§ 3.58 p.m.
§ The Minister of Defence (Mr. Harold Watkinson)
I beg to move,That this House approves the Report on Defence, 1960, contained in Command Paper No. 952.As this is my first speech in presenting a Defence White Paper, perhaps I may be allowed a personal reminiscence. One cannot help recalling war-time experiences when one is responsible for the burden of this office. I remember the long convoy battles in which the Navy, the Army and the Royal Air Force all played such a gallant part. Particularly I remember the men of the Merchant Navy, alongside whom I had the honour to serve at one time during the war.
Perhaps I may quote one sentence from the Roll of Honour which commemorates the memory of the 33,000 men who died:They were civilians without the support of military discipline and training, yet they faced mortal danger in the service of others, and they did not waiver. Never, even in the darkest days, was there any lack of willing hands to man the ships however hazardous the voyage, though the seamen knew, often from bitter experience, the horrors which followed enemy attack at sea.These words seem to me to typify the sacrifice, waste and tragedy of war. It is the job of our generation, those of us who survived, to try to see that it never happens again to us and to our children, knowing full well that, if it does, whatever horrors we may have seen in the last war will undoubtedly be eclipsed. That is why I think that one cannot be half-hearted about defence policy. One has always to keep in mind the main objective—the objective which has run through successive Defence White Papers since the war—of keeping the peace.
I hope that the right hon. Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown) will acquit me of any discourtesy if I do not spend too much time on the Opposition Amendment. I think that it follows precedent, so far as I can judge by reading past debates. I think that it will be best answered, and so will hon. Members behind him who take a different view be best answered, by my giving the House as frank an exposition of defence policy as I can within the 846 limits of security. Against the background of the White Paper, "Report on Defence," that will show that the Government's plans for defence are clear, comprehensive and, I believe, give good value for money spent. Above all, let us be thankful that we are being successful in our main objective of keeping the peace.
There is nothing to be complacent about in all this, nor have we shifted from our main objective of keeping the peace by trying to deter a war, but, of course, we must continually review the means of keeping this objective. I should say to the House that the Government are now engaged on a detailed review of our defence effort. Some studies were put in hand by my right hon. Friend, the present Minister of Aviation, some time ago. I have broadened them out and I think that this is the moment to take a general look at our defence effort.
The White Paper, Cmnd. 952, gives a clear and detailed report on the progress of defence so far. I should like to give the House our thinking on defence policy so far as the review has gone. It will, of course, take some time to complete. I should say, first, that it is very much my wish—this is a matter which, I know, has exercised the minds of right hon. and hon. Members very much—that the Chiefs of Staff should play an important part in this study. I wish to say how well they are working together and what valuable advice they give from their very wide expert knowledge. Perhaps, at this time, I might he allowed to say how much I appreciate the services which the Chief of the Defence Staff gives to me, to the Government and to our country in leading the team, as he does, in his own inimitable way.
My own Chief Scientific Adviser and his team of experts are also working hard on the problems. It may be said, "Well, why do it now?" The reasons lie in the immense technological changes taking place in defence, new methods of computation and production which are enabling problems to be solved now which could not have been even formulated with precision a few years ago. Sometimes we may regret this, but we have to live with it. If one wants another example, perhaps one might turn to Mr. Khrushchev's recent claim to have 847 successfully fired rockets into the Pacific with an accuracy of 1½ miles over a range of more than 6,500 nautical miles. I am advised that such firing could be well within the technical capabilities of the Russians.
Faced with these changes in all the major countries, it is only the duty of a Minister of Defence to try to see how best to achieve the objective of keeping peace by deterring war with the greatest efficiency at the least cost. In a general comment on what we are trying to do I should say that it probably will lead us to give greater emphasis on mobility and flexibility. In all this I can build on the firm foundations laid by the great work of my right hon. Friend the Minister of Aviation. The country should be very grateful to him for the way in which he did the basic reshaping of our defence policy to fit the future. I have the advantage of building on his great work.
This study will not, of course, be invalidated if, as we hope, we make progress this year in disarmament. Nobody wants disarmament more than the Minister of Defence, because he sees the alternative so clearly and no one wants it more than Her Majesty's Government as a whole, but I must say this to the House. Until practical results in disarmament are achieved, under proper controls, we are just not fulfilling our responsibilities if we do not keep up our guard. In planning for defence we must wait for results in disarmament, not anticipate them. That does not mean that we do not hope and pray that the results will come.
I wish to turn for a moment to the so-called sharp division between conventional and unconventional weapons. I believe that this blurs the defence issue. I hope to deal with the respective sectors of defence, as the White Paper has done, but it is my view—I hope that I carry most of the House with me in this—that the whole of our defence effort is really the deterrent of war and aggressive action. We must be ready at any point and in any circumstances to produce instant reaction to an aggressor. It is not only necessary to be ready; one has to be clearly seen to be ready so that our defence effort does not present a fixed position which could easily be turned. The greatest danger in the world today, 848 I think, remains the risk of a miscalculation by an aggressor—the risk that he might think that a certain action on his part would not be met with resolute opposition.
This is something we must always try to guard against. It means to us, with our world-wide responsibilities, that in any part of the world our forces must be ready to try to put out any conflagration quickly before it spreads, or, at the worst, to enforce a pause. If we want to do this—I hope that the whole House agrees on this—and I believe it our duty to try to do it, I must tell the House that it cannot be done on the cheap. If we are to fulfil our responsibilities and get the results which we all want, there is no easy way out. We have to pay the price for keeping the peace, but perhaps I could explain that the price is not so high as same people may think it to be.
It is not for me to go into great detail. I support my noble Friend the Member for Dorset, South (Viscount Hinchingbrooke) in saying that the House ought to be very careful about examining Supply. Fortunately, in defence and Service debates these matters can be gone into in great detail, but I hope that today I can bring a sense of proportion to the defence budget and let the House see it against the national effort as a whole.
First, let us take defence expenditure as a percentage of the gross national product. In 1946, quite naturally, it was 17.8 per cent.; in 1951, it had gone down to 8.5 per cent.; in 1953 due to the Korean War, it had gone up again to 10.3 per cent.; in 1956, the beginning of the five-year programme of defence, it was 8.9 per cent. The best calculation I can make for the year ahead—1960–61—is that it will be about 7½ per cent. I cannot be quite exact, because one cannot be quite exact about the gross national product, but I do not think that my figures are wrong when I say that it will be about 7½ per cent.
Let us take another view. Let us look at the load on the economy. The percentage of the working population in the Services or supporting them today is 4.9 per cent. I must admit that these figures surprised me, but I have had them checked again this morning, and I am advised that this is a reduction of no less than 44 per cent. since 1952. The 849 ending of National Service plays a part in it, but it is a major reduction of the defence burden on the economy.
Let us look at it in terms of the load on the population. In the 1960–61 Estimates, the Navy will cost 3s. per head per week, the Army 3s. 6d., the Air Force 3s. 11d., the Ministry of Aviation 1s. 6d., and the Ministry of Defence 1½d. I am glad to say that our Estimates at the Ministry at least have done down. I think that it puts it in some proportion if I say that the price of keeping the peace is about the price of a packet of cigarettes per week for each of the three Services. I think that it is right to remove these misconceptions about the total defence spending.
§ Mr. Watkinson
It is said that the Defence Estimates have increased by £116 million, but £28 million of this is an accounting transfer between civil and defence expenditure. If hon. Members take the actual net increase in the Service Votes, they will find that it is an increase of only £75 million. I am glad to say that £42 million of that represents more hardware, more weapons, more equipment, which is as it should be. Another £12 million represents work—better housing and better facilities; a further £12 million represents Service pay; and £8 million represents the civilian element of the pay.
It seems to me that the extra money is being spent on the right things, such as more weapons, a better service and better pay. It is perfectly right that hon. Members should challenge all these things, but to those who say that there is a great waste in all this I must point out that the Defence White Paper shows that 49 per cent. of the total expenditure this year goes on paying the forces and looking after them. Do we take the view that we waste that money? If not, it is at least half the defence budget accounted for.
I do not want to go further into that, but in my view it is not an unduly high price to pay for a peaceful world until we can find an alternative to this method of achieving it. The alternative must be disarmament. While I accept that any Minister of Defence must try to reduce the cost of defence, I equally say that 850 such reductions must not weaken our force for peace in the world.
I have dealt broadly with the money side of the problem, and perhaps I may be permitted to spend a short time on so-called conventional defences, because here we have a world-wide responsibility. It is the least publicised part of our defence effort, although it may well be the most important for the peace of the world, and it certainly takes by far the largest share of the budget.
One of the things which one finds as a new Minister in the job is how widespread are our responsibilities. My right hon. Friend the Colonial Secretary has just given an example in that the cruiser "Gambia" is being diverted to Mauritius to bring aid to that stricken island. We have to do these things, and we have to have the ships and aircraft with which to do them.
It is often said that the proceedings of the House ought to be televised As Minister of Defence I wish that we could see the reverse process, as it were—that we could somehow see in front of us this afternoon a map, or some other indication, of the responsibilities which the Armed Forces of the Crown bear. Perhaps I may give the House a list of places outside the mainland of Europe where today, as we debate defence, British forces have a job to do: Newfoundland, Jamaica, Bermuda, British Honduras, British Guiana, Simonstown, Libya, Malta, Cyprus, East Africa, Aden, the Persian Gulf, Gan, Malaya, Singapore, Hong Kong and Australia. These are some of the places where British Service men are doing their job today, and doing it supremely well.
How do we provide them with the weapons and the equipment for this job? I will give only a few examples to the House, based on personal visits which I have been able to make so far. I am at least talking from my personal experience. I may be wrong in this matter, but my impression is that if more hon. Members made these visits they would get a much clearer idea of what the forces are doing. I know that arrangements are made for some visits, and I carry my right hon. Friends with me when I say that, if we can help at any time to enable parties of hon. Members or individual hon. Members to make such visits, our help will be readily available.
851 I went to the Armoured Fighting Vehicle Establishment, at Chobham, the other day to see some of the new weapons which will give the Army such great mobility—and it needs great mobility. I saw the Saladin and the Saracen, the new self-propelled gun and, particularly, the new battle tank. This is the best tank in the world, I think, and it has great possibilities; if we can ever arrange a co-operative N.A.T.O. family of weapons, then, as we have sold the 105mm. tank gun to the Americans and the Swedes, for example, so this tank might be the basis for a co-operative venture.
Those hon. Members who have been to Chobham, and those who may care to go, will be in no doubt that the legacy of the Korean War, which held back the re-equipment of the Army for so long, is now behind us and that the re-equipment of the Army has reached a very advanced stage. I would mention, also, the Beaver aircraft, which, I am glad to say, we have been able to buy from our Canadian colleagues, as an example of Commonwealth co-operation.
I turn to the sea, and here I think that my example should be our front-line carrier strength. These carriers are, after all, the modern capital ships. They are essential as part of our contribution to the forces of the West to deter war. On Monday, I had the opportunity of making a short visit to the "Victorious." This soon made it plain to me what very good value we get for the money that we spend on this arm of the Services. I know that it takes an immense sum of money to modernise an aircraft carrier. For example, it costs about £20 million if we are to do the job properly. As the White Paper reveals, the "Eagle" is now being taken in hand for this purpose, and, of course, the "Hermes" is just coming out to join the front line force.
As an answer to those who say that we do not always get enough for our money in defence, I would remind them, for example, that in her recent modernisation the "Victorious" had incorporated an angled flight deck, which is a British development which the Americans are now using; deck landing mirror sights, which is another British development now being used by the Americans; a steam catapult, of which 852 the same comment can be made; new boilers and auxiliary machinery; and the type 984 long-range air defence radar. I saw an exercise carried out in very bad weather with this radar display system. When it was demonstrated late last year to the United States Navy, off Norfolk, Virginia, they frankly admitted that it was the best radar defence system in the world—and that is the truth.
If we make a relatively small contribution as a nation, as we do, it must be a good contribution; we must have the best, otherwise our contribution is largely vitiated. Unless it is the best, then even if it costs money we do not draw dividends on it. Certainly, in the air defence systems of a modern carrier we have, as is agreed by our principal naval allies, the best in the world. This vessel also carries the new Scimitar and Sea Vixen jet aircraft, which have a nuclear capacity.
The air defence exercise which was carried out in very bad weather was most impressive. To see modern jet aircraft landing on a carrier, when often they could not be seen coming out of the mist until they were almost on the end of the flight deck, was very impressive.
I had the honour to serve in the Navy for a short time during the war, and as an amateur sailor perhaps I bring a little knowledge to this subject. I was very proud of the bearing of the young men who formed the crew of this great ship. They are very well looked after. The food and conditions which I saw were outstanding. I spoke to one rating who told me, "I have never fed as well anywhere else as I have fed in this ship." We can be very proud of the contribution which these vessels make to keeping the peace. That is why they are there.
As to the rest of the scene, we must get into the nuclear submarine business because we may need these submarines for the hunter-killer rôle and equally for the missile-carrying rôle. It is, therefore, quite right that we should lay down our first nuclear submarine.
We must also have this new concept of the mobile Commando Carrier, H.M.S. "Bulwark", which is shortly off to her station in the Far East. I think that before long we must have a second of this type of carrier, because I cannot think of any better way of having a kind of mobile fire brigade which could be 853 poised in any place where there might be trouble brewing. Of course, to sail with her—this is not an immediate prospect, but plans are going forward—we want one of the new types of assault ships. They are called landing ship docks, because they float out their family of landing craft. These are fast ships and, as a team with the Commando Carrier, they are the perfect fire brigade to use anywhere in the world.
Turning, for a moment to the air, I think that perhaps the main example there is Transport Command. I will deal with Bomber Command later in my speech. Perhaps again for the benefit of those who do not think that we get value for our money, we might look at Transport Command's shopping list: the Britannia—first squadron formed, second squadron will be formed this year; Britannic, development going ahead—it is a very heavy work-horse aircraft to carry big loads; the AW660, a medium transport aircraft—20 are on order, deliveries to begin in 1961–62, and I hope that a follow-on order will be given soon.
When we come to the jet element of the transport force, we all realise that the Comet IIs, which have given such fine service, are gradually coming to the end of their useful life. I hope, therefore, that before long—the Air Ministry and the Royal Air Force have it under discusion now—they will be able to discuss with the British aircraft industry a transport jet aircraft. This might be based on the Comet or on the VC10, or possibly both, and if I may hark back for one second to my previous office as Minister of Civil Aviation I think that it is high time that we had Transport Command and the civil aircraft industry working closely together, and here, I think, is an example we might follow.
The helicopters include the whirlwind, the Wessex to come, and now the Rotodyne, a revolutionary aircraft with great civil and military possibilities. It is a very good end product for the money spent.
The facts are that in this part of the examiniation of defence, re-equipment is going as planned and is giving us the greater mobility and flexibility which we need. The new model all-Regular Forces, for which we all owe so much to my right hon. Friend, will have at their command a degree of transport ability 854 and striking power such as we have never achieved before in our military history.
I will come for a moment to the human factor. I thing that, rightly, in the Defence White Paper this year we tended to highlight the human factor in the defence picture. I think that is right. To begin with, it takes half the Budget; secondly, it is the men and women in the Forces who bear the burden and the great responsibility of handling weapons of immense destruction and who are trying to keep the peace by so doing.
All that I want to say about the human factor, because it is set out in considerable detail in the White Paper, is this: first of all, as we come to the end of National Service, I think that the House would wish me to say what a debt of gratitude we owe to those many hundreds of thousands of young men who interrupted their normal peace-time lives in the service of their country. They grumbled about it—and so did we—but they did a very good job, and the Services did a very good job in looking after them. If business had had to have that change in its personnel every year, there is hardly a business in this country which could have managed it as well as the Services managed the National Service men. Let us give them credit for that.
As to recruitment, the 1959 figures projected forward give us what we need. I am making no guesses about recruitment. It is the job of my colleagues and myself merely to say how far we are going to plan, and we should see that it goes on that way.
The new pay structure should help a great deal. I think that the House may like to know what it means. I myself found it a little surprising. Under the new pay structure an Army lieutenant of 25 gets £693 a year plus, of course, free food and accommodation. A married captain of 28 gets, including all his allowances. £1,400 a year—not a bad return at 28. Even more important because of their great importance today in a technical service, a married infantry sergeant aged 24, who has signed on for 22 years, gets £17 14s. a week, plus free food and accommodation.
§ Mr. Watkinson
Possibly. But my responsibility as Minister of Defence is 855 to try to see that these young men who carry these immense responsibilities are paid on about a fair level with people in equivalent industries. That is all we have tried to do. We have tried to pay these young men what they would be paid in a skilled job in the engineering industry or in a profession. I believe that is right, and what the whole House wants. I hope that it will have a significant effect on recruitment.
Particularly I think that the new officer career structure gives a boy a chance of knowing that he can have a life-time career in the Services until the age of 55 and perhaps a little more if all goes well. If he does not want that, he can go out at 38 when he has a chance of making another life outside. The members of modern Armed Forces should be well paid because they have this exacting and moral task to do. I hope that this will be an inducement to recruitment; but, because one must never look too far ahead on this, I am very glad to announce to the House that Sir Frederick Hooper—who is known to most hon. Members—has kindly consented to become my adviser on recruiting publicity. He will act in an honorary capacity and will not in any way supersede the existing Services publicity and recruiting organisations. He will be there with his valuable advice and I think that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Blyth (Mr. Robens) will agree that in his chairmanship of the Advisory Committee on Resettlement, which was set up by the Ministry of Labour, Sir Frederick Hooper did an outstanding job. I hope that he will be able to help me with recruiting.
If I may say so, I should like hon. Members on both sides of the House to think about this. It is not part of the defence job, but I think that it is very germane to those who wish to see our Armed Forces play their proper part in this country and in the world. When we come to the end of National Service I think that there will tend to be a greater gulf between the forces and the life of the ordinary men and women in the street and the life of the ordinary family. Somehow we have to try to bridge the gulf.
This is another matter on which I hope Sir Frederick Hooper will give me 856 advice. I know the great work done by the cadet force, but I wonder if we can expand that. Is it an impossible thing to do? All of us have it in our hearts to do more, if we can, for the youth of our country, and I wonder whether, when they have finished with National Service, those coming out of the Armed Forces cannot play a greater part in that and in bringing some adventure and more touch with the outside world to youth as part of their contribution to the wellbeing of the country as a whole. I throw that out as an idea, as I have already thrown it out to my colleagues and the Service Chiefs of Staff. I hope that Sir Frederick Hooper will have some ideas on this.
I turn now from the human factor to the question which has been much in all our minds in the last few weeks in the foreign affairs debate and elsewhere, namely the question of N.A.T.O. We are going to keep the seven brigade groups. We are going to retain more aircraft and, as I think the House knows, we have added the Valiant in a tactical rôle to the force which we keep in Germany—an addition which General Norstad was exceedingly glad to have. We do this because we believe that this is the moment above all to keep up the strength of N.A.T.O. I think that General Norstad and the Secretary-General are well pleased with the decision which we have taken. At the December meeting our decision to keep seven brigade groups and these extra aircraft, which I could not announce then but I have announced since, was well received.
I look forward to the meeting of N.A.T.O. Defence Ministers in Paris at the end of this month. It is the first time we have tried the experiment of having a meeting of Defence Ministers without all the great panoply of the annual N.A.T.O. meeting. I hope that this will lead to closer co-operation and a strengthening of our shield forces.
I add only one word of warning here. Whatever views one takes about Germany, there is one thing which is quite certain and recent events have underlined it. Above all, one wants a strong N.A.T.O., with Germany a full member of that partnership. Whatever view one takes about Europe, that is an essential to holding the peace and keeping Europe together.
§ Mr. George Wigg (Dudley)
The right hon. Gentleman has dealt with N.A.T.O. It is very important that the House should know how many of the 17 infantry battalions in Germany and 3 in Berlin, plus the 13 armoured regiments, are up to establishment.
§ Mr. Watkinson
My right hon. Friend will deal with that when he opens the debate tomorrow. I warn the hon. Gentleman that my right hon. Friend may even have something to say about the Amendment to which the hon. Gentleman has put his name, which seems to show that his heart has changed place with regard to defence.
I turn now to our contribution to the nuclear deterrent. This takes a relatively small proportion of the total defence budget. If one takes the actual contribution itself, it is still only 10 per cent. Both in the United States of America and our own country the question of the means of delivery of nuclear warheads has been much debated in recent months. Many of the discussions have been somewhat unrealistic, because they have not been related to any kind of accurate time scale. As I said earlier, the greatest danger in the world today would be a miscalculation by a possible aggressor. Therefore, I think that there is an advantage at this stage in trying to set out to the House as clearly as I can the phasing of our plans for the means of delivery of the major nuclear weapons.
This is a discussion about the means of delivery. The nuclear warheads themselves and their production are not in question, and adequate supplies of whatever type is required are assured for as far ahead as one can look forward. These nuclear warheads are of our own manufacture and entirely under our own control.
At present, as the House knows, we make our chief contribution to the nuclear power of the West by using the V-bomber force as the main means of delivery. Perhaps I should make it plain that this is not our sole contribution. In the Navy there are the Scimitar and Sea Vixen with a nuclear capacity, and we shall soon have the NA39. In the Army, there are two Corporal Regiments of the Royal Artillery, and we shall soon have Honest John. In the R.A.F. there is the nuclear capacity of the Canberras and the Thor.
858 Apart from those, I wish to deal with Alit one might call the main contribution, using the main and most powerful weapon. Until now, the V-bomber force has been armed with a free-falling bomb. The Mark 2 V-bombers are now coming into service. They are being equipped with the Blue Steel, which is really a flying bomb. This weapon has a stand-off capability and that, combined with the greatly improved performance of the latest V-bombers—this is the important point—makes the force fully able to fulfil its planned tasks until beyond the mid-1960s. In other words, Great Britain's independent contribution to the nuclear power of the West is already settled for some years ahead.
§ Mr. George Brown (Belper)
Can the right hon. Gentleman say by what distance Blue Steel extends the capacity?
§ Mr. Watkinson
Certainly not, and I think the right hon. Gentleman knows why. I shall go further into this matter and give the House all the information which I can properly give, because I am most anxious that the right hon. Gentleman should reply to the debate in the full knowledge of all that I can give him. That is only due to the House, but I will not go beyond what I think is proper.
I recently had the opportunity to visit Bomber Command. It is only when one does that and has the kind of briefing which I suppose only Defence Ministers are entitled to have that one realises to the full the immensely important part that Bomber Command plays today in Anglo-American strategic air power. It plays an absolutely essential and vital part, and the immense and terrifying power which it wields has only to be seen to make one realise the responsibilities which lie on the force and its commanders. The force is alert and ready, and no one should underestimate the powerful contribution which we as a nation are making today to the total nuclear strength of the West by this means.
That contribution goes on until beyond the mid-1960s in complete validity. The V-bomber force has now reached an extremely high degree of mobility. Its range has been much extended by flight refuelling techniques. Its time from warning to being airborne has been 859 greatly reduced. In other words, I hope that it remains clear beyond a shadow of doubt to any possible aggressor that any action which he took even of a surprise nature could not protect him from massive and terrible retaliation.
Nor are we at the end of further improvements in mobility and flexibility. For example, the ballistic missile early warning system has been rather misunderstood. Strictly speaking, it is not any kind of air raid warning system. If it can give any help to civil defence, that is very good, but the purpose of the system is to give an additional validity to our power to retaliate, because it is by our power to retaliate that we hope to keep the peace.
There has been much comment about the supposedly short time of warning which this system gives. In fact it would give about fifteen minutes warning, providing that the rockets were sited far enough back to have any protection in their turn. It is only if the most unlikely circumstances are taken that the system would give only four or five minutes warning.
Let me make it plain that even this warning would be sufficient to see a substantial proportion of the V-bomber force in the air. The B.M.E.W. system is therefore an important addition to the effectiveness of our deterrent, and I hope that it will prevent, or help to prevent, a nuclear war ever happening. The thing the House has to face with all these devices is that, if one ever uses them, one fails. Their purpose is to prevent.
Therefore, the problem that faces us us for the future is what we do, not now but for the closing years of this decade and the early 1970s. Until the latter part of the 1960s we are sure of making a powerful independent contribution to the deterrent power of the West. It is on this period in the future that the protagonists of the various delivery systems are concentrated. They are much less inhibited in the United States than we are, and someone sent me a very sweet little postcard. It has not any authorship but I suspect that the United States Navy might have something to do with it. It says:Move deterrents out to seaWhere the real estate is freeAnd where they are far away from me".860 These cards are put in people's pockets in the United States. All of us, perhaps, at some time might echo those words.
I have tried to set out the present position as clearly as I can, and before I sit down I want to set out the future possibilities, as the Government see them, of maintaining our independent contribution in the late 'sixties and early' seventies. As I have shown, we still have time to make our choice. The first thing is, of course, well known—the Blue Streak missile, under construction by de Havilland Propellers and other British companies. This missile owes something of its design to the American Atlas rocket, and I am glad to say that we have been able to be of some help to the Americans from what we have learned from this development.
This is a liquid-fuel missile, and can, therefore, be deployed only on a fixed site. These sites—or silos as the Americans call them—are immense concrete pits dug deep under ground with protection for the missile against attack. A great amount of work has been done with this missile in this country and, thanks to Australian co-operation, at Woomera.
We have learned much already—and this is of importance—not only in the technique of propulsion—that can change; there are various methods of propulsion—but in the design of the very complicated guidance and computation systems that are the necessary environment for any ballistic missile. What goes in the nose is just as important as what goes in the tail. The systems used to count the missile down and to control it are immensely important and are, of course, common to a whole family of missiles. We have learned a great deal in this process, and we are not neglecting the development of solid-fuel motors as well as liquid-fuel motors. That is one possibility.
Another alternative—and I need not say much about it, because the House knows it well—is the Polaris missile, a solid-fuel rocket generally designed for a mobile rôle. It has been most publicised for use in nuclear-powered submarines. A great deal of development work has gone into this missile and I think in due course it will be a very formidable and mobile addition to the power of the West. The Royal Navy has complete links with the 861 United States Polaris development programme. We know exactly what they are doing, and how they are doing it, and are completely informed of what exactly is taking place.
A third example shows, I think, how wise a country that cannot afford to have everything would be to try to pick the best, if it can. That, as I hope I have shown, is what this country always has to do. We have to pick the winners out of a stable. We are not like the Americans, who have an enormous stable and pick the winners as they come down the course.
As my right hon. Friend the then Minister of Defence said in the Defence debate in February of last year:The Bluestreak is going ahead but we shall, naturally, continue to watch the progress of other developments in America and elsewhere. With the rapid advances of science, which are constantly upsetting earlier assessments, strategic plans and weapon programmes can never he regarded as permanent or immutable."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 23rd February, 1959; Vol. 600, c. 1139.]I agree with that, and I think that any Minister of Defence would do the same.
The important point is this. When my right hon. Friend spoke in that debate, the possibility of an air-launched ballistic missile was hardly a project, even on paper. It is an example, and a good example, of the rapidity of technological change that even since I have held this office we have seen the emergence of what may be a new break-through in missile deployment. This is a delivery system called Skybolt—a ballistic missile of considerable range and great hitting power, which can be launched from an aircraft. It can be seen at once that a missile of this type is of great interest to us. It is, of course, only in the development stage at the moment, and the promise of such a weapon is not always fulfilled.
Nevertheless, Skybolt would undoubtedly be eminently suitable for our V-bomber force, would thus extend its life very considerably, and thus the period for which the force could continue to make a significant contribution to the deterrent. The Royal Air Force is closely informed about the development programme, and perhaps I should say at this stage—and it answers the point put by the right hon. Gentleman—that the difficulty with the V-bomber 862 force in the end years of the 'sixties is not that the force will be worn out but that the Blue Steel flying bomb will then have become increasingly vulnerable to the surface-to-air missiles which we must assume that the Russians will have in very large numbers. Skybolt, is, of course, invulnerable to this form of defence, and paragraph 36 of the White Paper very clearly sets out the position.
Final decisions on the balance we should hold between fixed-site missiles and mobile launchers are not yet taken. I would like a good deal more information about Skybolt, and also about the future development of Polaris, and I hope to accept, before long, an invitation to visit America, kindly extended to me by Mr. Gates, the American Secretary for Defence, to see these projects for myself.
I am also having examined more closely, with my right hon. Friend, the question of the defence aspects of space research, at which I think we need to have a vary careful look. Taking all these factors into account, I think that the House will agree that it is in the national interest that we should give this careful study to the contribution that our nuclear deterrent will make in the late 'sixties and early 'seventies. Certainly, as soon as we have reached final conclusions, I undertake to report them to the House.
One last word about the whole question of missiles and the deterrent. One reads a lot at the moment in America about a "missile gap". One reads that, at times, the Americans are very much depressed about this. What the West has to ensure is that there is no deterrent gap. Here, of course, geography is more on our side, because with our immense dispersal, our command of the oceans of the world, we have the possibility of deploying missiles, of making them mobile, which, I hope, means that the West can always be sure that there will be no deterrent gap—
§ Mr. Watkinson
No, I am just finishing my speech, and we have two days' debate ahead.
If that is so, the only other thing we have to try to retain is the position—and I am trying to face these things as 863 frankly as I can—in which a saturation attack would not so diminish the power of retaliation held by the West that an aggressor might feel that at least part of his nation could survive a major nuclear exchange. That is why I believe that the West must rely more and more on dispersal, and more and more on the mobile missile, and this largely indestructible deterrent.
Mobility, of course, can be expressed in many ways; in wide dispersal of fixed sites, in the use of railway trains or barges, in surface vessels, in the air-launching platform, and in the under-sea launching platform—all can play their part. The important point I want to make is that we must hold this balance, and that balance means that it is quite certain that massive retaliation to any nuclear strike is completely unavoidable—by both sides, if hon. Members like. That is the balance on which peace rests.
To sum up, I would say this. In the means of delivery of nuclear weapons we are now, and will be for the next few years, as mobile and as well equipped as we or our allies would wish us to be, and capable, as I have said, of a terrifying retaliation. For the longer-term future we are well placed to pick the best means or combination of means to maintain our contribution as long as it is necessary.
I hope that I have given a few examples to the House which show that our defences are well-equipped, that the morale of those who serve is high, and that their equipment compares favourably with that available to any other nation. As a result of the wide-ranging study I have announced today, I hope that we shall be able to provide greater mobility and greater flexibility throughout the whole of our defence programme.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Belper will, I am sure, make one of the speeches we have come to expect from him. I know that what I say will not embarrass him. His heart is in the right place in defence matters. I do not apply that to the right hon. Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell), whose heart seems to have shifted from left to right, as far as I can see. [Interruption.] I am sorry—I was looking at it the other way round. I should have said from 864 right to left. As I was saying, I am sure that the right hon. Member for Belper will make one of his traditional, hardhitting—some might say violent—speeches in reply to mine. If I may say so, no one is better at it than he. No doubt, during the course of the debate we shall hear a good deal about too many generals, too much waste, gross inefficiency, and all the rest. I am not saying that it is wrong that those things should be said in the House of Commons. Indeed, I believe it is right that a democracy should not become too starry-eyed about its Armed Forces.
§ Mr. Watkinson
I do not think I should ever try to patronise the hon. Member for Leek (Mr. Harold Davies). He is quite capable of looking after himself.
There is, however, the other side to it. It is right also that we should give the Armed Forces their due. I say this with no intention other than wishing to try to state the issue clearly as I see it. We may argue about defence in the House, but I believe that in our hearts most of us accept that we should give the Armed Forces their due, in a world where their task is to try to avoid the destruction of our civilisation. The men and women of the Armed Forces do a superbly good job, as I am beginning to see. They are well equipped and are being even better equipped. They have a sense of purpose and a sense of service to the community of which we can be proud.
We can all be proud of the Armed Forces of the Crown. I hope that, despite the arguments, they have our full support in their great task of trying to keep the peace. To weaken now in our resolution would be to betray our trust to them and to those who died for peace and freedom in two world wars. Not only that, it would be to reject our own responsibilities as a force for peace in the world.
§ 4.52 p.m.
§ Mr. George Brown (Belper)
I beg to move, to leave out from "House" to the end of the Question and to add instead thereof:recognising the need for an adequate policy for collective defence and security, has no confidence in the defence policy of Her Majesty's 865 Government which, since 1951, has cost more than twelve thousand, five hundred million pounds and which, as set out in Command Paper No. 952, proposes to continue the vacillations and confusions of the Government's nuclear strategy, thereby involving the nation in further substantially increased expenditure whilst providing no prospect of effective defence".Just before the Minister sat down, he seemed to go unaccountably on the defensive about what he might hear from this side of the House. He obviously had in mind that he had not, in the course of his 55 minutes speech, wholly dealt with the criticism which he rightly expects about what is going on in the defence of this country. I merely say, after listening to his very agreeable speech, that he was quite right if that was the thought in his mind. Indeed, he did not deal with the major issues which are in people's minds, which I hope to raise in the course of what I have to say.
His summing up about the possibilities of the deterrent and maintaining the means of delivery amounted, really, to, "We have still got time. We do not know yet what to do. We hope we shall find out what to do in time". Part of of the case I shall make is that Ministers have been saying this for so long that they are bringing us dangerously near the day when there will be no time to say it again and no time to do anything effective.
Those who, like me, have had words to say in favour of an independent contribution to the deterrent by this country will very soon have to face what we ought to do about a series of Ministers who come here every year—for the most part, a new Minister every year—and tell us in a very pleasant way that they have not yet made up their minds. We know in our hearts that they are approaching the point of no return in this matter. When we have passed the point of no return, which, in my view, is that point beyond which one has not time enough to make a contribution, some people in the House, on both sides, will have to ask themselves what they think ought to be done.
I ask the House to forgive me for a moment; I seem to have lost part of the notes for what I want to say. I have it now; I put the last page where it belongs, as the right hon. Gentleman put the heart where it belonged.
866 The Minister began with a reminiscence. I will give him one. It is now four years since I was proposed for candidate membership of the "Defence Ministers Club". I had never reached higher rank than that of candidate member. I failed to be elected to full membership. But the ironic part of it is that I am now welcoming in his rôle the fourth Minister of Defence in my time as candidate member. I have seen three Ministers of Defence come and go, and there were five before the four I have welcomed since the Conservatives came into office. Thus, we have had one Minister of Defence for rather less than each twelve months reporting upon the failures of the policy confronting him, announcing his intention, as the present Minister did today and as they have all done, of setting up of a review, and claiming credit for reviewing what has been done. Nothing, however, ever seems to come to fruition.
It is a very good thing, of course—the Minister was quite right—to look at what one has come from and where one is going, but, if one keeps on always reviewing, no decisions are ever taken and we are back again with the old besetting evil of the best being the enemy of the good. The issues which need to be answered are never really answered at all. Nothing is ever stopped in time. This came out very clearly in connection with Blue Streak, to which I shall return in a moment or two. No project is ever stopped in time because no Minister is in office long enough to see that it is a project which ought to be stopped. It goes on until the next man gets himself ready to do something, but nothing ever seems to reach a conclusion, in what is, admittedly, a difficult field.
The consequence is that the warring components of the higher Service echelons—I believe they are still warring—have new opportunities all the time to fight for their own part of the field. One of the things I hoped to see come out of the reorganisation of defence when the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Aviation first went to the Ministry was the ending of the old-fashioned split between the Services on the basis that everybody was more or less kept happy.
Looking at the way the increased money this year has been spent, it seems 867 that we are back with the old system; they each have roughly their proportion, and each keeps something in being of the old inter-Service rivalry, partly because the previous Minister permitted further reorganisation to occur a couple of years ago which down-graded the Ministry of Defence and its powers, and partly, also, because no Minister ever stays in office long enough to come to grips with things.
Briefly, if I may, without actually proving it at the moment—I hope it will, nevertheless, be for his good—I say to the right hon. Gentleman that he must turn his attention to two matters very quickly. The first is the defence organisation. If he accepts and just takes over the reorganisation which went on a couple of years ago, when the Defence Board, I think it was, was instituted, the Defence Committee of the Cabinet changed its composition and the Minister of Defence ceased to be its deputy-chairman, and when his relationship with other Chiefs of Staff seemed to change, he will be acquiescing in a situation in which he will never be able, I think, to overcome this problem of the warring Services or to enforce or bring about any effective degree of integration either at any level in the Services themselves or in respect of some of the operations and arms which seem genuinely to have been inter-Service from the very beginning.
The second thing I ask him to look at is the supply organisation. It puzzles me that the House occasionally gets excited about the question whether we look at the expenditure of money closely enough, yet we recently had a complete change in the supply organisation for the Services. It followed upon a massive examination by the Select Committee of the old Ministry of Supply arrangements which produced a damning indictment of the waste and defects within it, but the new supply organisation has never been explained to us. There has never been a White Paper on it. The Prime Minister has refused that repeatedly. We have never been told how it operates. I do not know whether the Minister of Aviation, who has taken over special responsibilities, is now subject to the requirements stated by his right hon. Friend, or whether it is the other way round.
868 I notice that as the Motion on the Order Paper is framed the Minister of Defence barely gets his name in at all—I suppose that if the rules permitted one less name he would not have been on the list at all—whereas the Minister of Aviation's name appears higher on the list. I think that this is very important indeed. I wonder whether, in fact, it means that aviation supply responsibilities are being carried out for and at the direction of the Minister of Defence.
We must remember that the Ministry of Aviation has responsibility for aircraft, for missiles, for atomic weapons and for the whole wide, significant field. Unless we are clear that that fits into the defence scheme and that the Minister of Defence is supreme here, then we are heading for a worse situation than the one we have already had. The House is entitled to be told what the supply organisation is, and I hope that when the Minister of Defence has his second whack tomorrow he will say something about that.
It is our case that the £12,000 million which has been spent since 1951 has, in fact, brought us weakness, indecision and uncertainty. The Minister himself disclosed the weakness and I will refer to examples of it in a moment. We are being treated as though we are less intelligent, less bright and less equipped with memory than the average sixth former.
Every year the Ministers do the same thing. They tell us about the angled deck, about radar and about the steam catapult and claim that they have made new progress for that year. Ever since I have been standing at this Box that sort of thing has been going on, and it must have gone on before that. Whether Ministers think that we do not remember, I do not know.
The other thing which Ministers do is to mention all the things they hope to achieve. They say, "It is coming; it is being developed; it is being progressed with; things are going satisfactorily." They tell us about all these things as though they were here. The fact is that practically none of them is here. Indeed, among this year's crop the only thing that I could really find that actually had arrived was the Tiger class cruiser which, I think, was laid down twenty years ago. It has no modern 869 armament, although it has quick-firing guns. There is nothing else.
It is really time that Ministers paid themselves the tribute, if they have nothing new to report, of saying so. They should not keep on thinking that we will not recognise either the old candidates or the claims for things that are not yet here. We shall always recognise them, and every year that passes makes them more familiar to us. Hon. Members opposite are doing their constituents a great disservice by not themselves taking up these matters with their right hon. Friends.
The expenditure of £1,600 million is no meagre sum of money. The expenditure of £12,500 million in nine and a half years is no meagre sum of money. If at the end of nine years, after nine Ministers have been in office and after the expenditure of that sum of money, the cupboard is as bare as before of these significant weapons, it should not be left just to Opposition Members to ask why. Every hon. Member should be very concerned about it.
The right hon. Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill) said this about Conservative Governments before the war, and it was the same issue. Much money had been spent but—[Interruption.] Oh, yes, the money was spent. Look up the figures. At the end of the day we had one 3.7 gun and 30 tanks. The right hon. Gentleman said that these were the years that the locusts had eaten. The locusts have not only been eating since then; they have gorged themselves of both money and Ministers.
That is our case. I do not think it is necessary to say that I do not accept that it is unprofitable or unnecessary to pay for defence. The right hon. Gentleman does not have to make out that part of his case to me or to many of my hon. Friends, although there are some of them who will not agree with that. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] We are not all as keen as the right hon. Gentleman once was about democracy not mattering. Democracy means that people have the right to have different views. It is not a matter to be giggled at.
Some of my hon. Friends take a different view. But we do not conclude that it is unnecessary or unprofitable to pay for defence. As long as the war 870 does not break out, who is to say that we have deterred it from breaking out or that it would not have happened anyway? If there is no war, it might be said that maybe there would not have been a war even if we had not spent the money. On the other hand, as the whole purpose is deterrence, we might as well take credit for the result.
Of course, any insurance premium seems too much to pay, and if one never has a claim one of course thinks that it is too much. The only time recently when I put in a claim I found that the premium did not buy as much cover as I thought. Having accepted that part of what the right hon. Gentleman said, it can also be true that the premium is too high and the cover bought is too low. Our case here is that the premium is getting dangerously high unless the cover is really adequate, and I doubt whether it is.
I wish to say one other thing. The purpose of defence is, of course, the purpose of our foreign policy and our defence policy, and provision can only reinforce the policy which we are seeking in the international field. It cannot replace it. That is abundantly clear from the debate which we had three weeks ago when the foreign policy of the present Government was shown to lack clarity and drive. Many of the Government's doubt are reflected, I think, by the doubts and in confusions in the White Paper.
Paragraph 17 of the White Paper deals with bases in Cyprus and Kenya. This shows only too clearly how unclear the foreign policy of the Government is about bases. When I heard the right hon. Gentleman speaking about the Commando Carrier and the desire for another one, I hoped that he would draw someone's attention to the very much greater importance of that than of pouring vast sums of money into Kenya before we are clear what the future of that territory is going to be or what the future political arrangement there will be. The same can be said about a surprisingly vast Middle Eastern Command headed by General Dudley Ward with a lieutenant-general under him in Cyprus at a time when the political situation there is so uncertain.
Paragraph 17 and paragraphs 3 onwards of the White Paper all show how uncertain the foreign policy is. Any uncertainty is bound to produce further 871 uncertainty in defence policy. The Government remembered to say that comprehensive disarmament is their aim, but neither in what was said in the foreign policy debate nor in the White Paper is there the slightest indication that they think this is urgently so or that they have plans for achieving steps on the way to it, or even understand the problems involved. The Daily Mail used the word "dither" in relation to this White Paper. Much of this dither is attributable to this. I said in the foreign affairs debate that nobody in the Government will face the fact that while there are certainly risks to be run in connection with any advance in foreign policy towards multilateral disarmament, controlled disarmament, towards a test agreement in Europe in some limited area, there are also great risks in staying as we are. I should have thought that if this White Paper does one thing more than another, it surely brings out the risks involved in the present situation, the difficulty of taking the right decisions in the future and being sure that we are buying ourselves adequate security in the future.
If only somebody in the Government would decide that we could go further than we have gone towards agreement in these spheres, not only do I think that progress might be made there, but I think the Minister of Defence would find his field for the first time limited for him in a sensible sort of way. Meanwhile, the purpose remains. We must try, by collective action with our allies, to achieve collective security through collective defence leading to effective deterrents to war. I repeat the word "collective" because I believe that this word that appears in our Amendment is very often absent from the thoughts and mind of the Government.
Our record on collective defence is not good, and the responsibility—I do not think that is too strong a word—of the Minister of Aviation for the events in our major alliance, in N.A.T.O., which has led to the unhappy situation about Germany and the Spanish negotiations, is very high. He was never clear about "we" meaning Britain and "we" meaning the West and our allies. He has never got clear just how important collective security is in this matter. The Minister said that the forces that we are raising must have the arms, the equip- 872 ment, the means of mobility and the bases to enable them to do their job. That is all very true, but we have to examine how far they have got.
I believe the Government are vulnerable on every count. We have weakened, not strengthened, our main alliance, N.A.T.O., and the forces that we commit there and the forces that we have for other purposes are still most inadequately organised and equipped. The prime reason is the wild and utter confusion which has prevailed throughout on the central issue of the ultimate deterrent.
The new Minister tried today to establish his view of where we stand, and for the first time I heard the Minister say that all our forces comprised one whole deterrent. This is a very welcome change from what the Minister of Aviation used to say when he talked about "it"—the deterrent. No matter how we tried, we were never able to get him to see that each is part of a series of deterrents the purpose of which is to deter war as a whole.
I think this confusion began for modern purposes when the right hon. Member for Carshalton (Mr. Head), who is not with us at the moment, became the Minister of Defence. The five or six Ministers before him, finishing with Lord Monckton, virtually ignored the whole situation, and perhaps had some excuse for doing so, because it could be said that those were early days for dais nuclear business. The right hon. Gentleman, when he became Minister, got down to it and tried to make decisions, and, in my view, took the decisions about large-scale forces and conventional arms wrongly. Here I am in conflict with my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg); but there it is. We have talked about it, and I think he was wrong. But whether he was right or wrong, he was not there very long before we understood from the inspired stories of that time that because the Prime Minister thought there were vast savings to be made from defence if we switched, the right hon. Gentleman went out and the present Minister of Aviation came in.
The Minister of Aviation equally oversimplified and equally took the wrong decision. He took the opposite decision and he announced it in that famous 1958 873 White Paper with that infamous paragraph 12 where he got on to massive retaliation after everybody else in the world had left it.
§ Mr. S. Silverman
If I may interrupt my right hon. Friend, there were parts of the White Paper in which he talked about massive retaliation, as my right hon. Friend says, but paragraph 12, as I remember, relied on nuclear warfare not in retaliation but in the first stage.
§ Mr. Brown
The point is that paragraph 12 contained the reference to massive retaliation. The whole basis of massive retaliation was in that paragraph. But it really does not affect the point I am making. We are in agreement on the major point, which is that the Minister introduced this as the new policy, swept aside the old one, made this great statement about massive deterrents, and gave the whole concept of deterrents and of the kind of forces we ought to have a swing the wrong way.
Ever since the Service Chiefs have been desperately trying—and no Service Minister can deny it—to maintain or recover some of the ground that they thought the right hon. Member for Carshalton had established and which they thought the Minister of Aviation had taken away from them. This has led to the warring. This has led to a dreadful dichotomy, not only in the Ministry of Defence, but in the Service Departments as well. This is what much of the waste of time has been about. This was the consequence of the attitude that the Minister then took. I believe that much of the blame for this must be laid at the door of the Minister and of the Prime Minister himself.
It is fascinating to hear the present Minister of Defence talking about "defence on the cheap" as something that we must not expect to get, and lecturing us about it. I remember the pipe-dream of the Prime Minister himself when he went to the Foreign Press Association and took the trouble to issue a hand-out in advance telling everybody how wonderful it would be of he could make savings of £700 million a year, how, if he could get our defence costs down to £800 million a year, we could do so much with all the rest. What was he talking about if not about defence on the cheap? I remember all the in- 874 spired stories—and they were inspired—that came out just before that White Paper of 1957 in the Observer, The Times, the Sunday Times and all the so-called respectable newspapers, in which were mentioned every forecast of savings to be made by the Minister, ranging from £300 million to £400 million and £500 million a year.
The Minister's colleagues were the people who thought we could get defence on the cheap, and they tried to get it on the cheap. The reason why the Minister has got a cupboard so bare today is that they put vaster and ever vaster sums of money into missiles for delivering the one thing that he thought was a deterrent—this massive retaliatory force—chased their own decisions as a gambler chases his losses, and then starved in the early period the money which should have gone to other purposes. Therefore, this criticism about defence on the cheap should be addressed not to us but to the Minister's colleagues.
This was the real reason—it might be the wrong reason for doing the right thing; again I am at loggerheads with my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley—for ending conscription. They did not end conscription for the reasons that we wanted—namely, that this was the way to get a small, highly-mobile, well-equipped force. They ended it because they thought that here was a way of great saving. All this led to the inevitable consequences that we see today of inadequate mobility and inadequate equipment. The effective rôle of both nuclear and thermonuclear weapons as an additional part of a deterrent whole was never seized upon by the Minister of Aviation, and I doubt whether he even recognises it at this moment. I think that the Services have been bogged down in unnecessary controversy about conventional and nuclear weapons. This has led to the present utter confusion. I invite the House to look at the evidence for this shown by the costs set out in the various White Papers.
I hope that there is another way in which the Minister of Defence will improve on the practice of his predecessor. One of the really unhappy features has been the way in which the figures have been presented year after year. The section of the White Papers dealing with the costs, the budget, has 875 been the most appallingly difficult to follow. The essential sums have never been done and a great many misleading implications have appeared. In 1957, the then Minister claimed very great credit—I will not waste time by reading paragraph 71, because hon. Members can look it up for themselves—for the fact that he had saved about £100 million on the bill. He used other figures designed to show that on certain calculations it could be claimed that the figure saved was more like £300 million. The implication was that if he had done all that he had wanted to do and did not cut out the things that he did cut out, the bill would have gone up to £1,700 million but he was charging only £1,400 million.
The Minister's saving was about £100 million. That was his first contribution only three White Papers ago. In the second year, in his famous plan, he claimed that he had made another saving. He claimed that he had made a saving of £44 million, but said that if one were to do the sums a different way round the real saving was a great deal more. However, he was content to be credited with a saving of £44 million.
In 1959, things began to catch up on them. Last year, the increase was £20 million. This year, it is about £90 million. In other words, the Government are running a five-year plan in which they claim credit for making reductions in the first two years and show how they will go on saving. Then, they reverse the procedure and start spending the money on things which they had been starving. There is no increase in the rate of equipment. There is nothing dramatically new. The Minister now says the opposite of his predecessor. He says, "We are spending money on hardware. Is not that a good thing?" His predecessor said, "We are not spending money on hardware. Is not that a good thing?"
The whole confusion in which the defence policy has been plunged because of the decisions, not only of the Minister of Aviation but of his predecessor and of the Prime Minister, is shown by what has happened in finances over the last four years. I am glad the Minister has made it plain that this is not because pay is going up. The bulk of the in- 876 crease is to pay for the hardware that ought to be there, which so far has not been there and this year is only just beginning to appear.
I wonder whether it is unworthy of me to think this—it could be, but the right hon. Gentleman is a great authority on what is unworthy—but the two years in which vast savings were made were both pre-election years. The payment for the bill mainly comes in the first year after an election. I wonder how far that contributed to the unhappy situation that exists—I wonder how far right hon. and hon. Members opposite who profited by it also ask themselves the question.
That is not the only or even most serious part of the case. I referred to the business of claiming credit for things that did not happen and things that may happen, but it is time that we stopped talking about greater mobility when we are still so far away from moving heavy equipment for the troops. The Britannic and Argosy were mentioned today. We have neither of those aircraft. I think the Minister said that the Argosy would be delivered in 1961–62, but we were not given a delivery date for the Britannic. It is still two years away even now, and we shall not have mobility until we get it.
The least the Minister can do is to be as honest as the Minister of Supply was last year and admit that we have not got it today and say that we hope to get it in a couple of years' time. That is all he can say. Only in two years' time will we know whether the Britannic and the Argosy will be available. The situation with regard to these two heavy-lift aeroplanes is, in my view, a very serious criticism of what the Government have been doing.
There are two other aeroplanes which I want to mention.
§ Mr. Brown
Yes. The earliest date by which we can expect to have the Argosy is two years' time. The Britannic will be even later. If we get the Argosy in two years' time, then we shall have a tactical lift, not a strategic lift, aeroplane.
877 Much reference has been made to two other aeroplanes. First, the NA39. We were told that a production order for this aircraft was being placed last year. I gather from paragraph 31 of the White Paper that a production order is expected to be placed this year for what promises to be an outstanding strike aircraft. It is still no more than that. It does not exist. As a strike aircraft, it is not there. As an addition to our contribution, it is not there. It goes on year after year being something that is coming in.
Then there is the TSR2, this remarkable plane which the Royal Air Force insisted on ordering because it would not have the one born in the Admiralty, the NA39. Is the TSR2, which is referred to in this year's White Paper, coming through? Can the Minister give us an idea of the time scale for the TSR2? Does he even think that we shall ever get it? If not, what does he now think is the aeroplane to provide the tactical support rôle for the Army? I could mention other aircraft, but these I wanted to mention because they are outstanding examples.
We are given promise after promise and the Ministers continue to think up something new, something better, as the air marshals insisted on thinking up something better than the NA39, but we are no nearer to having the aircraft that we want. We have not the equipment that we want.
§ Sir Arthur Vere Harvey (Macclesfield)
I understand that these heavy transport aircraft were ordered two years ago, but what is the alternative? Does the right hon. Gentleman suggest that we should buy second-hand Globemasters to get over the situation?
§ Mr. Brown
The point is that the problem did not begin two years ago. The trouble is that the orders were placed too late. If I am right in thinking that there is a grave gap here, it is the responsibility of the Ministers. I only say that if we had been the Ministers and had the gap been shown to be as bad as we think it is shown in these White Papers, some action would have to be taken. I would not be left with small forces at the end of 1960 and admit that I would have to keep them waiting around getting seasick outside a harbour while the slow boats caught up with the heavy equipment, as happened once before. If emer- 878 gency action were needed, in my view it should have been taken. The Minister of Aviation knows that I have made my position very clear on this matter. Emergency action was not taken. Perhaps the Ministers will say that they did not want to admit that because they did not take action they failed in their real duty which was to avoid the emergency. That is the real criticism which I have to make.
I want to turn now, as the Minister did at the end of his speech, to the most discussed area, perhaps the most important, certainly the area of the Government's greatest confusion; that is, the strategic concept of defence in the nuclear age. Clearly, I and the Labour Party do not take the unilateralist position on nuclear weapons. They exist. They must be a component part of our strategy and our armoury of deterrents unless and until an equivalent or greater advantage can be gained either by multilateral and controlled disarmament or by some lesser but vital advance such as we envisaged when we put forward the proposal which came to be known as the "non-nuclear club".
I repeat what I said earlier, that there we have two "we"s, and we must always distinguish between "we" meaning Britain and "we" meaning the West, because the kind of price one would pay for advance in particular circumstances would be different according to whether one were talking about the West or Britain. Again, not all my hon. Friends take this position. I understand that, but for myself let me make it quite clear that I have never seen how one can seek to arm for defence and ignore weapons which exist. Nor what their value would be if we did.
Much of the delivery apparatus is the same whatever the nature of the explosive force we use it to deliver. We would still need the V-bombers either way. We would still need strike aircraft either way. Indeed, if we were delivering a lower explosive force we might need them very much more. I think the savings which people talk about getting from the unilateral abandonment of nuclear weapons would be a very great deal less than is claimed, because so much of the real money, I would imagine, goes now for the delivery apparatus, and not the weapons themselves. So the savings would, I think, be a lot less than is often alleged.
879 The provocative element, however, would be just as great, if by "provocative" we mean the ability to attack the other fellow, the ability strategically to bomb him, and thereby provoke him into feeling he ought to strike first. If that is alleged to be the provocative element in nuclear weapons it is true of any weapons. The provocative element would be just as great.
But the deterrent value would be much less. This is why I cannot take this position. It seems to me that we should have all the disadvantages, we should and save very little money and at the end of the day have the disadvantages but not have the deterrent advantage.
Recently, something I said shook one of my hon. Friends into saying, "You will make me cry". It was a cynical remark, when one remembers how emotional the anti-nuclear disarmers are allowed to get. It is sometimes a little hard, for we are never allowed to have any feelings. Let me say seriously and in the most deliberate and friendly spirit—
§ Mr. Brown
—even a Christian spirit, that I have never seen how we can ask young men to go into battle and to face weapons and concentrations of armour and deny them the weapons which might have deterred those concentrations and which would certainly enable them to meet them on a fair footing. It has always seemed to me that that is something I could never do. If other people feel they could do it, they must rationalise it in their own way. I could not.
For those two sets of reasons I am unable to take the unilateral position, but, having said that, it follows that we must have a coherent strategic concept which fits these weapons into their place and elevates the theory of deterrence at all levels, since the problem of the escalator—once we get on it—arises the moment that kind of conflict starts if the conflict is big enough in a serious enough area. Indeed, no matter what area one is fighting in, no matter what weapons one is fighting with at the beginning, the escalator problem arises and it becomes of tremendous importance right from the beginning.
880 The present Minister seems to me to be ahead of his colleagues on this, but my feeling is that the Government have never got this business of deterrence, the whole spectrum of deterrence, at all clear. They have vacillated and wobbled on this all the time. The theory of massive deterrence was the one which occupied them. It rather looks, of course, as though Mr. Khrushchev, in his recent speech, is moving that way, too, at the moment, and some people may ask how can we make that point against our Ministers here when Mr. Khrushchev seems to be moving that way. But it is precisely the change in the balance of rocketry which makes that kind of policy possible for Mr. Khrushchev which makes it impossible for us. It was the change from monopoly to superiority only, and then to parity, and then to Russian supremacy which, in fact, has thrown out of gear so much of what the Minister of Aviation tried to do and did not see until it was too late.
For all that the Minister said today, his White Paper is still dreadfully unclear; or rather, it is clear but clear the wrong way. Paragraph 3 says this:Because of the need to meet local emergencies which could develop into a major conflict, conventionally armed forces are a necessary complement to nuclear armaments.It is exactly the wrong way round. The truth is exactly the other way round. If we have to have them at all, conventional forces do not complement nuclear weapons: nuclear weapons complement the conventional element in our deterrents. Till the Minister can get this right and start getting it written aright, we shall not either get our own weapons policy right or get our attitude in the alliance right.
I want to turn to our position in the alliance. The Minister talked a bit about N.A.T.O., though not nearly as much as I hoped he would. I think that because the Government have been so confused on the whole business—I speak in as restrained a manner as with my temperament I can—they have acted in ways which have had a disastrous effect—I use that word, and I mean it—a disastrous effect on our alliance as well as on our own policy.
Nowadays we are all conscious—are we not?—of the weakness of N.A.T.O. 881 That it lacks political direction is abundantly clear. I think I have never heard a more pitiful exhibition than that by the Foreign Secretary today, who, after all, is one of the Ministers who politically directs N.A.T.O., and who stood at that Box and said, "Well, I hope that after all the dust has settled about the German-Spanish business N.A.T.O. will now come to grips with the problem." Who the devil is N.A.T.O.? It is he. He and his colleagues. If he has not come to grips with it, who is to blame?
Those Ministers have never got down to the job at all. It lacks political direction because our Government have been playing around with the idea of unilateral action all the time and thought that this massive deterrent theory we have today would do it. We all know that the shield forces of N.A.T.O. are inadequate. We all know who began that, who started the weakening of those forces. The Minister told us today about the plans General Norstad has, that he has to keep seven brigade groups for the time being.
That is not the commitment which Sir Anthony Eden made. Sir Anthony Eden set out the commitment that the United Kingdom would continue to maintain on the mainland of Europe, including Germany, the effective strength of the United Kingdom Forces under S.A.C.E.U.R., four divisions and the Tactical Air Force, or whatever S.A.C.E.U.R. regarded as the equivalent fighting capacity.
Does S.A.C.E.U.R. require less than three divisions today as the equivalent fighting capacity of the four divisions which we solemnly pledged ourselves to keep there? It is true that the Minister has said that he will maintain the 10,000 extra men that his colleague said he would take away, but that is all he has done. Also, he has put in for the very first time "for the time being". It is a very great weakening of the commitment. It is no use our saying that we do not share a very great part of the guilt for the weakness of the shield forces—we do—and we did it pretty well unilaterally. We know that N.A.T.O. lacks integration—integration of forces, integration of supply, standardisation of production and co-ordination of national policies—and we know that N.A.T.O. itself has a most mistaken, as I believe, nuclear concept.
882 When I hear the Foreign Secretary telling us, as he did again today, that Germany must have areas outside Germany because the distance across the country is only 160 miles and inside that area there is, after all, so little that one can do, and then I remind myself that N.A.T.O. and the Governments are pressing on with putting nuclear missiles into the very area that is too small, too vulnerable and too dangerous to have stockpiles of equipment, I am bound to ask myself what kind of an Alice-in-Wonderland world we are living in.
I put all this last week to the Supreme Commander, who is a friend of mine—I am glad to claim him as such—and a man for whom I have the highest regard. Indeed, I regard him as about the best of the Supreme Commanders that there have been. I put this to him, but it would be very improper for me to give his reply. I would only say to the House that my impression is that if Ministers were clear about this they could give the military a much clearer directive about this than they have had and the mistakes which are being made would not then be made.
Therefore, I think that the Government's responsibility in this is very heavy. Let hon. Members look at the development of policies from Suez. Suez keeps on popping up in all these things. This is where it began. This is where the forces were taken away. This is where the alliance was left without supplies for more than fourteen days. This is where continental Governments first began to see that countries were not as committed to N.A.T.O. as they said they were. From Suez to the Minister of Aviation's unilateral actions, on to the Sputnik panic when we thrust I.C.B.M.s into the hands of the Supreme Commander, and now on to this tepid rewriting of the commitment by the Minister today, we see the whole chain of unhappy policy decisions which have led to the present German-Spanish position.
I will not go into the German-Spanish position except to say that if hon. Members will look at the Paris Treaties they will see there a passage which no Minister seems willing to recall. I do not understand why. The Paris Treaties not only state clearly what the responsibilities of the Supreme Commander are 883 over all the combat troops allocated to him—and under N.A.T.O. they are very wide responsibilities—the Paris Treaties also specifically state that these apply to the training of these troops as well. As the Germans have no other troops at all except those committed to N.A.T.O., I cannot understand why somebody does not make this clear. So, certainly so far as troop training is concerned, under the Paris Treaties the Germans have no right to go anywhere unless the Supreme Commander, at the direction of the N.A.T.O. Council, authorises them to go. It is time that this also was made very clear.
I just want to issue a word of warning. I was in favour of German rearmament. As the House knows, I have never gone back on that. However, I would say to the House that the series of policy decisions which have been taken have led to a weakening of N.A.T.O. to a point which really is leading to an emerging German dominance which must be very worrying to all of us and in two years' time will be a very serious business indeed. It is leading to an over-emphasis on nuclear strike in N.A.T.O. plans. It is making the military the only arbiters. I think it is time the House as a whole saw where the policies of Her Majesty's Government are leading.
Last of all, I come to the area of the biggest mess, the greatest wasteful expenditure, the area of the long-range missile—the Thor and the Blue Streak. The Minister of Aviation has them both on his conscience. The White Paper makes it clear, and I thought the Minister made it clear, that Blue Streak is now about finished as a concept for succeeding the V-bomber as a means of delivery of our strategic weapon.
Paragraph 36—no doubt written very carefully with people's susceptibilities in mind—makes it clear, but it says a rather peculiar thing which was rather borne out by what the Minister said today. Having dealt with Blue Streak, he said: "However, it may be decided not to rely exclusively on fixed site missiles as the successor." We are not kidding ourselves, are we, that we can have more than one system of delivery? We really are not, are we, playing with the idea of having fixed site missiles and 884 some air-launched missiles and some submarine-launched missiles? If we are, we had better get it out of our head right away. It is very inconvenient to be a Minister dealing with this subject—incidentally, it is also very inconvenient sometimes to be dealing with it from this side of the House—in which decisions of terrifying responsibility have to be taken. But in this field a decision has to be taken. We cannot have more than one system, and on this I am clear.
I warned against Blue Streak in 1957, again in 1958, and very strongly last year, 1959. Whatever credit there is for that, I would not know. But it has always been clear to me that a fixed site missile was an invitation and not a deterrent, that a liquid fuel rocket vulnerable to a near-miss could not be a possibility for us. I have always thought that fairly clear. Goodness knows how many hundreds of millions of pounds we have spent because the Minister of Defence would not listen on that subject.
We have the V-bombers today. They are a very powerful deterrent. The Minister confirmed what I myself had guessed here. One of them is rather short-ranged—perhaps I could go that far. I am thinking of the stand-off bomb. The life of the V-bombers as a credible deterrent gets us to around the middle nineteen-sixties. We have to deal with the position after that. The Minister says that we still have time to take the decision. I think he has to take the decision fairly shortly now.
The method, I think, has to be mobile. It can be from the sea or it can be from the air. I should have thought that the aerial one was still a long way off. We are talking here about something about which people in America are only thinking, not something which is actually within sight. I should have thought that consideration was beginning to point to the sea-launched missile as the only method that can arrive in time. I put this to the Minister as a thought to be borne in mind.
I have always seen some of the arguments—I have not deployed them yet this afternoon—for an independent contribution to the deterrent. They are largely political arguments. I will not go through them now at this late stage, but, whatever they are, they apply to the nose cone and they apply to the warhead but they do not necessarily apply 885 to the carrier. There is nothing like the same argument involved in going into joint arrangements with somebody else about a carrier. If inter-dependence is to mean anything, I should have thought that here we should say to our American allies, "We now want to join in all this business of the carrier since we shall not be able to do it ourselves in time and there is no reason why we should and there are no legal obstructions like the MacMahon Act to this in your country."
When we talk about the early warning radar system, I do not think one can pretend that this station is for our early warning. That really is pressing it much too far. The Minister said that there would be fifteen minutes' warning. That may be so at one end, but it is four minutes at the middle. If rockets go up from East Germany or one of the satellite States, they may not be picked up at all. This is not for us. This is an early warning station for our American allies. I am not against giving it to them—it is the sort of service which allies should give to one another—but I do not see why we should pay £10 million a year for the privilege. Why should we not ask our American allies, when we do something for them, for a return service—this business of carriers is one of them.
The case for our Amendment is overwhelming. The Government are giving us less and less defence for more and more money. Despite all the years, all the Ministers and all the money, all the vital decisions and the vital provisions remain to be made. I ask the House to support our Amendment for those reasons.
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. For the guidance of the House, will you indicate the Chair's intention towards the other Amendments? There is an Amendment in my name, to leave out from "House" to the end and to insert:deplores the heavy expenditure outlined in the Defence White Paper at a time when the Minister of Defence has stated that no country has an adequate defence against rockets and hydrogen bombs and when the Government should proceed with a programme of total disarmament which would end the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and Warsaw Pacts, result in the removal by the Great Powers of their armies and bases on the soil of other countries and enable all nations to spend the enormous sums they now spend on a futile, ruinous and suicidal arms race on plans for raising the standard of life of their 886 peoples and assisting the underdeveloped areas of the world".May we know at what point that will be called or discussed?
§ 5.52 p.m.
§ Captain John Litchfield (Chelsea)
It is a great privilege to take part in this debate. As a former sailor, I hope that the House will give a fair wind on this maiden voyage and a special measure of sympathy for being called immediately after the two Front Bench speeches to which we have just listened. I do not intend to lie entirely outside this engagement, and if I come under fire I shall not expect to be treated as a noncombatant.
I have the honour to represent Chelsea, and not the least alarming factor in my present situation is that so many right hon. and hon. Members—and, above all, until very recently, Mr. Speaker himself—are numbered among my constituents. That, of course, is a very great source of pride to me, but it is also a matter of some embarrassment that I am speaking to so many of my own constituents instead of, as is sometimes usual on these occasions, to the local Press. There is much I should like to say about Chelsea, but we are debating defence and I will, therefore, come straight to my first point.
I should like to begin by referring very briefly to something which my right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence also mentioned in his speech—the human factor, and I think that on this point Chelsea is a very good place to jump off from. The Chelsea Pensioners are familiar to hon. Members and I want to refer briefly to the pension rates of those who are still living on the old rates. I make no complaint about Service pay and pensions as they are as of today. In fact, I think that the Services owe a very great debt, and so does this House, to the Ministers concerned who have raised pay and pensions to their present level.
I am particularly glad, in this connection, to see the reference in the White Paper to the automatic biennial review which will take account of earnings in civilian life. However, there is one point on which the House is entitled to 887 ask the Minister to take another and a kind look, and that is at the situation of these older pensioners, men who have retired perhaps many years ago and whose rates of pension have virtually not moved up, so far as I know. I may be mistaken on this, however. I also hope my right hon. Friend will look at the situation of the Service widows.
I am sure that all would agree that the Services today offer a really splendid career. My own son began a Service career three months ago, and I am very glad that he has done so. Today is in every way a good time to enter the Services, but there is still uncertainty in many minds, especially in parents' and schoolmasters' minds, about what is to happen when a normal Service career ends at some time in middle-age, which is earlier than it would be in most professions and in the Civil Service.
I think that this question of moving pensions up to some extent, and not letting them remain locked at the rates in force at the moment of retirement, is a factor which we should consider not only as a matter of human justice, but as a matter affecting recruiting as well. I hope, therefore, that the Minister will look at this matter with great sympathy, especially for widows. I am sure that he is aware that the only exceptions to the pensions being locked at the rates in force at the moment of retirement are field marshals, admirals of the fleet, and marshals of the Royal Air Force. They never retire, but go on half-pay and move up in pay with the Services.
One other aspect on the human side is the question of morale. I think my right hon. Friend made reference to that and I was very glad to hear it. I think that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown) also referred to it, and I am sure the whole House would agree that morale in the Services today is very high indeed. I can speak with certainty about my own old profession, the Royal Navy. There is no doubt that morale is very high indeed in that Service. Pay and conditions have been transformed in the last few years, and I am sure, as I have said, that the Services are very grateful for that and appreciate it.
Yet pay and conditions are not the only things which make men tick, at 888 any rate in the Services. They want something more than what one might call an "early morning cup of tea". We should remember two things: first, that officers and men need to feel the certainty that the country is behind them; and, secondly, they need to have a clear faith in a clearly-understood mission. With some feeling from my own experience at the receiving end, I should like to suggest that we here have a part to play in this. We have an opportunity in this debate to send forth a message of confidence and encouragement to the officers and men in the Services, to show them that the country and this House, whatever different views we may have on other aspects of defence, are behind them.
I should like now to turn briefly to a few observations on one or two broader aspects of defence policy. I will not deal with the latter part of the speech of the right hon. Member for Belper, but there are one or two things which can be said without fear of getting involved in controversy which, unfortunately, in my present situation I must try to avoid. I cannot recall a time when it was more difficult to form a confident judgment about the central issues of defence policy and strategy, and so on, than it is in the sort of Dan Dare age in which we are now living.
There are several reasons for this. Only nine or ten years ago it was fairly easy, inside or outside the Services, to think intelligently on the great issues of defence. It is much more difficult today. For one thing, we probably suffer from a lack of information about major problems in our defence system, which cannot be disclosed. However, this lack of information is, none the less, a handicap when we try to think intelligently and without party feeling on these great issues. Subject to security, I hope that my right hon. Friend will always do his best to keep the House really well informed.
Another factor is that the pace of progress today is far greater, and getting greater every year, than it has ever been. There is no doubt that research and development and the great advances made in weapons and equipment introduce many unpredictable factors. Finally, there is the astronomical rise in the cost of modern equipment. Quality 889 goes up and quantity goes down for every £1 million spent.
There is one example of this which it may be helpful to refer to, as it can be applied to many other aspects of defence production. That is ship design. I imagine that at a time like this the Ministry of Defence and the Board of Admiralty have been considering the fleet which we will require, the next generation of ships which, I suppose, will be completed at the end of the 1960s or early 1970s and would, therefore, be operational during the 1970s and the 1980s and even the early 1990s. That is a very long time ahead, not only in years, but still more in terms of scientific progress.
Let us take the instance of the replacement of an aircraft carrier. I do not know whether we are to replace our aircraft carriers, but I sincerely hope that we are. I suppose that from the moment when the first sketch design is put on the back of the First Sea Lord's envelope, anything from seven to ten years will elapse before such a ship can be completed. I suppose that it would cost about £1,500 to £2,000 a ton to build.
When one starts designing a great vessel like that, a great slice of the national industrial effort which is to cost £50 million or £60 million, one is immediately faced with many imponderables and unpredictable factors. One example is the weapons. Are guns as we know them to be totally obsolete in ten years? Perhaps, Will aircraft in the 1970s and 1980s take off horizontally, or vertically, which would make quite a difference when one is designing an aircraft carrier? Is propulsion to be much as it is now, or will it be nuclear?
Those are all difficult factors involving a good deal of guess work and very nice judgment. It is not easy to design a great ship like that and stop half way so that it can operate different aircraft or have different propulsion. On the other hand, if the judgment of the designers today is faulty and we spend £50 million. £60 million, £70 million or £80 million on one ship which, in 1968, is obsolete, or nearly obsolete, what would this House have to say? But if we funk the issue and do nothing until the imponderables resolve themselves, we shall not have a ship.
890 I mention those as practical and not theoretical problems, because I think that the right hon. Member for Belper was a little hard on the Government when he accused them of being slow in some ways and making mistakes in others. Hindsight is not a valid basis for criticism in there important and difficult matters. If we do not spend the money, we do not get the weapons and if we spend the money, we have, perhaps, a 25 per cent. chance of making some big mistake.
Those are all matters which we should consider when studying defence. I have no doubt that if we had known at the time what we know today we might have acted differently in some matters. But that is not the point and I should like to know just where the right hon. Gentleman's judgment would have differed from that of the Government if he had had available the information, and only the information, which was available at the time when decisions had to be made. I cannot help wondering.
Another change which has been mentioned is, strategically speaking, the shrinking in our overseas bases, a process which has already gone a long way and which looks like going a little further. That is why I am so glad that there are several references in the White Paper to the importance of mobility. If we can get our forces on a basis of true mobility and flexibility we shall have gone a long way to overcoming the serious strategic effect of the loss of bases which, for one reason or another, we have had to give up. On the subject of mobility, I hope that my right hon. Friend will give serious thought to a matter which merits consideration, the reinstitution in peace-time of at least an embryo fleet train.
I do not want to make more than a brief speech. There is much else which I should like to say, but I will spare the House. My last point, which is of great importance, is the interdependence between defence policy and foreign policy. In the foreign affairs debate the other day, I was struck by the fact that rather more than half the speeches from both sides and both Front Benches dealt with defence policy rather more than with foreign affairs in isolation.
I want to quote something recently said in another place, which, I think, 891 should be borne in mind when we debate foreign affairs or defence policy:… one cannot have a foreign policy at all unless it has the backing of … force. We should only reduce ourselves immediately to the status of a second-class nation, with no power for good or ill."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, House of Lords, 10th February, 1960; Vol. 220, c. 1154.]I emphasise those last words, "No power for good or ill" I add to that my own experience, which is rather unusual in that I have so frequently worked on allied staffs—on the Supreme War Council with the French at the beginning of the war, the Combined Chiefs of Staff, in Washington, in 1945, the National War College of the United States, as well as our own Imperial Defence College—in all of which we have been not only inter-Service, but international.
I am sure that the importance of British influence in higher strategical thought cannot be over-emphasised. There must be many hon. Members of this House who have knowledge of allied councils, whether it be N.A.T.O. or with the Joint Chiefs of Staff during the war. Anyone who has had that experience will agree that British influence is quite invaluable, and usually out of all proportion to our share in the common effort.
I am convinced that the House should give firm support to the Motion, and I hope that I am not being optimistic in expecting it to do so.
§ 6.11 p.m.
§ Mr. F. J. Bellenger (Bassetlaw)
It is a pleasant task which I have to perform to congratulate the hon. and gallant Member for Chelsea (Captain Litchfield) on a thoughtful and very interesting speech, but he misled the House a little in his desire to be non-provocative, because he gave us the impression, or at least he claimed the status, of being a non-combatant, and for today we willingly accorded him that status.
§ Captain Litchfield
I said that I did not expect to be treated as a noncombatant. I am far from noncombatant at any time, but I did not wish to be unduly combatant today.
§ Mr. Bellenger
Whether the hon. and gallant Gentleman desired it, tradition imposed some limitations on us today— 892 but, I might mention, only today. His speech was not combatant, which is not what one might expect from one having such a distinguished regular service with the Royal Navy. I understand that the hon. and gallant Gentleman was captain of "Vanguard", and I suspect that he carries heavier guns than he disclosed to us in his very admirable speech. I hope that when he brings those guns into action they may be occasionally turned on his own Front Bench in the way that I now propose to do. I am not a constituent of the hon. and gallant Member, but I live next door in the Royal Borough of Kensington, a constituency which I much prefer.
By way of a preamble to my remarks, I want to make something in the nature of a protest at the way we conduct our debates on defence. We are to debate this Motion for two days. We shall spend three days debating the Service Ministries on Vote A, and we shall follow that with the Committee stage, all concentrated into a very narrow period of time at the beginning of the year. Defence debates, particularly when used by the right hon. Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill), before the war were spread out over the year and interspersed with foreign policy debates. I am wondering whether hon. Gentlemen opposite, or at any rate some of them, would agree—because they could get a change if they would co-operate with us—about spreading our debates on defence over a wider period. One must not think that having dealt with the Defence Estimates today, and having discussed the Service Estimates next week, or the week after, we are finished with the problem of defence. It is not a static subject; it is a dynamic one.
Listening to the Minister of Defence this afternoon, I was struck by his attempt to reduce tension in the House. I hope that the Government will be successful in reducing tension in international affairs also. As I listened to the right hon. Gentleman I could not help remembering debates before the war when the late lamented Sir Thomas Inskip was minister for the co-ordination of defence. We then had the same sort of reassurance—an almost placid assurance—that everything was all right with our defence. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford in those days did his best to expose those assurances, 893 and, as we now know—and my right hon. Friend the Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown) referred to this at the beginning of his speech—we were lamentably short of weapons and other warlike material.
I understand that Sir Thomas Inskip was a great churchman. I should not be surprised to hear that the Minister of Defence reads the lesson, but when he comes to the House as the Minister of Defence and tries to talk to some of us who, like the hon. and gallant Member for Chelsea, know something about these matters, surely we are entitled to a little more information than the right hon. Gentleman vouchsafed to us today.
Having served in a Service Department, I understand the need for security, but when one reads White Paper after White Paper and compares them with what one went through before the war, are we wrong in having considerable apprehensions about our defence against a much more competent and powerful enemy, with a far greater array of devastating weapons than before the war, and in expecting to be let into the right hon. Gentleman's confidence a little more?
It may be—and I think his White Paper discloses this—that the right hon. Gentleman himself is learning his business. I do not blame him for reserving some of his decisions until a more appropriate moment when in his own mind he can be more certain that the decisions he is about to make are the right ones. Decisions made in the nuclear sphere are very expensive ones, and the nation is entitled to be assured that when a decision is made it is made in a context which eliminates, as far as is humanly possible, all mistakes.
In warfare, it is the unexpected that turns up. I do not know if the decision on Blue Streak was the right one. As the hon. and gallant Member for Chelsea said, it is so much more difficult today, even for an expert, to come to a decision whether the Government are pursuing the right policy. Her Majesty's Opposition are groping in the fog and trying to understand the subject from expert books and views that come from those who are supposed to know a good deal about defence. The White Paper creates a fog which we are not able to penetrate. The right hon. Gentleman did not do much to help us.
894 I should like to refer to a book that has recently been published by Mr. Alastair Buchan, who is the Director of the Institute of Strategical Studies. Many hon. Members on both sides of the House are members of that Institute and are doing their best to try to follow the arguments about defence. It is from books like that, and other associations with which we are connected, that we derive our knowledge. The House cannot ask more than that unless on some future occasion we are given the help and guidance—although I wonder whether it will be so—of the hon. and gallant Member for Chelsea who, because of his recent high naval appointment, has some expert knowledge of these matters.
With all the limitations which I have explained to the House, I wonder how I should approach this topic. Having recently read Lord Alanbrooke's books on the Second World War, I am struck by one central feature. Whatever one may say about Lord Alanbrooke—and for a short time he was in the War Office when I was there—he was probably the greatest wartime military planner we have had for a generation or more.
What did he say about his controversy with the Prime Minister and Minister of Defence in those days—the right hon. Member for Woodford? He said that the controversy arose because the right hon. Gentleman would try to concentrate his mind on too narrow an area, whereas Lord Alanbrooke kept in front of him the global strategy. I have read the memoirs of the right hon. Member for Woodford and the books of Lord Alanbrooke, and I would say that in discussing the national subject of defence hon. and right hon. Gentlemen should try to envisage a wider area than that covered by the White Paper which is the background for our debate.
In trying to envisage what our policy should be, and what we have to meet—and all military planners must settle down to the job of defining who is the potential foe—we must bear in mind certain outstanding facts, probably the most outstanding of which are the things that Mr. Khrushchev says from time to time, and especially what he said to the Supreme Soviet in January last. I will 895 quote from a report of his speech which comes from Russian sources. He said:The Soviet Army today possesses such military techniques and such firepower as no Army has ever had before.He went on to say:… we already have enough nuclear weapons—atomic and hydrogen—and enough rockets for their delivery to the territory of a possible aggressor, so that if some madman should cause an attack against our State or the other Socialist States we should virtually wipe the country or countries attacking us off the face of the earth.Is that mere boasting, or is it a reality? Let hon. Members cast their minds back only four years, when Mr. Khrushchev threatened that in certain eventualities some of his rockets might be directed upon London.
Although I do not think too much of her satellites, if the Russian forces are in possession of these powerful weapons it stands to reason that no responsible Opposition can deny to the Government or our military forces the means to counteract those weapons, so far as that is possible, if, by any chance, Russia should embark on what is called a preemptive strike, or even if she did not, but we had to go in for a second strike, as it is called in our military jargon.
We must have some of these devastating weapons ourselves, at any rate to try to weaken the willpower of Russia—who I submit is the potential for—in order to try to stop war, even if we cannot prevent it. I agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Belper, who speaks for the almost overwhelming majority of the Opposition, that nuclear strategy exists, and we have to take part in it whether or not we wish to, unless we are going to turn the other cheek. If any hon. Members advocate that policy, they should express it to their constituents and hear what they have to say about it.
I want to refer to area strategy for a moment. That brings N.A.T.O. into the picture. There is no doubt that the N.A.T.O. alliance in Europe covers a vital area in strategic plans. I am perturbed both by what I have heard from Ministers and from a knowledge gained from an intelligent reading of the news, as presented to me not by some but by many newspapers, that all is not well in the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation. 896 If that is so, how far is our own defence policy responsible?
Political indecision impedes military initiative. Only Ministers can solve that problem. But how can we expect military commanders to pursue a coherent policy if their directives are not right? Having listened to the exchanges which have taken place in this House over Western German depôts or bases in Spain, I have come to the conclusion that something is radically wrong. Although hon. Members may disagree with some of the things said by hon. Members on this side, I hope that they will at least agree that all is not well.
How can the Minister of Defence tell us that our defences are all right if we know that the largest military contingent of the N.A.T.O. alliance in Europe is faulty? That is what sems to be the situation, if the Chancellor of Western Germany is right about the need for extra manoeuvering power for training purposes and supply lines. It would be improper to go into the details of the N.A.T.O. alliance today, but I suggest that this is part of our defence policy. We cannot stand alone, even with our possession of the deterrent. We can use it only in association with our Allies. I am led to believe that the alliance is faulty in many respects. I do not know how we can alter it. All we can do is to give expression to our views in this House and hope that other hon. and right hon. Gentlemen will bring pressure to bear on the Government to try to put right what is wrong.
As for the Blue Streak, I am not a technician and I marvel at the technical knowledge which my right hon. Friend the Member for Belper brings to the House. I do not know whether he is right or wrong—that is for the Minister to say—but a challenge has been issued by my right hon. Friend to the Minister, and we shall want to hear the answer to it tomorrow night, if not from the Minister then from the Secretary of State for War, who, I understand, will intervene in the debate.
I should like to take up the question of the condition of our anti-submarine defences, and perhaps the hon. and gallant Member for Chelsea could enlighten us. We have heard without challenge that the Russians possess at least 500 897 submarines, and that figure has probably risen since the estimate was made. What does the Navy possess to meet that challenge—the kind of challenge which nearly brought Britain to her knees in two world wars? This leads me to conclude that the object of the Russians is to engage in conventional war, so far as they are free to do so. There is the challenge, but we have heard little about the Navy's reply, although we may hear it in the Estimates debate. We do not know what we possess to counteract this serious challenge from Russia.
Hardly anything has been said about civil defence, although it is mentioned in the White Paper. I am of the opinion that what we are engaging in at the moment is expensive, but is nothing more than a facade. There is very little civil defence. I hope that the hon. Member for Dorset, South (Viscount Hinchingbrooke) will agree that if we are paying out large sums of money for something called civil defence—or anything else, for that matter—we should know what goods are being delivered in return for the taxpayers' money. I have the impression—especially as we have had no debate on civil defence for a long time—that we are not getting good value for our money in that respect.
From time to time, some of us witness military exercises and see something of what the Army has in the way of transport. Every time I have seen these manœuvres or exercises I have seen little of something which is valued by the Navy, namely, the helicopter. I do not suppose it would be possible for the right hon. Gentleman to tell us how many helicopters we have, but I suspect that the Army is short of them. If that be so, where is the mobility about which the right hon. Gentleman spoke so glibly?
One thing he said I welcome wholeheartedly. I have indicated the lack of expert knowledge of most hon. Members—unless they are officially connected with the Government—regarding what is happening about defence. I welcome, therefore, the indication given this afternoon by the Minister that he would be willing to place facilities at the disposal of groups of hon. Members—presumably from both sides of the House—or individual hon. Members, to see what is happening in the three Services. I can think of nothing better.
898 When I was at the War Office there was considerable criticism of what were called "brass hats". We had at that time a large influx of new hon. Members, straight from the battlefield as it were, and I was conscious of what some of my Parliamentary colleagues thought about generals. I was able to persuade the then Prime Minister to allow me to hold a reception at the War Office in order that the generals and the civilians could mix, and apart from the effect of the liquid refreshment I am bound to say that this mixing had a good effect on same of the critics of generals.
I am all in favour of bringing the military forces in contact with the civilians, especially as so many of them will be retired at a comparatively early age; so it is as well that they should get to know what civilians are like before they receive their "bowler hat".
We have to deal with things as they are, and we are not sure what they are. But, looking into the future, I think the time not far distant when the whole technique of defence will be changed. As I listened the other day to the explanation of the Minister regarding the early warning radar system to be installed in this country, as I read about the distant early warning in America and about sputniks and other foreign bodies which are released into the upper atmosphere, I wonder whether it will be possible to find a system of control of defence activities in other countries by means of discoveries of this kind.
It should not then be necessary to insist—as is being insisted by those meeting now at Geneva—on ground inspections. Such inspections may well be necessary to a certain extent, but may not the time come when these wonderful inventions may be shot into the air, not in order to reach the moon, but to put them in orbit around the earth so that it will be possible to photograph and detect what is happening in other countries? If that be so, and we get freedom, as we should have in that case, to carry out inspections rather than seeking the permission of other countries to inspect their factories, we may conclude that it was a good thing that the sputnik was launched.
I believe intensely in an international police force. This is an old subject which has been discussed ever since the first World War and before. But one 899 practical example of what may be achieved is provided by the small, ill-equipped international police force which operates now in the debatable area between Israel and Egypt. Hon. Members may ask somewhat cynically how long will it last, but at least it has lasted for some time.
I do not object to hon. Members being sceptical about these arrangements, but I say that surely we cannot contemplate for ever this rush and competition between the countries owning these terrible weapons of destruction. At present there are three such countries; the number is to be increased to four and may be even more. Although hon. Members may think this a strange subject to introduce in a defence debate, I advance it as a serious argument and hope that if it is not pursued by the Minister of Defence, at least the Foreign Secretary or the Prime Minister may do something about it.
Obviously, this debate, and the result of the Division which we shall have tomorrow, will not settle this problem. It will not be settled by any methods at our disposal in the House of Commons. Therefore, it behoves those who agree with the Minister of Defence, that some answer to the deterrent should be provided in order to end war, to consider these matters. It may be that the right hon. Gentleman is after the wrong deterrent. I visualise a cheaper and more peaceful form of deterrent, if it will work, and so I suggest that at some time this subject to which I have referred should be discussed.
§ 6.37 p.m.
§ Mr. Michael Hamilton (Wellingborough)
May I preface my remarks by saying that I have not spoken in this Chamber before? I find a surprising amount of common ground between myself and the right hon. Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Bellenger). I am afraid that I cannot go all the way with him, but in deference to the tradition of this House I think it best to steer clear of controversy so far as possible. I hope that the points on which he and I disagree will be dealt with later in the debate.
I think I should explain that I represent the Wellingborough division, which is a part of Northamptonshire where 900 good boots and shoes, including Service boots and shoes, are made. If hon. Members imagine that that industry engenders a pedestrian outlook among my constituents, they will be a little wide of the mark. In the shoe industry one quickly learns to distinguish between "left" and "right". Politically, Wellingborough is one of the most informed and wide-awake constituencies in the United Kingdom. The proportion of the electorate which went to the polling stations in October was 86.8 per cent.
Wellingborough can fairly claim to have made a contribution to the day-to-day affairs here in Parliament. In fact, Mr. Speaker, it was a predecessor of yours, who had his home in the division and who is buried there, who composed there a prayer which is read in this Chamber every day before our proceedings open. It is the prayer which enjoins us to set aside:all private interests, prejudices and partial affections.Judging by some of the remarks made in this debate so far, I have the impression that after 400 years there is still a need in this place for such a prayer.
There are two subjects in the White Paper to which I wish to draw attention; finally, I should like to make a general comment on the report itself. Some reference has already been made to our forces in Germany. They figure on the first page of the report. I believe our troops there have reached a very high standard of training, as high as I think they are likely to reach in time of peace. I believe they are a credit to their commanders and, in the wider sense, a credit to the defence effort itself; but inevitably during the last year or two our attention has been diverted to other theatres, to the Mediterranean and other parts of the world. There is a risk we must constantly guard against of the British Army of the Rhine becoming a "forgotten Army."
They have enjoyed peaceful conditions, and we have all heard the current phrase, "Join the Armoured Corps and never hear a shot fired." I appreciate that there has been a great deal of re-equipment during 1959, but the fact remains that our troops are working very closely alongside Dutch and German 901 units which are exceedingly well-equipped. We should do well to remember that and to bear in mind the effect on our forces of these competitive conditions.
Particularly—this is where I go some way towards agreeing with the right hon. Member for Bassetlaw—I should like to see those forces adequately equipped with helicopters. They are expensive things, I know. I am not suggesting this in order to "keep up with the Joneses"—if such a reference is still allowed—or because the Americans are well ahead of us in this field. I am suggesting, it simply because today the helicopter is the staff car; it is the reconnaisance vehicle; it is the delivery van.
Hon. Members may remember that last September—if they were not too preoccupied at the time—an exercise took place on Salisbury Plain for the Strategic Reserve. The exercise was called "Red Banner". The Press was there and counted the helicopters and commented unfavourably. I believe that on that occasion the criticism by the Press was a fair one. Admittedly there is mention of helicopters on another page of this Report, but I should like to see more of them in practice and not just in print.
So much for equipment. There is a further factor affecting closely the morale of our forces in Germany. That is provision of married quarters, in sufficient numbers and in the right places. It is true that we used to be very comfortably supplied in that respect. The trouble began when we had to redeploy to make room for the coming into being of the new German Army. Then we had to pack our bags, leave our billets, and move out into the street. We are still on the waiting lists. There again, there has been some slight improvement, and I shall not linger on the point, but I am confident that when the Minister really probes it he will find there is substance to it.
One final point on our troops in Germany. We have to remember that our forces are there in an operational rôle. The significance of this is that what we may choose to call "civilianization" cannot proceed at the same pace or to the same extent there as it does here at home. The result is that our administrative manpower in Germany is thin. We are well below strength in the jobs which 902 at home are done by civilians. The result is that we have skilled men, fighting troops, who are having to be used in communications, in paperwork and in potato-peeling. I ask the Minister to bear in mind these brief points on equipment and married quarters, which so directly concern the morale of our troops and the administrative manpower situation, which I think is far from satisfactory.
Next, I wish to add a word on the subject of mobility, which is mentioned on page 10 of the Report. It is, of course, an axiom that the smaller one's forces are the greater must be their mobility. These three nicely phrased paragraphs in the Report make it appear quite a straightforward problem—a few more Britannias in the air and we are home but, in practice, I believe the Minister will find this problem of mobility more complex than anything with which he met in the Ministry of Transport. There is strategic mobility for which the Britannias admittedly are very well suited—that is, when we want to move troops, say, 5,000 miles—but we all realise that when they get to their destination they might be still hundreds of miles from the scene of action. Then it is that tactical mobility comes in and the Argosies have to take over.
As far as I know, that machine will be quite adequate. On the battlefield itself, I am glad to read, we are to have the Rotodyne. That is an admirably conceived, integrated air transport plan. I welcome it, but mobility is intricate because it involves all three Services, because it involves so many incalculables, because it involves, maybe, in this changing world, the impermanence of our bases in Aden, Kenya, Singapore, Cyprus and other places. Mobility is intricate because such a fine assessment has to be made of the optimum range of these transport aircraft. If trouble were to arise, perhaps in the African Continent, who is to say which of the other African States will allow us to overfly them? If there were problems for the Minister with the flyover at Chiswick, I should say that those problems were as nothing compared with the problem of moving our troops swiftly to the scene of trouble.
As for the Commando carrier, "Bulwark", all credit to those responsible. It is a very fine achievement. I 903 think it most encouraging. I am glad in addition to learn from what he said today that the Minister realises that it takes two to do this job. We must have one in the Far East, but certainly another somewhere South of Suez, in the neighbourhood of the Arabian Peninsula.
I will say no more than this: I welcome this emphasis on mobility, although I believe that to implement it will be no easy matter. It is as important as it is difficult. I believe, however, that the Minister's previous experience will qualify him to grapple with it successfully.
May I say a word about the Report as a whole? As a newcomer to the debate I feel rather as if I were attending a shareholders' meeting. We have the annual report, the White Paper, in our hands. The board of directors on the front bench have been obliged by the calendar to put something in print.
§ Mr. Hamilton
I have a feeling that a few people have been sitting around, sucking their pencils and wondering how to fill the pages. Admittedly, it is a brief report. We are glad to learn from it that there are to be two new schools in Aden, that we are to have improved accommodation in Libya this year, and that in the year under review four additional ladies have joined the Women's Royal Army Corps (Army Emergency Reserve). I wish them a very happy military career. I do not wish to decry this information. It is all very interesting and very valuable as far as it goes. After all, the five-year plan 'was thoroughly thrashed out here, I understand, in 1957 and it is claimed that this is no more than an interim report.
The Government's broad defence policy has undergone no major change. Moreover, nothing has happened to prove it wrong. The general body of shareholders have confidence in the directorate and, quite rightly, voted them back into office in the autumn. But I sense in the report a certain reluctance by the Minister to publish at all. After all, the plan, a very sound plan, was approved here three years ago. 904 He has inherited it, but he has also inherited the perhaps questionable custom of reporting on its progress each year. I am not at all sure whom this custom is designed to help. I am not at all sure that it is not rather unsettling.
In saying this, I am advancing no criticism of the Minister, for I believe that he has a success story to tell and that it should be told. I believe that the easing of tension in the last year or two is in large measure due to the efficacy of our defence policy. I believe that this five-year plan has been vindicated and that it has given a sense of security and stability to those in our Armed Forces. I believe that it has made a significant contribution to the existence of military stalemate which, after all, is an essential prerequisite to any talks on disarmament.
But if I am right, then this report is curiously diffident. I accept that different people do things in different ways. The right hon. Member for Bassetlaw quoted Mr. Khrushchev who, last month, described Soviet military power as possessing such means of warfare and such fire power as no other army has ever had. We in this country do things rather differently. I appreciate that it is not our custom to use superlatives. Instead, we can go to Her Majesty's Stationery Office, pay 1s. and read Cmnd. 952.
Nevertheless, I should have liked to see more space in the report devoted to the nuclear deterrent. If our defences are strong, and I believe they are, then surely we should say so. I am not asking that we should be taken into the laboratory, but I believe that security considerations can be overdone. Peace today rests on the certain knowledge on all sides that no worthwhile alternative exists. It may sometimes appear that the truth can be harmful to a cause, but I believe that in the long run it is the decisive weapon, and it is not a secret weapon.
I should also like to see more space in the report devoted to the cost, and in a more readily digestible form. The right hon. Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown) suggested that. It is right that hon. Members on both sides of the House should concern themselves with the question of cost. I should like to see, perhaps in tabloid form, the 905 encouraging way in which our defence expenditure is absorbing a decreasing proportion of our national income. This is far more encouraging than the position was in this respect, say, ten years ago. The Minister referred to this in his speech. I should like to see it in the report.
I do not like to see the Minister of Defence put on the defensive by having to sustain what is only a rather moderate report. I feel it is too full of uncalled-for explanation. Surely nobody believes today that we can get defence on the cheap. Nobody in these times will expect the defence policy to be inflexible. Nobody would expect a defence policy worthy of the name to be rigid and without these so-called "shifts of emphasis".
Next year the Minister may decide that yet another interim report is unnecessary. If he does, many of us will respect that decision. But if it is decided to produce a further White Paper I hope that it will more nearly reflect that phrase, "Publish and be damned". That phrase was credited to a man who gave much time here in former days to our problems of military defence. He is also credited with a second phrase, "There is no mistake, there has been no mistake and there shall be no mistake". That, I believe, is the position today.
§ 6.58 p.m.
§ Mr. George Wigg (Dudley)
It is my privilege to congratulate the hon. Member for Wellingborough (Mr. M. Hamilton) on his maiden speech. I well remember fourteen years ago making my maiden speech in a defence debate, and I should very much like to think that I was as lucid and provocative as he has been. We certainly hope that we shall have the opportunity of hearing him frequently in our debates. The next time he speaks, if he follows the theme which he has adopted today, I am certain that hon. Members, if not on his own Front Bench, certainly on this side of the House, will want to reply to him.
Having congratulated him, may I also congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on becoming Minister of Defence, although when one congratulates any right hon. Member from any part of the House on occupying that position, it savours a little of the sardonic. As it is 906 probably the only kind thing I shall ever say to him, I should like to say it now. I congratulate him but I hope very much—and I am going straight into one of the criticisms—that he and I will not misunderstand each other.
This afternoon, I asked a serious question about the establishment of the armoured and infantry battalions in general. I thought that he was a little slick when he started to ascribe to me a change of front. May I tell him, here and now, that I have not changed my views about defence. I have not changed my views about the Government's policy, but I differ from my own Front Bench and I think that it is time the position was made clear. I do not feel that the Government's nuclear policy is either vacillating or confusing, it is clear and utterly wrong. Therefore, I propose tomorrow night to abstain from voting on the amendment put down by my right hon. Friends and I shall vote against the Government Motion. I propose to tell the House why during the course of my speech.
I want tonight to turn to two other points of criticism of the right hon. Gentleman, savoured with a little advice. My first point of difference with him was when I read in HANSARD that he had come to the House of Commons and said, after a speech made by General Cowley, that he had taken steps to see that General Cowley would never make that speech again. I say to him that as Minister of Defence he has enormous power, but he is not Secretary of State for War, and the discipline of the Army is derived from the Army Act and from the Sovereign through the Army Council. The responsibility for the discipline of the Army does not rest with the right hon. Gentleman, and he is taking a very backward step indeed when he warns senior officers that they must neither think nor say anything except those things which are acceptable to him.
§ The Secretary of State for War (Mr. Christopher Soames
§ Mr. Wigg
The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War shakes his head. This is what is implicit in what was said by General Cowley. I do not know General Cowley and I have never had the opportunity of meeting him, but I am sure that he is an honourable and able officer. One can form a pretty 907 shrewd idea of what happened. As a senior officer, he had read the highly intelligent appreciations of our defence position, which were circulating in the upper reaches of the Ministry of Defence and the War Office.
General Cowley was asked to give a lecture to the Royal United Service Institution, as many famous soldiers, sailors and airmen and civilians have lectured at that Institution. For perfectly good reasons, he gave a lecture based upon those appreciations. When it was published the effect on the then Minister of Defence was quite devastating. The Minister of Defence, now Minister of Civil Aviation, wanted his head for it. Indeed, I understand that it was touch and go whether he became an M.G.O. I congratulate the Secretary of State for War on his courage in standing up for General Cowley.
What was General Cowley saying? He was saying just what I am saying, and what every competent observer of the defence situation since 1957 has been saying: that the Government have their priorities wrong. Let me make it perfectly plain that in adding my name to the Amendment on the Order Paper in the name of my right hon. Friend the Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell), to leave out from House to the end and to add:deplores a defence policy based upon a nuclear strategy which, since 1951, has involved an expenditure of over thirteen thousand million pounds, which proposes to continue such expenditure at an even greater rate, and which affords to Her Majesty's subjects no effective defence".I realised that there are many hon. Members on both sides who would not go the whole way with me. But we all have a common interest: we are parents and some of us have the privilege to be grandparents. We have a hope of survival; and we believe that the defence policies followed by both Front Benches can lead only to disaster.
The time has come not to turn round, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Bellenger) said, and unilaterally walk away from nuclear arms, but to recognise what nuclear arms there are. If there is an effective deterrent in this country, all right; but I do not think there is. Britain and the whole of Western Europe lives under the 908 umbrella of the protection offered by the strategic air command. When the radar warning system at Fylingdales is erected it will be part of the warning system of the strategic air command. I think that we are following desperately dangerous policies from every point of view if we delude ourselves into thinking that we possess weapons which in fact we do not possess.
I cherish those little utterances and publications which are made from time to time and I file them away. I have several which I have brought with me this evening. Let me give a good example. Just a year ago, when the Prime Minister was on the eve of going to Moscow, the then Minister of Defence who is now Minister of Civil Aviation called a Press conference. In accordance with namby-pamby traditions, the Press had stressed the fact that the Minister of Defence had not done the talking—as in fact he had. The heading in the Evening News of Tuesday, 10th February was:Blue Streak Wins. Go-Ahead for 3,000 mile Missile. … Now Macmillan will talk from strength.It said:The Blue Streak which can be developed for space exploration … adds up to the fact that when Mr. Macmillan goes to Moscow next week he will be table to talk to the Soviet leaders from a position of impressive strength.That was a year ago. Every newspaper of the next day carried exactly the same story. No one on our Front Bench pointed out this particular piece of nonsense. Indeed, had one got up and said it he would not have got very far. It was a fact to Britain that we had found the absolute weapon. The Blue Streak a year ago was "in" We were told that the Polaris was out.
What happened in 1957? My right hon. Friend this afternoon was absolutely right. The villain of all this, using the word "villain" in a stage sense, is the Prime Minister. In 1956 he made a speech—a pipe-dream—in which he said "Cut defence by £700 million. We are carrying two rifles instead of one." So when he became Prime Minister, quite rightly and properly, he asked the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carshalton (Mr. Head) to become Minister of Defence. He, I say this to his very great honour, refused. I had 909 my differences with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carshalton. I thought that his short-term, three-year policy was wrong. He and I have said hard things to each other. He is not here today. There is no hon. Member in any part of the House whom I respect more than the right hon. Gentleman. He had the courage and integrity to refuse high office because he knew that the policy will not be carried through.
The right hon. Gentleman the present Minister of Civil Aviation became Minister of Defence. I am not attacking his integrity. I think that he is an obstinate man and that occasionally he has been a little stupid. I have said that. I think that today I was not alone in thinking that, because when the present Minister of Defence paid his tribute to the great service which the right hon. Gentleman had rendered to defence, one could have heard a pin drop—the silence in all quarters of the House was positively deafening.
Let us see what the right hon. Gentleman did. He got rid of National Service. Of course, that found support on this side of the House. I have said, and I repeat again now, that if this country finds itself now or in the future in a position of mortal danger, if ever there comes a threat of the use of nuclear power on Great Britain, the responsibility for it lies on right hon. and hon. Gentlemen in all parts of the House who refused to face up to the implications of our defence contribution in the modern world, and opted out. Those who speak in favour of a nuclear deterrent may think that they are strong men and that they live on a diet of boiled nails. What they have done is to choose a soft and dishonest option.
I will deal first with the manpower question. The Secretary of State for War is more concerned with this problem than any other of his defence colleagues, because above all in the Army manpower is his raw commodity, much more so than in the other two Services. We begin now to get a picture. We are now two years away from the ending of National Service. We begin now to see what it means in effect. I managed to get in on the defence debate on the Consolidated Fund (Appropriation) Bill last July. I spoke for only a short time. I did not mention defence. Hon. and gallant Gentlemen opposite thought 910 that by some means I was being overwhelmed by the recruiting figures. They thought that recruiting had so improved that my views had changed. This is not so.
Before the Defence White Paper of 1957 was issued I wrote an article. No one would publish it. I do not blame anyone for that. I was asked if I would allow it to be published in Peace News. I did not take any money for it. I am not a Pacifist. I will repeat what I said then:The object of the Government's manpower policy … will in the future let the rundown go on until it reaches a total of about 400,000, made up as follows: Navy, 80,000 to 90,000; Royal Air Force, 110,000 to 120,000; Army, 200,000".I continued:Although the Navy and possibly the Royal Air Force may be able to recruit sufficient Regulars, it is my conviction that when the rundown reaches 400,000 there will still be a gap between the total number of Regulars in the Army and the minimum strength compatible with its commitment. I believe that gap may be very difficult, if not impossible, to bridge".I wrote that in March, 1957, before the 1957 White Paper was published. It was true then and it is true now.
I read the 1960 White Paper with some interest. Three years after I made my prediction in 1957 the Government come to the House of Commons and say that they hope to get 400,000. Therefore, it was not a bad guess of mine. Right hon. and hon. Gentlemen should note that the figure of 400,000 is the first open admission by the Government that they will not get their manpower ceilings. The original figure was 375,000. Although I asked the Minister of Defence on many occasions to break that figure down for the three Services, he refused to do so. In the White Paper a year ago the figures were 88,000 for the Navy, 135,000 for the Royal Air Force and 165,000 for the Army, making a total of 388,000. Last year the Minister of Defence announced that, because of the recruiting figures, he was increasing the figure for the Army from 165,000 to 180,000. Therefore, the total required to give the three Services the minimum they want is 403,000, and the Minister now says that the Government will not even reach 400,000.
I will take this a little further and take the story back to the time of the right hon. Member for Carshalton. If it 911 comes to accepting his word against the word of the late Minister of Defence and—may I say it with respect—the present Minister of Defence, I say frankly that I shall take the word of the right hon. Member for Carshalton, because he has nothing to hide. On 28th July, 1958, the right hon. Gentleman said that his estimate was that we should want 45,000 in Germany. We now know that, because of political pressures from Dr. Adenauer and from S.H.A.P.E., the figure is now 55,000. We know also that the Minister of Defence has said—he said it in the debate last year—that we need 70,000 for our strategic reserve and our overseas commitments. Seventy thousand and 55,000 make 125,000. We need at least 25,000 in the pipeline, and any hon. Gentleman with any staff experience knows that that is putting the figure on the low side. That 25,000 is for recruits and for those who are non-effectives, either because they are at the termination of their engagement or in hospital. That brings the figure up from 125,000 to 150,000.
Now I take the figure of the right hon. Member for Carshalton. He said that 70,000 would be needed for staff, for the workshops and for home commands. Turning to his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War, he offered to bet him that the figure of 70,000 was right. Therefore, we have a figure of 220,000 men who are required. That is on the basis of the evidence given us, first by the Minister of Defence and then by the right hon. Member for Carshalton.
It is an extraordinary thing that that was not the first time we heard the figure of 220,000. The right hon. Member for Carshalton in the speech to which I am referring said that as Secretary of State for War he had set up a committee in the War Office. No sooner had the committee been set up than every journalist in Fleet Street knew all about it. That committee reported what it wanted for the Army, and it wanted 220,000.
Last year we saw some signs of dissent from the present Minister of Aviation on that figure. The reason for that was quite simple. Subsequently a further exercise was done and by taking certain risks the figure was whittled down to 200,000.
912 The picture before us now is this. Forty-nine battalions of infantry do the work which was done by 128 battalions before the war. I will give all hon. Gentlemen a specimen of what passes through military thinking, as was expressed by the Minister of Defence this afternoon. Did hon. Gentlemen hear the right hon. Gentleman tell us about all the stations that British troops occupy at present? Were not they thrilled? Did not they almost go outside the Chamber and want to sing "Rule Britannia" when they heard that we had troops stationed in the Caribbean, in Nassau, in British Honduras and British Guiana? Hon. Gentlemen may be interested to know that in each of those places we have one company of the Royal Hampshire Regiment. Would the right hon. Gentleman care to deny that? We have one company in each.
§ Mr. Wigg
I am obliged to my hon. Friend, because I might have forgotten that. A year ago when the 15,000 increase was announced we were told that it was to be split up and that the establishment of infantry battalions which was, and still is, 635 was to be increased to 800. That is why I asked the Minister of Defence this afternoon what establishment the infantry battalions in Germany were. I will tell the right hon. Gentleman that they are at the lower establishment.
The hon. Member for Wellingborough spoke much more to the point than he knew. He said that in Germany we have no services. Of course we have no services. Why are we organised into seven brigade groups? That is because they are teeth units. One can take three battalions and it looks a lot better if one breaks them up into teeth units. There is no secret about this. It was announced in 1957. A specimen of the breakdown was published in the memorandum of the Secretary of State for War last year.
I could carry on with this subject for a long time, but there is one thing in which I was proved right. As I was proved right over the three-year engagement, so I have been proved right over this. I am not clairvoyant. This is not psychological perception. It is simply the head of an old soldier. When he 913 adds 2 and 2 together he calls it 4. He does not call it 5 because it is politically convenient to do so. That is the recipe for this, and this game has gone on on both sides of the House.
Let me give an example—and I am glad that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Strachey) is here, because we have had one or two examples from him. We had one example that I thought was devilish—and that is the word I use. I refer to the three battalions in Berlin. My right hon. Friend wanted them to defend themselves against two Russian divisions. That is what he argued in 1957, and if he wants to deny it, he can.
I had the experience last year, in company with my right hon. Friend the Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell) of sitting in a pine forest outside Berlin. We were visiting East Berlin troops. Quite by accident we ran into a real party, attended by Marshall Pengteh-Luai, Chinese Minister of Defence and Deputy Prime Minister. He had a real party with him. Let no one tell me that behind the Iron Curtain they do not have "brass-hats". The "brass-hats" really had turned up. What they said on Germany sent a shiver down my spine, remembering, as I did, those three battalions. They said that an attack on Berlin, an attack on East Germany, would be regarded as an attack on China. I wonder what they did in Peking when they heard what the right hon. Gentleman had to say.
If it had been put into effect, what was to happen in Hong Kong? I might say that I have a family interest there, and I am one of those who support defence. I have a nephew, a Regular N.C.O., serving in my regiment in Hong Kong. The thought came to me, "I won't play politics with other men's lives, even when it's politically convenient."
Let us come to 1958. What did the right hon. Gentleman do a year ago? All the theories had changed then. For the purpose of dodging the realities of the situation he still wanted to pretend that the West was capable of taking on the Russians. Therefore, he and his advisers had invented a theory called the one-in-three theory. That theory said that provided one could show that the defence was approximately in the 914 proportion of one-in-three, everything was all right. That meant, "The Russians have 100 divisions, so the West has to have about 33 divisions."
If the right hon. Gentleman cares to look up the speech he made in the defence debate last year, he will find that, without contradiction—unfortunately, I did not get called, or I would have remedied that—he asserted that there were 28½ divisions in N.A.T.O. Would he care to contradict that now, and to say that there are? Of course he would not. There are not 28½ divisions in N.A.T.O.—the target was 22. There are 15—and the 5 German divisions and the 1 Dutch division to make up the strength are nowhere up to strength. However, that does not matter, apparently; one has the proportion right, so just invent it, and make it 28½.
That would be all right if politics were still a game and the country's defences and its capacity were such that we could afford to do this and get away with it, but I do not think that we can. My only reason for coming here and speaking as I do, forcing the Government to have a defence debate when they do not want one, because they say there are no votes in it, is that I think it essential that our people should know what is going on. They must know what they are paying for, what they are getting, and what the Government are up to.
There is another little illustration. I remember only too well speaking here in a debate on 31st July, 1956—the year before it was fashionable to oppose Suez. I opposed Suez, because I knew that it was not a starter, and I said so. I said that when I heard the cheers on both sides of the House in favour of strong action on Suez, I had an almost uncontrollable desire to be sick, because there was not a single swept-wing fighter squadron in the Middle East. The facts proved me right.
There is a little quotation that I would like to read from an American paper—though it does not hit the light of day here. It states Nasser's opinion:I never thought the British would use force. I have very good intelligence. I knew they weren't ready.In that same speech in July, 1956, I had pointed out that a very famous regiment, the 2nd Battalion, the Grenadier Guards, had been stationed in Suez, but 915 was 300 below strength. That information came from the Household Brigade Magazine, which underlined that fact. Yet we all pat ourselves on the back. We have got rid of National Service and, scattered all over the world, we have a litter of under-strength units. The House may one day appeal for strong action and, once again, British soldiers will be asked to pay with their lives because politicians have not the guts to face the truth of the situation. That is the stark truth.
We are getting rid of National Service and hon. Gentlemen can be proud of that if they like. I would much sooner tell people the truth, quite honestly, or join my hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) and go pacifist, rather than that we should be bellicose and pretend we are patriotic, and then run away from our commitments and obligations.
I want to say a word about Sir Anthony Eden's memoirs "Full Circle", published today. It is rather striking that his opinion of the right hon. Member for Carshalton should be something like my own. Sir Anthony says:I have no doubt"—speaking of the right hon. Member for Carshalton:that he would have proved to be the best Minister of Defence this country has had since the close of the war, had he been continued in office after I resigned.That is praise, indeed. But talk of stabs in the back—that was a little hot. Let us look at who the Ministers of Defence have been. We have had the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill), the present Foreign Secretary, Lord Monckton, Field Marshal Lord Alexander and, last but not least, the Prime Minister himself. That means that Sir Anthony has taken the opportunity of saying what he thinks of the Government's present defence policy. Indeed, it is what any hon. Gentleman must think about our defence policy.
I have talked about men. I have made it perfectly clear to those who have eyes to see that the present White Paper will prove beyond any shadow of a doubt that we shall not get our 403,000 men, that, in any case, even the 403,000 is not enough—
§ Mr. Watkinson
Perhaps I may interrupt the hon. Gentleman for just a moment. If he reads the White Paper rather carefully he will see that all that paragraph 19 shows is that if one takes the arithmetical progression forward on the 1959 rate the strength of the Armed Forces will be a little under 400,000. But it does not say what they will be; it merely gives the arithmetical progression.
§ Mr. Wigg
The right hon. Gentleman does not give me credit for charity. I have accepted the arithmetical progression forward on the recruiting figures, but the latest are for January, and if the recruiting figures do not go up in January, all I can say is "God help us". Of course, they have gone up to January, but in actual fact all that the recruiting figures have done is what all recruiting figures do, and that is to borrow strength from the future. Of course, the figures have gone up, but even if the arithmetical progression forward works out, the Minister will still not get his 403,000. Even if he did, we know, on the evidence of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carshalton, that he would still not have sufficient men. He will not be able to increase his establishment, and cannot face up to things as they will then be.
That is not all. I have dealt with men—let me now deal with equipment. We heard from the Minister today that if we have small forces we must have the best possible equipment. I certainly do not dissent from that, but let us see what we have.
I have here an official document which contains the comments of a senior officer at the War Office. Brigadier Fernyhough, the Director of Ammunition and Stores. I will read an extract:The equipment to fight a war exists in the form of War Reserves. Unfortunately, at present we have no plan, and therefore no War Reserve to implement it. This needs some explanation. Plans have been forwarded. But in the strictly practical sense a plan is no more than a piece of paper or an attitude of mind unless it can be translated physically into the stores, vehicles and ammunition necessary for it execution. This has not yet happened.For several years, no decision has been made by the Ministry of Defence and the Treasury which will enable equipment to be bought to bring our limited War Reserves up to the level necessary to implement the latest tactical and strategic doctrine. It follows that the means to fight a limited war are confined to 917 what can be retained from the residue of an incomplete re-equipment programme which was stopped several years ago. This process is officially known as 'living on our fat'. We are not even supposed to make up deficiencies in unit war equipments from maintenance as this would mean earlier buying for peace maintenance. All operations including Suez have had to be equipped by improvisation using out-of-date, incomplete mobilisation packs and feverishly making scale issues from stores left over from the last war. In relation to its small size and large commitments, the British Army must be one of the worst equipped in the world. Yet the Treasury continues to urge us, with loud cries, to avoid over-insurance. It is rather like advising a starving man to avoid over-eating.Later he refers to the Suez operation. I must tell hon. Members that he refers to the pround name of "Musketeer" and thinks it would have been far better if it had been called "Per ardua ad hoc".
I do not dissent from that point of view. Here we have the evidence, first from the then Minister of Defence and the right hon. Member for Carshalton, on manpower, and now from the Director of Ammunition and Stores on the equipment of the Army. Let us take the matter further. We were told in May, 1957, by the then Secretary of State for War:We have under development an anti-tank guided weapon which should, if all goes well, remove the heavy tank from the battlefield."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 14th May, 1957; Vol. 570, c. 229.]This is why I laughed a little this afternoon when the right hon. Gentleman spoke about our successful heavy tank. A year ago, we were told—here I quote from Flight of 5th September, 1958—Fairey Aviation have been permitted to state that they are the contractors for the anti-tank guided weapons for the British Army first announced in the House of Commons in May, 1957. The Secretary of State for War then said"—then we have the words I have already quoted about our havingunder development an anti-tank guided weapon which should, if all goes well, remove the heavy tank from the battlefield.That weapon is still not with us, and, of course, we shall never hear any more about it.
Now let us bring the argument a little more up to date. In 1957, it was said that we must get rid of National Service. Today, we are told that quality is the thing which matters for the best equipped Army in the world. We were to have no 918 more V-bombers and no more fighters, we should have Blue Streak, that wonderful anti-tank weapon, and all the rest. This is the kind of statement which hon. Members are asked to accept and which, with unfailing regularity, they do accept.
I have here the Air Estimates for 1960. I will quote from paragraph 10—if the right hon. Gentleman had read this out this afternoon, he would have received loud cheers—The Mark 2 Vulcans and Victors will be capable of carrying both free-falling and 'stand-off' nuclear weapons.That statement is an admirable one. The only trouble is that we have no Mark 2 Vulcans and no Mark 2 Victors and we have no stand off weapons. Allowing for that, the statement is quite right.
I noticed that there was no sub-title to the Defence White paper this year. In previous years, we have had such titles as, "Report on Defence—Britain's contribution to peace and security." I thought that it was a strange omission. When the right hon. Gentleman was reminiscing my mind went back to days forty years ago when I used to sit in the barrack room—no money in my pocket and no coal in the fire; we had burnt everything we could lay our hands on—and someone would say, "If only we had some eggs, we could have eggs and bacon, if we had some bacon". That is fitting comment on the White Paper. That is all it is—sales talk, in every particular.
Let us look now at the weapon which is dear to the hearts of all politicians, the absolute weapon, the thing which brings us to the point where someone can sit in the Ministry of Defence, just press the button, and that is the end of everything. On 10th February last year, the Minister of Defence told the assembled Press correspondents that we were going ahead with Blue Streak and in The Times of the next day it was said:Certainly it sounds as if someone is determined to have a land-based Blue Streak deterrent".We were told in the course of the announcement that Blue Streak would go underground; it would go into a silo. Here again, this is the sort of thing which satisfies the primeval instinct in man. Anyone who has served in the infantry knows that he always likes to try to get his head down; he feels safer that way, 919 even if he is not. Therefore, if you put the thing into a hole in the ground it ought to be better.
But I ask the House to think of what it has cost. This little bill so far—here I rely on evidence which has appeared in the Press which I am not myself able to check—for developing Blue Streak and the associated weapons comes to £600 million.
§ Mr. Wigg
I hear the right hon. Gentleman say "Nonsense". I am not referring to the one weapon, of course, because he intends to stop it, but the whole effort to secure an absolute weapon, the press-button weapon, has cost us not much less than £600 million. If the facts are different, the right hon. Gentleman can tell us how much. This does not give anything away which should be subject to security. At any rate, it has cost a vast sum of money.
Of course, it is possible to gain more information from American sources than British sources on some of these things. In the United States, something was thought theoretically possible as far back as 1957. When the Americans fired Minuteman, which was a solid fuel rocket, from a silo, the whole shooting-match collapsed. Old Joshua was right. Sound does destroy. Make enough decibels and the vibration is such that the whole thing collapses.
A year ago, the Minister of Defence could not say to the House of Commons that he had abandoned Blue Streak. If he had, what would have been the position? We had, on paper at least, got rid of National Service. All our Services were starved. We were faced with a vista of under-equipped units. We had no successor to the V-bomber, and we had nothing to put in its place. What is interesting is that both the Minister and my right hon. Friend have spoken today about Polaris. We are going into the submarine business now. Having failed with a hole in the ground, we are now going to try a hole in the water.
Let us come back to the evidence. This is not what I say but what the Minister of Defence said a year ago. Speaking of Polaris at a Press conference on 10th February last year, he said—according to The Times—that 920It would be extremely costly. It was unlikely to remain undetectable, and its movements could be closely watched by an enemy.This year, hon. Members are asked to forget the arguments advanced by the Minister of Defence a year ago, because they were then politically expedient, and now they are asked to accept that we are getting rid of Blue Streak and intend to fall back on Polaris.
There is not any dispute between me and the Government Front Bench or with the Opposition Front Bench about our weakening our defence. I am more committed this year than ever before to the need for defence. I shall not weary the House with my very good personal reasons, but that is a fact. What I shall not be party to any more is a refusal to face the facts because it is not politically expedient.
The right hon. Gentleman had about as bad a Press for his Defence White Paper as it is possible for a Minister to get. That is tough luck on him. If he wants to work his passage, it is very simple. He should start to face the truth, then he can face the future.
Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman noticed that one of the best leading articles was in the Financial Times the last sentence of which states:… we should leave to General de Gaulle the fatuous search for national prestige through the belated and technically inferior production of weapons that belong in the arsenals of powers richer than ourselves".We want to serve the cause of Western democracy. If we are to provide a defence which is adequate both from the point of view of global warfare and from the point of view of making a contribution to the stability of the Commonwealth, the first thing that we must do is find the will. The greatest contribution that we can make is to inspire the other democracies in Western Europe with a determination to make the sacrifices which are necessary to provide a defence that is viable.
I remember going with my right hon. Friend the Member for Easington to Brussels in 1951, when S.H.A.P.E. was born. There was then talk about 90 divisions in Europe. We have never yet had twenty. We are not in sight of twenty divisions. If we had thirty divisions in Europe which were viable and which had the reserves and equipment which are essential, we should not be talking 921 the nonsense that we are talking about nuclear deterrents.
We have our Vulcans, our Victors and various other items of equipment. I certainly do not advocate throwing them into the sea, but what I do advocate is this. If the Minister of Defence wants £1,700 million to build up his reserves, he should not, as an afterthought, cut back his Defence Estimates to £1,620 million. He should face the House of Commons with the truth. When he reaches the point, which he will reach, of becoming convinced that it is not possible to carry the commitments which the Army is asked to carry on the basis of the establishment, then he should come to the House of Commons and tell the truth. If he thinks that we are a pusillanimous and ignorant lot, he should remember one very simple thing, namely, that when the British people have been told the truth they have never run away from their obligations, nor from their duty.
§ 7.44 p.m.
§ Mr. Nigel Birch (Flint, West)
The hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) said that he will not vote for the Opposition's Amendment. That is one thing on which we are agreed, because I shall not vote for it, either. However, there are other points of agreement between us which I hope to bring up in my speech which I shall try to make a little shorter than that of the hon. Member.
I do not quarrel with this year's increase in the Estimates. If Service Ministers look at what is going on elsewhere, they may well be astonished at their own moderation. Nor have hon. Members opposite any right to quarrel with the amount. They made the atom bomb. They wanted us to have the H-bomb. They wanted an independent deterrent and the means to carry it. They wanted tactical nuclear weapons, highly paid Regular forces and mobility. All these things are extremely expensive. It is not much good complaining when the bills come in for what one has asked for. It is then too late.
While I do not quarrel with the total amount, I have some doubts whether the expenditure is laid out to the best advantage. One thing about which I am certain, however, is this. Our defence policy, once again, is in the position in which it has been most of the 922 time under both parties ever since hon. Members opposite started rearming in the late 'forties—that is to say, it is bursting at the seams. There are more plans and projects afoot than possibly can be carried through within any reasonable defence ceiling.
In the White Paper, apart from anything else, there are projects for 11 different types of missile and 12 different types of aeroplane. If these projects are carried through, it will be impossible to have significant quantities of any of the weapons. We therefore run the risk, not only of wasting money and scarce skills, but, at the end of the day, of being weak everywhere and effective nowhere.
If I am right, what should guide us in the readjustment of our policy? As the House knows, in the balance between nuclear and conventional weapons, I have, like the hon. Member for Dudley, always leaned to the side of conventional weapons. While saying this, I must make it clear that I think that a Western deterrent is absolutely vital. We must play our part. We must give facilities to the Americans and we ought to do everything we conceivably can to push on with the Fylingdales project. Without that, the American deterrent would cease to be credible in a short time. Anyone who suggests that that is not so is, I believe, guilty of treason to the alliance. I can use no weaker words.
In this balance, I think that the first thing about which we should be clear is that in our relations with Russia everything depends on the alliance. Here, I should like to quote with approval a few sentences of what the Minister of Aviation said when he was Minister of Defence on 26th February, 1958:With the increase in the power and range of modern weapons, no country can any longer defend itself in isolation. The conception of separate national defence has been almost wholly replaced by that of collective security organised through a system of alliances."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 26th February, 1958; Vol. 583, c. 386.]As I say, for the big picture, that is obviously true. What we must decide is how best to arrange our affairs so that we can make the most useful contribution to the alliance, of which we are a part, and also have the right sort of arms for our own more particular though 923 desperately important interests—the Commonwealth and our friends all over the world. I do not believe that those two interests conflict.
First, let me say a few words about the alliance. Of what is the alliance short? I do not think that it can be said that the alliance is short of nuclear weapons. If the Americans are not surprised, they can over-hit Russia. They have a vast quantity of nuclear weapons. I agree with many hon. Members that where the alliance is short is in conventional forces. I have never believed that the Russians were in the slightest degree likely to start a all-out nuclear attack. Nor do I think that they are the least likely to advance 200 divisions up into Europe, the sort of attack envisaged in the 1958 White Paper. What we shall get, and have been getting all over the world, is the indirect attack, probably not involving one Russian soldier—internal subversion, or the production of a situation which, though highly damaging, does not affect our vital interests.
Subversion, the indirect threat, such circumstances may be productive of such a situation where, if one has not sufficient conventional forces, there are only two things one can do—have a nuclear war or give in, and with the certainty that, if one gives in, the circumstances will be reproduced again, all over the world, so that, gradually, one's strength and moral influence will seep away.
Some people have said, notably the right hon. Gentleman for Belper (Mr. G. Brown), that we can make up for our shortage of conventional arms by the use of tactical nuclear weapons. I have often heard the right hon. Member for Belper say that. When I have heard it I have often thought of some lines of Belloc:Whatever happens we have got,The maxim gun and they have not.But the trouble is that they have got the maxim gun.
If there are two gangs and one is armed with bicycle chains and the other is not the gang with the bicycle chains can afford some numerical inferiority, but if both gangs have bicycle chains the situation is as it was before—the advantage lies with the gang with the greater numbers. I am told that today 924 the best judges believe that in a battle in which both sides are armed with nuclear weapons the side with the greater numbers will have an even greater advantage than usual, for the simple reason that the casualties on both sides will be so high.
Then some people say, "We are short of conventional weapons. We agree that tactical nuclear weapons cannot make up for that, but what about our prestige, what about our influence? Have we, in fact, increased our prestige, increased our influence, by doing away with conscription, by running down our conventional forces and substituting for them and building up our own nuclear deterrent?" I do not believe that we have. I do not believe that that is true. I believe that it is the exact opposite of the truth. I myself believe that our influence in the alliance will vary in proportion as we are able to supply to that alliance what the alliance really wants and needs.
In any case—and this is the real burden of what I wanted to say to the House—is it really possible for us to make our own national deterrent credible on our own? The other day the Foreign Secretary, winding up the foreign affairs debate, was talking about the position of Germany in the context of the old Europe. In the old Europe, over the last four or five hundred years, there has been a continual struggle for hegemony, made the more bitter because hegemony in Europe meant the mastery of the world.
There was Spain under Charles V and Philip II, France under Louis XIV and Napoleon, Germany under William II and Hitler. But is that any longer the reality? Does power really reside any longer in Western Europe? The great military power now resides in America and in Russia, not only because they have the numbers and the wealth, but, perhaps more important in modern conditions, because they have the great advantages of distance and dispersion.
How can we on our own, in a country like all the other old European countries, "cabin'd, cribb'd, confin'd", in a small space, and not as part of an alliance, contemplate using such a weapon as the great deterrent? It seems to me nonsense. Think for a moment of yourself perhaps sitting at the Cabinet table in 10 Downing Street and saying, 925 "Shall we do this on our own in the certainty that not only shall we be destroyed, but that the cause for which we are fighting will be lost?" It is not possible; and the impossible is not done.
If we want, as the hon. Gentleman the Member for Dudley said just now, a real illustration, then is not the detonation by the French of their atomic device in the Sahara the final reductio ad absurdum? So much for the independent deterrent. Take part with allies, but do not use it alone.
Turning to our own particular interest, what have been the weapons used by the ideologies in this great struggle. Surely, they have not been nuclear weapons. A nuclear weapon has not been set off in anger since Hiroshima. The weapons used have been money and conventional arms, money to lend and invest all over the world. That is for another debate, but, of course, it has a reference to our spending on armaments.
Conventional arms have settled many things. Conventional arms ended French influence in South East Asia. Conventional arms have kept Malaya free. Conventional arms have kept Hungary slave. And so it has been and will go on being. We have great responsibilities not only to the Commonwealth, but to friends all over the world with whom we are allied and to whom it is vital that we should be able to bring timely assistance if they ask for it, and that can be done only by conventional arms.
Have we got enough? I do not speak with the certainty of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Dudley, who, I am sure, could inform the Adjutant-General of the strength and distribution of his forces at any time. I have not the hon. Gentleman's information. Have we got enough? I do not know, but I entirely agree with what my right hon. Friend the Member for Carshalton (Mr. Head) said—I suppose it was two years ago—that he deeply regretted that we had not left the legal framework in being so that we could institute selective service if it were necessary to do so. I have always regretted that we did not do it. But there it is.
I absolutely agree that we must keep our forces in N.A.T.O. I meant to say that earlier. I absolutely agree about that, but, of course, the real difficulty is to keep our forces in N.A.T.O. and have 926 some reserve without conscription. I do not think that it lies in the mouth of anybody who forced the abolition of conscription and did everything he could to "scrub it", now to complain we have insufficient men. That is not consistent.
In our recruiting I suspect that the key difficulty will be recruiting for the administrative services of the Army. I hope that we shall not have too much nonsense about the teeth and the tail. I do not think that the British people have entered any conflict where the length of the tail was too great in proportion to the teeth. It is not a British vice. As conventional weapons get more complex, and fire power increases, clearly the sharper the teeth the longer the tail must be.
That is all I wanted to say. What is the conclusion of the matter? The non-nuclear club is no answer. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Belper raised that again today. There might have been something in it if, either just before or just after Lord Attlee detonated his first atomic weapon, he had started it, but he did not. I think that before, or just after, we detonated our first hydrogen bomb, it was possible. That was, just conceivably possible. But the Labour Party was all in favour of our having the hydrogen bomb. Why did the Labour Party take up the non-nuclear club? It was because of a hostile vote in a union, and that hostile vote took place because certain Right-wing members of the union were sunbathing. Suddenly to change the policy in these grave matters for such a reason seems to me to show a levity which is almost obscene. The non-nuclear club is out.
Nor do I think that we should leave the nuclear club. We have a part to play, and to opt out of it now would cause confusion and weakness at a critical time. However, we ought to be perfectly clear that anything we do with nuclear weapons is done as part of an alliance and never in our purely national interests. That means that Blue Streak should be cancelled forthwith—it will be out of date long before it is in—and it also means that if we are to go on with a deterrent on a mobile platform, either a submarine or an aircraft, we must do it in full partnership with the Americans and not try to struggle years behind at vast expense, as we have so often done.
927 My right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence has not given us many of his private thoughts and views. I think that he is right not to do so. He has not had time yet. However, he has a flexible mind. He does not see everything as black and white. He does not look forward only to total peace or total war. I believe that he will, after deep thinking, decide on certain variations in our present policy. I believe that he has the ability to discharge his great office with credit, and I pray that he will be granted every success.
§ 8.2 p.m.
§ Mr. Harold Davies (Leek)
The House has listened to an interesting debate on defence. To deal with topics which are different, I do not intend completely to take up the points made by the right hon. Member for Flint, West (Mr. Birch), but there are some things which we should consider. The right hon. Gentleman, who at one time had certain responsibilities, has suggested that we should attach ourselves to N.A.T.O. The loyalty all the time, however, seems to be on our side, on the side of Britain.
There are some questions which we should ask. I do not entirely agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg). He has done his arithmetic and has been correct in his analysis of the troops and of the danger of following a policy or strategy which depends on the nuclear deterrent—and that I agree with. But we have not had from either side of the House the answer to the arithmetic and to these arguments.
We now have what is called a White Paper on Defence. It is not a White Paper on Defence. The first axiom of the House of Commons since the discovery of the atom bomb and the hydrogen bomb has been that no longer should the White Paper which is presented each year be called a White Paper on Defence.
I should like to trespass a long while on the time of the House, as my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley did, but it would be unfair. I shall try to concertina my remarks into a short period and to touch upon one or two fresh points. I may irritate one or two 928 hon. Members, but I hope that they will not interrupt me.
My first point is that to call the White Paper a White Paper on Defence is a complete misnomer. I can quote the speech made last night by the Secretary of State for War. Both sides of the House of Commons had better get this clear. I am not joining in this lie. I can be as self-righteous as anybody else. To call the document a White Paper on Defence is a lie to the British public. The Secretary of State for War, in effect, said, "There is no defence. My purpose is solely to build up a deterrent, because we know that if there is a war it will only bring destruction, and complete destruction, to our own country." That is the point of the report of what he said at Folkestone yesterday, as reported in The Guardian today. We have reached a pitch, therefore, where to call the document a White Paper on the Defence of Britain is a complete misnomer, because in the nuclear age there is no defence.
My next point is about the United States. The other day I asked the Admiralty what negotiations had been taking place about submarine bases here. If any nation could claim that it has not space for military activities, such as Dr. Adenauer is claiming in respect of Germany, surely it is the poor little British nation. On the Norfolk coast we have much less area than Germany has, and yet that is the only part of Britain which, according to the 1958 White Paper and the speech of the previous Minister of Defence at Canberra, we intend to defend, because no other part can be defended.
The House of Commons ought to know today whether there is any truth in the leak in the Press that negotiations have been taking place with the Americans for submarine bases in Britain for the use of Polaris. Also, there is a Motion on the Order Paper in the names of right hon. and hon. Friends of mine claiming that, in any case, the public have been misled in respect of the money which has been spent in that we have insufficient conventional troops and no means of delivering nuclear weapons if we are to possess them.
While we are in this position we see the Germans negotiating for bases in 929 Spain. I am not being bludgeoned any more by any party into voting for the nuclear rearmament of the German people. The greatest tragedy in the history of Western Europe was that the British Labour Party voted for German rearmament. I went to France a week later and was at the French Social Democrat secret meeting, and the answer that I got from our opposite numbers in France was, "You voted for German rearmament. If you had not done so, we should not." The reward that we have got for trying to place the German nation in the same position as ourselves today is that since they think they are free—it is not the German people, who want peace as much as anyone else in the world; it is the leadership—the leadership is forcing the pace. So we have the present situation in West Europe.
The defence and foreign affairs policy laid down by the Labour Party, at its conference in 1958, was to try to build a security system for Europe, bringing together the Warsaw and N.A.T.O. forces. I invite hon. Members to read the American military security programme and the speech of President Eisenhower to Congress last year. What are the figures revealed? President Eisenhower revealed to the American people that the allies have spent six times more on N.A.T.O. than the Americans have, that the American military security programme has employed 600,000 farm and factory workers and that for every dollar spent on aid, military and economic, the United States get 80 cents spent in the United States and 50 per cent. of the goods are carried on American ships. The United States have thereby been able to spend £7 billion worth of surplus agricultural goods. Some hon. Members opposite guffawed when I said earlier that it is time somebody spoke for Britain. What I meant was that it is time we had a policy which would show our independence. We are being forced along by the frenetic fears of American militarism at present.
§ Commander J. W. Maitland (Horncastle)
Then why did the Americans have an adverse balance of payments?
§ Mr. Davies
The allies have spent six times more than the United States in N.A.T.O. It is no use the hon. and gallant Gentleman shaking his head. 930 These are facts, placed before Congress this year, and I can give chapter and verse for my figures. It is time that any British Government tried to take a policy independent from that of the United States, and that has not been done.
Our foreign policy and defence have become completely mixed. It is ridiculous to talk of the integration of defence when there are two economic systems in Europe—the Six and the Outer Seven. We cannot separate the economy of Europe from defence. The "Sixes and Sevens" are quarrelling, yet we expect to have unity in N.A.T.O. General de Gaulle carries on despite the 49 or 50 votes against him. We have a complete contradiction inside the supposed allied unity in Europe, and the British public are all the time "carrying the can".
We are now to put up this ridiculous machine, costing £40 million, pointing the wrong way—because, like Singapore, we shall be attacked from behind. Is this lunacy to go on much longer? The farmers in my constituency are receiving a booklet called "Civil Defence for the Farmer". I will sit down after this, because the sheer idiocy of most of the language in the House today makes me think that the world is on the point of suicide.
This booklet contains such headings as, "Has Fall-Out Any Effects on Breeding?" It refers to the need for a shelter in the cowshed and points out that every two days the cows will be in pain and will need to be milked. Has fall-out any effect on breeding? Oh, yes; we are told that calves might be abnormal, or that the beast will be sterile and that it would be dangerous to eat the meat. But if one is very hungry and is in this cupboard in the cowshed for a fortnight there may be some eggs and a little meat, some parts of which are not affected. The booklet points out that there will be warning, so that enough water should be taken into the cabin. We have just been through our driest summer for many years. I had to ring up the fire brigade to bring water to my farmers. Now they are told to store up enough water unaffected by radiation.
When will somebody break the situation? One hon. Member has said that 931 he believes that Russia will not make a major effort to attack us. Field Marshal Montgomery has said the same. I am asking the people to risk something. If there is war, this island will be a radioactive incinerator. If we have arms, and war breaks out, Britain is finished. Cannot we give a lead to the world, which needs courage as much as massive rearmament? It can be done.
Some day, in the near future, the British people will put into power a Government—I do not know what its politics will be—prepared to take that moral risk for the future of mankind. All these documents, all this White Paper on Defence, are a complete lie before man and God, and as far as I am concerned, in my own name, if not my party's name, I will not have anything to do with the idiocy that I have heard in this House on defence in the atomic age.
§ 8.14 p.m.
§ Brigadier Sir Otho Prior-Palmer (Worthing)
I cannot follow the hon. Member for Leek (Mr. Harold Davies) too deeply in his somewhat varied arguments. I thought that at one moment he was arguing that we should "go it alone" in our armaments, without America, and that, later, he advocated total disarmament. How any hon. Member can do that after what we saw at the beginning of the last war, I do not know. Disarmament was advocated by hon. Gentlemen opposite before that war, and we had to send men into battle ill-equipped.
§ Sir O. Prior-Palmer
There is only one thing the Russians understand and that is strength. We all know the hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Zilliacus), who shouts "Nonsense". We all know where his sympathies lie. I do not know why he does not join the Labour Party.
§ Mr. Swingler
I was saying "Nonsense" because the hon. and gallant Gentleman is once again spreading the untruth that the Labour Party, in the 1930s, voted for disarmament. That is 932 quite untrue. Again and again Labour Party spokesmen expressed the party's support for collective security and the party's preparedness to vote for arms for collective security. That was done again and again, but this distortion is still spread.
§ Mr. Geoffrey de Freitas (Lincoln)
Will the hon. and gallant Gentleman withdraw what he has just said? He made a very serious allegation against the second party in the State.
§ Sir O. Prior-Palmer
Hon. Gentlemen opposite voted against the Service Estimates, against conscription, and sent one of their chief leaders to Swathling to try to stop the men from working on Spitfires. They turned over a big Conservative majority in East Fulham against the Government on this issue and got in on that. What was that except preaching disarmament all through those years before the war? I heard those speeches—
§ Mr. S. Silverman
I happened to be in the House throughout the years now being discussed, the middle 1930's and 1935 onwards. The hon. and gallant Gentleman is right in one respect. It is true that the Labour Party in those days voted against all the Service Estimates. During the same period we voted against all the Education Estimates, all the Health Estimates, all the Labour Estimates—in fact, the Estimates of every Government Department. We did it with a set purpose—because that was the constitutional and traditional method by which Government policy on the subject could be attacked. When we voted against the Minister of Labour we did not mean that the unemployed were not to get the dole next Friday.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Major Sir William Anstruther-Gray)
I hope that the hon. Gentleman the Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman) will remember that he is making an intervention in the speech of another Member.
§ Mr. Silverman
I apologise if I have abused the courtesy of the hon. and gallant Gentleman, but he was making a serious allegation against a whole party in an historical context of the greatest 933 importance. I am sure that, now he understands what did happen, he will have the grace to withdraw the accusation.
§ Sir O. Prior-Palmer
I have not the slightest intention of withdrawing. I can quote figure after figure. It is absolutely true. I shall not withdraw one single word.
§ Sir O. Prior-Palmer
Hon. Members should realise what our men were fighting with as a result of what had been done.
§ Sir O. Prior-Palmer
No, I cannot give way any more. I am merely replying to the pacifist nonsense spoken by the hon. Member for Leek—the sort of nonsense which resulted in the death of many very gallant men.
It is too much to ask the Minister of Defence, who has been in office only four months, to make any major changes in his policy. What I want him to do, as I am sure he is doing, is to have a hard and long look at the legacy left to him by his predecessor. There are one or two detailed aspects of the White Paper and some larger aspects to which I want to refer.
My right hon. Friend has boasted of the production of the new battle tank. This is a very fine weapon, but I hope that it will be the last of the conventional tanks. The time has now come when we have to find a different type of tank for a different rôle. The tank is no longer an anti-tank gun, but a weapon which is and should be used in its original rôle, infantry destruction. I hope that there is research into a new, light, mobile type of tank which is easily airborne.
The career structure affects the Army more than the other Services. As a result, I hope, of a little advocacy on my part and by others, during the past year we have managed to get a complete revi- 934 sion of the career structure for officers, in that we managed to persuade majors who were not recommended for promotion to retire. We gave them an incentive to go and that gave an incentive to bright young officers who could see promotion ahead. It also helped in the recruiting of officers.
I hope that I shall be contradicted, but there appears to be a retrograde step in the White Paper, for officers are now to be allowed to stay on until they are 60. They can retire at 38 if they wish, but I am not sure that it should not be compulsory for a man who has no future in the Service to retire while there is still time for him to get a good job in civilian life, so that he will not clutter up promotion and prevent bright young men getting to the top. I cannot think of anything more distressing to young men, and worse for the character and personality of officers, than for a man to know that for another twenty years he will remain a major and have a dull, sedentary job.
I am delighted that warlike stores are to be taken over by the War Office. I have been advocating that for years. I have one reservation. The Admiralty knows how to deal with these things and with the Treasury officials in the Admiralty. I only hope and pray that the dead hand of Treasury control inside the War Office will not nullify the advantage now to be reached.
§ Sir O. Prior-Palmer
I have given way five times. Time is going. I must finish my speech.
I now come to one of the most important topics in the White Paper. For what they are worth, I want to give my views about Blue Streak. What I have to say is not something new. This is not something which I have thought up in the last five minutes. I have said this in the House in debates of this kind for the last five years. I have always said that a static deterrent weapon is not the weapon for the future. Over and over again I have said that if we are to have 935 one of these weapons—and I shall not argue that now—it must be mobile.
The reason is very simple. Whereas, in the old days, a nation fighting on interior lines of communication was supposed to have an advantage, as did the Germans in both world wars, with the advent of nuclear weapons nations fighting on the periphery, with exterior lines of communication, now have the advantage, while the disadvantage is with those nations with interior lines of communication. That advantage is completely nullified if deterrent weapons are static. That is why at this very minute a large proportion of the Strategic Air Command bomber force is in the air—so that it cannot be annihilated or destroyed in one stroke. With that goes the other advantage of dispersion.
In all defence planning, it is not a question of what would happen if a thermonuclear war broke out. We all know that that would be the ashes of the earth. The point is—and this must be stressed over and over again—that if the Russians know that they will suffer such devastation that practically all their cities will be wiped out within 1¼ hours of their taking any thermonuclear action they will not take it. That has kept the peace of the world for ten years and it will continue to keep the peace.
§ Sir O. Prior-Palmer
It must be borne in mind that it is not a question of abolishing this or that weapon, but a question of preventing war, of abolishing war once and for all. All war is horrible. It is only a question of degree. It is only because these new weapons will kill more people in one go that nuclear war is that much more horrible. But I can assure hon. Members—and many have seen it for themselves—that it is just as horrible to be fried inside a tank. It is a question not of abolishing weapons, but of abolishing war and that can be achieved only with a proper disarmament agreement with proper, uninhibited facilities for inspection of all countries. We must keep up our guard and make it certain to any potential aggressor that it is not worth while pulling the trigger.
936 This country has a very big task, and there is no other country in the Western Alliance with a similar task. It has to be prepared for three different contingencies. We have to have the deterrent to prevent a global war. I suggest to my right hon. Friend the Member for Flint, West (Mr. Birch) that I have never heard anyone advocating that we should "go it alone" with our own nuclear weapons. He put up a ninepin and knocked it down. Our own thermonuclear weapon is part and parcel of the integrated deterrent of the Western Alliance. It must be regarded in that light and not considered in any other.
§ Mr. Austen Albu (Edmonton)
Is it not a fact that our possession of a nuclear weapon has always been stated as being necessary in case the Americans were unwilling to take action in the event of aggression against us, in which case it was presumed that we would have to take action on our own?
§ Sir O. Prior-Palmer
I do not agree that that has been the official attitude of the Government, although it may have been stated by others. Our possession of the weapon is part and parcel of the integrated deterrent of the Western Alliance in which it is necessary that we should play our part.
Another commitment is in the event of a limited war. This country is in a position to have more influence than any other in more parts of the world where a limited war is likely to break out. That is something for which we have to prepare more than we are now doing. It is vitally important that we should be able to move our strategic reserve to parts of the world where it can be used effectively, with heavy arms, tanks and guns, if necessary.
This is by no means an easy problem. I and others have done as much as we can to try to persuade our friends in N.A.T.O. and in Europe to realise that the day may well come when there is an extreme emergency in some part of the world so that our troops would have to be used in the limited war rôle, and, perfectly legitimately, taken out of the Brussels Treaty arrangements to do so.
Meanwhile, we have our own strategic reserve for use in that contingency. It is vital that it should be moved at speed. I am a little optimistic about the airlift. 937 We are not as badly off for aeroplanes for lifting troops as some people try to make out. What worries me is the necessity to man, maintain, and stockpile dumps in various parts of the world to which troops will be flown. Most of these dumps and stockpiles are in countries where nationalism, quite rightly and legitimately, is beginning to show.
I do not believe that we can rely on keeping those bases for any length of time unless they are on friendly territories bound to us by treaty, such as Turkey. I believe that they are a hostage to fortune. I am, therefore, delighted to see that at last—and I have been saying this for three years—we are to have a Commando Carrier. We must proceed step by step towards floating bases. We must have floating bases not only for commandos, and a helicopter or two, but for tank workshops, ammunition stores, and everything that is required for a small integrated force. That is the object towards which we should move, and I am grateful for the first step that has been taken towards achieving it.
I hope that we can be certain of the site situation. It may be that to start with we shall be allowed to stay in an area, but who is to say that the people in charge now will be in charge of political life in Cyprus in five or ten years? Who can say that precisely the same thing may not happen in Cyprus as happened with the Suez Canal? The agreement was straightforward and troops moved out of Cairo into the Suez base. There was no reason to suppose that they would have to move out altogether. Eventually, however, they did. There is no reason to suppose that a new leader may not spring up in Cyprus, and that eventually we may have to get out of there. I would be far happier to see all the money that is being spent on that base being spent on the development of a floating base, or on the development of a base on the mainland of Turkey, which is an ally in our North Atlantic Treaty Alliance.
Bush warfare is our third commitment and we must cater for it in places like Malaya and Kenya. It is 100 per cent. possible, and it has been done, to fly out troops properly and completely equipped for that kind of warfare, but it is done too late. Action for that kind of war 938 should be taken well in advance. There must be proper police action, and not the kind we have heard of recently. This is a matter for the Colonial Office and the Foreign Office. They must not ignore the reports of their accredited agents in various areas of the countries concerned and throw those reports into the wastepaper basket. They must accept these reports, and act on them immediately. That is not what happened with Mau Mau. The district officers were sending in reports one and a half years before the Mau Mau trouble broke out and nobody took any notice of them. We must be completely and adequately prepared for putting out a fire before it gets out of hand.
In my capacity as Defence Chairman of the N.A.T.O. Parliamentarians Conference I shall bring this forward. It has been brought up many times and at the last conference a strong resolution was passed unanimously by the committee of 16 nations, including the French, that there were two weaknesses in Europe. First, there is no integrated air defence in Europe. As we know, the French have been a little difficult over this. They have been sticking their toes in and preventing it happening. Having seen the way in which the North American air defence system is integrated between Canada and America under one command, and the way in which all those forces act as one unit with their early warning system stretching right across the north coast of Canada and down to the Pacific, it is now accepted that that is what we should have in Europe.
The French delegation of nine or ten Members of Parliament—and some of them were de Gaullists—were so impressed by that system that we were able to get through the strongest possible resolution to the Council of N.A.T.O. that something must be done. I see from Press reports today that there is a ray of hope. I hope that my right hon. Friend will press this when he goes to the N.A.T.O. Defence Ministers' conference at the end of the month. I believe that there is a compromise on which the French will agree. The door is slightly open, and we must shove it wide open, go through, and get this done at the earliest possible moment.
I know that standardisation presents difficulties. I know how difficult it is to 939 get factories in various countries to rejig and retool their factories and standardise screw threads. It is no good crying for the moon, because one will never get it, but there are other ways of achieving what is necessary, and I suggest to my right hon. Friend that he should take a leaf out of the infrastructure system for Europe. That system has complete integration and standardisation and can be applied to the mobile aspect of European defence. It will not be difficult to do that. It could be taken over lock, stock and barrel and applied here. It is not just a question of having the same rifle or the same aircraft as the other man. Incidentally, I do not know why we have to go for the Malkara anti-tank guided weapon when the French have a perfectly good one.
Are we justified in incurring this great expense for a guided anti-tank weapon? How many rounds a minute can it get off? How long does it take to reload? It is all right for knocking out one tank. If, as I saw for myself, a National Service man with not much service can get into a Centurion tank and fire off 16 rounds in 48 seconds, knocking out 12 tanks with the first 12 rounds and two more with the others, it is not bad going, and I very much doubt whether any guided missile or similar weapon could do anything like as well as that. I hope that this point will be carefully considered. A ground-to-air guided weapon is another matter, but for a tank on the ground, when all that can be seen is the top of a turret, or nothing at all if it is properly camouflaged, I doubt whether the money is being wisely spent.
The problem is the standardisation of the whole of the rear organisation and supply system of the various armies comprising the European contingent in Europe. There are different supply systems, and different organisations behind each of the various armies. What will happen if a corps or two divisions are moved from the south to the north? There will be chaos. We must get this straight. Let us have a conference and get it done at the earliest possible moment.
When he goes to the meeting of the Defence Ministers of N.A.T.O., at the end of this month, will my right hon. Friend please consider the question of the boundaries of command within the 940 N.A.T.O. structure, especially in the Danish area and in the Straits of Gibraltar? He has only to look at those lines on the map to see that they make absolute nonsense. I hope that something will be done about them. It is up to him to get together with the other Defence Ministers so that pressure can be brought to bear upon the Foreign Secretaries at the Council.
Another big question is: what are those 600 Russian submarines for? Some people imagine that they are there to starve this island out in the event of a global conventional war, but I find that very difficult to believe. I cannot see such an eventuality occurring. Are they there to outflank N.A.T.O.—to act as a counter-blast to the strategic bomber force? Are they there so that, one day, Russia may face the West with an ultimatum to the effect that she has 150 submarines lying on the bottom of the sea off the east coast of America, all armed with thermonuclear weapons and capable of firing them from the bottom without being detected, and that unless something is done those weapons will be fired?
I cannot begin to answer the question why they are there, but I know that it is utterly wrong that Commander-in-Chief Atlantic should have inadequate forces to deal with them, and I am certain that our contribution towards dealing with them is not as great as it should be. Any commander in the Atlantic would welcome more helicopters, antisubmarine submarines, and all the other new devices that go with the detection of the submarine.
Finally, I do not believe that 7½ per cent. of our gross national product is too much to ask the country to pay for its security, having regard to the increase in our national income.
§ 8.41 p.m.
§ Mr. J. Grimond (Orkney and Shetland)
I served under the hon. and gallant Member for Worthing (Sir O. Prior-Palmer) during the war, and I have served opposite him in this House. He is a great expert on defence, and I will touch upon a few of the things he said during the course of my speech, but there are three matters upon which I wish to comment straight away.
First, I was extremely glad to hear him say that he is against the establishment 941 of fixed nuclear weapons in this country. Secondly, I was also glad to hear him say that he is against the setting up of bases in countries whose future is uncertain, which bases often become hostages, and seem ultimately to dictate policy rather than serve it. Thirdly, it is possible that we sometimes over-estimate the Machiavellian intentions of the Russians. It is possible that this enormous submarine programme is a hangover from Stalinism. There is a good deal of evidence to show that Stalin never believed in a nuclear war, but liked the good, old-fashioned type of conventional war, and that this programme was merely allowed to run on. I do not know whether that is true, but it is possible.
The more that one reads about or takes part in discussions on defence the more one realises that it is like philosophy. Its language is becoming ever more technical and obscure. It is fairly easy to attack any system of defence but it is difficult to defend it. I would say that all defence policies are wrong, but some are wronger than others, and one of the wrongest is that of the Government.
I agree that the Western Alliance as a whole must possess an adequate deterrent, and also that that deterrent must be provided by all the weapons available and not merely the long-range nuclear deterrent. Nevertheless, there is no reason why Britain should make and possess her own nuclear weapons for this purpose. Both the hon. and gallant Member for Worthing and the right hon. Member for Flint, West (Mr. Birch) seemed to be arguing that we must have a separate deterrent but must never use it except within the scope of the alliance. I thought that one of the main arguments for a separate deterrent was that we might need it if other members of the alliance did not want to use a deterrent and we did.
I find it difficult to see what purpose we should serve by maintaining a deterrent under other conditions, especially if, as the right hon. Member for Flint, West tells us, the Blue Streak, which is the chosen instrument of the Government, is no good and should be given up. If the Western Alliance can be relied upon it is sufficient if, within it, there is a deterrent. At the moment that deterrent is held by the Americans.
942 The Minister of Defence used a revealing simile about the position of the Americans and ourselves in this matter when he spoke of the enormous number of nuclear weapons possessed by the Americans and how some of them were rushing down the course while others were breeding and others were in the stable, and so forth. The right hon. Gentleman said that out of all of those we had to pick one little foal, or perhaps not even a foal, perhaps something yet unborn, and to put our money on that.
This seems to be the dilemma of this country and to my mind highlights what is the difficulty of trying to maintain one little nuclear deterrent. The last Minister of Defence assured us on 26th February, 1959, that there was no chance that the Americans would in fact back down and desert us. He said:The United States has given categorical assurances that she will regard an attack upon any N.A.T.O. country as an attack upon herself and will come to its aid with all necessary force. Her Majesty's Government place complete reliance upon these solemn undertakings."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 26th February, 1959; Vol. 600, c. 1418.]I notice that the Army League, in a document published recently, also concluded that we would not fight a major war against the Communists without the United States as Allies. I should have thought that was enough and that if these statements are to be believed, as I think they are, the possession by the United States of the deterrent was sufficient.
In the meanwhile the argument against the concentration by Britain on nuclear arms seems to me to become more and more widely accepted. We have heard powerful arguments against it today. It is more than doubtful that such arms would deter the Russians by themselves or that they add significantly to the power held by America.
If we get into the realms of biological and space warfare the likelihood of an efficient British deterrent seems to me still more remote. In a defence debate we are arguing about what the defence situation should be two or three years hence, or that is what we should be arguing about. For the next few years there are the weapons we have, together with the weapons which Defence Ministers consider we are going to get, but a great 943 many of those have been no more than a gleam in the eye of various Defence Ministers—they have never been brought to birth.
The V-bomber force is in being, and if it has a stand-off bomb no doubt it is a good weapon if it exists. But it will become less effective, and now we have these powerful arguments against the Blue Streak—that it is very large and difficult to load quickly with liquid fuel, that it cannot be moved and it may be too vulnerable. It may well be that it is, in modern language, a highly sophisticated weapon, and that it has in its nose instruments to enable it to do the sort of things which the shell in Mr. Bateman's cartoons during the First World War was capable of doing, such as pursuing bicyclists round trees. But if it proves impossible to get the missile off the ground it will not be much good. The Minister himself has told us that it is becoming more doubtful whether we shall not have to pin our faith on a mobile weapon. In fact our deterrent is, and will be, largely in the realm of hope rather than reality.
I do not know what warning we are likely to get of a Russian attack. There have been the discussions over the warning systems to be built at Fylingdales and the most optimistic rumour appears to be that there will be a warning period of about fifteen minutes. There are the attempts by the Germans to get greater death in defence and the advantage which we are told by the Government that the mobile missile carrying submarine will give us. Both these are attempts to gain time as well as space. This seems to me to make it less credible that an effective deterrent can be based on Britain alone, or if it can, that there will be any political control of it. Within the time envisaged I do not see how there could be any political discussion about whether or not the deterrent should be used.
A further disadvantage of the present policy of acquiring our own nuclear weapon is that it encourages other countries to do the same thing. That has not been mentioned in this debate, but it has caused a lot of anxiety. We know that there are eleven other countries besides Britain and France who are probably capable of making a 944 nuclear weapon. I find that prospect frightening and I should have thought that some form of control must be arranged.
There are those who think that the more countries which hold nuclear weapons the greater security there will be. I cannot share that view. I am glad to say that I do not think the Minister does either, because at the beginning of his speech he said that the objectives of the Government's policy were disarmament and deterrence. The type of war he seemed afraid of was one which might start almost by inadvertence through people making a miscalculation. If nuclear weapons spread into more and more hands there would be a greater danger of someone making a miscalculation and it would divert more and more energy from peaceful to warlike purposes. Would anyone sleep more soundly in his bed if Colonel Nasser or the Israelis had nuclear weapons?
As to the cost of maintaining a separate deterrent, the Minister is quite justified in saying that as a proportion of our national product the amount spent on defence is not so big as some people think, but, if we take into account the amount spent on research which goes into the deterrent as well as its actual development, the percentage of the defence budget for these purposes must be something between 15 per cent. and 30 per cent.
§ Mr. Watkinson
Did I understand the hon. Member to say that the actual deterrent cost 15 per cent. to 30 per cent.?
§ Mr. Grimond
No, I said that, taking into account the research, the whole of the nuclear weapon programme research and development—it is extremely difficult to say how one allocates it—is 15 per cent. to 30 per cent.
§ Mr. Grimond
Also, by the time it is completed, if it ever is completed, the Blue Streak programme will have cost something like £500 million. What seems alarming is not so much the present costs but, if we are to attempt to "keep up with the Joneses"—a fashionable phrase this week—we shall have to go in for submarine-based nuclear weapons and it will become more 945 and more expensive. I should have thought we should face a very steep increase in costs if we kept on this course.
In the meantime, as the hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) said, our conventional forces are under strength, short of modern weapons and certainly not mobile enough. I should have thought that the total cost of a deterrent would not be £100 million extra, but would ultimately perhaps double the defence budget. It would become a strain on our resources and leave much less for other purposes, such as aiding under-developed countries.
I do not deny that we could do this. Of course, we could if it were absolutely essential, but is it essential and would it be useful? I do not think it would be. As competition between East and West turns to trade and aid rather than to war, as the danger of war if it exists seems to lie in the Far East and the Middle East rather than in Europe, we are unwise to go on with this expensive policy. I do not believe anyone can really think that nuclear weapons will be what we want if there is trouble in the Far East or the Middle East.
Surely the priorities point elsewhere and it is those priorities that we have to get right.
I want to talk only about N.A.T.O. In N.A.T.O. we should turn our attention to conventional weapons. As the Minister said, it is vital to be able to fight a conventional war so as to give a breathing space before anyone attempts, if they ever do attempt, to use nuclear weapons. For those purposes, we ought to ensure that N.A.T.O. troops are armed with conventional weapons. The aim at the moment, I understand, is 30 divisions and we probably have the equivalent of 21 divisions on paper. But they are very under strength. It has been suggested, by Liddell Hart among others, that we can even do with fewer than thirty if they are really mobile and backed by local militias. If we really put our backs into it and mean business, we can build up N.A.T.O. to become a reasonably reliable shield with conventional weapons.
So far, we have not made much effort to do this. I do not think that the fault is ours alone; it is a fault belonging to the whole of N.A.T.O. The N.A.T.O. 946 forces must be well armed and they must be mobile. If we look again at the Report of the Army Study Group, we see that it came to the conclusion that it is unlikely that the British Army will ever use atomic weapons except in alliance with the Americans. I think that that is true and that it re-emphasises the need for conventional weapons.
I have another comment to make about N.A.T.O. As much unity of purpose as possible must be injected into the alliance. It seems to me that the controversy about German bases in Spain has highlighted the suspicions that exist in N.A.T.O. We have made up our minds, for better or for worse, that Germany is to be part of the N.A.T.O. alliance. I am bound to say that she is not the first nation which has embarrased her neighbours within the alliance, nor is she the first nation to have bases in Spain. I believe that we ought quickly to learn the lesson of the German fiasco and to tighten, as far as we can, the means of consultation and the political control in N.A.T.O. Certainly the British Government must take their share of the blame for some of the disunity in Europe. It is now very much in our interests to break down these divisions and to solve some of the military and economic difficulties of the present situation.
This situation is that, for better or worse, we and the French are becoming what we might call associate members of the nuclear club. There is undoubtedly a fresh situation, and I do not deny that in this situation it may be difficult to resist the demands for a deterrent in addition to the American deterrent. It therefore seems to me that, given the present situation, there is something to be said for having nuclear weapons of various sizes under N.A.T.O. control, as argued so well by Mr. Buchan. If that were done, to my mind these weapons should certainly be in separate units under the direct control of the Supreme Commander.
I know that there are at least two very serious difficulties, and probably many more, in this suggestion. The first question which arises is this: would such a deterrent as this be credible? We all accept that to be a deterrent, it must be believed in by the enemy. General Gallois has suggested that only weapons 947 held by nations are credible, but I do not think that the credibility of the deterrent depends on the certainty of its being used. It depends on the possibility of is being used. I believe that there would be a possibility of a N.A.T.O. deterrent being used, and that that is enough. I do not think that the Russians could ignore it. Furthermore, the power of the N.A.T.O. deterrent would be very much greater than many smaller deterrents held by different countries.
A second great difficulty about my suggestion is political. Who would exercise control and how would they do it? I do not deny that this is an extremely formidable difficulty. But the question of the political control of nuclear weapons arises in any event, because I do not think that anyone doubts that if any country begins using nuclear weapons in a major war, it will probably lead us step by step until we are all involved in full-scale nuclear war. If any country starts on the nuclear path to war, therefore, it may well be condemning all its fellows to destruction—the political decisions involved in embarking on this course are very difficult to envisage.
The N.A.T.O. weapons, in the near future, would have to be American weapons but the existence of a deterrent over which European countries had some control might satisfy their ambitions. Together with the growing realisation of the tremendous cost which each country will face to do anything significant in the nuclear arms race it might persuade the French, and other countries who may be thinking of following our footsteps, from such policies. It would be valuable if we could give some lead in that direction.
Further, if we have a N.A.T.O. deterrent there will surely be more elbow room. We should have the possibility, which the Minister mentioned, of mobility on sea, land, canals or railway systems, and we should get some of the depth which is obviously essential. It would certainly lead to a more united N.A.T.O., although it would mean individual members of N.A.T.O. giving up more sovereignty than they have showed themselves so far willing to give up.
I do not believe that it is essential to have a N.A.T.O deterrent, but I ask 948 the Government to consider whether this suggestion is not at least a possible answer to the present difficulties. I think that we must find an alternative to the 1957 policy. There may be other ways of stopping the proliferation of these nuclear weapons. If there are, by all means, let the Government propose them. What is clear, at any rate, is that an adequate defence policy needs more room and more money than any single nation can provide.
British policy, for better or for worse, has attracted in this country a very wide spectrum of dissent. Distinguished soldiers and sailors and airmen are on record against it, as are the Observer, the Guardian the Economist and, as far as one can see, The Times and the Financial Times. I entirely agree that this is the most difficult Ministry which the Minister has the honour to serve, and his decisions must often be little more than guesses, but I most earnestly ask him to reconsider this policy of holding separate nuclear weapons up to the size of the ultimate deterrent.
It may well be argued that this is not the moment to arm N.A.T.O. just as we are approaching the Summit and just as there are to be talks about disarmament. I fully appreciate that and accept it, but nevertheless, if this is the best, or rather the second-best policy, it should be considered by this country rather than have a great host of nuclear weapons in the hands of different countries.
I believe that the Government must make inter-dependence, which is their own policy, effective in nuclear defence, and I hope that that is one of the objectives within the review which the Minister says he is having carried out and which will determine our future defence plans.
§ 9.1 p.m.
§ Mr. Geoffrey de Freitas (Lincoln)
The hon. Member for Worthing (Sir O. Prior-Palmer) said something at the beginning of his speech, when he lost his temper, which I must correct. He accused the Labour Party of having been a pacifist party. Never in the history of this party has it had a pacifist policy. We have always had in our ranks pacifists whose views we respect and whom 949 we like very much, even those of us who are non-pacifists; but we have never been a pacifist party.
§ Sir O. Prior-Palmer
How can the hon. Gentleman explain the East Fulham by-election, just before the war, which was entirely fought on pacifist principles?
§ Mr. de Freitas
If the hon. Member thinks that, he must have been very much out of touch with politics at that time. I remember the period, although I was not active in politics in those days. It was fought on the whole principle of collective security, which is completely contrary to pacificism. But that is the past and we have to look at the future.
The hon. Member the Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond) quite rightly pointed out that one of the dilemmas which faces us in this country is whether we should conduct ourselves as a great military Power, masters of our own destiny, or whether we must depend for everything on our alliances. The theme which my right hon. Friend the Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown) stressed, when he opened the debate from this side, was this lack of decision, not so much the wrong decisions, though those can be criticised, but the lack of decision in the Government. It arises whether we look at it politically, whether to "go it alone" or be part of an alliance, or whether it is in answering technical questions. Here is lack of decision as to what we should use to carry the ultimate deterrent after the mid-'sixties.
Taking the first lack of decision, we have lip-service about the alliance, about interdependence, but there is Suez and the 1957 White Paper. In all these incidents the Government behaved as if we were masters of our own destiny. What results flow from the problem which the Government have created themselves? Our old wartime allies, such as the Netherlands and Belgium, were seriously frightened when the 1957 White Paper came out and they found there a great change in our attitude to defence on the Continent.
Now we have our new ally, Germany, encouraged to "go it alone", in Spain. We do not know what the story which eventually comes out will prove, but it already proves one thing. In this, I agree with the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland. It proves that the Government have a very great deal to do in 950 N.A.T.O. to tighten up political control. It must be recognised that we are in an alliance and we must all play our part in that alliance.
The second lack of decision which my right hon. Friend mentioned is in deciding what should be used to carry the ultimate deterrent. There is a formidable deterrent today. I did not agree with the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland when he talked about maintaining our little nuclear deterrent. Two hundred V-bombers with hydrogen bombs is an enormous force, and not many people would question that. The problem is how can we accept a policy which involves having an ultimate deterrent which every year for technical reasons becomes less and less credible.
It is not a new problem. For several years we have known that the replacement of the V-bomber—that is, the stage beyond the V-bomber and the stand-off bomb—would be either a fixed missile or a missile fired from a mobile base, whether it is on land or sea or in the air. Eventually, the Government decided on a fixed missile with liquid fuel. Many people did not like that. The Labour Party did not like it, and we said so. However, there was at least a decision.
Today, we are once more suffering from more indecision and more expense. We are told now that there are three candidates for the rôle of preventing the ultimate deterrent from becoming less credible. No wonder the Economist wrote of the Minister of Defence that he must betaking a long hard look at the predicament which the Minister of Aviation left with him.There is no evidence that he is doing much to solve it.
The right hon. Member for Flint, West (Mr. Birch) asked why we in the Labour Party were complaining about the bill. He said that we had asked for a V-bomber force, we had asked for conventional forces, we had asked for mobility, that we had got all those, and, naturally, we had to pay the bill. Our case is that we have the bill, but not the forces we asked for. It is true that we have the V-bombers, but not the other two I mentioned.
Mobility has been stressed by a number of hon. Members. There are questions to be answered. First, is it necessary or wise to rely so much on 951 overseas bases of the traditional kind? Secondly, the question arises whether there should be another Commando carrier. Thirdly, is there enough thinking on tactical mobility?
The first question I pose on mobility is whether it is necessary or wise to rely so much on overseas bases of the traditional kind. Are the Government still at the back of their mind thinking in Victorian terms of bases, imperial cantonments up and down the world? Is it not refuelling bases that we need? What on earth are we doing building the new base in Kenya which has been mentioned?
§ Mr. de Freitas
Cyprus has been discussed a good deal. The same applies to Cyprus, but I mentioned Kenya particularly. In a few years it will be independent. Is there any likelihood that we will be allowed to use the base there as the Government envisage it today?
I have heard it argued that in Malaya, which became independent, we have bases and that we use them as close allies of the local Government. Why is that? Anyone who has visited that part of the world, or who has worked there or studied there knows that the people are all terrified of the Chinese, and welcome allies. They are frightened of the Chinese—not of Communists, but of 600 million Chinese, no matter what their politics. In Kenya, however, there does not seem to be any particular sign of their being frightened of anyone nearby—and certainly not on that scale. They will feel no need of allies.
I have also heard it argued that, somehow, there must be something the other side of Suez, because Suez has gone. I cannot help recalling that a few years ago I wrote to The Times pointing out that Nairobi was further from Suez than is Westminster. I was surprised to get so many letters from retired, distinguished Service men who were amazed at this elementary discovery. Nairobi is not next door, just south of the Red Sea. It is a very long distance away from Suez.
Surely, the argument is that we should concentrate on refuelling bases, and 952 save money and good will by not having these cantonments. With the money saved, we could decide whether we should have another Commando carrier, and then look again at the provision of helicopters and vertical take-off aircraft for the Army. The hon. Member for Wellingborough (Mr. M. Hamilton), in a maiden speech, talked of this from first-hand knowledge.
There is a grave problem here, because there has not been enough thinking on the Army's tactical mobility. It is often said in the West that Army thinking dominates Soviet military thinking to the point where it is most undesirable because it ignores sea power and air power. Here, I believe, the Russians have a point. They have already scored a great success in stressing tactical mobility by helicopter, and I am sure that if there were another local conflict, another Korea, between East and West, the side that was supplied by Russia would be able to strike over a very wide area, completing ignoring the traditional idea of a line of battle.
The Guardian went so far as to say that helicopters, and the way that the Russians were developing them, were a revolution in tactical mobility, a revolution in warfare at least as great as that caused by atomic weapons, with the important additional point that where one is extremely unlikely to be used, this one, if there is any local war, is certain to be used.
Let me summarise my points in this way. More and more, the Army depends for its effectiveness on the transport provided by the other two Services, but neither of the other two Services spends much time thinking about transport problems. They are concerned with their fighting capabilities, and not with their effectiveness as common carriers. They do not like to think of themselves as an airline or shipping company. They do not see that as their rôle. Therefore, the Army must be encouraged to have more of the implements of aerial mobility, and begin by studying what the Russians are doing.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Bellenger) and my hon Friend the Member for Leek (Mr. Harold Davies) mentioned civil defence. The White Paper has, I think, three paragraphs on civil defence. We all 953 know that Civil Defence depends on volunteers, and volunteers, if they are to feel that they are carrying out a noble task in learning how to relieve suffering among survivors on the perimeter of a devastated area—because that is their chief rôle—must be inspired by some form of leadership at the top. There is absolutely nothing of that in these paragraphs. I shall shortly come to the question whether civil defence is needed or not. If it is not needed, let us save the money. If it is needed, let us have some leadership.
My hon. Friend the Member for Leek referred to two documents, though I must say that I draw an entirely different moral from them. In the Report to Congress on Civil Defence in Europe, it is said that one recurrent criticism in civil defence circles in this countryhas been that, while the Government continue to deplore the difficulty of attracting volunteers for civil defence work, they are themselves offering no lead.The Report goes on to say—in case anyone is interested—that Russia has a larger number of people trained in the fundamentals of civil defence than any other country.
My hon. Friend the Member for Leek read extracts from a pamphlet called "Home Defence and the Farmer," and, in the way in which he put them, he attempted to make it look ridiculous. The much more important point is that we are predominantly an industrial country. The Society of Industrial Civil Defence Officers has for years been asking the Home Office for guidance about what should be done in the industrial areas. Again, we have the question whether civil defence is useful there. If it is, they argue, let us do something about it.
What have the Government done? They have produced a pamphlet "Home Defence and the Farmer". That is really no answer to the problems facing an industrial community. No wonder that the respectable Municipal Journal in its last issue, referred to the "remarkable inconsistency" between the £1 million increase for civil defence and the millions to be spent on the warning device in Yorkshire.
In almost its very first words, the White Paper refers tocomprehensive disarmament under proper controls".954 Of course, there are theoretical risks that any disarmament treaty would be evaded. But many hon. Members have said, and all must know, that the risks of evasion must be weighed against the risks of allowing the arms race to continue. There is a risk, of course. There is a risk in the spread of nuclear weapons, or whatever it may be, and it is an increasing risk. I want to know from the Minister of Defence what is the possibility now of a disarmament treaty and I want particularly to know whether he is thinking along the lines which have been indicated by the Foreign Secretary.
A few months ago, the Foreign Secretary told us that he believed that control of the means of delivery was a more practical proposition than the abolition of all nuclear weapons. I share that view. I have always felt that the nuclear disarmament movements and the like have got the problem wrong and have started at the wrong end of the stick. What we should aim at is control of the means of carrying the nuclear device. It is surely clear now to all who have studied the problem that the United Nations inspection teams would find less difficulty in controlling the means of delivery—aircraft, submarines, missiles, and so forth—than in seeking out stocks of nuclear weapons.
We must remember that at the last United Nations General Assembly Mr. Khrushchev was really forthcoming about inspection and that he has since repeated that he would accept inspection from a first stage. Let us test Mr. Khrushchev. There are theoretical risks, as I say, that a disarmament treaty would be evaded, but these risks must be weighed against the risk of allowing the arms race to continue. If there is any sign that Mr. Khrushchev has got over his fear of the West, it is no time for us to adopt the traditional fear of Russia. We should remember the Congress of Vienna, where one of the Russian delegation died suddenly in the night. One of Talleyrand's secretaries reported to him that he had heard one of the British delegates when told of this say "Died, did he? I wonder what his motive was?".
N.A.T.O. has, naturally, come in for a great deal of discussion today. I will not repeat all the arguments used—it would be silly to do so—but it is clear 955 that we must have an integrated supply system. Whether or not we find that this German trouble was due to a lack of an integrated supply system is not the point. Whatever happens it is not good enough to have an integrated command, integrated training in many spheres, some international co-operation in weapons and then nothing in supply.
In the White Paper there are few signs of international co-operation in weapons, and it is particularly noticeable how few British weapons have been exported to our allies. I was surprised at the reference of the Minister of Defence today to Sweden, because it drew attention to the fact that the only country which is mentioned more than once as having bought any British weapons is Sweden, which is not even an ally of ours.
The Minister started off very well by being frank and drawing attention to what I regard as a failure within N.A.T.O. Incidentally, I believe that some of the failure in this salesmanship may be due to the attitude of the Government in the way in which they present their case. Why make so much fuss about the fact that there are 9,000 valves in the air defence system in H.M.S. "Hermes"? This can be no surprise to anyone who knows enough about defence and who takes the trouble to read the White Papers. It is certainly no surprise to any schoolboy who reads Eagle, or any of the modern publications with which many of us have to keep up to date.
What would have been interesting to learn would have been that we have retired them and got transistors instead, or some other development. This is not news. It is enough to make it seem as if the Ministers were, as one of the right hon. Gentleman's hon. Friends said, sitting round with pencils in their mouths, making notes and putting down something to fill up a White Paper.
§ Mr. Watkinson
What is news is what I said in my speech, that the end product of the valves in the carrier is the best air system in the world, which the Americans themselves admit and envy very much.
§ Mr. de Freitas
I accept that that was news, but I beg the right hon. Gentleman to consider the way that it is stated.
956 Apart from N.A.T.O., we see that our other alliance, C.E.N.T.O., this mysterious Central Treaty Organisation, is referred to in the same way as N.A.T.O. What is this organisation? We should know something about it. It is difficult to find out anything about it. I had the opportunity and pleasure of visiting the N.A.T.O. base in Izmir, in Turkey. I found that many of the officers there were as puzzled as I was about the Central Treaty Organisation. In Ankara, they were politer, but that may be because an engineering laboratory was set up there by C.E.N.T.O. There are also, I understand, a nuclear science institution in Teheran and an artificial insemination centre in Pakistan. Is it a military, economic, social or political organisation? [Interruption.] It is an animal artificial insemination centre. If it is not strictly military, what is it doing in the military budget? Why should not we be told something about it?
All that I have read about it recently appeared in The Times last week, when it reported that five lieutenant-generals with no staff and no troops had arrived. As The Times puts it:This spectacle of five generals brooding … has inevitably aroused ironic comment.What are they brooding about? How to spend the money? About artificial insemination in Pakistan? Or nuclear science in Teheran?
The theme of this debate, as set by my right hon. Friend, has been to show up the Government's lack of decision. Dither was the point he made, and he quoted the Daily Mail's headline, "Dither in Defence". The Government have not yet decided whether we are still masters of our own destiny, or whether we must depend on the alliance. The Government pay lip-service to the alliance, then suddenly dash off on their own. All this discourages our old allies and encourages our new and very powerful ally to go off on its own.
The second problem that they have not yet resolved is the serious problem of what to use to carry the ultimate deterrent. How can the Government expect the House to accept a policy which involves having an ultimate deterrent which every year, for technical reasons, becomes less and less credible, and which gives us large bills but not the goods?
§ 9.26 p.m.
§ Lieut.-Commander S. L. C. Maydon (Wells)
The hon. Gentleman the Member for Lincoln (Mr. de Freitas) accused the Government of lack of decision both politically and technically in matters of defence. I hope as I go along to be able to prove that quite the contrary is the truth, but there is one other point in his speech that I should like to take up before I go back to the beginning of this long debate.
The hon. Member criticised the Government on the policy of overseas bases. He said that for those should be substituted one of refuelling bases. Quite what does he mean by "refuelling bases"? If one has to refuel something there must presumably be a stock of fuel. That has to be kept in rather large containers either underground or above ground. There have to be fire-fighting services, maintenance teams, and, in unruly parts of the world, parties of soldiers to defend the installations.
Not so very many months ago, I well recollect, the Opposition were loud in their clamour for stockpiles of heavy equipment in overseas bases so that the troops could be flown to the spot and the equipment would be there. If we have a stockpile abroad and we have the fuel for the vehicles, what is that other than an overseas base? We all, on both sides of the House, admit that there are inherent risks in this, but short of having a massive Fleet train, which could not only refuel ships but refuel tanks and armoured vehicles at sea, I see no alternative, and I do not think that the last proposition I have just made is at present at all a practical one.
We have had tonight two most interesting maiden speeches, one from my hon. Friend the Member for Welling- borough (Mr. M. Hamilton), who stressed the fact that the British Army on the Rhine should not be a forgotten army and that much of its equipment was either out of date or quite obsolescent. I think we can see from the White Paper—I am sure we shall see from the debate on the Army Estimates which will follow shortly—that although there have been deficiencies in the past—serious deficiencies; let us acknowledge them—they are being put right. But we have to face the fact that all cannot be done at once. In defence one is always 958 running to catch up in one respect or another. It is a matter of leapfrogging. One gets right up to date in one form of weapon while other weapons are lagging behind. It is impossible both economically and industrially to be completely up to date all the time.
My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Chelsea (Captain Litchfield), in his maiden speech, mentioned two aspects of defence which I should like to expand at some length. With regard to ship design, in which he was particularly interested, he touched on a point of which I think we all ought to think very carefully. It becomes more and more apparent as our weapons become more complicated and technical that the time taken to plan them, develop them and produce them gets longer and longer, and with that up go the man-hours and, in consequence, up goes the expense.
I suggest to my right hon. Friend that it might be profitable to set up a small committee of experts consisting of an industrialist of experience, a senior Service officer—it does not matter from which Service he is drawn as long as he has experience and up-to-date ideas—and an experienced time and motion study man.
§ Lieut.-Commander Maydon
We could, of course, include a trade unionist, but I do not think that the sphere of the committee's investigations would be quite suited to a trade unionist. Using present examples of defence equipment, their development, their production and their introduction into Service use, this small committee might ascertain whether we could not somehow cut down the immense length of time that it takes to design and build a ship, aircraft or tank or even some of the lesser forms of equipment which, although they do not take so long, seem to all of us to take far too long to produce.
If three minds—I suggest that it should be only a small committee—with experience of these spheres and, perhaps with the exception of the man from one of the Services, uninhibited could look into the matter, something might emerge from the investigation. I do not think we can expect a great deal, but 959 some short-cuts might be found, and short-cuts mean saving of money.
The second point mentioned by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Chelsea was Service pensions. There are two aspects to which I should like to draw the attention of the House. First, I take the case of widows of other ranks. Before the introduction, in 1953, of the Forces Family Pensions Scheme, widows of other ranks were not eligible for pension. Last year that 1953 Scheme was greatly improved, but there are still many widows who derive no benefits whatsoever. These are the widows of men who left the Services before 1st September, 1950, which is the qualifying date for the 1953 Scheme, or widows of those whose service after its introduction was insufficient to qualify them.
Most of these are the widows of men below the rank of warrant officer, class I, or its equivalent in the other two Services, and a few are widows of such warrant officers who had the insufficient qualifying service. There is really an urgent need to reconsider the position of these widows, many of whom are in some hardship. Further than that, the original provisions of the 1953 Scheme are not really sufficient for many of the men themselves who are comprised in it. Take, for example, the case of a man leaving the Service between 1st September, 1950, and 3rd November, 1958. The widow's pension of a corporal or a private in this category, after 32 years of service, amounts to no more than 10s. a week—and there are many other similar, glaring cases. These are the pensions which the Grigg Committee described as derisory.
I feel that if the Grigg Committee indicted the Government, and this House accepted that the treatment of these widows was derisory, then, irrespective of the date on which their husbands died, they should come in for better treatment by the country which their husbands served. We must accept that, and I think we are constrained to put it right. We on this side were always critical of Members opposite for the way in which they drew the line between retirement pensioners above and below the age of 70 in 1951. We in our turn have been equally guilty of undesirable practice—I put it no worse than that— 960 in differentiating between widows whose husbands died before November, 1958, and those who died afterwards.
At the start of this debate I overheard a remark from the benches opposite, an intervention when my right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence was referring to the "Gambia" being sent to Mauritius. Somebody—I did not see who it was—said "There is no need to send a warship for that." That only reveals the ignorance of whoever made the intervention.
Can one for a moment imagine an accident on a main railway line in Britain with a number of people killed and injured in a collision between two trains? What does the British Transport Commission do? Does it send the nearest passenger train to render aid, or does it make up a proper rescue train with heavy lifting equipment and so forth? I think that that analogy makes the case obvious to whomever made that remark.
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes
I plead guilty to the interruption. I gathered that the point about Mauritius was that supplies were needed. I suggest that a big cargo ship would be just as suitable for that purpose as a ship with guns and helicopters.
§ Lieut.-Commander Maydon
At a very early age I was serving in one of His Majesty's ships, as it was in those days, which rendered assistance to those stricken by an earthquake in Greece. We had to do all sorts of things, like baking immense quantities of bread, providing heavy lifting and shoring equipment. Unless it was a ship of a very specialised nature, an ordinary merchant ship which happened to be passing that way just could not provide such facilities.
My right hon. Friend mentioned the success of the commando carrier "Bulwark" and hoped that in future she would be accompanied by a landing ship dock to provide the necessary facilities for landing craft. I hope that that example will be followed and more commando carriers with the necessary support will be provided elsewhere.
I was glad to hear my right hon. Friend mention the appointment of Sir Frederick Hooper as honorary adviser on publicity to the Forces. All of us recognise the great service which Sir Frederick gave when he was in charge 961 of arrangements for resettlement for officers prematurely retired from the Forces.
The right hon. Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown) made it as one of his major criticisms that none of the new arms which are promised ever seems to be here. I think that we all sometimes feel that, especially men in the Services. However, the Opposition Amendment has taken account of a large sum of money spent over nine years. To be honest, many new weapons have come during that time and many of them have been very useful. I think that we can accept the criticism that many of them come too late. That is bound to be in view of what I was just saying about research, development and production, which seem to take far too long in these highly technical days.
A great deal of steam has escaped from the Opposition's boiler. There are those on the Front Bench opposite who have opened wide the stop valves hoping quickly to achieve full speed. Meanwhile, those behind were not only closing down the stop valves but opening up the blow-down valves at the bottom of the boiler and drawing the fires at the same time. The result is that the ship has come to a standstill.
We are accused of vacillations and confusion. To vacillate implies changing one's mind. It is always a good thing to change one's mind when one can see something better looming ahead, and that is precisely what the Government have been trying to do over defence matters. There is more confusion on the benches opposite than on the Government side. There has been talk about a nuclear disarmament club. Nobody knows quite what it means, and nobody wants it. Ask the French. Ask the Chinese. Ask any other country which is likely to be an aspirant to nuclear inventions. Do they want to join such a club? We had a negative answer from the French not long ago.
We have heard theories on disengagement. Disengagement sounds very nice on paper. A gentleman who has made a great study of this has recently written a book on disengagement.
§ Lieut.-Commander Maydon
At the end of his book there is an appendix 962 covering about thirty pages. I got tired of counting the different disengagement schemes which have been put forward at various times during the last ten years. Disengagement would be splendid in a perfect situation where one had a true will to disarm, and a true acceptance of the safeguards of disarmament, but, without those, disengagement is a highly dangerous suggestion.
The Opposition always seem to fall back on the 1957 White Paper for their criticisms. They were a little mixed up tonight. They were uncertain of the contents of paragraph 12 which deals with the nuclear deterrent. In the early stages of debate that paragraph was misquoted by many hon. Gentlemen. I should like to clear their minds by quoting paragraph 12.
§ Lieut.-Commander Maydon
The 1957 White Paper was referred to. Paragraph 12 says:It must be frankly recognised that there is at present no means of providing adequate protection for the people of this country against the consequences of attack with nuclear weapons. Though, in the event of war, the fighter aircraft of the Royal Air Force would unquestionably be able to take a heavy toll of enemy bombers, a proportion would inevitably get through. Even if it were only a dozen, they could with megaton bombs inflict widspread devastation.That is true today, except that the emphasis on the fighter is going down and the emphasis on other weapons is increasing. Nobody can dispute that today.
An earlier paragraph of the 1957 White Paper defines our responsibilities and it is, after all, this White Paper which started this five-year policy of defence. Our two major responsibilities are, first with our allies to deter and to resist, and, secondly, to take part in limited operations in defence of our own Dependencies. I do not think that the passage of years has altered those two basic principles one bit.
Then we come to the paragraph on collective defence. Again I paraphrase, for brevity. It says that no country can stand alone, and that we must rely on 963 collective defence. On the subject of interdependence, it has this to say, at the beginning of paragraph 11:The trend is towards the creation of integrated allied forces. Therefore, provided each member nation plays its fair part in the joint effort, it is not necessarily desirable that each should seek to contribute national forces which are by themselves self sufficient …There has been no alteration in that. I have already quoted the passage about the nuclear deterrent. The White Paper goes on to detail the manner in which, in order to be effective and credible as a deterrent, the deterrent must be protected. I can see no sign that there has been vacillation or confusion since the date that White Paper was written. Our basic aims are still precisely the same. The methods of achieving them, as we well know, have altered. They are bound to change, because scientific development is so rapid in these times.
Many people seem completely to have missed the point of the deterrent. It is not to prepare weapons for war, but to create such a retaliatory force that war would be suicide to any aggressor. There is a blessed timeliness in the advent of these appalling weapons. I should like to tell the House why I think that. Modern total war was becoming beastly and indiscriminate—few nations succeeded in remaining neutral, and there were no non-combatants among those who were not neutral—but the advent of nuclear weapons has broken down the differential of the big battalions. Beyond a certain threshold—and it is difficult to determine precisely where that threshold should lie—sheer weight of numbers no longer predominates. This is an example of David, armed with his sling, being able to deter Goliath with all his arms.
§ Mr. Walter Monslow (Barrow-in-Furness)
Is the hon. and gallant Member indicating that we should use nuclear weapons first, against overwhelming conventional attack?
§ Lieut.-Commander Maydon
I do not think that the hon. Member has done me the justice of listening to my speech. I never said anything of the sort. I said that the advent of these weapons had narrowed down the differentials. Previously it was true to say that the man who could mobilise large armies, air 964 forces and navies quickly was preponderant. His will prevailed. Today, however, quite a small nation, with the will to resist and, if necessary, to retaliate, can prevent an aggressor riding roughshod over his territory and that of his allies.
§ Mr. G. Brown
I may have misled the hon. and gallant Member. I have an idea that I referred to "paragraph 12 of the 1957 White Paper." It is paragraph 12 of the 1958 White Paper with which we are concerned, and if I misled the hon. and gallant Member I apologise. We will see in tomorrow's OFFICIAL REPORT whether I was guilty of that. But my hon. Friend's point is valid, because the famous paragraph 12 to which we refer says:But it must be well understood that, if Russia were to launch a major attack on them, even with conventional forces only, they would have to hit back with strategic nuclear weapons. In fact, the strategy of N.A.T.O. is based on the frank recognition that a full-scale Soviet attack could not be repelled without resort to a massive nuclear bombardment of the sources of power in Russia.Does the hon. and gallant Member believe that that is the philosophy of the Minister today?
§ Lieut.-Commander Maydon
I have given way to the right hon. Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown). I should like to answer one hon. Member at a time.
I can see what the right hon. Gentleman means but that still does not make his point. In that paragraph, with which I also am well acquainted, the governing words are "major" and "large-scale". I do not think we can get away from that.
Both the major political parties have appreciated the force of the arguments I was making before I was interrupted. A few years ago the Labour Government, courageously and quite contrary to the pacifist tradition of a large section of it, decided to embark on an atomic bomb programme. The Conservative Party followed this logical process from the atom bomb to the hydrogen bomb. The official Opposition Amendment today accuses Her Majesty's Government of confusion. It ill becomes hon. Members opposite to do that when they themselves are so confused in this matter.
965 One part of this argument where there is considerable room for difference of opinion is that relating to the balance between conventional arms and the nuclear deterrent. To reach the nuclear threshold about which I was speaking just now requires an immense expenditure of money and manpower. We know how difficult it was to acquire stocks of plutonium. The warhead mechanism, the vehicle to carry the warhead, launching sites, whether based on land, air, or sea, take much time, much money and many resources. Today we have reached that stage. Now we can afford to go more slowly in that direction and to put much more emphasis, which I agree is necessary, on the conventional side.
Conventional arms are based on manpower. It is right that the men in our Armed Forces and their supporting ancillary, highly-specialised troops should be well paid. It is small wonder, therefore, if these men are to be not 966 only well paid but to have their rates of pay and pensions kept in step with their fellows in other occupations, that it all mounts up to a very large sum of money. Then, of course, there are the things which go with it, the morale-building things which were mentioned earlier—good housing, good living accommodation, good food and good clothing, with the expensive equipment that I have just mentioned.
If we are to have happy and contented forces and therefore efficient forces, we are obliged to look to these matters and to provide the money which is needed. I have, therefore, no hesitation in supporting the Motion. We know full well that there are still many inadequacies in our defence services. But let us look to them and make them good in the same spirit as that in which deficiencies have been made good in the past.
§ Debate adjourned.—[Mr. Bryan.]
§ Debate to be resumed Tomorrow.