§ 3.31 p.m.
§ Mr. George Brown (Belper)
I beg to move,That this House deplores the refusal of the Government to establish a Committee of Inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the initiation, continuance and cancellation of the Blue Streak missile which has involved the expenditure of a large amount of public money on a project long believed and now officially declared to be of no military value.I suppose that I should start with a word of sympathy to the present Minister of Defence and perhaps even extend it to the Ministers who occupied his position before him. In a way, the present Minister is in the awkward position of having to take the burden of the bowling and to stand up to the fast ones that come for a decision on a problem which was not of his own making at all. To that extent, it is for him a rather peculiar situation.
I think that even for the right hon. Gentleman's predecessor, the present Minister of Aviation, who will figure more prominently in this debate, there is this to be said. On an issue as complicated and difficult as this, where movements of technological development are as fast as they are in this sphere, he would be a foolish man who would not admit that it is quite easy to make a mistake and to be wrong. If researches were made into all our past speeches, as has happened with some of them, I do not think that anyone would say that he is sure that, looking back on it, nowhere in the record has he not said things that he should not have said. It is right that that should be said and to offer to share what sympathy there is in that respect.
That gives me the opportunity to say that our criticism against Ministers is not that they made mistakes in an area where mistakes are at least possible. Our criticism today is that they persisted in an error of judgment, which, whatever may be said in mitigation of its original commission, they persisted in long after it became apparent to almost everybody that it would turn out to be a costly and abortive failure.
Since the beginning of 1958, we on this side of the House have had a growing conviction that that was so. At the beginning of 1958, when the Minister 212 first announced that we were producing this particular type of missile, we sounded warnings, as I shall show. In the middle of 1958 we reinforced them and from the beginning of 1959 we went on record as being firmly convinced that it was a mistake. We have held that view ever since the beginning of 1959.
There is a major criticism that the Minister of Aviation and his colleagues, and notably the Prime Minister, have to meet. After all, the Prime Minister is Chairman of the Defence Committee of the Cabinet. He has been the Prime Minister in a very real sense in all major defence decisions for some years. Only a year or so ago he altered the defence set-up from what it had been and demoted the position of the Minister of Defence and correspondingly raised his own. This is as much a criticism of the Prime Minister as it is of any other Minister. The criticism that they have to face is that they committed this enormous blunder over a long period against all the evidence.
I do not think that it is unfair to say that the decision to go forward with Blue Streak must be a blunder of an unprecedented size. The cost of it—and I will have a word to say about figures in a moment—is enormous, but, even more than that, it has the gravest and most far-reaching consequences to which far less than justice has been done by any Minister in his comments on it. We believe that an inquiry is essential to reassure the public, who badly need reassuring, about the way in which we are handling this terrible area of national policy. We need an inquiry, too, to establish the facts.
I hope that the Government will forgive me for saying that I believe that their lack of candour—I use the word deliberately; I can think of no other—at every stage in this dispute has itself helped to make the case for an inquiry to establish the facts. We have not been given candid explanations of what was happening or why, even up to this moment.
Let me deal with the argument about security. Some people have said that security is involved here and that we cannot have an inquiry into these things because of their nature. It has been announced that Blue Streak is no longer a military project. It has been announced that it no longer has any military 213 purpose. We are now considering whether it has a civilian purpose. In the beginning, it was only a British modification of an American weapon, the Atlas. Nearly all the details of the Atlas have been published. It therefore does not seem that the argument about security can possibly be applied except to save the skins of Ministers.
No harm can be done by an inquiry into a weapon that is no longer a military issue. If it is used at all, it will be used only for civilian purposes. No doubt it is already in the process—I think that this is understood in Whitehall—of being declassified. I therefore hope that we shall not be bludgeoned with the argument of security, which does not seem to me to apply.
I was a little amused this morning, on reading some of the newspapers that normally support the Conservative Party, to see how much they think that we are in the wrong and in the dark. One of them went so far as to suggest that the Motion must be directed against me. If that is so, and if there is any belief in it anywhere, I should have thought that that was an additional reason for setting up a committee of inquiry. Unlike the Government, I would fully welcome it. If my agreement to it would be any encouragement in setting it up, I immediately offer it.
I want to recall the 'thirties to the minds of hon. Members. Throughout the 'thirties there was the same suspicion of blundering, of spending money ineffectively, of backing the wrong horses and of failing to provide the right things for our defence. The right hon. Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill) persistently tried to persuade the House, and especially the great majority of Members on the benches opposite, that issues ought to be inquired into, that Ministers were not being candid, that the situation was not as Ministers said it was, that if war ever came and if, unhappily, we ever needed our defences, we would find ourselves naked and without them. Because he could never persuade the majority of hon. Members opposite of the need for an inquiry, we never found out how right he was until the day came, and the hardware was not there. I say to Tory Members that if they refuse to enter into or help us to achieve an inquiry in a case like this, 214 they run the very great risk of supinely repeating the whole unhappy history of the 'thirties
We can all say that we hope that the case will never have to be proved. God, how we all hope that. We hoped it then, in the 'thirties. It is no use saying that we hope that it will not have to be proved if we then sit back and permit these things to happen. We should not spend the money, devote the resources and make the effort unless we try to see that we spend the money, make the effort and direct the resources properly, and be willing to find out what happens to them when, quite clearly, they have been improperly used. I should have thought that unless we are like the Bourbons and learn nothing at all from history, the case for an inquiry is very strongly supported even by recent history, to which hon. Members in the House can testify.
There are two issues upon which there can be no dispute. First, that the Blue Streak clearly was a mistake. There can be no argument about it; one does not have to prove it. We know that the cost has been immense. Blue Streak has now turned out to be abortive; it will never come into use—it was a mistake. Secondly, the present Minister of Aviation had personal responsibility at every important point. He had clear personal responsibility for the decision effectively to go ahead. I do not mean by that that the idea began in his day; I doubt whether it did. I have a feeling that the probable parent of the idea is the present Prime Minister. I think that the study of the idea almost certainly began before the right hon. Gentleman became Minister of Defence.
§ The Minister of Aviation (Mr. Duncan Sandys)
I should like to get one thing quite clear. The right hon. Gentleman says that Blue Streak was clearly a mistake. Will he be quite precise and say whether he means that Blue Streak or a fixed land-based rocket ought never to have been started?
§ Mr. Brown
The Minister must have it in my way and answer it in his own way. If the intention in going ahead with a missile is to get a usable missile in the end, and that, presumably, is the intention, the fact that the Government have to announce, after they have spent £100 million on it, that we cannot have it makes the decision to go ahead with it a mistake.
Whether one can forgive a mistake in starting, I do not know. It depends on the balance of the argument then. But what one cannot forgive is the mistake in going on with it. It was a mistake in starting. It has to be that, because if it is a failure it is a mistake. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] If I set out to walk from here to there and do not get there, it is a mistake to start.
I make a distinction between the degree of culpability of embarking on an effort if there is, so far as one can tell at that time, a balance of argument for doing it, and the degree of culpability I attach to the decision to go on with it long after it has become clear that one has make a mistake. I do not say that the full sin is in the decision to start. The full sin is in the decision to go on with it. Clearly, something which has failed was a mistake to start with.
I should have thought that it is clear that the Minister of Aviation had personal responsibility for the decision to go ahead in any effective sense, although, as I say, I suspect that the thing began before his day. The decision to persist in it is his personal cross in this matter —and on that I should have thought there was no doubt. I think that he bears personal responsibility for expenditure on the missile. In such a situation, he either has to make good a plea that all the way through he was supported by so many other advisers and Ministers that his is only a part of a collective responsibility, or, in a failure of this size, he has to pay the penalty when the failure is announced.
I well remember that the then Minister of Agriculture paid the penalty for Crichel Down over an issue of administrative failure for which he personally had no responsibility. I well remember 216 it, beause I had the melancholy task of speaking in the House after he had made his announcement. In this case, there is the utmost personal responsibility. There is an inescapable personal responsibility. The Minister has been very pleased to claim credit for Blue Streak, and rather boast about it, and I should have thought that the case for his accepting the consequences of his failure is a very great one. Instead, no one goes, the waste of money is shrugged off. We are given the usual profligate spender's explanation, "I spent £100 million on something which I am not going to use for the purpose which I thought I was, but I will now spend a bit more on it and use it for some other purpose. Therefore, the spending of £100 million is not an expenditure for which I should be criticised."
That is the profligate's explanation every time we ask him to realise what he is doing. The Minister of Defence improves upon that. He goes on to tell us, "After all, by stopping it now we are only spending £100 million and we have, in fact, saved £400 million." That is an argument which we would not think the Minister of Aviation would proceed with today.
The waste of money is shrugged off and we are threatened with greater expenditure now by keeping Blue Streak for another purpose. Lost time on research and development is ignored and the effects on our future defence and foreign policy are hardly mentioned at all. The decision was not even candidly announced in a White Paper in February. All that we were told then was that we were not going to rely exclusively on a fixed site missile. In the Minister of Defence's speech in March he told us that he wanted to know a great deal more before he could make up his mind. He wanted to know more about the Polaris, more about the Skybolt, and he had accepted an invitation to go to America to meet Mr. Gates to find out more and to make up his mind.
Without going to America, without seeing anything of the Polaris, without seeing the Skybolt and, as far as I know, without meeting Mr. Gates, he told us in April what, in March, we were told he was not in a position to do, and what, in February, we were told was not to be done at all, but simply that we were to rely exclusively on it. The 217 decision was not even candidly announced, let alone explained afterwards.
I believe that the Minister of Aviation cannot plead "Not guilty" here. A plea of "Not guilty" is not open to him. He is guilty of persisting with a rocket which has failed to work and which has cost us large sums of money. The best that he can do is to offer a plea of mitigation. A plea of mitigation is what we should examine. He can ask whether his original decision was right in the light of his then knowledge. He can claim that he had no reasonable grounds to doubt the decision in the meantime. He can claim that everyone else was wrong, if he feels that will help him.
I feel that on these three possible defences open to him the answers are as follows. I cannot say whether the original decision to start it was right. It has been a failure in the sense that it has failed. In that sense, it was a mistake. I do not know what the balance of arguments then presented was. It can be shown that right from 1957 hon. Members in the House, including myself, were arguing against fixed-site liquid-fuelled rockets on the ground that they were far too vulnerable.
When, in 1957, the Minister announced the decision, which the Prime Minister had taken with the President of the United States, to install Thors in this country, we opposed it on the ground, among others, that they were far too vulnerable to developing Russian rocketry, because they were fixed-site rockets relying on liquid fuel. There were powerful arguments against even the original decision to start.
What is true is that the advice which continually reached us was against the idea. Clearly, the Opposition can have only some of the advice. We cannot possibly be given as much as the Minister of Defence received. All the advice which reached us at the time, much of it from people who must be presumed to be advising the Minister, condemned the idea of fixed-site liquid-fuelled rockets, and, in particular, condemned the idea of Blue Streak immediately after the Minister made that announcement. I commented just now on whether we were all wrong. The record stands. Every defence debate since 1958 will show that we were not wrong.
218 I will now quickly examine the history, as far as we can establish it, and try to see what it shows. Originally, it was bedded in two great fallacies, for which the present Prime Minister bears a more than relative degree of personal responsibility. One was his belief in the great savings which this would permit. I referred to this the other day. I referred to his "pipedream" speech when he went to the Foreign Press Association and canvassed the enormous savings which were obviously in his mind and which he was hoping to make. His period at the Ministry of Defence was the period when the idea was born—
§ Mr. Brown
I understand that. During his period at the Ministry of Defence the idea got into his mind that this was the way in which to go ahead and save a great deal of money. That was really how the decision to hurry on with it was taken. That was the first fallacy. From the Prime Minister's "pipedream" speech one has only to read again the 1957 White Paper on Defence to see how completely, all the way through, that was coloured by this conception.
The second fallacy underlying this was the infamous doctrine of nuclear warfare embedded in paragraph 12 of the 1958 White Paper. This is the personal responsibility of the Minister of Aviation. This was the doctrine in which we committed ourselves to the view that we would be likely to use the H-bomb first and, therefore, since we would be using it first, the questions of vulnerability and maintaining it as a credible threat of retaliation dad not arise. We would be using it first. We would be getting it off first. Therefore, we would be able to take risks with vulnerability. We would be able to take risks about pinpointing and saturation which obviously could not be taken if it was being maintained only as a credible deterrent.
It is a terribly fascinating and chastening exercise to re-read the defence debates of 1957, 1958 and 1959. I have read them all again. I have never claimed that I am a great performer at 219 the Dispatch Box. However badly I did from this Box, I tried desperately hard to bring home to the Minister of Defence and the Prime Minister the absolute folly of this posture on nuclear warfare.
All we got for our pains—they read very foolishly now—was a whole collection of adolescent jokes about the Opposition, our differences among ourselves, and our attempts to deal with the white area and the grey area. These jokes came from the Prime Minister, delivered in that rather special fashion of his. At no stage did we have a glimpse that either he or the present Minister of Aviation even saw the beginnings of the point that a thermo-nuclear warhead or bomb was never a "strike first" weapon for this country and that, if there ever had been any argument in favour of it, it could not be on those grounds. Therefore, the credibility of its retaliatory use bad to be built up. That was the very thing which could not be built up if it was in a position to be destroyed straight away before one got round to considering what to do with it.
This was the second underlying fallacy which led the Minister of Aviation to go on with this rocket. It was because he did not understand the position. Not only did he not understand what we were arguing about here, but he did not understand what his own Service advisers were saying to him. He did not ever get to the bottom of what was worrying the Air Force. He was blind to all the arguments. This was why the advice reaching us did not make the impact on him which it made on us. He never saw the basic point of 'the advice. It began over the Thors.
Incidentally, I have received some moving letters from people living on the edge of Thor rocket sites. I received a very good letter, in particular, from a gentleman whose name I will not mention, but who is known to many hon. Members. He lives in Yorkshire. He says, "Whatever the Government say about Blue Streak must apply even more forcibly to the Thor, because Blue Streak was at least going underground. The Thors are to be above ground. I am living on the edge of it. Will you ask the Minister for me just where I stand in this matter now?"
220 Does the Minister intend to retain the much more vulnerable rocket, having said that he will not retain the less vulnerable one? Does it do any more, as he said the other day, than attract attack to the area where it is and to the people living there? The absolute corollary of what the Government have now decided about Blue Streak is that they must accept our advice and take the Thors away.
§ Mr. Brown
At the beginning of 1958 we first had news of our own rocket. It was not then given a name. It was announced in the 1958 White Paper. I believe that throughout 1958 the evidence in favour of the rockets being mobile, if we were to have them, and in favour of them using solid fuel rather than liquid fuel, grew and grew, as did the evidence of the accuracy of Russian rocketry. Indeed, once in that period the Minister slowed it down. At the beginning, it did not go ahead quite as fast. The expenditure did not build up at the beginning. There was a period when he slowed it down, and when money was withheld. I referred to it in the House once during that year. I do not know exactly when Sir Richard Powell's Committee was first set up. It was subsequently shut down, but it re-started and finally recommended in favour of this. The Committee was first set up a long time ago.
It is absurd of Ministers to claim that the doubts and dangers became apparent only very recently. The Minister of Defence rather seemed to claim that on 3rd April. I gained the impression that the Minister of Aviation claimed that when he came back from his trip to the Continent. I rather gained the impression that the decision had been taken as soon as their intelligence warned them of Russian rocketry advance and of the general vulnerability of fixed-site rockets and of the practicability, to use the Minister's words, of delivering from a moving platform.
This cannot be upheld. I am not at liberty to quote those who advise me. The House must accept it from me that all through that year I was receiving lots and lots of advice from people whom it was inconceivable to believe were not 221 also talking to the Minister. There were volumes of published material on this subject.
I have outside the Chamber—I did not bother to bring it in with me—pile after pile of published comments, all of which add up to the same story. The head of the American Air Force, General White, testifying to the United States Congress in the autumn of 1958, forecast the date by which fixed-site rockets would be too vulnerable to use, and he has turned out to be exactly right. This was in the autumn of 1958. The evidence was published very soon afterwards, and we ourselves had it in an ordinary published document in the spring of 1959. The Minister must have had it before then. The big developments in Russian rocketry and the Sputniks took place in 1957, not 1958, 1959 or 1960; it was 1957 when we first had clear evidence of the change in that respect.
The Service chiefs fought hard to get out of this situation. The Secretary of State for Air will remember the debate in the House about "Operation Prospect". I then took the view that Service chiefs ought not to argue in public with their Ministers. What was the purpose of "Operation Prospect"? What were the air marshals saying? What did Air Marshal Kyle say? He wished to press the point that the rocket had to be mobile and to be invulnerable, and of course he pressed the point that the Air Force was the best place to have it. He virtually stated a specification for a Skybolt in "Operation Prospect".
The Service chiefs spoke in public, against all our traditions, taking that risk in order to get round the Ministers whom they could not persuade in private. There was virtually nobody in the Service Departments at that time who was not taking the trouble to tell anybody about it who would listen. I have minuted notes of receptions and of conversations in which leading Service men made only the reservation, "Do not quote me". They took no trouble to avoid being seen talking to me and urging this policy on me. Other senior Service advisers had articles written in leading journals with only the thinnest of pseudonyms hiding the authority behind them and urging the same points on the Minister.
222 The only conflict which the Minister faced was between those who said that the weapon should be seaborne, Polaris, and those who said that it should be an airborne weapon to keep the Air Force in being. There was that conflict, but the Minister had no other conflict, for the whole of the evidence at that time was in favour of mobility and of solid fuel.
The House and the public are entitled to know why it was that none of this evidence was reflected in Government policy. Was the evidence suppressed? Does the Minister claim that he did not get it and that it was not getting through to him? Does he claim that he was not able to get his answers across? Does he claim that he was obstructed? We feel that we ought to be told, but we are extremely unlikely to be told by these Ministers, and it therefore seems to us that an inquiry is the only way out of the difficulty.
Should I be putting it too high if I said that all through that period it was a case of the Minister of Defence and his then Scientific Adviser against almost all the entire field? There is this to be said for Sir Frederick Brundrett, who was then Scientific Adviser, but who has now retired: he at least is not claiming that anything has changed. In his lecture to the Royal United Service Institution the other day he stood by the decision over Blue Streak. He continued to defend it with the argument which seemed valid to him at the time, and he brusquely denied the Minister's suggestion that things had changed in the spring of this year. He said, "All that we know now we knew a year ago". He said that in his view he and the Minister were right a year ago and, therefore, must still be right. It is the Minister who is introducing the argument that something has changed and that some new evidence has become available. That claim, as far as I can see, is clearly turned down by the only other distinguished figure who took the view on Blue Streak which the Minister took.
We have put our view of the alternative many times in the House. It always involved a degree of interdependence— not dependence—and a sharing of the rocketry effort. I repeated that recently in the debate on Fylingdales, when I 223 suggested that we ought to strike a bargain on these lines when we came to the early radar warning system in this country.
It is said that the coming of Skybolt is a new piece of knowledge. It is claimed that this is something about which we could not have known a year ago. In my belief, this is not true, either. It is quite true that Polaris, the seaborne missile, received most of the attention a year ago, and in my limited knowledge it has always been the weapon for which I thought there were the best arguments. But we knew about a Skybolt missile over a year ago. It is not true to say that we did not know about it. I will not bother the House with the details, but I have here a note which was given to me on the subject. It is dated 27th January, 1959, and it gives me the data about the Skyrocket, which then had a different name altogether, its potentiality, its objects, its likely date of coming into production and the sort of thing it was.
If I was getting the information, as I repeat, in January, 1959, it must have been with Ministers before then. Or if Ministers are not getting the information that even the Opposition are getting, that of itself entitles us to an inquiry to find out what is going on; and that would be even more terrifying.
We knew about it, as I have said. With great respect to the Minister, Skybolt is no more of a reality today than it was a year ago. A little more paper work has been done on it, perhaps, but it still does not exist. We still have no information about when it will exist, or if it will exist. We still have no more than somebody's guess as to what its performance will be. I assert that there has been no new information at all.
The conclusion can only be, therefore, that all the information was available, that it was all opposed to going on with Blue Streak and that the Minister nevertheless persisted with Blue Streak for eighteen months. The point which I want to make is that it was during those eighteen months that the bulk of the expenditure built up. The expenditure did not grow much in the first year; it grew in the last eighteen months, when Woomera, Spadeadam, the de Havilland expansion, and all the rest of it went on. It is, therefore, the Minister's 224 determination to persist with the project, against the weight of the evidence, which is the basic accusation which we make against him.
There is an additional reason for an inquiry to find out why and how all this happened. It is that the Minister is still in a position to be a very expensive Minister if we do not find out how he came to make that kind of decision and why he made it. We must all face the fact that he is still in a position to go on making other decisions which will be at least as costly and at least as dangerous.
May I turn for a moment to the cost? I ask the Minister of Defence straight out—are not the Government being equally lacking in candour with us about the cost to date of this rocket as they have been about everything else connected with its cancellation? Is the figure £65 million? The other day I offered the guess that £100 million would be a conservative estimate. Would not the Minister like to be sure that he could settle for £120 million, or £130 million? Will he tell us what he is including in his £65 million, if he sticks to that figure? If he takes the view that £65 million does not matter, he could take the view that £120 million does not matter either. If £65 million is nothing, then twice nothing is still nothing; I accept that. But it would be a very new doctrine for the House and for the country to accept that sums of this order do not matter.
Will the Minister tell us whether he persists in the figure of £65 million? I feel quite sure that if he does he will be caught out on this. If he persists in it, will he tell us how much of the cost of Woomera he is putting into that figure? The Australians have spent about £60 million of their own money on Woomera and we must have spent an equal sum on it. Much of that has no other purpose than for the rocket with a range of 1,500 to 2,000 miles. How much of the total cost of Woomera is the right hon. Gentleman writing off on account of Blue Streak?
That doubtfully named—if we had only had the prescience to know it, that accurately named place—Spadeadam Waste has no other purpose than for Blue Streak. It cannot deal with solid-fuel motors, even if we wanted it to do so. 225 To convert it would cost a vast sum of money, I am told. How much of the cost of Spadeadam Waste is in the Minister's £65 million? It cost over £20 million by itself to provide. It is only wanted for Blue Streak. The whole of it should go in, and yet the Minister cannot put in the whole of it and still keep to his £65 million.
How much has the Minister put in for cancellation costs? Whatever we do about space use, cancellation costs will have to be paid. I am told by those who advise me, who can easily be wrong, that about £25 million will be required for the cancellation costs of de Havillands, Rolls-Royce and Sperry's. How much of that £25 million went into his £65 million? Is not the answer that the right hon. Gentleman will not want to stick to £65 million, and are we not entitled to know the figure? If he will not give us the figure, and will not give us the breakdown, are we not entitled to have an inquiry to get at it, despite his refusal? Should we not know?
Now I will deal with the other point, that the cost is a small thing. Someone has floated the story this morning that it is only 1.8 per cent. of the defence expenditure and that is the sort of waste we ought to be able to carry along with us. All right. What percentage of the defence expenditure would an increase of the old-age pension be? And if we can carry 1.8 per cent. and not worry so long as it does not exceed that figure, why not pay that? Why not apply this doctrine to every other piece of expenditure?
What about the housing subsidy? What about subsidising the rate of interest on house building? If the doctrine is that so long as it does not exceed 1.8 per cent. of the defence budget we can shrug it off, let us do everything that does not cost more than that. It is really a silly argument, and even Tories would not produce such desperately unhappy arguments unless they were really very hard put to it to defend themselves in this situation.
I have looked at the history and, briefly, at the cost. I turn now, in conclusion, to the consequences which are perhaps the gravest and the most far-reaching of all, in my view not only for defence, but, also, if they are as great as I suspect, for the foreign policy of this country from here on. This is not a 226 debate to range over that wide field, and the reason why those who are responsible for putting down the Motion are not choosing this occasion to range over that wide field is that we can think of nothing that the Minister of Aviation or the Prime Minister would more like than to have all these other issues hidden in a general debate in which they could avoid having to reply to the specific issues.
We believe that the House must shortly debate—perhaps this will take the grin off the face of the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Aviation—as my right hon. Friend said yesterday, the whole consequential issues of defence and foreign policy arising out of this situation. As my right hon. Friend said yesterday, the Opposition will debate them and we shall bring the Government to account for them. For the moment we are not letting the Government get out of the immediate issues of cost, culpability and incompetence which we think arise.
However, by not referring to the consequences I do not want to give the impression that I underestimate how grave they are, so I shall say a few words about them. I want to warn the House in the clearest terms I can manage, and the Tories especially, that we cannot have a change of this magnitude, after the loss of this period of vital years of research and development, and imagine that basic policy can remain the same, as though nothing has happened. It just cannot be so. This is no new thought. I put this into what I had to say in the defence debate earlier this year, and I warned the House that, if it turned out that this should be so, this would then be the consequence and we would have to face the House with it.
If this decision has the consequence I suspect, which I have briefly canvassed, but not argued today, it must in due course raise the question of the independent British deterrent. The Prime Minister can smile, the Minister of Defence can give us an airy assurance "Of course we can have it; we are going to keep it", but frankly, we cannot expect things to go on the same once we have taken a decision which is bound to commit the future five or ten years ahead.
The tragedy of this business is that nobody can put it right. A situation of this order, no matter who succeeds 227 the present Government in five years' time, could just not be put right, because the decisions—or the lack of decisions— taken today commit us not only for 1965, but for 1970. Therefore, we have to rethink defence and foreign policy not only in the light of what exists today, but also in the light of what that majority is arranging shall be the position in 1970. I hope that none of my hon. Friends will provide the present Tory majority with the get-out that they would desperately like to have today. One can see it by looking at their faces.
I have accepted, at some cost one way and another, my share of the responsibility for a decision which I have thought right and for which I have stood. It has been at some cost. The abuse I do not mind at all; that I am used to; but the loss of confidence of friends inside, and, even more, outside, this House, to whom I have been attached and with whom I have worked over years, on this issue has been a big thing for me. I have done it because I thought it right, but even I cannot be expected to go in for a policy that has no chance of ever being successful. If it is no longer feasible, if it is destroyed, then it is not.
Can we have the independent deterrent? At this stage, I can only ask. What does the Minister of Defence say? He says about the new carrier, first, "We have not decided"; secondly, "We think more hopefully of Skybolt, which does not exist, than of Polaris, which does", and thirdly, "We understand that the Americans will sell it to us". What he does not say is, "We do not know when it will exist"—do we? He says, "We do not know whether it will exist"— do we? He says, "We do not know what it will cost, if and when it exists, and we do not know on what conditions it will be available to us." [An HON. MEMBER: "If at all."] If at all.
All we know is that the official spokesman of the State Department, Mr. Lincoln White, has issued a statement saying that the Americans understand that we have not yet made up our minds what we want, but that if and when it is available they will be willing to sell it to us. This is all that they have said. It cannot be available to us unconditionally, so whatever the terms we do not know about for a missile which does 228 not exist, whatever the cost, the fact remains that it cannot be, when it comes, unconditional in the very nature of things. That much we do know.
The Mark II stand-off bomb, which might have bridged the gap, has been cancelled. Do we now know why the Minister of Defence was so "cagey" with me and gave me a lecture when I asked about the Mark II stand-off bomb in the last defence debate? If that were still in the programme, it might be claimed that the gap could be covered, but it is in the programme that has been cancelled. Other people might be glad, but I fear that a gap, during which we shall not have a credible means of delivering an independent British deterrent, seems now to be inevitable. We must remember that it is the credibility outside that matters and not the self-delusion in which we engage inside.
If this is true, then it changes much. The argument for maintaining an independent British deterrent for basic political reasons is one thing when we have it and can talk of maintaining it. The argument for going back into the business once we are out of it is altogether different by any test. [Interruption.] My hon. Friends will help everybody if they will make the points which they are equipped to make later and let me make mine. There is a difference on this. Everyone knows it and there is no reason why we should not be proud of the fact. It is because the party opposite kept up its monolithic attempt to show that it had no individual thoughts on this at all that got us ino the difficulty.
Those in the House, and the very many outside, who have always taken the view that the balance of argument was against an independent British deterrent will be glad if it has lapsed. I cannot take that view. I believe that it is dishonest, cynical and wrong. I maintain my view. I certainly could not applaud—if I am right in thinking so—the fact that Ministerial incompetence and blundering has destroyed a policy which, on balance, I thought was wise.
If this decision had been reached after a canvassing of the arguments, after weighing the balance of evidence, I could respect it even if I were not able to agree with it or accept it. But how can I accept it if, as I suspect, it came 229 about not by the weighing of arguments, or by a cold calculation of where Britain is to stand, but because we drifted, over the years, into a position which we now feel that we cannot maintain because we realise that it was the wrong road from the beginning?
One reason that I have stood my ground in recent weeks—and I have been given much advice and have been out on a limb—is that I have always held the view that the Tory Party got away with much in the 1930s, and have ever since clouded the issues, by referring to what the Opposition were supposed to have said or done in those days. I was determined that so long as I had any opportunity here to influence it, there would be no chance of that happening this time. I have warned the Government that this was where they would get with Blue Streak. I have done my utmost to persuade them not to get to this position. I was determined that when they got there the responsibility would be 100 per cent. upon them.
If the consequences of this decision are as I suspect they are, then let us be quite clear that the responsibility is 100 per cent. on the Government and is not shared by us on these benches. It is important that this should be known. We shall canvass all this again and again and there will have to be really wide-ranging debate.
I point out at once that there is not a chance that people can say that we are not clear about this, or that some reasons have not been given for decisions we have taken, or which may have to be taken. This is not, as one hon. Member opposite said the other day, a storm in a teacup. It is the biggest Ministerial collapse of modern times. It has cost the taxpayers vast sums of money and it has come without any coherent thought or any plans to revise British policy to meet it. It may in the future bring about a new situation to which we may have to readjust ourselves.
Whatever our views on that, or the possibilities it opens up, we must all be worried about the processes by which we have reached this exit. We must all of us look for some assurance about the way things are to happen in the future while the present Administration are still in office. We can only censure a 230 Government which behave—and I choose the term carefully—in such an irresponsible way, and can only seek an inquiry into the conduct of the Ministers who were most deeply concerned.
§ 4.25 p.m.
§ Mr. Donald Wade (Huddersfield, West)
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I hope that it is for the convenience of the House that I raise this point of order now. As there is only one Amendment on the Order Paper, which is in the names of my hon. Friends and myself, and as a number of Members on the Opposition benches may perchance prefer that Amendment to the official Motion, may I ask you whether at any time during this debate it is your intention to call the Liberal Amendment?
§ [Leave out from "House" to end, and add "recognising that the gross waste of valuable resources on the abortive missile Blue Streak is the direct and not surprising result of present defence policy, deplores the statement by the Minister of Defence that Her Majesty's Government are to continue this policy of maintaining an independent British nuclear deterrent."]
§ Mr. Speaker
The hon. Member is quite right to ask me that. It is not my intention. I hope that the point of view may be presented in the course of the debate.
§ 4.26 p.m.
§ The Minister of Defence (Mr. Harold Watkinson)
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown) was kind enough, at the opening of the debate, to express his sympathy for me. I noticed that his shot and shell were passing to the right and to the left of me. I reciprocate his sympathy. I say that quite sincerely, because I think that "shadow" Defence Ministers as well as Ministers of Defence themselves bear a heavy burden. I will not embarrass the right hon Gentleman, or say other than this: I think that the line which he has taken—and he underestimated himself when he said that he was a poor performer at the Dispatch Box—is the right line. It is the line of all those who are trying to keep the peace in a very dangerous world. I would say this to those who do not agree with that: however sincere their motives—and I know 231 they are sincere—they are doing a tragic disservice to the peace of the world.
I welcome this debate, as I said at the time when I made my statement which gave rise to it. I have read most defence debates, as the right hon. Gentleman appears to have done. All defence debates appear to take place on Motions of censure, but I shall not allow this one —and I believe this to be in the interest of the House—to throw me into a negative or defensive posture. I wish to give the House as many facts as I properly can. I do not think that the right hon. Gentleman will be able to complain about lack of candour in what I have to say. It is only by canvassing as many of the facts as one properly can—and I mean real facts, for I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman will agree that around facts there is bound to be a vague area of conjecture by people who want to put forward a particular view—that one can see the inevitability of many decisions that have to be taken.
I will deal first, with the background to this decision to abandon Blue Streak, which, I agree, is an important one. Much of the right hon. Gentleman's shot and shell was rather misdirected, as I shall show, because perhaps I take a greater responsibility for this decision than he is aware of at the moment. The right hon. Gentleman has already said that he agrees with the decision, so the debate—and I think that he accepts this —is on the narrow but very important point of when the decision should have been taken.
I think that he led himself into an error in saying that it was a mistake ever to start this project at all. Perhaps it would be fairer for me to say that, on the whole, he withdrew from that position. I do not want to be other than fair in this, because I believe that it can be conclusively shown that it was right to start this project and that there was at that time general support for it and no voices raised against it—
§ Mr. Watkinson
I know that the hon. Gentleman's voice is always honestly and sincerely raised against any weapon of war at all. We all understand his position in this House.
232 First, I want to make two background points plain. The first is that any decision —and I think that the whole House will agree—taken on defence by a British Government has to be part, with our allies, of the whole structure by which we hope to continue to maintain peace until we can attain disarmament. That means that decisions to abandon projects or particular weapons must, as far as possible, be seen against the deterrent posture of the West as a whole, because the West has to try to see that there is no deterrent gap along the complete sweep of our joint defence effort until disarmament can be achieved, as we sincerely hope that it may be. The timing of the decision on Blue Streak must be seen in relation to these requirements, as well as in relation to other requirements that I shall disclose.
The right hon. Gentleman ended on the note of the independent deterrent which is still today, as I understand it, a policy agreed by the Government and the Opposition—I do not know whether he is, or was, giving warning that he intends to change his position, but let me make our position clear. As I said in the last defence debate—and perhaps its significance was not then quite appreciated, so I repeat it—we have only recently settled a production programme for British-made nuclear warheads of advanced design for some years ahead. Therefore, from that point of view at least, the Government have no intention at all of abandoning their independent contribution to the deterrent power of the West—
§ Mr. Watkinson
I will come in due course to the question of the means of delivery.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell) must have got a little out-of-date since he left the office of Minister of Defence, an office that he filled with considerable distinction at one time. These warheads do not have to be tested. We have adequate resources to continue to make a wide programme, as I said, of nuclear wax-heads of the most advanced design. I shall come in a moment to the problem of how they are delivered. I make it plain to the House that, by that action, the Government are certainly continuing 233 a policy of producing an independent British-made nuclear weapon.
Let me turn now to the scale of the decision on Blue Streak on financial grounds. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Belper asked about the total cost. The figure I gave to the House, £65 million, is a perfectly accurate figure of the amount spent on this missile to date. As far as I can estimate—and I think that the House should pay some attention to what my right hon. Friend said in answer to a Question today, the other costs have yet to be negotiated— [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Certainly. I would say at the moment that a figure of at least £100 million is involved. I quite accept that, and that figure—and let us get this in proper scale—is 1½ per cent. of defence spendings over the last five years—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] That is what we have spent on a weapon that we do not now propose to develop further—
§ Mr. R. T. Paget (Northampton) rose—
§ Mr. Watkinson
Perhaps I may be allowed just to finish this part of my speech and then I will give way— although, of course, we may use much of Blue Streak's present potential development for space research. Therefore, I want to go on with the background before coming to the actual logic of events. I want to be quite frank with the House, and to be quite clear about the cost. I have been clear. I say that, as far as I can estimate at the moment, the cost is £100 million, or 1½ per cent. of defence spending since the project started—
§ Mr. Woodrow Wyatt (Bosworth)
Surely, the right hon. Gentleman has long ago negotiated the cost. The expenditure on Spadeadam and Woomera, and the various ancillary projects needed to get Blue Streak going, is not included in his estimate of £65 million on the missile itself, and not included in the £100 million of which he now tells us, because the £100 million is arrived at simply by adding the cost of cancelled contracts to the £65 million already spent.
§ Mr. Watkinson
I am glad that the hon. Gentleman has raised that matter, because I want to be as informative as I 234 can. The £65 million is the total expenditure on the project as a whole, and that certainly includes expenditure on Spadeadam as well—[HON. MEMBERS: "And Woomera?"]
§ Mr. Wigg rose—
§ Mr. Watkinson
I will give way to the hon. Gentleman in a moment but, first, I think that I should get on a little further with my argument.
I have been quite clear on the cost of the project—
§ Mr. Watkinson
For the very reason that my right hon. Friend gave earlier, the terminal costs have first to be negotiated. Secondly, as I said on 13th April, a decision has to be taken as to whether or not we are to use this missile for a programme of space research.
In this part of the Opposition's Motion, it seems to me that the difference between us is this: are a Government to continue a project to a point where, at some stage, it might be held that money has been wasted on it? Well, if a Minister of Defence is to be bound by that dictum he cannot possibly do his job. If it is to be said that we are never to go ahead with a project on which we may fear to waste some money, defence cannot be provided to this country in an age when technological development leaps forward every month and every year. If the Government are to fear to meet this situation, if they are to fear to make their correct dispositions on defence matters because, at some time or other, they may be accused in the House of spending money on projects that have to be cut short, then, I say again, it is the most dangerous 235 thing that we could possibly do for the defence of this country.
There is, of course, a current "crack" in America about weapons—"If it works it's obsolete." I do not go as far as that—[Interruption.] Let us go back to two examples that are within the knowledge of the House. The first is the battleship "Vanguard". That vessel cost £20 million, never fired a shot in anger and now has to be scrapped—but it played its part. Another example is the Swift aircraft, in which the Opposition have an interest—indeed, I think that they started the project. The Swift project cost £40 million, never fulfilled its operational requirements, and had to be scrapped. I do not say that those decisions were wrong. I say that it is part of the price of living in a world of rapid technical development, and it is a price that no Government should fear to pay.
With that as the background, let me turn to 1955, which was the year when the contracts for Blue Streak were first placed. The position at that time was that both the Labour and Conservative Governments had played their part in providing our country with an independent contribution to the Western deterrent—and rightly. The problem then was, as it is today: what is the best means of delivery of the nuclear warhead?
Although I think that the right hon. Gentleman has changed his ground, I must just make it plain that the grounds on which this missile was started were not capable of being challenged if we were to make a contribution or be prepared to make a contribution to the Western deterrent. In this sense, we had no choice at that time but to go forward with a missile with liquid fuel. Both Russia and America were then concentrating on the development of the long-range missile with liquid fuel motors, and, as is known to those hon. Members who have studied the subject, the large solid-fuel motor had yet to be developed.
Therefore, the British Government rightly decided at that time to go ahead with a missile, derived basically from the American Atlas project. It was no use the right hon. Gentleman saying that the Atlas is now quite an outmoded 236 weapon. It is a very practical part of the Western deterrent in certain circumstances. I may be wrong, but I thought that the right hon. Gentleman quoted a distinguished general as saying that he could give the date when the Atlas would be of no further value to the West, but if I have him wrong I do not press the point—
§ Mr. G. Brown
Only in the sense that he could give the date when the fixed-site liquid-fuel rocket would be of no further value, yes.
§ Mr. Watkinson
That depends, as I shall show, on where the fixed sites are, and how they can be dispersed—and that is a very important part of the argument. However, I do not think that the right hon. Gentleman will disagree that at the time the project was started it was a right decision, it was generally supported, and was, indeed, the only decision to make, because the mobile missile which has progressed on a solid-fuel motor was not then in existence.
I think that the right hon. Gentleman is wrong in saying that we gave no warnning of what we were doing until 1958 because, in fact, in the 1955 and 1956 White Papers, we told the House what we were doing. I have the actual quotations here, but I shall quote only from the 1955 White Paper, which stated:The manned bomber may eventually be supplemented by the ballistic rocket and we are, therefore, working on the development of such a rocket as an addition to our deterrent strength. …There was no lack of candour there. A decision was taken. It was properly announced to the House in the 1955 White Paper, and again announced to the House in the 1956 White Paper. There was, therefore, no question there of the Government doing other than properly telling the House exactly what they were doing on this matter, and, as I have said, except for those with sincere scruples against any weapon at all, no voices were raised against that decision.
During 1956, 1957 and 1958 the programme of development of this missile continued. Again, the position was clearly set out in each year's White Paper. What was the Opposition's position over that period? I do not challenge for a moment that they did not ask for more information and, indeed, wanted to explore the 237 position during each defence debate. That was their duty. But one thing is certain —the Opposition were not, as the right hon. Gentleman has claimed:…pressing the end of Blue Streak steadily for three years.If we look up HANSARD we can read what was said; and I do not quarrel with it at all. For example, in the 1957 debate, the right hon. Member for Belper said:Could we now decide to go into the missile field and to stop any further attempt to produce fighter aircraft in this country?"— [OFFICIAL REPORT. 13th February, 1957; Vol. 564, c. 1295]
§ Mr. Watkinson
The right hon. Gentleman's words were "into the missile field," I agree, but at that time, in 1957, there was no other type of missile.
My point is that the right hon. Gentleman's charge that we have been less than frank with the House over the development of this missile is quite untrue, and is shown to be so in HANSARD. Secondly, while the Opposition quite properly exercised their function of inquiry, demand for information, they were not, during this period, demanding, as they now try to maintain—perhaps with the benefit of hindsight—the end of this project. However, let us suppose that the Opposition's position over the years had been as the right hon. Member claimed. Even then it does not support the case deployed in the Motion of censure. The Opposition claim that the Blue Streak missile has long been known to be of no military value. That is the crux of their Motion. It says that it is a projectlong believed and now officially declared to be of no military value.That is the reason why they are asking for an inquiry.
Let me now deal with the matter from my personal experience. This is where I venture to say that some of the right hon. Gentleman's shafts should have been directed at me. I bear as heavy a responsibility as my right hon. Friend. I want to tell the House, as frankly as I can, the logic of the events which, if I was to do my job as honestly and sincerely as I could, made this decision quite inevitable. As soon as I took over the Ministry of Defence, I had a series of meetings with my scientific, military 238 and civil advisers to examine all outstanding defence problems, Blue Streak amongst them.
If, as the Motion says, Blue Streak wasa project long believed and now officially declared to be of no military valueI would obviously have received, last November, clear advice to stop this project. I received no such advice; on the contrary, my advice, in most cases, strongly supported the continuance of this missile. In that, Sir Frederick Brundrett was certainly not alone. The House must face this issue. Allegations that this project was carried on to a point where money was wasted on it must imply that it was carried on in the face of scientific, technical and military advice that it should be stopped. Such advice was not tendered to me in November last year, as it was not tendered to my right hon. Friend before this time. Nor did I then see, in my own judgment, any conclusive proof that Blue Streak should be cancelled.
§ Mr. A. J. Irvine (Liverpool, Edge Hill)
Will the Minister tell the House what advice he was receiving at that stage about the vulnerability of fixed-site bases for missiles?
§ Mr. Watkinson
I am coming to that point, if the hon. and learned Member will kindly wait. The position I want to establish now is that which I have made quite plain to the House, namely, that I received no advice to cancel this missile in November last year.
Of course, the decision was a narrowly balanced one. All big decisions are. Among the surrounding experts, the advisers, the newspaper correspondents, and so on, there were conflicting views. That was only natural. None the less, the crux of the matter is that if the position had been as the right hon. Gentleman has endeavoured, quite wrongly, to maintain it was, I should have had no option, on the advice given me, but immediately to go ahead and stop this project.
I have no intention of making my right hon. Friend's case; he is only too capable of making it himself, but I would point out that he warned the House about this in the defence debate in February, 1959, when he said thatWith the rapid advances of science, which are constantly upsetting earlier assessments, 239 strategic plans and weapon programmes can never be regarded as permanent or immutable."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 25th February, 1959; Vol. 600, c. 1139.]That was the beginning of a re-examination of the strategic position, which my right hon. Friend put in hand, and the beginning of a re-examination of the vulnerability of weapons with fixed sites —to deal with the intervention of the hon. and learned Member for Liverpool, Edge Hill (Mr. A. J. Irvine).
Mr. Beswick, whom many hon. Members remember, and who made many notable contributions to our civil aviation debates, said, on 17th April this year:We can criticise Mr. Watkinson or Mr. Sandys for all we are worth, but it might equally well have been Mr. George Brown.That is the position, on the advice tendered in November, 1959.
§ Mr. Watkinson
The right hon. Gentleman says that I am entitled to it. That completely destroys his argument that Ministers have been neglecting the advice given them and have been taking decisions—to quote the words of his Motion—on a project long believed and now officially declared to be of no military value.
§ Mr. Watkinson
Both decisions—my right hon. Friends, in 1959, and mine, in 1960—were very difficult to take. I was especially disturbed at the effect that this would have on our Australian partners who, in the Woomera range and elsewhere, have played such a notable part—in fact, quite an essential part —in the development not only of this missile, but missiles of all types. As I said on 13th April, the Woomera range has a great programme of work still in front of it even if we do not go on with the space development of the Blue Streak. In 1959, the balance of advice was still in favour of continuance.
Now let me explain the changes that made a contrary decision inevitable—but only after much thought and weighing of evidence. In the light of changing circumstances my right hon. Friend last year put in hand a study of the vulner- 240 ability of fixed site missiles. Whilst this study was proceeding I had the opportunity of talks with my N.A.T.O. colleagues. From these, the following facts emerged, at the turn of the year and early this year: first, in America new families of solid fuel and highly mobile missiles were being proved as viable weapons, They gave the possibility of far greater indestructibility for the means of delivery of the nuclear warhead than anything previously thought of.
Secondly, a most significant increase in the accuracy of long-range rockets, such as the American Atlas, pointed to the vital need for mobility and dispersal, most of all in a country like ours, which is small and close to the missile front line. It was thus essential to give greater indestructibility to our means of delivery of nuclear weapons as a balancing factor to the Russians' growing power and accuracy with long-range missiles.
This was the background to the statement in this year's White Paper, when I said:The possibilities of mobile launchers, whether aircraft or submarines, for long-range delivery of nuclear warheads are being investigated.This is something which the right hon. Gentleman completely left out of his history of events. In late February, or possibly early March of this year, the United States Government made the first firm decision to put a very large sum of money behind the air-launched missile which is called Skybolt.
The right hon. Gentleman is quite right—and this shows how easy it is to twist the facts if one presents only a part of the story—in saying that we have been watching this weapon for a long time. Of course we have. It looked to us to be the ideal complement to the V-bomber force. But it was only in February of this year that it really became a viable project, because a very large sum of money was officially put behind its development.
Further talks with my N.A.T.O. colleagues followed, and I have had the opportunity of meeting Mr. Gates a number of times, and my advisers and his have been able to interchange information. It led me to this belief: if the West deterrent was to be maintained— if the balance was to be kept on which peace rests until we could attain disarmament—we had to achieve two most 241 important strategic demands. First, we had to get the widest dispersal of fixed sites. That is why Atlas, in America, remains a viable weapon which can be widely dispersed whereas Blue Streak, over here, in a small country very near the missile front line, is quite a different proposition.
Secondly, we have to achieve the greater use of mobile carriers by land, sea and air. The Government and I would have liked to play a part in all these rôles. If our resources had been limitless we should have continued to develop Blue Streak for a time, but we would have had to combine it with co-operation with the United States on mobile air and sea-launched missiles. I explained at some length in the defence debate why, if we were to maintain and improve the rest of our other contributions to the deterrent of the West, we should always have to make a choice in the amount of money we could spend on any particular part of our deterrent effort.
That choice fell to be made in March and April this year, and the logic of it obviously showed that if we had a choice, despite the difficulty of stopping a project on which we have spent a large sum of money, the best balance for keeping the deterrent and maintaining the peace was to go for mobility. Therefore, that led quite clearly and inevitably, to the position which I explained to the House on 13th April. The right hon. Gentleman's story of the course of events differs widely from mine. It is the House which must judge who is right. I am not charging the right hon. Gentleman with attempting to mislead the House, as he has charged my colleagues and me. I am saying that I have frankly told the House of the course of events, and that it is the House which must judge who is right. No inquiry is needed when the facts are fully exposed.
Now let me make our position quite plain with regard to missile manufacture. In the research and development of Blue Streak and Black Knight we have acquired the technical knowledge to manufacture either solid fuel or liquid fuel missiles if we wish to do so. If, therefore, we decide to seek to acquire a means of delivery for our own nuclear warheads, from the United States of America for the later 'sixties and early 'seventies, this is because avoidance of parallel expenditure on development 242 seems to us to make sense. Otherwise, what is the use of my going to N.A.T.O., and my right hon. Friend going to see his French and German colleagues, and saying, "The sensible thing to do in Europe and the West is to try to have a mutual shopping list. Let us try to buy from each other things which most increase our strength, and stop the parallel development which must mean a waste of money"?
If we believe in that policy, we must carry it out ourselves. It is, therefore, a deliberate decision and a policy designed to strengthen the Western alliance. It is certainly not an attempt to out our commitments or to get out of making the contribution which we are determined to continue to the independent Western deterrent.
A lot has been said by the right hon. Gentleman and others about the alternative means of delivery following the cancellation of Blue Streak. Again, it does not tally in the slightest degree with what the right hon. Gentleman has said. The V-bombers, with the Blue Steel flying bomb—that is to say, the bomb now being fitted—will meet our full contribution to the West's nuclear deterrent until the mid-'sixties. In other words, we do not need to add to our major commitment here, over this period, even if the means were available.
After the mid-'sixties, which is when Blue Streak was planned to become available, we are now able to choose what type of missile we shall adopt, on the principle that we shall provide our own warhead and our own mobile launching platform by sea or air. I say again that if, through some circumstance beyond our control, this policy became impossible we retain the technical "know-how" and ability to make a missile of this kind for ourselves. I do not think that it is sense to do it at this point if we can get it from the Americans without strings and on proper terms.
§ Mr. Shinwell
If, as I understand, the right hon Gentleman is referring to another missile, namely, Skybolt, will he look at the speech made by his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Air in the recent Air Estimates debate, when he referred to the possibility of acquiring the Skybolt from the United States 243 of America but pointed out, quite properly, that it might be exceedingly difficult, technically, to adapt our existing bombers to the use of the Skybolt? There is no guarantee that we could produce effective bombers in time.
§ Mr. Watkinson
The right hon. Gentleman is correct to put that point. I will answer it in the course of my argument, because I accept that it is an important and valid point and there has been a lot of misunderstanding about it.
First, after the Blue Steel bomb, which is now our current nuclear carrier, faded out in the mid-'sixties, we were, as the right hon. Gentleman said, going to go ahead with a second mark of that weapon. The fact is that the second mark has now become too vulnerable, as I said in the defence debate, to surface-to-air guided missiles. Skybolt is the perfect and almost invulnerable replacement for it. I will go into the question whether it is compatible or not in a moment.
There are views about both air launched missiles and sea launched missiles, Polaris and Skybolt. I do not take the view that one yields to the other. Both are necessary for the armoury of the West, but for Great Britain the V-bomber as a mobile launching platform has the following advantages. First, we have an investment here which is valid until beyond the 'seventies and on which we shall have spent about £500 million on capital cost alone. Why not make the most of it? Secondly, the flexibility of the V-bombers, which will be still further improved by measures now in hand to permit a higher state of readiness and better dispersal—and my right hon. Friend gave some indication of this in the Air Estimates debate—clearly gives them great advantages over fixed missile sites which are tied to particular areas in this country.
The V-bombers also have the advantages that they can be launched without necessarily committing us to a nuclear war, and, though primarily designed to carry nuclear weapons, they are also available for use in a conventional rôle if needed, which fits in well with our world responsibilities. In other words, it would be madness not to exploit this great British asset to the full, and Sky- 244 bolt, if it becomes a functioning weapon, will allow us to do so.
Let me tell the House what steps we have taken both with Skybolt and Polaris—and this is partly what the right hon. Gentleman asked about—to make sure that both are usable weapons as far as we are concerned, and the terms on which we are prepared to have them. First, Skybolt. We have had people integrated in the Skybolt team for a considerable period. Therefore, we have kept a close watch on its progress. The initial specification drawn up by the United States authorities included the requirement that Skybolt should be capable of being carried in the Mark II V-bombers as well as in the B.52. In other words, the V-bombers have been in this programme from the beginning.
Two British teams are at present in the United States studying the detailed problems involved in the installation of the missile in our aircraft. The United States Government have just sent a team over here to explain to us at first hand the operational and technical aspects of the Skybolt programme as it stands now. It was their reassuring report, coupled with the fact that the United States Government had put a very large sum of money into this weapon's development, which certainly assisted me in coming to the decision which I did.
Lastly, the United States Government have taken a firm decision to press on with the development of Skybolt with the highest priority. A programme for the progressive fitment of this missile to the Mark II V-bombers is being worked out. Wind tunnel trials are going on, and it will shortly be necessary to have closer contact and, in due course, to send production Mark II V-bombers for flying trials in the United States. This does not mean that we shall not go on with our consideration of the submarine launched Polaris missile. I have asked the Admiralty to put in hand an urgent study of the requirements for British-built submarines capable of carrying the Polaris type missile.
§ Mr. Watkinson
These are projects that we examined carefully, and, to deal with the right hon. Gentleman's point, I thought that, on the whole, it was better to go to the United States having 245 made our position publicly quite plain so that when I looked at missiles of this type it would be clear why I had come and what my position was.
In dealing with the Opposition's Motion, I have tried to do two things. First, to give the House the facts as fully as I could. Secondly, to deal in all cases with the worst case that the Opposition could make against the Government, namely, the case where no further work is done on Blue Streak at all. If, as may well be decided, it is used as the basic vehicle for a programme of space research, very little of the money expended will be wasted, but that decision has yet to be taken. It could not properly be taken until the widest examination and consultation had taken place, and that could not properly be done until the Government had decided the immediate future of the weapon.
To sum up, what I have shown is this. The Opposition's Motion rests on the statement that Blue Streak was… a project long believed … to be of no military value.If that was so, I should have been faced with advice and decisions which I should certainly have accepted. I cannot speak for my right hon. Friend the Minister of Aviation. He will speak for himself, but in November this was not a decision which, in my judgment, with all the thought and application that I could give it, bore on the side of stopping the project. It was only the further development of events this year, which I have outlined to the House, which swung it on to the narrow balance, quite inevitably narrow, of stopping the project.
As to the timing of the decision, it was the logic of the event itself which dictated the time. The reasons would not have permitted an earlier announcement, although at one moment I thought that the right hon. Gentleman was complaining that we should have done this a long time ago, and then he was taxing me with the claim that I should not have done it until I had been to the United States of America.
§ Mr. Watkinson
I said it, and when the right hon. Gentleman reads HANSARD he will see that he also said it.
§ Mr. Watkinson
As to the total of money, it is worth mentioning again, if we are to have any sense of proportion on this at all, that over the period that we spent £65 million on Blue Streak— and that is what we spent on the project as a whole—we also spent £650 million on petrol, rations, coal and coke for the Armed Forces. It may be asked what we have to show for that. The answer is only that the Services have played their part in preserving peace, which is something that the majority of hon. Members in the House still support.
§ Mr. John Strachey (Dundee, West) rose—
§ Mr. Watkinson
Defence money is not wasted because the circumstances against which it was an insurance have changed. Blue Streak was the correct insurance against our needing, as we might well have needed until recent months, a liquid fuel static missile as a vital part of the Western deterrent. We gained an enormous amount of expert knowledge when we were developing it in all ways and we shall gain immensely from it if we decide to go into the space field. What we have learned up to now gives us a missile manufacturing capacity for dealing with missiles in the future, whether acquired or built. Therefore, the demands of the Opposition for an inquiry are, frankly, not supported by the facts.
As I have said, the decision is for the House to take. I have set out as clearly and as honestly as I can the sequence of events and the facts which led first my right hon. Friend and then myself to these inevitable decisions. It is the House which must decide and I ask the House to reject the Motion.
§ 5.10 p.m.
§ Mr. R. T. Paget (Northampton)
We have heard a number of expressions of sympathy, and I should like to express my sympathy to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill). It must indeed be sad for him once again to hear from the Ministerial Bench and from the Treasury Dispatch Box another of the sort of speeches to which he had to listen so often in the 1930s, when it was he who, 247 with his splendid voice, was asking for a public inquiry into the chaos and muddle of our defence programme.
Surely we cannot have heard a worse speech on defence from the Government Dispatch Box than that to which we have just listened; or one which fills us with a greater certainty that the needs for the defence of this country are wholly misunderstood. I wish to ask one simple question of the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Defence. He talked about a contribution to the independent Western deterrent. What on earth does that mean? There is a Western deterrent, but there is nothing independent about that. The whole argument for independence is that we should have a deterrent independent of the Americans.
§ Mr. Watkinson
The hon. and learned Gentleman has quoted me correctly; perhaps he will be good enough to give me an opportunity of putting the matter right. What I intended to say was the independent British contribution to the Western deterrent.
§ Mr. Paget
But what is the point of independence? The whole of independence here is independence from the Americans. If we are concerned simply with a Western deterrent, a Western counter-force, a Western whatever we like, the overwhelming argument is that in the allocation of duties, in the allocation of burdens, the atomic contribution shall be that of the Americans. The whole argument is overwhelmingly there, unless it be deemed important that we should have a deterrent which is independent to ourselves.
I happen to be one of those who believes that is important. I believe that we ought to have an independent English or British deterrent, and I will say why. But, first, I should like to try to distinguish what we are talking about in the atomic sphere. There are three reasons why one has atomic weapons. The first is to have bigger artillery, that is the tactical use. The second is to disarm the enemy, that is to have the means of destroying his capacity to hurt you before he can use it. That is termed counterforce. Thirdly, there is the capacity to punish him if he hurts you. That is the deterrent, it is the means of vengeance and punishment. Those are three quite separate things.
248 No one has suggested that there is any occasion for us to have an independent tactical arm. We have been quite prepared to rely on the Americans in the tactical field through N.A.T.O., and I believe that we have been right to do so. There has been no suggestion that we required anything independent in that regard. It is quite absurd to say that, independently, we could exercise a counterforce. No one at any time has ever suggested that we could conceivably be in a position to knock out the Russians before they could hurt us; of course not. Our independent position is concerned only with the deterrent. We wish to be in a position independently to say to the Russians, "There are certain injuries which, if you do them to us, we are in a position to avenge, and we shall avenge."
What are the characteristics of the deterrent? The first is that it is a second punch potential. When we consider the ghastly consequences to this country which would follow from an atomic war, we cannot conceive that we should begin it. What we need for our independence is a second punch potential, and the essence of that is that it must be something which cannot be knocked out by the enemy. I have maintained this for years.
Indeed, in a speech which I made during the debate on the Gracious Speech, in 1955, I made the point that a deterrent based in these islands was quite futile for our purpose because the Russians' counter-force capacity, if they decided to launch it both against us and the Americans, must be large enough to be successful against this country. I could see no prospect—I have never been able to see any prospect—of being able to use for a deterrent anything which is based in these islands.
As a contribution to American counter-force, rockets like Thor might be of some service. But Thor is not a deterrent, it is the opposite, it is an incitement, because it is something which the Russians have it within their power to knock out at any time they choose.
The second point I wish to make about a deterrent is that enough is enough, and here I am talking of the independent deterrent. We require enough to assure the Russians that the injury they would 249 suffer from attacking us would be greater than any benefit which they might gain. In considering that, we should spend a little time in considering why we want an independent deterrent and the sort of circumstances in which we want it. Perhaps Suez provided an example. At Suez, we acted independently of the Americans and the Russians threatened us with atomic retribution.
A braver Government than that of Sir Anthony Eden, or one with a better cause, might have replied to the Russians, "We know that you can destroy us. You also know that we can cause enormous injury to you. Suez has always traditionally been regarded as among our vital interests. We do not consider that Suez is worth to you the injury which it would bring on your people." That would have been an effective reply.
I hope that we shall never again commit the folly of putting ourselves in the Suez position. None the less, I cannot conceive that I should wish to live in a world in which we can never assert our rights anywhere without first obtaining American support. If we ever have occasion to assert our rights anywhere in the world, I do not want to be entirely naked in front of a Russian threat or Russian blackmail.
Another reason which, I feel, is of some importance, and, perhaps, a more serious reason, is this. I am not too confident or too certain that the Americans will necessarily remain atomically committed in Europe, because we must remember that as the intercontinental ballistic missile is developed so America becomes more vulnerable and Europe less worth while to the Americans. Suppose, perhaps because of a Communist rising in France—all these things are possible; we cannot eliminate them altogether—we found that the Americans had either withdrawn from Europe, or that they had been prepared to accept defeat in conventional war on the continent of Europe rather than go to the ghastly alternative of atomic destruction which the Russians can now take to them. Supposing that that happens, and that the Russians come to the Channel, the possession of an independent deterrent re-creates the Channel as a strategic barrier.
250 At that point the Russians have to consider whether destroying us or invading us is worth the injury which we can do to them if we have that potential weapon. And let there be no doubt about this, that the injury which we can do to them is enormous. We do not require to identify particular objects and we do not require any deep penetration. There are a lot of Russian cities which are very close to her frontiers. We do not require clean bombs. The prevailing winds are westwards across the Russian continent. Bombs dropped quite close to the frontier, particularly if treated with cobalt, could do unbelievable injury to the Russian people. If the Russians know that we have that capacity to avenge ourselves then the injury which we might avenge ceases to be worth while to the Russians.
What part in all this does Blue Streak play? Blue Streak never had anything to do with our independent deterrent capacity. If it was ever of any value it would only have been as a very humble and quickly obsolete contribution to American counterforce. It was never anything more. I doubt, too, whether the V-bombers are very much more use. Indeed, it seems to me—I have been saying this for the last six or seven years —that we have indulged in a fantastic struggle for the stratosphere, which is quite beyond our means, and have failed to notice that the lower air is undefended. It is like taking tremendous trouble to break into a bank only to find that the door is not locked.
Take even a last-war Mosquito, nothing even as modern as a jet, a piston-engined Mosquito flying at 100 feet. There is nothing in the Russian power to stop such an aircraft going from here to Moscow at any time. As far as the Mosquito is concerned, it can fly under 100 feet and it is just about the fastest aeroplane which can be flown at under 100 feet and be kept down.
What is to stop the Mosquito? The Russian MiG cannot perform at 100 ft. If it tried to come down and to bring its guns to bear at that height it would fly straight into the ground. The Russian fighters are quite incapable of dealing with a low flying aeroplane.
§ Mr. Wigg
It is within the experience of my right hon. Friend the Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell) and myself, who had an opportunity to see the East German forces, that one of their characteristics was the concentration of anti-aircraft defence for just that very purpose. If my hon. and learned Friend is thinking of attacking Berlin he had better be careful.
§ Mr. Paget
I am not talking about Berlin. It is perfectly true that the Russian field army is still highly equipped with "ack-ack" as part of the divisional organisation for the protection of its military command posts and positions. The Russians have disbanded their "ack-ack" command in the big areas and they have done so within the last two years or so. I will produce the documents which show that if my hon. Friend wishes me to.
In point of fact, when we look at a Mosquito and then look at the Russian frontiers we see what an enormous number of guns would be necessary, remembering that the only gun which is effective is one which is so close that the Mosquito practically flies over the muzzle. The plane would be below the radar screen. A whole new observer corps would have to be created. With the dismantling of the old-fashioned air defences, the lower air is almost free to anyone to fly in at and to remain at that low height.
I would also venture to say that if, as a preliminary to the Summit Conference, we were to send a Mosquito to call on Moscow's May Day parade and 252 perhaps drop a bouquet for Mr. Khrushchev and a few good will messages from the R.A.F. it might have as salutary an effect in Russia as the Sputnik had in America. It would show the Russians just how vulnerable they are.
As far as the gap is concerned, instead of breaking ourselves in a stratospheric effort, in which we can never be independent, we had far better concentrate on that which we can do; that is, low-flying aircraft which cannot be too fast, because they cannot keep low enough if they are. Ultimately, the Polaris may be our answer, but I do not feel that, in regard to the capacity to deliver a deterrent, we really need concern ourselves too much with these things.
The whole trouble, and this has been year in and year out, has been the abject failure of Defence Minister after Defence Minister to think out what our defence policy is. Unfortunately, and I know that we are as much to blame for this, although it was longer ago, the Defence Ministry has merely become a forum where the Chiefs of Staff fight for the interests of their particular Services. We have had no real constructive thought as to what is required. If there had been, we should have distinguished between the deterrent, which we must keep independent, and the counter-force and the tactical force, which we can safely leave to the Americans within the alliance, and the realisation that we do not have to go in for these fantastic delivery methods. We possess hydrogen bombs and atomic bombs and without any deep penetration we can do injury to the Russians enormously greater than the destruction of these islands could ever be worth to them.
But we have had muddled thinking after muddled thinking. The most fantastic of all was the present Minister of Aviation, who seemed to think that a deterrent capacity—that is, a capacity to commit suicide—was a substitute for conventional forces, and that that will enable us to have our defence on the cheap. Of course, a small Army may be economical in manpower, but it is far more expensive. We have all this expense to get our Army in Germany properly equipped, and it is not, to get our mobile reserve mobile and airborne, and it is not, and, instead of wasting 253 our money on ill-considered projects like Skybolt, instead of this stratospheric race, let us get down to earth, provide ourselves with an efficient Army, get a mobile reserve, and have the means, by Jaw-flying aircraft, to deliver our deterrent.
§ 5.33 p.m.
§ Mr. Antony Head (Carshalton)
I am always pleased to follow the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget). In fact, I think it is fair to say that in the past he was more likely to follow me than I was to follow him. He has always been a deep thinker on defence, and I do not think that, if I say that I do not entirely agree with what he has said, he will consider that it is any reflection on the depth of his thinking. What the hon. and learned Gentleman has done, and what has been done by both Front Bench speakers today, has been to emphasise the importance of this decision—to abandon Blue Streak—in our defence policy, both now and in the future.
Both Front Bench speakers stressed the importance of the decision, and both touched upon its effect, both today and in the future, and, to some extent only, that has put out some of the purely financial considerations which have been brought in. I would say that, in the field of financial loss, if we are a member of what I might call the big field intercontinental ballistic researchers, the stakes at that table are very high. If we analyse the loss on Blue Streak of about £100 million, it averages out at £20 million a year over a five-year period, and I am informed on good authority that last year the United States spent on rocketry, and so forth, £4,350 million. I will say that again—£4,350 million.
If we are in this field on as restricted a scale as we are, we have to have great good fortune with the very few horses which we can back to pick a winner every time. I personally consider that the Government's decision was right and a courageous one, because to abandon a project which was one of the essential parts of one's policy is always difficult, either in politics or defence, with Blue Streak or Clause 4. It is always difficult to get rid of something that has been rendered obsolete or out of date.
254 That has been done, and I believe that we find ourselves today, in consequence, in a position in which it is extremely difficult for anybody except the most reckless to say that it is other than extremely hard to decide on our future defence policy and on our position today. I believe that if we are to get it right for the future we have to ask ourselves some very blunt questions, which are now hedged about by a certain lack of realism and wishful thinking which is sometimes misleading in our estimate of ourselves as a nuclear Power.
I do not know whether many people will agree with me, and I dare say that to some these questions will seem unnecessary, or even wrong. The Minister of Defence has adumbrated to us the future line of policy, if I understood him aright, by saying that it was our intention to buy for ourselves the vehicle or the motive power of the Skybolt and of the Polaris rocket, and that this would be charged with a British manufactured warhead, thereby giving ourselves an independent deterrent of which we have the key to the cupboard.
The first question I would ask about that decision is this: when we have got it and have paid for it in the quantity that we can afford, will it be effective? By the time we have got it and installed it, will it be up-to-date? Let us consider, first, the Skybolt. The Skybolt is a very sophisticated weapon which still needs a lot of development. Let us assume that that development succeeds, and that it is installed at some future date. I am not as well-informed as members of the Government, but I should imagine that that would be at least five years ahead, though I should be glad to be corrected by anybody who knows better. When we have got to that period, how much life will there be in the Skybolt?
One hopes that the development of the weapon and improvements, and so forth, will continue for some time. Surely, if it continues for some time, that presupposes the demand for a further and probably supersonic bomber to carry the advanced Skybolt. Therefore, I ask at this stage whether we are sure, in going for the Skybolt, what we are really letting ourselves in for in the way of future expenditure, because one of the problems in defence is that one sets out on a policy for five 255 years ahead which carries great attractions, but these estimates often tend to be much more optimistic than those for the following year, because the expenditure, being a long way off and being based on uncertainties about the price of development, the tendency is for atomic weapons, and so forth, to cost in reality much more than was anticipated five years before.
Apart from that, in regard to the Skybolt, we have had many discussions in this House about the disadvantages of static platforms unless they are widely dispersed. The hon. and learned Member for Northampton mentioned that. But an airfield is a static platform and the Minister of Defence said—it is only fair to him to mention it—that it was intended that we should have special arrangements for the dispersal of our V-bombers. That sounds fine, but this form of dispersal is not in this island or even in Europe. It is on a world scale. It is not just enough to have a bare airfield. It must have radar, constant manning, mechanics for maintenance, and possibly some of the weapons.
I am not criticising. I am trying to look ahead and consider where we find ourselves. If we have Skybolt and we consider it a good deterrent, and we disperse the V-bomber force in this very expensive way, we may find, in 1965, that, together with Polaris, it is more than we can afford. Polaris, to me, is superficially a much more attractive weapon in so far as it has an underwater mobile platform and it is a proved weapon which is now firing. But, unfortunately, the vehicle which carries Polaris is one of the most expensive and complex modern bits of machinery that even today have been invented. If we are to have an effective and realistic nuclear armoury which has any reality, will we ever get enough submarines of that class to take the Polaris? The Chancellor of the Exchequer is not here and I do not know what estimate is given full blessing by the Chancellor of what we would have by way of atomic submarines in 1965.
§ Mr. Head
I am not detracting from the value of one Polaris-carrying submarine. All I am saying is that we must realise that if there is to be dispersal of these weapons we must have a number of these submarines to make an effective deterrent and the cost of the vehicle for Polaris is astronomic. Polaris is now a deterrent. It is a weapon that works. If we invest in this undersea moving platform, I wonder how Polaris will look in five or ten years' time, when one considers the speed and sophistication of modern weapons and methods of delivery and what today's armory of weapons would have looked like in 1955 when Blue Streak was ordered.
These things are going on so fast today that an obvious problem is that if one buys other people's finished products and makes one's own material to go with them, by the time one is ready and equipped one might find oneself in an obsolete class at very great cost without achieving the object, an effective deterrent.
§ Mr. K. Zilliacus (Manchester, Gorton)
Is it not a fact that up to now the United States Administration have made it clear that they are not prepared for this or any other country to have Polaris without dual control and, also, that the American Air Force has priority for Skybolt and our turn is not likely to come before 1970?
§ Mr. Head
I was coming to that point. I am not saying that because I was not coming to it. It comes a little later in my remarks if the hon. and learned Member does not mind. I was talking about the difficulties of foreseeing expenditure and about the expense of getting something which is a realistic contribution and about the dangers of obsolescence.
This problem of future policy does not end there. I think that the House as a whole and indeed the Government, who are much better informed than we are, have to ask some very hard and realistic questions about why we want this deterrent.
What is the real reason behind what is a vast national effort? Why do we want it? Do we want it badly to add 257 to our contribution to the Western deterrent? If we consider this as an addition and a contribution in five years' time, there is today in the United States—and I have seen various figures —at least more than four times enough fissile material to blow up the whole world. There will be in five years' time in the United States a much larger number and a much more accurate armory of missiles for delivery. If the agonising horror of atomic war started in 1965, I suggest that there is no question of the United States or Soviet Russia just flinging the lot by any means at their disposal at each other. That would cause sufficient atomic dust to kill everybody.
Such a war, if it came, would put a premium on accuracy and the pinpointing of the atomic offensive power of other States and the attempt to knock it out with the minimum dose possible. In other words, "If you throw the lot you may kill yourself". Therefore, in the future the deterrent will be a deterrent of accuracy, based on intelligence, which may be confused by the mobility of weapons.
What we shall be able to afford in Skybolt and in Polaris in 1965 will not, I think, be a really significant contribution to what will by then be a superfluity. Secondly, it may not qualify by the fact that only the best and most accurate weapons will then be used, because to fling the lot will mean world destruction. Therefore, I am very far from being convinced that our atomic armory in this country is of real significance as a Western addition to the deterrent as a whole.
Are we having this independent deterrent because we fear, as I think the Leader of the Opposition was saying the other day, that America, owing to the vulnerability of her cities and people, might abandon us and Europe, go isolationist and leave us in a position in which, if we were threatened or there were an act of aggression, we should be at the mercy of Soviet Russia? We must have a very hard look at that. We have one outstanding disadvantage in modern war—compression—squashed into one tiny island.
I do not know what atomic weapons there will be in Europe in 1965 and I doubt whether anybody knows. I doubt whether there will be very many. One 258 of the most dangerous things that one can do is to allow the possession of a few weapons to encourage one to pursue a line of policy which, in fact, is not supported by the actual strength of those weapons. I suggest that if the reason for our buying some of these weapons, within our limited capacity of wealth, is that we can stand on our own feet up to the brink of an atomic showdown with Russia, unless we are prepared and equipped to go right through with it that bluff will never work. As somebody in the debate has said, we might have the consolation that we gave our opponent some nasty blows before we were wiped out.
But the atomic threat is unique in war. We are asking the British Government, with their limited atomic armory, in case we were abandoned, to go right through and be prepared to initiate a policy leading to the destruction of all our population if it came to a showdown. In this new type of war, I do not believe that that will ever be done, nor do I believe that if the Americans go isolationist that will necessarily bring America in. Nor is there much consolation in a late American entry into such a war.
I feel strongly, as I have felt and said repeatedly all along, that the security of these islands and of Europe rests on the unity of the Western alliance. If that breaks, all goes. It is the defensive power and the atomic power of the United States which has guaranteed the integrity of these islands and of Europe. I believe that that will always be so. If we feel that we are to be discarded by the United States and we start initiating policies with that in mind, it may even make it more likely that that might happen.
I am not counselling against the possession of these weapons. I am stating that we must be quite sure why we want them and that we can continue to afford them. I do not believe that it is a valid point to state that if we possessed them and were to become engaged in a quarrel direct with Russia, America would abstain. I do not believe that to be a realistic situation.
Is it, perhaps, that we want these weapons because they would give strength to British policy and British counsel at the world table, at the 259 Summit, and so on? I wonder whether they do. With great respect to my predecessors—I am subject to correction, because I have no recent details—I think it is fair to say that during the last four or five years our contribution to the deterrent of the West has been comparatively very small. The influence of the Prime Minister, however, has been considerable. Nobody would deny that. I am very doubtful whether that is not because of our long knowledge of international affairs, the personality and understanding of the Prime Minister himself and the closeness of our alliance with the United States. I believe that that is much more behind our influence than the possession of these weapons.
Let us think in terms of scale. The Americans spend £4,350 million. We spend, perhaps, 3 or 4 per cent. of that figure. We spend three counters to their hundred. After five years, we would have spent 15 counters to their 500. We have too small a stake at this vast poker table to think that we will influence policy as an atomic Power. We shall influence it primarily because of our wisdom, our knowledge of the game and the fact that we are closely allied with the United States.
I am aware that people think that I am arguing against having any of these weapons. I am not. I am trying to see why we want them. Is it purely because of national prestige? Is there at the back of this the thought that Britain has always had strong defence forces, including a great fleet, and has always been a strong Power in the world and that we are reluctant to relinquish that position? It is extremely dangerous to think and to behave like something you no longer are. This attitude has got many people into a lot of trouble.
We are spending only 3 per cent. of the expenditure of the United States on these atomic research developments and armoury. We shall never be one of the two great Powers. We have not realised —I do not believe that the British public has realised—our true position in world affairs today. It is unpleasant for the political world to have to explain it, and explain it in the blunt way of taking action that patently demonstrates it. It may, however, be better to recognise it now than to embark upon a course which we will not be able to 260 afford for long because of the rapidity of development and which, if we did adopt it, might not bring the result for which we hoped.
If we can afford these weapons, I have no objection and I am all in favour of having them. My real fear is that when, in five years' time, the bill comes in, it will be more than we thought and there will be other weapons coming along. That expenditure will have to be met, and it will be met at the expense of other defence commitments. I refer, in particular, to conventional forces.
I put to the House a serious plea. I fear that Western defence policy today is veering more and more towards an undue reliance on atomic weapons. I believe that if we rely unduly on the atomic weapon and regard it not merely as a deterrent, but as a sanction that will prevent grabs and violations of international law, and will, we think, deter an enemy from eroding or grabbing parts that are all-important to us, we are deluding ourselves.
Faced with anything but a mortal threat, no country would initiate atomic warfare. Undue dependence on atomic weapons means that something which is not a mortal threat but a very serious threat will result in inaction unless we have adequate mobile and well-equipped conventional forces. They today are the cushion between the very brink of atomic war and giving time and thought for sanity to prevail. Without the intermediate level of conventional forces, the likelihood of war becomes much greater. Conventional forces are not popular among democracies.
§ Mr. Head
The right hon. Gentleman is asking, I take it, whether they include tactical atomic weapons. Yes and no. [Laughter.] I do not want to take up too much time, but I will answer. I am not being laughed at for saying "Yes and no."
Today, conventional forces cannot be without tactical weapons. I say that categorically. It is my belief that with the threat that now evists, the likelihood of the initiation of the use of tactical atomic weapons within conventional forces is becoming less. For that reason, I am disturbed at the extent to which 261 tactical atomic weapons are being integrated into conventional forces, particularly in the United States.
I am in favour of us, by our example, by our contribution to N.A.T.O., by a mobile force supported, if possible, by tactical atomic weapons, showing an example to the rest of the Western alliance that we must not neglect conventional forces. I am frightened that if we embark upon this expensive field, the expenditure may push out what is required to make our conventional forces effective and that through our example conventional forces throughout the whole Western alliance will become less and less. That will not only make disarmament harder, but will greatly increase the chances of peace, or the Western position, being eroded by a series of grabs. I therefore say to the Government that while I do not oppose the possibility of having these weapons if they are within our purse, let us think very carefully whether we can afford them both now and in the long term and let us be absolutely convinced on the reasons for which we are having them.
§ 6.0 p.m.
§ Mr. E. Shinwell (Easington)
The thoughtful character of the speech of the right hon. Member for Carshalton (Mr. Head) justifies the extension of the debate. Factors of momentous importance have emerged. Indeed, in my opinion, although it was not so originally intended, this is one of the most important defence debates we have had for many years.
As I have said, momentous factors have emerged. One—and I say it quite bluntly with honest conviction—is that from what I have heard this afternoon and from what we have been made well aware of in recent months, this country is not in possession of am effective nuclear deterrent, nor is it likely to be, if at all, for many years to come. Another, to judge from the speech of my Tight hon. Friend the Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown)—a speech to which I listened with rapt attention and which was most able—is that we are on the threshold of a remarkable transformation in the defence policy of the Labour Party. There is no escape from it. I am not unduly concerned about the Aldermaston March or agitations or demonstrations of that 262 character, although I recognise the sincerity upon which those demonstrations are based. I have had long experience of demonstrations and know their effect.
But it is important that the mood of the general public is—slowly it may be —definitely changing in the matter of the organisation of British defence. The right hon. Member for Carshalton some years ago sat on the Government Front Bench as Minister of Defence. What a transformation! When he spoke for the Government, he was responsible for the organisation of our defence system, and believed what he said at the time. Today, we have had his very thoughtful speech which completely and effectively disposed of the argument for the nuclear deterrent.
At the end of his speech, the right hon. Gentleman said—it will have been noted by hon. Gentlemen—that he took no exception to the existence of these weapons if we could afford them, but he had already argued against them very effectively in the course of his speech. He referred to the Skybolt and Polaris projects and many others which in his view would not come to fruition for many years, and, even if they did, could hardly be regarded as an effective contribution to what is called the Western deterrent.
The question which the right hon. Gentleman posed and which I hope will be noted was the very simply stated question—although it has many implications—what contribution can this country make to the deterrent against another war? That is the question. It is a very important question to which we must endeavour to furnish an answer. I have no doubt that in the minds of right hon. Gentlemen opposite, and certainly in the minds of hon. Members and right hon. Members in all parts of the House, the question is: what contribution can we make?
I do not agree that it is just a matter of finance, of expenditure, although that is obviously important. It is important for the Chancellor of the Exchequer, our economy, the taxpayer and so on. The question is rather whether, as a result of expenditure, we are producing something worth while, something which can afford us security and protection against another conflagration.
263 Of course, the answer is that so far we have produced nothing worth while. That is not so much an indictment of the Government because of their defence expenditure, but rather an indictment of the nuclear deterrent policy. As I listened to the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Defence doing his best to defend the Government against the demand for an inquiry—and one recognises that he is the successor of a very long line of predecessors and is therefore not entirely to blame for what has occurred—I could not help thinking that when he spoke about the absence of technological, military and other advice when he took office, the blame ought to be placed on the Government for not having used the scientific and technical knowledge available.
Where are our scientists and our technologists? How is it that the United States of America—admittedly with greater resources than our own—and the U.S.S.R.—also with greater resources— are able to undertake these projects while this country, where scientific discovery was cradled and which has made such an amazing contribution to science and technology, has not been able to produce the scientists able to provide the weapons which have been possible elsewhere?
Is it because of lack of resources? If that is the answer, the right hon. Member for Carshalton is right and we shall never be able to provide resources to give us an effective nuclear deterrent, because the vast expenditure required is beyond our reach. However, there may be other reasons. It is not so much an indictment of the Government as an indictment of the country's scientific and technological capability—although to that extent the Government could be indicted.
The right hon. Member for Carshalton has undergone a transformation, but so have I. Let me say at once that I am not ashamed of it. I freely confess that ever since the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Aviation, as Minister of Defence, produced the White Paper with the memorable paragraph 12, my mind has been gradually forced to the conclusion that—leaving expenditure aside, although it is important—the nuclear deterrent was no longer feasible or practicable and that, in spite of all our efforts and all the gifts, assistance and the 264 "know-how" provided by the United States of America and other sources, we were not in a position to play our full part.
This is not an emotional change. As I said in the recent defence debate, I accept the need for defence, but I am not convinced that this is a form of defence which we shall ever be able to provide to the extent which was originally intended by the Government and, since it may be a debating point for hon. Members opposite, by the Labour Government of which I was a member.
I come to the second point that, judging by the speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for Belper—a speech which I have just praised, without condescension—we are on the threshold of a remarkable change in Labour's defence policy. It is not long since my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition, winding up a defence debate, declared, as the right hon. Member for Carshalton has just reminded us, that the reason we had to provide an independent nuclear deterrent was that we could not trust the United States of America. What is our position now?
Do my colleagues really believe that an independent nuclear deterrent can be provided by this country in the next ten, fifteen or twenty years? If they do, what about the cost? If they do, do they believe that it is a practical proposition? If that is their view, I must disagree. I no longer see the advantage of it.
If it means that we must now rely exclusively on the United States of America, I deplore it. If we are to defend ourselves, I wish that we could defend ourselves without any aid. However, when I consider the facts of history, I cannot recall an occasion when we were involved in war when we were able to go it alone. We were always relying on assistance from some quarter. It is perfectly true that in two great wars we waited for the United States to come in, but, going back a long way in history, this country has always had the Germans, the French or the Russians at its side and, in the end, we were able to get through. That may have been largely due to our valiant efforts, but it was also due to ancillary aid.
Is it now possible for us to provide defence in the form that some people envisage without our relying on the United States?
§ Mr. A. J. Irvine
Does my right hon. Friend the Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell) regard it as unthinkable that at some future date, rather than face the threat of nuclear retaliation, the United States will come to regard Western Europe and the United Kingdom as expendable? If he does not regard that as an unthinkable event, but regards it as an hypothesis which is possible, does he not think that it would be preferable in that hypothesis for us to have an independent nuclear deterrent?
§ Mr. Shinwell
Being something of a philosopher, strange as it may seem, I regard nothing as unthinkable. Nothing is impossible in this mystical world of ours. It could well be that some day the United States would regard Europe, including this country, as expendable.
§ Mr. Shinwell
It will be just too bad. If I am asked, as I am, to suggest an alternative, does anybody in his senses —and I am sure that my hon. and learned Friend is a very intelligent person and is obviously in his senses, or he would not be here—seriously believe that we can make a contribution to a deterrent, leaving the United States aside, knowing that the United States has the malicious idea that we could be expendable some day? Could we then provide an effective deterrent which would prevent a potential enemy from making mincemeat of us, if that enemy so desired?
§ Mr. Paget rose—
§ Mr. Shinwell
I hope hon. Members will notice that it is always the hon. and learned Members and, of course, the intellectuals who rise to their feet to interrupt me. But as a working-class product, may I be excused if I do not give way? It distracts my attention.
I do not want to speak at length because I know that many of my hon. Friends wish to speak. Indeed, it was not my intention to speak at all. [Laughter] I knew that would be disbelieved. In fact, I was very reluctant to speak because I took part in the recent defence debate and I thought that others might be very effective substitutes.
I want to come to my conclusion, which is this. So far as the Government are concerned, do we really need an in- 266 quiry? I shall vote for it, of course. In this matter these benches are completely unanimous. When it comes to an indictment of the Government we are as one, and so we shall remain. Of course, there may be one or two on the Opposition Front Bench who do not agree, but we on the back benches are solid in our protest against Government policy on this issue.
In fact, the Minister of Defence gave the whole case away. We had the inquiry. He told us the facts and we believed what he said. Why should we not believe him? As I have already stated, he has proved beyond any possibility of doubt that we have no effective deterrent, in spite of all the money we have spent. He went on to prove that in spite of the assistance that we expected to receive from the United States, from the Skybolt, the Polaris missile and the rest, it would be a long time before we would receive them. In reply to a Question that I put to him, based on the speech made by the Secretary of State for Air in the recent debate on the Air Estimates, he admitted that if we got the Skybolt we should have to get new bombers or, at any rate, adapt the existing planes. That is what the right hon. Gentleman said. He said that we would have to adapt them and we were not quite sure whether the Skybolt would suit the adapted bomber. That is the position. We have had the inquiry this afternoon. We shall vote for another inquiry, of course, but in fact we have had one. It is a complete indictment of Her Majesty's Government.
In conclusion, I should like to say how pleased I was to listen to my right hon. Friend the Member for Belper. It was a courageous speech—make no mistake about that. It will have far-reaching implications. It is true that at the end of his speech he realised that this was a very difficult position for him to occupy. I can understand it. That is something that happens to politicians and statesmen, and one must accept it. He was anxious not to turn down some of his colleagues or throw them overboard. I can understand that. Nevertheless, although he said that the Government are to blame for causing the change in our policy, he knows in his heart, as we all know, that we have got to say quite 267 seriously one of these days that we cannot proceed with this nuclear deterrent because we are unable to produce something worth while and effective.
Therefore, consider the alternative— first, to rely upon the aid afforded us by the United States of America; second, as the right hon. Member for Carshalton said, and as many of us have said, including my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg), by producing a worth while land and air force—a conventional force, even though there may be some tactical atomic weapons. Why should we object to that?
Finally, as I said to my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition in the last debate, we should go out boldly advocating disarmament, to rouse this country. I believe disarmament to be the desire of every hon. Member on the other side of the House, as it is the desire of the vast majority of people in this country. Let us boldly demand that and say it to our allies in particular. Leaving aside all political disputation, dislikes and prejudices let us say to the Prime Minister, "Go to the Summit Conference and say that and we shall back you up for all we are worth."
§ Sir Alexander Spearman (Scarborough and Whitby)
Would the right hon. Gentleman agree that, before this disarmament comes, we should afford full facilities to the United States to have their nuclear weapons here?
§ Mr. Shinwell
They are here at present. They are sited in this country. I do not believe that the time has yet arrived to say to the United States, "Take your aircraft and your missiles out of this country", but I think the time will come when that may happen.
§ 6.21 p.m.
§ Mr. Airey Neave (Abingdon)
One of the many points made by the right hon. Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell) was that we have no effective deterrent at the present time. I do not agree with that view, and I propose to develop that point in due course. I agree with him that this is by far the most important subject that this House has debated for a very long time, and I am sure that in all quarters of the House we are very glad that we are having a full day in which to debate it.
268 I must also congratulate my right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence on his very patient and effective explanation of the history of Blue Streak. It was an answer to an equally frank and courageous speech made by the right hon. Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown), who suggested that a mistake had been made with Blue Streak. I do not agree that a mistake has been made, but that is a point which I shall wish to develop later.
I wish to stick closely to the subject of Blue Streak in practical terms. The moral of all this discussion is that it is easier to make nuclear weapons than it is to find effective means to deliver them. That has been made quite clear during the debate. The gulf between theory and practice in this terribly complex technological field is often very large. Considerable changes in the technology of nuclear warfare have occurred, and even if one disagrees with the policy of an independent contribution I do not think anybody will disagree with those changes.
I do not think it is a laughing matter if this amount of money has actually been lost, but the question is whether it is lost. In this case expenditure on Blue Streak has provided a great deal of "know-how" and experience which can be used in a peace-time capacity. I intend to refer to it as a launching vehicle in the non-military sphere. Secondly, I wish to say something about the effect of this decision on our deterrent policy.
I ought to mention that I am a director of a firm which has a very small interest in the Blue Streak project. There is nothing wrong with the Blue Streak missile. It was a very good project. Its workmanship, so far as we know, was of a high order. Militarily it had great potential advantages. Its range was at least 2,500 nautical miles and it had considerable accuracy. We know that from the tests which have been made with Black Knight, with which we obtained more or less 100 per cent. accuracy.
For that reason it has been mooted in many circles, and many hon. Members supported the idea, that a limited space mission could be given to Blue Streak, of which Blue Streak would be the first stage of the project. We would require a second stage—a solid-fuel element which would come from Black Knight. The point is that the major part of the 269 first stage of the rocket to carry out space exploration is already in existence.
I do not intend to devote much time to the question of space technology because I know that the Government are examining the matter, and it is difficult to say what the cost would be and how much would be obtained from it. On the other hand, the idea of this country having some kind of space programme should not be derided or caricatured. The efforts of the hon. Member for Lincoln (Mr. de Freitas) and of my hon. Friends the Members for Eastleigh (Mr. D. Price) and Gloucestershire, South (Mr. Corfield) in their Adjournment debates have been excellent, and, although the subject is complicated, I think the Government should be pressed a little more on this matter.
I do not know whether hon. Members who have studied space research read the letter in The Times by Sir Robert Renwick three or four days ago in which he suggested a Commonwealth programme or even a European programme of space research. Blue Streak is a very good vehicle for this purpose; it is technically excellent, according to my information, and one must bear in mind that Europe possesses no similar major launching vehicle for this purpose. There is a possibility of co-operation in this field.
People ask what we should get out of a space programme and how much it would cost. Obviously, the cost would have to be limited according to our resources, but I think our technological progress in this country requires that we should participate in a space programme. There are several commercial and other applications of this work, such as in developing small electronic radar and computing devices, the exploitation of new metals and alloys, space-borne repeater stations for radio and television communications, weather surveys, navigation, world mapping and the whole field of geophysics. I do not believe that the House can deny that dependent as we are on the initiative and ingenuity of our scientists, we cannot allow technology to come to a halt. I ask the Minister of Defence to have a word with the Minister for Science and to let him know that hon. Members on both sides of the House are interested in the subject and hope to hear from him very soon.
270 What is the effect of our philosophy of deterrence on the decision to do away with Blue Streak? As I see it—and I was for a short time at the Air Ministry —the basic philosophy of deterrence is the degree of risk which an aggressor must take in launching a nuclear attack. To this end, I have hitherto thought, and I still think in spite of the right hon. Gentleman's persuasions, that we must make an independent contribution to the nuclear deterrent. I do not like the term "independent deterrent". I prefer to speak of an independent contribution.
§ Mr. Neave
They are entirely different things. In my opinion, no deterrent that we can manufacture in this country can be entirely independent in terms of technology. That was true of Blue Streak. On the other hand, an independent contribution to the defence of the West in terms of nuclear warfare will still be necessary. I realise that some hon. Members may disagree, and I gather that a change of attitude is occurring on the benches opposite; but, be that as it may, for the purpose of this argument the question to ask is, how should we plan to deliver the deterrent—as my right hon. Friend said, that is the real problem—if it became necessary to do so?
The right hon. Member for Easington says that we should go out to preach disarmament. I am strongly in favour of that. In the meantime, however, we must decide, with due regard to the responsibilities carried by those on the Front Bench, what we should do about our contribution, and we must decide it in practical terms. The real point is that any vehicle such as an aircraft which is capable of carrying a weapon with a nuclear warhead must have a good prospect of getting through the defences at the other end. Surface-to-air guided weapons which are now being developed make it more and more difficult for the V-bomber to penetrate the defences. Therefore, one requires some form of guided weapon like Blue Steel at least until the mid-1960s, according to present calculations.
We can all be wrong in these matters, and several people have been wrong during the past few years in their 271 calculations, but when the right hon. Gentleman says that there is no effective deterrent today is he saying that the present V-bomber force with thermonuclear bombs would not afford effective retaliation?
§ Mr. Shinwell
I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Gentleman, but, on the point which he has just raised about Blue Steel, will he allow me to quote what was said by the Secretary of State for Air?
§ Mr. Shinwell
I have already directed the right hon. Gentleman's attention to it. Speaking of Thor, he said:We recognise that Thor will at some stage become too vulnerable to the enemy missile to be wholly credible as a valid deterrent, and that over the years the Blue Steel guided bomb will become less capable if penetrating the enemy defences".—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 3rd March, 1960; Vol. 618, c. 1441.]
§ Mr. Neave
"Over the years", yes. I was saying that I thought that the V-Bomber equipped with Blue Steel would be sufficient for that purpose only until the mid-1960s. I think Chat that is so, and my view is confirmed by my right hon. Friend. After that stage, if we are to continue to use an airborne launching vehicle, which I think is very possible, we shall require a further missile which is more effective in the penetration of defences. Then the question of Skybolt arises. It is quite clear that after the late 1960s only a ballistic missile will be able to penetrate the surface-to-air guided weapon defence system in an aggressor zone. Looking back on the matter, therefore, I consider that the decision in 1955 to make a ballistic missile must have been right, although we have had to develop a different kind of method of delivery. The "know-how" gained in the work on Blue Streak will be very useful in the future. The problem remains how to carry it.
As my right hon. Friend explained, it was first thought that we could rely on fixed site missiles, but during the last 18 months, as he said, it became more and more clear that the factor of vulnerability was very serious. In the earlier part of last year we heard more from the Americans about the possible use of Skybolt. Some cold water has been poured on the proposal to use Skybolt 272 with the V-bomber, but I am bound to say that, from what I heard my right hon. Friend say today, it appears that the Mark II V-bomber could be adapted and modified to carry Skybolt. This is very important. If that is so, it means a longer lease of life and a saving of money for the V-bombers. The V-bombers will be able to carry on, at least until 1970.
There are several choices here, in deciding to do without Blue Streak. We have had to consider Polaris, and we have had to consider the improvements in accuracy of the Russian missiles— all matters connected with the present decision. What is really the best method? We have only a hazy idea of what Polaris would cost. I agree with my right hon. Friend the Minister and my right hon. Friend the Member for Car-shalton (Mr. Head) about that. If I were to express an opinion—it would not be a very expert one—I should say that the weakest link in the use of nuclear submarines would be radio communication and their vulnerability to conventional weapon attack.
It must be remembered that Blue Streak was not just a "dud" thing on which money was wasted. Until very recently—indeed, until now—the highest scientific and technical opinion in some quarters in this country was that Blue Streak was not only a workable proposition but that it was the best bet. The decision has now been taken, and I myself agree with it. I do not think that we can in this small country say that fixed-site missiles are the best way of delivering the deterrent.
There are two basic needs for the deterrent. First, it must be incapable of being damaged or destroyed by conventional weapons. This was mentioned in a speech by Mr. Pardoe of de Havilland the other day, but what he omitted to say was that it must be incapable of being destroyed by nuclear weapons. I do not believe that we could have a fixed-base site, even underground, invulnerable to hydrogen bomb explosion. In my view, therefore, my right hon. Friend's decision was absolutely right.
Coming back to the main point of my argument, I consider that our investment in Bomber Command justifies the choice of launching the missile from a bomber, 273 following up with Blue Streak and, I hope, success with Skybolt. An effective deterrent must be something which leaves the attacker in doubt. Skybolt has a considerable range, potentially, at any rate; I agree that we are speaking of potentialities. In my view, a large number of V-bombers fitted with Skybolt would present an effective deterrent.
Something has been said about the bombers being dispersed. As hon. Members already know, they have scrambled in four minutes in this country. In addition, dispersal throughout the Commonwealth and all over the world is a possibility, and I am glad to hear from my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Air that arrangements are being made for this to be done. Dispersal is a very important matter in the delivery of the missile. I suggest that Bomber Command could now give a very good account of itself, even with what it has in thermonuclear weapons. There will be the Mark II V-bombers to come along. The Vulcan II is coming into service, and there will be the new electronic counter-measures.
We can organise the deterrent very effectively to evade enemy attack, and, in my view, the importance of Bomber Command in this matter has been greatly underestimated. We are all entitled to our theories. This is mine, and I think it has more practical value because, as a result of our investment in Bomber Command, we have a launching vehicle actually available.
It has been suggested in some newspapers critical of the Government that a gap has now been created in the deterrent. I see no evidence of a gap at present. If one looks at the time scale which my right hon. Friend described, it is not fair to say that there is a gap. It would be very conceited to say that one knew what would be the position in seven or eight years from now. Indeed, I think it rather conceited of people to say that they knew two years ago that Blue Streak was ineffective and wrong.
The question is whether my right hon. Friend, in all the circumstances of case, took the right decision. In my view, he did.
Finally, the 64,000 dollar question strategically is what would happen perhaps up to 1970 with regard to aircraft as missile launchers. Nobody could 274 possibly answer that. In the past people have canvassed the possibility of a supersonic bomber, but I am told that it is not necessary to launch a missile like Skybolt at a supersonic speed. It has also been said that the take-off area for these aircraft would be just as open to nuclear attack as the fixed-base missile sites of Blue Streak which were intended to be very deep underground and probably in solid rock. If bombers can get off the ground as quickly as they can at the moment, as hon. Members who have been to Bomber Command stations will appreciate, it is less risky than being in a static position.
I suggest that hon. Members should reject the Motion because this decision was clearly right. If the Blue Streak missile, which has been devised and designed with so much British skill, is not lost to research, particularly to space research, the money has not been wasted. The suggestion of some people that they knew years ago that they would not like Blue Streak is not borne out by the facts. What would those who say that today have done? Would they not have had Blue Streak at all? If so, there would have been no deterrent of any description in the ballistic missile sphere, and we would not ever have been able to acquire or develop a ballistic missile. Investment in Bomber Command plus Skybolt seems to me the best practical proposition at the moment.
I am quite clear that in taking this decision my right hon. Friend took into account all the problems which hon. Members have raised and I believe that he deserves congratulation for his courage and his candour.
§ 6.43 p.m.
§ Mr. Donald Wade (Huddersfield, West)
I was delighted to hear the speech of the right hon. Member for Carshalton (Mr. Head). It provided a very impressive example of yet one more distinguished person coming round to the Liberal point of view. It has been very noticeable that the most valuable contributions to this debate have been made by those whose views are now very much in line with the view put forward by my Liberal colleagues and myself for a number of years.
I welcome the decision to continue the debate until a later hour than was originally proposed. For an issue of 275 such grave importance it was essential that there should be adequate time. For that reason I do not propose to take up many minutes because I have no wish to stifle the many and various points of view which, no doubt, will be forthcoming from the Labour benches. I thought it extraordinary that so limited a time should be originally requested by the Opposition. The right hon. Member for Huyton (Mr. H. Wilson) said yesterday that the Motion covered relatively a narrow point, but, frankly, I thought that very unconvincing.
Looking at the matter as objectively as I could, it appeared to me that the time allotted was designed to exclude the great majority of back bench Members. If I am being unfair in that criticism and if that is not so, there must be another reason. The wording of the Motion carries an important implication. I think that it is this. One must assume that this episode is to be treated by the Opposition merely as a miscalculation of military planning, as a serious error of judgment involving very great expense, rather than one of total policy. If that is so, it follows, in spite of the courageous remarks of the right hon. Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown), that the official Opposition view is still one of support for the independent deterrent.
§ Mr. Harold Wilson (Huyton)
I hope that the hon. Member will recollect that I said yesterday and my right hon. Friend the Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown) said today that we must have a wide-ranging debate on the whole defence and foreign policy implications of the breakdown of the Government's defence policy. But that does not remove from us the need, indeed the duty, as a House of Commons Co inquire, on a relatively narrow front, into the very serious question of the failure of the Government to maintain a proper stewardship of the nation's money.
§ Mr. Wade
I am dealing with the implications of the Blue Streak affair. I am bound to draw certain conclusions from the nature of the Motion.
In order to refresh my recollection of the opinions of the right hon. Member for Belper, I turned up his party political broadcast on 30th March, 1957. I do not think that I would do him any injustice if I were to pick out two ques- 276 tions and answers. The first question was:Why does Britain need a hydrogen bomb, in the opinion of the Labour Party?The reply was:I want us to have our own foreign policy, and that means having the means to carry it out.The second question was:Can you envisage a situation where Britain, having the hydrogen bomb, would use it without American participation?The answer was:I can envisage a situation in which we might want to threaten—and, after all, the value of the deterrent is the threat".I do not accept the validity of that view.
The second implication of the Motion seems to be this. The official Opposition appear to believe that they could have done this job better, that in striving to make Britain an independent nuclear Power they would have been more successful, that if they had been in power there would have been some kind of, not very clearly defined, Socialist "Red Streak" superior to the Conservative Blue Streak. I challenge that point of view, just as I challenge the view expressed by the Minister of Defence when he spoke about the nuclear deterrent. That is the expression he used. He did not refer to the "independent contribution". On 13th April he again used the words "independent deterrent". He said that Her Majesty's Government were determined to maintain the independent deterrent. In spite of the doubts that have been cast on this during the debate, it would seem that the Government and the Opposition are still in agreement on it.
I hope that as an outcome of this debate there will be a change of policy on the part of the Government and a public recognition of the necessity for a very different policy from that which has been pursued in the last five years. Of course, I regret the vast expenditure and the fact that warnings have gone unheeded. I am aware that waste has occurred before under this Government and other Governments, both in the sphere of military operations and others. I remember the debate on the groundnuts scheme very well, in which I took part and criticised the Government of the day. I think that members of the public were justified in criticising the Government for the loss of taxpayers' 277 money. But there is a difference today. First, the amount expended on the Blue Streak venture is double the amount expended on the groundnuts scheme.
§ Mr. Wade
I grant the hon. Member that—at least double. The groundnuts scheme, which I take as an illustration, was an exasperating waste of taxpayers' money; but this is more than that. This has involved a humiliation to this country. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"] I think that it is a humiliation. One has only to read some of the foreign Press to realise that. We have been told that we must not go naked into a conference chamber, but this surely is advertising our nakedness. I do not accept the premise about going naked into the conference chamber but obviously this is advertising our nakedness.
§ Mr. John Hall (Wycombe)
Would the hon. Gentleman mind developing a little his argument that we are now advertising the fact that we are naked? I think that it has already been brought out that we still have a V-bomber force capable of delivering the nuclear bomb and that at present we have a vehicle capable of delivering a nuclear weapon.
§ Mr. Watkinson
I think that the House should keep the record straight. I hope that the hon. Member for Huddersfield, West (Mr. Wade) does not disagree with what my hon. Friend has just said, which is perfectly true, that at the present moment the V-bomber force has a total destructive capacity with its nuclear bombs that forms an integral part of Strategic Air Command, and the deterrent of the West.
§ Mr. Wade
When the Minister replies, I hope that we shall be told whether the Government have any intention to use or dare think of using it. It would seem to me that this policy of experimentation with Blue Streak is the outcome of a policy which can be traced back to the White Paper of 1955, Cmd. 9391. In that White Paper, as some hon. Members will recollect, it was stated that the United States Govern- 278 ment were now proceeding with full-scale production of thermo nuclear weapons. The Soviet Government were clearly following the same policy. The White Paper continued:The United Kingdom also has the ability to produce such weapons. After fully considering all the implications of this step the Government have thought it their duty to proceed with their development and production.I believe that was the initial error. It has been this attempt to keep up with the nuclear Joneses which has led us into trouble, confusion and humiliation. Why is this kind of situation bound to arise? I am quite prepared to consider that calmly and dispassionately. I think that it was very well put in a leading article in the Guardian on 26th April last. Surely the point is that Britain, with her limited resources, cannot afford several different lines of development at the same time, which is inevitable if we wish to be an independent nuclear Power. There are other reasons why we should not attempt to be an independent nuclear Power, but that alone is an explanation why these troubles and this colossal waste is bound to occur.
Time and again my Liberal colleagues and I have pointed out that this kind of thing must inevitably happen. I know that it is very exasperating when people say, "I told you so". May I, for the record, quote from one Liberal Amendment as far back as 17th April, 1957? It read:… continuing production by Great Britain of hydrogen bombs, and other nuclear weapons on her own, assists in no way the security and safety of her people, is likely to lead to increasing waste of resources and will compel other countries to follow Great Britain's example for reasons of prestige …I believe that we have been proved right. If only the Labour Opposition had taken the same line, we might still have persuaded Her Majesty's Government to adopt a more realistic policy and have avoided the humiliation of this Blue Streak disaster.
The tragedy of it all is that there is still complete uncertainty about the future. In spite of what the Minister said, I think that is true. There is no guarantee that Skybolt will be any more successful than Blue Streak. I could produce massive quotations from distinguished experts who support that view. 279 I could also quote from many newspapers, generally very favourable to the Government, also warning us as to the future. The Daily Mail of Monday of this week stated:There is no guarantee that Skybolt will be ready in time to replace Blue Steel. It may not ever be completed …. Such uncertainty is bad enough in itself. But it is only the symptom of a much greater defect—the lack of a basic, clear-cut defence policy.I do not want to be merely negative. Before I conclude, may I say that I would welcome a policy which would gain the confidence of the great majority of people in this country? I believe that such a policy should be based on three aims. Firstly, interdependence in defence with all that that implies, namely, that we should recognise that in future we cannot go it alone. Secondly, disarmament by agreement, coupled with inspection and control. Thirdly, some form of world authority to ensure that these agreements are enforced. I know that there are all kinds of practical difficulties but, at any rate, therein we have three pillars on which policy could be built up which, although it might not satisfy the unilateral disarmers, would commend itself to a great many people.
In my view this insistence on the independent nuclear deterrent makes it far more difficult to carry out a policy based on those three aims. As the Economist pointed out on 23rd April:The only issue that really matters now is whether Britain ought to continue"—this was a reference to this forthcoming debate—to try to have an independent deterrent.A very grave weakness in the Opposition Motion is that it evades the real issue and fails to deal with that problem. So I make this plea to the Government Let us by all means embark on space research and make full use of our scientists—we have some very distinguished scientists in this country and in the Commonwealth—but do not let us pretend that we can usefully add to the keeping of the peace in the world by this concept of an independent nuclear deterrent. Let us abandon this obsession for the need of nuclear sovereignty. That is the plea I would make to the Government, that they should make it clear that they no longer pretend that Britain can in any way help towards maintaining peace by competing in the independent 280 nuclear arms race. That is my plea. It is a matter of very great regret that no similar plea has been forthcoming from Her Majesty's Opposition today in this vital debate.
§ 7.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Aubrey Jones (Birmingham, Hall Green)
The debate began this afternoon on the question—Blue Streak or no Blue Streak? It has expanded during the course of the day to the much wider question—independent deterrent or no independent deterrent? The discussion of this question seems to have been the main occupation of the hon. Member for Huddersfield, West (Mr. Wade).
I will follow the hon. Member briefly on the wider aspect and then I should like to bring the debate back to the apparently narrower but, I think, no less important topic of Blue Streak. For my part, I have never been enamoured of the phrase "independent deterrent", because if it came to the point I am profoundly sceptical of the ability of this country, a political democracy geographically highly vulnerable, to play the perilous game of bluff inherent in that concept. I do not like the phrase "independent deterrent", nor do I like the phrase "independent contribution to the deterrent". Indeed, it seems to me that the phrase misses the point. The point is not that we should try to exercise a deterrent independently of the United States. The point is that we should so ensure the solidarity of the alliance with the United States that we never need to act independently.
An alliance consisting of a major partner and a minor partner, in which the minor partner leans passively on the major partner, is a weak and insecure alliance. On the other hand, an alliance in which the minor partner makes a contribution of importance and significance in fields which the major partner considers to be significant is a much more secure and reliable alliance.
I believe, therefore, in a contribution to the alliance in this sense—not a contribution in the sense of weight of hitting power, but a contribution in technique, in thought. That is the kind of contribution which we have made in the field of nuclear warheads. I assert as a matter of historical fact that that has led to a tightening of the Anglo-American alliance.
281 I would not like to see us abandon that kind of contribution. I would like to see us maintain it. Indeed, in so far as new fields of significance open up, we should aspire to make a comparable contribution in them. I shall return to that point later, but I should like now to address myself to Blue Streak.
§ Mr. Wigg
The right hon. Gentleman will realise that the Leader of the Opposition and the Prime Minister have asserted on behalf of their parties that it is essential that we should have an independent deterrent in order to assert an influence with the United States. Therefore, the case the right hon. Gentleman is making, with which I have very considerable sympathy, as he knows, is very different from the case which has consistently been made by the Prime Minister, and is still being made.
§ Mr. Aubrey Jones
That may very well be. My case is that influence can be ascribed to a complementary contribution. It need not go to the point of an independent contribution.
§ Mr. Aubrey Jones
I come now to Blue Streak. The quaint characteristic of the debate today has been that not one speaker so far has questioned the wisdom of the Government's decision to cancel Blue Streak. I find myself in a solitary position. It is a difficult and complicated subject on which I have no wish to be dogmatic, and I hope that dogmatism is foreign to my nature. However, I have doubts about the decision, and I have even greater doubts about the reasoning lying behind it and the direction in which the reasoning may take us.
The right hon. Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown) and my right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence talked about the rapidly changing technological scene. I will pose a question in relativity. Which is the faster—is it the fleeting landscape outside or the train in which one is sitting? Is it the rapidly changing technological scene outside, or is it our own arrangements and practices which make it difficult, if not impossible, for us to look at any of these subjects with any constancy? This is an important subject to which we should address ourselves. It 282 is a subject more meriting of inquiry than many aspects of the topic about which we have been talking today.
A project such as Blue Streak lasts the greater part of ten years. Any significant technological project these days lasts the greater part of ten years. In the course of ten years, we in this country are likely to have three administrations. Within those administrations we have many Ministers, each Minister bringing to the project, and being expected by public opinion and the Press to bring to the project, a new look.
In addition, judging from past form, within the space of about ten years we in this country are likely to undergo three economic crises. To overcome each economic crisis the Chancellor of the Exchequer is tempted, and succumbs to the temptation, to lop the annual allocation of every long-term project. The wonder is in these circumstances, not that the outside technological scene is changing so rapidly, but that we can ever accomplish anything technologically significant.
Whether we agree or not with the cancellation of Blue Streak, this aspect of the problem is very deserving of our attention. Any Minister inheriting responsibility for a long-term project such as Blue Streak must pay a high regard to the claims of continuity, unless the case for a change is very considerable.
We have heard from my right hon. Friend that the case for the change is not economic, but military. It is the preference for a mobile weapon over a static one. The generalisation that a mobile weapon is better than a static weapon is unexceptional, but is the generalisation applicable to the particular weapon of the deterrent? I have suggested that the weakness of this country, a political democracy geographically vulnerably placed, is that I doubt whether we have the ability to conduct the game of bluff inherent in the deterrent.
If the deterrent weapon of this country, instead of being static, were semi-static like an aircraft or even fully mobile like a submarine, would anyone suggest that our ability to conduct the game of bluff was thereby significantly enhanced? At the very best, the improvement would be marginal. In the 283 case of the airborne missile, the advantage is negligible. In the case of the seaborne missile, namely the Polaris missile carried by a submarine, which has had its fans amongst speakers this afternoon, the theoretical advantage is greater, but this is off-set by a very considerable loss.
The most significant fact facing defence planning in this country is the likely disappearance, for one reason or another, over the next 20 or 25 years of our land bases overseas. This will mean compulsory recourse by this country to a maritime strategy and the increasing assumption by the Navy of the functions for limited operations overseas now performed by the Royal Air Force and the Army. This is a desirable development, but we shall be distracted and diverted from that development if, in addition, we make the Navy the carrier of the deterrent. To my mind, it is militarily prejudicial at this juncture to dangle before the eyes of the Navy that it and not the Air Force might become the carrier of the deterrent.
There is a case for this country making a contribution to the deterrent. There is no case for this country pursuing refinement after refinement of the deterrent; and in so far as we pursue refinements, whether we are given or whether we buy weapons from overseas, so the tension between the deterrent and conventional weapons will increase and not diminish. This aspect of my right hon. Friend's speech today and of the statement made before the Recess disturbs me quite considerably.
The other aspect of the reasoning running behind the decision is that on military grounds Blue Streak is cancelled but on scientific grounds it may be reprieved. A neat distinction is drawn between the military and the scientific. I wonder whether this neat distinction is in keeping with the character of the times and the developments of real significance which are taking place in the world. I would ask hon. and right hon. Members to take their minds back two or three years to the International Geophysical Year. The Russians saw in that Year an opportunity for a superb technological achievement. To encompass that achievement both military and non-military closely co-operated.
284 The Americans, on the other hand, clung to the traditional distinction of the West that military has nothing to do with non-military and that the International Geophysical Year was purely scientific. The military therefore held aloof, but when they saw the Russians sweeping the field they stepped in. The result was that they lost the most significant round of the cold war.
The truth is that the Russians see a continuous constant struggle in which the military and non-military side of things are closely interwoven. This is the real nature of the cold war. We, on the other hand, with a different tradition, seeing war as the last ditch effort of a country to retain its identity, judge things by military criteria alone. I question the wisdom of this. It is now a truism that the most important engine of technological development in this country is the military. That may be sad, but it is a fact, and I do not think that any substitute will be found for it in this country.
I hope that I am not given to dogmatism, but I venture on a prophecy and say that the very fact of the dispersal of the old Ministry of Supply and the establishment of the Ministry of Science, which is divorced from military science, is calculated to ensure that no alternative to the military programme will ever be found as an engine of technological progress. One of the saddest spectacles on the British scene at the moment is the Minister for Science, aware of the problem, given an impossible mandate, and patently at his wits' end to know what to do about it. This being so, I suggest that when we look at items of the military research and development programme we should look at them not only from a military point of view, which is the only point of view that has been expressed today, but both from the military and technological point of view.
I should like to say a few words about the history of Blue Streak, and, if I may, carry the history further back than it has been carried today. Let us go back to the end of the war. We in this country suffered more than people in any other from the new German rocket weapon, V.2. When the war was over we were the country that did least about it. The Russians went on immediately to develop 285 the V.2 further. The Americans moved into the same field a little later. We deliberately kept out.
I make no reproach, but I think the reason why we kept out still characterises our policy today. We kept out of it because we felt that the defensive rocket was more important than the offensive rocket. In other words, we were mesmerised by the triumph of the Battle of Britain, and I think that this characterises much of our military thinking today. Anyhow, we kept out of it, but ten years later we began to appreciate the significance of what was happening and the Blue Streak project was started.
Three years ago, in 1957, my right hon. Friend the present Minister of Aviation, who was then occupying the Ministry of Defence, called for a review of the entire military development programme and addressed himself to the question whether he should keep in being a supersonic bomber or keep in being Blue Streak. He could have argued exactly what the Minister of Defence is arguing today—that the supersonic bomber equipped with guided bombs of longer and longer range would have given him the mobility which Blue Streak did not give. Indeed, the great controversy which took place at that time between the protagonists of manned aircraft and the missile was precisely about that. Nevertheless, the present Minister of Aviation, then Minister of Defence, decided to cancel the supersonic bomber and retain Blue Streak.
In my judgment, that decision was right and it was right for the reason that, important as mobility was, Blue Streak opened up an entirely new field of technology far transcending in importance the purely military application, a field likely in the course of time to be important civilly as well as militarily. By mastering the technology of this rocket, this country in the course of time would make a contribution befitting its talents in an entirely new sphere. That was the real case for the decision taken in 1957, and in my judgment that case is every bit as valid today as it was three years ago.
There have since then been two developments. The first is the Skybolt, the airborne ballistic missile. I suggest that it has negligible military advantage, 286 and that in the larger technological sense it has no significance at all. The other new development is the submarine-carried solid fuel rocket Polaris. Again I suggest that militarily the adoption by this country of such a project would result in a net loss. Civilly it does not come near the significance of Blue Streak, if only because the solid fuel rocket has a lower range than the liquid fuel rocket, and the liquid fuel rocket is the one that matters for going outside the earth's atmosphere. In my judgment, the case which prevailed in 1957 is every bit as valid today. Nevertheless, the decision is now made. We have now drawn a distinction between military application and scientific value.
We have drawn this distinction, and one of two things may now happen. The first thing that may happen is that Blue Streak may be continued for purely scientific purposes. Even if it is continued for scientific purposes, it will have lost the impetus that is behind it by virtue of the military programme, and having entered this field late for primarily technological reasons we shall still be continuing slowly. In addition, we may be spending money on Skybolt or Polaris. In other words, instead of riding one horse we shall be riding two horses, with the certainty that we shall ride both ineffectively.
The other alternative is that Blue Streak is dropped entirely. In that event the result will be that having in 1957, for the sake of Blue Streak, consciously, willingly, accepted a setback in the field of manned aircraft, in addition in 1960, we shall be walking completely out of the sphere of the rocket, with the certainty that we shall never again be able to re-enter it.
In my judgment, both of these eventualities would be most regrettable. In my view, a more sensible decision—I cannot refrain from adding, a politically more prudent decision—would have been heavily to cut down on the number of Blue Streak missiles to be deployed because, as we heard earlier, the number of missiles is responsible for a very sizable part of the total cost of £500 million, and to cut out even the underground sites, but to have retained it as a project and to have deployed it for military purposes in small numbers, thus uniting the technological and military considerations.
287 Hon. and right hon. Members may ask, can we afford even this? Can this country afford an expenditure of between £20 million and £25 million over ten years for a project like Blue Streak? Let us remember that when we ask the question, can we afford it, we have in mind not only if there is some physical limit of expenditure beyond which we cannot go but also, are we expending the right way this side of the limit? How do we choose to spend our money this side of the limit?
I cannot refrain from observing that in respect of defence we are maintaining two surface-to-air guided weapons, the two Services, the Army and the Air Force, so far having failed to reconcile their requirements. We are developing a number of weapons to such unique specifications peculiar to ourselves, that I doubt whether they will ever command a single sale abroad. I am thinking of the 45-ton tank, the Lightning interceptor aircraft and the T.S.R. 2 strike reconnaissance aircraft. In the missile age we still maintain quite a sizable Fighter Command, and we have committed the imprudence of bunching all the re-equipment of the Army together at one fell moment instead of spacing it out over time.
That is the defence programme. Outside the defence programme, we are spending far more in agricultural subsidies than on the total military research and development programme. The annual expenditure on the egg subsidy, which has been going on far longer than Blue Streak, is at least 50 per cent. higher than the annual expenditure on Blue Streak. In addition, some of the recent increases in civil expenditure appear to me to have much more to do with shoring up the uneconomic in this country than on introducing the country to novel and significant fields.
It may well be that the two parties in this Chamber, in the competition for votes which goes on between us, may find ourselves driven to spend money on backward-looking things rather than on forward-looking things. I think indeed that we are running this risk, but if we run it we do so with our eyes open. Let us remember that civilisations have flourished not on moral precept; they have flourished and grown strong on 288 technique. It is also my view that this is one of the sounder elements of the Marxist doctrine. This, more than any other age, is a technological age. I cannot believe that this country will continue to exert any influence in the world if it deliberately walks out of one of the most significant technological fields which has been opened up for a long time. I feel that we are perilously close to that, and for that reason I much regret the decision which we are debating today.
§ 7.26 p.m.
§ Mr. Woodrow Wyatt (Bosworth)
The speech to which we have just listened by the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Hall Green (Mr. Aubrey Jones) has been quite the most impressive of any that we have heard from the other side of the House today. It has been based on years of study and knowledge of this subject, and anyone who listened to it must have been shaken if he held the view that the Government have taken the right decision.
I noticed that the occupants of the Government Front Bench seemed extremely disturbed and irritated by the right hon. Gentleman's speech, as well they may have been, because it was so packed with knowledge and information that they will find it difficult to refute. Indeed, it made a cast-iron case for a public inquiry of the kind for which the Opposition are asking. We are handicapped at present in this country because we have no adequate machinery for going into these highly important but complex and technical matters in any satisfactory way.
All that happens to Parliament is that the Government come along, announce a decision, and we are left with it, without ever having been presented with facts and information so that we can know whether the decision is a good or a bad one. We would do well to follow the American system and have the equivalent of a Congressional inquiry or committee which could go into such matters before it is too late. If we could have an inquiry about Crichel Down, which may have been important to the individual, surely we can have an inquiry about this matter, which is vital to the future of the country.
Last Wednesday the Minister of Defence announced that Britain, which has always been among the leaders in 289 every major branch of science and technology, for the first time since the industrial revolution was going to opt out of the race. That was also the burden of what the right hon. Member for Hall Green has just said, and I agree with him. If that does not justify a public inquiry, nothing will.
Nothing new has happened since the Prime Minister, when Minister of Defence, agreed to the project of the Blue Streak 5 years ago. Everybody knew then what the reliability was likely to be in accuracy of any enemy weapon that might be launched upon it. Certainly nothing new has happened since last November, to which the Minister of Defence referred this afternoon, and nothing new has happened since 8th February, when I asked in a supplementary question to the Minister of Aviation whether he would give an assurance that there was no danger of the project of Blue Streak being cancelled. The right hon. Gentleman replied:I think these are rather dangerous thoughts".When I asked what was the answer, the Minister replied:I know of no intention to discontinue the development of Blue Streak."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 8th February, 1960; Vol. 477, c. 20.]Either the right hon. Gentleman was badly informed by his colleagues or he was not very candid with the House. Certainly there has been no new scientific information since 8th February or since last November, or indeed since five years ago, to justify this decision.
The vulnerability of the sites has always been well known. The hope was that if, as planned, there were forty of them, three or four would always be missed in any enemy attack. This was always highly likely and therefore the Blue Streak would have retained its deterrent value.
§ The Minister of Aviation (Mr. Duncan Sandys)
I do not like to be accused of not being frank with the House. One event of some importance has taken place since then. That is the adoption of Skybolt by the United States Government for inclusion in their development programme for the United States Air Force. Until the United States Government had officially adopted Skybolt for development for their own forces, 290 clearly it would have been very irresponsible for us to think of basing our plans upon it.
§ Mr. Wyatt
That may be so, but it should not have affected the Government's planning over a ten-year period. Every time one of the Ministers on the Front Bench opposite says something he justifies to the hilt our demand for a public inquiry. Each statement which comes is more astonishing than the one before. I do not believe that the right hon. Gentleman means what he says. I do not credit him with believing that he thinks that the real reason for dropping Blue Streak is that the Americans are to adopt Skybolt. It is surely not now argued that aerodromes are less vulnerable than fixed launching sites. Aerodromes can be more easily hit than launching sites.
If we are dropping Blue Streak and moving backwards in time, as the right hon. Member for Hall Green said, then we are also moving into greater vulnerability. I do not want to strike too much of a discordant note, but I agree with the right hon. Member for Hall Green that there was a good deal to be said in favour of Blue Streak. This was lately the favoured child of the Government. Now it is the expelled prodigal son. Apparently, there is no one to say a word in its favour, though all the experts were agreed until the other day that it was our own answer as an independent deterrent.
The Government now spread canards against Blue Streak. They whisper of its inefficiency and of the fifteen minutes it would take to get it off the ground. I believe that that is not true, however. I believe that plans were well ahead to fire Blue Streak in well under fifteen minutes, even though it has a liquid fuel projector.
We are told that Polaris may be acquired. Are we to be given this for nothing by the United States Government? 291 The Government should answer this. Are we to be presented for nothing with Polaris and Skybolt? If we are not, we are saving no money by cancelling Blue Streak. To have ten submarines fitted with Polaris missiles would, I understand—and perhaps the Minister will contradict me if I am wrong—cost about £500 million and it could not even be claimed for certain that it would be as effective a weapon as Blue Streak. It would have mobility, but it would be very difficult to communicate with when it was deeply submerged. It might well surface to find that it could not get instructions from the Admiralty because the Admiralty had already been blown up, and it would not know what to do. It would not know for certain what its position was despite all the new intricate scientific devices. If one does not know where one's launching site is one does not know for certain whether it is going to hit the target.
It is certain that solid fuel rockets are better in speed of firing and mobility, but they do not have such a great range or capacity for carrying a warhead. I do not say that Blue Streak was perfect, but it was adequate for the stage which we had reached, which was for a weapon to carry our deterrent when the V-bomber became out of date in about five years' time. It was the only way in which we could have our own nuclear deterrent.
How can we say that a weapon which we have to buy from the Americans— who have not yet said for certain whether they are going to sell it—is an independent weapon to us? The Americans have made it clear that they are not at all likely to sell us Polaris. We have no assurance on that. How can we say, after this decision, that we have an independent nuclear deterrent? We have it at the moment with the V-bombers, but when that force comes to the end of its usefulness we shall not have it. We shall have instead a vacuum which the Government cannot fill.
I agree with the right hon. Member for Hall Green that we cannot switch this kind of programme on and off. Once we have dropped the military development of Blue Streak we have dropped the possibility of having a rocket programme of our own. If we 292 decided to begin again in ten years' time we would be so far behind in technical knowledge that we could not do it. The decision we have taken is perhaps the most serious decision that Britain has taken in this century. We have taken the decision that we will not have our own independent nuclear deterrent, but will be dependent on the Americans. How long will they do this? Within a decade the Americans will have their own missile capable of being fired from the United States to any part of the world which they may want to attack or defend themselves from. Will they go on supplying us with Polaris and Skybolt missiles when they can do any job they need from America? The probability is that they will not.
At the same time, owing to the Government's refusal to join in the Common Market or to join in Europe, the European countries will have been adopting their own separate independent nuclear deterrent. It will be done jointly and at the moment it looks as though we are not going in with them. In ten years' time Europe will have its own independent nuclear deterrent, as will the United States, and we will have nothing. This is a very serious decision for us to have taken.
It is the first time in history that we have dropped out of a major military development and we have done so for the sake of only a few million pounds. It may seem shocking to refer to £100 million as being not very much money, but in these terms it is not. It is only £20 million a year and it is not wasted money because, as the right hon. Member for Hall Green pointed out, military and civilian scientific and technological advances go side by side. The one breeds the other, and if we have not the development going on with Blue Streak then we have cancelled out any possibility of entering the space age and reaping all the technical by-products which can flow from that kind of activity.
I do not think that £20 million a year is a lot to spend to try to keep Britain among the leaders in the world scientifically and technologically. Because we are dropping this kind of thing, other countries are looking to Russia and America for their new technical equipment, because they think that we are no 293 longer capable of making it. This decision will only reinforce that view. This is not wasted money. It is investment in the future. If we do not do it, we will not be among the leaders in the future.
It is also an enormous discouragement to scientists and engineers if they are continually being asked to start some great new project only to have it cancelled half way through. They never see the fruits of their endeavours or see if they were really on the right lines. No one has mentioned that in the debate so far. They have been told that they are doing work of national importance and should not go to jobs in the United States or Canada, where they could get more money, but now they are told, "We have cancelled this because we have changed our minds".
That is the sort of thing which happened with the Avro O.R.330 supersonic bomber which was cancelled three years ago. Perhaps the decision to cancel it was right, but it was cancelled in order that effort could be concentrated on the Blue Streak. But now the Blue Streak is to be scrapped as well. Where will it end? Already many scientists and engineers are going overseas and more will go as a result of this decision.
It is not generally known in this country that the head of the Lockheed Discoverer satellite project in America is an Englishman who was trained at the Royal Aircraft Establishment, Farn-borough. That sort of thing will now be repeated all over industry. To complete the Blue Streak project would probably cost another £100 million a year for four years, including the cost of equipping and providing fixed launching sites and so on. I agree that that is a great deal of money and it may not be necessary, as the right hon. Member for Hall Green said, to go to that great length.
However, in terms of our defence budget is it so much money when it is remembered that we are spending £400 million a year on an obsolete conventional Navy which has no practical purpose of any sort? At least the Blue Streak is a project which has a by-product of providing more scientific "know-how" and the development of which can be applied to civilian projects as well. With the Navy", that is not the case. If the Government could not find the money in any 294 other way, they could lop it off the money spent on the Navy.
There is still one way in which we might save something, although not everything, from the wreckage. That is to go on with the development of the Blue Streak for the space research programme. Even that has not been guaranteed by the Government. It is not very candid of the Government to say that, on the one hand, they are throwing away five years' work by our best scientists and engineers because they do not want to go on with a project for military purposes, but that, on the other hand, it may be, but they will not say until the debate is over, that Blue Streak will be used for a space research programme. Having gained their vote of confidence with their obedient ranks behind them, the Government can then say that they have examined the space research programme and have decided that it is too costly and that they are sorry but that they will not go on with it. We should have the answer today to the question of whether we are to go on with the space research programme or not.
Perhaps it will salve the consciences of right hon. Gentlemen opposite if it is appreciated that such a programme could have military advantages. If they go on and finish the development of Blue Streak, one of the things that will happen is that they will keep in the development race of rockets for military purposes. Again, we will be able to send up reconnaissance satellites. The Hawker-Siddeley firm is now working on a programme for reconnaissance satellites which will be able to circle the earth perpetually televising down to earth pictures of everything that they see. It will be possible to instruct those satellites from the ground to send down detailed photographs of any particular spot which one might want to study in detail.
That is a programme which will help to solve the problem of international inspection. Hawker-Siddeley is not being financed by the Government in this programme, but is making an independent private attempt to develop something in that field for Britain. But the firm will be unable to send up such a satellite under British auspices unless Blue Streak is developed. There will then be only the Americans and the 295 Russians able to undertake such a project.
If we continue with the Blue Streak, we will gain immeasurably in many ways. It will be a comparatively small investment for the next fifty or hundred years. Every time a rocket is made, it requires a reliable guidance system and that system has to become smaller and smaller. These guidance systems can be adapted for use in civilian aircraft and could be used by British European Airways aircraft or by B.O.A.C. aircraft and could help to save crews, because these instruments can be made to occupy very little space. They can obviate all danger from landing in fog and do 101 other things which this country is eminently fitted to do and which will be done by the Americans and the Russians if the Government persist in their decision not to develop Blue Streak. All these rocket processes involve radical improvements in things like transistors and their reliabilities, matters which are of tremendous importance in other branches of industry. All that will be thrown away by the Government's decision.
I do not want to weary the House with the many different things which can be done with projects arising from the development of a space research programme which can continue only if we go on with the development of the Blue Streak. There are other things like potted electronic circuits which now have an application in industry generally and which are one of the reasons why the British electronics industry is well ahead of the rest of the world and why we are exporting electronic computers to America. Without the stimulus from a programme of this kind we will not be able to get an absolutely reliable and foolproof aircraft control system which can be produced from the sort of machinery which goes into these rockets.
One of the most important commercial results of the development of Blue Streak would be the use of our own communication satellites. The Americans are working on that project. Pye in this country is working on the design of such a satellite for Britain, but the firm will not be able to send it up without Blue Streak. A series of communication satellites posted at strategic points around the 296 earth's surface could give instantaneous, reliable and uninterrupted telephone services to all parts of the world and could also instantly relay all the world over radio and television programmes—which might be a misfortune but which is bound to happen at some time. That obviously has tremendously important commercial possibilities.
If we do not develop these things and if we do not go on with Blue Streak, the Americans and the Russians will. It may be that they will let us have the information ten years after they have developed these things commercially. We have just been told how important it is for us, with so many of us living in a tiny island, that we should be abreast of scientific and technological development. It is only by the development of our wits and ingenuity that we can keep up with major technological advances such as this. Otherwise, we shall be out of the running in twenty or thirty years and unable to compete with other major exporting nations.
§ Mr. Arthur Holt (Bolton, West)
Is the hon. Gentleman maintaining that we cannot have a plough unless we have made a sword?
§ Mr. Wyatt
Yes, in a way I am. That is a good example. Civil aviation would never have been brought to the pitch it has reached if it had not been for the last two world wars. That is most unfortunate, but it is a fact. Human beings being what they axe, there is nothing we can do about it in this House, but there is no greater impetus than when there is some military advantage to be gained from a programme. That is more effective than simply leaving it to a Minister for Science, whose sole equipment is one office and two typists. It may be unfortunate, but if we do not go on with these things and derive the military advantage from the development of Blue Streak, without using it as a missile necessarily—
§ Mr. Wyatt
Mine are to secure for this country an ever-growing standard of living and an ever-growing advantage from its brains, its wit and its ingenuity and to see that the hon. Member's children are not left stranded on the beach with nothing to provide for them 297 because their export sales have dropped off. The two subjects are wrapped together and one cannot divorce one section of life from another. I am afraid that that is just how it goes, and if we do not go on with the military development of Blue Streak in some shape or form we will lose in the race for all these technological advantages.
§ Mr. Ellis Smith
It happens that I have been associated with the very men about whom my hon. Friend is talking. I was closely connected with those who first perfected the methods of harnessing the atom. It became a question of whether we should use it for peace or for war. I accept much of what nay hon. Friend is saying, but could not these things be used for peaceful purposes?
§ Mr. Wyatt
I hope that my hon. Friend has not missed the point of what I have been saying. I was saying that something could be salvaged from the wreck if we went on with the full development of Blue Streak, even if we did not intend to use it for military purposes, but its development is vital to our future as a commercial and industrial nation. I was trying to offer some sort of sop to the Front Bench opposite by saying that there were military advantages in its development, even though the Blue Streak when completed was never used to launch warheads at anybody.
Finally, I ask the Government not to say to the makers of Blue Streak that they have decided to drop the project militarily, but intend to go on with it for civilian space research reasons—and to do so on a shoestring. The moment they do that they will not get a satisfactory completion of Blue Streak. If the Government say to the makers that there is a fixed budget for them and that they can spend only £10 million a year for the next three or four years and that they have to complete Blue Streak on that basis, even though it was originally planned to spend £500 million, the makers might be able to do it, but it is highly likely that a very unsatisfactory job will result and that the project will not be completed.
If the Government are serious about developing Blue Streak for space research they must assure the makers that they will allocate the same budget 298 to finishing Blue Streak as would have been given if it had been intended to complete it for military purposes, allowing for any differences which there might be in the objects of the exercises. The Government must be fair. It might cost £60 million or £70 million to finish Blue Streak even if it is never used for military purposes. Or it might cost only £30 or £35 million. But if the Government once say to the makers that they have to complete the project on a fixed and too-low budget, a budget which the makers say is impossible, the makers will be put in an impossible position and the whole project will be a total wreck.
I have spoken for longer than I intended, but that has been because I have been interrupted. This is one of the most important debates ever to take place in the House of Commons. I think that the country has not yet realised the significance of what the Government have done in dropping the Blue Streak programme. As may have been appreciated, I do not altogether agree with the terms of the Motion, but I emphatically agree with that part which asks for a public inquiry, because unless we have a public inquiry into what amounts to the scientific and technological future of this country, we will continue to be given decisions so long after they are made that it will be too late for us to do anything about them. That is not the way for this country to go into the second half of the twentieth century.
§ 7.52 p.m.
§ Sir Arthur Vere Harvey (Macclesfield)
Before I begin my speech, I think that I shall be expressing the views of all hon. Members if I welcome back the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget), whom we are all glad to see looking so well and fit.
The hon. Member for Bosworth (Mr. Wyatt) made a speech which was frank and in many ways constructive, and I agree with many of his views. It will not have been a very popular speech with some hon. Members on his own side.
§ Mr. James Callaghan (Cardiff, South-East)
It will not have been very popular with the Front Bench opposite.
§ Sir A. V. Harvey
He said that the dropping of the Blue Streak project was probably the most serious decision of 299 the century. I think that that is an overstatement. If one is looking for the most serious decision of the century, I would say that it might be the decision to manufacture the atomic bomb, a decision taken by the then Mr. Attlee and hon. Members opposite and about which we were not told until eighteen months afterwards. We have heard a lot today about candour, but let us cast our minds back to that situation. I have no doubt that the then Prime Minister had very good reasons for not telling the House, but nevertheless Parliament did not know what was going on. I think that we can dismiss that argument.
The right hon. Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown) talked about the history of the 1930s, but he did not mention the history of the 1940s, in which hon. Members opposite played a part. One does not want to make a tit-for-tat argument or say, "You did this and we did that", because in defence these matters are not decided by the Minister, who has no technical knowledge, and who needs advisers.
I have done a quick sum and I remember that the Brabazon project cost £12 million, the Princess Flying Boats at least £10 million, the Swift fighter £40 million and the peanut scheme £35 million, a total of £97 million. There was no question of any public inquiry into any of those projects. Furthermore we had the jet engines handed to Soviet Russia on a plate at a very bad time.
§ Mr. A. Woodburn (Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire)
The hon. Member is quite wrong. The technical advisers and Whittle himself said that the Russians could learn nothing from those jet engines which they could not get otherwise or already had. We were authorised by the experts, including those of the Air Ministry, to put those engines on the free list.
§ Sir A. V. Harvey
I took part in many debates when the right hon. Gentleman was Minister of Supply, and I cannot recall his saying then what he has just said. It is a little late to offer that excuse.
The right hon. Member for Belper made a brilliant speech, but I am confused about his present position in regard to these matters. He said that this debate 300 raises the whole question of the independent deterrent. I feel that he is on the way out from his previous stand. We ought to be told about this. In this country, unlike other countries, the Opposition are supposed to play an important part in our affairs. They are the alternative Government. If we had had a more effective Opposition the Government might have been better. We should like to know where they really stand on these matters.
Most hon. Members realise that these technical projects become obsolete even while they are still in the research stage of development. That is the biggest problem now facing us. They are becoming more complicated; they take longer to perfect, and they are becoming ever more costly. Frequently, new discoveries alter the suitability of a particular weapon. That consideration applies to other countries. The United States and Russia have exactly the same problem. We were told that the Government's decision to drop the Blue Streak project was based on the best information available. A former Minister of Supply—my right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Hall Green (Mr. Aubrey Jones)—has told us very frankly how he felt about it, and how Sir Frederick Brundrett, the former Chief Scientific Adviser to the Ministry of Defence, is still a believer in Blue Streak.
When the present Minister of Aviation introduced his Defence White Paper three years ago he showed much courage and foresight in the action he took. It is significant that the Americans are now in the process of doing almost the identical thing. But my right hon. Friend was not sufficiently flexible in the year or two that followed. If, when he had introduced his White Paper, he had said, "We are getting away from the manned weapon deterrent to the static missile. We have to see how it goes. We must see what progress is made, and consider what may supersede it", he would have shown much more flexibility. He has been too rigid in his outlook.
Against that, my right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence has told us that when he took up his office, in November last year, he was not advised to drop the project. I believe every word he says. The Government are right in not 301 giving up the independent deterrent. They are right for different reasons, depending upon the views of different hon. Members. Making full allowance for the courage and brilliance of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister in taking the initiative in world negotiations, I am convinced that he could not have carried out many of those negotiations if he had not had the backing of our rearmament plans. The right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) said the same thing himself on one occasion. He said that he would not want to go into the conference room naked.
Our trouble is not with Soviet Russia but with the United States of America. I am very pro-American. I like the Americans individually, but they are immature and have a great deal to learn. I may be told that I should not say these things, but I know the Americans and I know that they respect frank talk. They are very jealous of our way of life and of our possessions. Looking back to the troubles at Abadan and our oil refineries there, we remember that the Americans did nothing to help us in that situation—and they now own half those refineries. Their attitude on the question of the Decca navigation aid has been disgraceful. The Americans have gone to great lengths to belittle this great British achievement.
If they would play ball with Britain and allow us to have equal rights, with bases in Turkey, as they have bases there, there would probably be no need for us to stay in Cyprus. But the Americans will not do these things. Their attitude is governed by their endeavour to dominate world trade at our expense. That is my great fear. We must work with the Americans, but they must come into line with some of our desires. I am afraid that their policy may change after the coming Presidential election. America might adopt an isolationist policy then, and where would we be if they did that?
We have not been told how long it would take to deliver Blue Streak if the project were proceeded with.
§ Sir A. V. Harvey
I have heard that it would be much the same date as is suggested in the case of Skybolt. Could we afford to continue the project? I 302 do not want to quote speeches that I have made, but in the Air Estimates debate on 3rd March I said:I am now coming to the conclusion that there are doubts about Blue Streak and that the tendency now is to return to the manned bomber as another means of delivering the deterrent…. I am afraid that if we go on as we have been doing, three or four years from now the bill for defence will be approaching £2,000 million a year. Our country cannot afford that."—(OFFICIAL REPORT, 3rd March, 1960: Vol. 618, c. 1472.]It is no good breaking our backs and our economy trying to keep up with the Americans. I would like to see the Government and the Minister of Defence really set about this defence problem and cut out the dead wood. Three or four years ago I was asking questions about H.M.S. "Vanguard", lying in harbour at Gosport, burning oil in order to house a few hundred sailors, as a kind of barrack block. I do not believe that it has been towed away yet, although I understand that it soon will be.
There have been many cases of waste owing to lack of decision and one Department battling with another to get a little more in next year's Estimates, mainly to keep high ranking officers in their jobs and keep up their establishments. That is a matter for my right hon. Friends to grapple with. They must cut out the waste, wherever it may be, in any Department.
We must do right by our allies, provided we can afford it. It may well be that as the technique of these weapons improves the American will care very little about Europe. They will not want bombers in East Anglia, or anywhere in Britain. They will be free from us and able to look after themselves from America—with the possible exception of the early warning system in Yorkshire. Whether or not it is right to abandon the Blue Streak as a military project, I ask my right hon. Friend not to drop it as an instrument for space research. Who are we, today, to say that Britain is not interested or cannot afford it? If we do not continue it now we may never be able to do anything about it in ten, twenty, thirty or forty years' time. We are now told that space weapons are being used for navigation purposes by the Russians and the Americans, and even if it means making sacrifices in other directions we should go on with this project.
303 I would ask the House not to underestimate the power of the V-bombers and the weapons they can carry. These aircraft can fly at great heights and at very fast speeds. At the moment they form a deterrent in themselves. The Mark III's—the Vulcans and the Victors—have not yet been delivered. When they are flying we shall be faced with problems of fatigue, and with the question of the number of years for which the bombers will be able to carry Skybolt, if we have it, in the latter part of this decade. I hope that the Government are considering what aircraft will carry Skybolt.
Recently I was talking to one of the most eminent men in the British aircraft industry. He is technically minded and has a good commercial outlook. He has made a great contribution to the industry. He has just returned from the United States, and is very optimistic about Skybolt. He is not a person who bases his optimism upon hearsay or upon his own opinions. He thought there was a reasonable chance of its being delivered in three years. We might then be better off than we would have been if we had gone ahead with Blue Streak.
I would ask my right hon. Friend to make up his mind quickly whether the VC10 or the Super-VC10 will be required as a carrier for Skybolt. If either aircraft is, and we have to spend money on it, let us do so quickly in order to enable Britain to get into the field of the supersonic aircraft on the North Atlantic route. Further, we must not underestimate the capabilities of Thor. It would be of considerable use to us in an emergency.
I am very optimistic about the talks which will take place on disarmament. We must play our part with our allies and maintain our commitments. We cannot expect developments over-night, but I believe that real progress will be made in the immediate years ahead.
I am told that Skybolt is to be adopted by the Strategic Air Command of the United States. That in itself is a recommendation. If the Americans are adopting it for their super and efficient Command, it should be good enough for the Royal Air Force. I should like to know its approximate cost. The Times suggested that the capital cost would 304 be £20 million. If this matter is handled well and we use existing equipment for the carrier it might be much cheaper than going on with the Blue Streak project. Many hon. Members have said that our bombers can get off the ground in four minutes. They may be able to do so when one visits an airfield to see a demonstration, but can they go on doing so round the clock, for the whole twenty-four hours? It will be a very costly process, and very expensive in terms of personnel and equipment.
If the Americans want our co-operation they should offer us facilities at bases which they now man. We cannot afford to pay the bill involved in dispersing V-bombers all over the world, but if we are to safeguard these machines they must be dispersed, along with the equipment and men needed to maintain them.
For these reasons, I hope that my right hon. Friend will not be led up the garden path by the admirals and persuaded to order the Polaris. It will take a long time to develop. We are told that the submarine would cost about £40 million. This weapon has a very limited range, and it would be very costly to produce. Further, it would not be all that effective when we had it. I would rather see Britain continue for the moment with its V-bomber force, making the best use it can of a weapon that might enable us to play our part without crippling ourselves financially.
We can go further. We must team up with European countries in these technical matters. My right hon. Friend made some progress in France last week. A few weeks ago I suggested that he do that, but I do not suppose that he read my speech. I suggested that we should get together with the French technical people, and we should also do so with the Commonwealth. People ask where we can go in the Commonwealth. There are good brains in India. Good scientists are being turned out of British and American universities, and they return to India. Also, we must not ignore the contribution that can be made by many smaller countries, and when I say "smaller" I mean smaller in years and not in knowledge.
The Government are doing the right thing, but I plead with my right hon. Friend to be frank with the House and tell us as soon as possible what he 305 proposes to do about space research. That will relieve the minds of many people who rely on Blue Streak for a living, and it will encourage improvements in technology which are passed on to many other industries.
The right hon. Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell) said that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Air did not refer to Skybolt in the Air Estimates to date. I have looked this up, and on 3rd March my right hon. Friend said:… we have kept closely in touch with the American design programme for Skybolt in order to ensure that, if need be, it could fit on to our V-bombers."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 3rd March, 1960; Vol. 618, c. 1441.]He referred to Skybolt and we can see what was in his mind at that time.
The Government have shown great courage in dealing with this matter. It would have been easy to go along hoping that something would come out of it. It is far better to go along when one knows the position than to just drift. I do not accept that it is £100 million down the drain. I think that in a few years' time we shall see that many things will come out of it which will show that the money may have been well spent.
§ 8.11 p.m.
§ Mr. R. H. S. Crossman (Coventry, East)
I will detain the House for a few moments only, because, in contrast with the last defence debate, I support everything that has been said from our Front Bench. I congratulate my right hon. Friends and hope that what has been said augers well of better things to come. I underline the tendency of the admirable speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown). He made the case for an inquiry into Blue Streak irrefutably, and all he said was strengthened by what we have heard from the other side.
It started with the Minister. If my right hon. Friend made a good case, the Minister made an even better one when we compare what he said with what was said by the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Hall Green (Mr. Aubrey Jones). He is an ex-Minister who knows what he is talking about. When I heard the version of the story as given by the right hon. Member for Hall Green, I began to feel that all the talk 306 about candour and frankness was a little exaggerated, because all sorts of facts that had been covered up by the Front Bench were brought out by him. It reminded me of Julius Ceasar. Here we have the assassins plotting to murder Blue Streak, and here we have Brutus making the funeral oration over the body. Along comes Mark Antony with a speech designed in a polite way to undermine his erstwhile colleagues and saying "I am still loyal to Caesar while you bury him and I keep his cause alive". Blue Streak, in terms of political controversy, will be a very violent ghost for a long time.
I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Bosworth (Mr. Wyatt). It is a major decision of policy which is being taken, as usual, with virtually no facts being made available to the House. This policy of denying an inquiry is becoming a habit. We asked for an inquiry on Suez. What happened? There was no inquiry, but all the secrets were made available to the ex-Prime Minister who was paid £100,000 to publish his special expurgated version of the case. The Minister of Aviation should be retired from Parliament and be permitted to publish a book for £50,000 giving his version of the secret facts, in answer to the Hall Green version. Then we might have the beginnings of an inquiry. I should have thought that in terms of democracy it was important to recognise the need for this inquiry into the reasons for suddenly breaking off this ten-year project, because the reasons given officially are quite incredible. I just do not believe that the reason is because the Americans are developing a new type of weapon which has nothing to do with missiles at all but with the supersonic bomber.
This argument for giving up Blue Streak half-way through is even more baffling when it is put forward by someone who maintains that he believes in the independent British Nuclear deterrent. Does the Minister believe in an independent British deterrent or in a British contribution to the Western deterrent? In his speech today he made a Freudian slip when he talked about his belief in an "independent Western deterrent". If one merely has a shell and somebody else has the gun, how can it be said that one possesses an independent artillery? 307 If the Government have decided to go on making British nuclear warheads and to use American missiles to deliver them, it is sheer hypocrisy to go on pretending that we have an independent British deterrent. What we really have is a British contribution to a Western deterrent.
The case has often been argued for having a European deterrent jointly made by the States of Western Europe, or a joint N.A.T.O. deterrent. But that has not been the Government's case. For the last nine years they have asserted the need for developing an independent British deterrent mainly on the ground given by the hon. and gallant Member for Macclesfield (Sir A. V. Harvey),— that we must be able to stand up to the Americans and be independent of them. "If they get into trouble we must be able to stand on our own feet." Year after year in the White Papers on defence the Government have said that we must not merely contribute to N.A.T.O. but have our exclusive independent British deterrent. We now have a Minister who speaks the truth by a slip of the tongue when he lisps "We want an independent Western deterrent". This, at the end of a speech in which he has denied us the right to an inquiry into what has really happened about Blue Streak.
For a long time many of us have suspected the ability of this country to play a rôle in nuclear warfare. The Minister referred to the £40 million spent on the Swift, "But that is a very small sum" he told us, "if one is in the nuclear club." "If one is dealing with nuclear weapons", we were assured "it is cheap at the price to get out of a dud weapon having spent only £100 million." I am sure the Minister is right. If one is going in for the nuclear arms race, one must be prepared to suffer a £100 million loss, for a miscalculation, a gamble that failed. Only the Powers with tile capacity to sustain such losses should go into the race.
There is something else which the Minister did not tell us before. He admitted we have one extra disadvantage which the Americans do not have. They may have seven, eight, or nine similar projects, and maybe two of them will come off and seven will be duds. Unfortunately, we can afford only one project at a time. In a previous debate, the 308 Minister compared our situation with the race track and said that we had to bet on our horse while she was still in the stable. But it is worse than that. We have to bet on our horse before it is born. When it is born it is found to have only three legs, but we have to continue to feed it because it is the only one that we have. We have only one British horse and we are in the Derby stakes. Therefore, we cannot admit that we cannot win. But other people look at our poor little horse and know its quality. "Only the British" they whisper to each other, are still deceiving themselves."
When our one nuclear project turned out to be a dud, we are completely impotent as a nuclear Power until we can borrow something from the Americans. And, then, of course, we cease to be an "independent nuclear Power".
What disturbs me is the way the Government have not taken our demand seriously. We are having this debate and there will be a Division, but the Government never dreamed of allowing an investigation. An ex-Minister can make a speech which, if one reads it carefully, amounts to saying, "You on the Front Bench have been fibbing, here are the real facts." But it does not make any difference because the Government think they can best get away with it if the people do not know the facts. I consider this seriously undermining the democratic process. After all, one of the differences between us and the Communists is supposed to be that we are prepared to have investigations and if a British Government have made a mess we are not afraid to sacrifice a Minister if he is responsible for it.
No one denies the terrible mess we have here. We need not discuss whether it was in 1957, 1958 or 1959 that the murder was committed. What cannot be denied is that some time before this year's defence debate the Government knew that Blue Streak should go. And, further, some time before the election they were becoming extremely suspicious that we could not carry on with a British independent deterrent and that we might have to move over to closer collaboration with the United States. But because they were playing politics, they delayed making their decision until it was overwhelmingly forced on them. And now they deny us an investigation.
309 We are indignant about that, and not only from a party point of view. One cannot make much sense of Parliamentary institutions if the Government treat the reasonable demands of Parliament— not the Opposition—for an investigation in this way. I hope that the speech which we are to have from the Minister of Aviation will include a serious attempt to show why in his view there is nothing to investigate.
We know from the Minister's statement that the true reason has not yet been given. After all we know the right hon. Gentleman is not as stupid as that! He has better reasons than have been given for deciding he could not carry on with his "British independent deterrent." Those better reasons should be published. That is why, speaking not only for the Opposition but for the people of the country, we say that it is a scandal and a disgrace that no inquiry should be granted into Blue Streak.
§ 8.25 p.m.
§ Mr. Rupert Speir (Hexham)
I hesitate to intervene in this very important and remarkable debate and I intend to be brief. I do so only because many of my constituents are employed at the Blue Streak rocket testing station at Spadeadam, on the Northumberland-Cumberland border. About 2,000 people have been employed at this station during the past three years, ranging from the highest class of Rolls-Royce technician to the humblest form of bottle washer.
Whatever one may think or say about the wisdom of having decided to introduce Blue Streak as a military missile, or whatever one may say now about the decision—
§ Mr. Leslie Hale (Oldham, West)
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. May I seek your guidance? It is not possible for me to call your attention to the fact that there are not a sufficient number of hon. Members in the Chamber, because there is a sufficient number on this side of the House. But is there any way in which it is possible to call attention to the fact that on the Government benches, during the debate on a Motion of censure, there are only five back bench Members present?
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Major Sir William Anstruther-Gray)
Order. The hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Hale) has been a Member of the House long enough to know what is and what is not a point of order. That was not a point of order.
§ Mr. Speir
The hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Hale) has himself not been in the Chamber for very long, and I should like to point out to him that the benches opposite were considerably depleted of Members—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."]—until the hon. Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman) rose to make his speech.
As I was saying, when the hon. Member made his bogus point of order, whatever we may think or say about the decision to develop Blue Streak as a missile, or about the decision now to cancel it, I do not think anyone who knows the facts of the situation can do anything but admire the incredible job which has been done at Spadeadam. The work has been done in considerable secrecy and under the most novel and trying conditions, and it has been carried out in a most remarkable fashion. I am glad to have the opportunity of paying a humble tribute to those who, during the last year or two, have self-sacrificingly slaved away to produce this vast new testing station.
Now the future of this rocket engine testing station is in doubt, and the reward for their generous and loyal service is uncertainty and the threat of unemployment. The point I wish to make to the Government is that this threat is made worse because at one and the same time Spadeadam is very remote and isolated and it is also in an area of Northumberland and Cumberland which, in the recent past, has suffered acutely from employment problems. In recent years the whole area has been hit hard by the closing of a number of mines and quarries. Even before the decision to close down on the development of Blue Streak as a military missile the area had been designated as a special area under 'the Local Employment Act.
The situation has been made the more serious by the fact that the area had a long history of acute unemployment during the inter-war years. I am glad to say that conditions have improved considerably since the war. With the 311 advent of the Spadeadam testing station it was hoped that prospects would remain favourable for many years to come. Now uncertainty has again been created, old fears have been revived and the effect on the neighbourhood is being felt far and wide. I hope and believe that the worst fears are, in fact, groundless. Although we may accept the Government's decision that Blue Streak should not now be developed as a missile, it does not follow that we should accept the idea that it should be abandoned from the point of view of research or for use for peaceful purposes.
For my part, I do not accept that we were wrong to attempt to develop Blue Streak as a military weapon. Nor do I believe that all the money expended on developing Blue Streak as a military weapon has been wasted. I realise that a vast sum has been spent, but the technical knowledge which has been gained by such firms as Rolls-Royce and de Havilland must be immense, and I believe that it will be of great scientific value to the country.
I must say to the Minister of Defence that what I find somewhat trying is that there should be this long gap, this uncertainty, as to whether, in fact, the Government are to go ahead with the development of Blue Streak for peaceful purposes. I am convinced that we in Britain have all the necessary skill and talent to justify our going ahead with a space research programme, and I should like to suggest to the Government that if the stumbling block to going ahead with the development of Blue Streak for peaceful purposes is the cost of such a programme, then the Government should urgently give consideration to the possibility of having this research programme undertaken as a joint Western European venture.
Recently, I had the honour of going to Norway as a member of a Parliamentary delegation from this House on the invitation of the Norwegian Parliament. While we were in Norway, we had the privilege of visiting their atomic reactor on the Swedish border at Halden. We found there British, Scandinavian, Dutch and other European scientists and physicists, all working together in developing this atomic reactor for peaceful purposes. I believe that no less than 25 per cent. of the cost of developing this Norwegian 312 reactor is being paid for by the British taxpayer. If we can work together on atomic power for peaceful purposes, I do not see why we in Western Europe should not work together on space research. I hope that the decision of the Government will be that, either alone or together with our Western European allies, we will decide to go ahead with this great work at Spadeadam.
Whatever decision the Government may come to, I hope that they will bear in mind the desirability of reaching an early decision about the future of Spadeadam, and that they will remember their very great responsibility to those who have gone to that remote part of the country at considerable self-sacrifice to themselves and have slogged away under the most difficult and trying conditions.
§ 8.33 p.m.
§ Mr. A. J. Irvine (Liverpool, Edge Hill)
Intervening towards the end of this debate, there are only one or two matters to which I should like to refer. It has seemed to me, since this debate began, that it was of cardinal importance to discover when it was that the Government first began to realise that a missile launched from a static site was vulnerable, and, at the same time, that the launching of a missile from a mobile site was practicable.
I ventured to intervene in the course of the speech of the Minister of Defence to ask for further information as to that, but I am bound to say that I do not think that that crucial item of information has been given sufficiently clearly. It seems to me that the only basis for an effective answer by the Government to the demand for an inquiry would be if they could tell the House perfectly frankly, in some detail and with accuracy, when it was that this vitally important information came to their knowledge.
How long was it before the suspected vulnerability of the immobile site came to be confirmed by their expert advisers? Can they tell the House whether, during that interim period, there was any phasing down of the expenditure on Blue Streak? Can they satisfy the House that when, finally, the suspicions on these matters were confirmed by the experts, they were in a position immediately, and without 313 any delay, to put an end to expenditure upon a weapon which had proved an ineffectual weapon in the event? It seems to me that upon these crucial matters there has been a total failure on the part of the Government to answer the demand for an inquiry from this side of the House.
Coming to the larger question of expenditure upon the deterrent, so far as back benchers on this side are concerned, I want to refer to observations that have been made, particularly by my right hon. Friend the Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell). He suggested that the debate has marked a shift or a transformation in the attitude towards defence of the Opposition and of the Labour Party. I want to examine this question and deal, first, with the controversy about unilateral nuclear disarmament. I do not think that it can be properly regarded by us on this side of the House as a controversy possessing ethical or moral content on any noticeable scale. I say that for this reason: unless one is a pacifist, if one advocates the abandonment of the British deterrent one is depending upon and acknowledging one's dependence upon the United States deterrent. That may be right or wrong, but it seems to me to controvert any suggestion that this controversy has any basic moral significance.
The second thing I would say on this point is that this controversy, carried out in the Labour Party and elsewhere with candour and honesty, is not one which has any very significant impact upon foreign policy. In that respect it differs from another controversy which, admittedly, caused great difficulty inside the Labour Party—the issue of German rearmament. That was a difficult question. For my part, I resisted as well as I could the proposal to rearm Germany. The majority of my own party took a different view, and that controversy is now a thing of the past.
There is, however, a distinction between that controversy and this one, in that the present controversy can be discussed while recognising that it is not a matter which has any profound impact upon foreign policy. Again, I would suggest to my colleagues in the Opposition that anyone who is satisfied that the time has come to abandon the British deterrent must have satisfied himself by 314 the same token that there is no conceivable chance of Britain ever being placed in a position of danger by virtue of the absence of that deterrent. That is a question which they must have asked themselves and which we must ask. It is a question of great difficulty, and unless one is satisfied about the answer to it one should hesitate before agreeing to the abandonment by us of the deterrent.
§ Mr. Wigg rose—
§ Mr. Irvine
I have not time to give way now.
I interrupted my right hon. Friend the Member for Easington on this point, and I am glad to see that he has now returned to the Chamber. I put to him a question which he treated with characteristic courtesy, if I may say so. I asked whether he thought that it was unthinkable that there might be a situation in which the United States of America might think that almost anything was better than to invite retaliation with nuclear weapons against themselves, and might, therefore, choose to treat Western Europe and the United Kingdom as expendable.
I asked my right hon. Friend, in this intervention, whether he considered that was a possible hypothesis, and whether, in that context, it might not be desirable and have a bearing and influence upon the development of affairs affecting our security if we possessed a deterrent of our own. That seems to me an important question, and one not entirely easy to answer. Indeed, it is a question on which people may have different opinions.
Nothing I say disparages in the least the significance or importance that I attach to the American alliance, or my reliance upon the United States contribution to Western defence. But, while I say that, I remember, as does every right hon. and hon. Member, that, invaluable allies though the Americans have been, on two occasions in two great world wars they came in at a late stage. When they came in, they were welcomed all right, but they did not come in until a late stage.
For my own part, I find it very difficult entirely to exclude the possibility that Britain might be regarded by them as expendable. There have recently 315 been things said in the United States which somewhat encourage that view. I feel that, if there is any risk of that kind, it might be very desirable for us to have our own deterrent. I suggest to the House and to the country, therefore, that no mistake should be made about the speed at which Labour's attitude to defence is being transformed at this time, or in the course of this debate.
Hon. and right hon. Friends of mine who are shifting in the direction in which it is suggested they are moving must surely face—many of them, no doubt, have done so—the logic of their recommendation, namely, the need implied within it for greatly intensifying and extending expenditure upon conventional armaments and also, probably, for National Service. Unless one is a pacifist, if one intends to abandon the deterrent, one will presumably recommend a relatively greater expenditure upon conventional arms and upon manpower.
I suggest that that must be in the minds of my hon. and right hon. Friends who take that view, and that that will be the conclusion to which they must come. All I say is that, if they do come to that conclusion, they must recognise the expense involved both in terms of money and of manpower and they must realise that, at the end of the day, that expenditure may be proved to have been just as misconceived and ineffectual as the expenditure we have seen upon Blue Streak. It is at least possible —I do not think that my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Hale) will challenge this—that, if there is a third world war, it may be found, in the event, to be a total nuclear war in which manpower and conventional forces will have relatively very small significance. If that does prove to be so, then it must undoubtedly follow that any greater expenditure upon conventional weapons and manpower will have been wasted and misspent.
I suggest to the House that there are great difficulties here. It is important that the rate of the alleged transformation of my party's opinion upon defence should not be overestimated. These are very narrow issues indeed, and, when issues are so narrowly balanced, it is 316 not appropriate to think in terms of crusades. As I have said, I do not believe that the moral content of the controversy is very important since those who recommend unilateral nuclear disarmament, unless they are pacifists, by that token reveal their entire dependence upon the American deterrent.
§ Mr. Sydney Silverman (Nelson and Colne) rose—
§ Mr. Irvine
No, I cannot give way. I promised to sit down in a few moments and I wish to keep that promise. [Interruption.] I shall not be put off by the gibes of my hon. Friend the Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman).
§ Mr. Irvine
My hon. Friend the Member for Nelson and Colne invites me not to provoke him. That is a compliment from him.
§ Mr. Irvine
I fully believe that my hon. Friend recognises the circumstance, not entirely welcome to him, that there are scores and scores of responsible people inside the Labour Party who are not prepared—
§ Mr. Hale rose—
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
Order. The hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Hale) knows that when another hon. Member is speaking he cannot rise to his feet. Mr. Irvine.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
I called the hon. and learned member for Liverpool, Edge Hill (Mr. A. J. Irvine) to finish his speech.
§ Mr. Hale
My hon. and learned Friend sat down and gave way to me. I therefore exercised the acknowledged right 317 of hon. Members of accepting my hon. and learned Friend's courtesy with brevity, not taking any notice of the assembly which has just come into the Chamber. My hon. and learned Friend made one or two unhappy remarks, I think, in a desire to be brief. He will know that some of us have taken this view for a very long time—
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
Order. The hon. Member for Oldham, West must observe the rules of the House. He is not entitled to speak unless he catches the eye of the Chair and is called upon to do so. I call Mr. Irvine.
§ Mr. Irvine
I gave way to my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Hale) because I understood that he had a constructive contribution to make upon the point that I was putting forward.
I desire now to conclude with the observation that I believe that it would be a great error to think that in the course of this debate, by anything that has been said or by any arguments presented, there has been any significant shift of defence policy—
§ Mr. Irvine
—on the part of the Opposition. My hon. Friend the Member for Nelson and Colne says, "Wait and see." I am perfectly ready to follow that advice with considerable confidence as to what the outcome will be.
§ 8.48 p.m.
§ Mr. Harold Wilson (Huyton)
This has certainly been an interesting debate, and I think that in the months and, perhaps, years to come we may look back on it and recognise that it has been an historic debate. Yesterday, the Prime Minister, in gibing about the projected length of the debate, said that if we had a full length debate this side of the House would be split wide open on the issues raised by the Motion. The right hon. Gentleman went on to boast that he could unite his own side of the House and challenged us to do the same. Apart from the little friendly tiff of the last couple of minutes, I think that I can say that during this debate our side of the House has been in complete agreement. That certainly cannot be said of the party opposite.
318 Let me say to right hon. Members opposite—I wish that the Prime Minister were here—[HON. MEMBERS: "Where is he?"] A large proportion of the Cabinet has gone to a dinner tonight. It was they who wanted a short debate. I would say to right hon. Members opposite, when they have composed their differences, that we shall go into the Lobby united and with none of the reservations which afflict some right hon. and hon. Members opposite.
Of the leading speakers opposite, including the representatives of the growing body of back bench Privy Councillors, only one has supported the Government's obstinacy in going on with the Blue Streak missile up to this month. That was the right hon. Gentleman the former Minister of Supply. He attacked the Government for dropping it. We have had no support in effect of the Government's policy. I say this of the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Birmingham, Hall Green (Mr. Aubrey Jones), the former Minister of Supply. The facts which he gave the House tonight, much fuller than anything that we had from the Minister of Defence, reinforced the case so ably put this afternoon by my right hon. Friend the Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown) for an inquiry into this whole business.
It is very clear—I think that I forecast this yesterday—that the House will have to come back soon to debate the great issues both for defence and foreign policy which are involved in this decision. I propose to deal in the main tonight, following the terms of our Motion, with the unhappy story which culminated in the announcement by the Minister of Defence on 13th April. The main facts have been recounted by my right hon. Friend the Member for Belper.
While, of course, missile research goes back a good deal further, this story goes back to about 1957, when we had a new Defence Minister, now the right hon. Gentleman the expensive Minister of Aviation. Really, it goes back to the Prime Minister and to the post-Suez situation, as my right hon. Friend said. Suez, besides being a moral crime and an international blunder, was universally admitted to be about the most inept military operation in the whole of our long history. So the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister, who boasted on television, on his appointment, that he 319 would make Great Britain great, tried to find a short cut to greatness, and, as he hoped, a cheap short cut to greatness. The means he chose was to sacrifice the whole of our defence resources to keep up with our nuclear neighbours.
That was to be the means and the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Aviation was to be the instrument. We had the H-bomb; the problem was the delivery. The V-bombers would serve until the mid-'sixties and then we should need an independent missile, hence Blue Streak. The then Minister of Defence, the present Minister of Aviation—I think that he was the eighth Minister of Defence that we have had under this Government— told us last year how Blue Streak came to be chosen. These were the words he used:Before coming to our decision, I can assure the House that we made a searching examination of this problem with the help of our scientists and military experts and with the full co-operation of those engaged on this work in the United States. … In making the choice of the Blue Streak rocket we considered a wide variety of operational factors—thrust, range, vulnerability, size of warhead, spare-carrying capacity for various future developments and, finally, date of delivery … But in the present state of knowledge"—this is last year when he was speaking—I am confident that our decision to continue with the development of Blue Streak is the right course, and, in fact, that any other course would involve a wholly unprofitable "gamble ".—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 25th February, 1959; Vol. 600, c. 1137–1140.]That was his phrase—wholly unprofitable gamble. We had the bill this afternoon for avoiding that gamble.
The then Minister of Supply, who addressed us this afternoon—they were all in it up to the neck, the whole lot of them—said in last year's defence debate that Blue Streak was not a duplication of American development. It was a necessary intermediary between the American single-stage missile and the multi-stage missiles they were working on. Blue Streak was he said, essential. He used these words which I think the House should take account of today— this was the then Minister of Supply, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Hall Green:I do not see how we can lightly turn round to the United States and say, 'No, we have not the talents nor the skills, nor the resources to do this. We must look to you 320 to develop something in addition to what you are doing'."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 26th February, 1959; Vol. 600, c. 1326.]The right hon. Gentleman said that we could not go cap in hand to the Americans to provide a means of delivery: no, we needed our own independent means of delivery. What he then said that we could not say to the United States is exactly what the Minister of Defence is now saying to the Americans.
The then Minister of Defence went on to refer to the need for "a margin of additional power and payload …" He said:The Blue Streak, with its powerful thrust and large capacity, will, we believe, provide this margin, and sited underground it will be very difficult to knock out."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 26th February, 1959; Vol. 600, c. 1423.]The then Minister of Supply had no margin at all, whether of thrust or capacity, and he was knocked out himself soon after.
The Minister of Aviation went marching on. Although he was laconic in the House, it was outside the House that he became really lyrical about his pet project. In February, 1959, on the eve of the Prime Minister's visit to Moscow, the right hon. Gentleman held a Press conference, and the whole of the Press were left in no doubt of his enthusiasm. To quote only one of the papers involved, the headline in the Evening News was:Blue Streak wins. Go-ahead for 3,000 mile missile. Now Macmillan will talk from strength.The newspaper went on, obviously quoting the right hon. Gentleman:The Blue Streak which can be developed for space exploration … adds up to the fact that when Mr. Macmillan goes to Moscow next week he will be able to talk to the Soviet leaders from a position of impressive strength.I have a large number of cuttings from different newspapers, and they are all practically identical in their wording. At the same Press conference, to judge from the Press, the right hon. Gentleman made some scathing criticism of Polaris, with which Ministers, or, at any rate, some of them, are now flirting as a possible substitute for Blue Streak. A year ago the Minister of Aviation utterly dismissed Polaris as a possibility.
§ Mr. Wilson
What he actually said was that it would be extremely costly Has it been cheapened now by mass production? He said that it was unlikely to remain undetectable. Perhaps Russian powers of detection have deteriorated since a year ago. He said that its movements could be closely watched by an enemy. According to the right hon. Gentleman, all this is presumably no longer true.
However, the newspapers came out with the headline:
"Polaris out. Blue Streak in."
on the basis of what the right hon. Gentleman told us.
That is one of the troubles of having nine Ministers in less than nine years, each of them with a new costly project, scrapping his predecessor's project and launching out on another.
§ Mr. Wilson
We opposed the gamble. My right hon. Friend the Member for Belper was very blistering about it year after year, It was clear, certainly to this side of the House and to informed sections of the Press sixteen months ago, that the project should be scrapped. However, the right hon. Gentleman went on with it and was still going on with it this year. In February of this year the Government were still standing firm. On 8th February, the Minister of Aviation accused my hon. Friend the Member for Bosworth (Mr. Wyatt) of harbouring dangerous thoughts when he conceded even the possibility that Blue Streak might be abandoned. The right hon. Gentleman said, on 8th February:I know of no intention to discontinue the development of Blue Streak."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 8th February, 1960; Vol. 617, c. 20.]All these intricate mergers in the aircraft industry, all the right hon. Gentleman's shotgun weddings between one aircraft firm and another, were based on the assumption that Blue Streak would go on. and on the division of labour between civil and military work in the various firms being integrated.
Now I come to the Defence White Paper of two months ago. This said:The development of the British ballistic missile Blue Streak is continuing.Then, of course, it started to hedge:However, it may be decided "—322 and I quote what my right hon. Friend the Member for Belper quoted this afternoon—not to rely exclusively on fixed-site missiles as the successor to the medium bomber armed with the stand-off powered bomb. Therefore, the possibilities of mobile launchers, whether aircraft or submarines, for long-range delivery of nuclear warheads are being investigated.The key word there, if words mean anything, is the word "exclusively", but the Government have entirely changed their policy since the White Paper was debated in the House only a few weeks ago.
The Minister of Defence, the present Minister—No. 9—opening the defence debate gave the House this encouraging message, and perhaps one or two hon. Members actually believed it. Commending the White Paper to the House he said at the very beginning of his speech:… the Government's plans for defence are clear, comprehensive and, I believe, give good value for money…"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 29th Feburary, 1960; Vol. 618, c. 846.]And there are actually some who say that the right hon. Gentleman has no sense of humour.
Just six weeks later, and, of course, about two days after the Press had got the story, the Minister came to the House and pronounced the funeral oration on Blue Streak. What the House and the country have the right to know is why it took sixteen months and £100 million to take a decision which most informed people knew had to be taken as early as January, 1959. The Minister of Defence has not given us the answer today in his lame and limping list of excuses. He did not speak as if he had his heart in the job. The only time that he spoke with any assurance at all was when he was sheltering behind his civil servants— when he was whining at the Box that civil servants had not advised him last September that the scheme should have been dropped. Let me tell him that Lord Crathorne, when he was Sir Thomas Dugdale, did not do that.
§ Mr. Watkinson
I have a perfect right to give an indication of what my advice is, and I coupled with it a very firm statement that my own judgment—that is the Minister's entire responsibility— led me to exactly the same decision.
§ Mr. Wilson
The right hon. Gentleman could have had it one way or the other, 323 but not both ways, as he tried it this afternoon.
The right hon. Gentleman told us why the scheme was not dealt with earlier. Some cynical people, among whom I am not to be found, might have thought that the reason was the election, that it was a costly fiasco on the eve of a General Election and that it might diminish the enthusiasm of those ageing young Conservatives who went from meeting to meeting shouting "Groundnuts" every time any Labour candidate tried to emphasise to the electorate the need for expanding the development of the underdeveloped areas.
Perhaps it was not the election. In my view, it was not. Frankly, the reason for the refusal to write off Blue Streak when everyone else saw what the position was, the reason for the waste of tens of millions of pounds was one thing only—to save the face of the then Minister, the present Minister of Aviation. This is the most expensive face in history—certainly since that of Helen of Troy launched a thousand ships, and at least they were operational.
This is not just our view. Let me quote the Financial Times, the voice of the City:Blue Streak survived as long as it did simply because Mr. Duncan Sandys is an extremely obstinate man. He based his defence policy on the deterrent, and he based the future delivery of the deterrent on Blue Streak. So long as he was Defence Minister he was a jealous patron of the project against all comers and, indeed, against all arguments. Even after he had left the Ministry of Defence his ardent advocacy in Cabinet, backed by muttered threats of resignation, kept Blue Streak alive —though on sufferance only—in this year's Defence White Paper.There we are—"muttered threats of resignation". The right hon. Gentleman should speak up. Let us be clear. It was not, of course, considerations of cost that caused the project to be dropped. The sudden change was the admission that fixed sites, even holes in the ground, were extremely vulnerable to enemy attack.
I have quoted the Financial Times. Now I will refer to an important article which appeared in The Times last February written by its Defence Correspondent, whom hon. Members on both sides of the House regard with great respect as a defence authority. I apolo- 324 gise for having to quote so many newspapers, but Ministers give us so little information in debates that the House is launched on a projected expenditure of £500 million or £600 million on the basis of a dozen lines of explanation in HANSARD. SO we have to rely on what Ministers opposite tell the newspaper correspondents, who produce their stories afterwards.
It was clear from the account in The Times that at the very time when the Minister of Aviation was announcing in February of last year the victory of Blue Streak, the end of Polaris and the rest of it, a high-powered committee had been set up by the Ministry of Defence, under its Permanent Secretary, to decide all these issues, and the right hon. Gentleman was going out on his own, making his announcement and prejudicing its decision. However, the Powell Committee went on meeting and finally produced the decision of 13th April this year, as we understand it.
Before I turn to the finance of this matter, I will examine some of the arguments put forward by the present Minister on 13th April and repeated today. The right hon. Gentleman now admits that my right hon. Friend was right on 13th April when he said that the estimated cost was certainly over £100 million. What has the Minister to say? The Minister says that the cost of completing it would be between £500 million and £600 million. In other words, he says that the project has been stopped when about only one-sixth of the expense has been incurred, so that we have not wasted £100 million, we have saved £400 million or £500 million. You lucky people!
What an argument for defending a policy, a policy which is involving £100 million going down the drain. It can only be compared with the argument of the man who banged his head against a wall for ten minutes and, in answer to queries as to why he was doing it, said that it was because it was so nice when he stopped. Not satisfied with this, the Minister continued:If we are to keep the peace for an occasional expenditure of £60 million-odd, it is very cheap."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 13th April, 1960; Vol. 621, c. 1269.]Yes, but how does the Minister argue that this £60 million or £100 million has 325 helped to keep the peace? It has gone on research and testing structures and projectiles, which were not, in any case, due to be operational until 1965, and now never will be. How can he say that this has had any bearing on the maintenance of peace? Of course, if he really believes this, if the abortive expenditure of £100 million has kept the peace, then on his argument he should have gone on and wasted the lot.
The Minister of Defence tells us again that the decision to make Blue Streak was based on the best military and technical and scientific advice. So, incidentally, was the groundnuts scheme—on the advice of Unilever. But the then Minister's chief adviser, Sir Frederick Brundrett, on whom great reliance must have been placed, said recently that the alternatives of airborne or seaborne missiles are still a long time off, and it will be 1970 at the earliest before Britain can have a mobile independent deterrent.
So here we are. In 1957, we were told that we must have rocket delivery of an independent British missile because V-bombers would be going out of business by the mid-1960s. A start was urgent because eight years would be needed. Now, with three of the eight years gone, we are told that there is time to look around. If that is true, why did we have to take this desperate and costly plunge three or more years ago?
Why was it that eight years ago we needed every month to be ready by 1965, but now, in five years, we have plenty of time to look around? The Minister of Defence said today that we have Sky-bolt. Have we? We do not know about that.
This is the trouble. Every new Minister of Defence has a pet project. He finds a goose and tells us in one White Paper, that it is a swan—until we have finished paying for it and then it is a dead duck. Are we, in fact, getting Skybolt? Does it exist? The Minister was only able to tell us that the United States Government would give it full priority. Is that not what the British Government did with Blue Streak? Is this a guarantee?
The Observer of ten days ago carried an interview with a high Pentagon officer. It is worth quoting:Pentagon sources are saying that the logic which forced Britain to abandon the Blue Streak missile will compel her to abandon an 326 independent deterrent. 'We have reason to think this is what London plans eventually.' a United States Air Force general said.He and other senior officers contend that if a fixed-base missile, like the Blue Streak, is too vulnerable to missile attack, the airfields from which the V-bombers would take off are even more vulnerable.If the bombers can be destroyed on the ground in a surprise attack it makes little sense to buy the American Skybolt for them. Even with the ballistic missile early-warning station at Flyingdales Moor, Britain would have only a three-minute warning against rockets from Eastern Germany bases 600 miles away.'To avoid haying her bombers destroyed on the ground, Britain would have to maintain an airborne alert. And you don't seem to be able to afford that,' the American general said.'If the Blue Streak is too expensive, then an airborne alert and the Skybolt are too expensive for you. As a matter of fact, you already are in the position of not having an independent deterrent, and by deterrent I mean the threat that you will hit back if you are hit.'Because of distance they may not catch us on the ground, but they could catch you now.''The Skybolt will not change matters much because it will not be ready for six years and, in any case, it is too big for your V-bombers'.This is a Pentagon general talking. Members opposite will find that Pentagon generals very often have great power with the State Department, and some of the optimistic accounts which we have had today may not be so optimistic when we debate this next time. The Observer article added:As for announcing that Britain may acquire the Skybolt, this is considered here as a face-saving step, half-way to abandoning an independent deterrent.If it is not Skybolt, is it Polaris? Does the Minister of Defence agree with the devastating criticisms made by his right hon. Friend the Minister of Aviation at a Press conference a year ago, when he used such phrases as "extremely costly", "unlikely to remain undetectable", "its movement could be closely watched by an enemy", and so on.
Reference has been made to space research. We were all impressed by the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Bosworth. The Government must not try to use space research as a way of riding out of this situation. If there is a good case for space research —and we should like to know—the Government should come honestly to the House, make a full statement of 327 what is intended and give a full and accurate account of what it is to cost and, for once, let the House of Commons know what it is to be committed to.
The other problem is that of those engaged on this work. I wish to say that all our criticisms of the Government today are no reflection on the technicians, designers and scientists who have done a wonderful job on Blue Streak. They have solved thousands of problems that might have been thought to be insoluble. The complaint and the attack are not on them, but on the Minister for his misdeployment of his valuable scientific resources. Let me remind the Minister that the total spent on civil research in this country is about £60 million a year. We have had £100 million going down the drain on Blue Streak for the past four or five years, with all that that could have meant if it had been properly deployed.
The Minister of Aviation will no doubt announce the new deal which he has fixed up in Germany—the supersonic jet airliner. I hope that he will not try to sidetrack his responsibility for Blue Streak by a thing like that. If he is to announce a programme of joint missile research and production with Western Germany, involving strategic missiles, we on this side of the House will view it with very great anxiety, indeed. As we have shown in the Lobbies, we are already most anxious about the supply of nuclear arms to Western Germany. If there is to be any question of missile production, we shall want to go into the matter very thoroughly indeed.
I turn for a moment to the financial aspects of this problem. Grave criticisms were made by hon. Members apposite, including the noble Lord for Dorset, South (Viscount Hinching-brooke), before and during the Budget debate, about the growth of Government expenditure. I suggest that this is a subject to which they should give their minds. How they vote tonight will, perhaps, be a good test of their sincerity in this matter.
This is a dramatic and expensive illustration of a wider problem, that of Parliamentary control over expenditure on defence. In the sense in which the House understands it, control of public 328 expenditure no longer works. Before the war, we could order a battleship and we could know what the cost would be and what we were getting, and there could be an investigation if it cost too much and it could have specific descriptions and was an identifiable animal. Now there can be no accurate estimates and, therefore, no control of expenditure. The whole business is done on a cost-plus-research basis and the contractor himself is the custodian of the public purse. It is difficult for the House, even ex post facto, to find out what has been happening.
If one could imagine the Government doing something so useful as sponsoring a system of cancer research, a wonderful thing to do, as with missiles one could never say for what one was looking and it would all have to be done on a cost-plus basis. That is another reason to add to those given to my right hon. and hon. Friends for demanding an independent inquiry into what has happened to Blue Streak as a guide for the future.
The Government have so far been completely frivolous and irresponsible about this gross waste of public money. The Minister of Defence today said that £500 million was not an excessive economic burden on the country. The Minister of Aviation arrived at London Airport last week with such helpful phrases about £100 million as, "It will all come out in the wash", and "We will be on the side of the angels". There was not one word or suggestion of contrition for the way in which he has been responsible for this monstrous waste of Government money.
What of the Chancellor of the Exchequer? I should have thought that he would have been sitting in on the whole debate. Was he not concerned? We were told that the right hon. Member for Monmouth (Mr. Thorneycroft) resigned over £50 million. Since then, £100 million has gone down the drain.
We used to hear a lot from hon. Gentlemen opposite about groundnuts, but at least that scheme left some abiding assets of value in East Africa—hospitals, roads, ports, and harbour installations. I remember Lord Crookshank—there is no time for all the quotations from those groundnut debates, but how I would like to make them tonight—reminding the House that the House of Commons was responsible for the waste of £35¾ million, 329 which would be chicken feed by the calculation of the Minister of Defence. Lord Crookshank went on to say… although we have got a new Minister, it is still the same Government, I am sorry to say, and they still have the same collective responsibility, and they still have the same Prime Minister. …He added:This House regards as essential and urgent a full inquiry into the present situation and the future prospects. …"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 18th July, 1950; Vol. 477, c. 2160.]We do not get—[HON. MEMBERS: "Was there an inquiry?"] Yes, there was a full inquiry. We do not get this attitude from the Government when it is a question of social expenditure. We did not get it just before Easter in the censure debate on old-age pensions. We would not get it if it were a question of more money for a hospital. We do not get this idea when it is a question of finding £5 million to get rid of prescription charges on the old-age pensioners and the chronic sick. What has gone down the drain on this scheme would pay for the full restoration of housing subsidies for twenty years.
The trouble is that there is no sense of guilt. The attitude of right hon. Gentlemen opposite is out of keeping with the tradition of the House. I began by saying that the House would want a much wider debate on these issues, because what we have seen today, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Belper indicated, is the end of the independent nuclear deterrent. From now on, there is no sense in any defence talk about independence. From now on the word will have to be "interdependence".
We have had nine Ministers of Defence and we have spent more than £15,000 million, and yet the whole of our defence policy today is in shreds. Hon. Members opposite, who will be trooping into the Lobby in half an hour, know that as well as we do. Today's debate is a censure on the Minister of Aviation and those who bear joint responsibility with him, but in a wider sense the facts which have been disclosed today reflect most gravely of all on the Prime Minister.
Since the right hon. Gentleman has been Prime Minister the country has spent nearly £5,000 million on so-called defence. When he became Prime 330 Minister, he set out to keep up with his nuclear neighbours. Like so many other rather pathetic individuals whose sense of social prestige outruns their purse, he is left in the situation at the end of the day of the man who dare not admit that he cannot afford a television set and who knows that he cannot afford it and who just puts up the aerial instead. That is our situation, because without an independent means of delivery, the independent nuclear deterrent, the right hon. Gentleman's cheap, short cut to national greatness, is an empty illusion.
As the Financial Times said:We should leave to General de Gaulle the fatuous search for national prestige through the belated and the technologically inferior production of weapons that belong in the arsenals of powers richer than ourselves.After the disaster which we have debated today, does the British deterrent, based on Blue Streak, impress our nuclear neighbours any more than France's Sahara bomb impresses us?
I have given reasons, as have my right hon. and hon. Friends, why the Minister of Aviation should make a short speech, apologise and resign—but I am not certain that he should resign alone.
§ 9.23 p.m.
§ The Minister of Aviation (Mr. Duncan Sandys)
The right hon. Member for Huyton (Mr. H. Wilson) said that this was an important and even an historic debate. We all enjoyed his knockabout speech, but it hardly rose to the level of what he described as an historic occasion. The right hon. Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown) made a more serious contribution to our discussion. He said that he hoped that the House would concentrate its attention on the specific issue of Blue Streak and, with one or two exceptions, that has been the case. I am very glad of that, because I have no wish to evade this issue in any way.
The right hon. Member for Huyton and the right hon. Member for Belper made it quite clear that the Opposition are particularly after my blood today. The right hon. Member for Huyton maintained that I have a personal responsibility for Blue Streak which goes beyond my share of collective responsibility as a member of the Cabinet. I accept that without any question. I suppose that 331 I have had more to do with rockets— at both ends—than any other hon. Member. In the war-time Coalition Government I was the Minister responsible for defence against the German V1 and V2 weapons, and since 1951 I have been concerned with missiles at the Ministry of Supply, the Ministry of Defence and now at the Ministry of Aviation. I therefore readily recognise that I am accountable in a special degree for the decisions that have been taken.
That does not worry me, because I am convinced that the decisions that we have taken were right, in the circumstances obtaining when they were taken, all the way through. I am glad that the hon. Member for Bosworth (Mr. Wyatt) referred to the scientists, because I want to make it quite clear that Blue Streak has not been stopped because of any technical failure. If it had been carried through to completion I am confident that it would have had as fine a performance as any medium-range rocket made in Russia or America. The interruption of a great scientific project is naturally a fearful disappointment to those engaged upon it, as the hon. Member rightly said.
Whatever may be thought of the rights or wrongs of Government policy, I am sure that the whole House will wish to pay tribute to the skill and devotion of the scientists, technicians, engineers and others who have been working on the various aspects of Blue Streak.
§ Mr. Sandys
The hon. Member may say that there are no cheers, but the House owes a tribute to these people.
I would also like to express our thanks to the Australian Government for the immense help they have given us all along. They have been our partners at Woomera and have borne a large share of the cost of establishing the range. We naturally consulted them fully about the Change in the programme; and we greatly appreciate the realistic spirit in which they have accepted the decision to abandon a project upon which so much interest in Australia was centred.
The Opposition seek to censure the Government for their refusal to institute an inquiry. We have refused to accede 332 to their request for an inquiry because we consider that they have not shown that there is any need or justification for it, or that it would throw any new light on the problem. But I want to answer fully all the criticisms that have been made. The Government have been criticised for a number of things—for having ever started Blue Streak; for not stopping it sooner; for not buying an American missile from the outset, and for wasting a lot of public money. There is also another group of critics who blame us for starting Blue Streak too late and stopping it too soon. I will try to deal with all those criticisms. I will not shirk any of them.
The most coherent way in which I can do this is by telling the story of Blue Streak chronologically—and I have been closely connected with it all the way through—and explaining to the House why we took the decisions we did at each stage. The story must be viewed against the background of our defence policy as a whole. It is an essential part of that policy that Britain should possess nuclear weapons of her own, and the means of delivering them. That policy was initiated by the Labour Government with the support of the Conservative Opposition. That same policy has been continued by the Conservative Government with the support of the Labour Opposition. The issue, therefore, is not whether we should have nuclear weapons. The issue between us relates solely to the means of delivery.
The right hon. Member for Belper said that it was clearly a mistake ever to start Blue Streak. I will explain to the House why we did. For a long time it had been clear that anti-aircraft guided weapons would become so accurate that at some time in the early 1960s the manned bomber with free-falling bombs would no longer be able to get through. To meet this situation we put in hand the development of a propelled bomb, Blue Steel, which could be released outside heavily defended areas and could fly on to its target at over twice the speed of sound. However, we recognised that by the mid-1960s the defences would probably have caught up with this form of attack and would be able to shoot down the flying bomb also.
We therefore decided that by about 1965 we would have to provide ourselves with a missile which would be 333 better able to penetrate anti-aircraft defences. It was clear that the only kind of weapon which would meet this requirement was a ballistic rocket. The Opposition have accepted all along that we shall need a ballistic rocket of one sort or another. I should like to quote a passage from a statement made by the right hon. Member for Belper in an official party political television broadcast on behalf of the Labour Party.
§ Mr. Sandys
On 30th March, 1957. I am trying to show that at an early stage the Labour Party was supporting this policy, because the right hon. Gentleman said that we obviously made a mistake in starting Blue Streak.
§ Mr. Sandys
I do not know whether this particular passage has been quoted. If it has, it is so good that it is worth repeating. The right hon. Gentleman said:The present generation of V-bombers will be our last manned bombers. Thereafter our policy should be to put all our effort into producing missiles, missiles of our own with heads on instead of American ones without heads.The right hon. Gentleman went on to say:If we do that, we will save a lot of money.
§ Mr. Sandys
That hardly fits in with accusations that, first, we should not have started Blue Streak, and, secondly, that by reason of the fact that we pursued this policy we wasted a lot of money.
We did not take such a nationalistic point of view as the right hon. Gentleman, nor were we quite so sure that we would save money by developing a rocket of our own. Before deciding to develop a British rocket for this rôle we considered whether we could obtain a suitable weapon from America. As Minister of Supply, I went to Washington in June, 1954, to discuss the possibility with the U.S. Secretary of Defence, Mr. Charles Wilson. However, it was made clear to me that it was not the policy of the American Government to supply other countries with ballistic rockets, even without nuclear warheads, at that time. This would, in their opinion, have 334 been contrary to the spirit of the McMahon Act, which, at that time, had not yet been amended.
On the other hand, the Americans agreed to give us full technical assistance in the development of a rocket of our own. As a result, we obtained much important information which was of great assistance in the design of Blue Streak. It will thus be seen, I claim, that far from having gone it alone out of obstinate national pride, we have from the start co-operated with the Americans just as closely as their Government policy and their laws allowed. Even if the Americans had been willing some years ago to sell us rockets we could have made no use of them since we did not then possess the technical knowledge to design warheads suitable for fitting to American weapons. We did not obtain that knowledge until Congress amended the McMahon Act in July, 1958, which enabled nuclear information to be exchanged.
I will show the House that after that no time was wasted. Within two months, in September, 1958, I went again to Washington to re-examine the position in the light of the new legislation. I explained that my object was to find out whether we could obtain a suitable American weapon which we could substitute for Blue Streak and so save money. The American Government were most helpful and gave me particulars of the various missiles they were developing. In the medium-range class there were really only two weapons, one was Thor and the other Polaris. We rejected Thor for two reasons. First it did not possess the full range we needed and secondly, it could not be sited underground.
The Americans emphasised to us that the underwater firing of Polaris raised many complex problems and that we should be most unwise to cancel our own Blue Streak until the feasibility of the Polaris system had been more fully proved. Moreover, they advised us that we would do better to wait for later versions of an improved type. In any case, it was clear that it would be unrealistic to suppose that we could construct the special nuclear submarines required before 1970 which would leave us with a gap of several years in our deterrent. To buy them from 335 America for dollars, even if we could have got them, would have been a very costly operation.
As was said by my right hon. Friend the Member for Carshalton (Mr. Head) the Polaris system will undoubtedly be very expensive and we cannot necessarily assume—I confirm what I said before—that the submarine will indefinitely remain undetected. However, we shall continue to watch the progress of Polaris. The point I am making is that Polaris did not offer a solution to the problem of maintaining a British independent nuclear deterrent in the second half of the 1960s.
§ Mr. Sandys
I have very little time, and, if the right hon. Gentleman will forgive me, I will not give way.
I wish to make this clear. In addition to Thor and Polaris the Americans also told me, in the autumn of 1958, in general terms, about a scheme for launching a ballistic rocket from aeroplanes. This was later given the name of Skybolt. At the stage of development which the project had then reached there was clearly no question of basing a change of our defence plans upon it. Accordingly—I am giving the House a chronological account because I believe it to be the best way—on my return from Washington in the autumn of 1958 I advised my colleagues that for the time being we had no alternative but to continue with the development of Blue Streak.
This was announced in the Defence White Paper of 1959. The right hon. Member for Huyton quoted my speech in the debate which followed. I not only said what he quoted, but I also made clear that our decisions ware not immutable. I said:We shall … continue to watch the progress of other developments in America …"— [OFFICIAL REPORT, 25th February, 1959; Vol. 600, c. 1139.]—showing that this was in our minds all the way through.
I have been accused of sticking stubbornly to Blue Streak regardless of public expense. I think that from the account I have given of my talks in Washington in 1954 and again in 1958 the House will see how wide of the 336 mark that accusation is. I have, in fact, from the very start been consistently trying to substitute an American weapon for Blue Streak so as to save money. For the reasons which I have explained, this has now become feasible for the first time.
The right hon. Member for Belper said that he has known about Skybolt for more than a year, and that we could have adopted it long ago. I probably knew just as much about Skybolt as the right hon. Gentleman, but the fact is that Skybolt was not formally adopted for development as a weapon for the United States Air Force until February of this year, and until the Americans had decided to adopt this weapon for development for their own air force it would have been wholly irresponsible for us to adopt it.
To sum up this part of my argument, I claim that at each stage the decisions that we took were not only right but inevitable, and that any other Government in the same circumstances would have had to do the same. Far from postponing the cancellation of Blue Streak too long, we are stopping it at the first possible opportunity, and even so—
§ Mr. Sandys
—it involves an appreciable, though in our view a justifiable, risk.
The right hon. Member for Belper said that the responsibility for the Blue Streak fiasco rests 100 per cent. on the Government. His main criticism of Blue Streak is that it is a fixed site rocket and is not mobile. Of course, it would have been better if we could have developed a mobile weapon ourselves, but my answer to that is that we did not know how. Let us be quite frank; we did not know how. You have to learn to launch rockets from the ground before you can launch them from fast-moving aeroplanes or from submarines.
The Americans themselves have only just reached this stage now, and we are unfortunately a good way behind them. The reason for that is quite simple. The Americans started work on ballistic rockets immediately after the war, whereas we did not start until the early 1950s. This was largely due to the fact that the development of ballistic rockets 337 was entirely ignored and neglected by the Labour Government. In the years after the war, when the Americans and the Russians were pressing ahead, virtually no work was done in Britain on ballistic rockets. If we are behind, the blame rests fairly and squarely on the party opposite.
That is my answer to those who say that we should have stopped Blue Streak sooner. But there are also those who say not only that we ought to have started Blue Streak sooner but that we ought not to cancel it now. In the last eighteen months Skybolt has made important progress, and it is important to say this to the House. It is now being developed in America on high priority for the United States Strategic Air Command.
§ Mr. Sandys
The future of the Strategic Air Command of the United States will depend just as much for its future as the V-bomber force on the development of ballistic rockets which can be air launched. Great importance is, therefore, attached to it.
It should be operational by the time we need it. The right hon. Member for Belper said that there would be strings attached to Skybolt. As my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister explained at Question Time yesterday, the United States Government have told us that they are willing to supply us with these missiles without any conditions which would limit our freedom to use them in self-defence. [Interruption.] Hon. Members can look at what the Prime Minister said; I shall not repeat it now.
§ Mr. Sandys
I can inform the House that before making our decision we examined the different factors involved —financial, military and scientific. But, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Hall Green (Mr. Aubrey Jones) showed in his interesting speech today, it was not by any means an easy decision, for the simple reason that the arguments were not all one way, much as hon. Members opposite may be surprised. Nevertheless, after carefully weighing up the various considerations, we reached the conclusion that in all the 338 circumstances it was right to stop the further development of Blue Streak as a weapon now. I readily admit that if money were no object we would doubtless have carried on with the development of Blue Streak as an insurance while we watched the further development of alternative missiles. But money is. of course, a most important consideration.
It has been said that we have wasted large sums of public money on Blue Streak. I deny that absolutely. The fact that one does not carry a weapon through to completion does not mean that the money has been misspent—I am glad that one hon. Member opposite nods in agreement—or that wrong decisions were taken. One has only to study the whole history of defence development. One develops a number of things. Some of them come to fruition and others, if one can see sufficiently well ahead, are cut off before the total money is expended.
§ Mr. Sandys
This is a serious debate.
I have explained to the House why we needed a ballistic rocket. I have explained how we tried to buy an American weapon at the outset but were unable to do so and, therefore, had to make our own. I have explained why in the state of our knowledge we could not ourselves develop an air-launched or submarine-launched missile, and I have explained how only now for the first time we have the prospect of obtaining a suitable alternative.
§ Mr. Sandys
After hearing the factual account that I have given, I ask the Opposition whether they are still prepared to say that we ought to have stopped Blue Streak sooner. [Hon. Members: "Have the inquiry."] Are hon. Members opposite prepared to go on saying what they have said before, that we ought to have stopped Blue Streak sooner? If so, I ask them to say when they think we should have stopped it, and what they would have put in place of it. I am prepared to give way now if any right hon. Gentleman opposite will rise to say when the Opposition would have stopped Blue Streak.
§ Mr. G. Brown
It is very clear that the right hon. Gentleman is out of matter and full of time. I will therefore help him. All the questions he is asking are the ones we think should be put to the inquiry for which we hope he will vote at the end of the debate.
§ Mr. Sandys
That has exploded the whole idea that hon. and right hon. Members opposite have some prima facie case against the Government. The whole tenor of their speeches has been that we have wasted money by not stopping Blue Streak sooner. I have asked them when we ought to have stopped it, and they cannot say.
There are some who regard it as monstrously extravagant to contemplate spending £500 million on rockets. It is, of course, a lot of money. In order to see things in perspective, we must remember that Blue Streak was designed to succeed the V-bomber force as our nuclear weapon carrier and, as has been said during the debate, if we had not developed Blue Streak—[Hon. Members: "Where is it?"]—we should have had to develop a new generation of bombers. For the purpose of comparison, as my right hon. Friend pointed out, the development and production of our V-bomber force, with its airfields and other equipment, would have cost all of £500 million, and, of course, its running expenses—
§ Mr. Sandys
The Opposition have moved a Motion of censure and they have made it clear that their attack is directed on a particular Minister. It is reasonable that they should allow him to state his case.
The hon. Member for Bosworth urged the importance of space research. I am dealing now with the point made by the right hon. Member for Huyton when he asked us not to use space research as an excuse for the expenditure on Blue Streak. We have no intention of doing so. The Government consider that the expenditure incurred on Blue Streak can be fully justified on military and 340 defence grounds alone. If, on the other hand, it is decided that Blue Streak is to be used as a satellite launcher for a space research programme, for which it is eminently suited, the greater part of the work done will be of direct value.
We are at present examining with the firms concerned the costs and implications of such a project. I cannot yet say what the outcome of the study will be. But, in further following up the point made by the right hon. Member for Huyton, I would say that if we decide to go ahead we shall certainly consider inviting other Commonwealth and European countries to participate with us in a joint space programme.
Having regard to the utter unpredictability of the future—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I think that every sensible person will agree about that. No one who is not a fool can pretend to be certain about any of these things. But about one thing I am absolutely certain. I agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Carshalton that our safety depends, first and foremost, upon the strength and unity of the Western alliance. He asked a number of searching questions to which, understandably, he did not offer any answers.
§ Mr. Sandys
I should like to add one question of my own. Having regard to the wide-ranging discussion that took place about the nuclear deterrent, I should like to ask this question: are those who advocate the abandonment of the British nuclear deterrent quite sure that we could make an equally useful contribution to the alliance in any other way?
I wish to stress that the Government's decision does not imply any weakening of our intention to maintain an independent British nuclear deterrent. Nor does it imply any change of emphasis in the distribution of our effort between nuclear and conventional forces. The sole purpose of our decision is to make our existing nuclear policy more effective and less expensive. It should enable us to wait a while, before we have to decide what weapon we shall have to adopt if by then, it is still necessary.
341 So long as the world remains divided by fear and mistrust, we must continue to play our part in deterring aggression, but we cannot accept that peace is to be permanently preserved by a precarious balance of nuclear power. We must continue to work unceasingly for complete disarmament—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."]—since that is the only solution that makes any real sense. If, in the
§ next few years, we can make good progress towards disarmament, as I personally believe we shall, then, perhaps, we may never need a replacement for Blue Streak.
§ Question put: —
§ The House divided: Ayes 225, Noes 305.345
|Division No. 75.]||AYES||[10.0 p.m.|
|Abse, Leo||Greenwood, Anthony||Millan, Bruce|
|Ainsley, William||Grey, Charles||Mitchison, G. R.|
|Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.)||Griffiths, Ravid (Rother Valley)||Monslow, Walter|
|Awbery, Stan||Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly)||Moody, A. S.|
|Bacon, Miss Alice||Grimond, J.||Moyle, Arthur|
|Baird, John||Gunter, Ray||Neal, Harold|
|Baxter, William (Stirlingshire, W.)||Hale, Leslie (Oldham, W.)||Oliver, G. H|
|Beaney, Alan||Hall, Rt. Hon. Glenvil (Colne Valley)||Oram A. E.|
|Bellenger, Rt. Hon. F. J.||Hamilton, William (West Fife)||Oswald, Thomas|
|Bence, Cyril (Dunbartonshire, E.)||Hannan, William||Owen, Will|
|Benn, Hn. A. Wedgwood(Brist'I,S.E.)||Hart, Mrs. Judith||Paget, R. T.|
|Benson, Sir George||Hayman, F. H.||Pannell, Charles (Leeds, W.)|
|Blackburn, F.||Healey, Denis||Pargiter G. A.|
|Blyton, William||Herbison, Miss Margaret||Parker, John (Dagenham)|
|Bowen, Roderic (Cardigan)||Hill, J. (Midlothian)||Parkin, B.T. (Paddington N.)|
|Bowles, Frank||Hilton, A. V.||Paton, John|
|Boyden, James||Holman, Percy||Pavitt, Laurence|
|Braddock, Mrs. E. M.||Houghton, Douglas||Pearson, Arthur (Pontypridd)|
|Brockway, A. Fenner||Howell, Charles A.||Peart, Frederick|
|Broughton, Dr. A. D. D.||Hoy, James H.||Pentland, Norman|
|Brown, Alan (Tottenham)||Hughes Cledwyn (Anglesey)||Plummer, Sir Leslie|
|Brown, Rt. Hon. George (Belper)||Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire)||Popplewell, Ernest|
|Brown, Thomas (Ince)||Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)||Prentice, R. E.|
|Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.)||Hunter, A. E.||Probert, Arthur|
|Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green)||Hynd, H. (Accrington)||Proctor, W. T.|
|Callaghan, James||Irvine A. J. (Edge Hill)||Pursey, Cmdr. Harry|
|Carmichael, James||Irving, Sydney (Dartford)||Randall, Harry|
|Castle, Mr. Barbara||Janner, Barnett||Rankin, John|
|Chapman, Donald||Jay Rt. Hon. Douglas||Redhead, E. C.|
|Chetwynd, George||Jeger, George||Reid William|
|Cliffe, Michael||Jenkins, Roy (Stechford)||Rhodes, H.|
|Corbet, Mrs. Freda||Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.)||Robens, Rt. Hon. Alfred|
|Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)||Johnston, Douglas (Paisley)||Roberts, Albert (Normanton)|
|Cronin, John||Jones, Rt. Hn..A. Creech (Wakefield)||Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, S.)|
|Crosland, Anthony||Jones, Dan (Burnley)||Ross, William|
|Crossman, R. H. S.||Jones, Elwyn (West Ham, S.)||Royle, Charles (Salford, West)|
|Cullen, Mrs. Alice||Jones, Jack (Rotherham)||Shinwell, Rt. Hon. E.|
|Darling, George||Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham)||Short, Edward|
|Davies, Rt. Hn. Clement (Montgomery)||Jones, T. W. (Merloneth)||Silverman, Julius|
|Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.)||Kelley Richard||Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)|
|Davies, Harold (Leek)||Kenyon Clifford||Skeffington, Arthur|
|Davies, Ifor (Gower)||Key, Rt. Hon. C. W.||Slater, Mrs. Harriet (Stoke, N.)|
|Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)||Lawson, George||Slater, Joseph (Sedgefield)|
|de Freitas, Geoffrey||Ledger Ron||Small, William|
|Delargy, Hugh||Lee, Frederick (Newton)||Smith, Ellis, (Stoke, S.)|
|Dempsey, dames||Lee, Miss Jennie (Cannock)||Snow, Julian|
|Diamond, John||Lever, Harold (Cheetham)||Sorensen, R. W.|
|Dodds, Norman||Lever, L. M. (Ardwick)||Soskice Rt. Hon. Sir Frank|
|Driberg, Tom||Lipton, Marcus||Steele, Thomas|
|Dugdale, Rt. Hon. John||Logan, David||Stewart, Michael (Fulham)|
|Ede, Rt. Hon. Chuter||Loughlin, Charles||Stonehouse, John|
|Edelman, Maurice||Mabon, Dr. J, Dickson||Stones, William|
|Edwards, Rt. Hon. Ness (Caerphilly)||Mcinnes, James||Strachey, Rt. Hon. John|
|Edwards, Robert (Bilston)||McKay, John (Wallsend)||Strauss, Rt. Hn. G. R. (Vauxhall)|
|Edwards, Walter (Stepney)||Mackie, John||Stross,Dr.Barnett(Stoke-on-Trent,C.)|
|Evans, Albert||McLeavy, Frank||Summerskill, Dr. Rt. Hon. Edith|
|Fernyhough, E.||MacMillan, Malcolm (Western
|Finch, Harold||Mahon, Simon||Swingier, Stephen|
|Fitch, Alan||Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)||Sylvester, George|
|Fletcher, Eric||Mallalieu, J.P.W.(Huddersfield,E.)||Symonds, J. B.|
|Forman, J. C.||Manuel, A. C.||Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)|
|Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton)||Mapp, Charles||Thomas, George (Cardiff, W.)|
|Ginsburg, David||Marquand, Rt. Hon. H. A.||Thompson, Dr. Alan (Dunfermline)|
|Gooch, E. G.||Marsh, Richard||Thornton, Ernest|
|Gordon-Walker, Rt. Hon. P. G.||Mellish, R. J.||Thorpe, Jeremy|
|Gourlay, Harry||Mendelson, J. J.|
|Timmons, John||Wheeldon, W. E.||Wilson, Rt. Hon. Harold (Huyton)|
|Ungoed-Thomas, Sir Lynn||White, Mrs. Eirene||Winterbottom, R. E.|
|Wade, Donald||Whitlock, William||Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A.|
|Wainwright, Edwin||Wigg, George||Woof, Robert|
|Warbey, William||Wilcock, Group Capt. C. A. B.||Wyatt, Woodrow|
|Watkins, Tudor||Willey, Frederick||Yates, Victor (Ladywood)|
|Weitzman, David||Williams, Rev. LI. (Abertillery)||Zilliacus, K.|
|Wells, Percy (Faversham)||Williams, W. R. (Openshaw)|
|Wells. William (Walsall, N.)||Willis, E. G. (Edinburgh, E.)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Mr. Bowden and Mr. Rogers.|
|Agnew, Sir Peter||Eccles, Rt. Hon. Sir David||Jennings, J. C.|
|Allan, Robert (Paddington, S.)||Eden, John||Johnson, Dr. Donald (Carlisle)|
|Allason, James||Elliott, R. W.||Johnson, Eric (Blackley)|
|Alport, C. J. M.||Emery, Peter||Johnson Smith, Geoffrey|
|Amory, Rt. Hn. D. Heathcoat (Tiv'tn)||Erroll, F. J.||Jones, Rt. Hn. Aubrey (Hall Green)|
|Arbuthnot, John||Farey-Jones, F. W.||Joseph, Sir Keith|
|Ashton, Sir Hubert||Farr, John||Kaberry, Sir Donald|
|Atkins, Humphrey||Finlay, Graeme||Kerans, Cdr. J. S.|
|Barber, Anthony||Fisher, Nigel||Kerby, Capt. Henry|
|Barlow, Sir John||Fletcher-Cooke, Charles||Kerr, Sir Hamilton|
|Barter, John||Forrest, George||Kimball, Marcus|
|Batsford, Brian||Foster, John||Kitson, Timothy|
|Baxter, Sir Beverley (Southgate)||Fraser, Hn. Hugh (Stafford & Stone)||Lancaster, Col. C. G.|
|Beamish, Col. Tufton||Fraser, lan (Plymouth, Sutton)||Langford-Holt, J.|
|Bell, Philip (Bolton, E.)||Freeth, Denzil||Leather, E. H. C|
|Bell, Ronald (S. Bucks)||Gammans, Lady||Leavey, J. A.|
|Berkeley, Humphry||Gardner, Edward||Leburn, Gilmour|
|Bevins, Rt. Hn. Reginald (Toxteth)||George, J. C. (Pollok)||Legge-Bourke, Maj. H.|
|Bidgood, John C.||Gibson-Watt David||Lennox-Boyd, Rt. Hon. Alan|
|Biggs-Davison, John||Glover, Sir Douglas||Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)|
|Bingham, R. M.||Glyn, Dr. Alan (Clapham)||Lilley, F. J. P.|
|Birch, Rt. Hon. Nigel||Glyn, Col. Richard||Lindsay, Martin|
|Bishop, F. P.||Godber J. B.||Linstead, Sir Hugh|
|Black, Sir Cyril||Goodhart, Philip||Litchfield, Capt. John|
|Bossom, Clive||Goodhew, Victor||Lloyd, Rt. Hn. Geoffrey (Sut'nC'dfield)|
|Bourne-Arton, A.||Gough, Frederick||Longden, Gilbert|
|Box, Donald||Gower, Raymond||Loveys, Walter H.|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hon. John||Grant, Rt. Hon. William (Woodside)||Low, Rt. Hon. Sir Toby|
|Boyle, Sir Edward||Grant-Ferris, Wg Cdr. R. (Nantwich)||Lucas, Sir Jocelyn (Portsmouth, S.)|
|Braine, Bernard||Green, Alan||Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh|
|Brewis, John||Gresham Cooke, R.||McAdden, Stephen|
|Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col, W. H||Grimston, Sir Robert||MacArthur, Ian|
|Brooke, Rt. Hon. Henry||Hall, John (Wycombe)||McLaren, Martin|
|Brooman-White, R.||Hamilton, Michael (Wellingborough)||McLaughlin, Mrs. Patricia|
|Browne, Percy (Torrington)||Hare, Rt. Hon. John||Maclay, Rt. Hon. John|
|Bullard, Denys||Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N.W.)||McLean, Neil (Inverness)|
|Bullus, Wing Commander Eric||Harris, Reader (Heston)||MacLeod, Rt. Hn. Iain (Enfield, W.)|
|Burden, F. A.||Harrison, Brian (Maldon)||MacLeod, John (Ross & Cromarty)|
|Butcher, Sir Herbert||Harrison, Col. J. H. (Eye)||McMaster, Stanley R.|
|Campbell, Gordon (Moray & Nairn)||Harvey, Sir Arthur Vere (Macclesf'd)||Macmillan, Rt. Hn. Harold (Bromley)|
|Carr, Compton (Barons Court)||Macmillan, Maurice (Halifax)|
|Carr, Robert (Mitcham)||Harvey, John (Walthamstow, E.)||Maginnis, John E.|
|Cary, Sir Robert||Harvie Anderson, Miss||Manningham-Buller, Rt. Hn. Sir R.|
|Channon, H. P. G.||Hay, John||Marlowe, Anthony|
|Clark, Henry (Antrim, N.)||Head, Rt. Hon. Antony||Marples, Rt. Hon. Ernest|
|Clark, William (Nottingham, S.)||Heath, Rt. Hon. Edward||Marshall, Douglas|
|Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmth, W.)||Henderson, John (Cathcart)||Marten, Neill|
|Cleaver, Leonard||Henderson-Stewart, Sir James||Mathew, Robert (Honiton)|
|Cole, Norman||Hendry, Forbes||Matthews, Gordon (Meriden)|
|Collard, Richard||Hicks Beach Maj. W.||Maudling, Rt. Hon. Reginald|
|Cooke, Robert||Hiley, Joseph||Mawby, Ray|
|Cooper, A. E.||Hill, Dr. Rt. Hon. Charles (Luton)||Maydon, Lt.-Cmdr. S. L. C.|
|Cooper-Key, Sir Neill||Hill, Mrs. Eveline (Wythenshawe)||Mills, Stratton|
|Cordle, John||Hill, J. E. B. (S. Norfolk)||Montgomery, Fergus|
|Corfield, F. V.||Hinchingbrooke, Viscount||Moore Sir Thomas|
|Costain, A. P.||Hirst, Geoffrey||Morgan, William|
|Coulson, J. M.||Hobson, John||Morrison, John|
|Craddock, Beresford (Spelthorne)||Hooking, Philip N||Mott-Radclyffe, Sir Charles|
|Critchley, Julian||Holland, Philip||Nabarro, Gerald|
|Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E.||Hollingworth, John||Neave, Airey|
|Crowder, F. P.||Hope, Rt. Hon. Lord John||Nicholls, Harmar|
|Cunningham, Knox||Hopkins, Alan||Nicholson, Sir Godfrey|
|Curran, Charles||Hornsby-Smith, Rt. Hon. Patricia||Noble, Michael|
|Currle, G. B. H.||Howard, Gerald (Cambridgeshire)||Nugent, Sir Richard|
|Dance, James||Howard, Hon. G. R. (St. lves)||Orr, Capt. L. P. S.|
|Deedes, W. F.||Howard, John (Southampton, Test)||Orr-Ewing, C. Ian|
|de Ferranti, Basil||Hughes-Young, Michael||Osborn, John (Hallam)|
|Digby, Simon Wingfield||Hurd, Sir Anthony||Osborne, Cyril (Louth)|
|Donaldson, Cmdr. C. E. M.||Hutchison, Michael Clark||Page, A. J. (Harrow West)|
|Doughty, Charles||Iremonger, T. L.||Page, Graham|
|Drayson. G. B.||Irvine, Brayant Godman (Rye)||Pannell, Norman (Kirkdale)|
|du Cann, Edward||Jackson, John||Partridge, E.|
|Duncan, Sir James||James, David||Pearson, Frank (Clitheroe)|
|Duthie, Sir William||Jenkins, Robert (Dulwich)|
|Peel, John||Shaw, M.||van Straubenzee, W. R.|
|Pickthorn, Sir Kenneth||Shepherd, William||Vane, W. M. F.|
|Pike, Miss Mervyn||Simon, Sir Jocelyn||Vickers, Miss Joan|
|Pilkington, Capt. Richard||Skeet, T. H. H.||Vosper, Rt. Hon. Dennis|
|Pitman, I. J.||Smith, Dudley (Br'ntf'rd & Chiswick)||wakefield, Sir Wavell (St. M'lebone)|
|Pitt, Miss Edith||Smyth, Brig. Sir John (Norwood)||Walker-Smith, Rt. Hon. Derek|
|Pott, Percival||Soames, Rt. Hon. Christopher||Wall, Patrick|
|Powell, J. Enoch||Spearman, Sir Alexander||Ward Rt. Hon. George (Worcester)|
|Price, H. A. (Lewisham, W.)||Speir, Rupert||Watkinson, Rt. Hon. Harold|
|Prior, J. M. L.||Stanley, Hon. Richard||Watts, James|
|Prior-Palmer, Brig. Sir Otho||Stevens, Geoffrey||Webster, David|
|Profumo, Rt. Hon. John||Steward, Harold (Stockport, S.)|
|Proudfoot, Wilfred||Stodart, J. A.||Wells, John (Maidstone)|
|Ramsden, James||Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir Malcolm||Whitelaw, William|
|Rawlinson, Peter||Studholme, Sir Henry||Williams, Dudley (Exeter)|
|Redmayne, Rt. Hon. Martin||Summers, Sir Spencer (Aylesbury)||Williams, Paul (Sunderland, S.)|
|Rees, Hugh||Sumner, Donald (Orpington)||Wills- Sir Gerald (Bridgwater)|
|Rees-Davies, W. R.||Talbot, John E.||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Renton, David||Tapsell, Peter||Wise, A. R.|
|Ridley, Hon. Nicholas||Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)||Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick|
|Rippon, Geoffrey||Temple, John M.||Wood, Rt. Hon. Richard|
|Roberts, Sir Peter (Heeley)||Thatcher, Mrs. Margaret||Woodhouse, C. M.|
|Robertson, Sir David||Thomas, Peter (Conway)||Woodnutt, Mark|
|Robson Brown, Sir William||Thompson, Kenneth (Walton)||Woollam, John|
|Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard||Thompson, Richard (Croydon, S.)||Worsley, Marcus|
|Royle, Anthony (Richmond, Surrey)||Thorneycroft, Rt. Hon. Peter||Yates, William (The Wrekin)|
|Sandys, Rt. Hon. Duncan||Thornton-Kemsley, Sir Colin|
|Scott-Hopkins, James||Turner, Colin||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Seymour, Leslie||Turton, Rt. Hon. R. H.||Mr. Legh and Mr. Edward Wakefield.|
|Sharpies, Richard||Tweedsmuir, Lady|