§ 11.5 a.m.
§ Mr. Harold Davies (Leek)
I beg to move,That this House deplores the decision of Her Majesty's Government to agree to the basing of Polaris submarines or missiles in Great Britain.
§ Mr. Speaker
It is probably convenient if I say now that the Amendment to leave out from "missiles" to end and addnear to heavily populated areas without thorough and comprehensive investigation of alternative isolated sites, and with no guarantee of a considerable measure of British control of the use of such submarines or missiles".is not selected.
§ Mr. A. Fenner Brockway (Eton and Slough)
On a point of order. This morning I made a request about whether I might put down a Private Notice Question on the subject of the arrangements for the Southern Rhodesian Conference.
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. The hon. Member did make such an application, but his question was disallowed and he cannot discuss it.
§ Mr. Brockway
Further to that point of order. I did not mean any discourtesy to you, Mr. Speaker, but it is now after 11 o'clock and I have not yet had an intimation from your office that that is so.
§ Mr. Speaker
I am sorry to have been so severe with the hon. Member. He knows perfectly well that it is not proper to refer to the contents of his application. I am sorry, but time was probably short, which is why he has not been informed.
§ Mr. Brockway
I am not referring to the contents, but may I ask whether, in 740 view of the situation, I may renew the request on Monday?
§ Mr. Hector Hughes (Aberdeen, North)
On a point of order. May I respectfully submit that the Amendment is strictly relevant to the subject of the Motion, would strengthen it, and would give it a better chance of commending itself to the House? May I respectfully ask you to reconsider your decision about the selection of the Amendment?
§ Mr. Speaker
I considered the matter with some care, but I am afraid that I have reached that conclusion and we cannot discuss it.
§ Mr. G. M. Thomson (Dundee, East)
Further to the point of order of my hon. Friend the Member for Eton and Slough (Mr. Brockway). In view of the seriousness of the situation in Central Africa, has any application been made to you, Mr. Speaker, by the Colonial Secretary for permission to make a statement during the course of our proceedings today?
§ Mr. Davies
Through good fortune and chance in this democratic institution, which, thank heavens, still gives people an opportunity to air whatever views they may possess, I am this morning able to raise one of the most fundamental problems concerning not only Britain, but humanity.
This morning, I shall call attention to the Government's defence policy and to its defence policy in relation to the Polaris bases. I shall point out that I deplore Her Majesty's Government's decision to agree to basing the Polaris submarines or missiles in Great Britain.
I shall say little about the Amendment. I simply wish to point out that it means that we do not want the Polaris missiles anywhere around us, but if they are somewhere else, then that is all right. "I'm all right, Jack." That is the morality of the Amendment. [Interruption.] Interruptions wild not unhinge the case I intend to make, but it is rather tragic when they come from my own side of the House, because I believe that this party of ours is still the most powerful in the world—
§ Mr. Frank McLeavy (Bradford, East)
It will not be if the hon. Gentleman has anything to do with it.
§ Mr. Davies
I should like my hon. Friend to realise that a brain is as strong as its weakest think. [Laughter.] If that fatuous remark is an example of the interruptions I am going to get, that brain is on the verge of collapse. I do not want to be irritated. I want to put this case honestly and in a straightforward manner. This is not a laughing matter. It is one which will decide the destiny of humanity.
I deplore the Amendment. It means nothing, and is not in keeping with the telegrams and letters which I have received from various parts of the country, including Scotland. I will leave it to hon. Members representing Scottish constituencies to deploy their case.
§ Mr. Davies
I will give way later.
On 1st November a decision was made—[Interruption.]—I like my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hector Hughes), and I will give way with pleasure.
§ Mr. Hughes
Why does my hon. Friend object to Scottish hon. Members tabling an Amendment and speaking for Scotland, as he is doing for England?
§ Mr. Davies
I am amazed that my hon. and learned Friend, who deals with logic, law, and semantics, should put that interpretation on my Motion. I am sure that hon. Members on both sides know that I am probably the last person to object to anybody making a case against any argument made by me. I merely say that I cannot understand the Amendment.
On 1st November it was announced that a base was to be set up in the Clyde. I am told by sources in the United States and in this country that the United States is to supply forty-five Polaris submarines. I want to make a crystal-clear distinction between the Polaris submarine and the Polaris missile. Without considering myself omniscient, I would say that the debate we had this week on defence did not deal with the problem of Polaris, and, as usual, the House was misled.
742 We are told that forty-five of these submarines are scheduled. Of these, nine will be based on Holy Loch, and three will always be there. In February the depôt ship "Proteus" of 18,500 tons will come into the loch with stores and reserve missiles. What has not been said by any Minister is that not only will the "Proteus" come in, but that she will bring skilled personnel to attend to the warheads of the Polaris missiles and repair them when they come back to base. We are told that these personnel will be there for the purpose of repairing or doing jobs on the missiles which the crew of the "Proteus" cannot do.
I have heard a rather fatuous argument advanced both inside the House and outside. It is asked, how can we expect to be consulted, and what control do we want, over a submarine that may be thousands of miles out in the Atlantic? People need to do a little more thinking. If one has an elementary knowledge of geography, and if one can read the scale on a map—and I take it that every hon. Member can read such a scale, and perhaps hon. Members who served in the Forces can read it better than most—with the aid of a pair of compasses it will be seen that if the submarine is 1,000 miles away the missile will not reach the borders of Europe. In other words, a fact which my right hon. and hon. Friends and right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite have not made clear to the British public is that the Polaris submarine can never be far out into the Atlantic Ocean for the simple reason that the missile has a range of only 1,200–1,500 miles. Consequently, it will be within 300, 400, or 500 miles of the British Isles and home waters. I am sure that nobody can deny that.
The New Scientist the other day published a global map showing the position of the twenty-six bases envisaged for Polaris. The most dangerous bases are those in the Arctic and in the area near the Baltic Sea. To have a Polaris submarine base in the Baltic Sea would be a casus belli; a cause of immediate irritation to the U.S.S.R., and could blow Europe up in flames.
Vice-Admiral John Hughes Hallett (Croydon, North-East)
The hon. Gentleman asked whether anybody could deny that these submarines must be within 400 miles of the British Isles. I deny it, and the hon. Gentleman denied it immediately afterwards by referring to the Arctic base. He also referred to the Baltic Sea. Surely the hon. Gentleman knows that submarines of this size would be unsuitable for use in the shallow waters there?
§ Mr. Davies
Forty-five of these submarines are scheduled. There will be twenty-six bases round the world. Look at the map that has been published.
§ Mr. Davies
It is no good the hon. and gallant Gentleman shaking his head. Is he denying that forty-five Polaris submarines are scheduled? If he is, he has not bothered to discover the facts. Secondly, is he denying that there are many other bases besides the Arctic one? I said that there were some in the Arctic. There are some scheduled near Taiwan, and some in the Narrows, but who am I to take with me the hon. and gallant Gentleman who has such an excellent record? I cannot deal with it on that level. Because of the authority he had when we needed his great service, the hon. and gallant Gentleman knows better than anybody else in the House what it is like in the narrows between Greenland and Iceland, but these submarines will be in areas which are only about 300 or 400 miles away from our shores.
It is said that three submarines will regularly be in the loch. From time to time they will expel radioactive liquid into the loch. The House has been promised that a liaison committee will be set up to discuss this hazard with the local authorities. Has that committee been set up? If not, has any move been made towards doing so? What assurances are being given that this radioactive liquid will not contaminate the area?
We do not want fatuous remarks about civil defence. Right hon. and hon. Members on both sides of the House 744 want the base to be set up in an isolated place. May I point out that parts of my constituency are very isolated. I have received this ineffective little pamphlet "Home Defence and the Farmer", price one shilling. It is wicked to turn out stuff like this and mislead the British public. It says on page 21 that for some days the farmer will not be able to get out because of the fall-out, and his cattle will not be able to eat the grass off the land. Hon. Gentlemen who talk about isolated places should know what this means. It says that he can cut the grass and spread some nitrogen on it and wait for the grass to grow. What kind of a Government have we that says that sort of thing? During the General Election the placards of Britain were spread with the words, "Don't let Labour ruin it". Hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite, with their lack of courage, their sycophancy in foreign affairs and defence, and their lack of truth, are not only not going to let Labour ruin it; they will obliterate it themselves.
§ Commander Anthony Courtney (Harrow, East)
The hon. Member has asked what kind of Government he has. He has accused us of misleading the public. Is he not aware that this Government recently passed the Radioactive Substances Act, which covered adequately any discharge of radioactive substances from "Proteus" or any other base ship within the three-mile limit of this country?
§ Mr. Davies
The Lord has delivered the hon. Member into my hands. I worked for four weeks on that Standing Committee.
§ Mr. Davies
Then the hon. and gallant Gentleman should know that I was on that Committee. I warn hon. Members that I am not going to give way any more, lest the case I want to make is destroyed. Up to now I seem to have stirred up some hon. Members opposite.
The first thing that Captain Liddell Hart said in his first-class book "Deterrent or Defence" is that we can no longer use the slogan, "If you want peace, prepare for war." The slogan of the deterrent age is, "If you want peace, understand war." That is in the preface of Liddell Hart's book. He and other 745 military men who still have their faculties admit that if war breaks out all the concepts of today will be completely finished.
What better can I do than to read the latest book by John F. Kennedy entitled "The Strategy of Peace"? He was Senator Kennedy when he wrote it. I want hon. Members on both sides to listen to this, because I am hoping that the change in the United States Administration may enable the world, if it wants peace, to understand war. On page 26, discussing disarmament, he says:Already our total destructive capacity is sufficient to annihilate the enemy twenty-five times over—he has the power to destroy us ten times. Between us we are in a position to exterminate all human life seven times over. The nuclear load in only one of our B-52's now in the air—at this minute"—at this minute, and that is true for Britain—somewhere above us or over the Arctic—is said to be greater in terms of destructive power than all of the explosives used in all of the previous wars in human history.That is the load in one aircraft—and then people make cheap jokes and some journalists make cheap remarks about men who are trying to find answers to the problem which Mr. Kennedy sets out. Mr. Kennedy goes on:Yet both sides in this fateful struggle must come to know, sooner or later, that the price, of running this arms race to the end is death—for both.When this country no longer takes a practical lead at the United Nations—and the practical lead is the moral lead today—and when it is prepared to acquiesce in the setting up of Polaris bases, upon false premises, which I shall expose shortly, it is for the first time in history showing a lack of courage and leadership. This base was set up without consultation. The House of Commons was misled, and the British people, whom the Government promised not to ruin, are nearer to death and destruction today than they have ever been since the Second World War.
§ Mr. Davies
If my hon. and gallant Friend gets excited he may have a chance, later on, to release the springs of his excitement in a speech.
No wonder the New York Times came out with this statement: 746Bases abroad, such as Holy Loch, become more trouble than they are worth, when the local population is antagonistic. We might well reconsider the scheme, and leave the Holy Loch to its memories of bells and bell ringing and the murmur of ancient prayers.The Press, and some people who must know better really, try to denigrate the Labour Parity for its great differences. Whatever differences we have among us, I sincerely believe that we are making a greater effort to find the answer to the great problem confronting the world than any other party in the world at present. [Interruption.] Hon. Members opposite may scoff at us. I have no time for cheap interruptions. They can scoff at us or laugh at us. Nevertheless, this party of ours in action is an example of men searching their souls to find a practical and moral answer to the world's greatest problem.
In July the hon. Member for the Isle of Ely (Sir H. Legge-Bourke) said:One of the greatest anxieties which people of this country have is lest the military machine should become the dictator of official policy.Can hon. Members opposite or the Prime Minister himself guarantee that the military machine is not becoming the dictator of official policy? We know that that is true in the United States of America. A few weeks ago the Ford Foundation published a report entitled, "The Community of Fear." Behind it was Professor Harrison Brown of the Californian Institute of Technology and Mr. James Real, one of the consultants at the Centre for a Study of Democratic Institutes. They came to the conclusion that the military élite are dominating the United States of America and exerting more control over Congress than that body exerts over the Defence Department, and they are trying to prevent any conclusions that would lead to disarmament successes. This is in a research document which has been published and is there for all the world to read. The Guardian and other reputable newspapers reproduced it some weeks ago. Because of the time factor I shall not quote from it. Men and women all over Britain who keep themselves informed know that I am speaking the truth.
The Sunday Times defence correspondent, David Divine, was worried about the escalation that is now taking place in nuclear missiles. He ended an article headed "Man in the grip of a Monster" on a sombre note when he 747 said, quoting Mr. Edward Teller, the so-called father of the hydrogen bomb:The more decisive the weapon is, the more surely it will be used in any real conflict.That is the hair by which the Sword of Damocles is hanging today. It is left to a local commander, as was said by a right hon. Gentleman opposite the other day, who may only be of brigade level.
When people are talking about this deterrent we should remember that dramatic though not exaggerated article in the Guardian the other day in which Michael Frayn said:Do you know the world nearly ended last week?".Now let hon. Members scoff if they will. What had happened? One of the world's loveliest satellites had thrown out its rays. It was the moon. All the scientists, all the technologists, all the men who think, or think they think, had left out of their calculations the possibility of this phenomenon casting a shadow of some kind. The United States admitted that it happened. The American Strategic Air Command has admitted that its headquarters received by mistake the dramatic warning, "Russian missile on the way".
That is my 64,000 dollar point, that we have already had an admission by the Americans that, by mistake, their Strategic Air Command received a message stating, "Russian missile on the way." Now let hon. Members make their cheap jokes about the possibility of mistakes. There is silence because they know it is the truth. Hon. Members who have put their names to the Amendment know that to be the truth. This is why we do not want the Polaris. It is a city killer. It is a weapon of death which is inaccurate. Do not let any so-called expert deny that. Does anyone deny that? Does my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, East (Commander Pursey) deny that?
§ Mr. Davies
I am already anticipating the errors that will be made in my hon and gallant Friend's speech.
§ Mr. Davies
The point is that it has already been admitted by the American Strategic Air Command that its headquarters received by mistake the dramatic warning, "Russian missile on the way".
Let us take a technicality about the submarine. I hope that I am not trespassing too much on the time of the House, but I do not think that this case has been made. There may be hon. Members who could make it much better than I can, but at least I am taking the opportunity to see that it is made in one of the best democratic institutions in the world. If hon. and gallant Members on either side of the House want to improve it, good luck to Parliament and its effect upon the British people, because this matter is going to be debated in the streets, on the highways and in the byways of Britain.
The most vital points about the Polaris have not been given to us. What is the United States's motive in foisting it upon us? Soviet striking capacity can destroy all bases within 1,500 miles of the Communist bloc. The Russians with their inter-continental missiles can destroy the industrial triangle between Detroit, New York and Pennsylvania. Why is the United States of America insisting on increasing the nuclear load in Europe with the Polaris on land and on sea? The Polaris on the "George Washington" submarine is a crude weapon with a huge margin of error. That cannot be a tactical weapon at all. It is, as I say, a city killer and is meant to kill millions of Russians. Once one is shot off by mistake—and it is admitted that this can be done by mistake—then there is no more hope for Britain.
Can the Polaris be tracked by killers? Oh, yes, because the ex-Minister of Defence had a Press conference two years ago, and Polaris was turned down by the British Ministry of Defence.
§ Mr. Davies
The objection of the ex-Minister of Defence to the Polaris is on record, and if my hon. and learned Friend who just said "Nonsense" would go into the 749 Library he could see in a copy of The Times of 10th February, 1958, an account of that Press conference.
§ Mr. Davies
We see this gorgeous wriggling into a little hole to find answers to questions that cannot be answered. It is wriggling. That is the sort of casuistry that we might expect from the benches opposite.
Let us see what an expert said in the Observer, a man who wrote a book on submarines. [HON. MEMBERS: "Who is he?"] He is Mr. Frank Lipscomb, Commander, Royal Navy, retired, and author of a standard work on submarines. Let us see what he said in the Observer on 20th November. He said:It is misleading to say that these carriers of the deterrent can be easily detected, followed and destroyed.That is the opinion of this well-informed gentleman, but there is just as expert contrary evidence on the other side. That is why the mistake can be made. We know from the scientific point of view that when the submarine is below 30 ft. of water it cannot receive a message. Some people say that it will pop up at night and push up its aerial. That is what the Russians are waiting for.
We see that the Americans this week are not only asking for Polaris submarines but for submarines to follow and protect them. This exposes the arguments about the submarines' complete invulnerability.
§ Mr. Speaker
If the hon. Gentleman does not give way, the hon. and gallant Member must resume his seat.
§ Mr. Davies
Why are no British representatives to be on the submarines? It is no good the Civil Lord of the Admiralty frowning. Is history going to depend on a frown on the handsome face of the Civil Lord sitting an the Government Front Bench? This is as bad as Marie Antoinette.
750 President de Gaulle realises that no control is possible, but the Prime Minister pretends that control is possible, and so do some hon. Members on this side of the House. Let us be realistic. If we try to get political control, credibility disappears. Is the Polaris submarine undetectable? No, we are not at all sure about it. In fact, the Minister of Defence himself is not sure. The Prime Minister, or somebody answering for the Government in this debate, should tell Britain this morning whether at Camp St. David—I am sorry, that is my Celtic feeling coming out—whether at Camp David the Prime Minister of Britain offered the base or whether the Americans asked for it—[HON. MEMBERS: "They said they wanted it."] We want the Prime Minister to say that. Did the Prime Minister of Britain know whether any other European countries have been approached? Were other European countries approached to provide this base and did they refuse because of the danger to their own countries which would result from making it target No. 1? We should like to know if any other nation in the Atlantic Union refused to have this base because they had more real sense and more courage and were trying to prevent this sort of insane race to death.
On 9th December, Chapman Pincher—it is in the OFFICIAL REPORT for one day this week—made a very fine analysis of the work that this submarine should do. The House of Commons is usually very well-informed, and instead of reiterating what has already been said I will express the sincere hope that that article will be read carefully. It was followed the next day by a very small note in the Daily Express pointing out that messages to the Polaris submarine would come from radio stations in Britain, one of them in Londonderry. So we not only have the base here but the radio stations which will keep in touch with Polaris are also in this country.
We now see the theory of the deterrent. My right hon. Friend the Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown) commented this week that we get so little information in the House—less, I think, than anywhere in any democratic country in the world. I assure the House that it is becoming complacent about 751 its rights to cross-examine, harass and demand information. It is the bounden duty of hon. Members opposite—who have the majority—in a crisis in human history like this, and if we on this side cannot do it, to try to get answers about problems such as our relationship with N.A.T.O., Polaris, the defence strategy and the grand illusion in the United Nations and America. But they are not doing it.
When the party on this side of the House formed the Government, on 7th February, 1951, we were asked by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill) to publish his agreement with President Roosevelt on the atom bomb. Then the right hon. Gentleman was on this side of the House, in opposition, and he pressed the then Government to publish his agreement with Roosevelt made over the production of the atom bomb.
§ Mr. Davies
No, Roosevelt—I know what I am talking about. Let me develop the case. The right hon. Gentleman said, and it was right, that although we had the first "know-how" we were unable to develop the bomb and we gave all our information on making the atom bomb to the United States, and an agreement was made which is in the archives of the Cabinet. I ask that that information should be published so that the British public may know.
The right hon. Member for Woodford asked for it. Now his party are in power and can publish that agreement. The agreement stated: "We will never use this bomb without consultation with the British people." Then, later on, the Vandenburg diaries and the Forrestal diaries—I know I am speaking correctly—exposed the fact that part of the bargain over Marshall Aid was that we should withdraw our right to consultation over the atom bomb. That was exposed in the Forrestal and Vandenburg diaries, and the party opposite told the British public nothing about this position. Can we get those documents published at this juncture in history when the British people should know?
Let us look at something tragic. Belief in these deterrents is also being foisted 752 on Europe by one great social democratic party. I was in Europe only the other day, and it hurt me to my heart to see the conclusions reached by the S.P.D. at its last conference. I do not want to make any cheap remarks about it. I took the trouble, as my hon. Friends know, to go to West and to East Germany.
That party is making the same mistake as was made in the days of Ebert, of which my right hon. Friend the Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell) will have knowledge. It is throwing its weight behind the nuclear strategy. So now we in this country are being exposed to force—"Panzers for puppets" I call it. Is my political party going to sit still while German bases come to isolated parts of Scotland, Wales, or my constituency of Leek?
Once we agree to the rearmament of Germany and, following on the cold war, to Polaris bases, we are doomed to be puppets, with Panzer divisions on our soil as well, because the Germans and Dr. Adenauer will have succeeded where Hitler failed. When we were alone, under the leadership of the right hon. Member for Woodford, Hitler was never able to get us down. But now, because of the lack of a foreign policy, because of the lack of a British independent foreign policy and defence policy, the British people, many of whom had relatives or sons who died during the war, will see German Panzer divisions in this country. Let us get rid of this idea that it is only the soldier who is involved. Old women in Bethnal Green and Lewisham, or little boys or old men, would be more involved in a war today than any commander of a submarine out in the Atlantic. Already Dr. Adenauer occupies six bases in France. Is the party opposite, in agreement with Germany—following the strategy of the Polaris submarine and nuclear strategy—going to put British soil at the disposal of Germans for their lebensraum? They did not have room in Germany, but where is elementary geography of this House of Commons? Is Western Germany bigger or smaller? Why do not hon. Members shake up their Defence Ministry? Who are the people pushing on us this kind of policy which is leading to doom?
Today the N.A.T.O. Council is meeting. What is it to talk about? It is to 753 suggest this, but are our Government to accept it? Adenaeur, talking to the Pope says: "My soldiers are the soldiers of God." Soldiers of God—we are all sons of God. Did any hon. or right hon. Member opposite see that horrible film "Warsaw Ghetto" the other day? Are they to put these "soldiers of God" on my Welsh soil? [Interruption.] "This is emotional"; I hear that moronic interruption from a sleepy head. What did Strauss, the German Minister of Defence, say? He said in Time magazine that the new German Armymust be as independent as possibleNow listen to the rub—because N.A.T.O. strategy was not in Germany's best interests.Then he added arrogantly, as was reported in Iberica on 15th March, 1960—and this is the German Minister of Defence speaking after millions have been engaged in fighting to eradicate Nazism:The logic of our ideas and the affirmation of our strategic needs are above discussion.Linking all this together, we find that this is the price of nuclear strategy. The party opposite can scoff at us. Anybody can scoff at me, but with every living breath in my body, because I know it is right, I shall go from one end of Britain to the other to bring our people to their senses to try to demand the truth so that we can get a constructive, positive British policy. That policy would immediately recall the Geneva 1954 Conference. I was in Laos a short time ago, and I told the Foreign Secretary what would happen there—
§ Mr. Davies
I am sorry, Mr. Speaker, but this illustrates my point. We need a constructive policy rather than Polaris submarine bases. We need China to be brought into a disarmament conference. Rather than all this alphabet of piddling pacts like S.E.A.T.O. and C.E.N.T.O., we need to get back to morality and understanding in the United Nations. We need to make it clear that N.A.T.O. is not to be a permanent feature of our foreign policy. We need to reassess the entire strategy of Great Britain based on the kind of lessons we have had from the right hon. Member for Flint, West (Mr. 754 Birch) and my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg). There is a lot of sense in the arguments of my hon. Friend. We need courage to be British and the courage to have a British foreign policy. I have travelled in the whole of the States and I know that millions of Americans would be delighted with that and we would be better friends with the United States.
To avoid nuclear strategy the world should demand at United Nations level an investigation into the international armaments racket, into this community of fear. We should demand that men should be free of money-grubbing, profiteering-munition-producing people who try to stop the progress of mankind. War means doom and nuclear strategy based on the Polaris, as Kennan said, increases that danger. The House of Commons should know George Kennan's remarks on the deterrent. He exposed the entire fallacy. If hon. Members on either side of the House have not read that, it is their duty to do so before they support the Polaris proposal. The nuclear deterrent is not at all credible. We could be wiped out by Russia in a few hours. Therefore, we should be thinking of Britain and having the courage of leadership and in that way we would be thinking of humanity.
I hope we shall have some answers and that hon. Members on my side of the House will fight, fight, fight again for a sane attitude to the world, which is slipping to the edge of doom. That is my case.
§ 11.56 a.m.
Vice-Admiral John Hughes Hallett (Croydon, North-East)
Although many of us disagree with almost every word and argument used by the hon. Member for Leek (Mr. Harold Davies), we certainly defend his right in this assembly to put his views. I think I am speaking for my hon. Friends when I say that we rather enjoyed the earlier parts of his speech. Moreover, it is a very good thing that this question is being ventilated in the House today, because I hope the debate will help to disperse some of the fog of misrepresentation which has come about in connection with the Polaris submarine base, misrepresentation which is not readily dispersed by the exchange of loaded Questions and 755 guarded Answers between half-past two and half-past three in an afternoon.
§ Vice-Admiral Hughes Hallett
It is not clear why a sincere pacifist like the hon. Member for Leek and ardent supporters of unilateral nuclear disarmament should have bothered to single out the Polaris submarine base for particular criticism. I should have thought it was a very mild affair compared with the V.-bomber force. Thor rockets and other deterrent establishments on these shores. It was noticeable, also, that the hon. Member seemed to borrow some of his arguments from his own Front Bench inasmuch as he criticised the lack of control and lack of consultation which it is alleged by the Opposition this country has over the operation of submarines.
That seems a rather illogical attitude coming from those who believe that all this strategy and all these weapons are inherently wicked. I should have thought that if the country does have them notwithstanding the opposition of hon. Members opposite they would prefer to wash their hands of the whole matter and have nothing to do with the enterprise, no matter from where these weapons were to operate. Be that as it may, I shall try in a few minutes to answer what may be claimed to be the more rational misgivings of those concerned with the degree of control and consultation.
Without discourtesy to the hon. Member for Leek, I wish to quote from the case as put by his right hon. Friend the Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown) because, for once, the right hon. Member put the case moderately and briefly. I will quote from column 234 of the OFFICIAL REPORT of last Tuesday. I think that the argument is exactly the same as that which we have heard from the hon. Member for Leek, but no doubt he will say so if it is not. The right hon. Member for Belper said:The fact is that these weapons depend on the Anglo-American partnership. That partnership should be a partnership of equals. Their deployment affects us both. We are each providing indispensable facilities for the other. We are both, therefore, in our view, entitled to know about and to be able to influence their deployment and their operation."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 13th December, 1960: Vol. 632, c. 234.]756 I think the first point to notice is that, in my judgment at any rate, we are not providing indispensable facilties for these Polaris submarines; we are providing something which is a convenience to the American Navy, but I do not think that I would put it higher than that.
If hon. Members ask themselves why, the Americans have asked for this base—because the answer is not immediately apparent—I think they will find that the answer depends on having a look at the map. I think we can safely assume that a proportion of these submarines will be operating in the vicinity of the North Pole, possibly under the ice. One of the peculiarities of the North Pole is that if one wants to go to it or to come away from it, one must steam north or south, as the case may be.
One might ask whether it mattered very much which meridian one follows—whether one follows the meridian which leads to the British Isles or the meridian which leads to the east coast of America. The answer is quite simple. If one steams down in the direction of the British Isles, one reaches a temperate area much sooner. The latitude of Holy Loch is about 56N. If one goes down the meridian which leads towards the east coast of America, first of all Greenland is in the way and one must go round it. Having circumnavigated Greenland and reached 56N, one finds oneself about half-way down the coast of Labrador, in a region far too cold and desolate to be appropriate for this purpose.
On the other hand, when one reaches Holy Loch one comes to an area where rugged people are able to live and maintain themselves and where even a civilisation exists.
§ Vice-Admiral Hughes Hallett
I have nothing but admiration for those who dwell in those stern climates—
§ Vice-Admiral Hughes Hallett
—instead of luxuriating in the sun and warmth of London. I must point out to the Scottish hon. Members that I 757 notice that the crows of the submarines do not propose to enjoy the luxuries of Scottish life for long. Apparently they are to be taken straight to Prestwich and flown direct to America as soon as they arrive back. That is by the way, and I have explained in short the reason why Holy Loch is a great convenience to the Americans.
I should like to say a few words about the question of consultation, and I will consider only the case when the submarines are operating in normal times, as opposed to times of emergency. I do so because in a time of emergency, I assume, the object of the depôt ship would be exactly the same as would presumably be the object of any other valuable ship in our harbours—namely, to get to sea and away from the United Kingdom as quickly as possible. I do not think that what happens after an emergency has started is nearly as important to consider as what happens under normal conditions.
§ Mr. Malcolm MacMillan (Western Isles)
This is a point of some importance on which we need much information from people who have the knowledge of the subject which the hon. and gallant Member has. The other day, in reply to Questions about the possibility of having to make the Holy Loch area a protected area even in peace-time, we were told that this was not likely to happen and would not be necessary. We were further told the other day that the project requires absolutely still waters and that that is the reason that Holy Loch was chosen. In that event, the circumstances in which they can put out to sea must be very limited by the weather and other factors.
§ Vice-Admiral Hughes Hallett
I do not think the hon. Member is correct, although I have no knowledge of the subject, and I imagine that my hon. Friend the Civil Lord will be able to answer the question in greater detail.
§ Vice-Admiral Hughes Hallett
Then he will be able to amplify it. With an ordinary, old-fashioned submarine, when one is concerned in hoisting torpedoes in and out when alongside a depôt ship, one requires still waters for that operation. I imagine that exactly 758 the same requirement applies for this submarine with its Polaris missiles.
In normal times there are two distinct problems, and it is much better to consider them separately. The first is the routing of the submarines and the areas in which they will operate, and the second is the circumstances in which they might be ordered to fire their missiles, together with the choice of target. I will deal first with the second point, because it is the more simple. And it is the more simple because I cannot see that it differs in any way in principle from the problems which already exist in respect of the Strategic Air Force bombers and our own V-bombers.
We are publicly allied to the United States of America. The alliance between the two countries is so close that surely little, if any, difference would be made whether the missiles had been fired from a submarine whose last port of call had been America or from a submarine whose last port of call had been in this country. In any case, how on earth would the Russians know? If it comes to that, I do not think that the Russians would find it at all easy to be sure whether a nuclear bomb which landed on their territory had come from a Strategic Air Force bomber which started in America or a V-bomber which started in England or another American bomber which also started in England. We must not assume that they would all go straight to the target. They would be routed divergently. I cannot see how the person at the receiving end could possibly tell the point of origin.
§ Mr. E. Shinwell (Easington)
I am trying to follow the point which the hon. and gallant Member is making. I do not propose to try to catch Mr. Speaker's eye today and I am therefore trying to elucidate what the hon. and gallant Member is saying. Is he not misunderstanding the point which is being made on this side of the House—namely, on the routing question to which he referred and on the decision to fire a missile, if such is necessary, we are not empowered to exercise a joint control. There can be no joint control over the routing, although there may be joint control over what happens at Holy Loch. Afterwards, on the question of routing and the decision to fire the missile, there is no joint control.
§ Vice-Admiral Hughes Hallett
I am dealing with the question of the decision to fire the missile, and I will come to the routing question in a minute, if I may. At the point at which I gave way to the right hon. Gentleman I was about to state the conclusion which I had reached from my previous observations. It is very simple, and I doubt whether the right hon. Gentleman would deny it. Any action to fire these missiles, taken either by our country or by the United States, would equally involve both countries. I do not see how it could fail to do that. That is why political consultation is necessary for both countries and why we have repeatedly been assured by the Prime Minister that such consultation goes on all the time.
§ Vice-Admiral Hughes Hallett
Furthermore—and I do not think that right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite will like this argument—such consultation would not be nearly so necessary for the United States were it not for the fact that Great Britain has its own deterrent. As it is, it is necessary for them to consult us because we might let off one of these missiles which would involve them just as much as it would involve us, if they had done it.
I maintain that that argument is quite true. It may not be palatable to the Opposition. There would not be the slightest necessity for the Americans to consult us with regard to the targets at which these missiles are aimed were it not that we possess a means of delivering such missiles as well. We have never been told this officially, but I assume that there must be the closest consultation with regard to targets, as there had to be in the last war.
Turning to the question of the itineries or routes to be followed by the submarines, the exchange of accurate information between allies concerning all warship movements in areas where vessels of both allies are liable to be operating has always been necessary. Needless to say, that is particularly so in the case of submarines. I would be prepared to say—and I hope this will not offend my American friends—that perhaps the Americans were a little slow to learn this lesson. Hon. Friends who served at sea will agree that there were 760 one or two tragedies in the last war which might have been avoided. As recently as seven years ago, when I was last commanding at sea during an exercise, we were joined by a submarine and it took me several hours before I was able to confirm that it was not an American submarine, despite the fact that we had an American admiral with us. I am sure that by now that lesson has been thoroughly learned.
§ Mrs. Barbara Castle (Blackburn)
Is the hon. Gentleman saying that we have a guarantee from the United States of America that we shall be given advanced notice of the sailing plans of these submarines?
§ Vice-Admiral Hughes Hallett
N.A.T.O. has an elaborate system of naval area commands. They are not particularly secret. We see photographs from time to time of our own admiral, who is called the C. in C. East Atlantic.
§ Vice-Admiral Hughes Hallett
It has this much to do with N.A.T.O.—this is where I disagree with the hon. Member for Leek. Control comes from different sources, but it has this much to do with N.A.T.O. If there is one naval commander in an area he must be informed, as a matter of ordinary safety, of the movements going on in his area. After all, if one suspects that ones ally is not keeping one properly informed with regard to movements there is a very simple remedy. One proceeds to operate ones own ships, and possibly reconnaissance aircraft, in the same area until he changes his mind.
This condition sometimes arises, and not only between different countries. In the last war we were plagued with what were commonly called "private navies". Apart from the King's Navy we had a navy built up of landing aircraft, coastal craft, and so on. We had brigands who used to land spies and other brigands who used to land saboteurs, and they operated in extreme secrecy. I well remember that we used to carry out a number of small raids on the Brittany coast and I became aware that there was a rival operating authority which was not telling me where the vessels were going. However, we very soon stopped that.
761 To be serious, in this case we are considering the operation of vessels costing tens of millions of pounds, carrying large crews and carrying immense potential for destruction. In those circumstances, I feel sure that relations between the two navies, apart from anything else, are too friendly to leave any room for misgiving at all. I feel perfectly confident that the United States Navy will acquaint our naval commanders with the normal information regarding the movements of Polaris submarines, which will be available for our own Minister of Defence, or the Prime Minister, whenever they wish to avail themselves of it.
§ Mr. Stephen Swingler (Newcastle-under-Lyme)
I wonder whether the hon. and gallant Gentleman saw the film about the Polaris submarines which was shown recently on B.B.C. television in which Mr. Ed. Murrow interviewed a number of high-ranking American naval commanders. If he saw that film, he will recall that these American naval commanders claimed that the whole advantage of the Polaris was that it will give complete independence and secrecy to the United States. In fact, Mr. Ed. Murrow asked the admiral about the relations with America's allies and the admiral claimed that one of the advantages of the Polaris was that America would not be subject to pressure from her allies. That is what the Admiral said.
§ Vice-Admiral Hughes Hallett
I still maintain, whatever Ed. Murrow may have said—[HON. MEMBERS: "The admiral said it."] Whatever anybody said, I still maintain that there will be the normal exchange of information and, if there is not, it is very easy to force it by operating one's own ships in the same area. I have no information on that matter at all. I think that our bargaining power in getting the information would be enormously reduced, as I said earlier, were it not for the fact that we had our own independent deterrents. That is certainly important.
There are certain differences between the Polaris and the bombers, not the least being the fact that more time is available for consultation. I was surprised that that was not conceded by the hon. Member for Leek. I am bound to say that all this fuss that is being made about the Polaris base is merely a mare's nest. 762 It is something being stirred up largely for political reasons. I hope the House will reject the Motion and, if our procedure allows it, I should welcome further Parliamentary proceedings on the Polaris being remitted to the Scottish Grand Committee.
§ 12.17 p.m.
§ Mr. William Baxter (West Stirlingshire)
Since I first became a Member of this House, there have been many discussions and debates among Members who are apparently experts on the subject of mass destruction. Figures have been disclosed which show that, notwithstanding the fact that we have spent approximately £21,000,000,000 since the war, this country has no proper defence system. The other night I listened to the Home Secretary speaking on television. He seemed to indicate that the Government's intentions were to try to make Britain strong so that she could protect her interests. All the debates and speeches I have heard in this House seem to prove quite conclusively that should there be another war it would become ultimately a nuclear war, and the human race would be no more.
In this House Ministers of Defence appear to come and go with great regularity, and, as far as I can see, they seem to change their policies just as regularly as the weather changes. I was interested to note that the previous Minister of Defence stated quite clearly and concisely that this country's defence forces should be dependent, not upon man-piloted aircraft but upon guided missiles. This was shown conclusively to the country in a propaganda film which appeared on television which showed that a guided missile could destroy any man-piloted aircraft that tried to come over this country.
Are we so foolish as to think that America and Russia do not have the same facilities for destruction? Our new policy involves putting all our beliefs in the V-bomber. It is apparent that that policy must be changed. Despite the fact that we have spent so much money, we now depend to a great degree, almost 100 per cent., upon the Americans to safeguard the interests of this country.
While this great weapon of destruction, the Polaris missile, may be the most up-to-date missile of destruction which has been conceived in the mind of man 763 up to the present, who is to say that tomorrow a new device will not be concocted in the mind of man which could make the Polaris missile practically obsolete? Who is to say that, even in its present state, it is a capable weapon for any purpose whatsoever? By electronic methods the missile perhaps could be redirected in the opposite direction. Who is so brave as to say that man's ingenuity is not such that that is within the bounds of possibility?
Are we so foolish as to think that, although America has the Polaris missile, Russia is not capable of having the Polaris missile? Who is so foolish as to believe that a nation which can send a rocket to the moon with absolute accuracy is not capable of sending a rocket into the very heart of London, to the House of Commons, with just as much ease? It is much easier for a rocket to be sent from Moscow to the heart of London than it is for a rocket to be sent from Moscow to the centre of the moon.
That is only a matter of opinion, but we should be foolish if we did not realise that we cannot compete with Russia and America in this field. Most hon. Members on both sides seem to believe that under the N.A.T.O. alliance we can build up a force of mass destruction which will keep the peace.
I consider that to be one of the most foolish conceptions that has ever entered the mind of man. N.A.T.O. is simply a military alliance. Have military alliances kept the peace in the past? If they have not kept the peace in the past, can a new military alliance keep the peace in the future?
I consider N.A.T.O. to be an alliance. Hon. Gentlemen opposite may think otherwise. They believe, as I understand, that this new group of nations called N.A.T.O. will help to keep the peace. I disagree with that belief, because I know of no instance in history where that type of alliance has kept the peace. Hon. Gentlemen opposite may be better informed than I am.
Do we not realise that alliances breed alliances? We have our N.A.T.O. alliance. The Russians have the Warsaw Pact. Do we not realise that hate breeds hate and war breeds war? Most people are beginning to realise that, while no 764 one wants war, by some mischance or mistake these great monsters of destruction may be let loose and the human race will be no more.
I listened with great attention to the debate earlier this week when one hon. Member opposite asked if we are certain that if there was an outbreak against one of the smaller N.A.T.O. nations America would go to its aid immediately. That is a very important question. History again proves that we denied our alliances before the outbreak of the last war when Hitler stepped into one of the countries which we had guaranteed, namely, Czechoslovakia. There is no definite proof that, if there were an outbreak of war against one of the N.A.T.O. countries, America would be in on our side.
It is, therefore, natural for each of us to wonder wherein lies the solution to this great, perplexing problem confronting humanity. Where can humanity see any semblance of leadership in this very dangerous and explosive situation?
We all know how difficult it is to depart from preconceived notions and ideas of military might. It would be extremely difficult for the Prime Minister to say, "Cease. Proceed no further." It would be very difficult for the Cabinet to say, "Let us look afresh at the problems confronting us and not let the prejudices of the past curb our breadth of vision." Let us try once more to bring a sense of responsibility into this mad world.
I consider this to be the most appropriate time in the history of man for this country to give the world a lead. I say that because, like many more, I have listened to the statesmen and leaders of other nations who have come to this country to converse and confer with the Government in recent years. I have heard their point of view. I have been struck sometimes by the appalling possibility of a war breaking out. During the last six months I have taken the opportunity to visit East Germany, Czechoslovakia, Hungary and Yugoslavia—all so-called Communist countries. I have also visited Belgium, West Germany, Austria, Luxembourg, Switzerland and Italy. During these visits I have had the great privilege of discussing the problems of the world with their statesmen, their Parliamentarians and their ordinary people. 765 All of them, like ourselves, are desirous of peace in our time and for all time. Everyone dreads that war might break out either intentionally or unintentionally.
Most people seem to recognise that today there are two great Powers in the world, Russia and America. Everyone seems to appreciate that Britain, like the other nations of the world, cannot compete with them in this race towards the destruction of the human species.
I found something more important than that, namely, that in knowledge, understanding and leadership Britain is still looked upon as second to none. At this moment she still holds a unique place in the Parliaments of the world. We must not lose that place by any shilly-shallying of the present Government. Notwithstanding all the differences which are portrayed in the House, there is a feeling throughout the world that our country could still play a decisive part in solving the most perplexing problem now confronting makind.
One thing people cannot understand is why Great Britain, this great nation, should take sides in this great issue. Why should she be the yo-yo of a foreign Power? Why should not she give the lead and not be led? If we do not give a lead, if we do not have an independent point of view, I believe that the road we are travelling will ultimately bring us to the abyss of destruction.
This great problem brings with it also great opportunities, if we only recognise some simple basic truths. I am no military expert. Those hose and round about me can speak about how many men are required for our Armed Forces, or how strong a Polaris missile is. I speak only as an ordinary, humble, simple soul, but there are certain basic truths that we must all understand.
The first of those truths is that there is very little fundamental difference between the peoples of the world, whether they come from so-called Communist countries or so-called capitalist countries. Basically, we seem to have the same aspirations and beliefs. I have found it so, and I can speak only as I find.
766 Secondly, we must realise that the revolution in Russia took place forty years ago, and that, with the inevitable passage of time, its aims and objects have been blunted. The Russians' great belief in the equality of man has been superseded to a great extent by the inequalities that exist there—and they exist here. In that respect, there is not very much difference between their system and ours and, economically, we are gradually moving nearer to each other, as can be seen if we look at the picture properly.
The third fact is that East Germany, Czechoslovakia, Hungary and Jugoslavia are fifty years behind the times. There are marvellous opportunities in those countries for our trade and commerce if only we could get peace and a better understanding with them. There are bountiful markets there that would keep the wheels of our industry running at full speed, and bring benefits not only to the workers but to our manufacturers and everyone in this country.
Fourth, at the present time there is, not, as I have said, much fundamentally different between the operations in our so-called capitalist State and their so-called Communist State. Let hon. Members go for themselves and study that. I am quite sure that they will realise that we are gradually moving nearer and nearer to one another.
We must establish a condition of confidence in our basic aims as a nation— the nation of Britain—not only among our own people, not only among the rulers and Parliamentarians of other countries, but among the rulers, the Parliamentarians and the peoples of the uncommitted countries. We must emphasise and emphasise again, that we believe in law—not in the law of force. We must stand firmly in the conviction that we believe in law rather than in force. We must make it abundantly clear that N.A.T.O. is not, and never can be, an end in itself.
What should be our policy? I may not be well educated, but in my awn amateurish way I believe that there are certain simple, basic facts on which our policy should be based. First, we should be prepared to liquidate N.A.T.O., provided that the Warsaw Pact was also liquidated and a demilitarized zone was created in Central Europe.
767 Second, we should be prepared to withdraw from the Atlantic Alliance, provided that Russia could and would accept free votes in the various Central European countries. Third, we should seek to have the Charter of the United Nations amended so as to give that organisation the executive power necessary to retain unto itself a properly constituted force—
§ Mr. Speaker
That must be out of order. I am not allowing the hon. Gentleman much licence, but we have gone a very long way from Polaris bases in Great Britain.
§ Mr. Baxter
That is so, Mr. Speaker. I believe that all these questions are all inter-related, but I must apologise for ranging so widely.
We should be prepared to liquidate our Armed Forces, and be the first contributor to a United Nations international police force. As a token of our sincerity, we should be prepared immediately to liquidate all foreign bases in this country, including the Polaris base. Those things would take us along the road to sense. I have already said that hate breeds hate, but peace breeds peace, and love breeds love.
I appeal to the Prime Minister to try to measure up to the responsibilities of the times. We are living in days about which the great thinkers, writers and poets of the past have dreamt. Therefore, let us—and let him—be bold, and try to tackle this great problem with sincerity. It cannot be solved by outmoded methods. We must tackle it with a new conception, a new purpose, and a new determination.
The Prime Minister must come off his pedestal if he wishes to live in the hearts and minds of posterity. If he wishes to be remembered as a disciple of the Man of Peace, let him be courageous, and give the people of the world a lead towards their simple desires. Let him grasp the virtue of opportunity that knocks at the door today, and give birth to the hopes and aspirations of all mankind—peace in our time.
§ 12.36 p.m.
The Earl of Dalkeith (Edinburgh, North)
Over the past few weeks a number of rather unflattering and unfriendly things have been said about the base for the Polaris missile-carrying sub- 768 marine, and I am grateful to you, Mr. Speaker, for giving me, as a Scottish back bencher, an opportunity to try to express some of the alternative points of view.
I would like to make three brief points. First, I want to correct the inaccurate impression that all Scotsmen are frightened at the thought of the Polaris submarine base. Secondly, I want to point out how groundless are those fears in the minds of those who hold them; and, thirdly, to express a warning about the harmful repercussions of engaging in what I believe to be a quite unjustified and unnecessary scare campaign in relation to the security of our country, and of the West generally.
It simply is not true that all Scots are frightened of or opposed to the establishment of the Polaris submarine base. There have been, I agree, a number of noisy demonstrations, but I do not believe that those are representative of the spirit and the feeling of the people of Scotland. Much publicity has been given to those demonstrations, but I think that we all know that the newspapers much prefer to print the unconventional rather than the commonplace point of view—
§ Mr. Manuel
I am obliged to the noble Lord for giving way. Is his present attack launched at the political elements only, or is he including in it the local authority elements and the Church of Scotland elements that have in the last few days come out so strongly against the Polaris base?
The Earl of Dalkeith
—he may get get some of my views on that subject.
As I was saying, we all know that the newspapers much prefer a story concerning one unhappy divorce than stories of a million happy marriages. A subject like the Polaris submarine base does rouse emotions, but it is certainly not true that the majority of Scotsmen are either lily-livered, anti-American or pro-Communist. Unfortunately, that impression has been given to people outside our country—and even from the attitude in this House, Mr. Speaker, I have noticed the distinct desire among hon. Members living south of the Border for the rebuilding of Hadrian's Wall.
769 I have made a very careful study of the speeches and comments made by members of the bodies to whom the hon. Member for Central Ayrshire (Mr. Manuel) has referred, and it appears to me that they have ignored one paramount point which concerns the very reason for the existence of Polaris, and the very existence of a credible deterrent. That point is that, in my belief and in the belief of many people, the possession of this deterrent makes war less likely and not more likely. I dare say there are a number of objections to Polaris, but surely the overriding point is: is it or is it not going to make war less likely?
This subject has created a great spate of emotional feeling. The very fact that this loch should be called Holy Loch provokes all the more people who are prone to emotional outbursts. It is fair to say that throughout history the soundest and best decisions have generally been made by people who are most capable of calm, reasoned and logical thinking, unclouded by emotion and sentiment.
The Earl of Dalkeith
In the short time that I have been in this House I have been struck by the contrast between the two sides of the House. I think it is largely because the majority of the people in Britain looked upon Members on this side of the House as being people of greater emotional stability than hon. Members opposite that they decided as they did at the last General Election.
I now wish to show how groundless are the fears of those who hold them about this deterrent. Most of us realise that peace, during the last few years at any rate, has been maintained largely as a result of the balance of power, or, if you like, the balance of terror. That includes not only nuclear weapons but conventional weapons as well; for I agree it would be wrong to put all our eggs into one basket and all our dependence on one weapon.
In the last year or two there has been a danger that the Russians were beginning to gain a lead over the West in the development of rockets for delivering nuclear warheads. Had that lead continued, the Russians might well have 770 felt tempted to try to wipe out the West while they still had the chance and before the West could retaliate. I agree that that is an arguable point, and that it is hard to believe that they could be so foolish as to entertain such a thought. But we must remember that for many years they have not disguised the fact that they wish to dominate the world, if possible by peaceful means and if necessary by violence. We must not overlook that fact.
Thanks to the introduction of Polaris, which is not merely a deterrent but a reasonably credible deterrent because of its high degree of invulnerability, that risk of Russia being tempted to make a surprise attack upon us has been greatly reduced. Let us remember that if they had made such an attack, Clydeside would have been, without doubt, one of the key targets in Britain. The fact that we now have Polaris means that there is much less chance of any attack on this country being made, and that includes Clydeside. I therefore believe that Clydeside, as well as the whole of Britain, is a good deal safer now than before Polaris was devised.
There is every reason to welcome Polaris because it reduces this risk of attack. Further, there is reason to believe that the existence of such a credible and realistic deterrent may have some influence upon the thinking of the Russian people in relation to multilateral disarmament. I wonder whether the Russian delegation would have been quite so keen to walk out of the conference in Geneva last summer had the West at that time had a deterrent which it now possesses in the form of Polaris. I wonder whether at future disarmament conferences the Russian delegation may be discouraged from walking out so hastily. It may bring to them a greater realisation of the utter futility of proceeding further with the arms race now that they know the West has caught up with them.
Further, I wonder whether the Communist summit meeting a few days ago would have produced the pronouncement which it did—that is to say, the acceptance of the concept of peaceful co-existence—had it not been for the fact that the West has again reminded these great Powers in the Eastern bloc that we have a realistic means of 771 defending ourselves. One interesting feature about that pronouncement is that it shows, contrary to what hon. Members opposite have been saying, that Polaris is not considered by the Eastern bloc as a prevocative weapon. Otherwise they would not have been so ready to accept the idea of peaceful co-existence.
I want to utter a warning about the harmful effect of this scare campaign which has been taking place in Scotland. It has consisted largely of ill-informed and unrestrained opposition to Polaris. However much we may dislike the idea that the world is divided, we have to accept it and realise that even if we do achieve multilateral disarmament, which of coure is the one great aim of every sane person, there will still be ideological and economical differences between East and West, and the possibility is that the world may continue to be divided for many more years to come.
It is perfectly clear that we must be partners with one of the big power blocs—either East or West. Surely, it is better that we should choose as our partner a democratic country like the United States of America rather than a dictatorship country such as Red China or Russia.
The Earl of Dalkeith
The security of our country and of the West generally depends upon our strength to resist aggression, whether military or economic. Naturally, our strength depends upon the unity of our partnership. Of course, in such an alliance there must be a certain amount of give and take between the partners. I believe that to base Polaris in Scotland is a pretty good bargain from our point of view because in return for whatever inconvenience there may be for having the base in Holy Loch, we are assured of a high degree of protection against attack through having so realistic a deterrent.
Furthermore, by providing a base such as we have done, we have a stronger claim to share with the American control of the use of Polaris than we would have had if we had refused to have the base there and the Americans had established it in some other foreign country. I agree that it is contrary to our feelings of national pride to think 772 that we are being partially protected by a foreign power But as I see it, there is as little likelihood of Scotland becoming the fifty-second State of the United States of America as there is of the United States becoming part of the British Commonwealth, simply because she offers our Royal Navy facilities which we are offering to the Americans in Holy Loch.
The Earl of Dalkeith
Perhaps with different circumstances, I agree, but the basic principle is the same. Furthermore, we should remember that England has managed to resist the temptation to become the 51st State in spite of having had United States Air Force bases on her soil for many years.
While agreeing with some of the points made by hon. Members opposite during the debates last week on the admission of China and on defence, that we should not be too mealy-mouthed with our American allies, I suggest that there are different ways in which we can say the same thing, so as to produce the best results. It would be most unfortunate if, as a result of our unrestrained abuse of the Americans in opposing Polaris, we were to give the impression that this country was a hot-bed of Communism, which clearly it is not. [Laughter.] Hon. Members may laugh, but that is, unfortunately, the impression that some people are gaining. It would be a great misfortune if that were the result, because the Americans might well be antagonised into thinking, "To hell with Britain. Let her look after herself."
The Earl of Dalkeith
Nobody would regret that more than hon. Members who are at the moment relying upon American protection. It is an error of judgment to underestimate the importance of working towards closer co-operation between the nations of the Western alliance. I deplore attempts to undermine the anyway shaky unity we have because our disunity would benefit no one but the Communists, and, of course, that is what they are working for both inside and outside Russia. For 773 that reason, I deplore the Motion and I have the greatest pleasure in opposing it.
§ 12.51 p.m.
§ Mr. R. E. Prentice (East Ham, North)
I shall spend most of my time opposing the Motion moved by my hon. Friend the Member for Leek (Mr. Harold Davies), but before doing so I must make a comment on the speech of the noble Lord the Member for Edinburgh, North (The Earl of Dalkeith). It is quite wrong for him to imply that those who object to the Polaris base or those who are unilateralists are necessarily, to use his words, lily-livered, anti-American or pro-Communist.
The Earl of Dalkeith
I referred specifically to the impression which has been given. I was not making any accusation against any individual or group of people. It was the impression which some people are getting that I deplored.
§ Mr. Prentice
I am grateful for that interjection. At the same time, I think that the noble Lord's choice of words was unfortunate. Moreover, I do not think that such an impression is given. I believe that thoughtful people in this country, in the United States or anywhere in the world are giving credit to the Labour movement in this country for having a great and sincere debate on the most perplexing problem which has ever faced the human race.
I speak as one who opposes the decision of my Party conference at Scarborough, and I oppose the Motion before the House now. I am doing everything I can to speak and work against such ideas.
§ Mr. Rankin
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. In view of the fact that there is opposition to the Motion in front of us and opposition in our midst, could speakers for and against the Motion be taken in rotation?
§ Mr. Manuel
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I do not think that my hon. Friend the Member for East Ham, North (Mr. Prentice), with all his ability 774 in connection with local government, housing, roads and the rest, is competent to reply to the case advanced in connection with Scotland by Scottish Members.
§ Mr. Speaker
That makes no sort or kind of point of order for me. I do not propose to accept suggestions from anybody about selection. It is a responsibility cast upon me.
§ Mr. Speaker
What is the point of order? There has not yet been any point of order, so it is no good saying, "Further to the point of order." If the hon. Member has a point of order, I will hear him.
§ Mr. Manuel
The common usage and practice of the House on a topic such as this has been for one Scottish Member to be followed by another on the other side. I merely wondered why that practice was not being followed.
§ Mr. Speaker
That is exactly one of the points on which I am not prepared to accept any suggestion; nor, for that matter, could I confirm from my experience the suggestion that such a practice existed.
§ Mr. Prentice
When I receive such a rough reception when I attempt to defend some of my hon. Friends against attacks made upon them, I wonder what sort of reception I shall receive when, as I propose shortly to do, I attack some of them.
It has often been said, and it is worth repeating, that we on this side of the House make no apology for our debate on these matters. We feel that there is a crisis facing the whole nation and particularly the Government, and the way in which Conservative Members act like a lot of sheep on issues of foreign policy and defence does not credit to their party.
My hon. Friend the Member for Leek, in his barnstorming speech opening the debate, said many things which I found very regrettable. I regretted particularly his attack against the German people. It seemed to me to be an extraordinary attack, and I was much surprised that an internationally-minded Socialist should deploy an argument in such 775 nationalistic terms. I do not believe that we serve the cause of peace by making attacks of that kind.
§ Mr. Prentice
No. I really cannot carry on like this. I respect the fact that many hon. Members on both sides of the House wish to speak.
§ Mr. Prentice
I intend to make my speech, and the better opportunity I have of completing it the better chance will other hon. Members have of making their contributions.
In moving the Motion, my hon. Friend went on to devote much attention to the horrors of nuclear war. It struck me then that he was using arguments which are typical of many of those who support the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, assuming that they are the only people conscious of the destructive power of the hydrogen bomb. When my hon. Friend read extracts from Senator Kennedy's book, when he quoted from the words of other people, most of whom do not share his views on these things, about the destructive power of nuclear weapons, and when he was drawing attention to the fear we all have that war could break out by accident, he was saying something with which, I am sure, all of us agree. Sincerity and fear in these matters is not confined to those who believe in unilateralism. We all earnestly and passionately desire to create a world situation which is more stable than the present, and we all are conscious of the danger of nuclear annihilation. We are all equally sincere in trying to find a solution to these problems. The argument between us is as to what is the best method of approach towards world disarmament and a saner world system.
I believe that, if we passed the Motion, we should in fact be saying that we no longer believed in the defence of our country. That is the only logical interpretation to put on the words of it. If we do believe in the defence of our country, we must in logic say that we believe in being members of the Western alliance. If we say that we believe in being members of the Western alliance, 776 then we must accept our obligations within that alliance, which mean that one member of it should be entitled to have facilities for putting bases on the territory of another.
I will develop the argument in a little more detail. I respect the views of those who are absolute and consistent pacifists. I do not share their views, but I respect them. But, if that is what they want, I think they should say so clearly. The speech of my hon. Friend the Member for West Stirlingsbire (Mr. Baxter) seemed to be an argument for complete pacificism. Those who wish to follow a policy of complete pacifism should honestly face its implications. It means that we are prepared as a nation to sacrifice all the freedoms for which our predecessors have struggled over the centuries—our right to govern ourselves, our right to free speech, our right to freedom of worship, our right to freedom to organise in trade unions—all the things for which our predecessors, including the British Labour movement, have struggled over the years. Those are the things that we should have to be prepared to surrender to a foreign aggressor.
It is possible to hold that view, but I think that it is wrong. Certainly it is not one which would be accepted by the majority of the British people, including the majority of the constituents of those of my hon. Friends who support the Motion. I think that it may be possible to argue that it is worth making all those sacrifices to avoid a nuclear war. I have heard people say that slavery is preferable to nuclear annihilation, but the British people do not expect the Government of this country or an alternative Government of this country to make that choice. They expect us to have a policy which will preserve their freedom and peace, or, at least, one which will give this country the maximum chance of preserving freedom and peace because in this dangerous situation no policy, however wise, can guarantee these things. They want freedom and peace and are not prepared to face up to a national policy of pacifism.
The pacifists are consistent, but the non-pacifists who support Motions of the kind before the House are completely inconsistent. If they believe that it is possible to have a defence policy for 777 this country in isolation and not as a member of a wider alliance, I think that they should spell it out and say what that defence policy is. I should like to see a few issues of Tribune devoted to setting out the Tribune defence policy for Britain. That is a publication which claims that it is not pacifist, but, nevertheless, it does not believe in the Western Alliance.
§ Mrs. Judith Hart (Lanark)
I do not know whether my hon. Friend takes his copy of Tribune regularly, but he must know that for the last twelve months Tribune has been setting out the only sensible defence policy for this country.
§ Mr. Prentice
I am afraid that that is not so. It is mainly obsessed with destructive tactics, particularly with trying to kick the Leader of the Opposition in the teeth.
I now wish to talk about the bases themselves. It is sometimes argued by people who speak on these matters that we could belong to the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and still refuse to have these bases on our soil. Again, I believe that that is completely inconsistent. It may be argued against me that Polaris is not a N.A.T.O. weapon and that it is a strategic weapon of the Americans, but I think that that is a rather academic distinction. All the weapon power of the West, including the Strategic Air Command, Polaris, and the British Bomber Command, is part of the entire Western deterrent and therefore just as relevant as though it were under the command of the N.A.T.O. commanders.
If we are in an alliance we must share among ourselves the burdens of defence. Surely part of the sharing of that burden is having bases on each other's territory. I have heard it suggested that there is something wrong in our providing a base in order to defend America. But why? As I understand the North Atlantic Treaty, it is not a one-sided arrangement by which the Americans guarantee the defence of Britain and Western Europe. It is an arrangement by which we mutually guarantee each other's independence and defence. It involves duties for all of us as well as rights. If all the nations of N.A.T.O. were to say that they would not have each other's bases on their soil—for example, if West Germany refused to have British troops stationed there or if 778 we said that we would not have American bases here—one immediate effect would be that the cost of defence for all the countries concerned, including ourselves, would be much greater than it is. Already it is a very considerable burden. A practical example is the Polaris submarine fleet which, we are told, would have to be much bigger if it did not have facilities for bases away from the Atlantic seaboard of the United States.
I therefore submit to the House and to my hon. Friends who support the Motion that the logical meaning of the Motion is that we should leave N.A.T.O. or, at the very least, that we should deliberately set out on a policy of weakening the Western alliance and the defence of this country. I ask some of my hon. Friends who take this view whether they really think that this is in the interests of peace. The only test which we should apply to any of these questions is whether they are more or less likely to preserve world peace. That is the only test which really matters.
What would be the effect if Britain deliberately broke up N.A.T.O. or weakened it along the lines suggested by some of my hon. Friends? First, I think that my hon. Friends should consider the matter against the background of the debate going on inside the Communist world. We all welcome the communiqué which recently came from Moscow in the sense that it seemed that the arguments of Mr. Khrushchev and the co-existers have prevailed for the time being over the more aggressive arguments deployed by the Chinese or, perhaps, by others within the Communist world. But that argument presumably will continue. We cannot assume that Mr. Khrushchev's victory is permanent.
If N.A.T.O. were suddenly to become weakened by the withdrawal of its second biggest member, nothing would do more to encourage the more aggressive element in the Communist bloc to pursue a more aggressive and venturesome foreign policy. Our survival depends, among other things, on the co-existence viewpoint prevailing in the Communist world, and we should do nothing to endanger that by our own folly.
Another consequence which has to be faced is that if we withdrew from N.A.T.O. or made a substantially smaller 779 contribution to it, as has been implied by not granting bases, we should lose our own influence within the alliance. Several times since 1945 British influence upon American policy has been very important and very valuable, and at certain points it may have prevented the outbreak of a world war. I instance the intervention of Lord Attlee at the time General MacArthur was preparing for the extension of the Korean war on to the Chinese mainland. Another example is the intervention of Sir Anthony Eden at the time when the war in Vietnam seemed likely to develop into a wider conflict. I would instance even the moves made by the present Prime Minister for a Summit Conference, although he made them too late and they failed. Nevertheless, that is the sort of initiative which Britain can and ought to take from time to time when it is appropriate. It can be taken only if we have the influence which we have at present as a fairly senior partner in the Western alliance. If we went into isolation and neutrality, we would no longer be able to make this very important contribution. This moment of all moments, when the American administration is changing, is not the time to withdraw British influence from the counsels of the Western alliance.
Another point which I make to my hon. Friends is this. They should consider the effect of these neutralist ideas on some of our friends in Europe. When we entered into N.A.T.O. we accepted an obligation to defend independence and democracy in France, the Low Countries, Norway, Denmark and the other countries concerned. My hon. Friend the Member for West Stirlingshire said that he had travelled a great deal in Europe and had spoken to many statesmen, Parliamentarians and ordinary people. I wonder how many of them told him that they wanted Britain to withdraw from the affairs of the Western alliance? I wonder how many members of Socialist parties on the Continent of Europe want us to do that? The evidence that we have suggests that that is by no means the case. It is curious how insular and nationalistic some of my hon. Friends are in this matter, although they claim to be international Socialists.
My last point is this. It is suggested that the establishment of the Polaris 780 bases in Scotland is an extra danger for the people living in that area. There are very real fears entertained by some people there on this point. In the wider context, it is suggested that having bases in Britain at all makes Britain a number one target in the event of war and that we would therefore be safer if we did not have bases on British soil. I believe that this is escapism of a most dangerous kind. It is based on an assumption that, somehow or other, Britain can contract out of the twentieth century. That just is not a possibility. This is a terribly dangerous situation in which we live, but I believe that our survival is bound up with the rest of mankind and that we shall survive or perish together.
It is a fallacy to suggest that if a major world war took place Britain could somehow escape its effects. If, in some way, we remained neutral and were not involved in the original conflict, and the war went on, then simply for reasons of geography we should be occupied by one side and bombed by the other. If there were a quick war in which the other great Powers blew each other to pieces with nuclear bombs, the radioactivity would not stop short of this country.
Our only safety in this situation lies in the prevention of the outbreak of a major war. In that context, British foreign policy should be as active as possible; we should use our power and influence to take new initiatives towards peace, general disarmament, the strengthening of the United Nations, and improving N.A.T.O. along the lines of the Opposition Amendment in last Tuesday's defence debate.
I blame the Government because they have failed to take these initiatives, but equally I disagree with my hon. Friends who support this Motion, because their policy would rob us of the chance of taking them. The only policy which measures up to the needs of the 1960's is the one advocated by the majority of hon. Members on this side of the House.
§ 1.11 p.m.
§ Sir Fitzroy Maclean (Bute and North Ayrshire)
I find myself in agreement with almost everything said by the hon. Member for East Ham, North (Mr. Prentice), but in order to give a measure 781 of satisfaction to the hon. Member for Glasgow, Govan (Mr. Rankin) I shall begin—
§ Mr. William Warbey (Ashfield)
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. May I call your attention to the fact, in view of what the hon. Gentleman the Member for Bute and North Ayrshire (Sir F. Maclean) has just said, that it is clear—and I say this without making any reflection on the choice of speakers by the Chair—that we are now having three speakers in succession against the Motion?
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Sir Gordon Touche)
Order. Many hon. Members want to speak and I hope that hon. Members will not waste time by bogus points of order.
§ Mr. Charles Pannell (Leeds, West)
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. The Chair cannot know the opinions of Members on this side of the House. I wish to point out, in justification of the Chair, that the defence debate on Tuesday was heavily weighted, in the selection of speakers, in favour of the minority view on this side of the House.
§ Sir F. Maclean
In order to give satisfaction not only to the hon. Member for Govan but also now to the hon. Member for Ashfield (Mr. Warbey), perhaps I might start by mentioning one point on which I disagree with the hon. Member for East Ham, North. I much resent his suggestion that we on this side of the House blindly accept the Government's defence policy. I at least can say that I have criticised certain aspects of that policy consistently ever since it was first enunciated in 1957.
But, as I said, however disappointing it may be to some hon. Members opposite, I agree with the main lines of what was said by the hon. Member for East Ham, North. I thought—if he will allow me to say so—that he put the case against this Motion extremely moderately and eloquently.
My reason for intervening is that I live perhaps closer than does any other hon. Member to Holy Loch, and I also 782 represent a constituency which extends on both sides of the Firth of Clyde. I am therefore very directly concerned with this problem, both as an individual and as a Member of Parliament, and I want to help correct the very dangerous impression that the people of this country, and of Scotland in particular, are not prepared to play their full part in the alliance.
In spite of what I believe to be the firmly held opinions of the great mass of public opinion in this country, there is no doubt that a vocal minority has succeeded in giving a very erroneous impression. It was that impression—it is no more than an impression—which my noble Friend the Member for Edinburgh, North (The Earl of Dalkeith) was referring to, and which completely goes against the facts. It is the opinion not of a majority but of a minority. I am also convinced that for the main part it is based on arguments which are completely illogical.
Like the hon. Member for East Ham, North, I understand the point of view of the out-and-out pacifists. I do not accept it but I respect it. I accept that there may be people who are logical pacifists who simply opt out of the whole question—
§ Sir F. Maclean
No, I am not. I am simply saying that I accept that certain people may be pacifists, in the same way as I accept that certain people may be Communists and that these latter put the interests of the Soviet Union in front of the interests of their own country. That is regrettably, something that happens, and has happened in this case.
There are a certain number of bona fide pacifists and a certain number of bona fide Communists—if that is not a contradiction in terms. The Communists have, no doubt, received encouragement from the speech on this subject made in Glasgow by the Soviet Ambassador last month. But I do not understand how Members opposite, who vote even occassionally for their own leaders, and who subscribe even nominally to the defence policy of their party, allow themselves to get mixed up in this sort of thing.
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes (South Ayrshire)
The hon. Member classifies those who are opposed as either pacifists or Communists.
§ Mr. Hughes
How does he classify the Scottish T.U.C., which is neither pacifist nor Communist, or the Scottish Council of the Labour Party, which is orthodox Labour but is unanimously against these bases?
§ Sir F. Maclean
I was classifying people who choose this position as either illogical or logical, and among those who are logical I include pacifists like the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) who has just as much right to be pacifist—fortunately for him—in this country as he has to be a teetotaler or a vegetarian or any of the other interesting things that he is.
I put pacifists and Communists in the category of people who work out conclusions logically. I hope he will not resent that, but take it as a compliment. The people I categorise as illogical are those like the Scottish T.U.C. and certain members of the Church of Scotland who have associated themselves with this movement without apparently accepting these other points of view. They are not pacifists nor, as far as one knows, are they Communists, but they still take this entirely illogical line. They are a small minority, but they are an extremely vocal one. And my object in intervening is to try to correct the disastrous impression—and it is disastrous—that they may be giving not only in the United States, as is testified by the articles in the New York Times quoted earlier, but also in the Soviet Union. It is vitally important from the point of view of the preservation of peace that we should not give the impression either to our allies or to our adversaries that we are disunited and are not prepared to play our proper part in the alliance.
If the idea of a N.A.T.O. alliance, the Anglo-American alliance, and the principle of the deterrent are accepted—and members with doubts on this subject should read the extremely well thought-out, lucid and well-argued pamphlet published by the right hon. Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Strachey), who puts this point of view very well under the appropriate title, "In The Pursuit of Peace"—
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes
Does the hon. Gentleman know that it contradicted the right hon. Gentleman's last publication?
§ Sir F. Maclean
I am not concerned with the internal contradictions of the Labour Party, let alone the internal contradictions of the right hon. Member for Dundee, West. All I say is that his latest effort puts the case very logically. If one accepts that case for the N.A.T.O. alliance and for the deterrent, as officially hon. Members opposite should, one must accept that the deterrent should be made as effective as possible and that it should be sited wherever it is strategically most advantageous.
§ Sir F. Maclean
I cannot claim to be an expert to the same extent as the right hon. Gentleman—very much less. I admit that I do not know much about these things—not many pepole do—but my own feeling for what it is worth, which is not much, is that I do not attach great faith to the fixed-base missiles because, without being an expert, one can see that if everybody knows where one has the hole in the ground from which these missiles will come out the enemy is apt to take some action to put them out of action at the critical moment. I therefore prefer a mobile deterrent. I also have some doubts about the long-term practicability of a British independent deterrent, as I have said before. I take that view simply as a matter of £ s. d. I do not think that we can even hope to afford to compete with our American allies in that sphere.
However, because of that, I feel all the more strongly that we should make the most effective possible contribution we can to an allied deterrent, and I believe that to be in fact the present policy of the Government, because the Minister of Defence has lately called it "making an independent contribution". One of the best contributions we can make is to provide a base for the deterrent. And the more effective the deterrent, the more mobile and less open it is to counter-battery of one kind or another from the other side, the better pleased we should be.
By making a contribution to the deterrent we can also hope to gain a greater 785 measure of control over the policy which governs how the deterrent is to be used. If we were to opt out, then, as the hon. Member for East Ham, North has said, we should simply get hit by the "shorts" and "ovens" in the nuclear struggle if it ever took place. By taking our full part—and I consider that we do if we provide these bases—we gain the right to have our say. Our say in these matters can be very valuable, because we have had much longer experience of being a world Power than have our American allies.
I agree with the hon. Member for East Ham, North that the only test to be applied is whether it increases the chances of world peace. I firmly believe that Polaris does. It is no exaggeration to connect the successful development of the Allied deterrent and the fact that the Allies have an effective deterrent with the decision of the world's Communist parties that Lenin's doctrine of the inevitability of an armed struggle is out of date and that they must now adapt themselves to the idea of gaining their objectives by peaceful means. The two must be connected. But, if we were to disarm unilaterally and disrupt the alliance, we might well find the Chinese, or whoever it is who takes the extreme aggressive Communist line, gaining the upper hand.
§ Mr. Warbey
I am very interested in this argument, which has been raised before. How does the hon. Member explain that it is the Chinese and not the Russian Communists who are tending to take what the hon. Member describes as the more aggressive line in the Communist bloc? Would not the presence of American nuclear weapons in Formosa and a whole string of bases in the Pacific and the American hostility towards the Chinese and the American backing for Chiang Kai-shek perhaps have something to do with that attitude?
§ Sir F. Maclean
My explanation is that the Chinese are much more doctrinal and more old-fashioned than the Russians and are still in the stage of their revolution which the Russians reached twenty or thirty years ago when they, too, believed in the inevitability of an armed clash. Secondly, and I think that their leaders themselves have said this, they have such a large population that they might hope to survive as a 786 nation even if there were a nuclear war. That is a cynical point of view, but it is their own view.
I myself believe that the chances of a nuclear conflict are not very great. I think that the most likely thing to happen is a continuation of the cold war. That is one of the reasons why I continue to try to stress the importance of adequate conventional weapons. But I also strongly believe in the need for a deterrent and one logically has to face up to the possible consequences of what would happen if one were to go off.
My own view is that there would be precious little left of any of us, wherever we lived in these islands. But one thing which is quite certain is that the siting of the Polaris base in the Holy Loch does not in the slightest degree increase the risk for people living in the West of Scotland. That was decided long ago by the siting of the City of Glasgow on the Clyde. The vicinity of Glasgow is likely to be a greater menace to Sandbank than Sandbank is to the City of Glasgow.
§ Sir F. Maclean
It is certain that in any hot war in which this country was involved one of the very first targets would be the City of Glasgow and that anything within 100 miles of Glasgow would be burned to a cinder. That is something which has to be accepted. As someone who lives within 100 miles of the City of Glasgow, as does the hon. Member for Govan, we must both accept that and hope that it will not happen.
But even if I thought that the Polaris base increased the risk, I would still say that if it was strategically advantageous to the alliance and therefore more likely to preserve world peace, we should accept that risk, just as the people of East Anglia accepted it when the American bomber bases were sited in East Anglia.
Failing nuclear disarmament, which we all want, and which the Government are doing their best to bring about—I believe that an effective well sited Western nuclear deterrent presents the best chance of preserving peace. I am also convinced that that is the view of the great majority of thinking people in Scotland and the rest of the United 787 Kingdom and that they accept the logical conclusion of this view.
§ 1.30 p.m.
§ Dr. J. Dickson Mabon (Greenock)
The hon. Member for Bute and North Ayrshire (Sir F. Maclean) made a charge of illogicality against many of my hon. Friends who are still muttering and not allowing me to make my speech. I wonder which is worse in politics, illogicality or timidity.
When the hon. Gentleman rose to say that he agreed with what my hon. Friend the Member for East Ham, North (Mr. Prentice) said, he omitted one point. I am surprised to find him in apparent agreement that we should press on the Government the need for adequate control over this base. We have never had a full explanation from the Prime Minister of the precise terms of control.
Like my hon. Friend the Member for East Ham, North, I am annoyed that the position of the Western alliance should be undermined by the timidity of hon. Gentlemen opposite and by a lack of clarity on the part of the Prime Minister and the Minister of Defence. For example, the Prime Minister said—and I believe this, and so does the hon. Gentleman—on 1st November:… I believe that the more we are involved with the whole great complex of the modern deterrent the more effective our voice becomes in its world-wide control."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 1st November, 1960, Vol. 629, c. 38.]I want the Prime Minister and the Ministers concerned to make that clear, not just to me, but to my constituents and to everybody in Great Britain, that in fact we are exercising that position of control. Otherwise we are making a bad bargain. We are becoming more and more involved in the complexities of Western defence while having a decreasing say in how its mechanism is to be operated.
This is the nub of the argument, and I accuse the hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends of timidity in being unwilling to press on the Government the need for making clear the full sense of the Western alliance. This is the great charge against the Government, which is lost by disputes among my hon. Friends, over the best method of securing the same goal. We are all united in securing the same goal, and I am sure that hon. Gentlemen opposite would join us 788 in trying to find a successful way of achieving world-wide disarmament.
I am as concerned about the base in the Clyde as I am about bases elsewhere in Europe. I am just as concerned about the bases on the Kola Peninsula where there are scores of Russian bases aimed at my constituency, and many others in Great Britain, and many places in Europe. I do not want the Polaris base to be removed from Holy Loch merely because it is a danger to my constituency. I want all the bases in the world removed.
It is for that reason that it is inconsistent to argue that only one side should do the moving. That is why I believe that it is important to set up a system whereby we can check bases all over the world. We should allow inspection by a team of neutralists, pacifists and interested parties of Russians, Americans, and ourselves to see that we have removed the Polaris base, but only at the same time as we send a similar team to the Kola Peninsula and other places where there are Russian installations waiting to attack a potential enemy.
I do not apologise for saying that. It seems to me a sensible point of view to adopt. I admit that it has nothing to do with party politics. That view could be held by Conservatives, by Liberals, by Socialists, or by anybody else. It used to be held by the Communists in this country. The British Communist Party was wholeheartedly multilateralist and against seeing that this or any other country renounced nuclear weapons prior to general all-round disarmament. For cynical and opportunist reasons it has now altered its position locally in this country.
Perhaps we are on the brink of history. The Russians and the Chinese have recently had discussions. Do the Chinese want nuclear weapons? Is Mr. Khrushchev wondering whether it would be a good thing to give them those weapons? This is an important point at this juncture of history. That is why my hon. Friend the Member for Leek (Mr. Harold Davies) was wrong when he put forward the argument about control by generals and not by Governments on the one hand, and quoted Senator Kennedy on the other. Is Senator Kennedy a unilateralist? He is not. The next President of the United States is pledged 789 to multilateral, and not unilateral, disarmament, and against control by generals and for control by politicians. Senator Kennedy is probably going to be the one man in the world, with Mr. Khrushchev, who is in a position to plunge the world into a great disaster. That is why I think this is woolly thinking, but I wonder which is worse, woolly thinking on our side, or timidity by hon. Gentlemen opposite.
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes
Is my hon. Friend aware of the latest statement from Moscow, that all bases in all countries and all foreign troops should be removed? Does my hon. Friend agree with that?
§ Dr. Mabon
Of course, but let us see what Mr. Khrushchev said in January of this year to the Supreme Soviet. He said:We locate our lockets in such a way as to ensure a double or even treble margin of safety… We are developing such a system that if some means of retaliation were knocked out we could always fall back on others and strike the enemy from reserve installations.I do not want to contradict Mr. Khrushchev; he is not such a bad fellow. The fact is that they are in a position to make sure that if we attack them they will hit back. This is precisely the position of the Polaris submarine. Recently I wrote a letter to the Tribune about this. The Tribune defence correspondent admitted that Polaris was a second strike missile. I accept that.
There have been many points put up from my constituency, and other places, that have been used in the argument—irrelevantly to my mind—about the Western alliance. For example, let us consider radioactivity. I do not want anyone to misunderstand me. I am most dissatisfied with the Government in relation to this agreement, on three grounds. This is one of them. I do not mind my hon. Friends cross-examining me about this. They are entitled to do that, but I will not be weakened in my resolve to get answers from the Government on these points.
Dealing with radioactivity, the Government have failed miserably to set up the National Radioactive Waste Disposal Service that was promised in the Radioactive Substances Bill which passed into law earlier this year. When I asked the Minister of Defence about this, he told 790 me that he was not sure whether the submarines would use this system for the disposal of their waste, or one of their own. He was not sure what the position would be, but he said at the end of his letter to me that it had not been set up. When I asked the Prime Minister when the service would be set up, he said that it would probably be done within a year, but we are told that the submarines will arrive on 18th February next year. It is not good enough for the people in the neighbourhood who have to bear their share of the burden for Western defence if the Government are not going to take active steps to play their part.
It is a fair point for argument, but it is not logical for hon. Members to tell my constituents and others that, because the Government have so far failed miserably on this count there ought not to be a Polaris base, there ought not to be a Western alliance, or hydrogen bombs on our side while the Communists are armed to the teeth. The Government must bear responsibility for not ensuring that my constituents and others are satisfied that we have done everything possible to maintain our alliance and keep the morale of our people up.
§ Mr. Malcolm MacMillan
Would my hon. Friend agree to sponsoring a petition from the people of Greenock to the Prime Minister asking for a postponement of the coming of Polaris to allow time to find the answer to this question and ensure that there will be no danger to them?
§ Dr. Mabon
I am grateful for that suggestion. The Greenock Corporation and I have already written to the Prime Minister about this. I asked that these matters should be fully considered before action was taken. In October we asked for this to be done, long before hon. Gentlemen and others outside this House jumped on the bandwagon. If anyone doubts that let him look at the record and he will see how long ago we were concerned about this. He will then find how long it was before others came on the scene.
§ Dr. Mabon
It would not pay very much.
The next argument about radioactivity involves the discharge of effluent. A monitoring team is being set up by the Admiralty. A few days ago I asked the Civil Lord Whether he would tell us about the possible radioactivity in the Clyde, and about the margin of safety. I also asked if he would give some information to the Medical Research Council and other interested bodies. He treated me as though I were a unilateralist. It is very bad for unilateralists in the House at the moment. Believe me they have my sympathy in the treatment they get from Ministers. He thought that I, too, could be pushed aside and told nothing. He must answer these questions and deal properly with them.
The very men who are complaining to me about this base—and I do not blame them for complaining; I blame the Government for not informing them—are those who a few months ago asked for more work from the Admiralty, and they are the very men for whom I would champion a case with their active support for building the first nuclear-propelled merchant ship on the Clyde. We want orders for these ships in the Clyde and we are prepared to take whatever narrow margin of risk there may be in regard to nuclear propulsion and the discharge of radioactive effluent from these ships. The Government are obliged to give the public some information on this monitoring team.
My hon. Friend the Member for Leek asked a direct question about this. He asked what has happened about this local committee and whether it had been set up. I can tell him. It has been set up, but it is a farce. It is concerned only with the way in which the area should be evacuated if there is an accidental explosion. It is told nothing at all about radioactivity; it has been authoritatively stated that it is not the Committee's business to know anything about the levels of radioactivity in the loch. It is not told anything about radioactive waste. It has not been given any adequate assurance about the safety of the actual vessel. Leading men like the Prime Minister may visit the installation, but no assurances are given to the 792 ordinary citizens. Their duty is apparently not to question; it is only to accept. That is a silly way for the Government to go about things. The best way of aiding those who are against the Western alliance is to install a base and not tell the local people about radioactivity, or why the site was chosen.
My hon. Friend the Member for Leek tended to give the impression that it was wrong to site the missile in Great Britain. Is he not being just as insular in using the words "Great Britain" in his Motion as he accuses us of being in regard to this loch?
§ Dr. Mabon
Do not tempt me. If this is the only loch in which it can be sited, will the Government tell us what other possible sites were investigated, and why they were rejected? It has never been explained. Many conscientious and public-spirited citizens of all parties have asked this question. We have no objection to its being where it is if there is no other place for it. But why must it be in Holy Loch, with all the danger to a heavily populated area that an explosion can cause?
Not so very long ago—in 1940—a French destroyer blew up in Greenock Harbour, after every assurance had been given that placing this vessel in a certain berth could not cause increased danger to human life or limb in the locality. It blew up, but the whole thing was kept secret, because of the war. But it was no secret in Greenock. It was common knowledge to every family which had somebody involved.
§ Lieut.-Commander S. L. C. Maydon (Wells)
I was there at the time of that explosion, and I can assure the hon. Member that no assurances were ever given that an explosion could never happen. It was the normal war risk, and it happened.
§ Dr. Mabon
The hon. and gallant Member should listen instead of interrupting. I said that the people were given an assurance that by placing the vessel at that point there would be no increased risk to civilian life or limb. The hon. and gallant Gentleman ought to bring himself up to date. The assurance given by the Navy then is not the same as that which has been given in relation to Polaris. The assurance in that respect is that there is only a slight chance. Naval officers who are willing to place bets on it will say that it is one chance in a million, in 2 million, or in 500,000. But that is not the point. There is a slight chance, and it is because of that chance that constituents can stop me in the street and say, "Why not put it further away from Holy Loch, where there would be less damage if an accident happened?"
They have a right to ask this question. I am sure that Members of Parliament representing East Anglia or anywhere else whore there is a base have done everything possible, irrespective of party, to make sure that their constituents are not placed in any more danger than it is possible to avoid. That is all that we are seeking to do, and little thanks we have been getting for it from the Government or anybody else. All the anxious questions that we have raised, and every representation we have made, has been used, not unnaturally, in the argument for unilateralism. If the Government are not careful they will find there is a great public agitation primarily because of their ham-handed action in this matter. Their public relations are bad, and they are hesitant and timid about letting the public know anything.
Hon. Members opposite may not be interested in the narrow argument about the locality of the base or about the health and the welfare of people living close by it, but they have a very heavy responsibility to bear in relation to the wider argument about the control of the weapon. At least before the tribune of history hon. Members on this side, no matter which point of view they take, will be acquitted for having done their public duty in arguing this out among themselves and in public. But hon. Members opposite are in a different position. How many voices have been heard in the 1922 Committee cross-examining 794 the Prime Minister and the Minister of Defence about the precise degree of control which is exercised? It may be that the leaks from that Committee are not as good as those from ours. It may be a matter for congratulation that hon. Members opposite can keep these things quiet.
§ Dr. Mabon
But if that is not the case—if the ability to leak is as great on one side as on the other—it shows that hon. Members opposite have not been asking questions. That is a great shame. Let them not beat their chests and say how proud they are to stand by the Western alliance and how the wicked Labour people are causing trouble. What they should be asking themselves is whether they have done their duty as Members of Parliament, irrespective of party.
They should ask themselves whether they have done their duty or have merely accepted some honeyed words or some vague statements from the Prime Minister, who has duped many other people with his words. Sir Roy Welensky is a wonderful example. Need we ask the hon. Member for Berwick-on-Tweed (Viscount Lambton) to give us other examples?
We ought to have some close questioning of the Prime Minister and other Ministers, because the lives of our people and the safety of our country depend on them. If we are to play our full part in the Western alliance, let us have an equal shout with America. Let us assert ourselves. That is the obligation falling upon hon. Members opposite, but they have failed to honour it. They have failed to satisfy the country that all is well with the establishment of these bases.
§ 1.50 p.m.
§ Miss Harvie Anderson (Renfrew, East)
In following the hon. Member for Greenock (Dr. Dickson Mabon), I want first to deal with his reference to the great public agitation in Scotland. I shall deal with the question of petitions and complaints later. My constituency, like his, is adjacent to Holy Loch. It is 25 miles as the crow flies—or perhaps I should say as the "missile" thrush flies—from this site to my constituency. This Polaris base will make little difference to the vulnerability of the 795 west of Scotland, because, as long as we have adjacent the great industrial city of Glasgow, we are all well aware of the vulnerability of a centre of one of the greatest shipbuilding areas in this island.
I do not want today to discuss the strategic importance of the Polaris submarine beyond saying three things. The first is that in my view it is the greatest contribution which we have to the deterrent so far. Secondly, I consider—and here I am satisfied even if the hon. Member for Greenock is not—that on behalf of my constituents and those I represent in the west of Scotland there has been full consultation with regard to the site and that it is, as we shall shortly hear, strategically in the best place.
§ Mr. Manuel
This is most interesting, and I hope that the hon. Lady, whom we are always pleased to hear, will divulge the source of the information which she is now giving to the House. It is common knowledge that the Admiralty site suggested to the Americans was deliberately turned down by them, that they have stuck to the Holy Loch and are not prepared to shift from that site.
I will leave my hon. Friend the Minister to reply to the hon. Gentleman's question. I am quite satisfied about the siting of the base. Fortunately, I do not have to speak for the hon. Member for Central Ayrshire (Mr. Manuel).
§ Mr. Malcolm MacMillan
This is the most interesting point. I think the hon. Lady said that another site was offered to the Americans. Does the Minister agree?
§ Dr. Dickson Mabon
Am I to understand that the hon. Lady or any provosts of her town or any leading citizens of it were consulted about this matter before 1st November?
At the risk of disagreeing with the hon. Member, whose speech we all enjoyed, I do not happen to consider that such individuals or the bodies that he has mentioned are of necessity the best people to give advice of this kind.
796 As I have said, I am satisfied that the consultation has been adequate and that this site is the right one. Moreover, I am satisfied, as some hon. Members have already said in this debate, that, at present, this weapon is our strongest protection. I do not expect hon. Members opposite to accept that point of view, but I am expressing not only my point of view but that held by many thousands of people in the west of Scotland.
While I respect those who hold genuinely pacifist views, I wish to express on behalf of the citizens about whom I have spoken that the vast majority of Scots do not accept pacifist views. They are certainly not unilateralists and I do not believe that they are antagonistic towards the establishment of this Polaris base. They are realists and they are prepared to play their part and to go on playing the part which they have long played in the defence of these islands.
The hon. Member for West Stirlingshire (Mr. Baxter) referred to alliances and to their lack of success. I could not help thinking that this was unfortunate because, perhaps, Scotland has better and longer experiences of successful alliances than many other nations.
What about the French alliance with the Scots which, I think, was first concluded in 1295, which was something of which we should be proud and something which led not only to a successful alliance but, finally, in the early sixteenth century, to an offensive and defensive alliance. It resulted—and hon. Members representing Scottish constituencies should be aware of this—in bringing about permanent friendship between France and Scotland and led to our sharing this Parliament with the old enemy today.
If we look further and have the vision to see into the centuries ahead, cannot we visualise, through the alliances to which we are pledged today, a world Parliament, such as many people in this House would like to see, where there is a wider alliance and an extension of the situation that I have just described and which is most likely to render lasting peace.
797 I now wish to bring the matter up to date by reminding, particularly, those hon. Members who represent the west of Scotland of the feelings of the citizens in Scotland and of all those throughout Great Britain who in the lean years of 1940 and 1941 may have stood, as I stood, on a gun site in the west of Scotland and saw flying through the air the first weapons which were sent from America to help us defend ourselves and to defend the freedom of the world. Into Prestwick came those first white-painted aircraft from America, and how glad we were to see them. We then welcomed them as we welcome today the establishment of the base for this new weapon which will bring at the same speed the same effective defence which those planes brought in those earlier days.
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes
Does the hon. Lady forget that in the last war the Russians were our allies, too, and that we were very glad indeed of Stalingrad?
I think the hon. Gentleman will recollect that the time of which I am speaking was when the Russians had not seen the necessity of becoming our allies. The time to which I refer was at the end of 1940 and the beginning of 1941. If the hon. Gentleman really wants to know I can quote the dates which I have had checked today so that I should not be caught out on that point.
The first evidence which we had of an alliance upon which we could rely were those planes which came into the west of Scotland and which were so welcomed by us. I do not want to say more except that the hon. Members who have mentioned petitions and the various protests and complaints which many of us have received have had less experience, perhaps, than I of local councils and assemblies of that kind.
I have worked in a lesser assembly for something like the past twenty years. During that time I have become well aware that there are occasions when the tail wags the dog. This is a very appropriate reference at this time in this House, because, while it has not happened in this House, I have been a member of a Socialist-controlled council where it has happened. I am aware that some of the petitions we have received 798 have represented the minority view despite the authoritative source from which they seem to come.
With regard to actual petitions, I went on one occasion to great trouble to get up a local petition, and someone who is now an hon. Friend of mine on this side of the House sought at the same time to get up a petition opposing me. The point I wish to make, and this may or may not refer to certain petitions received in relation to Polaris, is that on the occasion of which I speak, the most careful analysis and checking revealed that of the 800-odd names on the two petitions some one-third of the signatories had signed both. I have never had quite the same belief in petitions from that day.
§ Mr. W. Baxter
Does not this give an indication of the mentality of the people who support the hon. Lady?
I should have thought the hon. Member would recall the exact occasion of the petition of which I spoke. It was not a political occasion, there was no such convenient dividing line and at this time it would not be possible to take the sheep from the goats. I was very careful in my choice of the description of the petition.
There is one more thing I should like to mention. To many of us in Scotland it is one of the most serious aspects of many of the ill-judged statements which have been made in this connection. There are those holding great responsibility in Scotland who have seen fit to enter this discussion when many of us sincerely believe that in their calling this stretches beyond the immediate needs of many who are dependent on them, and we are sorry that this should be developing.
Because there are many of us who do not wish any political decision influenced in that way. By all means let us put our moral judgments, as many of us do, but we must leave political decisions to the elected representatives—[HON. MEMBERS: "Really."] I knew that certain people would not like that statement, but this is something which has to be said. It is something which has to be accepted whether we 799 like it or not. There has to be a division of responsibility in this as in many other respects.
§ Mr. Rankin
Has the hon. Lady ever protested to the Church of Scotland against the yearly issue from the Assembly of a pamphlet dealing with the Church and Nation Committee which covers the aspects she is now condemning?
The chairman of that Committee is a close personal friend for whom I have the greatest admiration. I have read the draft and report of that Committee for a number of years. I do not in any way underestimate the work which the Church or any other body does, but I think that the Church, as other bodies in this country, has to play its part—[HON. MEMBERS: "It is doing so."]—and I do not consider that it is part of its duty to influence political decisions.
§ Mr. E. Shinwell (Easington)
Suppose it were the other way round, what would the hon. Lady have said then?
The hon. Member for East Ham, North (Mr. Prentice) referred in his eloquent and courageous speech to contracting out of the twentieth century. I suggest that unless we in the west of Scotland recognise the full issues before us in the establishment of this base, we shall be seeking to contract out of the twentieth century. Weapons will become the master of man only when man abrogates his responsibility, and in my judgment there are hon. Members opposite who are seeking to abrogate their responsibility in this situation. This the Scots will never do, and I therefore urge that many will take the point of view that I hold and utterly reject this Motion.
§ 2.5 p.m.
§ Mr. Malcolm MacMillan (Western Isles)
The hon. Lady the Member for Renfrew, East (Miss Harvie Anderson) has, in one way, made the most revealing speech today. Judging by the approval she got and the applause from hon. Members on her side of the House, she revealed an extraordinary attitude on the part of a considerable section of the Tory Party. I hope it is not true, for the sake of democracy, for the sake of local Government and for the sake of the hon. 800 Lady as well. Because, first, she repudiated, quite blatantly, the right of local authorities, the constitutionally elected representatives of the people, to speak for the electors when they cannot otherwise speak officially for themselves. Does she really reject the right of the County Council of Ayrshire, Greenock Council, and all those elected bodies including the Burgh of Kirkcaldy to speak by majority for their electors?
§ Miss Harvie Anderson
If the hon. Gentleman will look at what I said, he will see that I did not say that I rejected the idea but I did suggest and I do suggest that those objections were not fully representative.
§ Mr. MacMillan
That is to say, is it not, that local authorities are not acceptable by the hon. Lady even though they are bodies elected by constitutional majorities?
I did say, and I repeat, that in certain Socialist controlled local authorities the tail wags the dog. In other words, the minority point of view emerges authoritatively.
§ Mr. MacMillan
Perhaps I can help the hon. Lady in her obvious dilemma. The fact is that in the Kirkcaldy Town Council there are fifteen Tories and fifteen Labour members—an exact balance of parties—and the Tory chairman objected to the Polaris base motion, and to a wider motion against bases being discussed at all. He was overruled by a majority, including Tories, and the town council proceeded to a vote when there were twenty against five. That figure must have included several Tories, and five seem to have abstained. This is not a Socialist-controlled town council. The nuclear bases were objected to by Tories almost as much as by the Socialists, and the hon. Lady has no case there. The only case she has made—if she has made one at all—must be against the whole of democratic local government; and I am not surprised at that in the light of the rest of her arguments.
She spoke about alliances. We had alliances before the war—strange alliances. The policy directed by alliances before the Mast war, the policy of our Government at that time, was to strengthen Germany as a buttress of 801 Western democracy against Russia. Then we came to 1941 when we had Russia in the field alongside our troops against the Nazis and we were waiting for the full American support to come along too. There is no guarantee whatever in a few years ahead who will be our allies. It depends on many cold considerations of self-interest. There have been extraordinary switches in the last century in Europe alone and the hon. Lady should not base all her arguments or hopes of security upon alliances which may operate in five or ten years from now.
It must also be remembered that at that time we were in alliance with Russia and America against the very Power which once again we are rearming and which may again, once it has the power to do so, not only start again to bargain from strength but nuclear strength and make its own decisions to go with one side or the other, according to its aims and hopes. We cannot know which way it will turn.
The hon. Lady also objected to the Church coming "into politics". That is an extraordinary thing for a Tory to say after the centuries during which we have had ecclesiastical representation in another place. Has she ever objected to that at any time? His Grace the Archbishop of Canterbury can make any speech he likes, presumably, so long as he agrees with the hon. Lady, and he will be democratic. But the minute he differs from her and expresses anxiety about the nuclear bases and the menace which has created so much concern, she will not listen. He will then be a Churchman who has taken the wrong turn, because he has not turned into that narrow devious Tory lane through which the hon. Lady has been wandering today.
The hon. Lady asks us to face "the realities" of the situation. What is the chief reality in the present situation and context of a nuclear age that overshadows every other? Surely, we must acknowledge that it is the indisputable fact that we cannot survive a nuclear war. Surely, that is a reality which the hon. Lady must be prepared to face, if she is interested any more in reality. Surely, she accepts that as being the outstanding reality? I think she knows that nuclear aggression, as the Prime Minister has stated and as the Minister of Defence has said, is synonymous with 802 suicidal total destruction and that retaliation in itself gives neither protection nor hope of victory.
I do not think that the hon. Lady can think of a single political or other objective more important than the survival of civilisation and mankind. If she holds that that can be achieved indefinitely by a balance of nuclear fear, I think it an extraordinary contention. Is that what she believes? I do not believe that any nuclear weapons or the threat to use nuclear weapons will guarantee the peace of the world for much longer. No balance of power from the bow and arrow balance to the block buster balance ever has done that so far. Threats are based on fear and imagined self-interest. Economic, political considerations and heightened nationalistic feelings have a hundred explosive possibilities all over the world and could widen into the world conflict about which so many of us—all of us—are so deeply anxious.
The hon. Lady knows that there is just as much danger, possibly greater danger, of conflict arising from an accident on a remote frontier as from direct action by the American or Russian Government, or any other, quietly sitting down and taking decisions to launch nuclear missiles. There are so many explosive hot spots around the world. That was the idea in the Labour Party's non-nuclear club proposals last year when the intention, at least, was so excellent. The policy did not work out for various reasons, reasons not in our control: but that was the idea and central concept and proposal in that defence statement. I do not want to make any of our people feel that they will be stripped naked of defence by removing the menace of our nuclear bases. Every human being wants to feel protected, at least; but we as a House of Commons ask the taxpayers for about £1,600 million every year for defence; and must prove that we are providing real protection.
What a transformation that £1,600 million yearly could make in the whole standard of life of our people, in the expansion of industry, the building of houses, schools and hospitals and what have you. We must justify the spending on arms of that amount. But do we? We are telling people, "You give us £1,600 million and we will give you 803 defence and protection," but do we? A former Minister of Defence, the seventh or eighth—I cannot remember because there have been so many, one almost every year—said, in Australia, that he must thank the British public for having so patiently and understandingly agreed to concentrate all defence on the nuclear bases—when they had not been, in fact, consulted at all. That should please the hon. Lady. He emphasised that the defence, such as it is, would have to be wholly concentrated on the bases. The corollary of that is that as one multiplies the bases, one consumes what dubious defence there is, and strips the civil population of all protection. The hon. Lady will remember the Ministerial quotation, I am sure.
The right hon. Gentleman and the Prime Minister and other Ministers, including those of the Labour Party, have said that there is in any nuclear weapons system no actual physical protection whatever from the second that nuclear war breaks out. Whether one believes in the deterrent policy and the deterrent value of nuclear weapons or not, is a matter on which I do not think we shall ever get complete agreement in any party. In many ways it is a futile argument to pursue in embittered detail.
§ Mr. MacMillan
It is a matter of opinion and will have to remain so until one or other side gets confirmation by experience. That can come only in one way, only in the outbreak of nuclear war with four minutes warning. That may give us Presbyterians in Scotland time for a short prayer; but I doubt if this would work under the ritual of the Church of England.
The Prime Minister said that military forces today are "not designed to wage war"—presumably if war breaks out, nuclear military forces are not designed or expected to take part efficiently—but their purpose is ostensibly, to prevent war. We cannot know whether they can prevent it or not until something happens; and then it will be too late. All our arguments will then have been wasted and the vast world resources wasted, when they might have been 804 applied to so many useful and constructive purposes. We could sack the Minister of Defence, we could sack the Secretary of State for War, the Secretary of State for Air and a whole lot of them this minute. Then we could appoint a Minister for the Balance of Terror, a Minister for Retaliation or, if hon. Members prefer, a Minister for Bluff and a Minister for Revenge, for that is all that is left of defence in the nuclear context. Does anyone seriously believe otherwise? Outside a mere opinion about the value of the deterrent—which must remain only an opinion—is there any protection in nuclear so-called defence?
The argument has been briefly touched on in defence debates and Estimates debates of whether a weapon is tactical or strategical. The previous Secretary of State for War gave his opinion on that. He said that it does not depend wholly on the weapon, but depends mainly on the target. It is likely then to be as much a decision of the commander in the field as it is of the Government at home, because so much power over the nuclear weapons has to be delegated well in advance of the hour of action, to the military commander in the field, and particularly to the highly specialised "missile men", that new breed of technicians and technologists, that the politicians and Governments scarcely enter into the matter. It is at this stage and here and now that it can be prevented by political action; but it cannot be certainly prevented at the point of military action, once the time of crisis has come and we are engaged in war, or at its brink in the theatres of war risk.
I wish to remind my hon. Friends that in December, 1957, we put the following Motion on the Order Paper:That this House deplores the action of the Prime Minister in committing this country to the establishment of four ballistic missile bases in Scotland at the cost of many millions of pounds; condemns his acquiescence in American custody and control of the nuclear warheads and the exposure of the areas concerned as enemy targets while the means of defence are lacking.I should be surprised if today any hon. Member on this side who has spoken and who signed that Motion and believed and understood what he signed, can oppose this one, because my Motion 805 in 1957 was far more comprehensive than the official party objection to the Thor fixed bases.
§ Mr. MacMillan
I shall not read the names. But it involves more than the Thor missile fixed bases and the Polaris submarine base is the equivalent of one of those, or more. The submarine is not the base. It is the mobile platform and the means of delivery; the equivalent of the plane carrying an H-bomb. The base remains fixed because the depôt ship must be in the still waters of the Holy Loch and the loch and "Proteus" form the base. The submarines can enter and leave with their missiles. They come and go to and from the Holy Loch, and dodge the enemy. The hon. and gallant Member for Croydon, North-East (Vice-Admiral Hughes Hallett) suggested that as soon, as war started, the depôt ships would push out to sea. Apparently they no longer need an "absolutely still water" base as the Minister of Defence claims, In that case, there is no point in their being there at Holy Loch at all. I thought it was an extraordinary statement for the hon. and gallant Gentleman to make, that the depot ship would set out when war broke out—or was that his intention?
§ Mr. Rankin
Does my hon. Friend realise that two of my hon. Friends whose names appeared on the Motion which he has read have also put their names to the Amendment which is before us today?
§ Mr. MacMillan
I myself have changed my mind on many of those things. People do. Situations change and weapons change. That is part of our difficulty. For example, we are launching forth as pioneers into obsolescence and the unknown all the time as we develop these new weapons. We cannot avoid it. We have heard, as we always hear, experiences from the First World War and the last war, and I am looking forward to more today. But the soldier of today is inevitably talking in terms of the strategy and arms of yesterday as the weapons are coming off the production line, or being scrapped half way. I wish that in this controversy hon. Members, not only of this party but of all parties, would recognise that this is too 806 fluid a situation for it to be a permanent political issue in any sense. I do not want to be too unkind to those who argue now against that Motion they signed.
§ Mr. W. Griffiths (Manchester, Exchange)
No doubt my hon. Friend will soon come to the question of Polaris. As an English Member, may I put a question to him? It seems to me that some hon. Members who say that they give their full support to the Western alliance and presumably also give their support to Polaris, do so provided that the depot ship is anchored in the Manchester Ship Canal and not in Holy Loch. Let me say to my hon. Friend that if there is anybody who holds that view, I hold him in infinite contempt and I much prefer the attitude of the hon. Lady the Member for Renfrew, East (Miss Harvie Anderson).
§ Mr. MacMillan
All I can say about the relative dangers to the people concerned, is that I would far rather be on board that submarine or even depôt ship pushing out into the Atlantic, as the hon. and gallant Member for Croydon, North-East said it would, than anywhere near Holy Loch when the missiles come. One is far more likely to be in hot water in Holy Loch than out in the Atlantic—and I mean that politically for some hon. Friends, as well as in any other sense.
Polaris is little different fundamentally from the other missiles, objection to which is still our official Labour Party policy; because that policy was adopted shortly after the Motion in my own and my hon. Friends' names attracted 101 signatures in 1957. There was no specific mention then of Thor bases and no type limitation; it referred to nuclear bases generally. The difference in degree is for the worse and towards greater destructiveness.
§ Dr. Dickson Mabon
I have never posed to be a defence expert, unlike many of my hon. Friends, but I remind my hon. Friend that in the policy statement to which he referred the official view was that we continued to be opposed to the establishment of the Thor missile base in Britain. That was paragraph 6. It was precisely on that point that this discussion took place in the Labour Party.
§ Mr. MacMillan
My hon. Friend cannot hope to make the part in his quotation greater than the whole in the 1957 Motion by one sweeping assertion of that kind. It is the case that since 18th December, 1957, the signatures to that Motion have remained undisturbed by those who signed or by any decision taken later in the Parliamentary Labour Party in this House. In one, it was related to the outcome of Summit talks. But it covers the whole defence field. It so happens it referred to the latest proposals from N.A.T.O. at that time, as they came over the tape. I know that surveys for bases were made in Scotland—as the hon. Member opposite suggests—including my own constituency. But my hon. Friends know that surveys were made in many places in the United Kingdom, too.
We have been told of the advantage of mobility given by the Polaris-carrying submarine; but I am reminded of another statement by the former Secretary of State for War, who is now Minister of Agriculture. I am paraphrasing his words, although I can give chapter and verse if necessary, and I can assure the House that my paraphrase is accurate. Replying to some of his hon. Friends, who thought that the mobility of the submarine was an unqualified advantage, he said that they could hardly expect otherwise than that the Russians, if we are to talk about the Russians as the enemy in question, would hit back massively, not at a submarine, dodging all over the Atlantic, at goodness knows what but straight back at the base, which in today's case, is at Holy Loch, and at Greenock on the Clyde and so on. Glasgow and the Holy Loch cannot be separated from the base area or take evasive action in the open Atlantic. They cannot take evasive action as the Amendment seeks to do.
§ Mr. MacMillan
It will be called a few things before the day is out. [HON. MEMBERS: "Get on with it."] I do not think that some of my hon. Friends will be going home this weekend at all. If the Civil Lord is in a hurry to get away, I expect it is because he wants to get away from the argument—or to his food—I gave him a choice, at any rate. The Amendment obviously proposes and 808 hopes to switch the base to some other area. What area? I have been involved in all those bases area arguments long before my hon. Friend the Member for Greenock (Dr. Dickson Mabon) started so rightly to make representations about radioactivty and the other littler things.
§ Mr. MacMillan
May I now ask my hon. Friend for an assurance? He failed to give an assurance before, or refused to do so. Will he, firstly, ask for a postponement of the establishment of this base at Holy Loch until he knows all about the dangers from radioactivity and other matters involved, and knows it beyond doubt? I also ask him for an assurance that he will demand the same investigation, at the very minimum, of every other possible base area in Scotland, and that if he believes, in general terms, that a base is essential to the Western alliance, he will at some point go into the locality and advocate it and seek to persuade local people to take that point of view?
§ Dr. Mabon
I am perfectly willing to accept the second assurance. I will defend it, whether it goes to the Manchester Ship Canal or anywhere else, provided that we have a complete explanation from the Government. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Why not? Is it not legitimate for the Opposition to demand a statement by the Government? This could well be pressed on the Government—and it is a job which hon. Members on both sides of the House have failed to do.
§ Mr. MacMillan
Hon. Members on this side of the House are not the Government and are therefore not able to make that statement.
§ Mr. MacMillan
The Minister of Defence stated in the House what happened regarding surveys about the location of the base; and I can quote evidence. He said that a large number of possible anchorages were considered up and down the West Coast and were rejected on operational grounds. I know that my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, East (Commander Pursey) differs from my point of view and I know that he feels that Holy Loch is the right place and possibly the only place; but that point of view and that of the Minister of State do not help to add any weight to the Amendment; and to imply that the base should go into somebody else's back garden because it is too filthy for one's own is a device to which I hesitate to give a name.
Suggestions have been made about base sites on the East Coast and in North Aberdeen. [HON. MEMBERS: "Not Aberdeen."] Also Dundee, Kincardine, the Firth of Forth, and places near Edinburgh have been mentioned. Happily, all these other possible sites in Scotland have been discarded as militarily or technicaly unsuitable, and the experts have rejected them. Scapa Flow cannot be used for this purpose. So Shetland is out and so is Orkney. It was rejected in the last war for very good reasons and it will be rejected even more clearly and definitely this time. The Government cannot use the Western Islands. We have a rocket range there already. We are having a N.A.T.O. base—a nuclear dump—created. We are already overcrowded and unsuitable. We have not much of a south coast to Scotland. Indeed, the base might if we turn south, go over the English Border at that stage. On dry land even Polaris wonder submarines would have a little difficulty. It cannot go to the Wick or Thurso areas, which are absolutely unacceptable. Dounreay is equally unsuitable. That area has been chosen for the Dounreay reactor for the very opposite reason to that why Holy Loch has been chosen for the Polaris.
I am arguing from technical reasons, given by the experts and by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Kingston 810 upon Hull, East, which would suggest that the only suitable place is Holy Loch, and that if we are to object to it, then it must come out of Scotland altogether, whatever one thinks of the Western Alliance. On all that evidence it has got to be there beside Glasgow and the Clyde. I wish people would name the alternative places they have in mind. That is what is wanted. Whose back garden are we going to put the unacceptable thing into? Jane Welsh Carlyle, sitting up baking bread about 2 o'clock in the morning to help Thomas Carlyle's rather upset gastric system, wrote that she never knew anybody who could bear with such patience and Christian fortitude the sufferings of other people. She may have offended Carlyle, miscalled the "Sage of Chelsea", who was really an emigrant from Ecclefechan; but she was well on the target for this Amendment.
Let us name the alternative places, give the other site a local habitation as well as a fancy name. Get on with the choice. I do not think that this Amendment's implied transfer can be justified in the east, west or north coasts of Scotland; and there is no south. It surely will not come to the Shetlands and most surely not, this time, to the Western Isles.
We want consultation with the Americans. That is in the Amendment too. It is a big point of the argument. The Americans, however, have difficulty in consulting even with themselves. I quote again from a previous Prime Minister, Earl Attlee, who criticised the American constitutional system and chain of command. He said that sometimes one statement comes from President Eisenhower, a different one from the State Department and another from the Pentagon. American overseas representatives, he said, have far more latitude than ours. The situation goes right through to the Armed Forces, he added, where the chiefs of staff sometimes make one decision and the local generals in the field very often decide otherwise. He was talking from experience of the last war and the post-war period.
There is then, for a start, all that division among themselves. With that division, it is bound to make it more difficult in every way to create and maintain a whole complex system of inter-allied consultation and control. A few 811 days after that remark by the present Prime Minister that Britain will be consulted about Polaris submarine and "Proteus" movements and decisions, America officially denied all this and the newspaper the Nation came out bluntly and said it was fatuous nonsense that there could be such consultation before Polaris went into action. Note the word "action". We really are talking an awful lot of nonsense about full consultation and shared control; and I think the Americans themselves would be the first, in their franker moments, to acknowledge it.
It is an impossible situation to believe that the Polaris submarines which, having been put out for however innocent a reason, or on ordinary, routine operations, happened in a crisis to be nearest some point of action, actually could start consulting with British politicians about going into action. Even consulting with the American President could be difficult enough. But would they consult with us first? Who believes that? How can we enforce it? Control and effective consultation really is out, and we might as well face the fact that what we are doing is putting a foreign base in this country in the midst of 2½ million of our people, in one of the greatest shipbuilding and industrial river areas of the world. I would not guarantee the life of any one in the area. Protection my foot! Defence! What is it? One cannot protect a base from four-minute notice nuclear attack and we all know it.
I will finish on a point mentioned by my hon. Friend who made his case so eloquently and logically and sensibly, when he dealt with the psychological and other effect of the introduction for the first time in history of the German Army in this country. Now I have never been anti-Germans or anti-Americans. Nor is my party. We have nothing but regard and friendship for them. It applies to all other peoples as well as the Germans and Americans. The Labour Party has always thought in terms of human brotherhood which was not based on motives of material profit or investment and things of that kind, but based upon a deep and earnest desire to raise the standard of life of all the peoples throughout the world. We have seen that great purpose frustrated by the vast and 812 wasteful expenditure upon armaments: £1,600 million every year in this country alone. In Russia we do not know how much more than that they spend; and in America heaven knows how many times as much. We have a sense and bond of brotherhood which embraces all nations and abhors war as an instrument of policy. It never again can be so. We must win people, now. The hon. Lady the Member for Renfrew, East, may dislike the Church coming against nuclear policy in politics; but she will recall that the Church does teach that God created all men of one blood. It would be a great pity if we did not unite our British Labour movement and the workers' movements of the world to be sure that we do not destroy all men in one nuclear bloodbath. We have a duty to that purpose and ideal throughout the world, to the Germans, to Russians and to Americans. This movement cannot thrive or survive, based on a system of nuclear defence and a policy of threatening nuclear war, which can only annihilate, and cannot protect.
§ 2.35 p.m.
§ Captain John Litchfield (Chelsea)
When the hon. Member for Leek (Mr. Harold Davies) introduced this Motion, he referred in his very eloquent and moving speech to the "weakest think in the brain", and I had a nasty feeling that he was looking straight at me when he said that. I do not propose to follow him into the deep water he was navigating, but, in passing, I may perhaps suggest that the next time he wants to navigate the Baltic in a submarine he should carry a three-dimensional map, because the Baltic is not sufficiently deep for Polaris submarines to operate in.
Although I disagree with this Motion and the proposed Amendment, I feel a considerable measure of sympathy for the inhabitants of Clydeside, who are, so to speak, at the receiving end of this debate. I do not sympathise with them because I believe there are any substantial grounds for their anxieties or for the anxieties expressed in this House and outside, but because I feel they have been misled. I do not suggest that they have been deliberately misled for one moment. I am sure the House respects the sincerity of the hon. Member for Leek and those who support the Motion, however misguided and misinformed they may be. I must say 813 I do not myself share the apprehensions which have been expressed about the presence of these submarines in Holy Loch.
I thought there was a suggestion made by the hon. Member for the Western Isles (Mr. Malcolm MacMillan), when he said something about Chelsea, that we were going to have Polaris submarines up the Thames.
With one or two reservations, with which I shall deal in a moment, I welcome this arrangement. After all, we are up to our necks with the United States in our overall commitments and in the commitments to the Western alliance and I really cannot see how the use of a British anchorage—and that is really all it is—by these American submarines and their depot ship is going to get us any deeper into this sort of commitment. It seems to me that this commitment is far less than a great many others we have already entered into without all this fuss.
§ Mr. Harold Davies
The hon. and gallant Member for Chelsea (Captain Litchfield), to whom I am listening with interest, must realise that the argument is not on just one more thing. The hon. Member is a man who has served his country and understands military terms. He will understand the military term "escalation". This is mounting all the time and we are increasing the chances of accident, and forty-five more Polaris—we will not mix the missile and the submarine—will increase the chances of error. Each time this arises the excuse is made that we are already committed. Each time the mathematical chances of error are increased.
§ Captain Litchfield
I fully appreciate that argument, and I hope that by the time I have finished the hon. Gentleman will feel a little more reassured. I think that by the very presence of these nuclear submarines over here—and this is not their main base, remember—we shall be increasing the operational and effective strength of this great weapon and, by doing that, we shall add to the power and effectiveness of the deterrent. I suggest that by so doing we are adding to its credibility and increasing the chances that we shall avoid any un- 814 pleasantness at all. Nevertheless, I do not deny that most people, including myself, would prefer to live at some distance from nuclear weapons of any kind, or, for that matter, a nuclear power station.
It is therefore quite reasonable that those who dwell on Clydeside should seek assurances that this particular area was selected for very good reasons indeed. I will not try to enter into them in any detail, because I am sure that my hon. Friend the Civil Lord will deal with them if he has a chance of catching Mr. Speaker's eye.
On the human side, when looking at the map, at first sight one might think of Scapa Flow and Loch Ewe as being equally well suited strategically and, by being more remote from densely populated areas and industrial centres, less likely to excite opposition and concern. I hope that the hon. Members for Ross and Cromarty (Mr. John MacLeod) and Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond), who are not present, will understand me if I say that these remote, barren, windswept and largely uninhabited and savage Northern fastnesses do not offer quite the same facilities.
§ Mr. Malcolm MacMillan
In our barren wastes, from which we observe the nuclear civilisation of the neighbouring island of Great Britain, we already have a N.A.T.O. base on Lewis. It is being developed now. We have a rocket base on South Uist. Anything might happen there in a crisis. Shetland is in this, too. But people there are human beings. Thirty thousand people object to 30,000 people being obliterated just as much as one million people do elsewhere, because they are all individual human beings. The hon. and gallant Gentleman should talk in human terms an not in terms of wastes and wildernesses.
§ Captain Litchfield
I am sorry. I mean no discourtesy to that part of the 815 world. Perhaps the hon. Member will understand my argument if he allows me to go on.
These remote northern fastnesses do not offer quite the same facilities for sailors as the bright lights of Clydeside. There must be many hon. Members besides myself who can recall how much a visit to the Clyde during the war after the austerities of Scapa meant to our morale.
§ Captain Litchfield
May I at any rate finish this argument? Morale will be particularly important in connection with the Polaris submarines and their depot ships. I do not think that it is acceptable or fair to treat these vessels and men as pariahs and confine them in peacetime to the mists and gales of these isolated northern anchorages. On human grounds it is right and indeed essential that their base should be at least within a short distance of the amenities of civilisation, and Holy Loch meets this requirement admirably.
§ Mr. Rankin
In view of what the hon. and gallant Gentleman has said, will he tell the House why the Navy has ceased its ceremonial visits to Clydeside?
§ Captain Litchfield
I imagine it is because the Navy has not any ships to spare. I hope that will be borne in mind next year when we discuss the Navy Estimates.
I will not deal with the material and technical side, because the Civil Lord will no doubt inform the House about that.
Some very strange things have been said, mostly outside the House, about the agreement. I have received letters, from Chelsea and elsewhere, protesting against the surrender of United Kingdom territory to the Americans. This is a very handy stick with which to beat the Americans if one wants to flog them at all. It is remarkable what a state of emotion can be worked up in some quarters whenever we try to be nice to our allies, especially to our American allies. I sometimes wonder whether, if we offered comparable facilities to the Russian Navy, there would be a similar reaction from the same quarters.
Since the end of the war, the first aim of Soviet policy has been to drive a 816 wedge between America and her allies, to break up the Western alliance and to eliminate American bases from Europe.
I make no allegation whatever against the good faith of those in the House who support the Motion, none whatever, but I cannot help feeling that those who seek to play on the emotions and fears of the good people living on Clydeside are unconsciously bringing comfort to our enemies and doing a great disservice to our own country and to peace. They would be better employed in going out into the country and educating their friends on the facts of life, instead of sniping at this agreement and letting their fears overwhelm their judgment.
§ Captain Litchfield
What kind of world do they think we are living in? Do they think it is a world welfare state instead of a jungle world? I wish they would try to grow up and be their age and take a more realistic look at the kind of world we are living in and at the appalling perils which surround us all the time, in which it is chiefly to the United States that we can look, apart from our own right hand, with hope.
Nevertheless, it does serve a useful purpose to debate this question, to look at the agreement very closely, and to bring every aspect of it into the open. There is one point which understandably worries some people. That is the control of the submarines when they are operating from a United Kingdom base. It is right that we should inquire into this and be satisfied as far as we can be satisfied about it.
§ Sir Leslie Plummer (Deptford)
On a point of order. Is not the hon. and gallant Gentleman indulging in over-copious use of his notes? Is he not reading his speech?
§ Captain Litchfield
I will drop my notes altogether with great pleasure. I was using them so that I could shorten my remarks. Without notes one sometimes becomes a little long-winded. I apologise to you, Mr. Speaker, and to the House for any discourtesy of which I have been guilty. It was quite unintended.
817 I want to refer particularly to the question of control, which is largely a matter of how much confidence we can feel in our American allies. I want to make two points very briefly, because I have been interrupted a good deal and have overshot my target already. My first point concerns what confidence we can place in the Americans. We sometimes get the wrong kind of ideas about the type of men who are now heading the American Services. I will refer to the politicians later.
I have a certain amount of personal knowledge of those in the new generation of American officers who are now reaching the summit of their professions. I can claim to be the only graduate of the National War College of the United States in the House and one of only four British naval officers outside it. The present Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in Washington was my instructor at the National War College. The present SACLANT, who would have control of these submarines when wearing his American hat, was my opposite number as a strategic planner under the Combined Chiefs of Staff in the war. A large number of my old classmates now hold top commands in the American Services.
I know these people. They are not brash, rash, irresponsible, trigger-happy men. They are responsible men who are dedicated to their profession. They are able men. Above all, they are men who have a very high sense of their responsibility to humanity by virtue of their control of these appalling weapons.
I assure the House—I do not know whether they will accept it—from my own close personal experience of these commanders, whom I have very recently visited, that we can feel very great confidence, within the limits of human fallibility, that they will do their job in a responsible way.
§ Captain Litchfield
I am glad that the hon. Member for Leek accepts that. But, of course, over the admirals and the generals there are the politicians. Although I feel no anxiety on this score, I admit that we are entering upon somewhat unexplored territory here. For that reason—I make no allegation that there could possibly be any doubt about the word of any American Administra- 818 tion I agree with the view held in many quarters of the House that this agreement should be very carefully tied up—as far as it is possible to do so and still make it a workable agreement.
There is bound to be an element of risk in any arrangement of this kind, and there are some circumstances in which we cannot expect to exercise control or to be consulted. I shall not elaborate that, as it is well known to all hon. Members, but, in the same way that a badly-drawn will is often the cause of a great deal of unpleasantness in families, so any possibility of misinterpretation of an agreement like this can only lead to trouble between allies in the future. Instances of this have recently appeared in the quotations from Lord Attlee's memoirs, and I can recall similar things from my own experience not very long ago. We have these examples of how two friendly people can put different interpretations on the same language.
Therefore, I fully agree with the view that this arrangement, or agreement, or whatever we may call it, should be tied up as carefully as possible, and that all the foreseeable circumstances in which it might have to operate should be considered carefully in advance—planned and agreed in advance, because we do not want in an emergency to have to talk or to take anything but concerted, agreed action. I am quite sure that, if he gets the opportunity, my hon. Friend the Civil Lord will reassure us on that.
We should remind ourselves—and this is not said often enough over here—how much we owe to the American people for their prodigious defence effort. Some of us who have recently seen something of it can appreciate the gigantic effort that is being made in the United States. Whether we like it or not, we have been, we are, and no doubt we shall for some time to come be sheltering under that effort. I do not know where this country or the Western alliance would be were it not for the Americans.
I hope, therefore, that we shall try to take a rather more generous attitude towards America and the Americans and not seek to use this kind of issue as a stick with which to beat them. We owe a great deal to them, and I hope that as a result of this debate we shall have a little more good will shown to 819 the Americans and a little less Celtic growling.
§ 2.54 p.m.
§ Mr. R. T. Paget (Northampton)
I rise for the first time at this Box with diffidence and very real fear, particularly on finding myself speaking to a Motion by a British hon. Member on an Atlantic subject interfering in a Scottish argument. I apologise for that.
I found the speech of the hon. and gallant Member for Chelsea (Captain Litchfield) extremely interesting, since he speaks with real knowledge on these subjects. One of his observations struck a note in my heart, and that was when he said that speaking somewhat closely from notes often shortened what was said. I think that speakers in this House tend to have three phases. The first is when they do their thinking first and reduce it to somewhat copious notes. Secondly, there is the happy stage in which the processes of thought and expression are concurrent. In the third stage, thought is dispensed with altogether. That is a process from which we suffer rather a lot.
My hon. Friend the Member for Leek (Mr. Harold Davies) referred to words of great wisdom when he quoted Captain Liddell Hart as saying: "If you want peace, understand war". I think that we could do with more of that.
Some of us in this House have for many years been seeking to do that, but those who have taken the point of view of my hon. Friend have come into these defence debates somewhat recently. I make, of course, an honourable exception of my hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes). I think that he has attended every one of these debates for the fifteen years I have been in this House and has put his pacifist point of view. The fact remains that, until very recently, those debates were rather ill attended. It was extremely difficult to get people to take an interest in defence. If they had taken more interest then they might have been rather better informed now.
Perhaps I may refer to the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for the Western Isles (Mr. Malcolm MacMillan)—
§ Mr. Paget
Frankly, I have not seen him at one, but if my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Govan (Mr. Rankin) says so, I quite agree, of course.
My hon. Friend the Member for the Western Isles said that the way to deal with the Polaris submarine was to hit its base. Does he realise that a Polaris submarine contains in a single broadside more destructive power than has ever been exploded in the history of the world—
§ Mr. Davies
The fact that my hon. and learned Friend talks about firing a broadside shows that he does not know what he is talking about. A broadside from the "George Washington"!
§ Mr. Paget
Then let me put it in this way and say that a single discharge of its existing armament can cause more destruction than all the explosives that have ever been exploded in the history of the world. To imagine that the defence to that is to blow up the base and so prevent the loading of a second barrel, so to speak, seems to be somewhat unrealistic, and to show a certain lack of understanding of the problem.
Another example of lack of understanding of this problem was displayed by the fact that my hon. Friend seemed to be under the delusion that it was inconsistent for those hon. Friends of mine who signed the Motion against having Thor bases in Scotland took a different view about Polaris—
§ Mr. Rankin
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. No such Motion was signed by Scots or by any other hon. Members. They were against ballistic missiles, without qualification.
§ Mr. Paget
The ballistic missiles which were then considered, and the bases for which were then considered, were the Thors. Anybody who imagines that the argument for Thor and the argument for Polaris are the same argument shows an abysmal ignorance of the subject. I should like, because I think it would be to the benefit of some hon. Members here at any rate, to draw the distinction between the first strike weapons and the second strike weapons.
821 The Americans up till relatively recently—I do not know precisely up to what point, indeed some of the American Air Force generals still seem to stick to it—had the theory of counter-force. The theory of counterforce was that America should have a striking power so great that not only could it destroy the cities of Russia—that was not what they were primarily concerned with—but that it should be able to destroy the whole of the Russian capacity to injure them, or at least so great a proportion that the amount of damage which, at a second blow, the Russians could deliver would be in acceptable proportions. That was the idea of counterforce. [HON. MEMBERS: "Acceptable to whom? "] Acceptable to the American planners.
This was the conception on which the Pentagon was working, and that is what is meant by counterforce. Thor is solely a counterforce weapon, and this is where one has had difficulty with the Minister of Defence; it has been difficult to get this point into him. Thor was never a deterrent and never could be. Nobody can be deterred from striking that which, by his striking, he can destroy. Thor is a sitting target. The Russians can take out Thor any time they choose. I am a little surprised sometimes that they have not.
If Russian bombers, simply with ordinary conventional bombs, were to fly over our coast any morning they could destroy the whole of the Thor sites, and what could we do about it? We would probably report it to the United Nations. I do not see what else we could do about it. That sort of weapon is not a deterrent; it is an incitement.
§ Mr. Paget
I cannot give way. I am sorry, but my time is rather limited.
There is nothing new in what I am saying. Let me refer to what I said two years ago:The deterrent can be used only after the enemy have acted.It is for that reason that Thor, in my opinion, is such a wildly absurd instrument for us. For us, it is absurd to have a deterrent that is totally vulnerable, and one that we know for absolute certainty must cease to exist before the only conceivable occasion in which we would use the deterrent could arise. Thor is 822 not a deterrent, but an incitement—a temptation."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 5th March, 1959, Vol. 601, c. 698.]Those of us who have attempted through the years to study the problem, as recommended by my hon. Friends, have had no change of mind about this. This counterforce effort, this contribution which we were being asked to make to counterforce, put us in the position of a tethered goat. We were being the instrument of an operation, the first blow of which we could never have approved.
Polaris is a totally different weapon because Polaris can survive to the second blow. That is a tremendously important factor. One is not rushed for time. One has not to take the terrible kind of decision to which my hon. Friend the Member for Leek referred when he mentioned the recent occasion when the Americans received a warning from a reflection from the moon. I should have thought that that proved above everything that the Americans now had their system so organised that their counter, their reply, did not go off because they received a warning. I should have thought that that was a good thing.
For Polaris, as I say, one has not the anxiety of thinking, "If we do not fire it now, it will not be there to fire at all". It is not "Proteus" that fires. One does not escape Polaris by knocking out "Proteus", nor does one prevent the submarine firing by knocking out "Proteus" One is not pressed for a reply, and that is why Polaris seems to me, almost from the pacifist point of view, to be the ideal weapon. It is not really a weapon of war. It is a weapon the object of which it to deter and, indeed, it is a weapon which has failed really if it is ever, in fact, used.
§ Mr. Paget
No. I am sorry. I am pressed for time.
I turn now to the article by Mr. Chapman Pincher quoted on Tuesday by my hon. Friend the Member for Rossendale (Mr. Greenwood). My hon. Friend quoted that article with great weight as expressing views of greater authority than those of the Government or the Chiefs of Staff. He seemed to forget that this is the sort of matter in which more study on his part would have stood him in good stead. Quite frankly, 823 I do not attach great weight to it. I do not criticise Mr. Chapman Pincher. He is an extremely able journalist, and he has the advantage, which journalists in this field enjoy, of the war being fought between the various American Services. I feel, however, that Mr. Chapman Pincher's brief comes from the American Air Force rather than from the American Navy. Anyone who has as little experience as I have of practical seamanship, let alone anyone enjoying the experience of hon. and gallant Members who spoke earlier in the debate, will know that a very great deal of what he said in the article is, to a seaman, complete nonsense.
What Mr. Chapman Pincher has to say about H-bomb maintenance I believe quite categorically to be untrue. It is not something which requires constant landings at all. Secondly, with regard to tracking a submarine, if one has a number of submarines forming a screen, with one's cross-bearings on another submarine, with great skill and experience one may be able to hold it; but to imagine that one submarine can hold another submarine which wishes to escape is just not on. It cannot be done.
The other matter is communications, the suggestion that one has to be on the surface to establish communications and one has to put up an aerial. In fact, the aerial would not have to go to the surface because the transmissions go down at least 30 ft. Even if it went to the top, there would be only a small float, which is all that is necessary, and that would not give away the position of the submarine. I ask hon. Members to consider the experience of those who have tried to find a buoy perhaps 8 to 12 ft. high and painted a colour to distinguish it on the sea. Let them see how difficult that is. That sort of thing is complete nonsense. Polaris is an instrument which provides the answer of being itself secure, so that there is not the sudden feeling that we have to discharge it in the fear that if we do not do so it will be destroyed. That is the great advantage. It seems to me ideal, and I only wish that we had it.
I remember an incident similar to the Holy Loch question in Leicester, where I live, before the war. At that time, orders were issued that the place names of areas should be removed, and the 824 name of Leicester, which appeared in big letters on Leicester Airfield, was duly removed. I can remember someone writing to the newspaper saying that this was a very great mistake, that there was no target of war priority in Leicester, and that if the name were left enemy bombers, seeing that this was Leicester, would go on to Birmingham. That is a point of view which I, being a Leicester citizen, think is rather sensible. But I do not think that it is the recipe for making an alliance work.
I think that there are considerable advantages in Holy Loch. There is the question of air cover, although in an atomic age I do not put very much weight on that. There is an existing boom and there is not too much tide. All these things are important. There are other advantages. I believe—I put this forward as a question—that what decided this matter was the question of crew facilities, particularly crews' families' facilities. There are to be alternative crews for these submarines. The turn-round of crews is to be so long that they will be flown back to America. However, the crew facility question seems to be less important now than it was.
There is also the security risk. If the base is in such a populous area as the Clyde, the Russians will be immediately informed of every movement of a submarine. I do not know that that is altogether desirable. This is an age of frogmen. I do not know whether it is possible in an area like the Holy Loch, with many bathing beaches and places like that, to provide the sort of security one ought to provide for ships of this type. These are questions which ought to be considered. I thought that my hon. Friend the Member for Greenock (Dr. Dickson Mabon) raised some very powerful points which I hope will be answered.
There is also the question of psychology. Even if the danger is not a real one, we cannot ignore it altogether. I find a certain dichotomy in some of my hon. Friends who, on the one hand, keep telling us that the future of humanity is imperilled by a test explosion in the Pacific and, on the other hand, imagine that either Britain as a whole or the Clyde in particular can remain unarmed and neutral in a nuclear holocaust. I 825 find a certain contradiction in that, although I recognise that these views are sincerely held.
I thought that the reference of the hon. Lady the Member for Renfrew, East (Miss Harvie Anderson) to the Church of Scotland was a little reminiscent of Lord Melbourne's observation that things had come to a pretty pass when religion was allowed to interfere with private life. Nonetheless, these are all aspects of a psychological situation which the Government ought to consider.
Finally, with regard to control, I think that the hon. and gallant Member for Croydon, North-East (Vice-Admiral Hughes Hallett) made a good deal of sense when he said that these submarines are operating in N.A.T.O. area commands and therefore automatically we shall have to be kept closely informed. On the other hand, I would not want to know exactly where one of these submarines was lying up—if they do lie up—on the bottom of the ocean, because if anything happened to it I would not want to be accused of a leak having come from me.
If we want to find what it is that is probably the most objectionable aspect of this, what most of us feel about what has happened in this case, it really comes from the sort oaf spaniel attitude the Prime Minister seems to take with the Americans—the kind of attitude: "The more you whip me, the more I will love you". It is an attitude of working our passage back from Suez, to which a term should now be put.
I know that we lied and bungled at Suez. I know that we were utterly in the wrong. But at that time a loyal ally might have remembered how we had suffered from her follies and tended her panics from the Kassarene Pass to the Yalu River. There have been rights and wrongs on both sides, and there is a passage for both to work back. But this eternal subjection to the Americans, this fawning upon them, is something that should come to an end.
After all, the emergence of the United States as a great power, the surplus which she was able to devote to her development instead of to her defence, came from the protection which the Royal Navy gave her. There have been two World Wars. I know that there is scriptural authority for saying that the 826 late comer to the vineyard should be treated equally with others who bore the heat of the day, but scripture does not tell us that the late comer should have the lot.
Really! If we are to provide this sort of co-operation with the Americans we have a right to say to them that we are entitled to be treated as equals and that we will not be fobbed off with Skybolt, which is a weapon America is not serious about. We have a right to say that we will not be fobbed off with Skybolt when Polaris is available. We have a right to say that to tell N.A.T.O., which does not want it, "We can supply you with Polaris" and yet deny it to us is an insult. That is not the conduct which we should accept from America. It is not the sort of conduct we should accept from an equal ally.
Let us by all means take our place—it has been our custom to take an honoured place in the line—but such a place means that we should at least be treated as equals and be able to say to the Americans: "If you want our facilities we demand to be trusted with your weapons when we require them." Here is a weapon which, above all others, is suited to our island requirements.
§ 3.19 p.m.
§ The Civil Lord of Admiralty (Mr. C. Ian Orr-Ewing)
It might be helpful it I intervene now in the debate. I should like to congratulate the hon. Member for Leek (Mr. Harold Davies). Neither I nor any of my hon. Friends agree with any of the terms of his Motion but he always speaks in the most entertaining way, the House always looks for a little touch of Welsh emotionalism from him, even though it might not agree with every sentiment.
The very fact that this debate has been so well attended for a Friday, and that Scottish Members, who normally have other duties in the frozen North, are present, bears witness to the good service to the House done by the hon. Member. I see many hon. Members still 827 grasping sheaves of notes, and I commiserate with the many who have attended the debate in the hope of being able to speak and who have not so far been chosen. I see the hon. Member for Ashfield (Mr. Warbey), the hon. Member for Lanark (Mrs. Hart), the hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Zilliacus) and, perhaps on the other side, the hon. Member for Fife, West (Mr. W. Hamilton), who, I know, is anxious to catch your eye, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, and the hon. and gallant Member for Kingston upon Hull, East (Commander Pursey), and there are many others on my own side who must be equally disappointed.
Hon. Members have tried to censure and criticise the Government for standing by an alliance, which was fostered by the Government of the then Mr. Attlee, and for granting facilities which will further strengthen the Western deterrent. This deterrent which was first—let us remember it—very wisely introduced by Mr. Attlee and his Cabinet at a time when the very survival of Western Europe was entirely dependent on Strategic Air Command's nuclear power.
It is clear from what the hon. Member for Leek and others have said, and from the many resolutions which I have read and which have been sent to the Scottish Office, that a certain amount—I put it no higher than that—of the opposition and criticism of this staging post is initiated by those of the Left, those who believe in unilateral disarmament. One of the resolutions I saw was not untypical; it came from a town which was not on the Clyde but on the Forth and in which the town clerk said:My town council agreed to support the terms of a letter from the Communist Party and I was instructed to convey this decision to you.
§ Mr. Rankin
The hon. Gentleman has said that the letter did net come from Glasgow or any other part of the Clyde-side. Why introduce that argument against the case which has been put?
§ Mr. Orr-Ewing
Because, as I said, It was not untypical of the origin of 828 others. If the cap fits, I ask the hon. Member to wear it. [HON. MEMBERS: "Where did it come from?"] It would be courteous to ask the permission of the town clerk before I disclosed that. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] If hon. Members do not think that that would be discourteous—[Interruption.]
§ Mr. Orr-Ewing
—Falkirk. I am surprised that the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman) should suggest that anyone would stand at this Box with so little integrity as to invent such a quotation.
From what we have heard from both sides of the House this afternoon it seems that opposition to these nuclear facilities is not typical of the Scottish attitude. I have a considerable amount of Scottish blood and a Scottish name and I am convinced that Scotland, which in two world wars has always borne a tremendous brunt of the fighting, is in no way lacking in guts or courage or desire to play its part in keeping the Western deterrent effective.
§ Mr. Orr-Ewing
I cannot give way again.
After all, the Royal Highland Fusiliers, the name of the now combined regiment, has no fewer than sixty-four battle honours on its colours and that regiment comes from the very area from which the opposition has come.
§ Mr. Davies
On a point of order. Is it in order for the hon. Member to cast aspersions at this side of the House when there has been no question of the loyally of the Scots or the gallantry of men who gave their lives?
§ Mr. S. Silverman
Further to that point of order. Has it not been long recognised in the House that charges affecting the integrity of hon. Members, speaking on either side, ought not to be made? Should not the hon. Member justify his charge, or withdraw it?
§ Mr. Orr-Ewing
I want to direct my remarks not to the people who have taken up sides—because obviously I will not convince them and they will not convince me—but to those—and I am sure that there is a considerable body of them—who are genuinely worried and want answers to the various points which have arisen.
The term "base" makes a short headline in the paper and I am afraid that there is little chance of revising it. But when my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister first announced this, he made it quite clear that these submarines would not be based in Holy Loch. They will he based in the United States East Atlantic coast ports and will visit Holy Loch. Holy Loch will be more like a staging post where they will be able to change crews, re-store the submarines, and then proceed on patrol. They may go on patrol for two months from bases on the East Atlantic coast, come to Holy Loch for a month, and then go back on patrol for another two months before returning to the Atlantic coast of America. This will allow them to be more effective because they will spend more of their operational life on patrol, and I should have thought that anything that we, as a loyal member of the alliance could do to help strengthen the deterrent, would be infinitely worthwhile.
I congratulate the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) on his maiden speech from the Opposition Front Bench and I endorse much of what he said. I can confirm that it is not correct that they will have to come back to Holy Loch because nuclear warheads need servicing. The missiles may need routine servicing because they have a complicated amount of electronic and other equipment, but the return will not be because of the warheads. It will be more because the crews, after two months' submerged life in their operational areas, will need to be changed 830 and refreshed. It is not in any way connected with the nuclear warhead.
Many points have been made about our knowledge of the movements. The official Opposition have supported the logical strengthening of the deterrent, but they have asked that the United Kingdom should have full details in peacetime of the movements of Polaris submarines which may at some time in their operational lives have made use of the facilities at Holy Loch. I wonder why they feel that this is necessary? When Mr. Attlee made his agreement about bases for the Strategic Air Command he did not ask that any bomber which had been based in this country should somehow bear a mark for the rest of its operational life showing that it had made use of facilities in this country. It is unrealistic to say that, as the ballistic missile fleet of submarines builds up, all those who at any time have made use of Holy Loch should somehow bear a mark for the rest of their operational lives. In any case, this is irrelevant.
An anxiety which I should have thought was more in people's minds was that of consultation. Surely, as the hon. and learned Gentleman said in his intervention, the great strength of Polaris as a deterrent is that there is time for consultation. It is a fine "second strike" weapon and we can consult our allies before there is need to fire it.
Hon. Members have asked, why choose Holy Loch? The hon. Member for Greenock (Dr. Dickson Mabon) made a point about this. I have considerable sympathy with the remarks of the hon. Member for the Western Isles (Mr. Malcolm MacMillan). He asked, "If you are not going to have it at Holy Loch, where are you going to have it?" One always has a tendency to export troubles out of one's own constituency to someone else's, but I am sure that that was not the idea behind the Motion.
May I state as clearly as I can the criteria which led us, after a very exhaustive search, to select Holy Loch. First, we had to find some place which provided excellent communications. We have close by the international airport at Prestwick, which can be used for the exchange of these crews. That is vitally important. We do not have international airports scattered around all 831 the remote areas in the West of Scotland.
The second criteria which in priority is ahead of the last is shown by a glance at the map, as my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Croydon, North-East (Vice Admiral Hughes Hallett) made clear. If we want to cut down the transit time of these submarines it is necessary to be as far north as possible. It was therefore necessary to look in Scotland rather than in England.
The third criterion was that the base had to be conveniently close to deep water, where these submarines could exercise, and Holy Loch is close to deep water off the North of Ireland and west of Islay.
§ Mr. William Hamilton (Fife, West)
Can the Minister explain why the Minister of Defence, some time ago, told the House that facilities in the south of England were investigated? Why should they be investigated if the hon. Member is saying that we had to go to Scotland?
§ Mr. Orr-Ewing
I am trying to list all the criteria. Some places met one or other of the criteria but very few met them as well as Holy Loch meets them. Of course we looked at other places, and one important criterion was the closeness to the north patrol areas.
§ Mr. Orr-Ewing
I cannot give way. The House is anxious to have these facts.
Next, it was conveniently close to the Royal Navy submarine base at Faslane. The next requirement was a very good sheltered water anchorage, and Holy Loch provides that. It is important in relation to re-storing the submarines from the depôt ship.
§ Mr. Orr-Ewing
The last criterion was that for the depôt personnel of 1,500 people and a certain number of families. 832 It was obviously necessary to have some housing, schools and similar facilities available. It would not be possible to start an entirely new township in some remote area.
Those are the six criteria. Some places met some of them and some met others, but Holy Loch met them all to the greatest extent.
§ Mr. Orr-Ewing
We do not know. In view of the President's latest announcement about the reduction of service families overseas we do not know whether the original figure given in the House still stands, or whether there will be a reduction.
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes
The hon. Member is talking about the convenience of the submarine base from the point of view of the Admiralty. Did he at any time consider the fact that there was a very big civilian population within a very short distance?
§ Mr. Orr-Ewing
No—our main concern was to make this operational facility as efficient as possible. We were anxious to preserve the peace far the many millions of people who live there and elsewhere.
There has been genuine anxiety among people outside this House—I am not referring to those in it—and some people have got genuinely mixed up about the danger locally. Are they scared of the nuclear propulsion plant—some are, because of the effluent and other matters which I shall cover shortly—or are they more concerned about the nuclear heads? I should like to analyse these two points. I presume that those in Scotland and elsewhere who object to these facilities do not object mainly because of the nuclear propulsion machinery. Three United States nuclear submarines have already visited Clydeside in the past three years, and no one has objected to them. In fact, they have been made reasonably welcome. In all, we have had nine visits by U.S. nuclear submarines to United Kingdom ports, and no one has objected. The "Dreadnought", now being built, and her successor, will almost certainly visit the naval base at Faslane, close to Holy Loch, and I am sure that there will be no objection. As was said by 833 the hon. Member for Greenock the great shipyards of the Clyde will be competing for the right to build a nuclear surface ship should we ever decide to build one.
For those reasons, I think that there is no fear about nuclear propulsion machinery. I would add that the visits by these nuclear submarines and the sensible safety precautions which we are taking help us to prepare for the day when our own nuclear submarines are going to be roaming the seas, not only around these coasts but in the world outside. Our monitoring team will be gaining, the most valuable material by its work in Holy Loch.
I have been asked about effluent, and I thought it only right to deal with that matter. I have taken stops to inform myself on the subject. Having taken a degree in nuclear physics, I already had some knowledge of this and have tried to bring myself up to date so that I may be able to answer the reasonable and sensible questions about effluent.
There is no radioactive discharge from the missile itself. The discharge is from the reactor of a submarine. It is a liquid effluent and takes the form of an excess coolant. That is to say, the water in the primary circuit heats up and expands and a certain amount of effluent goes into the Holy Loch and then into the Clyde. The effluent is discharged into the water, but the level of radioactivity is extremely low. The discharge takes place only very infrequently because the nuclear power plant is not always stopping and starting up. It occurs generally when the submarine is preparing to go to sea. It is for this reason that the nuclear monitoring team will be standing by.
There is another form of discharge, which has not so far been mentioned. I want to be completely open with the House. There is some solid waste which is in the form of a chemical filter that goes into the primary circuit and which removes some of the radioactive particles that are dissolved in the water. It is normal for the discharge from a United States nuclear submarine, or from our own type, to take place at sea far from the coast and fishing areas. But if it were necessary to discharge it here, it could be dealt with in the same way as other radioactive material is dealt with in our civil nuclear establishments.
§ Dr. Dickson Mabon
When we had the trouble with fall-out, the Medical Research Council issued a Report called "The Hazards to Man of Nuclear and Allied Radiations", and we and everyone knew of the danger levels of the fallout. Why is it not, so far, possible for the monitoring team to pass on information to the local committee to show, first of all, the base line of this, and, secondly, the rises—if there are rises—of radioactive contents in the loch?
May we have a clearer statement from the Minister about what he intends to do? He has not said in what specific way he will dispose of the waste. Does he realise that the idea of depositing canisters in the sea is now seriously objected to by many scientists, who argue that there are far better ways of disposing of it? These are sensible points which must be answered before the base is established.
§ Mr. Orr-Ewing
Perhaps I shall satisfy the hon. Gentleman by what I am about to say about the monitoring team itself. If not I will write to him or deal with the matter in some other way.
The monitoring team is there because, although every safety precaution has been taken, we thought it wise to have a monitoring team available. This is to ensure that the nuclear radiation detection equipment which it has can be brought to the spot on a 24-hour basis and that a trained team of five men will be ready to go into action if required. The team will be in telephonic and radio communication with the headquarters in Greenock, and, as I said earlier, the experience gained by the team will be useful to us in connection with our own nuclear submarines.
The safety figures to which the team will work are in regulations laid down by the International Committee on Radiological Protection and the Medical Research Council. We are working well below those two sets of figures. The working of the team does not differ from the arrangements that exist in nuclear establishments.
Many nuclear submarines have visited our ports from time to time and on all these visits we have been ready to make sure that the effluent is not harmful and does not rise above a certain level.
§ Mr. Orr-Ewing
Having dealt with the anxiety about the nuclear-propelling machinery, and the effluent which comes, and the solid waste which comes, and the monitoring team which acts as a long-stop and an insurance policy, I wish now to go back to the other fear which I think some people have, the fear of the nuclear warhead—
§ Mr. Orr-Ewing
Let me restate again about the nuclear head that if no fission takes place—heaven forbid that it ever should—there is no radiation—
§ Mr. Orr-Ewing
A safety device has been built in to insure that fission cannot take place by accident. Is it typical of the Scottish people to be nervous of these nuclear heads when the English have had them in their midst for ten years, first at the S.A.C. bases, then at the V-bomber bases and recently at the Canberra and Valiant bases which support S.H.A.P.E.?
Not long ago there was anxiety about nuclear heads being flown in bombers, and especially bombers flying over this country. I think that died down as it was realised by the majority of British people that, once Russia had her ballistic missiles, it might be essential for our own safety and the safety of the West that a proportion of the nuclear deterrent should be kept in the air. I think the anxiety at the time was connected with the possibility of an accident to a high-flying bomber, and/or the accidental release of a nuclear bomb.
It is a fact that five United States aircraft carrying nuclear weapons have crashed, and of these five crashes, on two occasions the high explosive component of the bomb has actually gone 836 off. In no instance has there been a nuclear explosion or the dangerous dispersal of nuclear material. If in those conditions which, after all, must be most rigorous, the nuclear heads have proved safe—accident proof—how much safer must they be when riding safely at anchor in the still waters of Holy Loch?
§ Mr. Orr-Ewing
I am sorry, I cannot give way again. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will have an opportunity to catch Mr. Speaker's eye.
I have heard it asked, why did we choose a base which is close to an area of population when we have built our civil power stations in the remoter areas? Of course, it is true that land-based reactors in Britain are sited well away from areas of population, but a nuclear submarine can come much closer to centres of population with absolute safety, as has been shown by the fact that we have brought nine of those nuclear submarines into our ports. A submarine reactor is much smaller than a nuclear power station reactor. It can be contained not only in the hull of a submarine but within a compartment which is extremely strong and thoroughly welded together. Should an accident occur and some internal fault develop, it would be possible either to tow the submarine away from the danger area or for the submarine to move, as it is equipped to do, under her own auxiliary power. For these reasons, there is a difference between the safety limits in the case of a nuclear propelled submarine or ship and a land-based reactor.
I wish now to turn to the target argument. If in a moment of madness Russia should be thinking of some preemptive attack to wipe out the capability of the West to retaliate, the arrival of a Polaris-type submarine makes it even mare certain that this would be a suicidal act. I ask hon. Members who oppose this facility to imagine—I hope it does not strain their imagination—that they are sitting in the Kremlin. If they desired to knock out all the Western means of nuclear retaliation, they would, presumably, have to knock out the S.A.C. bases in North America, the S.A.C. bases in the United Kingdom and other parts of the world, 837 all the V-bomber bases, and the strategic missile sites in the United States, in the United Kingdom and in the N.A.T.O. area.
They would still have the problem on their hands of finding the Polaris submarines in remote areas on patrol and of somehow intercepting and destroying those bombers, American, British and others, which were already in the air. This means that if they were contemplating such a mad act they would have to blanket almost the entire free world with a nuclear attack. Nor would they miss the great industrial complexes. I think it myopic to suggest that, when the great industrial centres of Liverpool, Birmingham and Tyneside were to suffer, somehow Glasgow would contract out of the disaster.
I do not think that Glasgow would be affected one jot or tittle by a submarine staging post thirty miles away. I see that I am supported in this by the Leader of the Liberal Party, who used similar terms when he said that in fact Glasgow was an inevitable target and might be dangerous for the Holy Loch rather than vice versa. Glasgow's future, the future of all our great towns is wrapped up with the future of everyone of us. No one area and no one section can possibly contract out of this atomic age. Her Majesty's Government will go on laboriously and conscientiously trying to get a multilateral disarmament agreement with safeguards and inspection. Until that time comes, the more certain the West's deterrent can be made the more certain it is that no one will initiate a nuclear war.
I think that this debate has done a great deal of good. I hope that it has been able to clear up some anxieties at least and to make clear to those outside that it is a minority of opinion which has been making the noise and the propaganda. I hope that if the hon. Member for Leek forces a Division the House will defeat the Motion wholeheartedly and overwhelmingly, because we cannot possibly support the policy outlined in the Motion. I do not know whether the hon. Member desires a Division, but I am sure I have the majority of the House behind me when I say that the Motion is a bad concept. We are helping to secure peace and the 838 strength of the Western Alliance by granting these facilities.
§ 3.47 p.m.
§ Mr. Hector Hughes (Aberdeen, North)
I have been sitting here since eleven o'clock and listened with great care to the argument on both sides—
§ Mrs. Hart
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Since clearly I shall not have an opportunity to speak in the debate, may I draw attention to the fact that only in the last thirty-five minutes have we had present one of the Ministers representing Scotland and neither the Secretary of State for Scotland nor one of his Joint Under-Secretaries has been here?
§ Mr. Hughes
I hope the House will find the speech of the Minister as unconvincing as I did. There were some features in his speech which are to be deplored. He attempted to prejudice the opinion of hon. Members by irrelevant references to Communism. That has nothing to do with this debate. It is quite improper and contrary to the traditions of this House that a Minister of the Crown should attempt to obscure the real issues by references of that kind.
The second thing to be deplored in the Minister's speech was of a similar character and perhaps correlative. He quite unnecessarily dragged in the issue of Scottish patriotism. That also has nothing to do with the subject of the debate and is calculated to prejudice the opinion of the House. As he made that reference, may I remind the House that Scottish soldiers and sailors in earlier wars have served with the English, Irish and Welsh and discharged their duty in the defence of the country, and, further, that by supplying the Commonwealth with its Governors Scotland has done much to build up the Commonwealth of nations.
A third irrelevancy which the Minister dragged in was in his concluding words, when he said that the placing of a Polaris base 30 miles from Glasgow would have no influence upon Glasgow whatever. He was thereby trying to draw attention away from the fact that the Polaris base 839 30 miles from Glasgow, if it is placed there, will be a target for attack by any enemy of this country.
I support the Motion, with or without the Amendment. I had hoped that the Amendment would be called, because I thought that it would have commended the Motion more readily to the House and that the Motion as amended would have had a better chance of success in the event of a vote, but as you, Mr. Speaker, in your wisdom, have decided not to call the Amendment, then I support the Motion as it stands, and I do it wholeheartedly. I do it for the reasons which were adduced by my hon. Friend the Member for Leek (Mr. Harold Davies), who proposed it in a brilliant and stimulating speech. It was a factual speech, and no one who has spoken against the Motion has successfully countered or answered the arguments which he adduced, at any rate in my view.
May I pass to the issue of the debate? In my submission, two things distinguish Polaris from everything else. First, it is unique in science, it is unique as a weapon and it is experimental; and secondly, it is undiscriminating in the objects to which it is directed. My submission, therefore, is that with those features in mind—namely, the fact that it is unique, that it is scientifically experimental and that it is undiscriminating—it is very wrong to place it near a densely populated part of this island. But what part of this island is not densely populated? From that it follows that the base should not be placed in this island at all.
Having regard to the line which I am taking, which is my sincere and conscientious view, I want to make it clear that I am not a pacifist, that I believe in
§ the defence of Britain, that I support Britain's alliance with other democratic nations and that I think that N.A.T.O. and U.N.O. are both essential organisations for our defence; but I strongly object to Scotland alone being asked to bear the burden of this unique, terrible and undiscriminating weapon.
§ Sir F. Maclean
Would the hon. and learned Gentleman elaborate on what he means by "Scotland alone" in that context?
§ Mr. Hughes
I should have thought that the hon. Gentleman who comparatively recently moved his home from England to Scotland, would have studied sufficient geography to know where the Border is.
In placing this base in Holy Loch the Government are acting in a way which is quite contrary to their economic policy regarding Scotland. The Government have promised during the last few years to do their best to encourage trade, industry and employment in Scotland. They have not met with much success. The placing of the Polaris base in Scotland is bound to have an adverse effect upon that policy. The base will be a target for attack. It is idle for the Minister to say that it will not be and that it is the submarine itself which will be the target because, as was said on this side of the House, the submarine will carry sufficient arms to enable it to discharge its task for a year or more.
§ Question, That the Question be now put, put and agreed to.
§ Question put accordingly:—
§ The House divided: Ayes 46, Noes 164.841
|Division No. 29.]||AYES||[3.58 p.m.|
|Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.)||Hart, Mrs. Judith||Rankin, John|
|Baird, John||Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)||Reid, William|
|Baxter, William (Stirlingshire, W.)||Kelley, Richard||Shinwell, Rt. Hon. E.|
|Bowles, Frank||Lee, Miss Jennie (Cannock)||Silverman, Julius (Aston)|
|Brockway, A. Fenner||Lewis, Arthur (west Ham, N.)||Stonehouse, John|
|Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green)||Lipton, Marcus||Swain, Thomas|
|Castle, Mrs. Barbara||Mackie, John||Swingler, Stephen|
|Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)||MacMillan, Malcolm (western Isles)||Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)|
|Crossman, R. H. S.||Manuel, A. C.||Ungoed-Thomas, Sir Lynn|
|Davies, Harold (Leek)||Mendelson, J. J.||Warbey, William|
|Driberg, Tom||Monslow, Walter||Yates, Victor (Ladywood)|
|Edelman, Maurice||Oram, A. E.||Zilliacus, K.|
|Edwards, Robert (Bilston)||Pargiter, G. A.|
|Fernyhough, E.||Parkin, B. T. (paddington, N.)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Galpern, Sir Myer||Pavitt, Laurence||Mr. S. Silverman and|
|Greenwood, Anthony||Plummer, Sir Leslie||Mr. Emrys Hughes.|
|Griffiths, W. (Exchange)||Probert, Arthur|
|Allason, James||Hamilton, Michael (Weillngborough)||Peel, John|
|Amery, Rt. Hon. Julian (Preston, N.)||Harrison, Col. J. H. (Eye)||Pickthorn, Sir Kenneth|
|Ashton, Sir Hubert||Harvey, Sir Arthur Vere (Macolesf'd)||Pike, Miss Mervyn|
|Atkins, Humphrey||Harvie Anderson, Miss||Pitt, Miss Edith|
|Barber, Anthony||Hastings, S.||Pott, Percivall|
|Barter, John||Heald, Rt. Hon. Sir Lionel||Powell, Rt. Hon. J. Enoch|
|Batsford, Brian||Heath, Rt. Hon. Edward||Prior, J. M. L.|
|Baxter, Sir Beverley (Southgate)||Henderson, John (Cathoart)||Prior-Palmer, Brig. Sir Otho|
|Beamish, Col. Tufton||Hill, Dr. Rt. Hon. Charles (Luton)||Profumo, Rt. Hon. John|
|Bingham, R. M.||Hill, J. E. B. (S. Norfolk)||Quennell, Miss J.|
|Bishop, F. P.||Hobson, John||Rawlinson, peter|
|Black, Sir Cyril||Holland, Philip||Redmayne, Rt. Hon. Mart'n|
|Bossom, Clive||Holt, Arthur||Renton, David|
|Bourne-Arton, A.||Hope, Rt. Hon. Lord John||Ridsdale, Julian|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hon. John||Hopkins, Alan||Robertson, Sir David|
|Boyle, Sir Edward||Hornby, R. p.||Roots, William|
|Braine, Bernard||Hornsby-Smith, Rt. Hon. Patricia||Royle, Anthony (Richmond, Surrey)|
|Brooke, Rt. Hon. Henry||Hughes Hallett, Vice-Admiral John||Russell, Ronald|
|Bryan, Paul||Hughes-Young, Michael||Seymour, Leslie|
|Bullus, Wing Commander Eric||Hulbert, Sir Norman||Sharples, Richard|
|Burden, F. A.||Iremonger, T. L.||Shaw, M.|
|Campbell, Gordon (Moray & Nairn)||Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)||Shepherd, William|
|Carr, Compton (Barons Court)||Jenkins, Robert (Dulwich)||Skeet, T. H. H.|
|Chichester-Clark, R.||Johnson, Dr. Donald (Carlisle)||Smyth, Brig, Sir John (Norwood)|
|Clark, Henry (Antrim, N.)||Joseph, Sir Keith||Spearman, Sir Alexander|
|Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmth, W)||Kerans, Cdr. J. S.||Speir, Rupert|
|Collard, Richard||Kerr, Sir Hamilton||Stevens, Geoffrey|
|Cooper, A. E.||Kershaw, Anthony||Sumner, Donald (Orpington)|
|Cooper-Key, Sir Neill||Lancaster, Col. C. G.||Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)|
|Corfield, F. V.||Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)||Taylor, W. J. (Bradford, N.)|
|Courtney, Cdr. Anthony||Linstead, Sir Hugh||Teellng, William|
|Critchley, Julian||Longden, Gilbert||Thatcher, Mrs. Margaret|
|Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E.||Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh||Thomas, Leslie (Canterbury)|
|Cunningham, Knox||McLaren, Martin||Thomas, Peter (Conway)|
|Dalkeith, Earl of||Maclay, Rt. Hon. John||Thompson, Richard (Croydon, S.)|
|Deedes, W. F.||Maclean, SirFitzroy (Bute&N.Ayrs.)||Thorpe, Jeremy|
|Digby, Simon Wingfield||McLeavy, Frank||Turner, Colin|
|Doughty, Charles||McMaster, Stanley R.||van Straubenzee, W. R.|
|Drayson, G. B.||Macmillan, Rt. Hn. Harold (Bromley)||Vane, W. M. F.|
|Elliot, Capt. W. (Carshalton)||Macpherson, Niall (Dumfries)||Vickers, Miss Joan|
|Errington, Sir Eric||Maddan, Martin||Vosper, Rt. Hon. Dennis|
|Erroll, Rt. Hon. F. J.||Maitland, Sir John||Wakefield, Sir Wavell (St. M'lebone)|
|Farr, John||Manningham-Buller, Rt. Hn. Sir R.||Watts, James|
|Finlay, Graeme||Marlowe, Anthony||Wells, John (Maidstone)|
|Fisher, Nigel||Marples, Rt. Hon. Ernest||Whitelaw, William|
|Fraser, Ian (Plymouth, Sutton)||Marshall, Douglas||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Galbraith, Hon. T. G. D.||Marten, Neil||Wise, A. R.|
|Gammans, Lady||Maudling, Rt. Hon. Reginald||Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick|
|Gardner, Edward||Mills, Stratton||Woodhouse, C. M.|
|George, J. c. (Pollok)||Moore, Sir Thomas (Ayr)||Woodnutt, Mark|
|Gibson-Watt, David||More, Jasper (Ludlow)||Woollam, John|
|Glover, Sir Douglas||Neave, Alrey||Worsley, Marcus|
|Glyn, Sir Richard (Dorset, N.)||Noble, Michael|
|Godber, J. B.||Orr-Ewing, C. Ian||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Grimston, Sir Robert||Partridge, E.||Lieut.-Commander Maydon and|
|Gurden, Harold||Pearson, Frank (Clitheroe)||Captain Litcbfield.|