§ 3.45 p.m.
§ The Minister of Defence (Mr. Duncan Sandys)
I beg to move,That this House approves the Report on Defence (Britain's Contribution to Peace and Security) set out in Command Paper No. 363.Before addressing myself to the subject matter of the debate, I feel that the House would wish me to say how much we all were distressed by the death of Wilfred Fienburgh. He spoke on a number of occasions for the Opposition in our defence debates. I remember that, on a recent occasion, I wrote to him myself, congratulating him on his speech. We all realised, I feel, that he had a great grasp of this subject and had a big career in public life ahead of him. It is a loss to the House and to the public life of our country.
If we compare this year's White Paper with all those which have gone before, we find that the newest feature in it is the amount to space and emphasis which is given to disarmament. As Minister of Defence, there is nothing I wish for more ardently than to see the world disarm. When I speak of disarmament, I mean comprehensive, thorough-going disarmament, right down to the level needed for internal security purposes only; and the White Paper makes it clear that this would eventually involve supervision and control by a world authority. I believe that nothing less than that must be our ultimate objective.
As my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said last week, we want summit talks, and we want them to succeed. I sincerely hope that it may be possible to make some serious headway in the months ahead with discussions on disarmament. I base that hope on the simple fact that disarmament is so obviously just as much in the interest of Russia and every other country as it is in ours.
The main difficulty about disarmament negotiations is that, unhappily, each side distrusts the intentions of the other. Since the whole process of disarmament obviously cannot be carried through all at once, it is essential to maintain the balance of military power at each stage. But that is not at all an easy matter. It is not a simple matter to equate a reduction in nuclear power with a reduction 383 in conventional forces. But, somehow or other, we must find a way of doing it, and I have no doubt that some risks will have to be taken on both sides.
I have spoken first about disarmament, because, although this is a defence debate, we all know that the only ultimately satisfactory solution to the problem of defence is to make it superfluous. Until we can achieve agreed, all-round disarmament—I assure the House that we shall work flat out for it—we cannot afford to lower our guard. Nothing would more prejudice the prospects of world disarmament than for the West to disarm unilaterally in advance of an agreement.
The White Paper which I presented to Parliament a year ago outlined our defence policy in broad terms over a five-year period. The two main objectives of that policy are to provide armed forces suited to the realities of the present day and, at the same time, to keep the load on our economy within tolerable limits. This year's White Paper is essentially in the nature of a progress report. It confirms that we are going ahead with the policy that we announced last year. In fact, the developments of the last twelve months, both in the economic and military spheres, have fully justified the principles upon which last year's White Paper was based.
The financial crisis of last autumn showed how very essential it is to keep defence expenditure within bounds and to reduce military demands upon the country's productive resources. On the military side, the outstanding feature of last year was the advance in the science of rocketry, of which the Russian and American artificial satellites provided dramatic evidence. These developments again reinforced the emphasis placed in last year's White Paper on the need to adjust our military plans to the rocket age.
I will deal, if I may, with the economic side first. Here, there is evidence that our policy is continuing to lighten the burden of defence. During the past year there have been further appreciable reductions in the demands of defence upon the country's manpower and industrial resources. In 1957, the number of men and women serving in the forces, or supporting them, fell by about 150,000, and 384 I expect a further large reduction in 1958. Within next year's slightly reduced Estimates we absorbed increases in civilian wages and prices amounting to about £50 million, improvements in pay and allowances costing £32 million, compensation to retired officers and men of about £14 million, together with the ending of American cash aid, which was estimated this year to be about £13 million. It will be seen, therefore, that to keep next year's Estimates at about the same level as this year's, we have had to make savings elsewhere of about £100 million.
The White Paper confirms that the Government are planning to bring National Service to an end by December, 1962, and thereafter to rely on much smaller all-Regular forces. In paragraph 48 of last year's White Paper, we explained that if recruiting failed to produce the numbers required some limited form of compulsory National Service would be necessary to bridge the gap. That, of course, still stands. We did not repeat it in this year's White Paper simply because it does not help recruiting to go on harping all the time on the possibility of failure.
§ Mr. F. J. Bellenger (Bassetlaw)
Would the right hon. Gentleman be more explicit? The target is set at 165,000 for the Army and, overall, about 300,000. Is he now saying that if those figures are not reached—and will he say by how much—the Government will continue compulsory service?
§ Mr. Sandys
I would ask the right hon. Gentleman to read that passage in the White Paper rather carefully. I do not want to interrupt the general train of what I have to say to go into that matter of detail. I think he will see that certain ceilings have been allotted to the Services for recruiting purposes. With the best will in the world, it is not possible to say exactly what our military requirements will be in five years' time. But those are the best figures we are able to give and are the figures upon which we are working at the present time.
As was always foreseen, the main difficulty is with the Army, which needs larger numbers than the other two Services. As the White Paper pointed out, the new six-year engagement came fully into effect only during October, so 385 that we have only a full three months' figures to go on. It is, therefore, much too soon to predict how recruiting will go over the next five years. All I would say is that, in so far as the present figures mean anything, they are really quite encouraging. They show that recruits for the fighting arms are coming in reasonably well, particularly in the infantry, which is, after all, the basic element of the British Army. What is more difficult—and we knew that it would be more difficult—is to get the men that we need for the supporting units to do the less romantic, but essential, jobs, such as storekeepers, lorry drivers, pay clerks and hospital orderlies. To some extent, each of these different administrative corps presents a problem which will have to be studied separately.
I have never thought that men could be bribed into the forces, or that we should try to do so. I have seen a suggestion of that kind from different quarters. On the other hand, I have no doubt that under-payment discourages recruiting. That is why we felt it absolutely right to make certain increases in the pay and allowances of the forces. It is very difficult to compare Service and civilian earnings, because the Service man is provided with so many things free. The only case which can be reasonably compared is the married Service man who is living out of barracks and who is receiving marriage, out-of-quarters and ration allowances. A private in that position will now earn £11 13s. a week, a sergeant £17 15s., and a senior warrant officer £23 a week.
These increases in pay and allowances, costing £32 million next year, will be more than offset by the reductions in numbers. In fact, the total pay and maintenance bill for the three Services and their civilian employees will be slightly lower next year. We cannot hope to recruit the men and women of the calibre that we need unless we pay them, house them and give them general conditions which are in tune with the times; and the measures which were announced in the White Paper are, I think, evidence of the Government's determination to give the Services a fair deal.
§ Mr. Sandys
The material factors, however important, are not the whole story. Service men and women must also feel that they are doing a worthwhile job and that the value and importance of the service which they are rendering is understood and appreciated by their fellow countrymen. As we say in the White Paper, never in peacetime have the men and women in the forces more deserved the respect and encouragement of all those who live their daily lives under their protection.
I want to say a word about the relationship between our defence policy and our foreign policy. With the increase in the power and range of modern weapons, no country can any longer defend itself in isolation. The conception of separate national defence has been almost wholly replaced by that of collective security organised through a system of alliances. This entails coordinating our defence plans and our foreign policy with the defence plans and foreign policies of our allies.
The basic aim of our policy is to play our part with others in preserving peace and freedom throughout the world and in protecting democracy against subversion and aggression. The methods by which subversion must be resisted are primarily political and economic We must demonstrate the value of freedom and try to help the peoples of all countries to attain a decent standard of life, because I believe that that, in the end, is the only sure shield against Communist penetration. At the same time, it is essential that all the free nations should help to defend one another against the threat of armed aggression and intimidation. It is the need for this collective defence which called into being N.A.T.O., the Bagdad Pact and S.E.A.T.O.
The strength of N.A.T.O. rests ultimately upon the nuclear deterrent which stands behind it; but the nuclear deterrent does not by itself provide protection. The effectiveness of Western defence depends equally upon maintaining strong forces on the ground along the whole front from the north of Norway to the Caucasus. We fully recognise the high importance of this N.A.T.O. shield, and we are most anxious to make our fair and full contribution to it.
387 The greater part of the cost of our forces in Germany, and their equipment, is met in sterling, but expenditure on accommodation, civilian labour, public utilities and other local items has to be met in Deutschmarks. This will next year amount to about £47 million. In addition, the troops are likely themselves to spend about £9 million in German currency. That makes a total of £56 million which will have to be paid across the exchange.
The £56 million may not seem a large sum in relation to a total defence budget of more than £1,400 million, but, as the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition well knows from his Exchequer experience, it would be a very large sum to have to find out of our overseas surplus on current account, which amounted to about £260 million in 1956 and £130 million during the first half of 1957, especially when we have regard to the obligations to repay external debt, for example, the loan from the International Monetary Fund.
The whole problem is now being discussed with our allies in N.A.T.O., and we are still looking to them to help find a satisfactory solution. The House will not, therefore, expect me to say today what our attitude will be if no such solution is forthcoming. Our allies fully understand our position, and I think they well recognise that we cannot be expected to do anything which would undermine the stability of sterling.
I should, however, like to point out that this continued uncertainty about the number of British troops to be kept in Germany makes it very difficult for the Services to do their planning, and that this interminable international discussion about money is embarrassing both to us and to our allies. I hope, therefore, that, in everybody's interest, the question will be settled without too much further delay in a way which may remove uncertainty and friction in future years.
As I have said, it is essential that the N.A.T.O. front in Europe should be firmly held. At the same time, it is exceedingly important not to allow our flank to be turned in the Middle East or in the Far East. That is why we are also making our contributions to the defence systems of the Bagdad Pact and the South-East Asia Alliance. In fact, 388 Britain is the only country which is a member of all three alliances. If, sometimes, our allies on the Continent think that we are not playing our full part in N.A.T.O., I hope they will remember that we, are also providing substantial forces to help defend the frontiers of freedom in other parts of the world.
Our forces in the Middle East and in the Far East fulfil, of course, a dual role. They support the alliances to which we belong. They also protect British territories and British interests in these areas, as, for example, in Libya, Kenya, Cyprus, Aden, the Persian Gulf, Malaya, Singapore, and Hong Kong. To these must be added the Central Reserve at home from which reinforcements can be sent to meet emergencies whether on the continent of Europe or in more distant theatres.
During the past year we have given a great deal of thought to the rôle and composition of the Royal Navy, and we have taken a number of important decisions which will now enable long-term planning to proceed. To carry out our varied responsibilities in the Far East and in the Persian Gulf we shall have to maintain East of Suez a self-contained all-purpose fleet of substantial strength. This Eastern Fleet will be roughly the same size as the naval forces which we have at present in those waters.
Thus it will be seen that the planned reductions in the overall strength of the Navy will fall primarily in the Atlantic and in the Mediterranean. We could have made proportionate cuts in all classes of vessels and aircraft, but since the main threat at sea comes today from Russia's vast fleet of submarines, it seemed to us wise to concentrate our smaller naval forces more upon the vital anti-submarine rôle.
It has been said that this emphasis on the anti-submarine rôle is inconsistent with last year's White Paper, in which we declared that our primary aim was to prevent war rather than to prepare to wage it. It is argued that we ought, instead, to concentrate on the naval strike rôle, which would, it is said, add to the deterrent, rather than on the anti-submarine rôle, which would come into play only after the deterrent had failed. I am quite sure that that would not be a good way of spending our not unlimited resources. We have no aircraft carriers 389 large enough to operate the long-range bombers which would be needed for an effective strike operation. We really could not contemplate building more and bigger carriers which, with their aircraft, would cost over £100 million each.
Opinions differ, of course, about whether after the initial nuclear interchange in a global war there would be what has been described as a "broken back" war at sea, but whatever view one may take about that I do not think it should be assumed that the submarine threat could arise only in a global, nuclear war or only in the Atlantic. It might arise in quite other circumstances and in any part of the world. In any case, I submit to the House that it is surely the first duty of the British Navy to pay attention to the protection of the sea communications, upon which the whole life and economy of our island people depend.
However, I should like to say just this, that the effect of these changes should not be exaggerated. By its very nature the Navy will always remain a flexible force, capable of performing a wide variety of tasks in peace and in war.
§ Mr. R. J. Mellish (Bermondsey)
Would the right hon. Gentleman be good enough to tell the House whether the new rôle of the Navy was decided in agreement with our N.A.T.O. allies?
§ Mr. Sandys
A great deal of discussion has taken place with our N.A.T.O. allies, but I would emphasise that, of course, all this does not happen overnight. We have to discuss with our N.A.T.O. allies what our forces contributions are to be for—I forget exactly how many years ahead it is; but this is a five-year plan, and it will take some time to unfold.
§ Mr. George Wigg (Dudley)
When did the right hon. Gentleman discover that the weight of the aircraft was an important factor in taking into account the rôle of the aircraft carrier? He will recollect that it has always been a criticism of the DH110 and the N113 and now the NA39 that they were much too heavy for the carrier.
Secondly, when did the right hon. Gentleman discover that the Russian submarines had become a menace? I would 390 remind him that the present Prime Minister, as long ago as the memorable debate in February, 1951, said that the Russians had 500 submarines. [HON. MEMBERS: "At least."] Certainly not less than 500. For the Minister now, for political convenience, to discover a large number of submarines as a reason to make this change is really a bit thin, to say the least of it.
§ Mr. Sandys
The hon. Member will not expect me to discuss all these various aeroplanes. I have no doubt that he will have the good fortune to catch Mr. Speaker's eye during the debate.
All I would say—I am trying to explain to the hon. Member and to answer him, if he will give me his attention—is that, as he knows, the reason why we have had to look at this carefully is because it flows from the decision to reduce the overall size of our forces. The question was whether to reduce them, as I explained, proportionately, by cutting an equal proportion of every part of the Navy; or whether to concentrate the smaller naval forces rather more on what we consider to be the most important rôle.
I come now to the specific criticisms in the Amendment tabled by the Opposition. First, I should like to say something about the deployment of ballistic rockets in Britain. In the foreign affairs debate, last week, the Leader of the Opposition said that it could be argued with cogencythat there is no essential physical difference between the launching of missiles which do not have to he manned and the launching of bombers with hydrogen bombs which have to be manned …We are grateful to him for making the position of his party so clear.
However, the right hon. Gentleman went on to make two specific points. The first, he said, was thatThe British Government must have effective control over, and an effective veto over, the use of these missile bases, without any possible misunderstanding."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 19th February, 1958; Vol. 582, c. 1241.]I think that at the time the right hon. Gentleman spoke he probably had the impression that these missiles might possibly be manned by American forces, but now that the terms of the Agreement have been published he will see that the missiles are to be manned and operated 391 by the Royal Air Force. I think, therefore, that he will agree that there is no possibility of their being launched without the consent of the British Government. Therefore, that point does not arise.
§ Mr. R. T. Paget (Northampton)
Is it axiomatic in this Agreement that atomic warfare must necessarily be started by the West? If it is to be started by us, one can see the reality of a joint agreement between the two Governments. If it is started by the other side, what makes them think there will be a British Government here to carry it out?
§ Mr. Sandys
That is rather like the question asked by the hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Hale) a couple of days ago. If none of us is here, we shall not have this problem to grapple with. But I think that that would be taking me some way from the subject matter of this debate.
§ Mr. Sandys
The Leader of the Opposition's second point, which is included in the Amendment, was that the physical preparation of these bases should be held up until after the summit talks. In winding up the foreign affairs debate last week, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister explained why we did not feel able to accept this suggestion. We understand and we respect the motive which inspired the right hon. Gentleman's proposal, but we do not feel that a gesture of this kind would have any practical effect. It is quite clear from what Mr. Khrushchev said in a speech only a few days ago that the Russians are going ahead with their own rocket plans, and I am sure that they would be very surprised if we were to hold up ours.
§ Mr. Sandys
I think that they might even misinterpret it as a sign of weakness.
The principal specific criticism in the Opposition's Amendment is that our defence policyrelies predominantly upon the threat of thermo-nuclear warfare.That is the point which was touched on by the hon. and learned Gentleman the 392 Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) in his intervention a moment ago.
I am very glad that the Opposition have rejected the idea that we should unilaterally give up the hydrogen bomb. It has very much narrowed the differences between us. I am also glad that in the Amendment the Opposition have not identified themselves with the extreme view that in no circumstances should the West, if attacked, use nuclear weapons first. I am very glad that the Amendment does not take that line, which has been taken by a number of hon. Members opposite, I believe.
I know perfectly well that some people were surprised and even shocked by the statement in the White Paper that if Russia were to launch a major attack against the West, even with conventional forces only, the West would have to hit back with strategic nuclear weapons. I know that a number of people were surprised and shocked; but, however much we may dislike it, that is, in fact, the position.
There is nothing new about it. It is the accepted and well-established strategy of N.A.T.O. It is by this method that peace has been preserved over the last decade, and unless we are able to get agreement on disarmament there is, I am afraid, at present no alternative to it. If there was any doubt about this, it is just as well that that doubt should be removed, for I think it is now generally agreed that if the Kaiser and Hitler had known clearly in advance what would be the reactions to their aggression, two bloody world wars could have been avoided.
§ Mr. John Rankin (Glasgow, Govan)
What about the Prime Minister's qualification, made at the weekend, of that paragraph in the White Paper?
§ Mr. Sandys
I do not think that I shall shirk any of the central points.
As was stated in the White Paper, though this has been less quoted than the other sentence, the West will never start a war against Russia. It is equally obvious that no one in his senses would think of launching a nuclear counteroffensive to deal with a minor incursion or, as The Times newspaper today described it,… accidental border incidents …
§ Mr. Sandys
If, on the other hand, Russia, with her incomparably larger conventional forces, were to launch an all-out conventional attack then the Western allies would have the choice of striking back with nuclear weapons—
§ Mr. Sandys
Or submitting to defeat and occupation. It is inconceivable that the free peoples would meekly surrender their liberties without a fight, whatever the consequences.
§ Mr. S. Silverman rose—
§ Mr. Sandys
This issue was explained in simple and telling language by Mr. Attlee, as he then was, speaking as Leader of the Opposition three years ago. He said:It is no use telling the Russians that we would not be the first to use the hydrogen bomb in a war."—It could not be clearer than that—It would be as if I and a heavyweight boxer faced each other with revolvers and I told him that I am not going to be the first to fire. He would just say 'Splendid', and put down his pistol and knock me for six with his fists.I really do not think that I can put the position more clearly than that.
§ Mr. S. Silverman
Does the right hon. Gentleman entirely discount the possibility that if we say to the Soviet Union, "If you attack only with conventional weapons we will retaliate with nuclear weapons" this is a direct incitement to them, if ever they are minded to make an attack at all, to begin with nuclear weapons? Is it not?
§ Mr. Sandys
I would reply to the hon. Member by saying that if we tell the Soviet Union in advance, as the hon. Member, I believe, would like to do, that in no circumstances shall we use the only weapon which is effective in our armoury—
§ Mr. Sandys
This is my answer. If we do that, we are inviting them to use the superior conventional forces which they possess and which are bound to be successful.
So much for the facts, but it may, of course, be argued that although what is said in the White Paper is perfectly true it is not helpful to say it at a time when we are hoping to reopen negotiations on disarmament. I firmly believe that it is not only helpful, but necessary. It is really no good mincing matters. We shall get nowhere in negotiations if we shrink from tackling the basic issues. I am just as keen on disarmament as many people who talk in a rather loose way about these things. Our object must be to work out together, with the Russians, some programme of disarmament by stages.
To do that, we must surely start by recognising frankly the realities of the military position on both sides, that is to say, Russia's overwhelming superiority in conventional forces and the reliance of the West on the nuclear deterrent. I have had a number of talks with Mr. Khrushchev on various occasions, here and in Moscow, and the thing that most struck me about his colourful personality was his complete outspokenness. I am sure that he is the last person in the world to resent, or to be put off by plain speaking. [Interruption.] I did not attend the famous dinner at which the right hon. Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown) got into some difficulties.
The News Chronicle, an independent newspaper which is not notoriously bellicose, devoted a leading article to this particular passage in the White Paper, in the course of which it wrote:In spite of what is bound to be an immediate, sincere and horrified reaction, our opinion is that it is right to give a potential enemy the clearest warning of what serious aggression would entail.
§ Mr. Sandys
I just could not understand it, I am afraid.
The article in the News Chronicle ended by saying that some plain speaking before the summit talks would do no harm.
395 I have said that in the event of a full-scale conventional attack against the West, the only alternative to using nuclear weapons would be to surrender. There is, in fact, a third course, which nobody has advocated, involving neither surrender nor the use of nuclear weapons first. That is, for us and our allies to expand our conventional forces to the extent necessary to resist an all-out conventional attack.
Theoretically, there is no reason why we could not do this. Our combined population is larger and our industrial resources are greater, but, of course, it would entail a stupendous increase in the demands of defence upon manpower, money and industry. We in Britain might have to maintain between 1 million and 1½ million men in the Armed Forces and spend perhaps £1,000 million more a year on the defence budget.
Pending some agreement on disarmament, defence must go on, but I think that the House will agree that the more we study the various ugly choices about which I have been speaking the more we must be impressed with the importance of bringing about disarmament—comprehensive, balanced disarmament—not, of course, unilateral disarmament. We do not seek disarmament because we are weak or frightened; in fact, the strength of the West is increasing. We seek it because it is the only solution which, in the long run, makes sense. It is the only road to real peace and economic progress for mankind.
§ 4.31 p.m.
§ Mr. George Brown (Belper)
Before I deal with what I should like to say or with what the right hon. Gentleman has said, may I welcome on behalf of this side of the House and join in the tribute which the Minister has paid to our late colleague Wilfred Fienburgh. Wilfred was a bit younger than I, but in the natural course of events was bound to be very close to me. Ever since he came into this House, although we have sometimes disagreed, we have worked closely together. There are some deaths which seem to be a tragedy and make one sad; this was a tragedy which made one angry. It was a waste of a life which was full of enormous promise for his country, for his party and for his friends, and we all regret very much 396 the loss of that man and of the opportunities he had for great service to our mutual benefit.
At the end of his speech, the right hon. Gentleman said, I have no doubt unconsciously, something which was very revealing indeed. On the point of paragraph 12 and the strategic nuclear deterrent, the right hon. Gentleman quoted the News Chronicle, which happened to suit his purpose—I suppose because of the candidate his party is putting up at Torrington. He did not quote the Manchester Guardian, which did not suit his purpose. Then I asked him whether he would quote this morning's Times, to which he replied that he did not understand it. [HON. MEMBERS: "The Daily Herald."] I understand the Daily Herald very clearly and disagree with it, but that is not what the right hon. Gentleman said about The Times. That is the difference. My point is that I am not saying I do not understand it—I do—but that the right hon. Gentleman did not understand it. The point is that it was The Times, not the News Chronicle, not the Manchester Guardian, which pointed out that this is not a black and white issue. This is not an "either/or" issue. This is not a choice between a border incident, where clearly one would not use a thermo-nuclear strategic weapon, and an all-out global thermo-nuclear war, where perhaps one would.
The Times pointed out that there were a number of possibilities in between. Our point, which I will develop in a moment, about the White Paper is exactly that. We have a suspicion that the right hon. Gentleman does not understand it. The moment we get outside a purely black and white, "either/or", presentation, the right hon. Gentleman is lost. Last year we had a discussion on this matter in the House, in this very debate, and a number of us tried to question the right hon. Gentleman on a subject which he has left out of this White Paper, the subject of tactical atomic weapons, which most significantly does not appear this year.
A number of us asked questions. My hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman) asked many direct and specific questions. As everyone here will recall, the right hon. Gentleman was patently and completely confused by the whole business of intermediate deterrents 397 and of how to deal with specific problems. I suggest that the confusion he showed last year in this Chamber still exists. I suggest that it is really at the base of the misapplied direction of paragraph 12, and it is at the base of The Times' most unusual and very heavy criticism of the right hon. Gentleman this morning.
Whilst I have no special influence with The Times, I will do my best to get it to repeat that criticism in whatever language will be more appealing to the right hon. Gentleman, because so long as he holds his office it is important that he should understand that this is not a black and white issue. Lord Attlee's reference to the big man and the little man was true, but if the big man is not setting about him in that sense, there is no point in saying in advance, "Use your pistol because in any case I am going to use mine"—if something less than that kind of disaster is possible before he leaves the ring.
The right hon. Gentleman, we think, must be invited to face this problem. It is not an issue of a little man going into the ring with a big man and being always in danger of annihilation, and, therefore, of his thinking that he may as well choose mass suicide at the start, which is the way the right hon. Gentleman is posing the question—do not let us kid ourselves or misunderstand how much genuine fear and feeling there is about this. In the 'thirties we got into a lot of difficulty because public opinion outside became completely out of touch with the opinion inside the House.
What is shocking people is not the right hon. Gentleman standing up very tough and very firm in the House and saying that if we are faced with an all-out thermo-nuclear attack we will reply and will defend ourselves and may even go first. He says that now in the House, though not in the White Paper. That is not what is shocking people. If napalm bombs were being rained on London or on my constituency of Belper, or anywhere else, I have no doubt about the demand there would be for us to reply with whatever we could reply with in order to try to stop it. It is not that which is shocking people. What is shocking people is that the right hon. Gentleman seems to have no other idea for dealing with any conflict other than 398 the merest, smallest border incident except the thermo-nuclear weapon. It seems to fill his horizon. It fills the entire screen. It is directed to any kind of purpose except the one he contemptuously tosses aside as the minor one. I will come back to this inevitably in what I have to say.
§ Mr. Brown
I agree with the interjection of my hon. Friend the Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman).
At the beginning of the Minister's speech, in the middle of his speech and at the end of his speech, the right hon. Gentleman kept on referring to economy. He said, "We cannot afford this" and "It would cost us so much to do that." He almost said that it would be good if we did, but that we could not afford it. What he came back to every time was, We have chosen this road, we have chosen this defence policy, not because we are proud of it, not because we are sure it suits our purpose, but because we have decided that we cannot afford any more for defence than will cover this."
I am bound to point out to the Conservative Party that it has done this many times before. We may have to share the guilt of 1939—and I will say a word about that in a minute—but it was the fact that the Government of that day talked big in the 'thirties. They talked about rearmament, they talked about their intentions, when in fact they were not doing anything sensible to carry out those things. That got us into a situation where the Germans thought we would not fight. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Listen to me. It would be a good thing to hear the argument even if hon. Gentlemen opposite think it is wrong.
I say to the right hon. Gentleman that the louder we shout that in any circumstances we will reply with a weapon of mass suicide—which means obliterating London—the more unlikely is it that we shall be believed about anything short of a real, complete disaster. The would-be aggressor would say to himself, "I do not believe they would do that. I do not believe they could do it." Look at 399 the Daily Herald this morning. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] It is an organ of public opinion; it is no good tossing it aside. Look at the meeting in the Central Hall, Westminster, and look at the Wirksworth Urban District Council, which is completely Tory-run and is calling a town's meeting on the very same subject.
§ Mr. Brown
An aggressor would look at all these evidences and say, "I do not believe they would do it for anything short of a really major thing." Therefore, the deterrent is, in fact, being turned into an incentive if the aggressor chooses his ground right.
This apparently not-thought-out attempt to blanket all defence problems with this assertion seems to me to be doing a very grave disservice to the defence requirements of the country. I tell the House frankly that I cannot deal with it in the black and white manner. It is not an either/or. I will stand up presently for the position of my party; I will not run away from it. I have my own views about the H-bomb and about the deterrent and the value of it. I do not invite everybody to share them. I state them as I believe them. I cannot do anything else. I cannot, however, present it in that black and white way. I cannot see it in that "either/or" way.
I do not believe that any Minister of Defence or any Cabinet, faced with the choice between what I call the border incident, which is easy—for example, Oman and Muscat—and all-out thermonuclear war, which in a sense is also easy, simply saying, "Well, in paragraph 12 of the White Paper in 1958, we said that we would send the thermo-nuclear weapon and so we shall now send it". They would have much more agonising arguments and many hours would be lost in discussions and telegrams to the diplomats to find out whether it really was like that. By the time they had found it out, the affair would be over and the objective captured and people in the Cabinet would say that they could see no point in blowing up anybody now. That is the danger of the "either/or" position. That is why I do not see it as the Minister does.
400 Before I deal with some of the questions that must fairly be answered by us, and posed by me, on that subject, I begin with a reference to one or two of the more detailed questions in the White Paper. Incidentally, I congratulate the Minister on having produced two White Papers, which in this Administration is a record. There have been six or seven predecessors of his, but as far as I know, apart from spending a lot of money, none of them has ever produced more than one White Paper and at least one of them never produced one at all. For the Defence Minister to have produced two is a particular achievement and I congratulate him upon it.
I sympathise with the right hon. Gentleman, too, on the fact that people who last year, when we on this side were criticising the policy in his first White Paper, cheered him on and said what a courageous man he was to have discovered the realities of nuclear warfare, are the people who have turned against him this year and are now attacking him. To the right hon. Gentleman, that must be a very confusing situation. Although we enjoy this reversal of form, I sympathise with him about it.
The main nuclear deterrent argument apart, the real fact of the matter to anyone concerned about the defences of the country is that the White Paper, like its predecessor and like almost every White Paper of recent years, is full of dangerous half-truths, full of optimistic assertions that parade as facts and contains a whole lot of omissions and statements which mislead us. I shall not deal with them all—time does not allow—but I will deal with two main issues. I merely refer to some of them at this stage.
There will be others from these benches—and, I have no doubt, elsewhere in the House—who will take up the figures that the right hon. Gentleman has produced concerning the Army and recruiting. It is true that the rate has been put up. It is true that the £10 private envisaged by my right hon. Friend the Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Strachey) has made a rather earlier appearance on the scene than some people thought—and is now, in fact, a £11 13s. private. It is true that the pay is up. Putting up the pay, however, of which I was always in favour, is merely the way in which the process is started. 401 It is the way in which one primes the pump.
It does not follow that after the early immediate take-on the rate of recruitment will settle down to the level that the Government want to maintain or that they will get the engagements for the right term of years, unless they deal with the other incentives that are required. There is nothing in the White Paper at all about the other problems that affect the Service man—accommodation, clothing when he is not actually on duty and a whole host of other problems—which need to be dealt with if we are to satisfy ourselves that we will have our Regular Army and he able to maintain it at the right figures.
What is even more important is that if the Government pin their faith to a small, long-term professional Army, mobility becomes more important than almost anything else. We must be able to get the Army where we want it in time. The paragraphs of the White Paper—paragraphs 40 and 41 in particular—dealing with the question of Transport Command and a system of air transport to get the central reserve where it is wanted or to get our overseas establishments where they are needed, contains the perennial assertion that it is being built up. That is no more than half true when checked against the facts.
For example, last year I asked what was the successor to the Beverley aeroplane, which is our only machine that anything like approaches a heavy lift aircraft. The old Beverley had neither the range nor the lift, nor, possibly, the speed, that was required. Over a year ago I saw the production lines being shut down and last year I asked what the successor was.
There is still no successor. There is still no heavy lift aeroplane being developed. No development order has been given, let alone a production order. In fact, we have no aeroplane that could take even the moderately heavy equipment that the soldiers would need if the small professional Army which is envisaged in the White Paper had to be moved about.
§ Mr. Anthony Fell (Yarmouth) rose—
§ Mr. Brown
I cannot give way at this stage—perhaps later. I suggest to the Minister that it simply is not good 402 enough to tell us that air transport is being built up when the Government are not ordering the aeroplanes or stating their requirements. Knowing how long it takes, even with all the good will in the world, to get such an aircraft actually into service, we are leaving ourselves without such an aeroplane for such a purpose for four, five, six or seven years ahead. I could go on with this—
§ Mr. Fell
I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for giving way. The question I have to ask him is a serious one. I know that he does not like misleading the House. He is, unfortunately, a little past the position at which I think he unintentionally misled the House. He talked about there being no mention in the Defence White Paper of accommodation. Has he read the White Paper?
§ Mr. Brown
This is the whole problem of giving way. The theory is that if one Member gives way, the next one must. That is exactly the sort of point that might be made in a speech following mine. If it is thought that I have misled the House concerning the White Paper, by all means let it be pointed out in a speech.
I have read the White Paper. I did not say that it did not refer to accommodation. What I accused the White Paper of was half-truths. I said that no provisions were being made at the moment in the Estimates for sufficient improvement of accommodation to provide the incentives that we require.
§ Mr. Brown
That is what I have said. I have now spelt it out at rather greater length, but it remains what I intended. I do not ask hon. Members to agree. I know my own views about this. If anyone knows better, if anyone has recently visited establishments in the Army and knows more than I do, then by all means let him tell the House. But I repeat—
§ Mr. Brown
One of the things that makes me feel that the Army will never get its recruits is the behaviour of brigadiers in this House. I am bound to tell the hon. and gallant Member for Worthing (Brigadier Prior-Palmer)—he does this every time I address the House—that if he is an example of brigadiers, we had better change everything that he represents. This continual rudeness is so ridiculous.
There is the question of the reference to pacts in the White Paper. There is a reference to the Bagdad Pact and to the S.E.A.T.O. Pact. I have always supported both, and sometimes I have been in a minority. But it is foolish to pretend that at this moment there is any military strength in the Bagdad Pact. I do not speak about the S.E.A.T.O. Pact. I have not been able to examine that, but I have been in Bagdad recently and nobody there would claim that there is any military strength or co-operation in the Bagdad Pact. There is a good deal of economic co-operation, but not the military strength or co-operation which it is pretended in the White Paper that there is. I do not see the point in writing a White Paper on defence which is misleading on important issues of this kind. Hon. Members opposite may think that there ought to be or that there ought not to be such military strength. Hon. Members may please themselves which view they take, but for Heaven's sake do not let us pretend that there is when clearly—everyone knows it, and the Russians know it—there is not.
In the White Paper there is a reference to N.A.T.O. I well understand those people who say that we are devoted to the idea of the N.A.T.O. Pact. We on this side of the House have a special responsibility for it and, in a sense, a special devotion to it. But I should have thought it did not lie in the mouths of this Government to lecture about cooperation and interdependence and to moralise about collective decisions in N.A.T.O. We in this country are the ones who walked away from N.A.T.O. About two years ago, when I moved the first of the Motions to end National Service, I was interrupted again and again by hon. Members opposite, especially by the present Minister of Labour and National Service, and asked whether we were proposing to consult N.A.T.O. We 404 were told that our plan was impossible, because it did not sufficiently take into account consultations with N.A.T.O.
This Government have reduced our troops, pulled out the forces from the Continent, changed the whole pattern of our contribution and changed the rôle of the Navy, all without effective consultation and without listening to the views of the other side, and all contrary to the views of N.A.T.O. To refer in the White Paper to the importance of interdependence, to the importance of listening to N.A.T.O., seems to be absurd. This also applies to the paragraph about the troops in Germany. I do not for a moment pretend that the Germans have behaved in any other way than very badly—
§ Mr. Sandys
Does the right hon. Gentleman really suggest that we have not been consulting with N.A.T.O. about our troops in Germany? That is the reason why I cannot speak to the House about the whole position. If I have said it once, I have said ten times in this House, in reply to Questions, that the whole issue of the size of our Forces in Germany is at present under discussion in N.A.T.O.
§ Mr. Brown
The next withdrawals are, the withdrawals that are past were not. I say—other people may dispute it, but I say and I have reason to say it—that in so far as there was any consultation at all, it took the form of telling N.A.T.O. what was to be done. In regard to some things, there was no consultation; about others N.A.T.O. was merely told what we were going to do. There was no effective consultation.
I do not dispute that Germany has behaved very badly; that Germany is not carrying her share of the burden; that, in fact, she has built up a large export trade, much of which she has secured from us because we have been carrying the defence burden and have helped her. I do not deny any of that. But paragraph 43 of the White Paper suggests that if the question of the cost burden is not dealt with, we shall have to reduce the size of our commitment. I remind the Government—they made the commitment, not us—that this commitment was not to Germany; it was not conditional upon Germany paying. The commitment was in order to get the Paris Treaties through, and was a commitment much more to France, Belgium 405 and the other countries than to Germany.
If paragraph 43 means anything at all, it is threatening the unilateral cancellation of a solemn treaty, made in the most solemn words, that bound us for many years ahead. If the Government are proposing to behave in that way, then I repeat that I do not think lit is much use talking about the sanctity of decisions and of consultations within N.A.T.O. This is a threat to walk out, because the Government have now found that the commitment into which they entered is too binding.
§ Sir James Hutchison (Glasgow, Scotstoun)
Does not the right hon. Gentleman recollect that in the Paris Treaties I here is a Clause which leaves it open o this country to bring up the question in Western European Union in the event of economic repercussions affecting the maintenance of troops on the Continent at the strength initially laid down? That was done regarding the first reduction and that is being done again now.
§ Mr. Brown
I do not dispute that this country is entitled to bring up the matter in Western Union, but there is nothing in the Treaties which entitles us to reduce our commitment on the ground of cost. We can bring up the matter and discuss it, but there is nothing which entitles us to say in the form of the words in paragraph 43 of the White Paper that we shall have to reconsider our commitment, as though we were not bound—as the hon. Gentleman knows that we are if words and treaties mean anything—by a long-term obligation. I will not continue to discuss this matter, although on second thoughts there is one thing I wish to say. There is something that worries me, especially in view of the discussions about missiles.
In paragraph 30 there is a reference to the Air Force and to the V-bomber force. There is a statement that we are developing a propelled bomb and that, I think it says—I had better quote the words accurately—…progress is being made with the development of propelled bombs, which can be released from a considerable distance, thereby making it unnecessary for the aircraft to fly into the more heavily defended target area.If we can develop a satisfactory propelled bomb which really will go a considerable distance—I am not talking 406 about a hundred miles, but something like 600 miles or 900 miles—then the V-bombers remain the effective delivery system for the deterrent for many years ahead. If that is so, there will be less reason to have a missile delivering the same weapon over the same distance. That would appear to be a duplication.
It is difficult to phrase one's questions on this matter because we all get advice and information from sources to which perhaps one does not wish to refer. But I ask the Minister specifically to state whether we have in the programme of research and development today a propelled bomb that will go 600 or 900 miles? Are we investigating that matter? I have a feeling that this is a kind of half-truth which is very misleading, and I should like to know whether we are developing such a bomb. It will influence me very much to know that. The difficulty is, of course, that the Russians also would like to know. Tomorrow night we shall be asked to vote, among other things, upon having missiles—which are untested—which will travel for 1,500 miles. How can we decide whether we need them, unless we know whether we have a system which will do exactly the same job? It is important to have some information on this subject.
I return to the major issue of the deterrent. The basic problem is that this year's White Paper follows last year's White Paper, which was based upon an attractive but dangerously deceptive phrase used by the Minister. Last year he said rather proudly, that we were not planning to fight a war, but to avert one. Propaganda-wise, it is a very good claim to make, but I believe that it is a dangerously deceptive one. Planning to avert a war involves planning to fight a war, unless we are saying that we are relying upon this massive weapon of mass suicide, in which case it is not planning to fight a war or to avert a war; it is planning to smother everything whenever any incident occurs.
Paragraphs 28, 38 and 45 of the White Paper, and those paragraphs refer to the Army, the Air Force and the Navy, show that this claim is not true. In fact, the Government are planning to do all these things; they are merely avoiding making decisions about the weapons which our forces are to have and the means by which the forces are to get 407 about. The Government are not planning to avert a war; if they were there would be no case for what is said about the Navy. The right hon. Gentleman attempts to define the anti-submarine rôle of the Navy. There is no case for that if he means what he says in paragraph 12. If he is going to meet everything but the merest border case with the thermo-nuclear deterrent there is a case for having a Navy with submarines that can deliver Polaris, or some similar missile, but there is not a case for assigning an anti-submarine rôle to the Navy.
What has happened is that the First Sea Lord and their Lordships in the Admiralty have managed to keep the Navy going by foisting upon the Minister of Defence a statement of purpose which he is prepared to accept on the basis—as Lord Mountbatten put it quite clearly the other day, at one of our dockyards—that we have to keep the Navy alive, and we have to have something upon which we can develop. The rôle which the right hon. Gentleman assigns for the Navy, like that which he assigns for the Army, is tenable only if we do not accept Clause 12. First, the claim is not true and, secondly, it is by planning to fight that the deterrence is established. The question we must ask ourselves is under what circumstances we shall employ the deterrent. To what is the deterrent attached? Are there different kinds of deterrent for each kind of conflict? Thirdly, the right hon. Gentleman's statement can be and is used as a cover only to half-do a number of things which would be better done fully or not done at all, in order to save money being wasted on them.
The Government are turning the weapon of deterrence, which is only a weapon so long as it is not used—and this cannot be said often enough—into a weapon that will in fact be used, and be used very early in the proceedings if we do not have to choose surrender.
What is the position of the Labour Party? In the days of the Labour Government the Labour Party accepted the responsibility of making atomic bombs, the need for having the means of their delivery, and each successive stage in the chain reaction. At the recent Brighton Conference it rejected overwhelmingly a Motion that sought to bind us not to test, 408 use or make these weapons. We have accepted the deterrent theory and the fact that in order to keep any independence at all for ourselves as a nation we must have a voice in international affairs. To help deter an aggressor we need to have this deterrent.
Let me make quite clear what our view has been. I quote from the resolution of the National Executive Committee of the Labour Party, issued on 30th March, 1955, which says:Until world disarmament can be achieved weapons of mass destruction in the hands of Britain and her allies in N.A.T.O. form the most effective deterrent against aggression by a potential disturber of the peace possessing not only these weapons but also overwhelming force in what are called conventional weapons.As long as this great disparity remains, unilateral disarmament is folly. It is equally foolish to suggest that these weapons will only be used if an aggressor uses them first. It is the knowledge that in the last resort"—we should mark those words "in the last last resort"—these terrible weapons will be used that makes them an effective deterrent, but they constitute only an ultimate sanction to prevent war. They could not be used in the event of minor disturbances.[Interruption.] Let me go on. I want to establish our position. We have always accepted the deterrent, but we do not bind ourselves so to arrange our defence forces that this has to be used early on in the chain reaction.
My complaint about the Government, paragraph 12 of the White Paper and its whole presentation is that they suggest that unless there is a border incident—and the Prime Minister took upon himself the responsibility of defining the sort of occasion upon which it would not be used—[Interruption.]—I have only the Manchester Guardian report of what he said; according to that the Prime Minister said that it would not be used in a border incident. If that is where it will not be used, presumably it will be used in all the other sorts of incidents.
§ The Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Macmillan)
The right hon. Gentleman must not misquote me. I said that if it were a case of the mobilisation of large forces—say, 200 divisions—or an all-out attack on Europe, or the bombing of London, that would be a case where the deterrent would have to be used. That is what I said.
§ The Prime Minister
I meant the bombing of London with conventional bombs. The report of my statement which the right hon. Gentleman quoted said that it would not be used in minor cases, and the White Paper says that it would be used in major cases.
§ Mr. Brown
It is not. What is in between? This is exactly what I want to understand. If we refer on the one hand to a major attack with thermonuclear weapons, or even with conventional weapons and, on the other hand, to his border case, that rules out from the list all possibilities between, and there are lots of possibilities between. We in the Labour Party are not running away from our acceptance of the deterrent in an all-out global war or in a major affair, but the Government have produced a White Paper which everybody has taken to indicate the ultimate deterrent will be used in anything but a border incident. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] I am glad that we have got that clear.
Let us go on from there. The thermonuclear weapon, I gather, will not be used in the case of, say, a conflict in Central Europe or a conflict in the Middle East which is not border, major or direct. I ask the Government what they would use in those cases.
§ Mr. Sandys
The right hon. Gentleman said that the Opposition accepted that the nuclear retaliation would have to be used if there were an all-out global war. I would ask him—because this is really the crux of the issue—whether he means an all-out conventional attack or not, and whether he agrees that if there is an all-out conventional attack the Opposition accept the use of nuclear weapons in return? What I would like to make clear is that it is misleading the House—the right hon. Gentleman referred to our misleading people—to suggest that anyone on behalf of the 410 Government has said that we intend to use massive nuclear retaliation for anything that was more than a border incident. Nobody has ever said that. We have made it quite clear that if there is a major, full-scale attack, even with conventional forces only, nuclear retaliation would be necessary. We have equally made it quite clear that very small incidents such as have been mentioned would obviously not involve such retaliation. There is an area in between about which I will not speculate and which I will not define.
§ Mr. Brown
We are very glad to have it from the Minister that his White Paper does not mean what a straight reading of it has led most people to believe. That applies not only to myself but to everybody. Look what The Times has said. If we have all managed to get it wrong, then we are delighted to have it put right.
The White Paper provides for nothing but conventional troops, conventional weapons and a thermo-nuclear weapon. The Army Estimates make no reference to tactical atomic weapons in the hands of our troops. For example, the other day a West German Government spokesman was reported as saying that British troops were not going to handle Corporals which had an atomic capability. Everyone knows that if we are to have a small army and no National Service we are clearly not going to resist any large-scale conventional attack with large-scale conventional forces. We shall not have them. On the other hand, we have clearly ruled out anything in the nature of tactical atomic weapons.
I ask the right hon. Gentleman with what he proposes to deal with the in-between area. I ask him to read tomorrow what I am now saying on the matter because it is an issue on which everyone outside the House feels extremely strongly. If we do not provide for tactical atomic weapons and for large-scale forces—and the right hon. Gentleman is doing neither if the White Paper is to be believed—then, in fact, we have nothing with which to meet the in-between areas at all. This is what I meant earlier in my speech when I said that one can talk very big, but, in fact, leave the country without the weapons and the troops it needs with which to do the job that one says one intends to 411 do. I ask the Minister who is to reply to the debate to answer specifically what kind of weapons and troops are envisaged for what the Prime Minister called the "grey area in between".
§ Mr. S. Silverman
I am much obliged to my right hon. Friend for giving way, and I apologise for interrupting him, but this is a matter on which clarity is obviously essential. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] At any rate, nothing can make the Government's policy clear, but I think that our policy is clear enough.
My right hon. Friend said that we on this side of the House accept the nuclear weapons which obviously meant that, in the context in which he used the phrase, we accept the nuclear weapon as a makeweight to make good the deficiency in conventional forces. I hope that my right hon. Friend will correct that impression because at its last annual conference at Brighton the Labour Party unanimously accepted a resolution which committed the party, at any rate, to the policy of dispensing with nuclear weapons if we could get an international agreement to dispense with them, whether or not such an agreement were linked with other forms of disarmament. That, surely, has a great bearing on the issue.
§ Mr. Brown
I think that my hon. Friend and I had better look at that resolution again. My recollection, quite clearly, is that if we are to get rid of nuclear weapons then something will have to be done at the same time about conventional troops.
I say seriously to the Government that the position at the moment, which, clearly, they think is our fault, is that everybody believes, because of the words they have used and because of the weapons they have excluded, that the Government are thinking of using the thermo-nuclear weapon in the conditions which the Prime Minister and the Minister of Defence have now declared that they are not thinking of using it.
I welcome the declaration that they are not proposing to use the thermo-nuclear weapon in the grey area in between, but I repeat that unless they are prepared to tell us what they propose to use we are, in fact, in a position where there is virtually no defence at that point. Tactical atomic weapons are, of course, 412 weapons of very difficult definition. I see that the Minister of Defence is now looking very confused and pained.
§ Mr. Brown
It is a very great difficulty, of course, if we have a Minister of Defence who is always going to be confused and pained the moment that we get off the either/or and black and white issue, but this is a problem which I beg the right hon. Gentleman to try to get Colonel Post to explain to him. That is what the right hon. Gentleman keeps him for.
Tactical atomic weapons are not strategic weapons, but are the weapons that we always understood were to be used on the battlefield to make up for our shortage of manpower and of conventional forces compared with the Russians. The right hon. Gentleman seems to have ruled them out. He does not once refer to them in his White Paper, and neither does the Army Estimates mention them. I repeat that without them it seems to me that we shall be in the position where we shall be debarred from using the strategic weapon through having insufficient conventional troops with which to meet an attack conventionally. After all, Berlin is a possibility; East Germany is a possibility, and something in the nature of Korea is a possibility.
We are faced with not having enough conventional troops to meet such occasions, with not having the tactical atomic weapons with which to make up for the shortage of troops, and we have now been told that we shall not use the thermo-nuclear weapon in such circumstances. All this means that our defence policy, as I suspected, is not a thought-out defence policy at all. It moves under the general umbrella of wanting to save some money. It just embodies a number of broad assertions and broad general declarations that have very little to do with an effective defence policy. I hope that some other Minister will return to this matter and will make the position much more clear for us.
There is another aspect with which I must deal. It is the question of the new missile bases in this country. Let me make it quite clear—it does not have to be read to us—that I do not think any of us would dispute the logic of the case 413 of missiles after aeroplanes. If one accepts the fact that an aeroplane is an acceptable way of delivering a thermonuclear weapon, a missile must be equally acceptable wherever one needs a missile instead of an aeroplane.
Whether anybody else does or not, 1 accept that there is probably much less risk for the inhabitants of an area near missile stations than for those living near H-bomber stations, when it is remembered that the missiles cannot be tested and cannot be practised, whereas H-bombers can be tested and practised. However, as I said to the Minister last year about another matter, because a thing is logical, it does not follow that it is either necessary or inevitable. [Interruption.] It is obvious that if the H-bombers were wrong, the missiles are wrong.
For myself, the H-bombers were right and I cannot therefore say that the missiles are wrong. The logic of that is clear. Anybody who opposed having the H-bombers is entitled to say that missiles are wrong. It all depends on the original position one took, or whether one says that one was wrong and has since changed one's mind. However, I was in favour of the original thing and for me the missiles are right.
However, to say that something is logical, is not to say that it is necessary, is not to say that it is inevitable and is not to say that this is the right time to do it. It is on those three grounds that I attack the decision about missile bases. We are to go the summit. The Prime Minister has told us that he is as keen to get there as are the rest of us and that not only does he want summit talks, but he desperately wants that they should be a success. I take that to mean that he wants some agreement to emerge which would either reduce or obviate the necessity to consider dropping hydrogen bombs, or some political agreement, partial or complete, to help to start the movement towards agreement on disarmament.
If the Prime Minister wants that and if he is hoping to have summit talks very soon, as he said, why has this moment been chosen for the installation of the rockets? There can be only one reason which would be acceptable and that would be the necessity to start installing the rockets now to avoid a gap between 414 the V-bombers and the next means of delivery. If the Prime Minister believes that unless we constructed the bases here in the beginning of 1958, then the V-bombers would be out of date and there would be a period when Britain would have no means of delivering her resources, I would consider that argument. However, he has not said that and he cannot say that and he has no adviser who would say that that was so.
It is absurd in the extreme to poison the atmosphere still further in advance of the summit talks and to create still more ground for suspicion of one's motives before the summit talks by insisting on installing missile bases which we do not have to instal at this moment. I ask the Minister of Defence to say whether I am wrong in stating that we would lose nothing defencewise, nothing militarily, by delaying putting in these bases now. Am I going too far in saying that?
We would lose nothing, because the V-bombers would still be operative. They are expected to be still capable of delivery beyond the point of the actual construction of the bases. If we develop the propelled bomb and use V-bombers as standoff bombers, there will be a period further beyond that date during which we will lose nothing by delay now. Our case that we ought to delay installation in order to get the summit talks going in a good atmosphere cannot be faulted militarily.
Let us go one stage further. What are the rockets we are to have? Does anybody really claim that we would freely choose the Thor rocket at this moment if we were looking for a rocket which on its own merits could replace our V-bomber force? I will not bother the House with many quotations, but I invite anybody who is interested to consider not only what has been said here, but American sources of information. I quote from The Reporter an American magazine which is generally well informed on these things and which on 6th February said:Thor and Jupiter"—the Jupiter does not worry us—have been ordered into production with only ten per cent. of the scheduled research and development work completed… To assure delivery of a sizable number of weapons to N.A.T.O. on schedule, no major improvements 415 made this year can be incorporated. The reliability of missiles produced under these circumstances cannot be high, even if the inherent disabilities of liquid-fuel rockets did not exist.The New Scientist of 20th February, having said that the rockets will not be ready by the end of 1958 and not, in its view, even by 1959—in which case we have gone ahead with these bases in advance of the summit talks for no purpose—said:Had the American Government not committed itself to supplying intermediate range missiles to Britain and to N.A.T.O., it is more than probable that these would by now have been cut out of the American defence programme altogether.It went on to say:In consequence, the American I.R.B.Ms. are relatively crude versions of the missile that the military eventually hope to have.The Minister will have seen the comment of the Observer on Sunday in the same terms.
Among the people I have consulted have been some whose advice is open to the Minister and who have been good enough to talk to me. They have included military scientists, Service chiefs, civilians and Americans who know about these things and who have felt themselves free to talk to me frankly. I have not found one person who says that these missiles are missiles which we ought to have. Because they are fired from above ground, they are what is called "soft", that is to say, they are vulnerable not merely to a direct hit or a near miss, but vulnerable to a very wide off miss. Anything that falls even a very long way away will be liable to put them out of action, because they are above ground. Our own missiles will not be above ground, for that reason.
These missiles have not been properly tested. A complete Thor in full battle array—and this missile goes out of the atmosphere and there is consequently the re-entry problem—has not yet been completely tested. To insist upon having these missiles before the summit talks is a political disaster, a political mistake of the first magnitude. To insist on having them at all when other American rockets will be ready by the time our V-bombers are out of date and our own rockets may be available and to have them under an agreement which means that for the first time part of the British deterrent is subject to an American veto must be wrong. 416 That has not been so before. The V-bombers are entirely our own responsibility. Responsibility for these rockets is shared with the Americans.
The Prime Minister had to make some sort of agreement at Bermuda to wipe out the memories of Suez and recently had to do something for the Americans to get them to agree to summit talks. I submit that this decision has had more to do with that kind of political manœuvre than with the military necessities of the moment. We oppose the installation of these weapons on the grounds that politically it is a mistake of the first order to instal them before the summit talks, that defencewise there is no case for having them, that they are extremely questionable objects themselves, and that we should lose nothing and gain a good deal by waiting a little longer.
Perhaps I might conclude what has been, again, much too long a speech. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] Well, Government supporters are entitled to their point of view about that. If there is any one thing, no matter how small and unimportant on which they and I are in agreement, who am I to regret it? I have done my best to raise issues which seem of enormous importance to the world and to our people at this moment. The Daily Herald has been thrown at us. There were those meetings at the Central Hall the other night. We all know in our own constituencies that there is a vast public feeling about this—
§ Mr. Brown
If it were a majority I would believe it wrong. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear hear."] In the 1930s I can truly say that when the Labour Party had an official programme of collective security and many of us ran away from it and thought that a unilateral gesture would be better, although our responsibility was not as great as that of the Government at that time, we had our share of responsibility for 1939. What we were saying and doing may easily have helped to mislead a dictator as to where we would stand. I do not want to see that emotion built up again.
The primary responsibility is on the Government to see that we are not misled. It is important for them to state the circumstances in which they would use thermo-nuclear warfare. It is important 417 that they should state the way in which we should try to deter war at different levels, conventional and tactical, before we even consider the strategical. It is the responsibility of the Government to present a defence policy that makes sense to ordinary people. I believe that the British people will stand for that, but not if we present a policy to them which means death either way, or perhaps life the other way, however miserable that life may be.
By its apparent concentration on the thermo-nuclear strategic ultimate deterrent, the Government are presenting a defence policy—although there has been some backing down in this discussion—that offers little hope to our people. Their decision to have missiles here that we do not need, seems to further build up the position simply into relying on the thermo-nuclear strategic deterrent that we already possess. It does not give us the appropriate forces nor the means of mobility nor the kind of defence policy that we need. However much too long, I believe that our case is well made out and that we have good reasons for inviting the House to reject the defence policy as put forward.
I beg to move, to leave out from "House" to the end of the Question and to add instead thereof:declines to approve a defence policy which relies predominantly upon the threat of thermo-nuclear warfare, insists on the installation of strategic rocket bases in Britain before the projected summit talks, and fails to provide effectively for Britain's defence requirements.
§ 5.34 p.m.
§ Major Sir William Anstruther-Gray (Berwick and East Lothian)
I do not want to be ungenerous to the right hon. Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown), but I am bound to say that if anything could take away from the useful deterrent effect of the rocket missiles which are being put into place it would be the right hon. Gentleman's unhelpful remarks about them. If he thinks that is a contribution towards keeping the peace and making the most of their deterrent power, I cannot agree with him.
Before I go further into the controversy on the missiles and into the question of what the right hon. Gentleman calls the "grey area" between the major and 418 minor operations I must take him up—if he will be so kind as to listen to what I say to him since I paid full attention to every word he spoke on what he said about accommodation, which is not a trivial matter.
He was most unfair to my right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence in complaining that the White Paper had paid insufficient attention to this subject. If he will turn, as no doubt he will do now, to paragraph 75 of the Report on Defence he will find that no less a sum than £90 million is to be spent over the next five years upon improving accommodation. These improvements will cover:naval accommodation and new barracks at a number of R.A.F. stations. Important works already started for the Army at Colchester, Tidworth, Bovington, Windsor and Bicester will be pressed forward, and new barrack and housing schemes will be put in hand during 1958, including those at Woolwich, Arborfield, Aldershot and Borden.It does no service to the serious consideration of our problems to make light of steps which are taken in these times of great financial stringency to improve the accommodation of the Services.
I would now bring the House back to the contents of the White Paper in which matters are dealt with much more plainly and clearly than is easily possible in the excitement and interchange of debate. Paragraphs 1 and 2 set out the problem clearly. Paragraph 2 says:The Western Nations and the Soviet Union face one another with deep-seated mutual distrust. Each fears that the other has aggressive intentions; and no amount of pacific assurances in both directions have so far succeeded in removing these suspicions.I wonder whether there is hope of getting a little more mutual confidence between Russia and the West. It is inconceivable to us in this House that Russia can imagine that we would willingly start a full-scale war, but a great many of my hon. Friends, and certainly I, find it impossible to trust Russia's intentions. No remark that has been made by Mr. Khrushchev since he achieved power has led me to alter my opinion that we must be forever on our guard.
We must try to maintain the position by a balance of defensive armaments. It is the policy on both sides of the House that the arms should be in part conventional and in part nuclear. I very much appreciate that in paragraph 3 my 419 right hon. Friend has refused to panic because of the introduction of the Sputnik. We should put it into perspective, but we must be wary at the same time in case the Russians should steal a march on us and spring a surprise for which we are not prepared.
With that in mind, I hope there is no undue complacency expressed in paragraph 4, in which my right hon. Friend states categorically:In fact, the overall superiority of the West is likely to increase rather than diminish, as a consequence of the advent of medium-range ballistic rockets."—I hope it is—These weapons, against which there is at present no answer, could, from sites in Europe and elsewhere, dominate practically every target of importance in the Soviet Union. The possession by Russia of rockets of equal range will not, for reasons of geography, afford her any corresponding strategic advantage.Yes, I think that is good enough. We can accept that as being true.It would be of no use to her to attack Western Europe unless she could simultaneously knock out the vital strategic air bases in the United States. She could at present have no reasonable hope of achieving this with manned bombers,"—that is clear also, but the next sentence is the one about which I am anxious, and no doubt other hon. Members are anxious, too. It says:and it will still take her several years to complete the development of an accurate intercontinental rocket and produce it in sufficient numbers.I am prepared to accept what my right hon. Friend said in the White Paper founded, no doubt, on all the best advice that we have at our disposal in this country and on all the best advice that can be gleaned from across the Atlantic. For all that, I would state once again that the experience of the Sputnik coming unawares, so far as many of us were concerned, makes us urge my right hon. Friend not at any moment to allow any complacency—
§ Mr. Leslie Hale (Oldham, West)
I do not rise to score a point against the hon. and gallant Gentleman; the debate is too serious for that. The difficulty is, and the hon. and gallant Gentleman has already said almost the same thing, that for the last twelve months, almost every Foreign Office statement about Russian experiments, Russian detonations and Russian H-bomb explosions, 420 and so on, have been derisory, and have been followed up with almost devastating news of further successes. This has been going on for twenty years. It happened in 1938, and again in 1939 and when the Russians came into the war in 1941. We were always writing them off, and we were always wrong. Is it not time that we tried to face the situation?
§ Sir W. Anstruther-Gray
I agree very much with what the hon. Member has said, and if he will turn over the page of the White Paper to paragraph 12, he will see that my right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence says:But it must be well understood that, if Russia were to launch a major attack on them, even with conventional forces only, they would have to hit back with strategic nuclear weapons.It is on that very point that I felt happy when the right hon. Member for Belper was speaking for the Opposition a few moments ago and was supporting what was said by his right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition in the foreign affairs debate on 19th February, when the Leader of the Opposition—and I quote—said:Nor do we favour unilateral disarmament. At our Conference in Brighton last year a resolution asking us to pledge ourselves, the future Labour Government, neither to test, use or make nuclear weapons was defeated overwhelmingly by a vote of eight to one."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 19th February, 1958; Vol. 582, c. 1233.]I feel that if the deterrent effect of all the efforts that have been made by the present Government is to have any real influence with the Russians, it can only be if Russia feels convinced that the possible alternative to this Government are also prepared to carry on with the same deterrent on which we have embarked. For that reason, I feel grateful both to the Leader of the Opposition and to the right hon. Member for Belper for what they have both said on this subject.
§ Mr. Frank Tomney (Hammersmith, North)
Will the hon. and gallant Gentleman allow me? In elaboration of that point, I think it should be recorded that that decision was arrived at after full discussion with all the democratic groups within the Labour Party movement.
§ Sir W. Anstruther-Gray
I am indeed very grateful for what the hon. Member has said. His remarks can do nothing but strengthen the chances of peace being maintained.
421 Now, having congratulated right hon. Gentlemen opposite, may I ask: Would it not have been absolute nonsense not to have arrived at this conclusion? If we take into account the colossal forces which the Russians are capable of deploying against us, and the White Paper speaks of 200 divisions mobilised, we must ask what we or N.A.T.O. have got to set against that. [Interruption.] My hon. and gallant Friend might be able to guess at a figure, and probably the Russians know it as well. They have 500 submarines. Have we got 10 per cent. of that number? They have 20,000 aircraft, and Russian aircraft are very good. We would have no chance of survival at all if we were to attempt to defend ourselves against such overwhelming forces as these.
§ Mr. Hughes
Does the hon. and gallant Gentleman think that this country can possibly find forces to meet a Russian navy of that size or a Russian air force, let alone match the immense technical advances which the Russians have made in every sphere?
§ Sir W. Anstruther-Gray
The hon. Gentleman must realise that the whole purpose of the deterrent is to prevent the Russians from deploying their conventional forces in such a way that they will smother us. That is the justification of the deterrent.
May I turn for a moment to the subject of the missile bases to be established in this country? I follow the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes), as a Scottish Member, in saying that I, too, am very glad that they are not to be in Scotland. Having said that, I must add that I have no doubt that I carry my constituency with me in saying that we in any county in Scotland would not flinch from accepting these bases if we found that that was vital for the security of the United Kingdom.
§ Mr. Hughes rose—
§ Sir W. Anstruther-Gray
No, I cannot give way to the hon. Gentleman again.
I am glad that my right hon. Friend, in answering questions on this subject, was able to meet all the complaints from 422 the other side of the House so adequately, and I think that, in particular, it is very satisfactory to know that these missiles will be in the hands, not of United States personnel, but of British Royal Air Force personnel. It is very satisfactory to know that they cannot be fired without the joint agreement of both Governments, and that no American military commander would have the power to give the order to fire them. That can be done only by joint agreement of both the British and the United States Governments.
Furthermore, the danger of accident has been very much reduced by the fact that the warheads will not be fitted to these missiles but will be kept separate. Finally, when we think about tests—and not only in the interests of safety—it will come as a great relief to those who live in the neighbourhood to know that tests are not to take place from bases here. These are very noisy things indeed, and I am sure that the Government are grateful to the Australian Government for allowing these tests to he made in Australia if they cannot be made in the United States.
I make no complaint at all about the location of these bases not being published. As I think my right hon. Friend himself said, there is no reason why we should do the work of foreign secret service agents for them, and I agree that we should keep this information as secret as we possibly can. I will now leave that subject, and how difficult all these things are, because one is talking largely about things one does not know how to manipulate; for myself, I have not got a clue as to how to fire a rocket.
I now turn to a question which is still extremely important, even in this age—the question of manpower. Whatever the weapons may be, the question of manpower remains vital to the success of the British defence effort. I was very well pleased to read in the White Paper that the pay of the Services was to be increased. I think that the whole theme of the White Paper was very sound on that subject. I liked the caption at the top of the first page, and I am sure that there is no harm in reading it over again. It said:Never in peacetime has the British soldier, sailor or airman had a more vital part to play. Never has he more deserved the respect and encouragement of all those who live their daily lives under his protection.423 Let us say that today, and let us live up to it. The labourer is worthy of his hire, and the soldier should be adequately paid.
§ Mr. E. Fernyhough (Jarrow)
Would the hon. and gallant Gentleman apply that to the National Service men already in the Forces? Are they worthy of their hire?
§ Sir W. Anstruther-Gray
Yes. I think the National Service men are doing a good job, but the conclusion to which I shall bring my remarks in a moment is that it is a good plan that we should get rid of National Service as soon as possible. Both sides of the House are committed to that. Even the principle critic, who wonders whether it may not prove impossible to obtain the necessary volunteers, my right hon. Friend the Member for Carshalton (Mr. Head), made it clear in a notable speech in November that he thought that the best thing possible for the health of the Services was to get rid of National Service as soon as possible.
§ Sir W. Anstruther-Gray
They are doing very good service in the meantime, and I have heard of no strikes among National Service men. I think their work is being well done, but I look to the future when we shall have a Regular Army consisting of men willing to join and, I hope, attracted by the present rates of pay.
Although the White Paper, with the increase in Services' pay, came at a moment when foremost in many people's minds was the need for economy, to check inflation and to be very sparing in granting any wage claim, I do not believe that the impact of these increases—up to £1 a week or a little more for a soldier, from £70 to £100 a year for most officers and just over £100 a year for a Lieutenant-Colonel—has had the effect of causing any wage claims. I do not think the industrial worker is jealous, but if he is a little jealous the answer is that the Army, the Royal Air Force or the Navy would welcome him very much.
We must hope that we shall succeed in our objective of getting rid of National Service. I see many soldiers from time 424 to time, and one and all they tell me that it is a great drain on their time to train National Service men and that it is most uneconomic when they have a man trained to do his job to find that he is leaving.
Worst of all is the damage to morale. If there are three men in a barrack room, and if one says, "Thank goodness, I shall be finished with all this in a month's time", and if the second says, "I am better off because I shall go out in a fortnight", it is not very encouraging to the third man who is a Regular soldier and who has just signed on for six years. It may be difficult for us in the House to appreciate that point of view because most of us here, apart from those who leave through old age, stay here as long as we can. It would be very demoralising if every other hon. Member said, "Thank goodness, I shall soon be out of this business. You are a mug to stay here, with no pension and having to work all night".
My right hon. Friend has now left the Chamber; he has been here a long time. My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for War is here and I should like to take this opportunity of making some remarks to him. There is still uncertainty whether the measures to get voluntary recruits will be successful and it may be that in the end the required number of volunteers will not be forthcoming. If that is so, then I urge on my hon. Friend that as long as he can get fighting recruits—and the Minister said that recruits to the infantry are being obtained—for the Armoured Corps and the teeth of the Army, he should not be unduly distressed if there is a shortage of such people as storekeepers, pay clerks, lorry drivers, hospital orderlies or cooks. The Secretary of State for War has now returned. May I suggest to him that shortages in the lines which I have indicated could easily be made good without tampering with the principle of voluntary service. I am sure that my right hon. Friend has that in mind.
May I ask whether more could not be done to enable the W.R.A.C. to take the place of men in some of these barrack duties? The same comment applies to the W.R.N.S. and the W.R.A.F. I wonder whether it has occurred to my right hon. Friend that there might be an attraction to the parents of girls who 425 might join if they were given an assurance that, except in emergencies, the girls would not be sent overseas. I have in mind that part of the women's Services could enlist voluntarily for service in any part of the world; the women would be prepared to go wherever they were sent. Another part of the women's Services, on the other hand, could have the opportunity of enlisting only for home service, except in emergency.
In pre-war days a large number of British troops used to serve for a considerable period in India while other regiments served most of their time at home, except in emergency. Both types of soldier fought equally well when an emergency arose. It was a fact that we could obtain a great many recruits for the regiments which knew that they would be stationed at home and would not have to spend several years in India at times when it was difficult to get enough recruits for regiments due for overseas service. That is a point worth considering by my right hon. Friend when he goes into these matters.
The last comment I want to make to him arises out of a Question which I asked this afternoon about officers and warrant officers who have been declared redundant and who are looking for a job in civil life. As I said in my Question, I know of more than one of these people who have been given the offer of a job in civil life, but the future employer has said, naturally, "I will take you on, but when will you be ready to start?". It has been the experience of two officers I have in mind—no names no pack drill—that they have been unable to discover when they can start. As a result, in one case the civilian employer has said, "If you can give me a date I will give you a firm offer of a job, but unless you can do that I am afraid I shall have to look elsewhere."
I was not satisfied with my right hon. Friend's reply today. He said that at least six months' notice would be given. I had hoped that officers who were about to be declared redundant would have been told by now when they would be redundant. It is no good keeping on a man too long when he knows that he is to become redundant. If a man were told that he had to go and yet he could not foresee signing on for a job on, say, 1st August, he would be rather half— 426 hearted about his work, which would not be done as well as otherwise it might be. I hope that my right hon. Friend will look into that carefully.
Hon. Members will see how easy it is in these matters to go from subjects of vital importance to smaller affairs which affect individual soldiers, but the whole thing is wrapped up in one. Unless the personnel and the accommodation are on a satisfactory basis, we have no hope of getting the volunteers we need. Unless we get those volunteers we shall not be able to have the high-class Services which we require. And unless we have high-class Services, in vain do we talk about missiles and the rocket deterrent, because, in the end, it is the spirit that matters in preserving the safety of this land.
§ 6.0 p.m.
§ Mr. F. J. Bellenger (Bassetlaw)
There was one small item in the speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown), which I wish to correct. I hope he will not mind my doing it because his speech was a well-argued one, whether hon. Members agree with it or not. He said that the Labour Party was partly responsible for 1939. I sat in this House, as my right hon. Friend did not, before the war, I saw events unfolding then as my right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) and the hon. and gallant Member for Berwick and East Lothian (Sir W. Anstruther-Gray) also did.
The right hon. Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill), who used to sit where the hon. Member for the Isle of Wight (Sir P. Macdonald) is now sitting, was constantly attacking his own Government, and being supported by the Labour and Liberal Oppositions because of the Conservative Government's lack of effort and purpose in making this country safe from Hitler. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] It is on the record. If my right hon. Friend the Member for Belper was merely saying that we bear some responsibility because we voted against the Government on Service Estimates. I can understand what he means, but, taken in the wider context, that the Opposition were responsible for 1939, I deny that emphatically.
§ Mr. G. Brown
I used the phrase, "the Government share of responsibility was greater than ours", and I said we could not escape responsibility.
§ Mr. Bellenger
In so far as an Opposition share responsibility, the whole lot of us are in the same basket.
In this debate the Opposition are at a considerable disadvantage. We are as it were, groping in the dark. Responsibility for defence must lie where it truly belongs, with the Government of the day. When we are the Government of the day we shall have to take that responsibility, as we took it when we were the Government. Hon. Members are constantly referring to some of our actions over the atomic weapon, the deterrent in those days. We accepted that responsibility and, therefore, we say that the main responsibility is that of the Government. Only they have at their disposal the facts on which to base their White Papers and policy and to say whether or not nuclear power is the right policy in certain circumstances.
§ Sir Peter Macdonald (Isle of Wight)
Although some of us point out that the Labour Party was responsible for the atom bomb, no one is blaming right hon. and hon. Members opposite for that. In fact we have supported them from the start.
§ Mr. Bellenger
I used that expression to show that when we were the Government of the day we took our decisions on the facts as we knew them. The Government have to take responsibility today when they say in the White Paper, particularly in paragraph 12, that in certain cricumstances we shall use the ultimate deterrent even before the Russians have a chance of using it. I do not propose to criticise that policy at all. I do not know the facts, the vital facts. That is one of the complaints I am constantly making in this House. Hon. Members are not taken sufficiently into the confidence of those who know. I have always advocated that there should be a military affairs committee of this House. When the Select Committee considers this matter it will have to consider very carefully, particularly after this debate, whether the House of Commons is really in a position to assess the policy of the Government adequately.
I make no distinction between backbench supporters of the Government and the Opposition on this matter. We are indeed all in the dark. All we can do is to take the White Paper as it is given 428 to us and listen to the Minister of Defence. He did very little to elucidate many of the points which are obscure in the White Paper. It is small wonder that the Opposition have to take the constitutional and traditional means of voicing this disquiet and apprehension at what they consider lack of preparation to meet something which, as much as any hon. or right hon. Member opposite, we recognise may be as great a danger as Nazism was to this country before 1939. We recognise that just as much as many hon. Members opposite recognised the lack of adequate preparation before the last war.
What can we say in relation to this White Paper that is based on any substantial evidence? Reading it, one is confronted with a series of assertions, backed by no evidence that would count—I will not say in a court of law—in a responsible assembly such as this ought to be, where many of those present have served in the Services and understand many of these problems in their wider sense. We have nothing but assertions, and even those assertions contradict themselves as one reads paragraph after paragraph. The first paragraph says:The world today is poised between the hope of total peace and the fear of total war.I am not so sure that the issue is as simple as all that. My right hon. Friend the Member for Belper posed certain questions to the Government which, as it were, go midway, or not so far on the extreme flanks as this assertion seems to go. Is the whole question one of using the ultimate deterrent on which the Minister of Defence bases his arguments, particularly in paragraph 12? If that is so, what does he mean in paragraph 5 which says:There is thus no military reason why a world conflagration should not be prevented for another generation or more through the balancing fears of mutual annihilation.I doubt whether hon. and gallant Members opposite believe we should base our defence preparations on such false premises as that. I agree that if we are to face an enemy also possessing the ultimate deterrent, obviously we must possess a means just as strong or potent as his to protect ourselves. That is the least any British Government can do, whether they stand alone or in association with allies.
Of course this is all conjecture; we cannot do more than that. I wonder whether the Russians would ever use that 429 ultimate deterrent? I do not think they would need to. They must realise, without any statement in a White Paper, that once the issue is joined it would be not a question of winner and loser, but of sheer annihilation. Therefore, I think it quite unnecessary to disturb public opinion, as the Government are doing, by putting in the White Paper an assertion like this. I doubt very much whether, if the issue came to a climax, any member of the Government would give the decision for the launching of that weapon.
§ Mr. Hale
I am trying to follow the argument of my right hon. Friend, and am certainly not trying at this moment to disagree with him, but, if the Russians are unlikely to use the ultimate deterrent—by which I think my right hon. Friend means thermo-nuclear weapons and not the new penultimate weapon we are being asked to use as a deterrent—where do we come in?
§ Mr. Bellenger
The whole idea of having force, whether it be thermo-nuclear or conventional force is the pursuit of a policy—a diplomatic policy, if hon. Members like—so that countries may gain their ends, and the Russian aims are very definite—
§ Mr. Bellenger
Perhaps my hon. Friend will allow me to continue without interruption. He may not be able to follow my argument, in which case I am sorry that I do not make myself clear to him.
Paragraph 12 of the White Paper is quite unnecessary. It says that the deterrent, the H-bomb, the thermo-nuclear weapons will be used in certain circumstances, but if it is said, as the Government say in this White Paper, that those circumstances are never likely to occur, paragraph 12 would appear to be totally unnecessary. Indeed, I wonder how much it means, or is intended to mean?
Do the Russians really believe that we will be free to use that weapon as easily as that? After all, one cannot ignore 430 the agitation, the campaigns going on outside this House, which, although they may not have been extensively reported, are likely to have some influence on the Government. They are certainly likely to have an influence in elections. I wonder whether some hon. Members will be as courageous then in the face of their electors as they may be in this debate today—
§ Mr. R. H. S. Crossman (Coventry, East) rose—
§ Mr. Bellenger
I would willingly give way to my hon. Friend, but I want to finish my speech as quickly as possible so as to allow other hon. Members to speak. My hon. Friend may then have his opportunity. I do not want to be discourteous to him.
I have a feeling—and, after all, this is only based on conjecture—that the real reason for the Russian propaganda about the possible siting of their missile bases in Albanian areas is not so much that they believe that they will use them but that they know the power of a threat. They have the experience of the Nazis before the war to teach them that often much more can be accomplished by the threat than by the actual deed. Everybody now knows that Hitler was accomplishing a lot by threats before he launched the 1939 war. The Russians have certainly accomplished a lot without going to war.
Although I do not go so far as Mr. George Kennan, with his Home Guard idea, I believe that we have to pay much more attention to factors of psychology and morale than, perhaps, to some of the physical means of defence. That does not mean that I want to dismantle our defences entirely. Of course, I do not; but I do say that the Government are failing to see the wood for the trees. They cannot see that if some of their efforts were turned to what used to be called psychological warfare, they might bear more fruit. Psychological warfare is something of which my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman) had some considerable experience. We have been told that it helped us to win the war. No less a person than Field Marshal Montgomery has said that the ratio between the moral and the physical is, perhaps, as is three to one.
431 Hon. Members may ask what that has to do with defence. I reply that it has a lot to do with it. What I regret to see is that the Minister of Defence has been sold this present policy by S.H.A.P.E. without examining it in all its aspects. The use of heavy forces to achieve their aim has been the policy of the Americans, but that is not the way that diplomacy should follow. A defence debate like this cannot be dissociated from foreign policy, and I regret that, when it comes to the political policy followed by various Governments, there is no unified command.
Today, it seems that we are tied to the chariot wheels of the United States of America. There is this latest policy of supplying this country with weapons that are not even the ultimate deterrent; weapons that, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Belper said, are of doubtful utility even at the present time. I wonder, as many do—and no evidence has been given by the Government—whether these missiles will be of value to us. Indeed, the Government dismiss that idea in part because, in the very next breath, they say that we are developing something far better.
I am not against missiles, as such. If we are to have the H-bomb, missiles are its corollary. The only difference is the method of delivery. I would prefer to see them both done away with. We listened this afternoon to a long dissertation on disarmament by the Minister of Defence, but I can see no real effort on the Government's part to achieve that—
§ Mr. Bellenger
The hon. and gallant Member for Worthing (Brigadier Prior-Palmer) can laugh that one off now, but perhaps he may see with different coloured spectacles later. I suggest to the Government that in the cold war that we are now undergoing, propaganda can be of potent value.
In the course of his speech, I interrupted the Minister to ask him to be more explicit on what he meant by doing away with conscription in 1962. Believe it or not, we do not believe him. We do not believe that it will be possible for this Government to do it, even if they are still there. Indeed, there are 432 some of us who do not believe that it will be possible for any Government to do away with conscription by then.
The Government have put certain target figures in this White Paper. As I say, I interrupted the right hon. Gentleman to ask him to say whether the figure of 388,000–165,000 for the Army—was to be the ceiling or the floor for his policy of abolishing conscription. Will the Government be frank with us, and with the country, and say that if they can reach the targets given in the White Paper they will do away with conscription; and that if they do not reach them, they will not abolish it?
It is misleading the country, and it is certainly misleading this House, for the Government to say that they are to do away with conscription; to give certain figures which appear to be the ultimate numbers on which they aim to base their policy for the Regular forces, and then to say, as did the Minister this afternoon, that we cannot plan ahead for five years hence. What is to happen in five years? The Government have given a pledge to the country, and they have to answer questions like this. So far, they have not attempted to do so.
Defence is a serious subject, and a debate on defence should not be used by either side as an occasion for partisan profit. Looking back to pre-war days, one sees that issues as serious as this were discussed with a great deal of acrimony and chivvying on both sides, and if that is to develop today it will be regrettable. Some hon. Members will say—perhaps some of my hon. Friends will say—"What you are after is a bi-partisan policy." I do not care what it is called. I am concerned with the adequate defence of the country, and not only by military means.
The Government have not taken us into their confidence. They have given us no evidence on which they can ask for our support—or, rather, as I am speaking not for my party but for myself alone, I would say that they have not produced any evidence which would enable me to support their policy, though in certain respects I can see what they are aiming at and I do not disagree on some of those matters.
I shall certainly support my own party Amendment in the Lobby tomorrow 433 night. That Amendment is quite different from the Liberal Amendment. I could not support the Liberal Amendment, even if it were moved. The Labour Party Amendment, while being couched in moderate terms, criticises the Government because we believe that the end for which the Minister of Defence said this afternoon we were working—namely, disarmament—will not be achieved as a result of this White Paper. This White Paper, in my opinion, even prejudices the possibility of a limited disarmament, and that is all that is possible in these circumstances.
I do not expect miracles. When dealing with the Russians we have got to have one or two cards which are not exposed on the table. I would say, though, that I would believe more in the bona fides of the Government if I could see some attempt to achieve that disarmament which will obviously have to come about by diplomatic methods and on which the right hon. Gentleman spoke at length this afternoon.
I would say only this in conclusion—and I hope I have kept my promise that I would not speak for too long: if the Government are right, then the outlook may be bleak but not hopeless. But if they are wrong, we shall have to pay a terrible price for what may be their folly, as we did with previous Governments before the war.
§ 6.22 p.m.
§ Sir Fitzroy Maclean (Lancaster)
With the best will in the world, I found the arguments of the right hon. Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Bellenger) a little difficult to follow, but I tried to fasten on to one thing that he said which struck me as particularly surprising. That was his suggestion that the Government ought not to frighten or upset public opinion by putting alarming things in White Papers about nuclear deterrents, and so on. That seems to me unworthy of him—if, indeed, he said it and, as he does not deny it, I think he must have said it. After all, there is nothing more important than that the British public should clearly understand the issues involved. It is most important that they should have a clear and realistic appraisal of the situation.
The other thing which is equally important is that any potential enemy should have a very clear understanding 434 of our intentions—what we are prepared to stand for and what we are not. As has already been said in this debate, it was the failure on the part of the Kaiser and Hitler to understand our intentions, and perhaps the failure on the part of the British Governments then in power to make their intentions clear, that largely caused the last two world wars. Therefore, I think that that part of the White Paper has absolutely nothing wrong with it at all.
I must admit that until this afternoon I felt some uneasiness about one specific aspect of the Government's defence policy, and that was the balance between nuclear and conventional defence. I felt that there was a danger that while we might be prepared for a hot war—which, with any luck, we shall not have to fight—we might in the event find ourselves under-prepared for the cold war which, whether we like it or not, we are fighting now and shall almost certainly have to continue to fight for a long time.
I felt in particular that there was a danger that the strength of our conventional forces—in particular the Army, which, after all, has to bear the brunt of the cold war—might be allowed, if things went on as they were going, to run down to a dangerous extent. I felt, too, that perhaps my right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence had nailed his colours rather too firmly to the mast of voluntary recruitment, and I felt that the nails had been driven home with perhaps rather more energy and enthusiasm than was called for by the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft.
For all these reasons, I was particularly glad to hear my right hon. Friend, in opening this debate, make very clear statements on a couple of points. I was very glad that he reaffirmed our 100 per cent. support for N.A.T.O. because I think there has been some doubt in Europe and in America about the seriousness of our intentions, and I am sure that what he said today will go a long way to dispel that uneasiness.
Secondly, I was very glad to hear my right hon. Friend reaffirm what was said in last year's Defence White Paper but which seemed once or twice in danger of being forgotten, namely, that it was the intention of the Government, if they were not able to get the necessary number of recruits by voluntary recruiting, to resort 435 to some form of conscription. I certainly hope that the Army will get all the recruits it needs by voluntary recruitment. I do not think that anybody in his senses wants to carry on with conscription. Nobody likes it. It is a burden on the national economy. The conscripts certainly do not like it. The Regular soldiers, whether they be field marshals or sergeant majors, do not like it either. And the party machines do not like it at all. Therefore, the sooner we get rid rid of it the better.
But it may well be that conscription is the only means by which we can get the number of troops we need to fight the cold war, and I am very glad to know that so long as a Conservative Government is in power there will be no danger that we shall not have enough troops. We can always be sure that in the event of need the Government would resort to conscription to bridge the gap.
Now, one of the things that have worried me most about this question has been the danger that it might become not a minor but a major party political issue, and for that reason I had rather hoped that the right hon. Member for Be1per (Mr. G. Brown), who opened the debate for the Opposition, would in the course of quite a long speech have taken the opportunity to make the position of the Opposition equally clear on this point. I think that quite a lot of hon. Members on both sides would have been glad to hear him do so, and I certainly would. Perhaps the trouble was that it would have meant eating too many of his own words, because he led the agitation for abolishing conscription at a time when it was quite manifestly impossible to do so without gravely weakening our defences.
But because he did not do it, is no reason why someone else should not do it later. I imagine that the two days of debate are to be wound up on both sides, and I hope that one or other hon. or right hon. Gentlemen opposite who winds up for the Opposition on one or other day will take the opportunity of saying what is the policy of the Opposition in this respect. I was much encouraged by a speech made in another place not many weeks ago by the noble Lord, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough, who, I understand, had the advantage 436 of having been briefed by the hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg). The noble Lord came very near giving the assurance which I should like to hear given from the benches opposite, and I hope that whoever winds up for the Opposition will go just that much further and give it.
If both front benches were able to make their position on this matter absolutely clear, the whole question would be taken out of party politics, where it never had any business to be in the first place.
§ 6.31 p.m.
§ Mr. Victor Yates (Birmingham, Ladywood)
The hon. Member for Lancaster (Sir F. Maclean) seemed to question the only statement by the Minister of Defence which I myself welcomed, which was his resolve to end National Service. I shall not say, with my right hon. Friend the Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Bellenger), that I cannot believe that. I am certain that any Government today, if they did not do everything possible to bring about an end to this system, would be very severely reprimanded by the nation. Opposition to it is undoubtedly widespread.
The Defence White Paper is one of a series of similar documents which I have read and heard explained in the House during the twelve years since I have had the honour to be a Member, and I feel very sad that the conception or basis behind them all, that is, the psychology of fear, should be given greater emphasis than ever in the one now before us. The great delusion in the mind of the Government is that success can be won by increasing one's power to frighten or to deter. In that way, no object worth achieving can be achieved. The Minister of Defence said a great deal about disarmament. It is impossible for any Government or Minister to go to a Summit Conference in the atmosphere engendered by this White Paper and hope to achieve success.
Since 1945, we have spent, until this year's Estimates, approximately £14,500 million, and we are now told that, in the coming year, we are to spend £1,480 million. This is a total of £16,000 million. What have we achieved by it? When I listened to my right hon. Friend the Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown) I was not sure whether he wanted us to spend 437 even more. It sounded to me as if he was not quite clear whether we should have even more weapons, more tactical weapons, dissipating even more of the nation's wealth in this futile policy called "peace through a deterrent" or "peace through strength".
The present Prime Minister believes in the psychology of fear. That is true, is it not? In 1955, he said in the House:Until the passions of mankind can be cooled by reason or by love, they must be chained by fear, and there is no other way."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 2nd March, 1955; Vol. 537, c. 2181.]That is the attitude he has maintained ever since. He went to the Summit Conference in 1955 in the same frame of mind. He complains today that that Summit Conference was not a success, yet he went to it in the same atmosphere, with all the strength he could muster, and Russia then, of course, was not so strong as she is today. When he came back from the Summit Conference, he was reported as saying, on 25th July, in effect, that it was a success. He said:There ain't going to be no war.In fact, within a very short time, the Government embarked upon a diabolical attack upon Egypt, which cost no less than £90 million, including £60 million worth of stores lost—a suicidal adventure, all stemming from the belief that in that way lay the right road.
Today, we move a step further in the intensification of fear. Paragraph 5 of the White Paper states:There is thus no military reason why a world conflagration should not be prevented for another generation or more through the balancing fears of mutual annihilation.The White Paper goes on to say:In fact, there is no reason why all this should not go on … indefinitely."—[An HON. MEMBER: "Almost indefinitely."]—The White Paper goes on to say that there canbe no ….confidence or peace so long as the arms race continues".This is all absolutely illogical, and there is no common sense whatever in those statements.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Belper, speaking in support of the Amendment before us, mentioned the paragraph to which we take such strong objection, which says: 438If Russia were to launch a major attack onthe Western nations,even with conventional forces only, they would have to hit back with strategic nuclear weapons".I must confess that I was not shocked to read that. I always understood that it was implicit in the White Papers which have come before us. Two years ago, on the last occasion I spoke in a defence debate, I quoted American statements to the effect that this was American policy then, and it seemed to me to be very clear in the White Paper at that time. The present Minister of Defence, of course, has made it clear beyond any possible doubt that the policy now is to meet what is called a major attack—we shall argue for a very long time about what is a major attack—by the use of these deadly weapons.
I believe that this White Paper, together with the agreement on ballistic missiles, spells death to our nation if this is the direction in which we are moving. It makes us target No. 1. It is an invitation for us to be attacked. It is an invitation for us to be destroyed. It is purely negative and destructive.
I was interested in a letter from Mr. Bulganin—one of the many letters that Mr. Bulganin has written in the past year or so—to the Prime Minister of Norway on 21st March last. Mr. Bulganin, of course, in this letter said what the British Government say and what, in fact, all Governments say. He said:As for the Soviet Union, we have no intention of attacking anyone.That is what is said in the White Paper. But, of course, nobody believes in these statements, otherwise how can one amass these armaments in the manner and to the extent that we do today? Mr. Bulganin went on to say:It is the natural right and duty of any state attacked to see to it that the bases set up for the attack against it are destroyed immediately. No one can expect anything else.Is it not now clear that we definitely say that, in circumstances which we shall decide, in co-operation with America, we shall not only use bases in this country from which to launch hydrogen bombs, but, that from additional bases established in our country—how many we do not know—we shall launch ballistic missiles? 439 Then we say later in the White Paper that Civil Defence remains an integral part of the defence plan. What absolute balderdash. What nonsense it is to talk about increasing the number of our bases, extending from hydrogen bomb bases to ballistic missiles, from which these rockets can be fired 1,500 miles or more and about, in fact, having any defence whatsoever from any attack that may be made.
We have become so panicstricken that the bombers have to be above, patrolling day after day, almost every hour, laden with hydrogen bombs in case an alert takes place. What a policy of despair. It cannot be based upon any true conception of the international situation today.
§ Mr. Mellish
It is a fact that Russia has rockets poised at Britain which are placed, as we all know, in strategic positions along their Eastern frontiers. My question is straight and firm. Supposing, at the end of it all, we do not get any agreement on disarmament with Russia, what do we do under those circumstances? Does my hon. Friend say that we have no defence, and, therefore, that we have to give in completely to Russia?
§ Mr. Yates
Certainly the country has to consider what the facts of the situation are, in the same way that it would have to look at the situation if my right hon. Friend's Amendment is accepted and these bases were not extended until summit talks.
I believe that this policy—and that which has gone before—has done everything to poison the prospect of peace, and the policy which we are now pursuing is doing more to poison the prospect of peace than anything this country can do.
§ Mr. Tomney
If my hon. Friend will read paragraphs 15 and 16 in conjunction with paragraph 12, he will see that disarmament proposals, originating in the 440 United Nations, went to a vote. Fifty-six countries were in favour and nine against disarmament, and the nine votes were from the Soviet Union bloc.
§ Mr. Yates
I do not accept that any nation that bases its policy upon this conception is right. I have never doubted that Russia did not make the right approach.
Looking realistically at the facts today, what we are doing is to make it impossible for a Prime Minister to go into a conference with any degree of success, clothed with armaments and bombs of the worst possible nature. One may argue, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown) argued earlier, about the military difficulties. I do not believe that the British people are concerned whether the rockets will go right or wrong. They do not want the bases here. They object to the bases being here. That is public opinion.
I have often disagreed with my hon. Friends over the past twelve years. I appreciate that I have been in a minority. Of course, this is a free House and we can express our views as we feel. I have endeavoured within the party to change what I believed to be a wrong conception. If one reads today's Daily Herald one will find that more and more people are supporting the view which many of my hon. Friends and I take. I condemn the Government because they have clearly shown that they are more concerned with preparation for war than with negotiation.
§ Mr. Yates
Yes. The Prime Minister has said, "Arm and parley"; but it is more arm than parley, as far as he is concerned. He talks about arranging "jaw-jaw". But where is he going? He says that he wants to go to the summit, but he is dragging his feet. We do not know what he wants. Who is to go with him, where is he to go, and what is to happen? This is an impossible situation. When the right hon. Gentleman reaches the summit, if he ever goes, he will be armed with all these detestable weapons, which will make it extremely difficult for him to achieve agreement.
§ Mr. Yates
I will take interruptions whence they come, but I do not wish to delay the debate. I am coming towards the conclusion of my speech and I want to give other hon. Members the same opportunity to speak as I have had.
I believe that the policy which we are now asked to approve is anti-British because I believe that it is a denial of all Christian principles. It shows a disbelief in the international brotherhood of man. I do not believe that any representative of Christianity can defend rockets being fired from this country which may set ablaze a conflagration which will destroy not only civilisation but everything which we know and hold dear in our own country.
In my judgment the Government have shown that they cannot effectively represent Britain in the councils of the world. Many suggestions have been made to the Government by right hon. Members from time to time. Deputations have waited upon the Government about international policy. Every suggestion has been declined. The Foreign Secretary, a cold and colourless man, has thrown back at us every suggestion and every idea of initiative which we have put to him.
He could have accepted the views of my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition to start with one initiative, such as unilateral disarmament or the abolition of the hydrogen bomb tests. He could have followed that up with an attempt to reach agreement with the Russians one lines which would have enabled our troops to be withdrawn from Europe. He could have done something to solve the problem of Germany, on which I have argued so many times in the House. Many suggestions have been put forward and the Government have failed to accept any of them. They come to us now with White Papers which I can only call death warrants, unless there is some change to sanity in our policy. I therefore urge the Government to think again.
I shall support the Amendment. It does not go far enough for me because I am not in favour of bases in this country either before or after summit talks. I do not believe that this is the way to peace. It is a way to hell, and I believe that the British people will show their feelings about it in due course. Let the Government resign, as the by-elections tell them 442 to resign. Let them go to the country and test the views of the people on this issue.
§ 6.55 p.m.
§ Sir Peter Macdonald (Isle of Wight)
It is not my intention to waste the time of the House in trying to reply to the hon. Member for Birmingham, Ladywood (Mr. V. Yates). We have all known the hon. Member over the years and we know that if he had his way—and this comment applies to a few others like him on the Opposition benches—not only should we not have bases in this country and not only should we not have weapons but we should not have an Army, a Navy or an Air Force today. Those are his pacifist views. Let him have them. Thank heaven they are not the views of everybody in his party.
We are discussing today a Defence Estimate of over £1,480 million, which is a colossal sum. It is the duty of the House to examine this Estimate and to see, as far as we can, that the money is well spent and that the nation, which has to pay the bill, is getting value for its money.
The emphasis in the White Paper is on nuclear weapons as opposed to conventional weapons. We know that it is inevitable that there should be a change, but what is exercising the minds of myself and many others is whether or not in this transitional period we are laying too much emphasis on nuclear weapons and neglecting conventional weapons.
My view is that there is a very important part to be played in the defences of this country today by the conventional weapon, particularly aircraft. That is why I am rather alarmed at what is happening in the aircraft industry. I am glad that the Minister of Supply is here, because I am particularly concerned at the fact that the Government have decided to scrap the S.R.177. I do not say that because it was being manufactured in my constituency. It happens to be an aircraft about which I have some knowledge, and there is no doubt that it had unique features. It was certainly a world beater in its field. It had features which no other aircraft in the world has today. It was an aircraft which the Navy wanted very badly, but which it was not allowed to have. As I suggested at the time, if 443 the Government could not carry out the full programme they should at least have manufactured two or three of these aircraft for research and development purposes.
That brings me to the question of research and development and especially to aeronautical research. We are told that we are not to have more military aircraft. If that is so, what is to happen to aeronautical research? It is vital that that should be carried on. There is no doubt that our engineering industry owes more to aeronautical research and development than to anything else. Most of the development in engineering in the last 30 or 40 years has been in the aircraft industry. In addition, we have had a very large export trade in the aircraft industry. Last year we exported over £115 million of aircraft and spares, which is no small item in these days when we have to live by our exports.
What will happen to the aeronautical industry with the withdrawal of Government support for military aircraft? Is there to be any research at all? Are the Government to make any contribution? If the aircraft industry dies and there is no aeronautical research, that will be a very severe blow to the engineering industry, to the country generally and to our export trade. It is my view that this question should be tackled immediately.
I suggest that an aeronautical research tribunal should be set up independent of the Government to investigate the whole of the aircraft industry, which is going through a very serious crisis at the moment because of Government action. I do not blame the Government. I support them in the action they have taken in trying to reduce the number of firms competing for the limited amount of aircraft under construction. That is inevitable, and it is a proper policy. I also support them in the idea that any projects which are put forward in future for civil aircraft should be financed by the firms themselves.
However, while that is happening there should be a research and development organisation set up independent of the Government and with the best brains we can possibly muster to go into this very important question of aeronautical research. Otherwise we shall in time have 444 no aircraft industry at all. Certainly we shall be beaten by other countries, and that would be a very severe blow to this country's engineering industry as a whole.
We have in the White Paper talk about deterrents. I notice that the Vulcan and Victor aircraft are mentioned and I want to know how many Vulcans and Victors exist today and how many squadrons of Vulcans and Victors we have in the Royal Air Force. My information is that there is not one single Victor squadron in the Royal Air Force today. If I am wrong I want to be corrected by the Minister who replies to this debate.
It is no use putting these things in a White Paper only to discover afterwards when it is too late that we have not really got the weapons. We had experience of that between the wars. We got a very severe shock when the Second World War came. I remember joining the Air Force and being asked to form a Hurricane fighter squadron, which I did. Then we were told we should have to go to France with Blenheims which my boys called "something" day bombers and not fighters at all, which was true. I put up a fight with authority and I succeeded in getting Hurricanes eventually before we went to France, but it was a very severe battle to get them. The reason was that they were not available, we were told, in any numbers at that time. It was quite a shock to me, because we had had a White Paper before that which told us that there were so many squadrons in the Air Force of both Hurricanes and Spitfires. In fact they were not there. They were paper aircraft. I think that some of these aircraft mentioned here are paper aircraft. If I am wrong I shall be very pleased, and I hope that a Minister will inform the House how many Vulcans and how many Victors they have in the squadrons in the Royal Air Force today.
The emphasis in this White Paper is upon nuclear as opposed to conventional weapons. One thing which alarms me is the rapidity with which we are moving from the conventional to the nuclear weapons. It takes a very long time to prove and produce nuclear weapons, and I myself do not think that we are yet in a position safely to abandon the conventional weapons, certainly not the aircraft for the defence of this country, to 445 the extent we have and we should not abandon them until we are sure we have nuclear weapons to take their place. That is the view held very strongly by people whom I know and who are in the forefront of the defence of this country today. I hope the Minister of Defence is proved right but I think he is taking very serious risks at this time in scrapping conventional weapons, very advanced conventional weapons, before he has nuclear ones to take their place.
A good deal has been said in this debate upon what is said in the White Paper about what we should do in the event of Russia starting a war. I myself think that what the White Paper says is sound common sense. It says in effect that this country and our allies have no intention whatever of making war upon any nation but if a major war is started by Russia we should use everything we have including nuclear weapons. That is really plain, sensible talk. It is language the Russians understand.
I am old enough to have taken part in two wars, and I remember that in the First World War we were told that if only we had warned the Germans before the war that we intended to come in there would not have been a war. I remember meeting the Kaiser in Holland after the war, and his one complaint was, "They never told me the truth. They lied to me. They never told me the truth."
§ Sir P. Macdonald
His own generals.
His complaint was that if he had known that we and our allies would come in there would not have been the First World War. The same thing was said during and after the last war.
Certainly there can be no doubt about what is being said today, and it is right that it should be said. It was said long before this White Paper. It was said by Field Marshal Montgomery on behalf of N.A.T.O. in 1954. This is really not news at all. I support whole-heartedly the line taken in this White Paper, because there is no ambiguity, and no one will be able to say he was not told of our intentions in the event of a war being declared upon us.
The Opposition Amendment says that the House 446declines to approve a defence policy which relies predominantly upon the threat of thermo-nuclear warfare, insists on the installation of strategic rocket bases in Britain before the projected summit talks, and fails to provide effectively for Britain's defence requirements.I will not bother about the Liberal Party's Amendment. It is typically woolly and obnoxious, as one would expect. Frankly, I cannot understand the Labour Party's Amendment because we have had speeches by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) at the Labour Party Conference, very important speeches in which he carried with him not only his party conference but the redoubtable Frank Cousins. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Mr. Cousins had to swallow his morning speech with his lunch. There was no doubt what the right hon. Gentleman said at that time. In effect it was that there was no use going into a disarmament conference empty handed. He supported the hydrogen bomb.
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes
I want only to correct the hon. Gentleman for the purpose of the record. Mr. Cousins made a very strong speech against the policy of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan). There was an interval in which he consulted his union, and there was disagreement. Mr. Cousins himself is strongly opposed to the H-bomb policy.
§ Sir P. Macdonald
That is what I said in effect After luncheon he swallowed his speech. He had to vote as his union said, as a good delegate. However, I will not split hairs. At any rate, that was the policy of the right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale at that time. I do not know what treatment he has had since, but evidently he has had some treatment and he now follows the line followed by other people, like Mr. Priestley and other fellow-travellers outside, who say that we should go to the Summit Conference without having anything in our hands at all.
Obviously, that is not the way to negotiate with the Russians. I support wholeheartedly the Government's line in this matter. They are going on with the rocket bases and their defence programme, and they have every intention 447 of doing so until the Summit Conference—if it ever takes place—decides that there should be reductions on all sides, theirs and ours. That is a policy which I understand and which I think the Russians understand as well. Certainly the Americans do. I hope that it is the policy which will be followed.
The White Paper lays down that in future we are to have a different kind of defence force in this country. The Secretary of State for Air, when he wound up the defence debate last year, said:The object of the Government's plans is to create smaller and more efficient forces, but continuity must and will be preserved, and long careers will continue to be open to good men, with the interest of new and constantly-developing equipment and techniques."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 13th February, 1957; Vol. 564, c. 1394.]Then he went on to lay stress on mobility which is a feature that I have always supported.
Instead of having our forces scattered all over the world in penny-packets we should have in this country a mobile striking force which could operate quickly in any part of the world. "Mobility" and "striking force" are the key words, but some of us suffered a severe shock when the Suez crisis occurred and found that it took ten days to get our troops to Suez from Malta. Before this debate is over, I hope to find out that a little more mobility has been instilled into the Forces since that time.
I am all in favour of a strong compact, small, mobile striking force, and I hope that that will be the new defence force of the country. I hope also that there will be more combined operations and that the forces will be able to work closer together than they have done in the past. I wish the Minister every success in his efforts to recruit a voluntary Army. I have said on more than one occasion in the House what I thought was necessary to encourage recruits for the Air Force and the Army, and some of those things are being carried out today.
First, there was the question of pay, and I think that the pay now offered to recruits to the Services is very generous. But pay is not everything. Accommodation is of vital importance. Another matter of great importance to married soldiers, airmen and sailors is education for their children and also the question 448 of leave and transport for leave. All these things are mentioned in the White Paper and are being dealt with. I sincerely hope that the Minister's hopes and prognostications for a voluntary Regular Army, Navy and Air Forces come to fruition, and I wish him every success in his efforts.
§ 7.17 p.m.
§ Mr. George Wigg (Dudley)
The hon. Member for the Isle of Wight (Sir P. Macdonald), like so many hon. Members, gives general support to the White Paper on Defence, but when its proposals affect his constituency he finds particular objection to it. In the words of the popular song:You can do that there anywhere else,But you can't do that there 'ere.Where the S.R.177 is affected the hon. Member for the Isle of Wight finds that his own political needs require him to look into the needs of the aircraft industry—
§ Sir P. Macdonald
I have been in the Air Force and have been looking into the needs of the aircraft industry for the last forty years, long before the hon. Member was interested.
§ Mr. Wigg
If the hon. Member had been looking at those needs as hard as he has been looking at them extensively, I am sure that he would have found answers to his questions.
In 1957, the United Kingdom was spending 6.48 per cent. of the United States total on aircraft procurement and 6.2 per cent. of the United States total expenditure on research and development. This marks a decline of about 9 per cent., the reason being that United States expenditure is rising all the time. If this trend continues, before very long we shall be spending 4.5 per cent. of United States output on buying and 5 per cent. of its total on research. In other words, one of the byproducts of the Government's defence policy is that the British aircraft industry will make its final bow about the middle of the 1960's.
This brings me to the most curious phenonemon in the White Paper. At a time when the requirement of the Royal Air Force is that it should supply air mobility to the central reserve, and when it is charged with the task of responsibility for the missile, we find Air Force 449 expenditure recorded in the White Paper as falling by 2 per cent. and naval expenditure as rising by 2 per cent. The truth is that the White Paper, as the Minister of Defence says, is a report on last year's policy, but last year's policy was not the origin of the Government's defence policy. In my judgment, we have to go back to the speech made by the Prime Minister, when he was Foreign Secretary, to foreign correspondents in, I think, May, 1956—the "pipe" speech. The trouble is that the Prime Minister must have been smoking hashish and become bemused rather than clear in his thinking.
The Government have failed to educate their own party and public opinion on the realities of the situation in which we find ourselves. There is no better example of this than the confusion, which is not confined to the benches opposite, which exists about paragraph 12 of the White Paper. There is nothing new about that paragraph. Field Marshal Montgomery said this on 21st October, 1954:I want to make it absolutely clear that we at S.H.A.P.E. are basing all our operational planning on using atomic and thermo-nuclear weapons in our defence. With us it is no longer: 'They may possibly be used'. It is very definitely: 'They will be used, if we are attacked'.Lord Montgomery said it again in 1956. General Gruenther said it, and so did General Norstad. Hon. Members, and particularly those of my hon. Friends who take the pacifist view and are not pacifists, and indeed some of my right hon. Friends, should listen to the concluding words of the paragraph I have quoted from Lord Montgomery's lecture. He said:The reason for this action is that we cannot match the strength that could be brought against us unless we use nuclear weapons; and our political chiefs"—that means all of us, not merely the Government, not merely the Opposition Front Bench, but all of us—have never shown any great enthusiasm in giving us the numbers to be able to do without using such weapons.I believe definitely that if ever the thermo-nuclear weapon is used, those who have played politics on either side of the House, in internal party struggles, in struggles between parties, should search their consciences. If this great country is brought to the borderline of military impotence, if it is brought to 450 the point where it can only use the thermo-nuclear weapon, it will be because we have laid down the objective and then have denied the means.
In talking about defence, I want to make one political point that arises in the realm of foreign politics. It is a comment on the statement made by the Prime Minister in his interview last Sunday night. Talking of the thermo-nuclear weapon, the right hon. Gentleman said that the fact that we were in a position to use it had a great influence on the United States. There is not much difference between what the Prime Minister was saying then about the possession of the thermo-nuclear weapon and what I understood the speech made at Brighton by my right hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) to mean.
They were thinking of thermo-nuclear power in terms of power politics, but I believe we suffer from a great illusion. Forty years ago Sir Norman Angell wrote his book "The Great Illusion", the illusion that it was possible for any one nation State to win a war. This country suffers from another illusion today, namely, that we are still a great Power.
Now I will deal with the pacifist's point of view. There was a statement in this morning's Daily Herald, which has been referred to constantly in this debate, that if this country renounced the thermo-nuclear weapon it would give a great moral lead to the world. Let me remind hon. Members of one of the quips of the last war, when in a discussion between Generalissimo Stalin about the Pope, Stalin asked how many divisions the Pope had.
That is one of the factors which count, and when we come to paragraph 12 of the White Paper, both sides of the House delude themselves if they think we have any contribution to make in the dropping of a thermo-nuclear weapon. I am a disciple of Oppenheimer and of Kennan. I did not have to wait until the Reith Lectures to become the latter's disciple. I have read and re-read "A Nation's Security" which is an abridgment of the inquiry into Doctor Oppenheimer's security record. The first lesson he taught me was that we cannot separate the bomb from the means of delivery. The two must be seen together because, if in our thinking we separate them, we get into a jam.
451 Now I will examine our capacity to deliver the bomb, at the present time or in the near future. The reason why we have been driven along the missile path is because the Minister's basic policy is to keep expenditure at not much more than £1,400 million. The right hon. Gentleman must not go beyond that figure. So last year he took the basic decision to abandon the manufacture of the supersonic bomber. We have the V-bomber and nothing more. He said—and here again is one of those little tricks which gets across to civilians but not to those in the game—that the V-bomber flies higher and faster. That was a stupid statement, because V-bombers do not fight V-bombers. We have to measure the V-bomber not against the Badger and Bison, but against the all-weather fighter which will attack it. If we want to test the V-bomber against the B-47 or the Bison or the Badger, it is not higher and faster, but can it go further?
This afternoon my right hon. Friend the Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown) asked about the stand-off bomb. A few have been ordered, but none have been made. They have not got a range of 600 miles, and they never will have. Their range is 200 at the most. So here again the Minister is on the wrong track. The development of the new technique which is brought out clearly in that admirable book on nuclear weapons by Dr. Kissinger shows that the development of the United States' hitting power comes about because they have developed a re-fuelling technique. Their B-47 and B-52 can be refuelled and their missions can be based on more than one re-fuelling.
Now let us look at the numbers. The right hon. Gentleman was asked how many Vulcans and how many Victors there are. I think that 75 Victors have been ordered and 18 have been delivered. In the case of the Vulcans, 75 have been ordered and 35 have been delivered. The total of our V-bomber force is to be, I imagine, 240, of which 160 have been delivered and are in squadron use. Now the Minister has said "No more."
Since my figures are sometimes challenged—never specifically but in general—as exaggerations when they are politically inconvenient, I will give my sources. They are the Symington Report, which I am willing to lend to hon. Gentle- 452 men, and which is entitled, "A Study of Air Power Before the United States Congress"; Kissinger, pages 100 to 103: and my own researches.
We have 240 V-bombers and the United States have 1,600 B-47's. They have produced a succeeding generation, the B-52, of which they have ordered 603, and 200 have been delivered. Following that, they developed the B-58, of which 77 were ordered and 8 have been delivered. Then they developed a fourth generation, the WS 110A, which flies at Mach. 3, which is three times the speed of sound. There followed a fifth generation, the WS 117, the WS 117L and the WS 118. These will take them up to the end of the century.
The capacity of the United States to hit compared with that of the Soviet Union is overwhelming in terms of numbers and overwhelming in terms of refuelling technique. Moreover, the West has the great advantage of geography. We in Britain are not in this business at all, and it is idle to pretend that we are. The reasons why we got caught up with missiles are purely political.
Some of my hon. Friends are very innocent—they are honourably, decently innocent. Has my hon. Friend the Member for Ladywood (Mr. V. Yates) ever asked himself why the Government produced a missile White Paper on Monday? Why not the Monday previously or next Monday? It contains nothing. It is absolute, complete slush. They did it to get the effect they wanted. They wanted to get the maximum amount of hoo-ha about missiles, and they have got it. The military truth is that once the Minister had taken his decision to cut out the supersonic bomber he had to go for the missile. Nobody followed him because he was not a major or even a minor prophet.
I can supply the Minister with 50 or 100 quotations to support the view that the Americans are continuing their manned aircraft policy. I have culled the American papers for an authoritative statement from American quarters. The right hon. Gentleman was not a prophet who was followed. He was the pied-piper without the rats. Therefore, he has to go for the missile because, to keep up our prestige, not with the Kremlin, but with the Pentagon, he has gone on with 453 the hydrogen bomb at a cost of £300 million per annum; and now we have a V-bomber force which in any case becomes obsolescent by 1963, or at any rate by 1965 at the very outside. So the right hon. Gentleman has to go on with a new vehicle as a means of delivering his H-bomb.
There is, of course, something else. Once the United States had come to the end of their B.47s, America's policy began to change. It is a matter of simple inquiry to discover that for every wing of American bombers in this country, there is a wing of tankers. In other words, we started off under a Labour Administration by being an aircraft carrier. What we have become is a petrol station and a missile-launching site.
Let me point out another odd thing about this missile policy. What my right hon. Friend said was quite right. We have been landed with the Thor, which is obsolete American equipment. The Americans have the Thor, the Jupiter and the Polaris, and they are putting their money on the Polaris. I understand that they have ordered 16 submarines capable of firing these missiles. When we talk about the Russian submarines, has it never dawned on anyone that they were built not as commerce raiders but because the Russians want mobile sites from which they can launch missiles?
There is something else that astonishes me. We have had no mention of it in the White Paper or from this side of the House. Last September, we had the dispatches of General Keightley on Suez. I ask hon. Members to use their imagination a little. Suppose there had been a Labour Administration which launched an operation in a good cause as a servant of the United Nations and then, after those operations, which had not been exactly successful, the Commander-in-Chief had come along with his dispatches and complained that there was a shortage of transport aircraft and a shortage of landing ships. If the right hon. Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill)—who I hope is now fit and well again—had been leading the Opposition, at least we would have had some Questions asked, if not a debate; but from our side of the House there has been not a word. The Minister, of 454 course, does not put a single word of this in his White Paper.
The reason I mention it now is to ask whether the situation has improved. The first thing I looked for was the Explanatory Memorandum concerning the Navy. Are we any better off now with tank landing ships? Again, let me quote the right hon. Member for Woodford. Before the war, one of his quips was that if we had handed out our defence to the Army and Navy Stores they would have done better. The parallel is that if the Government had handed over to Carter Paterson they would have done better still in the realm of transport. If we look at the figures of tank landing ships, we are no better off if the same thing were to happen again tomorrow.
But that is not all. Let us look at the question of aircraft. The Secretary of State for War has just launched an exercise. I remember that two years ago, in 1956, the formation of the 24th Independent Brigade was announced. That was excellent. These were to be the shock troops, the riot squads, who would be transported by wonderful magic carpet, flown here and flown there, to do the job.
The right hon. Gentleman has recently dispatched 500 men to Tripoli.
The Brigade embraces the 1st Yorks and Lancs Regiment, 1st King's Own Regiment and the 1st D.L.I. and the 14th Field Regiment. The aircraft used by the right hon. Gentleman for the purpose are the Beverleys. The pilot must have had to spit to get into Idris. He had to cut his pay-load because the aircraft has no range. Did the 14th Field Regiment go? No, it did not, because if it had taken the guns it could not take the ammunition. That is the situation. There is no secret about all this. It was reported in the Daily Telegraph for everybody to read.
Again, how many aircraft have we got? It is a very interesting exercise to consider the poor maligned Labour Government. I always say this, because we are an odd lot. We manage to exploit our differences, but never our successes. The fact is that under a Labour Administration—I supplied these figures with great pride the other day to Lord Alexander—we provided 170 Hastings aircraft with a total lifting capacity of 2,607,800 lb. They are obsolete now, I know, but they 455 were better than nothing. That was what the Labour Party supplied, Hastings aircraft. Let me point out to those who say that they are bad aircraft that the Government are still using them. We supplied 400 Valetta and Varsity aircraft with a lifting capacity of 3,560,000 lb. and about 150 Pembrokes—again, a tiny aircraft—making a total lifting capacity of 6,482,800 lb.
The Government have been in office for seven years and this is what they have got: 47 Beverleys, with a total lifting power of 2,538,000 lb., and 20 Britannias. These Britannias are wonderful. First, we were to have eight, then 13 and now we are to have 20. How many have we got? None.
The hon. Member for the Isle of Wight (Sir P. Macdonald) has talked about paper transactions. This is a wonderful example. The total of it all is that the Government have supplied, on paper—I am throwing in the Britannias for make-weight—an airlift capacity of 2,900,000 lb., as against the Labour Government's 6,500,000 lb. The truth has, of course, been discovered by the Americans, and it was known by us, but it was not politically convenient to say it. This time, the Minister has no excuse.
What the right hon. Gentleman is now doing is to have zoned bases—for example, Singapore. Let us go back to the White Paper. I do not think that many people have read it. They read the first paragraphs, but do not get very much further. I will not ask hon. Members to go very far through it, but let us go as far as paragraph 22. This is the Minister's policy. He states:But the very success of the deterrent"—I have proved my case that it is not our deterrent, but the American deterrent—compels the Communist Powers to seek to achieve their stated goal of world domination by other methods.It must, therefore, be expected that they will now increasingly concentrate their efforts upon political subversion, economic penetration and, where the risks to themselves are not too great, indirect military action.I accept that.
The Americans' superiority is proved overwhelmingly. Again, I will give the figures, and I will shock the pacifists by repeating them. The Americans have assessed their capacity to kill 108 million 456 Russians in two hours. Their assessment is that the Russians could kill 8 million Americans.
§ Mr. Wigg
It is not important, because we do not count in this. I have not given the Russian aircraft figures, but they show an overwhelming superiority over ours. The fact that the Russians can kill 8 million Americans means that we would go out with a bang.
Therefore, living under the shadow of the stalemate, we ought to give up this nonsense of spending £300 million on a thermo-nuclear deterrent which is quite useless. It does not deceive the Pentagon, and it does not deceive Moscow. We ought to be prepared to spend the money where it really matters.
What is our situation? Honourably, this country finds itself no longer a great Power, but still a country of 50 million people with a very high standard of life and with influence to bring to bear, not if we talk about it, but if we act and have the will-power. I am a believer in the economy of force, and I would not make any promise which I could not carry out. One of the causes of the last war was the reckless promise to go to the aid of Poland and Roumania. That is the sort of nonsense which people do not understand. If I gave a promise to commit this country to four and one-third divisions and a tactical air force in Europe, I would honour that promise.
I fought with my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) about German rearmament. We now have a proposal for disengagement. Disengagement is a new word for withdrawal, a new word for "welshing", welshing because we have committed ourselves to Germany rearmament and have not got the guts and honesty to honour the undertaking. This White Paper is concerned with welshing. We are to welsh on Europe. We have already started to welsh, but we know that in welshing we can expect the Americans to underwrite us. They have said that they will, and General Gruenther has said that if 457 there is a thermo-nuclear weapon or an atomic bomb on any N.A.T.O. country, then, as sure as night follows day, the whole force of American air power will retaliate.
But the Americans will not underwrite us in Bahrein, in the Yemen, in Malaya. We have got to deal with those areas ourselves, but because of our policies about air transport, tank landing ships and the organisation of the Army, we could not knock the skin of a rice pudding. We sent the 1st Battalion, the Worcestershire Regiment, to Honduras and to the Bahamas. I asked the Secretary of State for War a Question about their personal weapons. They had the same weapons as those with which their grand-fathers fought at Mons. I spent a profitable day at the School of Infantry last autumn, and I made copious notes. I did not want to take unfair advantage, and so I asked the Secretary of State for War to confirm my impressions.
What were our great shortages at Suez? We had produced an anti-tank weapon, but the ammunition was defective and so we used the American 106 mm. Now we have an improved version, but none has been issued. An armoured personnel carrier is vitally important in cold war operations. We have eight. The Army is littered with new uniforms, with telecommunications, with new rifles—
§ Mr. Wigg
It is not junk. It is first-class equipment, but nobody has it. We are producing the F.N. Mk. 14, but none is in use. The F.N. Mk. 8 is in use, but not the Mk. 14. That sort of thing is constantly the story.
I listened to the speech of the hon. Baronet the Member for Lancaster (Sir F. Maclean), who referred to the speech of the noble Lord Lord Mancroft. I not only read that speech but listened to it. The noble Lord had all the answers absolutely to a "T" and had all the order of priorities, accommodation and married quarters and so on. There was a new word he had discovered, no doubt because of the nocturnal researches of the Ministry of Defence—panache. There is to be no more "bull" but panache. Finally and fourthly, the noble Lord wanted to increase pay. If the noble Lord had all 458 the answers—and the hon. Baronet the Member for Lancaster wanted to nail his colours to the mast—why did the Government set up the Grigg Committee?
I do not agree that pay is the answer to the problem but I am all for more pay. Chaps join and stay in the Army because they think that their "mob" is better than another "mob". They think that B Company is better than C Company. Nothing riles them more than being in some "lousy," "crummy" unit and with equipment they know to be out of date. They know perfectly well that at the moment the British Army is ill-equipped and badly housed, and they also know that the recent pay increases were given for political reasons, as sugar for the pill.
I now turn to the perennial subject which is half of the problem, that of manpower. I was delighted to hear the statement of the Minister of Defence this afternoon about last year's Defence White Paper. His right hon. Friend the Member for Carshalton (Mr. Head) sought assurances from him which I had previously got from the predecessor of the Secretary of State for War.
The figures are not too bad. I do not want to rub it in, but I did say for about six years that we would never get rid of National Service until we got rid of three-year engagements. It now strikes me as odd that Government supporters should cheer the present figures. However, we now have to get rid of the three-year engagement and have a six-year engagement or we will have another manpower crisis in six years. If we are to keep the Services' structures right, as one lot of men go out, another must come in, and they must be in six roughly equal proportions. That is what we must aim at, although we will not get it exactly.
I cannot congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on the way he has handled the pay increases. It was a very clumsy, politically-minded action. Do not let it be thought for a moment that I am against pay increases. I still have relatives serving in the ranks of the forces, but I do not make the mistake of thinking that pay increases will solve the manpower problem. Those problems are still with us. The right hon. Gentleman ought to remember that the great success in stepping up recruiting has been gained by intelligent use of the differential.
459 I add a word of warning on a point, which I am surprised has not yet been made. The Secretary of State for Air is an honest man and tells us the truth, and he has pointed out the weaknesses in recruiting which are beginning to appear in the Air Force. The truth is that there are only so many men available. If the manpower problem is solved for the Army, a crisis is created in the Air Force. If it is solved in the Air Force, a gap opens in the Army's recruiting. The gap in recruiting for the Air Force is opening. The Secretary of State for Air says that present recruiting for the Air Force is sufficient to maintain the figure he wants when he gets it—only he has not got it. He has a gap of 10 per cent.
I congratulate him on having the courage to state that. I have had quarrels in the past about figures, and I am willing to put my figures to the test. If the present trend continues—not the trend over the last nine months, but that over the last two or three months as the Army closes its gap—the Air Force gap will be no less than 20 per cent. The Army has got off to a reasonably good start. The Secretary of State for War is getting 1,000 to 1,100 men a month, and I believe that the figure will settle down around that mark.
The Secretary of State for War is responsible to the House for the Army. He is responsible for every 1d. spent by the Army, and if anybody does something foolish he has to come to the Box to answer. However, he has another responsibility, a responsibility which has not always been discharged, his responsibility to the Army for the actions and decisions of the Government and the House of Commons. We have only £1,400 million to spend a year. There is not enough to spread all the way round, especially if we spend £300 million on prestige weapons. We must never ask the Army to undertake tasks for which the House of Commons is not prepared to provide the means. That has happened in the last fifty years. In South Africa, on the road from Mons to the Marne and back to Ypres, the ground is littered with wooden crosses showing how many British soldiers have paid the price for politicians' lack of courage. It is because I realise the difficulties and complexities of the problem that, although I am a 460 passionate supporter of deliberative assemblies such as this, I believe that we must find a new way to clear not only our own minds but those of our fellow-countrymen. The British people have never failed when they have been given a reason for action and have understood it.
At present, all is confusion; some are for the H-bomb and some are for missiles. We do not know where we are. I would remind the House again of the last sentence in Field Marshal Montgomery's speech, which I have already quoted. The fact that we live under the shadow of the bomb is because we in this House have failed. We have set the tasks, but we have failed to provide the means.
§ 7.51 p.m.
§ Lieut.-Commander S. L. C. Maydon (Wells)
I am sure that the hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) will forgive me if I do not follow his most interesting and, latterly, very moving speech. As usual, he has regaled the House with a great wealth of information and a considerable amount of wisdom.
Today, the question of defence is rapidly becoming bedevilled by pacificism, much as it was in the 1930s. There is nothing to be ashamed of in pacificism, as such. All sane people are pacificists at heart. No one who has experienced war enjoys it. Today there are no victors, no spoils and no rewards. All who take part are the vanquished and all humanity, whether involved or not, suffers. The difficulty is that pacificism tends towards emotionalism, even to the point of fanaticism, and fanaticism is bad for logic and inhibits clear thinking.
Periodically, we British people, who are naturally courageous, indulge ourselves in a frenzy of fear. We bury our heads in the sand and refuse to face facts just because they are somewhat unpleasant. This is due partly to a kind of synthetic cowardice—a sort of inverted inferiority complex which, no doubt, is encouraged by certain Left-wing interests. It is intensified by ignorance, both of our own capabilities and those of our enemies. But it is also due partly to a sensible reluctance to spend good money and productive effort on wasteful war weapons. I deplore this, and I hope that our native, common sense will quickly get us through 461 this phase, which I believe, is purely temporary, as it was in the 1930s.
Some hon. Members opposite could, perhaps, help a little more by adopting a more responsible attitude. As far as we can imagine it, modern warfare leaves us with a new outlook. We have a new type of war confronting us, where freedom of manœuvre and space for dispersal are of the greatest importance. For once it seems that the outside lines of communication are probably more of an asset than a liability.
The free world has its advantages. We do not want to be complacent about our technical lead because in many spheres it is non-existent; we are behindhand. But we, together with our allies and those who have sympathy with our way of thought, have the advantage of a surrounding and dominating position from which, if it ever becomes necessary, we are well placed to retaliate. We have one other advantage. There is only one possible enemy the Sino-Soviet bloc. We do not have to go through all those pre-1939 exercises, when we had to think out, in a rather hypothetical way, how we could defend ourselves against any possible combination of force.
If ever there is war it will be a war to defend ourselves against the Communist bloc and its satellites, or some part of them. We can count on staunch allies in N.A.T.O., the Bagdad Pact and S.E.A.T.O. The right hon. Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown) said that he saw no signs of the military alliance when he was in Bagdad. Nobody who has studied the terms of the Pact, or has been to Bagdad, would be so mistaken as to think that the signs of that alliance, in a military sense, were to be visible for all to see in the city of Bagdad, which has no strategic position in that part of the world.
I welcome the statement made in paragraph 12 of the White Paper, to which so much reference has been made. It is well that it should be understood without any shadow of doubt that we cannot contend on equal terms in conventional weapons, and that if we are faced with serious threats we intend to use the ultimate weapon to defend ourselves. We are always being told that the Soviets have 500 submarines. In my opinion, we cannot possibly enter into a naval arms race to try to meet that U-boat threat from Russia, ship by ship and force by 462 force. The only logical answer today is that we will be prepared, under threats from under the sea, on the surface or in the air, to use the nuclear deterrent to defend ourselves.
I also welcome the ballistic missiles agreement. It adds earnest to the statements in the White Paper. It is significant that only yesterday Moscow Radio beamed its British broadcast sending to us a virulent attack on this forthright statement of policy. It is undoubtedly unwelcome to the Soviet, for it diminishes their power in Europe. That is the only sort of thing they understand. How foolish we would be to take the Socialist advice and not implement this agreement until after the summit talks. That would be throwing away one of the court cards we have in our hands.
§ Lieut.-Commander Maydon
Why does the hon. Member think that the Russians are in such bitter anger?
§ Lieut.-Commander Maydon
They have been directing a virulent attack against us by radio, but the hon. Member completely misunderstands Russian psychology if he thinks that that denotes bitter anger. Far from it. If we were to do as has been suggested and wait for the summit talks, how long should we wait? Who knows that Russia will agree? She has talked a lot about it, but she has talked about a lot of things in the past. We should like to see a little action and not quite so much talk. How do we know that we can immediately carry our allies with us? How long will it take us, the Western free nations, among ourselves to reach agreement on what is to be prepared, the agenda and other matters for preparation?
Assuming that we reach the day when our leaders meet in some neutral capital, how do we know that any solid good will come of it? We have been through all this exercise before, and little good it did us. I am very sceptical about it.
§ Lieut.-Commander Maydon
The hon. Member can call it defeatist if he likes. When one has seen that sort of thing worked up with all the fanfare of publicity, as we have seen very recently, and then seen that it has achieved nothing, there is good reason to be sceptical about it. I believe Khrushchev is a realist. He does not respect weakness and appeasement any more than his predecessor, Stalin, did.
One feature which comes out in this White Paper is, I think, most remarkable. The total cost of the nuclear deterrent, ballistic missiles to carry it, the strategic bomber force and all the related research and effort accompanying it, is one-tenth of the total Estimates, about £140 million, which is approximately equal to four times what we pay in support price for pigs. It hardly makes sense to my mind. I feel that we are taking enormous risks in cutting these things so fine, although at the same time I realise that we just cannot afford to spend more money.
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes
As I represent an agricultural constituency, I should like to know what objection the hon. and gallant Member has to pigs.
§ Lieut.-Commander Maydon
None whatsoever. I think the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) misunderstood me. Nevertheless, I will not be drawn on that.
There has been much criticism in the Press and elsewhere of the new weapon Thor. I believe the Minister has the best available advice at his disposal. British scientific competence is not negligible. We have produced some good weapons and some good machines of peace for ourselves in the past. Scientific advisers available to the Minister are well provided with the most up-to-date knowledge to assess the possibilities and probabilities of these untried weapons and then to make a final choice.
In this new and rapidly developing technique, there is always room for error. Undoubtedly mistakes have been made in the past. That should not mean that we should be frozen rigid in our places and never take a step for fear of making mistakes. There is criticism of this weapon because it relies on liquid instead of solid fuel. Where they get their knowledge I do not know, but some say that it takes far too long to prepare for its first state of readiness.
§ Lieut.-Commander Maydon
There are natural and understandable arguments about hard and soft launching pads. Future developments for putting these weapons, or some other weapons, underground, are bound to be expensive and it will be difficult to find sites. I do not think the criticism of Thor is nearly so valid as the criticism of the airborne strategic bomber forces. In these days these machines are becoming ever more vulnerable to modern defence techniques. They require a tremendous manpower effort and expense in design, in research, in production, and, finally, to bring them into service in large numbers.
They have a somewhat vulnerable starting point on large airfields which take up valuable land required for other purposes in this very small country. Those airfields are very easily identified as military targets and can be neutralised immediately war commences. We have to look for a new mechanism for bringing retaliatory power into action. The weapons with which we are likely to be faced travel at 2,000 or more miles an hour.
We have to imagine that in a period of international crisis the whole radar defence of Great Britain will be set in action. Hon. Members can imagine a girl, a W.R.A.F., a W.R.A.C., or a W.R.E.N., sitting watching a radar screen. Suddenly upon that screen is presented what technically is described as a blip, or a series of blips, approaching these islands at a very high speed. In a matter of seconds, that radar operator has to decide whether those little pinpoints of light, streaking across her screen, are missiles coming towards this island, or whether the machine, temporarily, has gone wrong, or whether there is some meteorological reason for those blips. Finally, with all her training she makes up her mind that it is the real thing, and presses the alarm. Then the decision has to be reached whether this is the start of a major war and whether we should put in train all our own retaliatory methods.
I think it is far too ponderous and therefore far too dangerous, and for that reason I feel that we must find a new method. The method which immediately comes to my mind is that of the submarine weapon. If we placed these 465 retaliatory missiles in submarines we should remove many of the political prejudices which arise through having these infernal machines based in our Islands. We should remove the disadvantage of having a fixed base, whether it be hard or soft. We should reduce the cost of the strategic bomber forces, because submarines can carry these weapons far more economically and in far greater numbers than can a large number of bomber squadrons.
I believe that we have to set our hearts on Polaris—the Pole Star, well named—or perhaps a future development of it; and I trust that it will be a British development of a retaliatory missile with nuclear warhead which can be fired from submarines in any place in the world. These missiles will be fired from submarines at considerable depths. This would lead to complete dispersal of our effort so that it was invisible and mobile, and therefore no longer vulnerable.
I am told that the submarines of the future, certainly nuclear-powered, will be able to carry about 32 of these weapons. They will be able to remain at sea for a very long time owing to their nuclear propulsion. They will be cheaper in money, cheaper in active manning and cheaper in maintenance manning. There will be no elaborate airfields or launching pads, for these undersea craft can use any of the world's harbours for revictualling. They will not need refuelling, because their fuel will last for years. They will be far more effective. At times, if necessary, they can be used as anti-submarine weapons.
In my opinion this is the weapon of the future, and our money could be much better spent on it than on many of these transitory weapons—I hope they are transitory—on which we seem to be spending so much at present.
§ 8.12 p.m.
§ Mr. R. J. Mellish (Bermondsey)
I think the House will agree that the speech of the hon. and gallant Member for Wells (Lieut.-Commander Maydon) was very informative and interesting. It came from an hon. and gallant Member who is an expert in his own field. One of the contributions which he made, in which he suggested that missile bases could be sited on submarines, raises only one of the many questions to which we hope to have an answer this evening from the 466 Government Front Bench. Many questions have been posed in the debate. My hon. Friend the Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) posed so many that I hope that a list was taken of them, although I noticed that throughout the speeches it did not appear that many notes were being made on the Government Front Bench. The hon. and gallant Member for Wells certainly made a very interesting point.
I have some sympathy with the Minister of Defence. He has a very difficult task to perform, bearing in mind that his defence policy has to be based on what the foreign policy is at the moment. When we think of the present set-up at our Foreign Office we realise how difficult is his task. In my view the Foreign Secretary is about the most incapable man in the House to hold that office. To see a Minister of Defence trying to devise a defence policy around the activities of that right hon. and learned Gentleman is an interesting spectacle. The Minister of Defence has indeed a difficult task.
We have talked a lot today, as we have in the past, about summit talks. What frightens me about the summit talks is that when they are held our Foreign Secretary will probably be there. I can imagine no greater disaster for Britain than that the Foreign Secretary should attend these talks on behalf of this great country. In view of the Foreign Secretary's past record I always believe that when he goes into the councils of the world and argues a case for Britain it is like an immoral woman arguing a case before the Marriage Guidance Council.
It is time that we put on record once again from this side of the House that we recognise that the prospects of getting peace in the future, with the present Government and, in particular, with the present occupant of the Foreign Office, are very remote. I repeat that I have some sympathy with a Minister of Defence in this Government who has to construct a defence policy around the sort of results which we can expect from our present Foreign Office.
I want to tell my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley that he is not the only one who has read the White Paper all the way through. He may be surprised to know that one or two of us have read it, although I should be the last to claim his great knowledge of defence 467 matters. Nevertheless, I have read the White Paper carefully and thoroughly.
It frightens me, although not for the same reasons that it frightens my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Ladywood (Mr. V. Yates). It frightens me for other reasons. To begin with, it has contradictions. It frightens me by what is left out. The references to collective security, for example, are shocking. I regard it as deplorable that we read in the White Paper that only now, for the first time, have we initiated discussions with some of our allies in N.A.T.O. about research on certain weapons. In the first part of my speech I want to deal with what I regard as a very important part of our defence policy today and tomorrow, and that is our relations with our N.A.T.O. friends.
I am one of those who thinks that N.A.T.O. means a great deal and I am not one of those who wish to abandon the alliance, because I believe that we should gain nothing by that. But if N.A.T.O. is to mean anything at all there are a number of priorities in which by now we should have achieved a great measure of success. For instance, we should by now have tried to get the alliance working effectively in the standardisation of armaments and common production.
The Government have been in power for nearly seven years and they are responsible for our present position in our N.A.T.O. alliance. What has been the result of that alliance in the standardisation of armaments and the common production of armaments? What money has Britain saved by pooling with our allies? The Secretary of State for Air is here, and perhaps he can confirm what I say. I have read that there are six types of jeeps in the N.A.T.O. forces and that not one part of them is interchangeable. We have not enough ingenuity amongst us to produce even one jeep which is standardised.
If hon. Members turn to the White Paper they will see that a clear statement is made in paragraph 26 as follows:The members of N.A.T.O. possess between them the world's greatest manufacturing and scientific capacity. If weapon research and production could be jointly planned, considerable economies in time and resources could undoubtedly be secured. Within the framework of the Western European Union, Her 468 Majesty's Government have, during the current year, initiated discussions on this subject with the French, German and Dutch Governments.
§ Mr. Hale
I am sure that my hon. Friend is aware—indeed, much more aware than I am—that the difficulty about having standardised jeeps and guns is that we have only 15 divisions between us in Western Europe, of which five are American and fully equipped, about four are British and 50 per cent. equipped, and the remainder are not equipped at all. There are no French divisions because they are all in Algeria. We have 15 divisions against 275 divisions. That is the result of our N.A.T.O. planning in which there is frequently no consultation between N.A.T.O. and the heads of Governments.
§ Mr. Mellish
That was a jolly good speech from my hon. Friend, and I do not quarrel with most of it. I merely say to him that what I am objecting to in the White Paper is that no explanation is given as to why there has not been an effective planning job in N.A.T.O. I say that, down the years, standardisation and common production should have been regarded as the first essential.
Then we come to the sharing of costs in N.A.T.O. What has been done about that? Is there a common pool? Are we, as one member of this great alliance, paying more than we should? If we are, what is the reason? Why is there no mention about that in the White Paper? I should have thought that the other essential of an alliance would be a common assessment of military needs. Have we that common assessment? Do we know what N.A.T.O. requires of Britain, and what Britain requires of N.A.T.O.? Is there any real common policy?
I now make a reference to the Royal Navy. Look at the so-called co-ordination of the strike force. It was always supposed that our Royal Navy, in the event of a major war, would bear the brunt on the seas; that it was, in fact, to be the strike force. The Minister referred to that today, and seemed to have a guilty conscience about it. As far as I understand, it has now been decided that the main function of our Navy is to be confined purely to anti-submarine warfare, with carriers in the Atlantic and the Mediterranean equipped with helicopters for this work, and that it will not be part of the strike force.
469 Has this been decided in agreement with our N.A.T.O. allies? Have they approved of what we have done? What I say may not suit those of my hon. Friends who have purely pacifist views, but these are matters that are important to me, because I believe that N.A.T.O. is worth while. If it has not been done in consultation, the Government should give an explanation. In any case, this change of function makes absolute nonsense of earlier White Papers—I have been doing a bit of homework, and have been reading back. Is it N.A.T.O. that has altered the previous concept of a strike force of which the Royal Navy was to be the main part?
My first condemnation of the White Paper, therefore, is that, apart from a few glib phrases about collective security, about our good friends in N.A.T.O., about the fact that at last—and it has taken us since 1949—we have instituted discussions with the Dutch and the French Governments on a common plan for research, we have heard no more about what N.A.T.O. is really doing in this way.
Vice-Admiral John Hughes Hallett (Croydon, North-East)
Can the hon. Gentleman define what exactly he meant when he said that the Navy had always been regarded as a strike force? I thought it never had been. I know that the Americans have favoured the idea of close support for the Army, but I wonder what the hon. Gentleman had in mind for this country?
§ Mr. Mellish
The hon. and gallant Gentleman's knowledge of the Royal Navy is, of course, far greater than mine, but I find, on reading previous debates on this subject in this House, that it was always considered that the function of the British Navy, at any rate in European waters and in the Mediterranean, was to play the major part of a strike force in the event of a nuclear war—that it would be especially equipped for strike force purposes—rather than to be just a purely detection force, as is its present function. That is an entirely different part for the Navy to play—
§ Mr. Patrick Maitland (Lanark)
Surely the traditional rôle of the Royal Navy is to protect the sea lanes.
§ Mr. Mellish
I am talking in terms of modern war. I have always understood that the Royal Navy's part was to be a striking force, with carriers and so on, and possessing nuclear weapons and the rest, and to attack the enemy. We hope to find out more about that. I ask again: was this change—if there was a change—made in conjunction with N.A.T.O. itself? If we have changed the policy, we are entitled to know whether our allies were consulted.
I am glad that my hon. Friend the Member for Ladywood is present, because I want to say that the next part of the White Paper that frightens me—though not in the same way—is paragraph 12. My worry is that, once again, the Government seem to have lagged behind our N.A.T.O. friends. If paragraph 12 correctly defines the policy of Her Majesty's Government—and I do not want to go fully into the question of whether or not it is the right one, and what I think of nuclear weapons—it is certainly not the policy of the Americans now.
It was the Americans' policy about a year ago. They believed that if there was an attack from the East with conventional arms the only answer to that massive attack would be the ultimate deterrent. That was their point of view then, but they have changed it now. Mr. Dulles has moved away from that.
Only last October, in the American quarterly review, Foreign Affairs, he dealt with the strategy of collective self-defence and, talking of the deterrent. said:In the future it may thus be feasible to place less reliance upon deterrence of vast retaliatory power. It may be possible to defend countries by nuclear weapons so mobile, or so placed, as to make military invasion with conventional forces a hazardous attempt.He goes on to argue that the idea that in the event of an attack made by ordinary conventional forces the Russians should be attacked in Russia is obsolete, and yet that is what we see in paragraph 12; that we should immediately drop the H-bomb on the Russians themselves. If the Americans have moved away, and we have moved in, why have we done so? Again, has there been consultation on this with our N.A.T.O. allies? Has there been consultation with them, not only on the question of our Army being coordinated with those of our allies, but 471 on the question of military strategy? It would appear from the White Paper, and this is one of my main criticisms, that Britain is going it alone to a very large extent, and we need a good deal more assurance from the Minister of Defence than we have had so far to convince us that that is not so.
From paragraph 12 we go to paragraph 28, and at once find the contradiction that I mentioned earlier as frightening me. Paragraph 28 completely contradicts what paragraph 12 says. It talks of what we would do in the event of a mass attack and speaks of our dealing with mass conventional armies by fighting them on the ground. The White Paper seems to me to have been written in an arrogant way. One paragraph denies another, and there is no idea of any general strategy.
Now I turn to the question of missile bases. I do not see much difference between a missile base from which rockets are fired and a base from which aeroplanes fly with H-bombs. I think it is illogical to say that the possession of one is wrong without saying that possession of the other is wrong. We either get rid of them both or we have them both. The whole purpose of my party's policy in this respect is to make it clear to the Government that now that the three great powers—Russia, America and Britain—have the ultimate deterrent, we have reached a stage where each country can destroy the other. We would certainly be destroyed. We could probably partially destroy Russia, and the Americans could totally destroy Russia. But how much more do we want than the existing ultimate deterrent? I do not know.
I would remind the House that I am dealing with the purely military argument and I am not speaking on moral grounds. My party believes that we have reached a complete stalemate and that now is the time for Britain to set an example—something that we have never done in N.A.T.O. We have never given a lead to N.A.T.O. We have never said what N.A.T.O. ought to do and how it ought to be done. It would not be a bad idea if we tried to set an example now. That is why I beg Her Majesty's Government to take this initiative. The tragedy is that we are asking 472 the Foreign Secretary to do it. It makes me shudder to think that we are asking him to do so. However, he is in office, though for how long I do not know.
In saying that we do not want missile bases in this country, I am not arguing party politics. I genuinely believe that our hand must be strengthened if we can say to the Russians, "We have made certain gestures of good will; we have abandoned H-bomb tests unilaterally." It is not a bad thing in trade union affairs, if one is in trouble, to go to an employer and say, "This is how I have tried to meet the situation".
But right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite seem to be convinced that this attitude of ours is purely one of party politics. It is, in fact, a genuine belief by the party to which I belong that we have all come to the stage in world affairs where we all have the ultimate deterrent and that we ought to take this opportunity to see how far we can go to make these gestures to which I have referred. If at the end of the day, after all that we have tried to do, we get a "No" from the Russians, I hope that some of my hon. Friends who spend a lot of their time criticising, and quite properly, our defence views will attack the Russians. I cannot accept the idea that all that we do—not only Britain but my party—is wrong, whereas whatever the Russians do is right.
§ Mr. V. Yates
My hon. Friend should know that many hon. Members on this side of the House who take the same view that I take have condemned Russia for her actions, such as her action in Hungary, which was an outrage to human dignity.
Perhaps I might also make this point. My hon. Friend has accused me of being frightened, or something. I am not. But I have been in this House long enough to take a philosophical view of these matters. I am only sorry that he does not see that the extension of these missile bases is a considerable extension at an additional cost, and does not give us the security that the White Paper would have us believe.
§ Mr. Mellish
I am sorry if my hon. Friend misunderstood my use of the word "frightened". I do not say that he quaked in his shoes or that he lacked personal courage. I never thought that 473 a pacifist was without courage. I believe that in this day and age more courage is required to be a genuine pacifist than is required by the average person who automatically and blindly signs as a conscript. It takes a lot of courage to be a conscientious objector provided, of course, that we can distinguish between the genuine conscientious objector and the man who is not genuine. That is always the problem.
All I am saying is that besides pointing out where Britain is going wrong—and, of course, we have a perfect right to do that as a democracy—let us now and again say something about the Russian policy which has put us in this plight. I am one of those who believe that Ernest Bevin died of a broken heart trying to get peace. In 1948 when Russian policy drastically changed, Britain under a Labour Government was headed for a policy which none of us wanted but which we had to tolerate. We all want peace. I want peace as much as the hon. Member for Ladywood does. I have got five sons, and I cannot tell him how badly I want peace. They are growing up, and will be eligible for the Army. All I am doing is to say that the strategy in this White Paper is wrong. We have no real idea of a N.A.T.O. alliance and of how it ought to work.
I have been disgusted to think that, over a number of years, we have not got more out of N.A.T.O. and our other alliances, but I believe that, in the ultimate, we must have adequate defence forces for this country. I have said so to my constituents so many times that they are sick and tired of hearing me. At the last General Election, I had an anti-H-bomb candidate against me. He had the lot—anti-H-bomb; £5 a week old-age pensions—he had every solution in the world, and he got 700 votes.
The people of Britain are not fools. They want peace more than anyone. The British people deserve peace, but they are fully alive to the fact that one cannot glibly say that all the problems of the world are due to this or that British Government. They are the problems of foreign policy dictated by foreign Powers. My complaint is that we have an inept Foreign Secretary. I feel sorry, really, for the Service chiefs who have this wretched man round their necks, getting them into trouble; they have to 474 arrange their policies and defence forces in such a way as to try to meet the troubles he brings them. Suez is only one thing. I will not go into that again.
§ Mr. George Lawson (Motherwell)
Would not my hon. Friend agree that a party gets the Foreign Secretary it deserves?
§ Mr. Mellish
That is a fair point, although I do not think that even that Front Bench deserves all that lot.
As regards Service pay and allowances and the problem of recruitment, I understand that we are to have an Army Estimates debate some time next week. My hon. Friend the Member for Dudley who is, perhaps, one of the greatest experts in the House in these matters, and who does so much research, posed the question which the Minister of Defence really ought to answer instead of telling us the sort of things he says in his White Paper. Even assuming that we can achieve a Regular Army of 165,000 men, I wonder how it will be possible to manage, considering the commitments we have today.
I do not believe that, even when a Labour Government come back into office in 1960, these commitments will automatically disappear. I do not believe that we shall get rid of the Cyprus problem overnight. The Turkish-Cypriot demonstration last week showed us that. We shall not solve the problem of Cyprus easily though we should like to. We shall not solve the Far Eastern problems or Middle Eastern problems overnight. We can wish and pray that we will, but we shall not find them easy. We shall need adequate "trip" forces in various parts of the world, and I am wondering how we can do it, with 165,000 men, in view of our present commitments. I should like to hear much more about that.
I believe that my party last week, through the speech of my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition, made it perfectly clear to the nation where we stand. We support N.A.T.O. We believe in a military alliance of that character. We have said that the time has come when certain gestures ought to be made, in order to ensure that the summit talks will be conducted in the right atmosphere. My right hon. Friend said all these things, and we 475 support him. I only pray that we can knock some sense into hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite so that they may understand that, if they do these things, it will not be party weakness on their part but the offering of a gesture of goodwill. If, at the end of the day, they fail with the Russians, then we shall have to think about missile bases and H-bomb tests, but let us show that we have tried. If we try and fail, at least we shall have done our best.
§ 8.39 p.m.
§ Mr. Julian Ridsdale (Harwich)
When the hon. Member for Bermondsey (Mr. Mellish) was speaking to his hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Ladywood (Mr. V. Yates) about taking a foreign point of view, I was reminded of the quotation at the beginning of Guedalla's "Life of Lord Palmerston"—But in spite of all temptationsTo belong to other nationsHe remains an Englishman!I am sure hon. Gentlemen will agree that we must remain that, whatever may be our international outlook, however broad, towards foreign and defence affairs.
I hope the hon. Member for Bermondsey will not think me discourteous if I do not follow in argument some of the points he made. I agree with many of the things he said in the course of his speech, though naturally he would not expect me to agree with all his criticisms.
I am sure we shall all agree that the object of our defence policy is to protect British interests. Yet surely now, unless we admit that suicide is inevitable, its goal must also be to build up a position in which disarmament, both in the nuclear and conventional spheres, can become a practical reality. That is why I welcomed the remark of the Minister when he said that we were building up our defence forces because we were going flat out for disarmament. I am certain that no one believes that this objective of disarmament can come unless we speak from a position of strength.
What must we do so that we can speak from a position of strength? First, the Leader of the Opposition has said that it would be fatal to approach the problem of disarmament unilaterally as we did before the war. I welcome that statement. Secondly, 476 I am sure that the lesson of the 'thirties, not to mention our experiences in 1956, is that a House divided against itself cannot stand and cannot carry out an effective foreign or defence policy. In those years, in the 'thirties, the Peace Ballot and the Fulham by-election not only influenced our leaders to go slow on rearmament, but also made the German leaders think that we were soft and were not prepared to protect our vital interests. We shall not get another chance if we make these mistakes again.
It is against this background that I view the establishment of these missile bases in East Anglia. I know that certain people say, "Ban the H-bomb and its successor, the missile". I do not deny the sincerity of genuine people who take that pacificist view. However, I hope that the House will recognise my sincerity when I say that I am convinced that the existence of the H-bomb and its successor, the missile, is not only the best safeguard against it being used, but is also a supreme bargaining counter for disarmament. We cannot discount lightly the threat to this country of 500 submarines, especially when we recall that the Germans at the outbreak of war had only 57 U-boats and when we think of the trouble that they caused. I must admit that I am much more in favour of sea-borne bases. Surely such bases would be far less vulnerable. If it becomes necessary to develop further these suicidal weapons, I hope that this point will be seriously considered.
But why should the nuclear warhead remain in American custody? Will this be altered when the MacMahon Act is amended? Once the MacMahon Act is amended, let us hope that we shall see the same kind of Anglo-American co-operation as we saw during the war. I trust that by proper Anglo-American co-operation we shall avoid duplication in the development of these very expensive weapons which we have been building up to now.
I regard the amendment of the Atomic Energy Act as part and parcel of the policy to have missile bases in this country. But if we are to speak from strength, how vital it is that we should maintain our alliances. I know that the Leader of the Opposition in the foreign affairs debate said that he supported N.A.T.O. But almost every other speaker on the 477 Opposition side during the foreign affairs debate, except the right hon. Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison), did not seem to appreciate that disengagement without safeguards would be bound to undermine N.A.T.O.
Would not a disengagement which left Germany disarmed and neutral be likely to cause another Korea in Europe? Do not let us forget the lesson of Korea. Disengagement was carried out in 1949, but in 1950 a war broke out which resulted in one million casualties. Is not this enough warning of the dangers of a too hastily conceived policy of disengagement? Could, or would, we be indifferent to a German civil war?
Surely disengagement would lead to American withdrawal from Europe. Yet was not one of the mistakes of the prewar period that we failed to get the United States to play her part in the balance of world power? Indeed, if America had played her part in Europe before the war I am certain that peace would have been preserved.
However, I must admit that the situation before us is one which we cannot but approach with humility. Certainly, the problem is not one which we can consider in any hastily conceived manner. The consequences of a faulty decision are far too great. It is with this thought in mind that I submit that when both sides have the H-bomb as effectively as we have it today the strategical use of the bomb is very unlikely, for surely no statesman in his right senses will take the decision to press the button which will end our civilisation?
Yet I can conceive of a situation in a few years' time when a ruthless general may, because we have not sufficient balance in conventional forces, take a risk, on the ground that the existence of the nuclear bomb, on both sides, precludes its strategic use. Such a mind might then take the risk of a limited war, gambling on the sentimentality of the West and democracy against the use of the bomb in a strategic manner.
It is with these thoughts in mind that I look upon the present proposals being put forward for disengagement. I must say that they make me extremely nervous. We must be careful to ensure that, if they are carried out, they do not lead to a weakening of N.A.T.O. caused by the detachment of the German contribution 478 if disengagement came about, and eventually complete American withdrawal from Europe. How dangerous that would be at a time like this when we have to rely much more on conventional weapons supported by a tactical deterrent as the chief safeguard for peace; for I am convinced that the growing possession of the nuclear bomb by both sides will preclude its strategic use.
In these circumstances I am not a bit surprised that those who support the extreme Left should be advocating the dismemberment of N.A.T.O. and the destruction of regional military pacts. I can imagine nothing more in Russian interest. What disturbs me very greatly is to see how widely this view is held by the Opposition, though I admit that the Leader of the Opposition has in the House paid lip-service to N.A.T.O.—
§ Mr. Geoffrey de Freitas (Lincoln)
Surely the Leader of the Opposition made it abundantly clear that our whole policy is to support N.A.T.O. It is most important that that should be realised.
§ Mr. Ridsdale
—but I must honestly say that when I listened to the speech of the Leader of the Opposition and heard him at the beginning of his speech say that he supported N.A.T.O. and at the end of it talk about the policy of disengagement—without the safeguards that I have been suggesting—I wondered how sincere he was in advocating that policy. I am sorry that I cannot withdraw what I said, because it is a view which I hold and feel.
But, Mr. Speaker, I feel bound to say I am one of those who has been advocating that we should spend less of our national income on defence because I am convinced that we have been shouldering too heavy a share of the Western defence burden. However, though I realise how difficult are the economic consequences for the West as a whole, I feel that those who are richer than we are should look again at Western defence strategy now that we are reaching apparent equality in nuclear power. Surely, once this point is reached, the threat of conventional forces 479 supported by tactical atomic weapons will be of vital importance to deter a major attack.
Has not the time come, therefore, for us to view with concern the growing disparity between the conventional forces of East and West? Surely, the argument against the Rapacki Plan is that Russia has great superiority in armoured formations, and that if we had an area in which atomic tactical weapons were not used we should give the Russians a decisive military advantage. It would be a case of letting the Russians, if alas war were to break out, to arrange the terms of the fighting in their favour. How unwise the West would be to agree to such a plan, unless the Russians were willing to carry out a large-scale disarmament agreement on conventional forces and weapons so as to redress the balance of arms.
I do not believe that at present the Russians think it is in their interest to have a major war, though I am certain that they realise far more than we do that the real battle to be fought out between the Communist world and ourselves is a battle for men's minds, for the minds of newly-emerging countries in Asia and Africa. That is why we must be careful in planning defence strategy that we do not get committed to a race in heavy conventional armaments, as well as developing nuclear and atomic weapons.
We must pay attention to the economic factor in defence planning. Indeed, it was disregard of that factor in the Far East that led us to drop atomic bombs. We must balance very carefully our military and economic resources so that we can win the economic battle in Africa and Asia as well as see that we have an adequate defence.
Let us, however, keep our objective clear in mind. It is not war. Indeed, nuclear war today is suicide. Perhaps if every time we used the term "war" we used the word "suicide" as well we might get more quickly to our objective of disarmament. But surely the lesson of the 1930s was that unilateral disarmament by itself would achieve nothing, except to make aggression more likely. What matters is the balance of armaments, because it is only when we have that balance that we can negotiate to bring the level of armaments down.
480 I take the view that we have about reached that balance today. That is why I believe that, providing we remain steadfast and do not panic, there is reasonable hope that some agreement in disarmament, disengagement and nuclear weapons can be reached. But if the Austrian Peace Treaty is any example, it will not be without a great deal of negotiating for a long period. At least it would be something to make a start, but if we want to succeed let us be clear that we must speak from strength—and strength in democracy and in our democratic world must be based on unity of outlook and action.
§ 8.54 p.m.
§ Mr. Thomas Steele (Dunbartonshire, West)
I suppose that it is convenient that a two-day debate on defence should follow so shortly after a two-day debate on foreign affairs. The hon. Member for Harwich (Mr. Ridsdale) indicated in his speech that he believed that even in a defence debate a speech on foreign affairs was very relevant and to the point. After all, the need and nature of our defence is determined by success or failure in our relationships with other countries. Therefore, inevitably foreign affairs and defence are interwoven in our debates. This is not surprising, because a great deal was said about the White Paper last week and much has been said about foreign affairs today.
The first twenty-one paragraphs of this White Paper deal exclusively with matters handled by the Foreign Office. Whether or not they are intended as a bridge for the present Minister of Defence to cross into the Foreign Office, I do not know, but no doubt time will tell. Leaving foreign affairs aside, I think that we have had a good debate, with many constructive suggestions, and the Government have been subjected to much severe criticism.
First, as was to be expected, a great part of the debate took place on the interpretation of paragraph 12. There were some interjections when the Minister of Defence dealt with this matter, and my right hon. Friend the Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown) got the Prime Minister himself to his feet to try to elucidate the policy. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Lancaster (Sir F. Maclean), when he discussed it, rather indicated that my right hon. Friend the Member for Bassetlaw 481 (Mr. Bellenger) said that he ought not to put frightening things in White Papers. I do not think that is the point. I think the Government have completely missed the criticism on this matter. It is true that the Minister of Defence and hon. Members who have spoken from the Government benches have said that what was wanted was a blunt, clear statement, and that is what appears in paragraph 12.
Other paragraphs among the twenty-one opening ones actually show some of the constructive things the Government had been trying to do, but unfortunately they were completely lost in the publicity. All that the newspapers seemed to grasp was paragraph 12 and what it meant. Another difficulty was that there was a feeling of hopelessness. For the first time the public began to realise exactly what the policy of the Government meant, and out of it all there arose this feeling of hopelessness. There was nothing constructive and no suggestions or alternatives came across. That is why I think the Government themselves are to blame for much of the criticism which has been aimed at them in this matter.
President Eisenhower dealt with the deterrent in his message to Congress in which he asked for a sum of £1,408 million for foreign aid. Curiously enough that is practically the same figure as this Government are asking for to cover the entire defence policy. Even so, in his message to Congress President Eisenhower said that foreign aid itself was a good deterrent to general war. In those first twenty-one paragraphs of the White Paper there is nothing like that. They are devoid of any constructive ideas, and the only thing which comes out clearly is that this Government have said bluntly and plainly that they will have the courage to press the button for suicide if that should be necessary. I say to the Government that it would be much better if the Prime Minister today pressed the button for a General Election and allowed this Government to commit suicide at the polls.
Secondly, questions have been raised about the location of guided missiles in this country. Apart from the fear and anxiety which has been expressed on this matter, my right hon. Friend the Member for Belper who opened the debate from this side, dealt with the position most effectively from the standpoint of military 482 effectiveness. We would like an answer on that from the Minister of Supply.
My right hon. Friend devoted considerable time to the contradictions in the White Paper in paragraphs 12, 28 and 38 and the difference of approach between the Minister of Defence and the Prime Minister. The Minister of Defence was in some difficulty when trying to explain his policy last year. Frankly, we are not much clearer today. While we welcome the Service Ministers into the debate this year, it is a pity that the Prime Minister is not winding up the debate on this occasion so that we could have his personal views on this important matter.
I should like to say a word about paragraph 78 concerning the cost of defence. It is difficult to get actual figures because of the method of presentation, but I understand that. £1,465 million is given as the estimate for 1958–59. The White Paper goes on to say, however, that as in previous years, this figure does not take into account receipts in respect of the local costs of our forces in Germany. This item is estimated at £47 million, so that the Estimate to be presented will be £1,418 million.
Despite what the Minister of Defence said today, I do not think there is any evidence to show that we may expect any contribution from Germany in this direction. I agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Belper that that is wrong, but looking at the facts as we see them today, it is hardly likely that a contribution will be made. Two problems, therefore, have to be faced. One, which was mentioned by the Minister himself, is that of foreign exchange. It is possible that the question of foreign exchange could be solved. I understand that certain discussions are proceeding, but it is such an important matter that we should have more information about it.
It is also true that in paragraph 43 of the White Paper the Minister of Defence has given a warning thatin the event of adequate financial assistance not being forthcomingthe Governmentfill … have to reconsider the size of the British … forces … on the Continent.That is all very well and it may in effect, by a reduction of forces, ease the balance of payments problem. That, however, 483 has nothing to do with the actual cost. Whether the troops remain in Germany or are brought to this country, the cost has to be met. The Minister will have to decide, and very soon, how it is to be met. It may be that he will have some idea about cuts in another place. It may be that very soon we will have a Supplementary Estimate. On the other hand, it was, after all, a sum of £50 million over which a senior Member of the Government has already resigned. The Minister of Defence, however, would be much more likely to get promotion.
§ Mr. Steele
For the same £50 million. One thing is perfectly clear, the introduction of nuclear weapons, guided missiles and reliance on the deterrent does not, as some people would have us believe, give us defence on the cheap.
Despite what the Prime Minister said, and despite what the right hon. Gentleman said in explaining his policy, many hon. Members on this side of the House criticised the Government about reliance on the deterrent and were doubtful about not maintaining conventional forces. I was rather interested in President Eisenhower's message to Congress on 19th February, when, referring to mutual security, he said:Our defensive power must be directed as well towards deterring local aggressions which would lead to global war or to peacemeal absorption of the free world by Communism imperialism. It is imperative that the free world maintain strong conventional forces capable of dealing effectively with such aggressions whenever and wherever they may occur. America alone cannot maintain such forces on the scale required. They must be developed by the threatened nations themselves.I wonder how much consultation there was between the Government and the American Government on the policy of the deterrent as put forward in paragraph 12 of the White Paper.
The point was also brought out by Admiral Briscoe, Allied Commander-in-Chief, Southern Europe, in answer to a recent article in the Washington Evening Star. The whole implication of the article was that the rapid shift to guided missiles would be cheaper and would require fewer personnel. I have no intention of quoting the whole of the Admiral's statement, interesting though it 484 was, but the point of it is that in his view, after forty years of active service, any new weapons never meant any reduction in costs. He went on to give this warning:Less there be some impression that I am against guided missiles, in any form, I wish to reiterate that we must have them and have them in quantity and types. But I feel that it is a mistake to sell the plan for new weapons to the nations of the free world on the basis that it will give them a more effective defence with less expenditure of men, money and industrial capacity.That is more or less what the Government have been trying to do, but with the bill for this year increased and with no contribution from Germany, their illusion about defence on the cheap should now be killed.
While we are discussing the White Paper, we never get an opportunity to discuss the Estimates of the Ministry of Defence. I was interested to note that in the Minister's own Department there is an increase of 74 in the number of staff compared with last year. The only economy I noticed was in accommodation and it seems that the 74 extra people are to be squeezed in any how. There is also an increase of 126 in the number of people sent from this country to N.A.T.O. That is a total increase of 200. It is all very well if the increase comes from greater integration in the Services at home and greater co-ordination in the services of N.A.T.O. It could then be justified. But as I look through the White Paper and the other documents I see no evidence of that. Tomorrow we may be told why the Minister of Defence requires this extra staff.
We welcome the Minister of Supply to the debate. I take this opportunity of saying something about Transport Command, in which I am sure he is interested. Last year my right hon. Friend the Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Bellenger) raised this matter most effectively. In an intervention in my right hon. Friend's speech the Minister of Defence admitted that we did not possess adequate air support, and he claimed that the Government were determined to have it. We want to know the extent of the Government's determination. Last year we were told that Britannias would be ordered, and this year we are told that they have been ordered. That represents some advance. 485 But since we were told by the Minister of Defence that adequate air transport was the linchpin of his whole policy we should be told a little more. He should tell us when he expects delivery of the first Britannia, and when he expects to have them all in operation.
I put this point because not so very long ago I led a deputation from a Dumbarton factory to the Minister of Defence; I have no doubt that he remembers it. The aircraft factory at Dumbarton was tooled up to produce a certain part of the Britannia at the rate of three per month. The deputation went to the Minister because work on the Britannia had stopped. The men on the job were dismissed, and they are now on the street. It seems crazy that the Minister of Defence should talk about adequate air transport being the linchpin of his policy while, at the same time, workers who could produce the required air transport are turned out on to the streets. The accusation of being crazy mixed up kids should be levelled entirely at the Government.
Many questions have been asked about the number of men and the weight of equipment to be transported by air, but the Minister has always refused to be drawn in this matter. Two weeks ago Exercise Quickstep took place, and it would be interesting to have the views of one of the Service Ministers upon it. I understand that the Secretary of State for Air will be speaking in the debate, and he will no doubt say something about it.
It is clear from the White Paper that the intention is to build up heavy stores at various parts of the world. It is also evident that they will be transported by sea. If it is the intention to keep ships in readiness at certain points to ship the heavy stores I should like to know if the necessary number of ships will be available. The whole point of having a central reserve in this country, and to use air transport to get it to any given point, is surely speed of operation. If so, there is little point in flying the men to a given point and leaving the heavy equipment still lying in the depôt.
Last year the Minister of Defence received many compliments for having written a White Paper all by himself.
§ Mr. Steele
It was even whispered that he rewrote it twelve times before the final draft was printed. As to the section headed "Sea Power," it would seem that his effort last year left him completely exhausted, because the paragraphs under that heading have been lifted almost word for word from the speech made by the right hon. Gentleman in the House last November.
§ Mr. Steele
The reference to seapower begins with the usual formula:the Government have reviewed the rôle, composition and disposition of the Royal Navy.It should be remembered that this comes after the White Paper issued last year in which we were informed that the whole character of the defence plan had been revised and we were given an outline of future policy, a five-year plan. In that plan we were told that the rôle of the aircraft carrier had become increasingly significant. That was elaborated in the debate on the Navy Estimates which followed, and we were given a picture of what was intended. The conception given to us for the future was of a streamlined Navy,consisting of carrier task forcesfully balanced and independent, and able to bedeployed in the most advantageous manner round the world.Those were the words of the Secretary of State for War, who was then Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty. He went on to say:No other military organisation can be so self-sufficient, so mobile and so versatile."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 13th May, 1957; Vol. 570. c. 56–7.]Having been given what appeared to be a clear picture of how the Navy was to be organised, we are told that is not so. The only "fully balanced task force" will be the one based on Singapore. As for the rest of the Fleet, the White Paper reflects that as:the Royal Navy will be operating in conjunction with other allied navies,balanced British forces will not be necessary. I am not disagreeing with that 487 point of view. It might be very sensible in so far asoperating in conjunction with other Allied naviesis a form of insurance against another Suez, but it leaves a lot of questions unanswered. My right hon. Friend the Member for Belper illustrated quite clearly a number of contradictions in policy which various paragraphs in the White Paper make with one another. In that connection, I find it difficult to understand what the new rôle of the Navy is to be when set against what is said in paragraph 12. If a major attack or full-scale attack takes place, what then? We are told that our Navy will thenmake the most effective contribution to the combined forces of the Alliance".I ask the House to note the words, "effective contribution". May I ask what with? Not surely with the four cruisers which have not yet been delivered and are already obsolete. There is nothing in the White Paper to indicate that the Navy has any part to play in the deterrent policy. It is true that today the Ministry of Defence gave us the reason. It was going to cost too much.
The threat of Russian submarines is often mentioned in our debates. I am not here attempting to minimise the risk, but is the use of a carrier with helicopters the best anti-submarine defence? It certainly is not the least expensive. That perhaps is the one virtue of this decision, which is in line with what has already been said about carriers—flexibility. It will enable the Minister next year, if he so desires, to change his mind on this policy. That would not be surprising. The Marine Commando carrier borne forces is in line with the suggestion made from this side of the House last year, but it is obvious, as was made clear in the White Paper on the Navy Estimates, that work has not yet been started on this project and it will be a long time before it can be in operation.
All this brings out what I believe to be something of overriding importance, on which I think we are entitled to have an answer. On what basis, on what consultation and with whom are these decisions taken?
For instance, all this presupposes a degree of co-operation and planning among the N.A.T.O. countries which I 488 am very doubtful exists. Paragraphs 24, 25 and 26 of the White Paper, which deal with collective defence, are excellent in so far as they set out the benefits which would be obtained if the countries involved were prepared to do something about it, but paragraph 24 starts with an "if" and ends only with an expression of hope that ways may be found. It is nonsense to be still talking in these terms after so many years.
Why I raise this matter about the organisation of the Navy is simply that if what was said in the White Paper about the rôle of British ships with N.A.T.O. is the outcome of an agreed plan, it was quite unnecessary to be so pessimistic in paragraphs 24 and 25. One cannot help but get the impression that this decision was not the result of any discussions with N.A.T.O. and that in fact little consultation took place. How can there be proper planning and co-operation as long at this chopping and changing goes on and these apparently independent decisions are taken? When the right hon. Gentleman was challenged on this very point by my hon. Friend the Member for Bermondsey (Mr. Mellish) he gave the whole show away, because he started by saying not that we consult N.A.T.O. but that we tell N.A.T.O. Those were his words, which I noted.
Paragraphs 24 and 25 deal with collective defence in the political and military sphere. Paragraph 26 deals with co-operation in the industrial and technical field. In this paragraph I find a statement which is extraordinary. This is how it reads:Within the framework of Western European Union, Her Majesty's Government have, during the current year, initiated discussions on this subject—that is, on weapon research and production—with the French, German and Dutch Governments".Hon. Members may wonder why I say that this is an extraordinary statement. Let us look at the composition of Western European Union. In it there is an agency for the control of armaments, but there is also a Standing Armaments Committee charged with this very task of developing co-operation among the member countries in the field of armaments research, development and production. What has this Committee been 489 doing? If I ask that question, as I do, can I get an answer? Is there any Minister here who is responsible for what happens there and can give us an answer?
I have been looking through the reports of the Western European Union on this point. The Minister of Defence is smiling, and there is no reason why he should not smile. I have been looking through these reports to try to find some evidence of co-operation, but instead of finding any evidence of co-operation I found nothing but criticism. It is evident that nothing is being done. If this work is being done by N.A.T.O., then it is all right. We should be the last to criticise, because it is certainly not our desire to see any duplication of the work, but the White Pa per does not give us that impression, particularly in paragraphs 24 and 25.
The implications of those paragraphs go far beyond the word "co-operation". I have no doubt that in time much more discussion will take place on that than is taking place today, and I think it is well that the House should bear in mind that the more defence is entrusted to international bodies the more difficult will it be for this House to know exactly what is happening.
At present, although we may probe the Government, it is difficult to get answers as to exactly what is happening in N.A.T.O. and in paragraph 13 of document 63 of the Third Ordinary Session of the Assembly of Western European Union there is a very significant observation which this House would do well to ponder. It is this:There is, however, no Parliamentary supervision in N.A.T.O. Governments alone are directly informed. Ministers transmit to their Parliaments only what they think fit, and in case of disagreement, Parliaments are only given one side of the story because, as the N.A.T.O. Council cannot engage in public controversy with governments, they cannot make a quarrel known, nor can they state their own point of view. The peoples rely on N.A.T.O. for their security, but they do not realise that they are badly informed of the real situation.What is the real situation? What is it that we should know, and what is it that we are not being told? The lowest danger is that there is not sufficient cooperation, and the highest danger is that there is no co-operation at all, and that the whole system is not working. 490 We should have some information on these matters.
Let me turn from the contemplation of co-ordination, or the lack of it, abroad to what is being done at home with the three Services. If this White Paper is, as it purports to be, a progress report on the White Paper of last year, I would like to point out one omission. There is absolutely no information about what has been achieved in research and development. Attention was drawn last year to the great shortage of scientists and technicians, and to the consequent necessity to restrict the programme. From that, one would have thought that we would be given some information this year about how this problem had been tackled.
It is true that the Navy has "The Way Ahead" Committee. It is also true that, as far as one can see, the Army has begun sonic studies leading towards the simplification of administration and the reduction of paperwork. That is, no doubt, a very excellent idea, but both of these are internal committees, and I should have thought that the Minister of Defence would have been giving some attention to the co-ordination of effort both in weapons and materials, and that he could have given us some information on this matter.
I have been doing some homework, and have been reading some of the excellent reports of the Select Committee on National Expenditure during the last war. I must confess that some of the examples of lack of co-operation, both between the Services and between the Services and industry, are almost impossible to believe. I am certain that the Minister desires efficiency. He would be well advised to take heed of much that that Committee had to say.
The three Services, after all, are all being equipped with guided missiles. The Services may have different functions but, basically, they must have much in common, both in the initial development and in production and the hon. Member for the Isle of Wight (Sir P. Macdonald) drew attention to this matter in his speech. Surely the Minister of Defence has some powers of investigation or co-ordination so as to ensure the necessary co-operation in these things. There are a lot of other matters which he should 491 tackle, if he had the power to do so. Has he that power? That is the question.
Not long ago, the Prime Minister announced in the House that new powers had been given to the Minister of Defence. When the Prime Minister was questioned about this, and whether, in effect, it really meant the abolition of the present arrangement of Chiefs of Staff and, perhaps, the appointment of a Chief of Staff with central direction, he rather led us to believe that all these matters would be considered. Has that consideration taken place and, if it has, can we be told anything? Is anything likely to follow from it? If not, are we to assume that everyone is satisfied? I believe that co-operation and co-ordination, both at home and in N.A.T.O., are terribly important. The House will agree that it is necessary from the point of view of efficiency. As a member of the Public Accounts Committee of this House for a number of years, I can assure hon. Members that it would bring about some economy. May I say in conclusion that never were effective and efficient forces, allied to economy, more necessary and essential than they are today.
§ 9.30 p.m.
§ The Minister of Supply (Mr. Aubrey Jones)
This debate, like most defence debates, has been rather far-flung, and I am afraid I could not possibly hope to follow it into all its ramifications. But I feel fortified by the thought that there are other Front Bench speakers tomorrow.
I think the best thing I can do is to talk about—
§ Mr. Jones
Yes; I suppose that is closely related to my Department. In other words, I will talk about weapons. The right hon. Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown) came near to suggesting that weapons were a neglected subject, and he asked me some pertinent questions, which have been repeated by the hon. Member for Dunbartonshire, West (Mr. Steele). In due course, I will try to answer them.
To talk of weapons is to talk about technology, both military and civil. There is no real distinction between them. As I have just been reminded, we have 492 had during the last few months a very significant demonstration of technological power in the launching of the Sputniks. Anybody who has seen them with the naked eye will realise how extremely impressive they are. The White Paper says that the Sputniks do not of themselves alter the balance of deterrence merely because a deterrent is such a great weapon that these small changes do not upset the rough balance.
I do not think, however, that we ought to ignore the fact that the Sputniks offer us a confirmation, if indeed we needed confirmation, that in certain aspects of technology Russia is ahead of the Western world. I think this is one of the most important defence problems that we have to face. It is a matter of immense military significance and can be of immense economic significance, too.
I think we ought to ask ourselves how it has come about and what we should do about it. Of course, there are several explanations. We live in an industrial age, and I suppose it is natural that revolutions nowadays should identify themselves with industrialisation. The Russian Revolution did. It has thrown up a cult of science and technology in a degree which perhaps we in our older industrial civilisation do not fully grasp. I do not, in fact, think that we do fully grasp it. But I do not think it is the only explanation, or the more important explanation.
The more important explanation, to my mind, is this. I would affirm—and I grant it is a very bold affirmation—that there is nothing, provided it is scientifically possible, that cannot be achieved in the realm of technology, given a sufficient concentration of resources. The point is that a totalitarian society like Russia can bring about this concentration of resources, and a free society like ourselves, distracted as we are by the multitudinous private claims, cannot bring about such a concentration. This, I think, is our real dilemma, and it is to this that we have to find a counter.
The hon. Member for Dunbartonshire, West provided a counter. It is not just education, although I grant that something has to be done in the way of technological education. I hope none of us will show much sympathy with the Oxford Classics don who was in the common room when the first Sputnik was 493 launched and said to his colleagues, "Drat the Sputnik coming just at this time when all the talk of extending technological education is dying down."
Of course, we must have technological education. The point I am trying to make is that education in itself is not the answer. It is not an answer to the greater concentration of resources which a totalitarian society can command. The answer is the answer, which I fully accept, just given by the hon. Gentleman, namely, closer technological co-operation between members of the Western alliance.
I ask hon. Gentlemen to remember that we are but one member of an alliance, and the answer does not, therefore, depend entirely upon ourselves alone. One appreciates how much it depends upon others if one looks at the difference between the situation when the war ended and the situation now. When the war ended, there was, between the Americans and ourselves, full and frank exchange of technological information. What was more, there was informal agreement under which the Americans concentrated on some things and we concentrated on others. They, for instance, concentrated on transport aircraft. Very important also was the fact that there were no currency difficulties; they were not allowed to stand in the way of the transport of arms.
Since the war, there has been a great change. We have had currency difficulties. More important and more significant, certain security barriers have been raised which impede the full exchange of information. Half the technological resources of the whole Western alliance are on this side of the Atlantic, but I am afraid that the two halves, during the past ten years, have not been yoked to the common purpose. It was in order to do something about this that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister went to the United States last autumn. He initiated a movement which, of course, is now to be continued.
What we are after is not only closer co-operation with the Americans but closer co-operation with the European countries also. The hon. Member for Dunbartonshire, West mentioned Europe specifically. I go so far in meeting him as to say that the scope for co-operation with Western Europe is certainly as great as that with America, particularly since, 494 as I see it, the industrial and strategic problems of Western Europe and ourselves are much more alike.
The hon. Member for Dunbartonshire, West asked how one reconciled the bilateral discussions mentioned in the White Paper with the multilateral discussions proceeding under the Western European Union Agreement. They are perfectly reconcilable; the one does not contravene the other. The justification for the bilateral discussion is that, very often, greater progress is made between two parties than is made between several. The bilateral discussions were decided on in order to facilitate the multilateral discussions. There is no conflict.
One hon. Gentleman earlier in the debate mentioned the crux of the whole problem. As I see it, it is no use deciding, at a late stage, that one country should develop and produce one weapon, and another another. What is needed is that, right at the outset, countries should get together to determine their weapons requirements and then, after determination of the joint requirements, they should allocate or share out the work. The great obstacle to be overcome is the—shall I say?—affront to national pride which interdependence causes.
I came across an example of this in going to a French aircraft works some months ago. The French had there a weapon which seemed to me to be perfectly serviceable, and I asked whether they had sold it in large numbers to the N.A.T.O. countries. The reply was "No, for the simple reason that, when representatives of other countries come here, they go away thinking to themselves that they can do something better, that they can improve on this". There is this affront to national pride. But we have become reliant on other countries for some of our weapons. Some might say that this is a qualification of external sovereignty and external freedom. It might mean that. The point of what I am saying is that we are matched against a totalitarian régime. In that match, I doubt whether we can sustain absolutely unimpaired external and internal freedom.
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes
In matching ourselves with the U.S.S.R., has not the right hon. Gentleman to bear in mind that it is not only the totalitarian aspect of the U.S.S.R. with which he has to compete, but their socialist planning?
§ Mr. Jones
As put by the hon. Gentleman, I have difficulty in appreciating the distinction between the two things. I would say that the second is subordinate to the first.
There has been talk in the debate about the Government's scientific establishments. My hon. Friend the Member for the Isle of Wight (Sir P. Macdonald) particularly mentioned this matter. Our great strength in this country—I am not trying to be boastful about this—vis-á-vis the Americans lies in basic or fundamental research, the kind of work done at the Government scientific establishments. I think that these scientific establishments of the Ministry of Supply are the real silent service—the Navy has nothing on them. I should like to pay them a compliment and say that they have achieved very great results with very slender resources.
There have been complaints of high expenditure and so forth, but we have achieved results with, as the Americans would put it, research on a shoe string. That is an absolute fact. I think also, apart from the basic research, we also compare well with the Americans in weapons. Take, for instance, the P.1 fighter, the first real supersonic fighter. The Americans have produced a whole range of supersonic fighters—the Century series, known as the F.100, F.102 and F.104 and so forth.
§ Mr. Harold Davies (Leek)
They are very touchy. Be careful. The right hon. Gentleman will upset them.
§ Mr. Jones
The right hon. Gentleman might well be anticipating events. I have not the faintest idea what the German mind is on this matter. He is mistaken if he thinks that this particular aircraft has been rejected by the Germans.
Surface-to-air and air-to-air missiles are now entering their final trials. Indeed, I think that they have already started. 496 They are up to the standard of and equal to any current American weapon.
Of course, we have weaknesses. Some of them have been mentioned today. The hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) made a speech which I regret I was not present to hear. He dwelt in some measure, I think, on the theme of our weaknesses. One of our weaknesses—a weakness often described by the Americans—is that, while we are extremely good at ideas, we are, so it is alleged, slow in developing the ideas and subsequently brought into production. It is because of this criticism and this possible weakness that some months ago I announced that, in placing future aircraft orders, regard would be had not only to the initial design but to the ability in the shape of production and technical resources to develop and complete the weapon and bring it to a successful conclusion. I am sure that that was the right decision. I think, then, that we have a technical contribution to make to the collective effort.
Much of the debate has been concerned not with our technical contribution but with our strategic contribution. Questions addressed to me specifically by the right hon. Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown) were concerned with our strategic contribution. I wish to say something about that matter. A collective defence effort tries to provide for every contingency. Jointly, the whole alliance tries to provide a deterrent to global war, a preparation for conventional war, a preparation for limited war and a preparation for police operations.
There are some people who would say that the principal rôle of this country should be preparation for police operations and localised emergencies overseas. I would not disagree with that. The White Paper does not disagree with it. That emerges from paragraph 38. What we have done over the past two years, over the period of the two White Papers, is to revise our conception how the rôle—"our principal rôle", if hon. Members like—can be met. Both White Papers have said that the rôle is better met not by large numbers of troops stationed at odd places round the world, but by a small number of troops made mobile. I accept the corollary, and if I do that, then I ask the right hon. Gentleman in his turn to accept the fact that, once the 497 conception is changed, the extra mobility cannot be given overnight.
The mobility has two facets—the troop-carrying aircraft and the freight-carrying aircraft. Plans have been announced for the expansion of the troop-carrying fleet. The hon. Member for Dunbartonshire, West may see no concrete results in the form of employment in his constituency, but the expansion is nevertheless planned. I should have said that in the view of most authorities the number of troop-carrying aircraft now provided for is adequate.
§ Mr. Frank Beswick (Uxbridge)
When the Minister says the expansion is planned, does he mean that the orders have already been placed or that it is proposed to give orders?
§ Several Hon. Members rose—
§ Mr. Jones
The other aspect is the freight-carrying aircraft. The right hon. Member for Belper suggested that this 498 subject was being entirely neglected. That is not so. If he will look at the Memorandum accompanying the Air Estimates he will find it stated there that as the Britannias come into service, so the Hastings are switched to freight. Also there are in this country certain designs for freighters for short range and long range. These designs are undergoing close examination to ascertain whether or not they match the requirement. I cannot say more than that, but the subject is not being neglected.
The right hon. Gentleman also asked me some other very important questions. If I may recapitulate, I accept that it is an important and possibly a primary rôle of this country to prepare for localised operations overseas. But I cannot accept that this is the only rôle for this country and that because this is an important rôle we should therefore be excluded from any contribution to the nuclear deterrent. In speaking about the summit talks and giving the Opposition's case that American missiles should not be accepted in this country before the summit talks, the right hon. Gentleman attempted to buttress this political argument with a military one, namely, that since the propelled bomb is under development any missile is unnecessary.
Why are we developing the propelled bomb? We have V-bombers, and it is economical to extend their life as far as possible, but I hope that the right hon. Gentleman does not delude himself into thinking that even the V-bombers, equipped with propelled bombs, are invulnerable. They are vulnerable to the long-range interceptor and to surface-to-air missiles. The whole theme of my speech is that in certain aspects of technology the Russians are ahead of the West. Is it not, therefore, prudent to conclude that this vulnerability will come far sooner than we originally thought?
I remind hon. Members that a little over a year ago the Russians threatened this country with a missile over the question of Suez. I am not arguing Suez policy. But let us observe that at that time we were threatened by the Russians with a missile. And since eventually the only answer to a rocket is another rocket, ought we therefore to delay in equipping ourselves with rockets?
§ Mr. Jones
I am not saying that they are out-dated. I am saying that it is economical to extend their life but we ought not to assume that their invulnerability will last as long as we thought possible six months ago. Therefore, it is prudent to have as soon as we can the successor weapon. The Thor missile is the first version of this kind of missile in the West. The right hon. Member for Belper made great play with the alleged deficiencies of this weapon.
§ Mr. Jones
The right hon. Member is making a great mistake if he thinks that at the very first effort one can reach perfection in any of these things. Of course there are improvements to be made in this weapon. This is the sole reason, or at least the main reason, why we are developing a missile of our own.
§ Mr. Jones
There must be improvements in all kinds of ways. The weapon is more suited to our range than that of the Americans, for it is a medium-range and not an inter-continental missile, and there is a geographical reason for our undertaking development of the successor weapon.
There is also an industrial reason for our undertaking it, and it is my answer to those who suggest that this country ought not to be contributing in any way to the nuclear deterrent. My answer is this. I was most impressed, when in the United States a few months ago, to observe the way in which a new industry had gathered round the ballistic missile. The ballistic missile offered to American industry a challenge. It was calling into being all kinds of new techniques, new 500 materials, which were bound later to fertilise civil industry. We are an industrial country, more than any other living on our industrial and technical skill, and I ask myself, is it right that we should be excluded entirely from this knowledge?
§ Mr. Jones
It is an additional reason. I have given a military reason. There is an industrial reason, and I also think there is a political reason, namely, that the alliance ought to have a balance of power within it. I would not like to see any lopsided alliance. For these reasons, I think that we in this country ought to make a contribution to the nuclear deterrent, provided that it does not distort our military pattern too much and does not cost too much. On this question, I would like to say that we would welcome the development of the ballistic missile as a joint project with any other European country which agrees to participate in it.
Lastly, the hon. Gentleman the Member for Dunbartonshire, West talked about costs. Weapons are costly not because of any maladministration by the Ministry of Supply. I think I can talk objectively about this, since like most scapegoats, it is an innocent one. Weapons are costly because cost is inherent in the nature of the weapon. These weapons become more and more complicated and more and more costly.
As I see it, the Russian Sputnik calls for an enlarged technological effort by the West. Granted this cost, granted this extra effort which I think we have to make, the scope for reduction of expenditure is therefore limited, and I feel that one of the things we have to do is not only to look for financial economy but to try to extract more in the way of results of civil usefulness from the military research and development work we do. It is untrue to say that this work is entirely wasted. There would not be any such thing as nuclear power today if it had not been in the first place for military nuclear power. Even now the Atomic Weapons Establishment is making a significant contribution—
§ Mr. Jones
It is. If I may conclude, the argument which I have tried to put is that we are confronted with a totalitarian society. We are all of us believers in freedom, but we ought not to blind ourselves to the fact that in the short-term, the intermediate term, the totalitarian society has the advantage of concentration over the free society. What I am trying to suggest is that we have to try to counter this advantage in the way of extra co-operation between the members of the alliance, and also by co-operation between military and civil technology. I think that the most vital task facing us is to overhaul the Russians in technology, and I think that on our success in that the whole future of the Western world ultimately depends.
§ Debate adjourned.—[Colonel J. H. Harrison.]
§ Debate to be resumed Tomorrow.