the reasons I belong to the party I do, because I think that we can do it better than any other party, although, obviously, there are varying opinions about that.
The right hon. Member for Belper made an important point when he said 388 earlier this afternoon that he did not regard interdependence as necessarily meaning subordination; at least, that was what he implied. I certainly agree with him. I believe that now is a moment in history when, for the first time, certainly since the Second World War, the Americans have suddenly realised that we are more important to them than, perhaps, we think they are to us. With the latest developments spinning in outer space around us, I believe that the Americans have learned now that the United Kingdom is absolutely vital to them not merely as a forward aircraft carrier but for the perpetuation of a great many of the things they hold to be as valuable as we do.
It is very important that this country should make up its mind about how it wishes to co-operate with the United States, and about how it wishes to co-operate with free Europe as well. Is the co-operation to be on the basis of federation, or on the setting up of supranational authorities to which we all become subservient? Or is it to be on the basis of freely negotiated treaties between sovereign States, with various technical arrangements between us?
Ever since the Schuman Plan was first discussed in this House in the Parliament of 1945 to 1950 I have ruthlessly opposed in every possible way, including speeches in this House and letters to Ministers, any attempt to lure the United Kingdom into a federation. The system which has suited this country best is that which we have adopted in our Commonwealth, that is, association between sovereign States. There is a world of difference between a treaty freely negotiated between sovereign States, however limited their sovereignty may become over the years, and entering into some supranational organisation or federation which, from the moment one enters it, forbids one ever to make any separate treaty again.
That is one of the issues now before us. I am all for co-operation on the technical level. I am all in favour of as much co-operation as possible. What I should be rootedly opposed to, what I believe the vast majority of the people of this country would be rootedly opposed to, would be any attempt so to integrate politically either with Western European countries or with the United States that we 389 virtually cease to have a separate identity, however much our interests, however much our subsequent efforts, might be coincidental.
If what the Prime Minister said was, as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede), in a very interesting speech yesterday, said he thought it was, directed to telling the Americans it was about time they cooperated more with us in technical matters, and altered their McMahon Act precluding the exchange of atomic information and so forth, I am in entire agreement. If, however, it means we are to unload what sovereignty we have and are to set up some organisation we cannot contract out of later if we want to, I shall be very much opposed to it indeed.
I have always felt the Government were right in preferring a Free Trade Area to the Common Market, but I am not at all sure the Government were right in preferring either to another course altogether, and that is a free association of sovereign States with mutually beneficial trade agreements on a preferential basis. I know what I should do if I had the choice of action in these matters. I should work for the reassertion of the right to preferences in trade, and renegotiate the Ottawa Agreement of 1932, and extend the principles of the Ottawa Agreement of 1932 to other countries than Commonwealth countries, and in particular to Western Germany, because I believe that what will matter in the future is the right of nations to trade with one another on a mutually preferential basis because it suits them so to do, rather than that they should be forbidden to do what any individual would demand as of right in his own country, and that is to choose with whom he trades and on what terms.
If we are to have a sound grand strategy it is absolutely essential that we have our commercial policies, our economic policies, our fiscal policies, our monetary policy as well as our defence policy on the right lines, and today a great many of them are very far from being on the right lines. It is certainly not this Government's fault, for a great many of them are lines which the Government inherited. They inherited a great many ill-destined vehicles for their policies. It is not their fault, but there 390 may be an opportunity now, as a consequence of recent developments, for them to put them back on the right lines. Recent developments may give the Government a far better chance to do this than there has ever been since the Second World War.
It is for these reasons that I hope the Government will give most earnest consideration to some of the matters I have mentioned. I know that they are not all within the orbit of responsibility of the Secretary of State for War, who, I understand, is to reply to today's debate, but I hope that my right hon. Friend will find some of my observations useful.
§ 6.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Christopher Boyd (Bristol, North West)
I have had the pleasure before of following the hon. and gallant Member for the Isle of Ely (Major Legge-Bourke), and, as before, I disagree with many of the things he has said, as, I suppose, do most of my hon. Friends on this side of the House. His argument about the Government having inherited a great many policies, and being imprisoned by policies which they inherited six years ago, gets more and more surprising the longer that defence of Government policy continues to be repeated. If they have not had time to get on to their own lines of policy by now, they certainly should have done, even granting them the most generous allowance for some element of continuity when they first took office.
I do not join in the hon. and gallant Member's attacks upon the Minister's advisers. I have been a civil servant myself, and I believe that the doctrine should be firmly upheld in this House, that Ministers are responsible for Government policy, and that we should not approve of anybody's trying to shuffle the blame from Ministers on to Ministers' advisers. It is Ministers' responsibility whether they accept or reject advice; theirs is the judgment on the advice they receive; it is their responsibility to choose what advisers to have by them or from whom to seek advice.
I do not at all like—I am sure none of us on this side of the House does—the hon. and gallant Gentleman's willingness to sacrifice the social services and the old-age pensioners, who are to have a very urgently overdue rise.
§ Major Legge-Bourke
I am sure the hon. Gentleman does not want to be unfair, and so he will allow me to point out that what I said was that I was in favour of improving the position of those who really need it and of not bothering about the ones who do not.
§ Mr. Boyd
I do not like the idea that every old person should be compelled to seek National Assistance and not have as of right the pension to which he has contributed. I do not at all like the idea of basing help for them on National Assistance only.
On the matter of conscription I may have a little more in common with the hon. and gallant Gentleman. I understand that he shares the desire of, I think, most hon. Members of the House to abolish conscription. I am glad that the Minister is not as pessimistic as some people have been about the recruiting figures. Personally, I have never thought that the optimistic figures put forward from both Front Benches a few months ago were likely to be realised. I did not regard that as a very vital argument in the case for or against the abolition of conscription. I do not think that the ups and downs of recruitment figures are a main argument, because the Armed Forces are moving into a rapidly changing era, an era in which almost unlimited fire-power can be placed in the hands of very small numbers of men, and large numbers are rapidly ceasing to be of anything like the importance they were in the nineteenth century, when we got along very well and built up a very big Empire with a small volunteer Army.
I do not think that even if in practice our voluntary recruitment brought us, perhaps, half the numbers that they were estimating a short while ago, it should deter the Government from determination to abolish conscription. There are many reasons why recruitment might improve when the numbers in the Armed Forces are fewer. It would be possible to discard some of the worst barracks, and to afford more money to make conditions of life in the Services a great deal more attractive. Recruitment might well improve, and I do not think that much time should be spent on the statistics.
Running through the debate there has been a great deal of talk about N.A.T.O., and some interesting and controversial ideas have been put forward. One thing 392 which has clearly emerged, and with which I certainly agree, is that our defence at present and for some years to come depends more than anything else on the unity of the N.A.T.O. community, on the visible unity and cohesion of the alliance, and on the conviction of potential aggressors that that alliance will hold together. That, of course, was given a severe blow by the division of the alliance over events in the Middle East a year ago. I hope that we shall avoid repeating that disastrous mistake.
I am certainly glad that the next meeting of the Council of N.A.T.O. is to be attended by Prime Ministers and their equivalents. I hope that will not be for the last time, but that it will become a regular practice. I hope also that plans for much greater scientific co-operation between the N.A.T.O. Powers are intended seriously and will lead to something. The Russians have shown us that they have a considerable power for organising their scientists and technologists to win, at any rate, one particular race—that to launch the first real spaceship. That may not necessarily mean very much in the direct military field, but we must apply our minds to the problem of how to make use in the interest of the community, and I mean not this country only but the whole N.A.T.O. community, of the scientific resources, of the brains and the inventive power which undoubtedly exist in several N.A.T.O. countries and which I am sure, if properly organised, can give us a lead over the Communist countries.
Why is it so difficult to secure co-operation among the N.A.T.O. countries? Why is it that Governments have great difficulties with their supporters in their countries in persuading them to accept the co-operation and all the give-and-take with our allies that is involved? There is no doubt that in close consultation with our American and other allies we can exercise considerable influence in practice on their policies, as well as very often having to go some of the way with them. But it is tremendously worth while. Why is it that this country, and for that matter the United States and other countries in the N.A.T.O. alliance, find that so difficult?
I believe that it is because the means of interchanging opinion between representatives of public opinion and people 393 in contact with public opinion in the different N.A.T.O. countries are grossly inadequate. I hope very much that the N.A.T.O. Council, with the Prime Ministers present, will give its mind to how it should most rapidly accelerate the interchange of ideas and information, and especially of opinion, among representative leaders of public opinion in the different N.A.T.O. countries. I refer especially to the small embryo N.A.T.O. Parliament, the Conference of N.A.T.O. Parliamentarians, which exists and is having a meeting next week. It has too few members, though some of them are very distinguished, and it has insufficient direct contact with the public opinion of the countries participating in N.A.T.O.
I hope that the Government will apply their mind to the possibility of putting definite proposals to their N.A.T.O. allies for strengthening the effectiveness of the Parliamentary side of the N.A.T.O. structure, so that there can be members directly elected to a N.A.T.O. Parliament who can debate with each other and have the right to question participating Ministers so that people from each country concerned can question each other's Ministers, and we can thus have an interchange and clash of ideas which in time will lead to more understanding of each other. N.A.T.O. would gain more strength from the strengthening of its Parliamentary institution, which is in such a small embryo state at present, than from almost any other development.
It always seems to me to be a great mistake to have a debate on defence separated from the topic of disarmament. It is rather pointedly separated on this occasion in that tomorrow has been set aside for a debate on foreign policy and disarmament. Surely, the topic of disarmament would come better into this debate rather than into tomorrow's. The justification for having Armed Forces rests upon the Government being able to satisfy us that they are doing their best to make armaments unnecessary, to negotiate an effective disarmament agreement for the reduction of the armed forces of all the Powers under proper supervision, and to have the world policed by United Nations forces.
The Minister of Defence committed himself to that view at his own party conference at Brighton when he declared himself in favour of the eventual estab- 394 lishment of a world authority and a world police force and added,Nothing short of that will really work.But what evidence can the Government offer us that they are already developing their policies in that direction? There have been carefully prepared proposals for expanding moderately the United Nations Emergency Force and for establishing and directly recruiting a small United Nations constabulary. That is a step in the right direction. A force stationed in the trouble spots, such as the Middle East, could be of at least some assistance in reducing tension, though it would not be a major military force at this stage.
A great deal of trouble has been taken by eminent people, members of both parties in committee together, in drawing up detailed proposals to that end. They seem to be in accord with the opinions of Ministers, but the Government have not had the guts to put that forward in the United Nations or to put forward proposals to ensure that the financing of the existing United Nations Force is shared in a proper manner among members of the United Nations.
Why, in particular, have the Government lost the opportunity, which undoubtedly existed in the summer, to make a real start on controlled disarmament by accepting proposals which, apparently, both Russia and America were prepared to accept for the suspension of nuclear tests? That was the first step after which it would have been easier to go on to negotiate for the abolition of nuclear weapons and further stages of disarmament.
The Government, apparently, have surplus officers whom they are no longer able to use in the Armed Forces. Could they not be used by being trained for duty in the contingents of the international inspectorate that would be needed under a United Nations disarmament agreement? This would give some practical indication that we were taking negotiations for disarmament seriously and, incidentally, it would find useful work which could be done only by these trained, experienced officers. Why are there no clear indications of the Government moving in the direction of the solution which the Minister himself admits is the only ultimately workable way of defending this country?
§ 7.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Antony Head (Carshalton)
Mr. Speaker, I should like to say to the House at the start that for a variety of reasons. I am not particularly looking forward to making this speech. Firstly, I had hoped that there was to be a defence debate between now and the Estimates. I understand, however, that this is unlikely to be so, but because of that hope and presumption I am less well prepared than I could wish. Secondly, I was made more aware of my position at the present time by the touching but nevertheless anxious inquiries of many charming and brilliant hon. Gentlemen opposite as to whether or not I was going to speak. Thirdly, although I am not a very old member, I have been here sufficiently long to appreciate that I stand here, perhaps in the eyes of many, as a disgruntled ex-Minister who is letting off steam.
I do not know whether the House will believe me or not when I say that I am not at all disgruntled. I was given an extremely fair and most considerate deal by the Government and the Prime Minister. I have nothing against any of my colleagues on the Front Bench, and as regards the Minister of Defence, I can sympathise with him as much as anybody in the difficulties which confront him in his task. I wish him well in their solution and appreciate his great abilities.
The reason I am making this speech, not entirely fully prepared and not at a time when I would wish to do so—because there are many things which the Minister said he would tell us later—is because I am aware that between now and the time of the Estimates there are discussions, both on the opposite side of the House and on this, about defence, and I would prefer to make plain the matter on which I disagree at this stage rather than to wait. I believe that is both a better and a more honourable course than waiting until a time of crisis. I do not intend to speak about all the many and very complex wider aspects of defence. I wish to concentrate on one matter, a matter on which I disagree with probably quite a proportion of both sides of the House.
I think that both Front Benches, and quite a lot of other hon. Members, are at the moment—unconsciously may be, or consciously—playing politics with this one aspect of defence. To put it simply, 396 an election is not so very far off, and both sides of the House are scared stiff of National Service. I do not blame them. Anybody who has been concerned with defence knows that nobody has been more keen than I, or a stronger believer, in the fact that the abolition of National Service would be the best thing for the health of the three Services. I have said that, I have repeated it, and I say it again now.
The matter of which I wish to talk about is this. The Minister of Defence has nailed his flag to the abolition of National Service, as have hon. Gentlemen opposite, and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown), who told me that he must have dinner and could not be here. I appreciate that and I hope the dinner was all right. What I am saying is that I have felt strongly that on both sides of the House there has been a desire to say, "Everything will be all right on the day; do not let us talk about the reintroduction of National service."
Remember that this is a long-term plan and we do not know what our commitments or the foreign situation will be in 1961. I feel very strongly that with the uncertainty of the future situation, with the uncertainty of recruiting, with the necessity not to default on defence, both sides of the House should admit that under the unknown circumstances of four or five years ahead, we the House of Commons should state that rather than cause danger—and I hope to prove that we might cause danger—neither side would hesitate to reintroduce some form of selective National Service if events demanded it.
If that were said and accepted by both sides—it obviously will not be tonight—but if it were done in our next defence debate, I should have no complaint about this particular matter. I am worried, however, because my right hon. Friend's speech indicated that he had abolished National Service, and I know the attraction of saying so. But by that speech, and by some of the evasions of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Belper, it seems to me that we are going to talk ourselves into a position whereby neither side dare, or could, reintroduce some form of limited, selective National Service if events demanded. That might be highly dangerous.
397 May I then go into a little more detail purely on that theme? I do not propose to go into the endless other matters of defence because, having recently been in the Ministry of Defence, I think it would be wrong and indiscreet of me to do so. The Minister of Defence has introduced a White Paper, and I think it is not unfair generally to say that the theme was that, by introducing greater nuclear and atomic power, by having streamlined atomic Forces, we could have a very marked reduction of manpower. I do not quarrel with that.
The Minister gave as the number he thought was right—375,000. I do not absolutely quarrel with that, although I personally believe it to be too small. I had to do the same job as my right hon. Friend, on the same kind of assumptions—what would be our likely minimum commitments to N.A.T.O., what would be our commitments overseas bearing in mind likely reductions, what would be the position in the Services if we had a fully civilianised tail. My figure was slightly larger than his, but I am not saying definitely that he was wrong.
What I do say is that I am somewhat suspicious of the figure because it is also the best estimate of the most we are likely to recruit by Regular recruitment. The coincidence of that figure with the proper size and constitution of the three Services in 1961 is, to put it mildly, remarkable. I feel that these things must be worked out on the best possible estimate of the minimum required whereby we do not default in N.A.T.O., we do not overstrain our forces, and we ensure that none of the three Service Departments wastes manpower.
Again the Minister of Defence may be right in being able to go quite a bit below what I thought. I would say in self-defence that my figure was considerably below what anybody else had thought. What I feel strongly is that if we go for a figure of this kind and its realisation or not is entirely dependent on something as unpredictable as Regular recruitment, it is wrong to be too dogmatic about the fact that we have abolished National Service now and for ever. Firstly, it means that the Services cannot plan in the long-term. I will say a little more about that later. Secondly, it means that we may find ourselves left 398 with far smaller conventional forces than we anticipated, than our commitments demand, or that our undertakings really force us in honour to provide.
If I may make an assumption in this matter, suppose that the target of 375,000 voluntary recruits is not achieved. Here I say in parentheses that I genuinely do not think it will be achieved. At this stage I beg the Minister of Defence not to accuse me of being defeatist. My right hon. Friend said that anybody who suggested that it cannot be achieved is being defeatist. Accusing people of being defeatist is wrong. What we must be on this occasion is very realistic.
I venture to say to the Minister of Defence that if he asked all his best advisers—and he listed ten of—them for an estimate of what the strength would be in 1961, with purely Regular recruiting, and the prize for the winner was £200,000—which I see somebody won on a football pool the other day; that is to say, something that would produce the very best estimate—we should find that the figure would be much nearer 300,000 than 375,000.
I am stating that from my knowledge. I am not being defeatist. I hope the House will believe me when I say that I hope just as sincerely that my right hon. Friend will achieve the figure of 375,000. I am only saying that I do not think he will, because everything that I know and the experts know points to the fact that the figure of 375,000 is the absolute optimum, and despite every measure which is taken to obtain this, I do not think it will be achieved.
If we do not achieve it, what happens? Suppose we obtained only 320,000 and the Minister of Defence said, "I have 320,000 Regular recruits. How shall I apportion them?" That is a much less bad situation, but it will not work out just like that. The choice will not he with the Minister of Defence. Again not being gloomy but trying to be realistic, I will forecast to the House how I think things will go. I believe that the Navy will get the ration which it is given by the Minister of Defence. I will not go into the details, for that would bore the House. I just believe that; I may be wrong. I think the Royal Air Force will probably get all the men it requires, bearing in mind the immense cost of its equipment in the future. I believe that 399 its manpower will be trimmed because the equipment going to the Air Force is so immensely expensive. Thus, I foresee two Services more or less all right under this system.
The great burden of the short-fall—in fact, almost the entire burden—will fall on the Army. I will give my reasons for thinking this. Pre-war recruiting calculations mean very little in this respect because in those days the Royal Air Force was only some 20,000 strong and it was not in competition to a large degree with the Army for recruits. I foresee, I hope without being unduly gloomy, a situation in which we have an Army—I am dealing in male all ranks; one of the great difficulties about our defence debates has been that people will deal in different currencies of manpower—of 110,000 or 120,000, a quarter of what we used to have.
We have certain overseas commitments, and I agree that we can reduce them, but do not let us think that if we have a recurrence of the kind of troubles we have had in the past, whether in Africa, Ghana, Malaya or Singapore, we can wipe them out with an Army of that size, with our commitments to N.A.T.O., with our likely overseas commitments, with our inescapable base in this country, and with, I hope, some reserves. On that basis, I do not believe that we can do it.
Suppose some Government in 1961, with an Army of that size, have to come to a decision on the question, "Shall we do the most unpopular political thing and introduce limited, selective National Service, or not?" If we talk ourselves into the position that I have suggested, no Government would be able to do it.
What would be the consequence of that situation? I believe that certain of our own overseas commitments, Commonwealth and others, will be inescapable. Because of that I believe, inevitably, there would be a very drastic reduction of our N.A.T.O. contribution of conventional forces. I equally believe that our example and the way we behave is of immense importance to N.A.T.O. A default in this field is highly infectious. If by 1961 it can be said, "The British are producing virtually a token force", what of all the other countries in Europe, who, admittedly, as the right hon. Member for Easington said, have not always 400 made such an immense contribution? What of their desire to reduce their manpower commitment, which is always politically embarrassing? There is a danger, if we default in that respect, of a gradual rot in the conventional element which is holding Europe today and which I believe to be the nucleus of not only the protection of the world but the cooperation of the United States, ourselves and Europe in the fight against Communism. We might put ourselves in the position of starting a trend in that respect.
There are many hon. Members who will say, "What if it does happen? Here is the Sputnik going round the world, and here are atomic weapons, fearful new inventions, and the old diehard Blimp, Head, talks about conventional weapons. It is time he grew up and met some scientists." I am not really in that position in this matter.
Let us just consider the other sanctions, the other weapons, that there are in modern war. I would say that today, instead of having an Army, a Navy and an Air Force as in, say, 1930, there are probably six different kinds of weapon which one can categorise. There is the total ultimate disaster, the calamitous nuclear weapon. There is the tactical atomic weapon. There is the conventional forces weapon. There is propaganda and infiltration. Then there is the technicians and aid weapon, which has been demonstrated in Syria. Lastly, and bracketed with all of the others, is economic stability, which means that one must be prepared to spend.
To take the first three weapons, the ones which concern us in this debate, suppose conventional forces, as I fear, begin to diminish and, by our percept and example, dwindle away. What is the sanction then against what one might colloquially term "an international fire", a coup or whatever it might be? It will then rest almost entirely on the total nuclear weapon. I cannot conceive of a situation more dangerous to the world and more likely to lead to ultimate disaster than to have to rely on that alone, because these nuclear weapons themselves create a kind of umbrella of deadly fear under which the unscrupulous can operate in a series of minor grabs and infiltrations which would be hard to resist.
401 Hon. Members may say, "But there is the tactical atomic weapon". I know that great hopes and great arguments centre around the tactical atomic weapon, but I believe that part of the willingness to conceive of using the tactical atomic weapon dates from the period when the United States and Russia were not in direct range of one another. We were in range, but they were not. Today I imagine that New York is within range of the inter-continental ballistic missile, and Russia is within range of dreadful wounds, whether the blow be by missile or by air. Both countries are capable of blowing the other to pieces, and soon that degree will increase. In those circumstances, the willingness to use the tactical atomic weapon will decrease and more and more the only available sanction will be conventional forces for minor matters and for holding territories, or the ultimate sanction in disaster.
The point of my remarks, which are really restricted to one sphere, is this. The Minister of Defence, for reasons which I well understand, has nailed to his mast the flag of a fine recruiting programme and the abolition of National Service. I do not quarrel with it, but I think his figure for obtaining what he wants is too low. I do not think he will attain that figure; I believe the number will be even lower. In those circumstances, I fear that the size of our conventional forces, and particularly the Army, will be such that they will grow so small that they will set an example to N.A.T.O. which may be infectious and, in the long term, disastrous.
I do not ask my right hon. Friend to swallow his plan. What I ask is that later, perhaps in another debate, he, and, I hope, some hon. Members opposite, will say, "We must not default in conventional forces. They are our only sanction between infiltration and grabs and the ultimate weapon. We must keep them". We in the House of Commons, because we are talking of matters of absolute survival, of not only ourselves but civilisation, should be strong and as one in determining to play our part in strengthening these conventional forces and should join as one in ensuring that when the moment arrives, the Government, whoever forms it, will not shirk the issue which is politically unpopular.
§ 7.20 p.m.
§ Mr. George Wigg (Dudley)
I find myself in almost complete agreement with the right hon. Member for Carshalton (Mr. Head). That has not always been so. We have had our differences in the past, but on this occasion, by our own separate methods, we have arrived at broadly the same conclusion. On 31st July, you were kind enough, Mr. Speaker, to allow me to raise the subject of defence in the debate on the Consolidated Fund (Appropriation) Bill, when I put forward in almost identical terms the point of view expressed by the right hon. Gentleman tonight.
It seems to me beyond any shadow of doubt that the Navy and the Air Force, at least quantitatively, will have no problem. The problem of the Army arises because it has to meet different conditions and has a different engagement structure. I entirely agree with the right hon. Gentleman that pre-war experience cannot be applied in existing circumstances. He was a little low with his figure for the R.A.F., which was nearer 35,000 than his figure of 25,000. One of my hon. Friends has said that the Army was bigger. Of course it was bigger if one counts the Indian Army, but the other ranks of the Regular Army, excluding officers, amounted to not very far off the 165,000 mark.
The pre-war Regular engagement was always twelve years, partly with the Colours and partly with the Reserve, depending upon the branch of the Service concerned. The majority of infantrymen served a seven-year engagement and five years with the Reserve. It was the rule and not the exception for infantrymen to do eight years, because they were held for an extra year overseas. In effect, the number of men recruited had to be multiplied by eight, but in the case of the three-year engagement, about which I quarrelled with the right hon. Gentleman and which ended only on 1st October, the multiplier is three.
I entirely agree, as did my right hon. Friend the Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell), that every sane man wants to get rid of National Service if he can. As long ago as Whitsun, 1952, my right hon. Friend and I tried in an Adjournment debate to encourage hon. Members to face the problem which arose because other N.A.T.O. countries were not undertaking the obligations of two years' 403 National Service and we realised that we could not indefinitely carry such a burden ourselves. I went on to argue that it was hopeless to dream of recruiting a Regular Army sufficient to meet our needs unless we got a multiplier, that is to say, an engagement, of much more than three years. The right hon. Gentleman's estimate of what he needed was 33⅓ per cent. reengagement, but what he got was five per cent. It was essential, therefore, that the three-year engagement should go, and it is only now that it has gone that we can start to build up a Regular Army. We may do it in the long run, but my guess is—and I will nail my colours to the mast—that we will not do it before 1970.
I am not as optimistic as the right hon. Gentleman. The recruiting figures have been much worse even than I thought, and I do not believe that we will recruit 100,000 Regulars. I am afraid of some right hon. Gentlemen on both sides of the House because I do not trust them on this issue. I can imagine the glib speeches which will be made. I have heard them in the past. They will say that the country needs a Regular Army of 100,000 men. The number of men they recruit will be the ideal figure. I know the arguments only too well.
Would any hon. Member, even the most extreme abolitionist, argue that this time this country could manage with fewer than 50 infantry battalions? When dealing with recruiting one is dealing with morale and not with some complex subject which can be left to the psychologist or to the social psychiatrist. What makes a chap proud of his regiment is that he thinks that the chaps in A company are better than those in B company. Transfer him tomorrow to B company and he will say that the chaps there are better than those in C company. That is the simple issue.
If men serve in battalions which are under establishment, it means that the officers do too many orderly officer duties, that senior N.C.O.s do too many orderly sergeant duties and the men, the poor troops, do too many guards and too many fatigues. The regimental football team is not up to standard. The regimental sergeants' mess billiards team is no good, and after a while the men begin to say that they wish they were back in their old unit where they were much better off and 404 which was much better than their present unit. That is not an abstract. These things determine whether men join the Army and stay in. It is the thought that they will be in a show which is really worth while that makes them join and make the Army a career.
I want now to turn to an aspect of the recruiting problem which I must confess puts the fear of God into me. We heard from the Minister of Defence this afternoon that the September recruiting figures—and, after all, he is the supreme authority—are not too bad. Either he has never read them, or, if he has, he has not understood them. The figure for September was 5,720, and for August it was 2,794. That looks like an increase of 3,000, but what do those figures include? There is a footnote to the return, which is part of a Written Answer which is to appear in HANSARD tomorrow, showing that entries of apprentices and boys are made at intervals during the year. The figure for August includes practically no boys, while that for September includes a figure of over 2,000.
There is another figure. The number of men undertaking a three-year engagement in August and July was 1,487, while for September it was 1,927, but that was the last month of the three-year engagement in the Army when all the lads thinking of a three-year engagement got in quickly, so that the figure for September includes at least 500 extra men because of that exceptional circumstance. Yet the Minister of Defence tells the House and the country that the figures are all right, when clearly he has not read them, or, if he has, then he has failed to understand them.
This sort of thing is happening all the time on both sides of the House. There is one thing which I beg the Minister of Defence to do. He is to appoint a Committee to investigate why men do not join the Army and he has appointed Sir James Grigg as chairman. Will he be good enough to consider publishing a White Paper, or asking this Committee to publish just the plain facts, so that in future we do not get arguments between my Front Bench and myself? Let us establish what is the recruiting pool from which he is seeking to get his recruits. Let us have statistics about the size of the pre-war Army all in one document so that at least we know what we are arguing about.
405 It is my contention that the facts are so simple that no disinterested man who will spend a little time studying them can talk the arrant nonsense which one hears talked about this problem. The recruiting figures for the last three months are very interesting. We hear it argued that pay should be improved, and some odd sums have been mentioned. I commend as a study the very considerable number of White Papers containing various rates of pay which will show the complexity of the subject.
The truth is that this is no simple problem. Investigating the history of Army pay is almost a subject for a special committee. Rates of pay involve matters of discipline and have a very important bearing upon another problem which we have not discussed today, the problem of quality. The pre-war Army—I do not want to get into an argument about unemployment—consisted of a considerable number of unskilled young men. Today, when we still need the same sort of young man, we also badly need the skilled and the trained worker.
If we are going to have Armed Forces based upon a scientific concept those forces must have access to some of the skill of the country. At the moment all three Services have been doing very well with the apprentices who come into the Services at the end of their apprenticeships and with the young men who come in after their deferment, having undertaken scientific and technical training. If we get rid of National Service that is another problem that we shall have to meet.
It is plain that some hon. Members have never looked at that problem. If they had asked the Ministry of Labour they could have obtained a list of the deferments. They include workers in agriculture, mining and the Mercantile Marine. Many persons go into those services not because they like them but because they prefer the higher wages and conditions to service in the Armed Forces. There will be some rather hefty problems thrown upon each of those callings if we get rid of National Service.
This is not an easy problem. It certainly cannot be solved in two or three years, if it can be solved at all. We ought to try to solve it, but we should not try to make political capital out of it in 406 order to seek some party gain, because, in the long run, there never will be any political capital to be got out of it. I have tremendous faith in the common sense of our fellow-countrymen. They may be interested in skiffle and in Tommy Steele, but the time will come when they wake up, as they have done in the past, perhaps at a moment of crisis, and ask what has happened to the forces of the Crown—and then there will be a stern reckoning.
I have endeavoured to take this subject out of politics, not because I am by nature a person who does not like controversy—I do; I have never run away from a row in my life—but because I believe this to be the father and mother of all problems. I want it to be elevated to the level at which common sense can prevail. If once we could get this straight and reach agreement about the facts, many other problems would solve themselves.
The Minister of Defence's recruiting returns throw light upon the question of how far pay will aid recruitment. One of the most important steps introduced by my right hon. Friend the Member for Easington was the creation of the differential. It was not a very popular step for a Socialist Minister. He gave one rate of pay for a National Service man and another for the Regular. It brought in a considerable number of Regular recruits, and it deceived the right hon. Gentleman opposite and led him mistakenly into introducing the three-year engagement. Now that the three-year engagement is ending we find that 1,927 men in September and 1,400 in July and August undertook the three-year engagement. Did they listen to the appeal of higher pay? No, for the young man undertaking a three-year engagement gets 9s. a day whereas the one who undertakes a six-year engagement gets 11s. a day—a difference of 14s. a week which, to a young man of 18, expressed in terms of trips to the cinema and getting home at week-ends, is a considerable sum. These figures are therefore an indication that there is a very severe limit to what can be done by pay, in the way of an incentive
I am led to a quite different conclusion. All my study of the figures leads me to conclude that only a limited number of people like Army life. I do not say that 407 they are any better or worse than the others, but I think that the finger of wisdom points in the direction of getting those who like it to come in and stay in. I would urge them to come in for as long as they can, and I would make every effort in that direction.
Hon. Members talk about more increases of pay and improvements in married quarters and in barracks. I agree with all those suggestions, and I have cause to know very much more about them than most, because my three daughters were born in married quarters and my mother was born in married quarters, quarters that are now nearly 100 years old. I know what they are like and what should happen to them. I am not sure that the provision of married quarters in the old sense is wise. The Navy has no recruiting problem, but does it take its wives and families into its ships? Not likely! What the Navy does is to see that the men provide themselves with homes. The ships come back to the same port.
What the Army should do is to assist the young men in this way when they have reached marriageable age. I would not be so hasty as some people are to marry; the Army is a single man's job. The happiest time in my life was when I was in a sergeants' mess, and when I was a sergeant at 23 years of age I thought I was a hell of a chap—and others in my mess thought the same about themselves. I do not think that this help should be provided in the conventional way, by trying to rebuild Knightsbridge and Wellington Barracks. I would destroy them and make them annexes to Hyde Park and St. James's Park respectively. I would help the men by way of loans, so that they could set us homes of their own in different parts of the country.
A senior N.C.O. wants to have a separate home. When he has served for some years he begins to think of what will happen when he goes back to "civvy street". He may decide not to engage for a further term, because he may have got a home together and his wife may say, "If you sign on for another term what will happen to us at the end of the road?" The Army can deal with the housing problem only up to a certain point.
408 I regret that we cannot get rid of National Service, and I applaud the right hon. Member for coming along tonight and making a very difficult speech, perhaps in the hope of knocking some commonsense into the Government's consideration of the problem. While we are concentrating upon this question we are missing a lot of other important things. When one spends some time in looking at defence statistics and problems one immediately notices that the two are out of focus and out of balance. We have got a man-equipment problem.
I will deal only with the Army. Since we adjourned in July a very important document has been published, and I am astonished that it was not mentioned by my own front bench. I refer to the supplement to the London Gazette of Thursday, 12th September, and to the dispatch from Sir Charles Keightley about the Suez operation. I am not going to say anything about the morality of Suez, but let us consider it as a military operation. I can at least say that I opposed this piece of nonsense before it started. On 31st July, in a defence debate, on the day when Sir Anthony Eden made his announcement, I said that when I heard the cheers on both sides in support of strong action being taken I had the uncontrollable desire to go out of the House and be sick—and when I think about it now I have the same queasy feeling in the pit of my stomach.
What I knew was that there was not one single swept-wing fighter quadron in the Middle East; we had two tank landing ships, and there was a gross shortage of transport aircraft. But nobody listened, and I was charged, as I am so frequently charge—without the accuracy of my figures being challenged—with exaggeration. The dispatch of Sir Charles Keightley puts amongst the difficulties which confronted his forces:Limited resources of landing craft and air transport. We had only a total of 18 L.S.T.'s and 11 L.C.T.'s. We had an air lift for two battalions but very limited air supply resources.I have taken some trouble in this matter and I have gone back over the last 100 years looking up the inquiries which have taken place in the middle of various operations. In some cases our ancestors did not wait until a war had ended before looking at what had happened. I would have thought that this House of 409 Commons, concerned as it must be with our defence problem, and spending as we are £1,500 million a year, would ask why, at Suez, there was a shortage of airlift and why the Army did not have sufficient landing craft. On the eve of Suez the ammunition of the BAT was found to be defective. I did not say so then, but I know what happened. It was withdrawn and replaced, with the American 106 mm. which we had purloined because we had nothing else with which to arm our troops.
What effect has that had on recruiting? When we ask our troops to go into action are they to be assured that they will not be short of ammunition? Are they going to be assured that there will be sufficient air cover and sufficient antitank guns?
What is the position today? I appeal to the right hon. Gentleman. Are we now getting the ammunition right? The School of Infantry has evolved an excellent weapon, the MOBAT. How many have the Army got? I will tell him—one. Let us take another example. The French have evolved a highly successful method of knocking out tanks. It consists of apparatus which my right hon. Friend the Member for Easington and myself went to see on a film. Its firing is controlled visually, and there is a guiding wire which controls the guiding signals.
So far, I understand that Vickers have produced a weapon, too. They have produced a pamphlet for the information of N.A.T.O. countries, but the weapon is being produced as a private venture, for it is not even on our military supply list. Why have we not got it? The answer is because we have wasted money in other directions. I am not blaming the present Secretary of State for War. This problem goes back very many years.
Is there a modern army in the world at the present time that is not armed with an automatic rifle? Sputniks are going round the world. We have not a Sputnik, but at least we ought to be able to supply our troops with an automatic personal weapon.
At the present time, 98 per cent. of British troops in all theatres are carrying the same rifle, the Enfield Mark IV. That is not good enough. The demonstration 410 battalions and the battalions in Cyprus and Singapore, what are they armed with? When can the Government find the money to provide the FN Mark XIV? There is no British soldier who has yet got the FN Mark XIV, for even the demonstration battalions are armed with the Mark VIII. I could go over the whole long list of equipment. There are stocks of equipment being produced by private manufacturers which the troops will never see except on demonstration days.
What are hon. Members going to say when they are asked by their constituents about joining the Army? I have done my bit. I can say with truth that I am the only hon. Member in this House who has two members of his family who are serving in the ranks at the present time. But is it possible at the present time to urge young men to join an Army armed as it is with obsolescent weapons?
Many hon. Gentlemen come to me and say, "Where has the money gone? What has happened to it?" One thing of which I am sure is that the War Office has not embezzled it. Let us remember that the Service Votes carry very large sums for non-effective services. I think that should be eliminated. We can then begin to see what, in fact, the picture really is. Be it the problem of manpower, the problem of equipment, or the problem of our prospects, one gets the same sort of picture—of a problem which has outgrown the understanding and administrative capabilities of already overworked men. I myself do not think that the position is too tragic or needs to go along tragic lines. If anyone asked me what I think we ought to do about the Army, I would tell him. The first thing is to make up our minds what we want the Army for. Only then can we settle the conditions of service. We have to settle the conditions of service not on matters of administrative convenience to Ministers or what is politically acceptable to the House of Commons; we have to settle it on lines which make sense to the chaps we are asking to join. Unless it does make sense to them, they will not join.
That, of course, is an additional reason why I do not think that the right hon. Gentleman is, in fact, going to get his recruits. I share with him the very earnest hope that this problem can be looked at 411 at a level at which the leaders of both political parties can make a declaration as to what our intentions are.
I agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Easington that the peak of our influence since the war, was when Lord Attlee went to Washington and talked to President Truman in terms of an international group in Korea, an embryonic Commonwealth division. The fact that he had that force behind him strengthened his influence at a decisive moment and limited the action which was subsequently taken and which might otherwise have endangered the peace of the world. I am referring to the action of General MacArthur.
I do not often deal with strategic problems. I regard my interest as limited to the more humdrum question of manpower and supply. I have given some thought and written a great deal on these matters. Perhaps I may give the House my views for a few minutes on this subject. I am giving the source of my thinking. I have read more than two or three times the Wharton abridgement of the Oppenheimer transcript, "A Nation's Security" and I am led to the conclusion that Dr. Oppenheimer is one of the world's great men. More recently Dr. Kissinger has written a book entitled "Nuclear Weapons and Foreign Policy." He is a master of the facts of defence policy. The Oppenheimer transcript makes it clear that the atom bomb was made on the assumption that Russia was the enemy. I am absolutely sure that the Russian intelligence service must have known very well what was happening.
I think that it is established beyond any shadow of doubt that the bombs which were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki were, in fact, dropped after the Japanese had already surrendered. There is plenty of evidence of that. The right hon. Gentleman shakes his head. There is plenty of published evidence on that point and the most recent example is the Blackett lectures of a year ago. It indicates that on 28th July, Stalin told Mr. Attlee, as he then was, and President Truman that the Japanese were sending a delegation to open up negotiations for surrender, and in fact the bombs were dropped after that date. Therefore, one has to accept the fact that Russian foreign policy from 1945 onwards has 412 been based on a refusal to accept American superiority created by the possession of the atom bomb.
I now turn to the speech of the right hon. Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill). His argument was based upon the theory that the technical advantages of the West were permanent and what he wanted was a settlement with the Soviet Union while those technical advantages still existed.
As long ago as 1955 I wrote an article, in association with my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman), in which I made the point that our foreign policy was only possible on the basis that our technological superiority was permanent. I did not then believe that superiority would last. And, of course, the Russians have gone helter-skelter for technical superiority, and have achieved it. I do not believe, with many of my hon. Friends, that we should take a highly emotional moral line about nuclear weapons; I do not join with those who say that they are necessarily evil.
It seems to me that nuclear power is part of the process of nature. When man discovered atomic power he touched the hem of God's garment, for it gave him access to unlimited power. It is not the thing itself that is bad but what men do with it. It is a power that can make the desert bloom but it can also destroy us all. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown) said, what we cannot do and still make sense is to separate the bomb from the means of delivery. That is what makes nonsense of so much of the discussion.
What is our capacity to deliver this weapon? At present we have 102 Valiants. My right hon. Friend the Member for Easington has said that trials in America have not indicated that these machines are particularly good. I will tell hon. Gentlemen their advantages and the value. They have height over the target, but they have no great range or speed. Let not hon. Gentlemen talk as though the present Government or any British Government have been pouring out the country's resources in the production of atom bombs or hydrogen bombs, because they will be talking arrant nonsense.
The Minister of Defence was good enough to repeat a statement which he 413 made at Brighton, that 15 per cent. of our defence bill goes not only in the production of the atom and hydrogen bombs but in the means to convey them. I tried to interrupt him this afternoon but he would not give way. Now he can have it. The percentage he mentioned also includes Fighter Command and the whole of our anti-aircraft defences. I hear speeches about what resources are being spent by this country on hydrogen bombs and what we could do with the money. We could do very little. We have only a handful of hydrogen bombs or atom bombs. We are only nominal members of the nuclear weapons club. I have said that we have 102 Valiants. What have the Americans? They have 1,650 B47's, 250 B36's and 150 B52's. The total contribution that we could make is not more than 5 per cent.
It is no shame that we are in the second division or the second class. This country gave all that it could in two world wars. We should not be talking here today unless those sacrifices had been made. If there is one decoration I covet it is the Mons Star, for I honour the memory of those men who by their valour and discipline stopped the German Army. We made our sacrifice and we stood by our allies and 'there is no shame in being second class, but we need not be second rate, unless we want to be. If we nurture illusions of grandeur and think we are stronger than we are, let us remember the French experiences, the Maginot Line, Indo-China and now Algeria. Let us not refuse to face the facts. What chance have we at the present moment of retaining our influence in the world? No chance at all, unless we are all willing to face the facts.
For the choice is not between our being second class and second rate, but between being the head of the second division and a country like Sweden and Switzerland rolled into one, or some small Guatemala-like country, subsidiary to somebody else. That is why I am raising my voice in this House today. We all have a great responsibility. There is an overwhelming majority of members who love their country well, but who have not acquainted themselves with the facts. I beg the Minister of Defence to publish a White Paper to remedy that omission. Let him tell the House and the people of this country the truth. Our ancient genius for facing facts and finding the 414 courage to achieve a solution is not dead and gone. Tell the truth; face the facts, and the right hon. Gentleman will find a new wellspring of power which will lead him to a solution to this overwhelmingly difficult problem.
§ 7.57 p.m.
§ Sir Fitzroy Maclean (Lancaster)
When the hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) puts on his Tank Corps tie we can be pretty sure that we are in for some spirited speaking. His remarks today were no exception. He said he thought himself a hell of a chap when he was a sergeant at 23. Well, I was very well pleased with myself when I became a lance-corporal at 30, and I will not attempt to follow the hon. Gentleman over the whole range of his remarks. But I want to add my plea to the much more eloquent and informed pleas made by him and by my right hon. Friend the Member for Carshalton (Mr. Head) on the subject of voluntary recruitment and manpower.
I was much relieved when the Minister of Defence said, what has been said very often before, that we cannot do without men on the ground. That is profoundly true. Without men on the ground we cannot hope to win the cold war and, if we lose the cold war, the outlook is indeed gloomy.
The Minister of Defence went on to say something that has also often been said before by his predecessors, which was how he was setting about attaining the modest target of Regular recruiting at which he is aiming. He spoke of barrack-building programmes and of possible pay increases, and also of a Committee under the able leadership of Sir James Grigg which is to investigate the whole problem of Regular recruits and how to get them.
All these measures have not only been spoken about, but have been implemented before now, and some of them have achieved a certain amount of success. But they have not provided the whole answer to the problem. I was therefore again relieved when the Minister of Defence said that he was not complacent, and went on to admit that if the Government were not to get the figure they wanted, it would be. I believe he said, "embarrassing to the country as a whole"—a notable understatement.
Now at this point previous service Ministers and Ministers of Defence have 415 said that if they failed to get the necessary number of Regular recruits by voluntary recruiting, they would then, reluctantly, be obliged to retain conscription, or a measure of conscription as a means of getting them. Indeed, the Minister himself said so quite clearly in the White Paper, which he presented to Parliament in April. But today he did not make his intentions as clear as on the previous occasion. I think it is a point which badly needs clearing up, and I hope that the Secretary of State for War will do once again what he did at the end of July, make clear what are the Government's intentions on that point.
§ 8.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Denis Healey (Leeds, East)
With respect to my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg), I think we must agree that this debate has been dominated by the remarkable and moving speech of the right hon. Member for Carshalton (Mr. Head). I believe that only the Government can give the answer to the case the right hon. Gentleman made out against the sort of commitment which both parties have now made for the abolition of conscription—if there is, indeed, an answer—and I do not propose to deal with that aspect of his speech.
I should like to take up a point made by the right hon. Gentleman, on which, in a way, he hung almost the whole of his case against the present policy of the Government. That was his insistence on the necessity for conventional troops as an alternative to atomic war in the N.A.T.O. area. I think we can agree that the nub of his whole case against the Government's present policy was its effect on Britain's contribution to N.A.T.O. forces and the result it was likely to have in compelling N.A.T.O. to go over almost entirely and exclusively to atomic strategy.
With respect to one of his experience, I believe that the right hon. Gentleman both exaggerated and misinterpreted the effect of what for convenience we might call the Sputnik on the defence policy of the Western Governments. He suggested that the result would be to make the Western Governments less likely to initiate limited atomic war. I was not quite clear why he believed that. In my opinion, it is borne out by the 416 behaviour of Governments, since it became obvious that the Soviet Union was developing long-range strategic atomic air power, that the effect on the Western Governments has been to make massive retaliation less likely, less basically the Western defence policy, because there is a settlement or what the American sometimes call a stand-off at that particular level.
§ Mr. Head
What I tried to explain, and it is quite likely that I did not make myself clear, was that in the past, and until quite recently, the United States believed, I think rightly, that they were not themselves within range from long-range nuclear weapons. I said that now that they were it might well be that their somewhat robust attitude towards the use of tactical atomic weapons might differ in view of their vulnerability.
§ Mr. Healey
The right hon. Gentleman has clarified his point but has still not met my criticism. It may well be and probably is true that American willingness to initiate the use of atomic weapons as such will decline, but undoubtedly the result of Russia's power to hit America with H-bombs has been to take the emphasis off strategic attacks on the Soviet Union and put the emphasis on the use of atomic weapons in limited warfare for local defence. In fact, the first result of the news that the Russians had an inter-continental ballistic missile was the American Secretary of State's article in Foreign Affairs in October and the extraordinarily favourable publicity obtained for Mr. Henry Kissinger's book "Nuclear Weapons and Foreign Policy", both of which recommended taking the emphasis off massive thermo-nuclear retaliation and trying to substitute for this suicidal strategy a policy of limited nuclear warfare whose aim is either to deny ground to the enemy or inflict on the enemy damage which is out of proportion to the local issue at stake.
I believe that this is a proper reading of the message of the Sputnik, and there is no doubt that the effect of the Sputnik has been to force N.A.T.O. off its over-reliance on massive retaliation and on to the study of the problems of limited atomic warfare. Because N.A.T.O. is an odd organisation and almost unique in history, in that the possessors of its 417 decisive and most destructive weapon are not those in the front line, what recommends the strategy of limited atomic warfare, not only to the United States but also to Britain, is the fact that it gives a possibility of fighting a war on the territories of allies closest to the Soviet Union and sparing the territories of countries which possess the capacity for massive retaliation wholly from atomic devastation.
There is no doubt whatever that the American Government, and now the British Government, are trying to shift their strategy in this direction, but I feel very uncertain that either the British or the American Government have thought out the implications of this shift for the alliance as a whole. Only Britain and the United States have even the tactical atomic weapons with which to implement the strategy of limited atomic war; and, of course, the only sanction which gives a hope of keeping an atomic war limited is the capacity, if the enemy breaks the limitations, to respond with massive retaliation and all-out thermo-nuclear war. But that capacity again is vested exclusively in those members of the alliance likely to be furthest from the scene of the fighting.
How did Britain respond to this situation herself when she developed the capacity, scientific and economic, for producing atomic weapons? She decided, under a Labour Government, to produce her own atomic bombs. Later she decided, under a Conservative Government, with the support of the Labour Opposition, to produce some capacity for thermo-nuclear retaliation on her own behalf. As I read the communiqué issued at the end of the recent discussions in Washington between the American President and the British Prime Minister, Britain and America now hope to be regarded by the other members of the alliance as in some sense the trustees of the atomic capacity of the alliance both for limited atomic war and also for massive retaliation.
Surely, our own reaction to similar circumstances some years previously shows beyond any doubt that every member of the alliance, as it develops the capacity to do so, will produce its own atomic and thermo-nuclear weapons, rather than rely on the willingness of allies more distant from the possible scene 418 of the conflict to act on their behalf. Indeed, the French representative in the United Nations Disarmament Sub-Committee, a Socialist, Mr. Jules Moch, who has always been profoundly opposed to the whole concept of atomic warfare, announced two weeks ago that unless agreement was reached between the West and Russia on the abolition of atomic weapons France proposed to produce her own atomic weapons and hoped, or expected, to be able to explode the first atomic weapon in two or three years' time
Again, if I read the Washington communiqué properly, the British and American Governments hope to make their atomic trusteeship rôle more acceptable to their continental allies by putting on the territories of those allies stockpiles of atomic weapons which will be available for use in an emergency. But it seems to me most unlikely that the allies will be satisfied with that. Who is to decide when there is an emergency? There has been some discussion about putting them under the control of the N.A.T.O. Supreme Commander. But the N.A.T.O. Supreme Commander again is only a servant of the Governments for whom he works. It seems to me absolutely inevitable that if the present trend of Western diplomacy and strategy continues, then all members of the Western alliance will insist on being supplied with atomic weapons under their own national control, and, if this is refused, will produce these weapons for themselves as soon as that is possible.
Apart from the factors of distrust and national prestige which will push other Governments, as they have already pushed the British Government, into demanding the right to possess these weapons for themselves, there are other factors which, in my view, will force a move in this direction very quickly. Formations which propose to fight with atomic weapons require a completely different organisation, a different system of supply and different tactics. Therefore, it is quite impossible for N.A.T.O. to have nuclear formations and non-nuclear formations holding the same front.
It is quite ludicrous to imagine that we can have, say, eight or nine British and American pentomic nuclear divisions on one part of the Central European front and, at their side, or interspersed among them. German divisions which do not 419 have these weapons, which do not know whether they will get them even in an emergency and which, therefore, are compelled to adopt systems of organisation and supply completely incompatible with those of their Anglo-Saxon neighbours.
For this reason, it seems to me that whatever is said in the way of ritual incantation at the end of the N.A.T.O. Council meeting in December, the upshot will be a very clear warning both from the N.A.T.O. Supreme Commander and from the continental members of N.A.T.O. that they will expect in the very near future to be given atomic weapons under their own national control.
Here we approach some desperately dangerous problems, on which none of the Western Governments has so far given public opinion any guidance whatever. I hope that either the Secretary of State for War tonight, or perhaps the Foreign Secretary when he speaks tomorrow morning, can give us some guidance on these matters which affect vitally the survival of each one of us and which will determine whether or not the Western alliance as a whole survives.
First of all, what grounds have the Government for believing that it is possible to limit atomic war, and if they believe that it is possible, in what sort of way do they propose to ensure that limitations are maintained if war breaks out? The right hon. Member for Carshalton said quite honestly as a back bencher what he said many times from the Front Bench when he was Minister of Defence and Secretary of State for War, and that is that he does not believe it is possible to limit the use of atomic weapons at all, and that once we start using atomic weapons we get on to the escalator which leads to all-out thermo-nuclear destruction. This was his basic reason for holding the view, which I dispute, that the Sputnik rules out atomic weapons as such and forces the alliance back on to conventional defence.
I must say that Ministers of this Government, questioned both in this House and in another place on the subject of limiting atomic war, have been contradictory, unconvincing and confused in their replies. Last year, for example, one of the Ministers in the debate on the Defence White Paper, defined a limited war as one in which nuclear weapons were not used, whereas the Defence 420 White Paper which he was presenting to the House said that it did not rule out the use of nuclear weapons in limited war. This year the Minister of Defence, when he was asked the question, was completely incapable of giving any answer at all. Finally, in response to repeated probing, in another place, another Minister gave the answer rather shamefacedly that the Government did conceive the possibility of a limited atomic war and might create distinctions in the use of atomic weapons.
Any honest observer is forced to the conclusion that although the Government now are basing the whole of their alliance strategy on the limited use of atomic weapons, they really do not believe in it at all. They are only saying that they believe in it because logic and the decisions to which they have committed themselves in the Defence White Paper, very largely for electoral reasons, leave them no alternative whatever.
The only argument that we are able to use to our allies to justify the savage cuts in our contribution to N.A.T.O. is that we can make up for loss of manpower by increasing fire power through the use of atomic weapons. In fact, I believe the Americans are as dishonest as the British Government in this respect. Mr. Dulles, in his article in Foreign Affairs, talks of a capacity for local atomic defence of a threatened area by using the clean small-yield weapons which are now being developed by the scientists. But I think any soldier must reply that numbers are just as important in atomic defence as they are in non-atomic defence. Even in a tactical atomic war, the country which has more atomic divisions and more weapons will win in the long run over the country which has fewer.
In fact, I do not think the problem is really a problem of defence at all. It is a problem of inflicting damage on the enemy which is out of proportion to what he can hope to gain by continuing the war. The conception of defence, I believe, has been finally abolished by atomic weapons, and anyone who needs proof of that should look at the only two atomic exercises which have so far been held with ground troops. In exercise "Carte Blanche" in Germany, a N.A.T.O. exercise two years ago, the forces involved 421 dropped 300 Hiroshima-size weapons on the territory of the Federal Republic. In exercise "Sage Brush" in Louisiana, an American Army exercise last year, the umpires ruled that at the end of the exercise all life in the State of Louisiana had been destroyed. This is the sort of policy which we are recommending to our exposed allies who do not themselves have these weapons, as an alternative to a policy which involves equal risk to all members of the alliance.
Another problem which I think is raised by the present trend of Western strategy is that the forces which are organised for limited atomic war cannot be used in conventional war effectively because, as I have already said, they require a completely different system of supply, organisation and tactics. This means that if N.A.T.O. commits itself wholly, as I think it is bound to if the present trend continues, to equip all its forces with small yield atomic weapons, it will be incapable of dealing with any sort of military attack without using them. It will be completely incapable of conventional warfare.
While I disagree with the right hon. Member for Carshalton in his plea that it is impossible to draw a distinction between limited and indiscriminate use of atomic weapons, I agree with him that there could well be military conflicts in Europe which would not justify the risks involved in even the limited use of atomic weapons. There could be frontier incidents; there could be an explosion somewhere along the Iron Curtain rather like the Hungarian explosion we had last year, which would not justify the use of atomic weapons but which would require some sort of response by the West by conventional forces. The whole trend of strategy initiated first by the Americans and now by us has been to make any sort of conventional response to a military challenge impossible.
Perhaps most dangerous of all—certainly the most obviously dangerous—is the fact that, if the process continues, within twelve to twenty-four months Western Germany will have her own atomic weapons under her own control. We have here, of course, the one member of the N.A.T.O. area who is fundamentally and basically a dissatisfied 422 Power. It is obvious from what happened in Washington a fortnight ago that Germany's Western allies are as worried by this prospect as the Russians themselves must be.
What is the answer to this terrible tangle of dangers into which the present trend of Western policies is dragging the allies? Frankly, I do not think that there is any answer whatever within the framework of the alliance as at present constituted and within the framework of the present division of Europe between East and West with a confrontation of Russian and American forces along a line through the middle of Germany. I believe that the only way to solve the problem strategically is to create a conventional buffer between the atomic forces of the Russians and the atomic forces of the West, a buffer which is capable of dealing conventionally with a military challenge which does not justify atomic warfare. That proposal, of course, was made some years ago by a member of the German planning staff, General von Bonin, but I believe that it is quite incompatible with the survival of the alliance so long as Germany is a member.
On the other hand, I believe that we could produce this situation if Germany and some of the Russian satellites were taken out of the two alliances and left as a neutral buffer between East and West. For this reason, I believe that the strategic case for a disengagement of the Western and Soviet forces in Central Europe is quite as strong as, if not stronger than, the diplomatic or political case which I have previously made in this House.
In other words, what we should aim at is a withdrawal of the atomic armed forces of France, the Low Countries. Britain and America on one side of the Iron Curtain and of the atomic forces of the Soviet Union on the other side of the Iron Curtain, in between the two there being a neutral belt of States which had sufficient conventional forces to deal with the sort of bush-fire frontier incident which might otherwise lead to all-out war. A military challenge which was too heavy for those conventional forces would, of course, have to be met by limited atomic warfare starting from areas outside the neutral belt; but that, of course, is a problem which we face just as much at the moment. In my 423 opinion, the strategy of the West would be in a very much healthier and safer position if any military challenge started on the Soviet frontier and was met first by conventional resistance than it is in the existing situation when the military challenge, if it comes, will start five hundred miles farther west in the middle of Germany and must be met by an atomic response.
I believe that the new atomic weapons have produced problems of strategy for N.A.T.O. which are quite insoluble on the basis of the existing status quo. I believe that they are right who say that the only long-term alternative to all-round disarmament is all-round armament with all weapons, that every country in the world in time will insist—the European countries first—on possessing for themselves under national control the whole spectrum of weapons which scientists have made available to man. Indeed, the smallest Powers will have the greatest incentive to go for the biggest weapons, because the hydrogen bomb is the great leveller, politically as well as militarily. It is the one thing which puts all countries on a level, and, for that reason, it is the weapon which destroys the possibility of alliance because it makes it unnecessary for the smaller countries to go to the large countries for protection.
It seems to me that the trend on both sides of the Iron Curtain into which we have been launched by this new military technology is certain to lead to thermonuclear anarchy unless we can stem and reverse it soon. For this reason, I believe that Britain and N.A.T.O. as a whole have a clear duty and interest to take the initiative in reversing the tide in the way I have suggested. If N.A.T.O. does Lot take the initiative, it will certainly collapse in any case, because the confused tangle of strategic principles on which it is now trying to base itself do not make enough sense to the peoples of the N.A.T.O. countries who have, in the last resort, to make the material sacrifices to implement its strategy.
On the other hand, I believe that if N.A.T.O., or the British Government inside N.A.T.O., took the initiative in solving, or beginning to solve, this complex of problems along the lines I have suggested, we could start a new trend which would finally give us the possibility of dragging out of the terrible dangers 424 which are threatened by this new military technology the prospect of a lasting international peace.
§ 8.27 p.m.
§ Mr. Anthony Kershaw (Stroud)
The picture drawn by the hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) is slightly unreal. I gather, from contemplating his proposal, that there should be a very wide cordon sanitaire down the middle of Europe between Russia and the Western Powers, and that one could imagine a situation in which, in this sort of cockpit in the middle, the Germans, the Poles, the Czechs, and other Eastern European peoples could have a high old conventional war all by themselves, during which time the atomic Powers will sit round the ring, allow the dust to settle, and see who is the winner. Surely, that conception of allowing a conventional war to continue in the middle of the vital interests of the great Powers is quite unreal.
§ Mr. Healey
I am sorry that I was unable, of course, to develop all the aspects of the proposal. I envisage that the countries inside the neutral area which are limited to conventional armaments would, of course, be controlled and inspected by both the Soviet Union and the Western Powers outside. Therefore, any conventional war which happened would be strictly the sort of local police action which the Government themselves at the moment envisage as possible in N.A.T.O., in the very area the hon. Gentleman refers to, but which I suggest is quite impossible if, as will inevitably happen now, N.A.T.O. goes on to an all-nuclear strategy.
§ Mr. Kershaw
I followed that, but would it make any difference that the Powers in the middle do not have atomic weapons if the ultimate sanction of atomic weapons, which are not limited particularly by range, as we now know, should be ready to be deployed outside their area by the Power which considered itself threatened? Secondly, we have the practical difficulty of who is to agree to this. Surely, it must be clear that the Russians have shown absolutely no indication—quite to the contrary—on every occasion, particularly in Hungary, of giving up the cordon sanitaire which they consider is necessary for their safety.
If there were any chance of agreeing to a limited amount of disarmament, I 425 am sure that everybody, on both sides of this House, would be most willing to adopt it. We have proposed an arrangement like this and absolutely no success has attended our efforts. I cannot believe that in that way lies success in disarmament. That is not to say that I do not heartily agree with the hon. Member for Leeds, East that in some form of disarmament lies the future of the world and, in particular, of this country, which is exposed more than anyone else to the danger of war.
With regard to what the hon. Member said about limiting war with tactical atomic weapons, it is, of course, extremely difficult to imagine that in most spheres of the world such a war would be limited. Surely, the point to consider is not so much the weapons with which the war might be fought, but the interests which might be threatened. It is possible that in a distant theatre of war, where the vital interests of no great Power were threatened, tactical atomic weapons would be launched without generating a world war. It is possible to imagine that it might have been done in Korea and that the United States, for instance, to give a firm example, could have obtained its frontier on the Yalu River by the threatened use of a tactical atomic weapon had America possessed it al that time. If it had been announced in advance that she did not intend to go beyond the Yalu River, no vital interest of China would have been threatened and one could imagine that in those circumstances a tactical atomic weapon might be employed.
The hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) said that N.A.T.O. was now in a very different position from what it had been, in the sense that it was still essential territory for ourselves and we could not imagine a large incursion into N.A.T.O. territory without our having to make use of any weapon that was necessary for our survival, yet to the Russians the value of the satellite countries had very much deteriorated since the experience of Hungary, and Russia might well be prepared to suffer a local defeat in a satellite country of Eastern Europe rather than adopt all-out war.
Therefore, in any part of the world, one can imagine that the interests of the great 426 Powers might change from time to time, and it is possible to imagine the use of a tactical atomic weapon without launching a world war. The suggestion that Western Powers would use tactical atomic weapons rather than conventional forces is, of course, a powerful one. Apart from that, those forces need atomic weapons in order to have their own defence, not so much for the purpose of carrying aggressive tactics into enemy territory, but to be able to counter the undoubted weapons of tactical atomic value which exist on the other side.
Of course it is true, as the hon. and learned Member said, that the divisions which would have to undertake these manoeuvres in that part of the world must be designed for the purpose. I would say, in passing, that I also hope that this country will adopt the sort of pentomic division, which is so much more mobile, so much more divisible into small units and which can disperse in order to avoid the shock of atomic explosion and coalesce afterwards to exert the greatest weight of fire power in the right place.
Whilst I am talking about N.A.T.O., we come also to the question of Germany. I agree with the hon. Member for Leeds, East that in present circumstances one cannot imagine that it will long be possible or, I might say, desirable—to keep atomic weapons from the other members of N.A.T.O. After all, in alliances we cannot have second-class allies. We cannot have a sort of coolie labour fighting with knives and sickles whilst we have the proper weapons to fight a modern war. It is not to be imagined that other countries would be willing to undertake an alliance on that basis, nor do we blame them. That is why we have developed the atomic weapon over here, so that we should not be the coolie labour for the United States in military matters.
If in thinking of the German contribution to defence we are perhaps a little disappointed at the tardiness with which it appears and the unwillingness which the Germans have shown to pay the costs of our troops that we keep there, we must also recognise that the German difficulties have been very real. They are not at the moment, in my opinion, at all aggressively minded. They have the greatest possible difficulty in recruiting the numbers of troops they require and the numbers of officers. As we know, 427 they are very short of troops in the divisions which they already have. They are being very scrupulous, so I am informed, about what type of men they recruit. I personally have no anxieties at the present time that we are seeing the resurgence of some Junker military Power such as devastated this continent twice in this century.
The fault is not on one side only. The Germans have given us some cause for disappointment. On the other hand, we must recognise that we have said things about them which must give them also cause for regret. I have in mind in particular an article which appeared in the Sunday Express the Sunday before last. It said that the keeping of Germany divided indefinitely was the best guarantee of European peace. I think that article was deplorable. It has done no good at all for Anglo-German relations and no good at all for N.A.T.O., and it will harm the efforts to make the arrangements which we ought to make for the improvement of N.A.T.O.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown) said he thought there ought to be fundamental rethinking of the N.A.T.O. strategy, but he did not say what he thought it ought to be. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Leeds, East gave us a hint of what it should be. I quite agree that the difficulty of having these atomic weapons in N.A.T.O. must be thoroughly thought out by the Powers concerned, but I am certain that we cannot maintain the position in which we alone have these atomic weapons. For the very same reasons we developed them for ourselves, apart from the Americans, I think the other members of N.A.T.O. must be given them as well.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Belper said that the means of delivery of the ultimate deterrent would be outdated by 1965. I wonder whether that is so. I see the hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg). He told us how many Vulcan bombers we have. The present means of delivery are not very numerous and we have not very many bombs, but I question whether we need, therefore, draw the deduction which the hon. Member for Dudley drew that our power to use atomic weapons will have disappeared in 1965. After all, as has 428 already been said, it remains true that some bombers will get through. As Earl Baldwin said, the bomber will always get through. So the missiles will always get through, if only a few of them. I do not believe the scientists can ever guarantee that none of the weapons, however ancient, perhaps, by Sputnik standards they may be, will be delivered. That fear in the minds of our enemies is the effective matter, and not the greater elaboration of the means of delivery which may possibly be invented in the future.
The right hon. Member for Belper went on to say, as well as that our means of delivery would be completely useless by 1965, that the cost of developing the inter-continental ballistic missile would be so high that we could not possibly undertake it. The deduction which he made—I join entirely with him about this—was that we should have to join with other allies in order to have a weapon of suitable modernity. Of course we must co-operate—with the United States in the first place, and later with our other N.A.T.O. allies—in handling and producing this weapon, but I foresee a certain amount of difficulty in this co-operation. It will have to be very carefully arranged.
If we are to dine at the same table as the United States in the matter of atomic weapons, we shall have to foot our share of the bill. If the United States wishes to eat oysters and champagne when we should be very happy with a bun and a cup of tea, we must make quite sure that we do not have to pay part of the bill for the oysters and champagne. We do not have to go into the Sputnik school, and I certainly do not want to go into a Sputnik. This Sputnik contest is one which not only we do not wish to enter, but one which we certainly cannot afford to enter. I hope that we shall spend more time giving a better life to all our people than in shooting a few of them into the stratosphere. That will be the difficulty with the United States and I hope that the House will learn in due course what the detailed arrangements will be and what saving in money—though I doubt whether there will be any at all—is likely to be made.
We shall also want to know what are the conditions for the control of this weapon in the future. At the moment 429 we have control over our own weapon, and it may be that other nations in N.A.T.O. and elsewhere will have the weapon. Will it be controlled by the N.A.T.O. Supreme Commander, or will control be reserved to heads of Government? How will it be done? These matters will have to occupy us during the two or three years ahead while these weapons are coming into service. It is very important to have means of control before the weapons are actually delivered to us.
Turning to the more domestic matter of recruitment, I realise the force of what my right hon. Friend the Member for Carshalton (Mr. Head) said about its not being possible to get the recruits, but I take a certain amount of encouragement from my personal experience at present of recruiting in the Territorial Army. Recruiting in that Army has gone up a great deal since the National Service man no longer finds himself in its ranks. What has been overlooked to some extent is that what a young man wants is to associate with people who are agreeable to hint Of necessity, in any barrack-room where there are 30 or 40 men, of whom half are compelled to be there and half are volunteers, there will be a few among those compelled to be there who are not interested and who frankly have a great distaste for military life, and one can have sympathy with them.
They do not want to be there and are waiting for the moment to get out. They grumble and they are not good companions for those who volunteer. They create an unfortunate spirit. When they disappear from the Army, as they have done from the Territorial Army, I expect that a very large number of recruits will be found. Whether the number will be sufficient I do not know, but that is a very important factor which should give great encouragement for the future.
I wonder why we have always rejected the idea that foreigners could serve in our Army. We have the difficulty with colonial troops, of course, on the question of sovereignty. So many territories are reaching independence and may be quite unwilling that troops raised locally should be used outside their territory. It would be useless to raise large numbers in the West Indies, where it would be very easy to do so, if next year we find that they are forbidden to serve anywhere but in 430 the West Indies. I also wonder why it is not possible to have in our Army people of European race who are military minded and who wish to serve. It has often been done in the past and has been a success. In face of the difficult recruiting problem which confronts us, it is worth looking at that idea.
I know that it has been said, and quite rightly, that the Navy is certain to obtain all the recruits it wants and probably the Marines as well. Would it not be possible to expand those Services to a greater limit? I believe that this is being done to some extent with the Marines. If they are the forces which the recruits wish to join, they will be very useful, much more so than half-strength battalions doing a different job. I feel, therefore, that we ought to expand the Navy and Marines to the limit of recruiting they will bear. Similarly with regiments of the Army which are good recruiters, such as the Guards, the Light Infantry and the Parachute Regiment. Those should have the fullest opportunity to expand their battalions. They should not be limited to only one if they can raise more.
If in the next year hon. Members of this House can encourage recruiting, it will be important for us all. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Carshalton said, it would be unfortunate if anyone here so committed himself to a policy of the complete abolition of National Service that none of us would be able to go back on it without shaking the confidence of the Services and the country in our intelligence and in our honesty.
§ 8.46 p.m.
§ Mr. James Simmons (Brierley Hill)
I know that there are many hon. Members of this House who have been privates in the Army, but who, like the Sputnik, have darted up and gone round in other orbits in their military careers. I remained a private and I would like to say a few words off the cuff from the point of view of a private on the important question of recruiting in relation to the continuance or otherwise of conscription for national military service.
I was rather surprised when the hon. Member for Stroud (Mr. Kershaw) made a patronising and depreciatory reference to the National Service man. After all, he has been a necessity for our defence. The National Service man has been a 431 citizen soldier. I have no doubt that the hon. Gentleman holds command rank in the Territorial Army and I think it wrong of him to suggest that these vermin should be taken out of the barracks so that decent people can go into them.
§ Mr. Kershaw
I am sure that the hon. Gentleman, in speaking off the cuff, would not wish to impute to me anything I had not meant. I certainly did not wish to imply that the National Service man has not given wonderful service. After all, I was one myself and I give way to nobody in admiring their efforts. Nevertheless, there must be every now and then two or three people who are compelled to undertake military service and who hate every minute of it. It is those people who are disappointing companions for the Regular soldier who has joined for fun.
§ Mr. Simmons
I see the point of the hon. Gentleman, but the Territorial Army is not a social club. It is there to do a certain job. If Regular men have to work in collaboration with National Service men for a little longer, I hope they will not take the attitude which was implied, if not meant, in the words of the hon. Gentleman.
Before I go further, may I say that I was very impressed by the courage shown by the right hon. Member for Carshalton (Mr. Head) in his speech. In Army debates when he was Secretary of State for War I had to cross swords with him and make things awkward for him, but the right hon. Gentleman was always courteous. I think that courage and courtesy are two things which are admirable in any hon. Member of this House, and the right hon. Gentleman certainly conveyed both of them.
We all desire to see the end of National Service as soon as possible—I do not except either side of the House. We believe that the voluntary system is the better one and gets the best out of men.
As there is some doubt at present in the minds of many hon. Members on both sides of the House whether it will be possible to maintain the strength of the Armed Forces that we need for our future commitments by the voluntary system because of the apparent shortfall in recruiting, I wonder whether we have explored all the possibilities in whittling down the numbers which are really 432 essential and in attracting voluntary recruits. During the debates on the Army Estimates I have several times referred to "the tail," and we have been assured from time to time that efforts were being successfully made to thin it out.
Has everything possible been done in that direction? Many people in the Army classed as soldiers are in the Catering Corps, serving as cooks. Could not that work be done by civilians? Many old soldiers have had some bellyaches about the cooks, and the general opinion of soldiers about Army cooks is not very high. It is said that the food is very good, but the handling and preparation of it destroys some of its nutritional value and makes it far less appetising than it could be. Could not the Army cooks be abolished altogether, and could we not bring in some firm like Lyons to do the job? It could not be done during active service, but it certainly could be done in barracks and camps.
There are a large number of men in the Army Pay Corps. Why do we need in the Pay Corps men in uniform who are classed as soldiers? Could we not release a great number of soldiers for more active duty by abolishing the Pay Corps and having a civilian organisation instead?
Then there is the Pioneer Corps. Could we not get road sweepers to do the job of the Pioneer Corps? I know that soldiers on "jankers" usually do the pioneer work, picking up bits of paper on the barrack square, and so on. I think the work of the Pioneer Corps could be done by civilian contractors, and all the men now in the Corps could be released for more active service.
If one really exercised one's brain, one could discover an enormous number of functions now being carried out in the Army by men enlisted as soldiers which could be performed by civilians. I hope the Secretary of State for War or the Minister of Defence will examine the matter and consider whether something more drastic can be done to release soldiers from duties which could easily be done by civilians so that the soldiers may contribute to the more effective strength of the Army.
The Government are a bit late in paying attention to recruiting and the attractions of recruiting, because they still have under their thumb, or under their 433 control, hundreds of thousands of National Service men and for another two years or so hundreds of thousands more National Service men will be called up. If during the time they are in the Army the lives of those men are made agreeable, comfortable and attractive, there will be more likelihood that they will sign on as Regular soldiers at the expiration of their two years' National Service.
However, if they have to endure pettifogging regulations and tinpot brasshats bully-ragging them and bossing them about, they will be browned off and if they are browned off they will not be persuaded into signing on as Regular soldiers. When I was in the Special Reserve—this is going as far back as 1911—when I had nearly finished my six months' training at Norton Barracks, Worcestershire, my dear old sergeant, "Jolly" Nash, talked to me like a father and said that I would make a good soldier and that if I would sign on he would look after me. I had been bitten by the bug of politics and wanted to get out of the Army and indulge in a political life, but many National Service men would not be in that position and if they found the life appealed to them they would sign on as Regular soldiers.
The most important thing in attracting men to serve in the Regular Army is to make them feel that they are human beings with full human rights and full citizen rights and not somebody put into uniform, given a number and made to do silly, daft and irresponsible things, as is the case today, like whitewashing coal, polishing the insides of coal bins and picking up little bits of paper from the barracks square. These things happen.
§ Mr. Simmons
They may be isolated, but these things do happen and the publicity they get has a deterrent effect on recruiting.
Pay is important, but it is not as important as the status of the individual and the feeling that a man is doing a worthwhile job and that the community is grateful for it. The pay question must be considered. I do not say that soldiers should be paid trade union rates, because they have certain amenities and advantages—as well as disadvantages—which the civilian does not have, but their 434 economic position as a whole should be comparable to that of the worker in the workshop outside.
§ Brigadier Sir John Smyth (Norwood)
The point the hon. Member has just made is probably the most important I have heard in the whole debate. If we are to get the right recruits for our new voluntary Army, we must convince them that they will do a worthwhile job. In my experience that is the most important thing, more important than pay, and I am very grateful that the hon. Member should have made that point.
§ Mr. Simmons
I am grateful for that support from the hon. and gallant Member.
In conclusion, I would only say that much more attention should be given to the married soldier. Where possible he should be provided with reasonable married quarters, with standards comparable to those of the best municipal housing estate. Where he cannot be provided with married quarters he should be given adequate leave so that he need not be entirely divorced from his family.
§ 9.0 p.m.
§ Mr. John Strachey (Dundee, West)
The last speech, by my hon. Friend the Member for Brierley Hill (Mr. Simmons) was given with his usual common sense. He drew tributes from his opponents. I would call the attention of the Under-Secretary of State to his suggestions on civilianisation. He may think that they were rather extreme, and I agree that it is to some extent doubtful whether cooking for the Army could be civilianised. It could be done only in certain places. But I have often wondered whether it could not be almost entirely undertaken by the W.R.A.C. That is no doubt a question of recruitment of the W.R.A.C., but I do not believe that that is an insuperable problem. The pool which may be drawn from is very big, and with suitable inducements I believe that a very substantial easement of the Army's manpower problem could be achieved, not only by civilianisation but by feminisation. We have to have the people in uniform, but I cannot see why they should not he of the other sex.
Before my hon. Friend's speech the debate had taken a turn to the question of N.A.T.O., tactical atomic weapons, and 435 what is sometimes called the problem of graduated deterrents, and that whole ganglion of problems. I could not deal fully with those subjects in the time at my disposal, and I want to say only one thing about them. Surely a lingering presupposition which has been in many people's minds must now be abandoned, namely, the presupposition that it would be a great advantage, in a world war, for the West to raise the level of the war to the use of tactical nuclear weapons because, it was thought, we were far ahead in that field while the Russians were far ahead in sheer manpower and conventional forces.
Surely the development of the Sputniks and the other proofs—we must face the fact; they are proofs—of great Russian progress in that field make that presupposition untenable today. I am therefore reinforced in the view that I have always held that there is no advantage whatever to the West in the tactical atomic field. That does not mean that we must not have tactical atomic weapons. Of course we must, but it is quite wrong to think that it would be to our disadvantage to limit them in any way by disarmament conventions and the like, if those conventions could be enforced and the inspection problems solved.
The purpose of the debate was simply to find out what the Minister of Defence was doing about the present situation. Here was a situation in which he was pledged to the abolition of National Service at a particular date and, as the months went on and the recruiting figures came in, we thought that it was becoming more and more urgent to ask him what he was doing about the situation. Unless he does something very drastic about it we do not believe that he will be in a position, without incurring the gravest risk to the country, of carrying out his pledge to end the call-up at the end of 1960.
If that was the main purpose of our debate I cannot pretend that it has been very successful, because the right hon. Gentleman told us very little indeed. It has had. I think, a use in other ways. It was able to solve what my right hon. Friend the Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown) called the re-entry problem of the right hon. Member for Carshalton 436 (Mr. Head). If I may say so, he re-entered out of the stratosphere—he reentered political life in this country with great effect and with a very good speech. I will comment on his challenging remarks, challenging to both sides of this House—I recognise that—and I will say what I think about it towards the end of my speech.
But the speech of the Minister of Defence gave me the impression that the Government simply had not made up their mind on any of these issues which are of vital importance to defence policy in general and to the possibility of abolishing National Service in particular. He really had very little to tell us.
I think that the real fault of the White Paper, as we see it in perspective, was not its general conception, which I think had something to be said for it, but the fact that it was, partly at any rate, conceived by the Government as a great money saver which, as has become more and more apparent, it can never be. It may be a great manpower saver, but it cannot be a great money saver. I think that has not yet really been faced by the Government. They had hoped, and I think that the Prime Minister particularly had hoped, that spectacular financial savings out of defence would come and would be wonderfully useful to him when forming his Administration. They were simply not there. That does not mean that it was not right to get a defence concept—it was very right to get some defence conception—but it cannot be thought of, and it would be wrong as a defence conception if it were thought of, as giving us defence on the cheap.
I thought that I detected, in the statement of the Minister of Defence, a very considerable movement away from the full rigours of the nuclear concept in the Defence White Paper. It was markedly less nuclear today than it has been before. I welcome that. We have had it said several times that we thought the Defence White Paper had gone to the other extreme; it had gone too far in pinning the defence of this country on to the nuclear deterrent. I join with what has been said from both sides of the House, by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) and very strongly by the right hon. Member for Carshalton, on the importance in 437 this situation of adequate conventional forces, above all, infantry, artillery and the ordinary Armed Forces on the ground.
I have no doubt that for the prevention of war by the nipping of some incident in the bud—what has been called the fire extinguisher conventions—are just as important as, if not more important than, they have ever been. I agree with the right hon. Member for Carshalton on the importance of keeping adequate forces of British infantry and British conventionally armed troops capable, at any rate, of operating in the conventional role. They may have to be dual purpose units, capable of using tactical atomic weapons when they come along also, but I hope that their capacity to operate in the older conventional rôle will always be retained.
There, of course, we come to the immense importance of recruiting. I think that it is very difficult, but very important, to keep a balance in this sphere. The truth is that the figures so far are inconclusive in the sense that we have no figures yet of the new attempt to get long-service soldiers. These are still, up to the end of September when the figures end, all in the terms that the three-year engagement is still open.
In so far as the figures indicate anything, they are very serious indeed. There should have been 5,700 men joining the forces in September who were all going to be long-service men and stay an average of something like ten years. That would have been ample, more than ample, but we know perfectly well that they did not. The majority of them will prove to be no more than three-year men, and three years' service is an inadequate rate of recruiting to get us the 375,000 men.
The Minister of Defence said that he did not share the pessimism of my right hon. Friend on this matter, but I cannot say that he gave us very much reason for not sharing it. He told us that the September figures were better; they are a little better, but they are far worse than the figures of a year ago. I do not minimise for a moment their seriousness. [Interruption.] I believe there has been a deterioration between September, 1956, and September, 1957. Am I not right? I stand corrected if I am wrong.
§ The Secretary of State for War (Mr. John Hare)
My right hon. Friend was talking about the long-term, the six-to-nine-year, recruiting figures, and not the three-year.
§ Mr. Strachey
The right hon. Gentleman did not make the comparison which I am making. He did not make it one way or the other. I was taking September with September. He told us that the results we had were encouraging on the longer term and I am glad to hear it, but I cannot believe that when we get them they will show an adequate number of men going into the Army, particularly in the longer terms, to permit us to have a Regular Army on an all-volunteer basis, of 375,000 men. I do not believe that on the present basis and with the present inducements we shall get the men. I agree with the right hon. Member for Carshalton.
On the other hand, I cannot take the view which was put to us from our side below the Gangway today by the hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg), and which has been put by other hon. Members, that there is some inherent impossibility in getting this number of men. That I simply do not believe. I wish that the Minister of Defence would give us official figures on this point. So far as we can work them out—I do not pretend that it is easy to do so—over the long term it means getting something of the order of 11 per cent. of the available men to join the Armed Forces and in many cases for quite a long period, so that we get an average length of service up to ten years. This means that a lot of men must serve for twenty-two years, and, of course, a lot do. That does not seem to me an inherently impossible task, although it is a very formidable one indeed.
I put it to the right hon. Gentleman who is to reply on behalf of the Government: does he really think there is any likelihood of its being done under the present scale of inducements? I use that phrase in its wider meaning, of course, than pay alone. Pay is a single element and is only the foundation of the rest. It does not seem to me that, if things are left as they are, the Government can avoid drifting into an impasse if, when they come to the end of 1960 and the last men are called up, they have not provided 439 what they have said is the minimum number of men for the forces to secure the safety of the country.
The Minister of Defence must be concerned about this matter. Whatever saving statements there have been in the White Paper and in the Prime Minister's speeches, the Minister has been extremely definite in this matter. He has said not only in this House but in a television interview performed before millions of listeners that the decision to end National Service—I quote him—is an absolutely firm decision by the Government. The decision is that National Service will end in 1960. By that I mean that the last call-up will be in 1960 and the last National Serviceman will leave the Forces in 1962.Having said that before millions of people, I am afraid that saving clauses in the White Paper are not much good to quote to the millions of people who not only heard, but saw, the Minister of Defence saying it. Were I in the right hon. Gentleman's place, I should feel most intense anxiety about getting the men in and about some new scale of inducements which would do it.
In the debate we had just before the Summer Recess I raised this issue and, frankly, in order to shock the House, I mentioned a figure which I thought was the sort of pay scale on which we would have to base an all-Regular armed force in this country. It shocked quite a number of people. By quoting that figure I meant to give the thing actuality, but what I was really after was the proposition that we should not get the men in unless we paid the rate for the job; that is, a rate comparable with the remuneration for similar sort of work in civilian life. The fact that men are "all-found" will do little more than compensate for the disadvantages of military life and discipline.
That is only the beginning, a pay scale of that character based on that proposition is only one factor. There is the whole question of pensions, and the need for really good arrangements for the man when he leaves the Service in middle life. There is the question of a house and other inducements and, of course, conditions in the Services, which are very important indeed. There is the status of the man, "man-management," a rather unpleasant phrase, but we know what we mean by it.
I call the attention of the Secretary of State for War to a useful article on the 440 subject published today in this month's Fabian Journal and written by a serving officer. I do not agree with every word of it, but the suggestions made by the author for that modernisation which has to be a continuous process in the life of an army, and the relationship between officer and man, are at any rate, well worth attention.
The nation must face the fact that it is necessary to decide what kind of Services are required. There are two very different kinds of Services. We can have the kind of Services we had in the years since the end of the war and for which the Government of which I was a member were responsible. They were the only kind of Services we could have in those years; comparatively large, half, or more than half, conscripted, and they were comparatively cheap per man, because the rates of pay were comparatively low and each man served a relatively short time.
That is one type of National Service based on conscription. In the pre-atomic world in which we wanted great reserves of trained men, of course there was a lot to be said for that type of service. I was never one who thought National Service wrong in principle. I have always said that there is something very attractive about a great citizen Army reserve of trained men. But it is now common ground in all quarters of the House that that sort of Army does not fill the Bill. It is out from a military point of view, as my right hon. Friend said.
Of course, it is much easier and nicer to get an Army in that way. There is nothing like having the power to conscript if we want to man anything, whether it be the mines or the Armed Forces. It is a wonderful way of doing it. One need not worry particularly about inducements, ratios of remuneration and so on. But if it gives the wrong kind of forces, then surely, for us on this side of the House at least, that cannot be the right way of doing it.
Have we not got to find the ratio of remuneration, the conditions of service, the inducements and everything combined in the Army just as we find those things in the mines, which will bring the requisite number of men to do the job? That seems to me to be the only way in which, in an economy of full employment, Socialists at any rate can approach this job. That will give the 441 other kind of Armed Forces. It will give small, volunteer, highly-paid forces—expensive per man—in which each man serves a long period.
I do not know how the costs of the two kinds of forces will come out, but I would guess—and I am open to correction here—that they would come out roughly similar. The total cost of a small long-term volunteer force, expensive per man, will come out very nearly as high as large conscript forces serving for a short period, because although the first kind will be much more expensive per man there will be fewer men in it.
In the present age and in our present national situation, who can hesitate about the principle involved in choosing between those two kinds of Armed Forces? Surely the military case is overwhelming for the voluntary forces. I welcome the fact that if one abandons the power of conscription and of direction in the labour field one is forced to think ten times as hard about the men's conditions, their status, their pay, pensions and so on. That is a sovereign way of improving the conditions of the Army if one subjects oneself to the test of the market and only gets the man who is willing to come.
That is the issue which the nation as a whole has to face, and if we are asked—as perhaps it is fair to ask this evening—whether we are absolutely firm and committed to the principle of voluntary forces, I say: yes, we are. We certainly believe that that is the right kind of force for this country in the present age, and we should as a nation tackle the job of putting our Armed Forces on that voluntary, long-term, professional, highly-paid basis.
If, in addition, we are asked how long we think the job will take and how the transition is to be done, our answer must depend very largely on the situation which is left to us by the existing Government. Most certainly if the existing Government do nothing more than they have done today, if they remain as empty-handed as they have been today, and they do not produce the recruits, then the situation which the right hon. Member for Carshalton described so eloquently will certainly arise. If they have done nothing until the end of the year 1960 and the recruits have not been coming in, in the 442 almost incredible hypothesis of their having won the election which will have taken place in the meantime, they will have to face that situation. In the reasonable, indeed the almost certain, hypothesis of our having won the election, we shall have to face it.
We said that we thought it was a four-year job from the moment we started on it. If nothing has been done effectively to bring in the recruits in the meantime, and if these intervening years have been wasted, it might still be a four-year job. We cannot, of course, control that. We are not in power. How can we control it? The right hon. Member for Carshalton said he thought that 1961 would be the critical year and he wished both Front Benches to say that, if the situation was unsatisfactory then, any Government in office at that time would reintroduce National Service.
I should have thought that the critical years would be 1959 and 1960. The important matter, I should have thought, was the speed at which National Service was tapered off. After all, it is being tapered off now; more and more classes are becoming exempt and more and more exemptions of one kind or another are being given. But, as I have said before in the House and in public print, it is one thing, to my mind, to have what would amount very nearly to selective service for a temporary period, filling the gap, as the tapering off of National Service continued—that seems to be a possibility—but to reintroduce selective Service as a permanent system seems not only politically but militarily impossible. To pick up some 20,000 or 30,000 short-term conscripts a year and try to put them into overwhelmingly volunteer, long-service forces must be out of the question.
The critical years, therefore, will be 1959 and 1960. Let us face the fact that they will also be the critical years politically. In those years, the end of the call-up will be in question, and it will depend upon the number of recruits who have been brought in. The pledge to end National Service at that date is a pledge given by right hon. Gentlemen opposite, not our pledge, and it will be their funeral if they have not got the men by that time to enable them to end the call-up at the date mentioned in the White Paper. That seems to be the critical year, and if 443 I were in their place I would seriously heed the warning given by the right hon. Member for Carshalton. We join with him entirely in believing that, one way or other, by one device or another, the necessary number of men for the security of this country must be found for our Armed Forces.
§ 9.30 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for War (Mr. John Hare)
Anybody who has listened to this debate must have been impressed by the obviously constructive and sincere approach made by all those who have contributed to it. With the exception of the last minute or two of his speech early this afternoon, that certainly applied to the right hon. Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown). We have also just listened to an extremely thoughtful and, in many ways, a very helpful speech from the right hon. Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Strachey).
Members on both sides would, I think, expect me to comment on one particular contribution to the debate, and that was from my hon. Friend the Member for Garston (Sir V. Raikes), who was in the unique position of making a farewell speech at the beginning of a new Session. Although he has been a Member of the House for twenty-six years, we would all agree that we should like to have seen him increase that number of years, as the quality of his contribution was something which all of us who heard him will not forget for a very long time. I would only describe my hon. Friend as a real House of Commons man.
The debate has been remarkable also for a contribution from my right hon. Friend the Member for Carshalton (Mr. Head) in a speech which we all recognised as a weighty contribution and utterly sincere. I should like to deal with my right hon. Friend's speech when I answer the various questions concerning manpower which formed a major part of the debate.
The feelings of disquiet and uncertainty, which are shared on both sides of the House, on the constantly-changing problems of defence are understandable, and hon. Members have again shown restraint in the way that they have disclosed their concern.
The Sputnik, followed by its younger but heavier brother with the poor little dog incarcerated within it, has created an 444 effect, not only in this House, but throughout the Western world, which cannot possibly be minimised. In America and other countries, public reaction has perhaps been more nervous and highly pitched than here. The deputation of the National Canine Defence League to the Russian Embassy on Monday after Sunday's Soviet news release is perhaps typical of our country's first outward sign of protest; but, at the same time, I do not think it was any great discredit to us that this was so. That does not mean for one moment that people here are not pondering just as much on the factors which may be implied by the advanced stage of Soviet rocket development. I believe that we are pondering just as much as our friends in other countries.
My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has already given an account of his visit to the President of the United States. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence this afternoon outlined in further detail some of the aspects which should flow from those initial talks. It is early to particularise further—it might be unwise to do so—but, surely, all of us in this House can agree upon one fundamental fact; and I believe that this debate has shown it. That is, that the West must co-ordinate its brainpower, its treasure and its manpower effort if we are to meet the challenge posed by Soviet technical knowledge backed, as it is, by huge conscript forces.
That point was brought out clearly by the right hon. Member for Belper when he talked about the need for interdependence and explained quite clearly that interdependence was not dependence. It was brought out equally by my hon. Friend the Member for Garston, who talked of the need for equal partnership between this country and the United States. It was further brought out by the right hon. Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell), who talked about the need to integrate the effort of our two great countries. I should have said also, that it was quite clear that interdependence was the logical outcome of the Government's defence policy as laid down in the White Paper earlier this year; but it would be absolutely wrong for us to imagine for one second that we can relax our own defence efforts. We shall have to make our own contribution both to nuclear and conventional weapons, as, indeed, we are doing now.
445 In this debate, in spite of vigorous criticisms which have been made, I am not sure there are many great differences of principle. We all agree that the Western Powers do not seek war. We agree that to prevent war this country should contribute to the nuclear deterrent. We agree also that we could not have spoken with the same authority at Washington if we had not had the nuclear deterrent. We agree that a proper balance between nuclear and conventional weapons is essential. There have been a number of speeches, including that of my right hon. Friend the Member for Carshalton, in which doubts have been expressed whether this is the Government's intention. I thought the Minister of Defence in his opening speech made it abundantly clear that this is a factor which we have indeed got uppermost in our minds.
We agree that if we can do it, we should move to all-Regular Forces and abolition of National Service. I say, if we can do it. In accepting this last aim we recognise that our garrisons overseas must be reduced, and the loss in troops must be compensated by greater fire power and larger mobility.
There seemed to be some confusion about what my right hon. Friend had to say about Kenya.
§ Mr. G. Brown
We do not want misunderstanding about this later, so perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will clarify this now. The right hon. Gentleman has enumerated a number of things on which he says we agree. Our position is that we would agree if we thought these things were things the Government were doing. In my speech, and in most of the speeches made on this side of the House, a number of questions were put to the Government with a view to obtaining some more information. The right hon. Gentleman is not supplying it. Perhaps he will be good enough to deal with our questions and not list some hypothetical agreements we are not sure about.
§ Mr. Hare
I will certainly try to deal with the questions, and I am glad to see I have another twenty minutes in which I hope to be able to do so, but I am also responsible for answering other questions asked in this debate.
446 There seemed to be some confusion about the question of the base in Kenya. The hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Belper raised this matter and asked whether there was to be a base in Kenya. What my right hon. Friend made quite clear was that the Command Headquarters in Kenya—[HON. MEMBERS: "Aden."]—I mean Aden—would command the troops in Aden and the Persian Gulf, and also air and naval forces; secondly, that there would be troops as part of the strategic reserve in Kenya. He is thinking in terms of one or possibly two battalions which would be available from there to reinforce either the Persian Gulf or the Far East.
There is no question of there being a large base established. They would have their own vehicles, their own light equipment for training in Kenya. If they were moved in a hurry to reinforce either the Persian Gulf or in the Far East they would pick up heavy equipment and vehicles which would be made available for them there. I hope that disposes of the misunderstanding which seems to have arisen over this matter.
I may, perhaps, answer one or two points made by my hon. Friend the Member for Fife, East (Sir J. Henderson-Stewart). He stressed the importance of the Territorial Army. He stressed the importance of the Army Cadet Force, and he also stressed the importance of the Combined Cadet Forces. With a smaller Regular Army, the importance of the reserve Army—which is the Territorial Army and the Army Emergency Reserve—is in the Government's opinion greater than ever. The Territorial Army has been told that its primary rôle will be home defence; but the possibility that it may have to serve overseas must obviously not be discounted.
I am glad to say that, from the beginning of this year, National Service men have ceased to train with the Territorial Army, and that that Army is once more on an all-volunteer basis. Recruitment figures over the last few months have been encouraging, and I look forward with confidence to a larger volunteer Territorial Army in the future with a revival of that spirit of service which many of us knew so well. As for the Combined Cadet Force, which is my right hon. Friend's responsibility, and the Army 447 Cadet Force, which is my responsibility, we feel that they can play a major part in inculcating that spirit essential to the background of the youth of the nation if the Services are to be healthy.
I now turn to manpower, which has been the main theme of the debate. We aim, as the House knows, to abolish National Service by the beginning of 1963. The Socialist Party is pledged to the same idea, although I believe that the right hon. Member for Belper said last year that he would do it in four years. Presumably, he thought it was possible to do it, therefore, by 1960. I will not do him the discredit of believing that if he had been in power he would have thought it possible to achieve that object so soon.
I believe that the Labour Party agree, as we do, about the importance of our commitments to N.A.T.O. and would not wish lightly to abandon our commitments arising from the Bagdad Pact or the S.E.A.T.O. Treaty; and I cannot conceive, though some of its supporters may say so, that a Labour Government would renounce in any way our internal security policing duties for which we are responsible in so many parts of the world.
I now turn to the speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for Carshalton and also to that of the hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg), who made one of his customary useful and thoughtful contributions to our debate, with which I do not always necessarily agree. My right hon. Friend the Member for Carshalton is concerned with the possibility that either of the political parties might fail to reintroduce some form of National Service, if we fail to get our recruits and our commitments remain as we envisage them to be.
May I clear this matter up? The Government stand by what they said in paragraph 48 of the Defence White Paper, which I must quote to the House. The paragraph says:It must nevertheless be understood that, if voluntary recruiting fails to produce the numbers required, the country will have to face the need for some limited form of compulsory service to bridge the gap.That is in black and white in the White Paper. It was reinforced in the debate on 31st July in which this very point was raised on both sides of the House. I then gave the same assurance as I am 448 giving now. I assure my right hon. Friend the Member for Carshalton that in that debate on 31st July I was not speaking merely as Secretary of State for War. I was speaking as a member of Her Majesty's Government and speaking with the full authority of my right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence.
§ Mr. Head
I should like to make this clear. My anxieties on this point, which I tried to point out, sprang from the attitude of both sides of the House to this admittedly difficult problem. I have also read the paragraph in the White Paper. I make no personal attack, but I note that in all his speeches the Minister of Defence has studiously avoided this subject. I do not wish to be personal, but I must say that in his talks on television and elsewhere and within the party political side there is this claim to abolish National Service. I very much wish, despite the Secretary of State for War, that we could have this assurance direct from the Minister of Defence, and, even better, direct from the other side of the House too.
§ Mr. Strachey
Before the right hon. Gentleman replies—and I think he can reply to us together—we should like to know how he reconciles the statement he has just made with the statement in the White Paper and with the words of the Minister of Defence which I have just read out in my speech, that the decision is that National Service will end in 1960 and that it is an absolutely firm decision by the Government. It is very confusing to the rest of the House and very difficult to reconcile those two statements.
§ Mr. Sandys
I think that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War will allow me to intervene in the circumstances. The White Paper sets out the position quite clearly. My right hon. Friend has quoted the passage again. I recognise, as I think many of us do who have taken part in broadcast interviews—including the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Strachey) who did one at much the same time—that we do not always make ourselves crystal clear. It was for that reason that in the debate which followed the broadcast on 16th April I said:The Government's decision to bring National Service to an end has, I think, been 449 universally welcomed, but I have seen it suggested that this is not a firm decision. I would like to make it quite clear that from now on"—I wanted to go into a little more detail—all action is proceeding on the basis that the call-up will end in 1960 and that the last National Service man will leave the forces in 1962.All planning is proceeding on that basis. That is in fact so. I went on later to say in the same column:To abolish National Service, we must, of course, get the voluntary recruits that we need.Later I said:Since voluntary recruitment is voluntary, there must always be some element of uncertainty about it."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 16th April, 1957; Vol. 568, c. 1770 and 1771.]I did my best—
§ Mr. Sandys
I thought it was my duty to make it quite clear in the subsequent debate, and that is in fact the position. I do not believe that any Government would, if they were faced with a situation, shirk any political inconveniences there might be if it was a matter of choosing between that or leaving the country insufficiently equipped for its security and for the discharge of its obligations. I think I have made the position clear. We stand absolutely square by the White Paper. It is one of the facts which we cannot escape, that if we do not get the recruits, something else must be done about it. It does not help recruiting—and that is why I do not go on repeating this all the time—to keep on expressing doubts about whether we are going to succeed in the policy which the whole of this House desires to see achieved.
§ Mr. Hare
I think that my right hon. Friend has made his own personal position clear, and it was right for me to allow him to intervene personally, in view of the fact that he was asked for that assertion by my right hon. Friend the Member for Carshalton.
The Minister of Defence said earlier that recruiting figures had shown some improvement in recent weeks, and as I think it is the Army that faces the biggest problem in getting the men, I will say something about the position in the Army itself.
450 As the House knows, we moved on 1st October to a six-year minimum engagement, with only special categories of men being allowed to enter on a three-year engagement. It is difficult, therefore, to draw conclusions from the most recent spot figures that we have available. However, in each week in October it appears from those figures that long-service engagement numbers have increased. It does not need the hon. Gentleman the Member for Dudley or anybody else to tell me that they have to go higher than they are now if we are to achieve our objective. Of course—and I say this to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dundee, West—we cannot get the men without extra inducements. I say that absolutely categorically. The Minister of Defence has given a broad outline of the steps that we intend to take to attract the additional men to the Colours.
We are, of course, considering pay and allowances, especially those allowances which will alleviate what men in the Services consider to be injustices. The Minister of Defence has also drawn the attention of the House to the fact that he is considering improvements in uniform and clothing, particularly for the Army. My view is that there are strong arguments for some change, and I hope to be able to say something about that before too long.
I cannot agree—I notice that the right hon. Member for Dundee, West has slightly changed his ground—that we shall get all the recruits we need merely by paying everybody £10 a week. The right hon. Gentleman explained that that was merely shock tactics to arouse us in July to the urgency of the problem.
§ Mr. Strachey
Perhaps I might say a word on that. I would not admit for one moment that in July I said that that was the only thing that one had to do. I said that was one of the things that one had to do. It is a prerequisite. It will not do it on its own.
§ Mr. Hare
It seemed a very high figure, but I will not get involved in this because I am afraid of the hon. Member for Dudley intervening and my having to scrap with him about it.
I repeat that pay and allowances are extremely important. I have been at the War Office for about a year, and I have been able to get around both at home 451 and abroad to see for myself what is happening. I am shocked—I have said this previously—to see the condition of many of the barracks and married quarters in which soldiers and their families have to live. I am afraid that this is particularly true of conditions in this country. Certainly it is far truer here than in places like Germany, and hon. Members will know that from their experience in their constituencies. The answer is that the Victorians built too well. I read in the newspapers today that a society is to be formed to preserve Victorian buildings. I refuse to be a contributor to the society.
We have far too much accommodation which, apart from the fact that the walls are intact and the roofs are waterproof, has absolutely nothing at all to commend it. The Army must get rid of this type of sub-standard accommodation. I do not believe it should be too difficult a task. The halving of the size of the Army has raised a number of difficulties for regiments and individuals, but at least in the sphere of building it should make many things a little easier. The problem has at last been reduced to manageable proportions. Now for the first time since the war we have an Army, the greater part of which will be stationed permanently in places which we can envisage.
My predecessor made a most useful start in dealing with married quarters. Excluding Germany, 7,000 permanent quarters were built during his time at the War Office. We are doing all we can to improve on that figure. We are pressing on with a big programme of improvements in barrack accommodation for the single soldier. At Tidworth, for instance, again as a result of the efforts of my predecessor, a new £1 million scheme for the rebuilding of barracks is completed. A start has been made at Colchester, the demolition of Woolwich will start in January, and other large projects are in mind.
But these schemes take time. Anybody who has experience of modern building knows full well the protracted delays which occur before work can begin on the ground. Therefore, I decided—my right hon. Friend mentioned this—to start a new civilian works organisation as a result of the recommendations of the Committee under the chairmanship of 452 Lord Weeks, to whom I equally pay my debt of gratitude. When it gets into its stride, this organisatoin should shorten the time taken to get buildings up once a decision to build has been taken. I see no reason why within a few years the accommodation for Service men and their families, both in this country and overseas, should not be revolutionised.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Belper mentioned the question of jobs in civilian life for people who leave the Colours, and I would remind the House of the arrangements which have been made by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour in conjunction with my right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence to deal with the redundancy problem consequent on the rundown in the size of the Army. Air Chief Marshal Sir Ronald Ivelaw-Chapman has been appointed by the Minister of Labour as Director of Resettlement, and in addition there is the Resettlement Advisory Board under the energetic chairmanship of Sir Frederick Hooper.
The aim of these arrangements is to co-ordinate the work now being done to assist ex-Regulars to resettle in civilian life, and to do everything possible to open opportunities to ex-Regulars. The main difficulties are more for officers than for other ranks. There will be an increase of the order of 50 per cent. in the outflow of officers in the next five years. This problem will be aggravated unless these special steps are successful.
Looking at the future, a major factor in securing the volunteers we shall need will be that officers and men, having served their time with the Colours, can feel reasonably assured of jobs when they leave. I believe that this job which is being done now to deal with the particular problems of increased settlement of officers and other ranks, will have a big effect on seeing whether we set up machinery to give a normal assurance to the Service man that he has a good chance of getting a job in civilian life after he has left his Service.
It has been a constructive and helpful debate. Valuable suggestions have been made which we certainly will consider most seriously, but underneath any froth and bubble which there may have been, I still repeat that there is a very large measure of common agreement among us all; and I say "Thank God" for the 453 safety of this country that this is so. I am certain that each one of us in the House can make his own individual contribution towards the attainment of an all-Regular Service. Indeed, the Minister of Defence has stated today that he will welcome talks with Opposition Members, and I know that I can speak on behalf of my Service colleagues in saying that we are equally available for that purpose.
We have talked today of money rewards, of decent living conditions and of uniforms and other material matters. I do not minimise the importance of those things, but there is something just as important—the status of the serving man. The average citizen in this counry, in spite of two world wars, only grudgingly acknowledges that the Service man has a job to perform. Between the two world wars—to my own memory and to the memories of most people here—there was a supercilious contempt in many quarters for the man in uniform. In this year of 1957, if this country is to enjoy the luxury of abandoning conscription and of having instead volunteer, highly professional forces half the size, it must pay proper regard to the serving man. He should be allowed a standard of living comparable to what he might enjoy elsewhere.
We cannot expect to get safety on the cheap. By 1963 we hope that 300,000 more men than today will be made available to swell the ranks of civilian employment, a high contribution towards the expansion of the national productive effort. Against such a contribution we shall have to pay more for modern weapons and more in proportion for the upkeep of the men in the forces. The high status of men who join the Regular forces should be recognised by all. The job is a reputable one and essential for the well-being of the community—I wish that the right hon. Member for Belper would stand up and say so if he disagrees.
§ Debate adjourned.—[Mr. E. Wakefield.]
§ Debate to be resumed Tomorrow.