Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a number of officers, airmen and airwomen, not exceeding 174,000, all ranks, be maintained for Air Force Service, during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1961.
§ 3.47 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for Air (Mr. George Ward)
The net total of Air Estimates for the next financial year is about £527 million. This is about £37 million more than our total expenditure in the current year, which is turning out remarkably close to the original Estimate.
The largest increase is on the Vote for aircraft and stores, which is up by a net £24 million on the estimate I presented last year. This is mainly accounted for by increased expenditure on armament, and, in particular, on guided weapons, while our expenditure on aircraft remains more or less constant. Other important increases are about £7 million for works; and nearly £4 million on the Service Pay Vote which reflects the improvements in Service pay and pensions which were announced last month.
If hon. Members will refer to Appendix A to my Memorandum they will see a diagram which shows where the money is spent. The proportion of our total budget which comes under the broad heading of personnel is still just over 40 per cent. of the whole—as it was last year. This element, of course, includes the pay increases which I have just mentioned, and also takes into account the expenditure on better living conditions for officers and airmen, of which I shall have more to say later in my speech.
In presenting the Estimates each year—and I have had some experience of it now—I generally start with the "hardware" and then go on to the people who use and maintain it, but this year I want 1434 to reverse the order and talk first about the officers, airmen and civilians who make up the Royal Air Force, because we have recently introduced a number of innovations, some of which, I believe, are of major importance to the future of the Service. Then I shall talk about equipment later.
Hon. Members will remember that two of the most important recommendations of the Grigg Committee were, first, to hold a review of pay and pensions every two years in order to see that these kept pace with movements in wages and salaries in the outside world; and, secondly, to look at the officer career structure and try to remove the existing uncertainties about the length of an officer's career, which the Grigg Committee thought was the biggest single impediment to officer recruitment.
During the past year we have been able to give effect to both these recommendations. The first of the biennial reviews of pay and pensions has been held and has resulted in the increases which were announced at the beginning of last month. But I think that the second development, the new officer career structure, is the more important of the two, and I should like to start by saying something about that.
The new career structure is designed to give officers either a full career in the Service to an age which is reasonably close to that of the retiring age of men in civil life, or to give them an opportunity of retiring—with a pension—if they so wish, at an age when they still stand a good chance of finding a decent job outside and beginning a new career.
So we have adopted the age of 55 as the normal compulsory retiring age for all General List officers of all branches and ranks below air marshal, except in a few specialist branches. This will give them the assurance of a full and complete career. Officers on the General List will also have the option to retire with a pension at the age of 38, or after sixteen years' service counting towards retired pay, whichever is the later. This option will be entirely voluntary, and an officer will be quite free to decide for himself whether he wishes to leave the Service or to stay on until he is 55 years old.
It is, however, most important that to help an officer make this decision he 1435 should be given advice on what his promotion prospects look like as he approaches the stage at which he can retire voluntarily, and we shall make sure that such advice is available to him.
All officers who are awarded General List commissions on or after 1st April this year will automatically come in under the new career structure. But the problem of assimilating those who are already serving in the Air Force is rather more difficult. The younger ones are less of a problem and we can certainly assimilate all those born in 1925 or later, unless for any reason they choose to stick to their current retiring ages. For the rest, it will take a little time to work out a fair programme of assimilation, but each case will be considered individually and much will depend upon the future promotion prospects of each officer.
At the same time, we are introducing a new type of permanent commission for the Supplementary List. Officers with this commission can be certain of a career up to the age of 38, and of retiring with a pension at that point. We shall not be able to guarantee them a career beyond that point right from the start, but the best of them will have a good chance of being selected either for a full career General List commission or, alternatively, for service to the age of 55 on the Supplementary List with more limited career prospects.
I ought to add here that airmen already have the opportunity of a long Service career. The extra recruiting incentives which we are offering to them are the new rates of pay and pensions, to which I referred earlier.
All this is a logical part of our plans for changing over to a long-term all-Regular force. As the Committee knows, 1960 will see our last National Service entry, and by the end of 1962 we shall be relying entirely on Regular recruiting. Shall we be able to do this? There are, of course, still some black patches in certain trades which need special ability, and also in some of the less popular trades, but on the whole the present trend of recruiting looks very encouraging and we feel pretty confident that we shall get the recruits we need for the all-Regular force.
Of course, the problem can also be tackled from the other end. We can try 1436 to reduce our uniformed manpower by such things as better methods, mechanisation and civilianisation. So we have been making a special review during the year of the organisation and establishment of all R.A.F. commands. We have been taking each command in turn and going through it in detail with the Commander-in-Chief to decide how far he can reduce his needs for Service manpower while still carrying out his particular task efficiently. I am very pleased with the way this review is going. It looks as though we shall be able to measure the resulting saving in Service posts not in hundreds, but in thousands.
Let me give one or two examples. Early next year we shall put out to civil contract aircraft servicing and other technical tasks at the Navigation and Control School, at Shawbury, on which about 600 airmen are at present employed. And we shall find other stations where we can do the same.
Our original experiment of civilian catering at three stations has been successful, and we are now extending these arrangements to about a dozen further stations. It seems that the direct employment of civilians and the alternative method of using a contractor or the N.A.A.F.I. both have their advantages and the method we choose at each station will be the one best suited to its particular needs.
More mechanisation in the handling and storage of equipment at our maintenance depôts, and the introduction of computers and electronic data processing systems for pay accounting and for stock control and provisioning will all show further economies later.
In the Royal Air Force, as elsewhere, it is the skilled men who are the most difficult to recruit and train; and so we are trying hard to improve the use we make of them by introducing work study techniques. At Lyneham, for example, a central technical control centre has been set up. By using tele-talk equipment and vehicles fitted with two-way radio we can work on a larger number of aircraft with the same number of men. We are using similar methods at other stations, too.
I have been trying to show how the recruiting of airmen and airwomen is going and what we are doing to reduce 1437 our needs. Now what about officers? The picture here is very much the same. The trend is upwards for almost all branches including the General Duties Branch. But although entries to Cranwell and Henlow have remained fairly steady we should like to have more cadets at both colleges.
These two entries are, of course, as the Committee knows, extremely important to the future of the Royal Air Force and we are most anxious to keep up the numbers at both of them. It may seem an illogical solution, though I am sure it is the right one, to make Cranwell more difficult to get into; to make it more of a challenge. After January, 1961, we shall be asking for two A levels in the G.C.E. as the qualification for entry. We are also reorganising the course to put more emphasis on academic subjects in which the cadet shows promise. In future, only basic flying training will be done Cranwell, and graduates will do their advanced flying training in their fourth year, after they leave the college.
Changes are also being made in the cadet training at Henlow. The course, which at present lasts a little over three years, is being increased by about fifteen months and that will give a total course of four years and two terms. This will raise the standard of study and give more time for practical work and officer training. It will allow two attachments to industry and one to an R.A.F. station during the course, and so broaden the scope of experience which cadets get during their training. They will, however, be commissioned at the same stage as before—that is, after two-and-three-quarter years at the technical college.
But we are not only interested in widening the opportunities for people coming into the Air Force; we also want to improve the living conditions of those already in it.
One of the great difficulties in recent years has been the uncertainty of deployment which the contraction of the force and the introduction of missiles has brought about. This uncertainty has not yet completely disappeared, but we are now getting a much clearer picture of the kind of force we shall be having in the future and the stations on which it is to be based. This means we can now concentrate units an well-built permanent 1438 stations and go ahead with a sensible programme of modernisation.
This year, for instance, we are embarking on a programme of new permanent barrack blocks, officers' quarters, houses for families, dining halls, messes and other kinds of Service housing, which is bigger than any we have previously undertaken.
Overseas, we shall be spending half as much again as in the current year. At home, we shall be spending twice as much. For example, in 1959–60 we let contracts for 1,800 married quarters in this country. This was more than twice the total in the preceding three years together. Next year we intend to let contracts for even more homes.
§ Mr. George Wigg (Dudley)
Before the right hon. Gentleman leaves the very important question of manpower, will he give the Committee an assurance that on 1st April—that is, the first day to which his Vote A applies—all establishments throughout the Royal Air Force will be up to strength?
§ Mr. Ward
No, I could not give that assurance. I do not think that the hon. Gentleman would expect me to. But the trend of recruiting looks very encouraging.
Turning now to operational matters, the past year has been one of consolidation—and no less valuable for that. If I have no spectacular developments to report this year, there has certainly been much solid progress.
Naturally, in the forefront of our minds has been the build-up of the V-bomber force. Its capacity for instant and certain retaliation with nuclear weapons represents Britain's contribution to the deterrent which aims at preventing global war. But, equally, its effectiveness in a conventional conflict could be a major factor in preventing or limiting local aggressions in many parts of the world.
The Committee will have noted from the map at the back of my Memorandum how aircraft of this force have grown used to spanning the continents. The crews of Bomber Command are becoming as familiar with the air routes of the world as hon. Members are with my annual presentation of these Estimates the only difference being that the crews, in common with the hon. Member for Lincoln (Mr. de Freitas), have to stay 1439 in their places to the end. Not only do these flights practise the crews and ground organisation: they also demonstrate the long arm of Bomber Command.
No less important is the operational readiness of the force. In my speech this time last year, I told the Committee of new techniques which were being developed to enable four V-bombers to get airborne within six minutes. In the very next month we were able to show that we could get four aircraft into the air from one airfield in less than four minutes, and this achievement has been repeated regularly in realistic exercises held throughout Bomber Command during the year. Like Dr. Bannister's mile, this record is by no means unbreakable. We are already working on the equipment and installations which will enable us to get this time down lower yet. At the same time, the average bombing accuracy in the Command has doubled since 1957.
Before I leave Bomber Command, I must say a few words about Thor, which, as I told the House last December, has now taken its place in the operational front line of the Royal Air Force. Thor is the first strategic missile system to be deployed operationally anywhere in the West. The task of deploying it in this country is now nearly complete. The last R.A.F. crew to graduate from their initial training in the United States completed their course with another successful firing of a missile in January. I was able to visit that crew when I was in the United States recently, and I should like to take this opportunity of paying a tribute to the magnificent training programme which was organised by the U.S.A.F. at Vandenberg Base, of which I saw something when I was there.
No less remarkable in its way has been the achievement of our own Works Directorate, which has tackled with speed and efficiency the mass of new problems involved in building the Thor sites.
In discussing Bomber Command it is, I am sure important to keep in mind a principle which I think was first defined by Lord Trenchard, and which has proved its worth in all operations since his time. That is, to maintain the flexibility of air power and to exploit its versatility. We try in all our planning to avoid any 1440 rigidity which will conflict with this principle in the choice of our bases, our equipment and our doctrine. I think that so far we have been pretty successful.
We believe, of course, that the maintenance of an effective strategic deterrent must be the central feature of our defence policy, and that it is this feature which lends meaning to the rest. It is only sensible to expend large resources on preparations for a conventional war if you are reasonably satisfied that you have deterred nuclear war. At the same time, we have been eager to ensure that the training of the V-bomber force to retaliate against aggression instantly and surely with nuclear weapons does not obscure its equal capability for use in limited wars and other emergencies.
It may seem a contradiction in terms to talk about flexibility and versatility in the context of ballistic missiles. This was the point which was worrying the right hon. Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Strachey) on Tuesday, and I should like to answer his point today.
It is most important in these matters to keep the time-scale right, and not to allow oneself to get confused between the weapons we have today and those which we are going to get in several years' time; and, also, one must keep a proper sense of perspective in looking at the threats which face us.
Mobility is always a good thing and I will not deny that even today it would add a very desirable feature to the missile part of our deterrent. But, at present, it is fortunate that the main threat is still from the manned aircraft. Hon. Members will have noted that General White, Chief of the American Air Force, said only last week that it was the Soviet Air Force which was the U.S.S.R.'s most dangerous weapon. We agree with that assessment. Of course, the Russian missile force is building up, and it is to protect our V-bomber force against this threat that we are improving our techniques of readiness and mobility and installing the warning system, of which I shall say a little more in a minute.
In the meantime, the V-bombers as they are, and the Thor missiles on their static bases, still represent a valid deterrent; and our existing air defence system of fighters and S.A.G.W. is there to protect them against the main threat as it is now—the enemy bomber. But, as my 1441 right hon. Friend said on Monday, we are looking for a fully mobile deterrent system for the future.
We recognise that Thor will at some stage become too vulnerable to the enemy missile to be wholly credible as a valid deterrent, and that over the years the Blue Steel guided bomb will become less capable of penetrating the enemy defences. This process will be a very gradual one, but when it happens we must be ready to replace it with a weapon which is subject to neither of these weaknesses.
For this reason, we are taking a close interest in the American missile Skybolt which, although now in the development stage, should be ready for service in about the right time-scale. It combines the merits of being launched from an aircraft with the characteristics of a ballistic missile which make it extremely difficult to intercept from the ground. Of course, final decisions have not yet been taken, but we have kept closely in touch with the American design programme for Skybolt in order to ensure that, if need be, it could fit on to our V-bombers.
For, although the increasing sophistication of the defences will doubtless find a way of countering the free-falling bomb and even the stand-off bomb in time, the same does not apply to the bomber aircraft themselves. They have many years of useful life ahead of them yet. In fact, the V-bomber force, with its aircraft, bases and the skilled experience of its air and ground crews, seems to me to be a national asset which we ought to exploit to its utmost.
In the longer term, perhaps, when the V-bombers at last begin to wear out, their missiles could be taken over by a different type of aircraft—not a bomber in the historic sense but a longer-endurance aircraft, capable of combining the rôle of missile-launching platform with, for example, that of the transport aircraft. This would preserve the continuity of our skill and experience, it would conserve our resources, and it would carry the concept of flexibility and versatility to its logical limit.
§ Mr. John Strachey (Dundee, West)
I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman is now leaving the subject of the Thor missile, but I must say that 1442 nothing he has said up to now has reassured me that, even today, that missile is not appallingly vulnerable to the Russian intermediate missile which, surely, was developed quite a long time ago. I wish that the right hon. Gentleman could give an assurance that Thor is not totally vulnerable to first strike in this respect, or could explain what the use of the missile is.
§ Mr. Ward
That would lead to a rather long involved argument which I do not want particularly to go into now. It is perfectly true to say that the Russians have intermediate ballistic missiles. Nobody denies it. It is also true to say that the Russians would not use them in a frontal attack on this country until they had enough to ensure that they could knock out our deterrents. It is only when the ballistic missile obtains predominance over the bomber aircraft that the need for mobility becomes really crucial.
In Fighter Command, the S.A.G.W. system is expanding fast, and a programme of operational firings of Bloodhound by R.A.F. crews is going on at Cardigan Bay. The trials results, too, have been good. About 70 per cent. of recent firings against pilotless aircraft have resulted in a "kill", and a remarkable number of these have been direct hits. Even those rounds that we have artificially diverted from their target have returned to course and scored direct hits and "kills".
Fighter Command has also got its first Lightnings. They are doing their Service trials at the Central Fighter Establishment, and the latest mark of Javelin, carrying the Firestreak missile has been coming into the Command.
Fighter aircraft, too, embody this important principle of flexibility. There are some who say that with the advent of the ballistic missile and guided weapon defence the day of the fighter is over. I do not believe that this is true. Surface-to-air guided weapons are highly effective, and are, perhaps, more accurate and lethal than the fighter for the close defence of vital targets such as those in the United Kingdom. But, in addition to range the fighter has the great advantage over the guided weapon of being capable of judgment.
It can, for instance, investigate the unidentified intruder without actually 1443 shooting him down. We cannot rely entirely on an air defence weapon so specialised or so irrevocable as the guided weapon. And the fighter also has the advantage that we can deploy it quickly to any part of the world where the existing air defence resources are inadequate. So we can have two or more sets of air defence for the price of one.
This, of course, is no new concept. We are, in fact, already exercising our squadrons in this kind of operation and, indeed, there has been for some time a scheme for the rotation of squadrons through overseas bases which gives air and ground crews practice in the techniques of mobility and gets them used to operating in tropical climates.
Fighters are now being adapted for flight refuelling. The extension of the fighter's range that refuelling can give, and the speed and ease with which over-seas theatres can be reinforced, is beginning to confer on Fighter Command the same world-wide capability which is enjoyed by the other operational commands in this country.
But the biggest new factor in air defence is our agreement with the Americans to establish the ballistic missile early warning station at Fylingdales, about which I told the House last month. I do not want to go all through it again, but I would like to try to clear up one or two misconceptions that seem to have arisen about it since.
The Fylingdales station is one of a system of three. We get information from the whole system though, of course, the station in this country is the one in which we have a primary interest. Basically, the Fylingdales station is a multiple radar of very high power with an effective range of several thousand miles. It will scan a wide are in space, and will pick up and follow the track of all solid objects that come within its beam.
Associated with it are two of the most complex electronic computers ever designed. These computers can distinguish between ballistic missiles and any other objects in space, such as meteors or man-launched satellites. Besides identifying and giving warning of the approach of a ballistic missile, the station will also be able to predict the target which it will hit.
1444 It has been said that all the resources and ingenuity put into this station will be valueless, because we in this country will be unable to make any use of the warning time the station gives us. There has been much talk of four minutes. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown) even spoke on Monday of getting no warning at all in certain circumstances. The facts are that only in the worst possible case should we get as little as four minutes' warning of a missile attack on this country; and in most circumstances, as my right hon. Friend said on Monday, we should expect to get considerably more—perhaps as much as 15 minutes.
The important thing about this is not so much the warning it will give to the civil population as the fact that this interval, short though it is, gives us time to get the bomber force off the ground. It will thus remain invulnerable to missile attack and, therefore, effective as a deterrent.
After all, what we are trying to do is to prevent a nuclear war. It may seem cold comfort to reflect that when half this country has been devastated our own bomber force is already winging its way to inflict similar devastation on the aggressor. But this misses the whole point of deterrence.
It is a reasonable assumption that no one will launch a nuclear attack on this country unless he is absolutely certain that, in doing so, he can eliminate our nuclear forces, which will be poised as I have shown, for instant retaliation. By making sure that we can get our bomber force in the air even under the threat of missile attack, we make nuclear war less likely. Surely this is a far better way of protecting the civil population than any air raid warning in an era in which the missile is beginning to be a serious danger.
Most of the public interest in the Royal Air Force, not unnaturally tends to centre round Bomber and Fighter Commands. But one of the most significant developments of the year has, in fact, been the build-up of the strategic transport force. The re-equipment with the Britannia is now well under way and is making a very great difference to the speed with which we can reinforce overseas theatres in an emergency. To illustrate this, a single Britannia can 1445 carry 112 troops as against the Hastings 42, and over much greater ranges. A Britannia can reach Aden, for instance, in 7½ hours' less flying time than the earlier aircraft.
We have now one complete Britannia squadron and the second formed at the end of last year. With this second squadron we shall achieve the target set out in the Appendix to my Air Estimates Memorandum last year of raising our global transport capacity to the level of 150 million passenger miles per month. This represents a threefold increase since 1955. The figure refers to the capacity of the force in ordinary routine flying; in an emergency this capacity could be almost doubled. Three hundred million passenger miles per month is an impressive figure.
The transport force would not be complete without the high-speed element which the Comet II is now fulfilling so admirably. Unfortunately, the Comet II will not last for ever, though its wasting out will be a gradual process and it will be some years yet before the newest aircraft reach the end of their useful life. All the same, we have been giving a great deal of earnest thought to what type or types of aircraft should replace it. Clearly, it must be a jet, and clearly, too, it must be one which can operate from our existing bases. But the time scale is important as well as the performance of the aircraft, and this means that we must almost certainly go for an adaptation of a British civil design already in production.
My right hon. Friend, on Monday, mentioned the Comet IV and the VC10. We are looking at both these aircraft and also at a combination of the two though we have not yet decided which solution to adopt. The Comet IV is already, of course, in service with the civil airlines, and it would perpetuate a type with which Transport Command is already very familiar. The VC10, though a little further off, would mean a great step forward in range, speed and carrying capacity.
§ Mr. Geoffrey de Freitas (Lincoln)
Will the right hon. Gentleman explain what the phrase "a combination of the two" means? I did not quite understand that the other night, and I do not now.
§ Mr. Ward
Again, the point is the time scale. As I have said, we think 1446 that the VC10 will be a great step forward in range, speed, and so forth, but it is not certain exactly when we could have it. It may be necessary to fill in with some Comets in the meantime, which would still be useful for other purposes, even when we have the VC10.
We have been speaking about strategic mobility but, of course, tactical mobility is just as important. The Committee knows what our plans are to improve this, and I will mention only the helicopter element, which is being greatly enlarged. This year we are getting our first Bristol 192s, the twin-rotor helicopter which we have decided to call the "Belvedere". Orders are being placed for the new turbine-engined Whirlwind, which will have a very much improved performance, and this will more than treble the helicopter lift at present available to the Army.
It is a measure of Transport Command's activity on this front that the number of airborne and air support exercises has increased fifteen times over the last three years. Indeed, so important has this function become that we have recently set up a new group, as I said in my Memorandum—No. 38 Group, with all its fine wartime associations to—supervise the tactical and short range operations which Transport Command undertakes in support of the Army.
I have tried to show that our aim is to build up and maintain a balanced and versatile force of aircraft in types and numbers which will cover the complete spectrum of military transport. The flexibility of air power is not confined to air warfare alone; it is one of the most important assets which the Royal Air Force can confer on the operations of the other two Services.
Perhaps the best example I can give of this flexibility during the past year comes from a Command which is, at first sight, a somewhat unlikely one, Coastal Command. The Shackleton is, of course, a maritime aircraft, but some have been operating extremely successfully also in the colonial policing rôle in Aden, where the flying conditions and operational techniques are quite different from those which the crews had been used to in hunting submarines in the Atlantic. It is remarkable, therefore, that No. 42 Shackleton Squadron, which had been 1447 engaged on this work in the Middle East for some time, managed, on its return to this country, to wit the Coastal Command competition for the most efficient maritime squadron of the year.
This, as I say, shoes that the Royal Air Force is as versatile as ever. But it does not end there. We tend to think of the airman as a rather specialised creature, master of only one of a number of highly complicated skills or techniques; but we have seen how easily he can respond to any situation which is a challenge to his enterprise and determination.
Take, for example, the humane task of rescue which the R.A.F. is so often called upon to perform. Helicopters and mountain rescue teams are always standing by to help aircrew who may have had an accident or be in some difficulty. They are ready also to respond to calls of distress from civilians from whatever quarter they come.
Seventeen times, during the past year, our mountain rescue teams have turned out in all weathers to help civilian climbers in difficulty. Our helicopters have brought to hospital 32 patients who were too ill to face a road journey and have answered no less than 138 distress calls of one kind or another from the public. Perhaps the most memorable incident of the year was the rescue by a Royal Air Force helicopter of seven members of the crew of the North Carr Light Vessel. This took place in the teeth of the December gales which had already caused the tragic loss of the Broughty Ferry lifeboat. I am sure that the Committee will join me in expressing my admiration for this very courageous achievement.
§ Mr. Strachey
Will the Minister allow me to say how much everyone in Dundee appreciated that action by the Royal Air Force? It was a very great inspiration to everyone in the area.
§ Mr. Rankin
On a point of order, Sir Gordon. I merely made a remark because a certain exchange occurred across the Table in which some of us sitting here were interested. I assume that it was important, but we heard the remarks of neither one side nor the other. All I suggested was that we might hear them. I hope that that is not an offence.
§ Mr. Ward
I apologise if I was not audible. I have now tried to tell the hon. Gentleman what was said. I was telling the House about how the Royal Air Force came to the help of the North Carr Light Vessel when it was in trouble in the December gales. I expressed my admiration for what had been done, and I was joined in that expression by the right hon. Member for Dundee, West.
§ Mr. Rankin
I assume, then, that it will not be out of order for those sitting here to join in the remarks which were made.
§ Mr. Ward
Matters of order are not for me, but I certainly appreciate the remarks of the hon. Member for Glasgow, Govan (Mr. Rankin).
More recently, the R.A.F. was among the first to offer help to the victims of the earthquake disaster at Agadir and the cyclone at Mauritius.
It was a former Prime Minister who said:Change is inevitable. In a progressive country change is constant.We live in an era in which the pace of technical change is matched only by that of political change, and it would be a brave man who could predict with any certainty what the state of the world and the strategy of the Western Alliance will be in 1970. Nevertheless, this is exactly what we have to try to do. It takes at least seven and very often ten years for a new aircraft or weapon to proceed from the requirement stage to the Service. Concrete and brick does not have to be planned over such a long time scale, but it cannot be laid or erected in a day, or very often in a year. Personnel planning must take account of the whole seven ages of man.
If we had unlimited resources and could devote them all to the future of the Royal Air Force we probably still would not be able to find exactly the right answer. The only reasonably economic 1449 solution for this country is to maintain our forces in a balanced posture which can meet change—political change or technical change—from whatever direction it comes. But certain principles remain constant.
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes (South Ayrshire)
Does the right hon. Gentleman assume that by 1970 the West will be in a state of superiority over the East, or vice versa, or will it just be stalemate?
§ Mr. Ward
The burden of my remarks was the difficulty of being able to see exactly what the situation will be in 1970. We have to try to look ahead and do the best we can.
In spite of these difficulties, certain principles remain constant. We believe that at the heart of these lies the possession of an effective nuclear deterrent. Around this central feature lie other principles of prime importance—the need of early warning and accurate intelligence about the enemy's intentions, the need to prevent armed intrusion at home and overseas, the need to reinforce our overseas bases quickly with troops and aircraft, and the ability to support the operations of the other two Services at sea and on land.
It is our task to see that by these lights the Royal Air Force can meet the challenges of the future as successfully as it is meeting those of the present day.
§ 4.33 p.m.
§ Mr. Geoffrey de Freitas (Lincoln)
First, I should like to join the Secretary of State for Air in congratulating the R.A.F. on its humanitarian work, not only in this country, but abroad, and especially on its offer of assistance in Agadir.
Last year, I congratulated the right hon. Gentleman on being the first Member in the history of this House to present the Air Estimates seven times. At that time, I felt that he was being overworked and I expressed the hope that he would be relieved of that responsibility in another year. Alas, that has not happened. He has not been relieved, but one of the encouraging things about defence is that there is a certain stability at the Air Ministry. The right hon. Gentleman is firmly fixed on the wings of the eagle which neither soars nor dives but flies straight and level at an even pace, unlike the nine 1450 Ministers of Defence who, in nine years, have come and gone on a merry-go-round. Sometimes they have come round on the back of a lion, sometimes on the back of an ostrich and sometimes clinging to a post to get some sort of balance. There is at least a certain continuity at the Air Ministry and in air debates.
On Monday, one of the right hon. Gentleman's hon. Friends likened debates on the Estimates to a company annual general meeting. I do not share that point of view; but, if this were a company, when I see some of the people who might be going in for a take-over bid and changing the chairman, I would sooner stick to the devil that I know.
With the exception of the Canadian Parliament, the United Kingdom Parliament is the only one in the N.A.T.O. countries which has no system of all-party defence committees. As millions of pounds are spent on defence, it is the Government's duty to arrange Parliamentary business, as far as possible, to allow for adequate Press and Parliamentary discussion on defence. I have pointed out several times in this House that many members of defence committees in Continental countries have a more detailed knowledge of the defence forces of this country than any of us except the Service Ministers. I shall not make the suggestion of vast constitutional changes, but I should like to suggest one or two points which would improve the control that Parliament has over the spending of money. First, speaking for myself, I suggest that there should be a longer time between the White Paper debate and the debates on the Service Estimates so that we may have a month or so of Press and Parliamentary discussion on defence generally.
Secondly, I should like the Government to encourage Members of Parliament to visit military establishments and installations. I was delighted to hear the Minister of Defence say that he intended to adopt that policy. I do not mean that we should all be invited to go to parades at Sandhurst and to fly-pasts. I am referring to visits to important and significant military installations. It seems to me utterly ridiculous that United States Congressmen should visit the R.A.F. Thor missile sites before Members of this House.
1451 Thirdly, I do not want to discourage Members of Parliament from having contact with members of the Armed Forces. There will be a temptation, with all-Regular forces, for the Services to apply strictly the regulations preventing contact between members of the Armed Forces and Members of this House. Nothing could be more undesirable in this modern world, and we cannot risk, when we have all-Regular forces, dividing the community into professional soldiers and civilians. For twenty years, Members of Parliament have been in touch with the Armed Forces to a degree which has never happened before, because they have had conscripts among their constituents. With all-Regular forces there will be this temptation for restriction and isolation.
With that will com. the difficulty of Parliamentary criticism, because we shall have less informed critics. It is already difficult enough to find hon. Members who have the time which is necessary to dig out facts for these debates.
I propose to go through the Memorandum in the light of what the Secretary of State for Air has said and ask a far larger number of questions than has been my practice in the past, because I believe that it is the test way to criticise and to obtain information from the Government.
First, I must again explain our broad case on defence so far as it is relevant to the Air Estimates. I shall ignore the major policy questions of defence, such as criticisms of foreign policy: for instance, the discouraging of our small Allies, thus leading to the break-up of our alliance and the encouraging of "do-it-yourself" in the alliance. On pure defence the criticism is that year after year, we have had delay in deciding what should be used to carry the ultimate nuclear deterrent. Two hundred V-bombers—the right hon. Gentleman did not use that figure but referred to a large V-bomber force—is a formidable force. I shall not question that, but a much more serious problem is how not only we but anyone else can accept a policy which involves having an ultimate nuclear deterrent which, for technical reasons, becomes less and less credible every year.
For many years we have known that the replacement of the V-bombers with 1452 stand-off bombs would have to be by either the fixed missile or the mobile missile—whether sea, land or air—and eventually the Government chose the fixed missile with liquid fuel. We did not like it, and we said so. Now we are back again, suffering from indecision and more expense, and there is still this problem of getting credibility for the ultimate nuclear deterrent delivery vehicle.
The Minister of Defence told us that the Government's policy was to pick the winner out of the stable. Our case is that this has not happened. There has been the bolting of the stable door year after year after the most expensive horse, a useless horse, has escaped. We have to start with this fact. The Government are asking us for £527 million. We were told by the Minister of Defence that the Royal Air Force costs only as much as one packet of cigarettes per person per week—3s. 11d. That may be so, but it is our duty to see that if we pay for Players we do not get Woodbines. It is important that if we pay for one thing we should be certain that we get it. If the Minister had to choose this simile, it is fair that we should take him up on it. If one pays 3s. 11d. for cigarettes, one wants the right brand.
When we go into this Memorandum there is first of all Bomber Command. The right hon. Gentleman developed the point—and, of course, I agree—that there is a formidable V-bomber force, and, like other hon. Members, I have had the honour of visiting many of the bomber stations, especially Waddington, and I know something of what is going on.
In paragraph 10, again dealing with the bomber force, we see words like this—that next year:Vulcan 2's will be entering service.It goes on to say:The Mark 2 Vulcans and Victors will be capable of carrying … 'stand-off' nuclear weapons …That is fine—"will be capable of"—but will the stand-off nuclear weapon it is capable of carrying be available for it to carry? That is a fair question. I am talking about the Victor 2 coming into service next year which will be capable of carrying stand-off nuclear weapons. Will these stand-off nuclear weapons be available for it to carry?
1453 Paragraph 14 states that… the deployment of Thor will be complete.The right hon. Gentleman told us to watch the time scale, and he said that the Thor was the first strategic missile system ever established. Is it absolutely certain that we are so far ahead of the Russians as all that? It seems to me a most strange statement and I should like the evidence on which it is based. [An HON. MEMBER: "In the West."] He said in the world.
§ Mr. de Freitas
In paragraph 15 there is reference to the development of the Blue Streak. The Blue Streak "continues" and "good progress is also being maintained with the T.S.R.2." In view of—let us be frank about it—the standstill on the Blue Streak and the apparently yearly change of mind or fashion as to the main carrier of the ultimate nuclear deterrent, probably next year we shall see that the development of the T.S.R.2 continues, which will mean another change of mind.
When we come to Fighter Command, the most interesting thing that the Secretary of State had to say, and it is also said in paragraph 17, was that the range of the Lightnings and Javelins was being increased by methods of in-flight refuelling. I may not have followed this in the technical papers, but I have not heard much about the tankers to be used for this in-flight refuel-ling. I want to be certain that, when it says that something is capable of being used with something else, there is proper planning.
The last paragraph on Fighter Command, paragraph 19, refers to the ballistic missile early warning station, which we discussed at Question Time the other day. There are some questions which I have to put on that. The first is: why should be pay as much as £10 million, or £8 million, for something that is essentially part of the American defence system? They are our Allies and I do not question the fact that they should establish a station in this country; but we are in N.A.T.O. with them, and either this should be paid for as a general contribution to Western defence, in which case there would be a N.A.T.O. cost-sharing formula, or it should be America's affair and the Americans should pay for it.
1454 The second question is: why on earth should it be in a National Park? There is no evidence that the Government have been in any way considerate when it came to setting up in a National Park a great structure like that. We have the incident of the Snowdonia National Park and Pembrokeshire Coast National Park. We are a small island and we must treasure every piece of natural beauty there is.
The third question is the rather more general one of timing. I should like some explanation as to why the announcement should come within a few months of the Summit meeting at the same time as we read about the plan to fly aircraft over 10,000 feet into Berlin. Surely the timing in this case is very important.
Paragraph 20 deals with Coastal Command. The right hon. Gentleman talked about Coastal Command and I welcome what information he had. But, after all, the beginning part of the Memorandum on Coastal Command refers to arrangements that have been made with the Royal Navy. Has there in fact been any real change or are we back where we stood? Does not this mean that things carry on much as they did and everyone is happy and everyone's face is saved?
I will go straight to Transport Command because there is an important point to which the right hon. Gentleman drew my attention when he discussed something which the Minister of Defence had said. We have had a long story in debate over the last few years about the Britannias, the Comets, the Beverleys, the Hastings, the Vallettas and the Argosies, and we have now reached a stage of an alarming gap in the provision of a strategic freighter. What is being done to speed up the Britannic? A great deal of pressure was required on all sides of the House for it to be ordered. Will a great deal of pressure again be required for it to be brought into service?
The Secretary of State referred to the remark by the Minister of Defence that the future aircraft might be based uponthe Comet or on the V.C. 10, or possibly both."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 29th February, 1960; Vol. 168, c. 853.]The right hon. Gentleman has explained that this does not mean that it will have one wing of one aircraft and one wing 1455 of the other. We did not think it was as crude as that. However, I was worried that there might be a suggestion of going off on another tack away from the recommendation of the Select Committee of which we must take account. Paragraph 30 of the Second Report of the Select Committee on Estimates states:The Ministry of Supply representative agreed with the suggestion … that in future the Royal Air Force, when requiring a transport aircraft should take the most suitable current civil type and adapt it.The Select Committee endorsed that suggestion. I am glad that there is no sign of any departure from it in spite of what the Minister of Defence said the other night.
The same Report refers to the Swift. Much has been said about this disastrous project, in which the Minister of Aviation, in his former position as Minister of Supply, cost the country so many millions of pounds, perhaps as much as £30 million Decisive and speedy steps were not taken to cancel the order for the aircraft when it was clear that it was not suitable for the job. The House will remember that it was said that as the difficulties with the Swift increased, so did the production orders.
When the section of the Memorandum dealing with Transport Command tells us that production of the Argosy is "proceeding satisfactorily", does it mean the same as the Minister of Defence when he said that we would have it in 1961–62?
Paragraph 26 of the Memorandum refers, in the context of Army support, to "a more advanced helicopter." I welcome this. Is it the Rotodyne? If so I hope that in future this will be stated, because it is confusing to read of the Rotodyne in one document and of "a more advanced helicopter" in another. If this is not a reference to the Rotodyne, I will be interested to know what it is. When the Minister of Defence spoke of the Rotodyne he described it as a "revolutionary" aircraft, which seemed an obvious adjective to apply.
I was horrified to hear 38 Group described as a new group. I seem to remember it as having something to do with Airborne Forcer Group. If my memory is correct, there will be a lot of people turning not in their graves as 1456 much as in the chairs at the Royal Air Force Club if it is described as a new group.
§ Mr. de Freitas
If so, that is a great advance on the Memorandum, which simply says "a new Group". I am delighted that that has been recognised.
The next section concerns the Royal Air Force in Germany. I have referred already to the Swift, which is to be retired from the Service. I trust that the Minister of Aviation will be invited to the ceremony at which the aircraft is retired.
I am surprised by paragraph 29 and would like an explanation. The Command in Germany, I have always been led to believe, was a well integrated Command in which there were British, Danish, Dutch and others. The Memorandum states, however, that:visits have been exchanged with the Royal Canadian, Royal Danish and Royal Netherlands Air Forces.That gives the impression that they are separate components and do not feel themselves all part of one command. I am sorry that this should be the case. We must congratulate the Second Allied Tactical Air Force on winning the N.A.T.O. Reconnaissance Competition.
Next, I come to the Middle East. On Monday, I asked about CENTO and referred to the five generals with no staff and no troops who are brooding, it was said, about what to do next. I am told that one of these Generals is in fact a Royal Air Force air vice marshal. Is this so? The Memorandum tells us that exercises are designed to increase the efficiency and readiness of CENTO. If so, what are these five senior officers, one of whom, I am told, is a senior R.A.F. officer, doing about it?
The Secretary of State referred to air mobility exercises going "through" certain bases and paragraph 32 of the Memorandum uses the phrasethe rotation of fighter command Hunter and Javelin squadrons through Cyprus.What does "through" mean? Where do they go when they go through Cyprus? I would like to know the meaning of this phrase.
1457 The next paragraphs concerning British Forces, Arabian Peninsula I will leave to my hon. Friends, particularly my hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross), who have recently been in Aden. I have not been there for about ten years.
Concerning the Far East, I would like to know more about the base in the Maldive Islands, to which paragraph 40 refers. Was this another case where, like Cyprus, the civilian Departments were not as tactful as the Service Departments? It is interesting that with one or two exceptions, such as the former Chief of the Imperial General Staff, General Templer, in the Jordan, senior Service officers have conducted themselves very well recently in semi-diplomatic talks and there is much to be said for encouraging them in this rôle. Again, what has happened to Christmas Island, of which no mention is made? I know that the island still exists, but I should like to know whether we have withdrawn from it or whether the Air Force is still there.
My hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock will ask a number of questions on the new officer career structure and strength and recruitment, but I must ask a question which concerns my constituency. Paragraph 54 contains a reference to the Women's Royal Air Force and the new type of local service. My constituency, Lincoln, is right in the heart of Royal Air Force country. It welcomed the announcement of this scheme in the local Press and I had some correspondence on it. If it is possible for the Under-Secretary of State to give me any information, I should like to know how the cheme has gone, not only generally, but especially in Lincoln and Lincolnshire.
The Secretary of State referred to work study. Page 10 of the Memorandum contains an important section on manpower economy and work study. It refers to the success which has been achieved by cutting out work. That is wonderful. The cutting out of work conjures up visions of long days beside a lagoon in the tropics. I know, however, that there is a good deal more in it than that and that the Royal Air Force and Air Vice Marshal Freebody in particular have pioneered this in the Services and have done a great deal of work.
1458 If the directorate is to continue, will the commanders and heads of departments have impressed upon them that, apart from a special work study drive, they are responsible day by day for continuous efforts towards manpower economy? This should not be left to the work study directorate. It is part of an ordinary Commander's job to see that there is manpower economy.
Secondly, what has happened to the report on the future of work study, about which the Under-Secretary told me in answer to a Question in the House in April or May last year? Thirdly, with such a much smaller Air Force, why is it necessary in the Department of the Air Member for Personnel to add yet another officer of air rank? In Personnel, of all departments, it seems strange.
Last year, I suggested that the Air Ministry version of Parkinson's Law was that the air commodores expanded to fill the chairs available for their occupation. I was wrong, however, because if we look at the analysis of the Personnel Department in the Estimates, we see that not only has that happened, but that the air commodores have actually pinched one of the chairs of a squadron leader, so that there are more air rank officers than ever before, even with a smaller Air Force.
The Secretary of State referred, as does paragraph 57 of the Memorandum to the experiments in catering. I should like to know how they have worked out.
In paragraph 62, on training, we see the excellent news that the aircraft accident rate continues to show a steady and encouraging decrease. I congratulate the Secretary of State on this.
I am also pleased that there will be more general and academic study at Cranwell. We must recognise that in this period of history we cannot afford to have mere military technicians in the most important of our Armed Forces, and that the wider the academic training the better. In paragraph 64 of the Memorandum there is a reference to the Royal Air Force winning the Daily Mail Air Race. It so happened that by chance I was at the Arc de Triomphe one morning when a member of the R.A.F. team arrived. I was delighted when my companion, a French officer, said to me, "C'est magnifique, mais ce n'est pas le sport". It was in fact more. It was 1459 a tremendous achievement in organisation and ingenuity, and we congratulate the Royal Air Force upon it.
There is reference also in the Memorandum to spending on domestic accommodation. The figures are formidable, but how long will it be before the R.A.F. can say, "Join the R.A.F. and get a house."? I cannot imagine anything better than that. I want more information about the increasing automation and the use of high-speed electronic computers for forecasting the weather. I notice from the Air Estimates that salaries in the Meteorological Office have gone up. I do not know whether that is a reward for last summer on payment by results—a slightly confused conception of the problem—or whether it means that the Air Ministry is doing what it can to encourage this highly important branch. Meteorology is of great importance not only to the ordinary person but to farmers, to shipping, to the Air Force and to aviation generally.
The Secretary of State referred to the map on the back page of the Memorandum. He referred also to Lord Trenchard. When I saw the map and heard the right hon. Gentleman refer to Lord Trenchard, I was reminded that years ago when I first went to the Air Ministry Lord Trenchard came to have tea with me. I was greatly honoured. He said to me, "If any airman uses a map on the Mercator projection he is not an airman. The world is not flat." I pass that remark on to the right hon. Gentleman as a suggestion for next year.
On Report, we shall have some more questions to ask. The Government are asking for £527,000 million, and that must be justified. [An HON. MEMBER: "Not thousand millions."] I am sorry. I should say £527 million. We have evidence of delays which are really worrying, for example the delay in building a fully effective modern transport system not only for men but for materials. There is delay in deciding on the means whereby the ultimate nuclear deterrent is to be carried after the next few years, with the result that each year, for technical reasons, it becomes les; and less credible as a deterrent. This money must be justified. At present we have not all the evidence that we need to be able to say that we are getting value for money. I 1460 would say, in the metaphor used by the Minister of Defence, that the evidence seems to be that we are getting Woodbines, that we are paying 3s. 11d., and we should be getting Players.
I hope that today and on Thursday next the Secretary of State and the Under-Secretary of State for Air will be able to answer many of the questions which will be put to them and will be able to satisfy us, as far as we can be satisfied in our Parliamentary procedure—for that is extremely difficult—that we are getting value for money.
§ 5.4 p.m.
§ Wing Commander Eric Bullus (Wembley, North)
This is the eleventh year of debate on the Air Estimates since I came to the House and I have taken part in most of the debates. This is not the first occasion on which I have had the pleasure of following in the debate the hon. Member for Lincoln (Mr. de Freitas). I hope that that situation may obtain on our respective sides of the Committee for many years to come. I agree, of course, with many of the pleasant things which the hon. Member said. The criticisms which he made I shall leave to the Under-Secretary who will be replying, because I have my own praises and my own criticisms to convey.
In the years after the war and right up to 1957, all our Air Estimates debates seem to have followed a steady pattern, with a review of a successful year, with new aircraft coming into service, and general progress reported. But in the last three years, scientific knowledge, technology, and space "know-how" have increased tremendously, so that more than ever it becomes essential that in defensive matters, and especially in the Royal Air Force, we should be streamlined and yet flexible enough to take advantage of the almost daily discoveries of new technique and advanced knowledge.
It is not surprising, therefore, that those who have not followed events closely should experience some difficulty in forming a confident judgment about the central issues of general defence policy and the important rôle of the R.A.F. The one certainty is that our present research and development will take us to realms not dreamed of in our present conception. That is why, while preserving an efficient and ever-ready service, we should still be in a position, politically, strategically and 1461 economically to take immediate advantage of exceptional advances in technological invention and skill. I believe that we in this country have the greatest "know-how" and the greatest scientific genius in the world.
I have often thought that we have been slow to prove a new type of aircraft. We have delayed its trials because of the abnormal number of modifications we have permitted. I have always felt that there should be a deadline, so to speak, after which only safety modifications should be allowed. There may be a deadline now, but it is too far away from the drawing board stage.
In modern conditions—while possessed of a deterrent and an efficient defence—we must be sufficiently flexible to embody rapidly into our service any new discovery if we are to remain among the leaders of the world. A year ago the possibility of an air-launched ballistic missile was largely a project, yet today we contemplate Skybolt, a ballistic missile of great range and hitting power which can be launched from aircraft.
§ Wing Commander Bullus
We must have a flexible defence policy which can quickly accommodate such a new project. The Secretary of State has said in his speech that he is aware of the need for that flexibility.
The Royal Air Force has had a good year. The Service undoubtedly owes much to Sir Dermot Boyle, whose name surely will be written down as that of one of the really great Chiefs of Air Staff.
§ Wing Commander Bullus
His successor. Sir Thomas Pike, has to my mind made an impressive start, and I am sure that the whole Committee will wish him well in his responsible post.
I will now make a few brief points on publicity for the Royal Air Force. I know that, five years ago, criticisms were made of its public relations and publicity, which today are better than they were then. But this does not mean that there is not still room for improvement. For instance, more should be made of the excellent opportunities for commissions of eight and twelve-year periods. 1462 This afternoon the Secretary of State referred to those wonderful opportunities, and on Monday the Minister of Defence expressed surprise at the generous opportunities.
If the Minister of Defence was surprised it is possible that many other people in the country are unaware of the generous opportunities provided by those commissions. The other day I heard of a young man of 18 years of age who had considered the Royal Air Force as a career, but was not aware that after eight years' service the gratuity is £1,800 and after twelve years' service it is £3,000, in addition to the generous pay and allowances and the attractive life. When the Under-Secretary of State winds up the debate will he tell us about the salary and pay structure compared with comparable positions in the professions and industry?
The Secretary of State has given us some details of the opportunities for commissions. Would he consider a new type of commission for suitable candidates of good education who have left school and have embarked on a career in the city, or in industry, but have then found themselves unsuited for that work and are attracted to the Royal Air Force?
A list of successes of the Royal Air Force in rugby and athletics, which I heard detailed the other evening, was most impressive. It is a record that has extended over the last two years. Perhaps more could be made of those extraneous achievements in recruiting and boosting the Service. During my own war service at H.Q. overseas I noticed occasional reluctance to beat the big drum of Service successes.
These days it is necessary, especially with the end of National Service, to attract the best type of entrant. Since the Secretary of State expressed the desire to attract the best type of men for commissions, we should make more of the publicity of the Royal Air Force. I wonder whether this holding-back mentality is still prevalent in the Ministry? Is every opportunity taken to give the name of the leader of a ceremonial fly-past and other honours undertaken by the Service? I believe that such publicity would be a big morale booster for it.
The other day I learned something of "Cas. Evac."—that is, the casualty evacuation provision made by the Royal 1463 Air Force under the auspices of Transport Command for all three Services. I believe that this is one of the fine examples of the human and humane side of the Royal Air Force, which is much appreciated, but which, I believe, should be much more widely known. I was told of the successful transportation of two Service poliomyelitis cases. The patients were strapped comfortably in a Comet aircraft, which flew them from Aden at the rate of eight miles a minute and nearly eight miles up in the air, to hospital in this country. During that time the patients were ministered to by capable nurses. My observer tells me of the humility he felt in the presence of those ministering angels. Much more publicity should be given to this really wonderful service.
Mention of Aden reminds me that some excellent building work is being done there. The earlier complaints by the Royal Air Force were rather "ham-handed." Adverse publicity gave the impression that things were much worse than was the case. Here again, I think that publicity and public relations were at fault, and I hope that we shall learn our lessons from those adverse occurrences.
As the hon. Member for Lincoln pointed out, we require much money and we must get value for it. We need to streamline and, where possible, to make economies because there is a limit to what we can spend. I wonder whether the Secretary of State has considered the Central Fighter Establishment in West Raynham, which I know has done excellent work and is the trial ground for many new fighters. Could not a saving be made there by amalgamating it with the Central Bomber Establishment? Also, could not some of the existing squadrons at other bombing stations play a dual rôle? I believe that they would jump at the opportunity, and this would only be reverting to a pre-war practice.
Only a year or so ago authoritative persons forecast the near end of manned aircraft. Today, it is evident that we shall want skilled pilots for years to come, so we must secure the right type of recruit. The Royal Air Force has a great and glorious history and it has still an important and essential rôle to fulfil in a changing world. May it continue 1464 to play its part in a pattern and a strategy which will ensure the peace of the world.
§ 5.17 p.m.
§ Mr. Philip Noel-Baker (Derby, South)
As one who held for all too short a time the office which the Secretary of State for Air holds today, I will start with an ardent tribute to the immortal services which the Royal Air Force has rendered to mankind since it was formed, and to the skill, the spirit and the devotion which it still shows.
I want to make what I hope will be a relatively brief intervention. Some hon. Members may think that what I have to say would be more appropriate in a foreign affairs debate. With respect, I think that it goes to the very heart of the task which the Secretary of State has now to fulfil, namely, how he can defend our people from the disaster of war.
It is thirteen years since I had to perform the duty which the right hon. Gentleman has to perform today and I hope that the Committee will forgive me a personal reminiscence. In 1947, the policy of Stalinist aggression was at its height. There were sponsored Communist uprisings all over the world. There was a propaganda war of frenzied violence against the Western Governments, and we were on the eve of the Berlin blockade and the coup d'etat in Prague. The Russian delegates were treating with studied contempt, indeed, with cynical frivolity, the very detailed plans for total nuclear disarmament which, with the Americans, we were putting forward.
In those circumstances, I believed it to be of the utmost importance that the Western defences should be maintained. I shared the view of Lord Tedder, who was Chief of Staff, that by the end of the Second World War air power had become the decisive factor in all warlike operations by land and sea. For these reasons I always said to Lord Tedder, Sir John Slessor, Sir Ralph Cochrane and Sir William Dickson and others who advised me that I would support them to the hilt in their efforts to keep the Royal Air Force efficient and strong, and I did battle with the Treasury on their behalf to the utmost of my power.
But I also said something else as well. I said: "The time will come, and perhaps quickly, when Russian policy will 1465 change. In due course, all revolutionary régimes change. It will some day happen that the Kremlin will seek peace instead of war. There will be a new Litvinov who will be ready, as Litvinov was ready"—I worked with him, and I think I know—"to accept drastic, all-round international disarmament with effective inspection and control."
I said to my Royal Air Force colleagues, "When that day comes, as it most assuredly will come, it will be the duty of the Secretary of State for Air and his Service advisers and the Air Council not to oppose disarmament, not to raise technical objections, not to obstruct and delay agreement. It will be their duty to help the Government to find the practical solutions that will promote the rapid making of a disarmament treaty." I further said, "Since air power is now decisive as the principal offensive weapon in all warlike operations of any kind, drastic air disarmament will be of crucial importance in the making of a general treaty."
I then quoted from Mr. Stanley Baldwin's famous speech of 1932:All disarmament turns on the air.I should like to quote some more of that speech. I hope that the Secretary of State for Air will make time to read it all. He will find it in the OFFICIAL REPORT for 10th November, 1932. Mr. Baldwin spoke ofthe appalling speed which the air has brought into modern warfare.He made his famous prophecy—the only thing now quoted—thatthe bomber will always get through".He went on:It is well also for the man in the street to realise that there is no power on earth that can prevent him from being bombed.He went on, in words which I still find prophetic:Fear is a very dangerous thing. It is quite true that it may act as a deterrent in people's minds against war, but it is much more likely to act to make them want to increase armaments to protect them against the terrors that they know may be launched against them. We have to remember that aerial warfare is still in its infancy, and its potentialities are incalculable and inconceivable.Mr. Baldwin spoke of thefutile attempts that have been made to deal with1466 the problems of disarmament:the reduction in the size of aeroplanes, the prohibition of the bombardment of the civil population …He then said:What would be the only result of reducing the size of aeroplanes? … immediately every scientific man in the country will turn to making a high explosive bomb about the size of a walnut and as powerful as a bomb of big dimensions … On the solution of this question hangs … in my view, our civilisation … I am firmly convinced myself"—I wish people would remember these words—and have been for some time, that if it were possible the air forces ought all to be abolished … all disarmament hangs on the air."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 10th November, 1932; Vol. 270, c. 632–7.]That speech was made in November, 1932, when the Geneva Disarmament Conference was near its utterly disastrous end. But Mr. Baldwin had held that view for many months. We now know from diplomatic documents which the Government of the United States have published that he had told the American delegates in May that it was no use for the conference to go on "pecking at the problem"—that is, discussing various "partial" measures and refusing to come to grips with the central problem of whether or not they wanted the effective abolition of war and of the armaments by which it was carried on.
Mr. Baldwin told the American delegates, Mr. Norman Davis and Mr. Hugh Gibson, that he was convinced that the right plan was for the other nations to abolish all the large battleships, all the aircraft carriers, all the submarines and all the national air forces which Germany had been forbidden to have by the Treaty of Versailles.
I know no one who was at the Geneva Conference, as I was, who believes that, if the British Government had put forward Mr. Baldwin's proposals, the conference would have failed. Mr. Baldwin's view was shared by many people who had been high in the counsels of the Air Ministry and the Royal Air Force. Sir Samuel Hoare—the late Lord Templewood—who presented the Estimates almost as often as the right hon. Gentleman has done, had given constant warnings about the grave dangers of air warfare and had urged an international agreement for air disarmament year after year.
1467 Lord Trenchard, whom my hon. Friend the Member for Lincoln (Mr. de Freitas) has mentioned, the greatest airman we ever had, one of the men who can really be said to have won the Second World War, and Chief of Air Staff for eleven years, said to an audience of university undergraduates while he was still Chief of the Air Staff:I do not want you to think that I look upon air as a blessing altogether. … I feel that all the good it will do in civil life cannot balance the harm that may be done in war by it; and, if I had the casting vote, I would say: 'Abolish the air. I feel that it is an infinitely more harmful weapon of war than any other.'On many other occasions Lord Trenchard emphasises that national air forces were the weapon of surprise attack; that is, the weapon which, above all others, would help an unprovoked aggression. That view was shared by many other Service people who had given their minds to the true problem of defence between the wars. Major-General Temperley, who was Sir Anthony Eden's collaborator at Geneva in the Disarmament Conference of 1932, and who helped Sir Anthony to draw up his draft disarmament convention which he put forward in March of the following year, wrote a book in 1938 in which he spoke ofthe fear of instant and overwhelming attack which haunts Governments and general staffs todayWithin three years events in Poland, Denmark, Norway, France, Yugoslavia, Greece and Pearl Harbour had proved how justified was that haunting fear. I repeat—I am coming, to the point that I want to impress upon the Secretary of State—that if the British Government had accepted the view of Mr. Baldwin, Lord Trenchard, Sir Anthony Eden and Major-General Temperley, if they had put forward Baldwin's plan as a British proposal in May, 1932, or even if they had accepted President Hoover's less ambitious but still very drastic disarmament proposals made in June, that conference could hardly have failed and the course of history might have been very different from what it was.
Why was that plan not put forward? This is what I want to impress upon the Secretary of State, IA hose modesty, can-dour, patriotism and honesty of purpose we all appreciate and admire. The British Government did not put forward 1468 Baldwin's plan in 1932 because Baldwin was defeated by a narrow majority in the so-called "National" Cabinet of the day. The opposition to him was led by the Service Ministers, who all resisted with all their power the proposals for real disarmament which he made.
This is not a matter of surmise on my part. I am not doing hypothetical guessing based on Mr. Baldwin's speech and on the American diplomatic documents which I have quoted. Major-General Temperley wrote about it most revealingly in the book which I have quoted. I could give a hundred supplementary details from my own knowledge and experience in Geneva.
I will simply quote the words of the then Secretary of State for Air, Lord Londonderry. Speaking in another place in 1935, when the conference was over, Lord Londonderry said:In 1932 the Disarmament Conference assembled and almost its earliest discussions were centred around the possibility of the total abolition of Air Forces or at least of the abolition of the artillery of the air the bombing aeroplane … Through that period, difficult for any Air Minister and particularly for one who, like myself, has always been convinced of the prime importance of the maintenance of an effective air arm to the security of this country, I kept impressing upon my colleagues and upon the country generally the vital nature and place of the Royal Air Force in the scheme of our defences. I had the utmost difficulty at that time"—mark these words—amid the public outcry, in preserving the use of the bombing aeroplane … I felt certain that when the ideals of abolition of Air Forces were examined practically they would be discovered to be inapplicable in the state of the world today."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, House of Lords, 22nd May, 1935; Vol. 96, c. 1017.]Lord Londonderry won. Mr. Baldwin was defeated. I have recalled this ancient history because the Secretary of State faces a situation which is singularly like that which Lord Londonderry faced nearly thirty years ago. Vital disarmament discussions are to begin in ten days' time. Once again, it is evident that all disarmament turns on the air. The Foreign Secretary tells us that the answer to the crucial problem of secret nuclear stocks lies—or may lie, I do not want to over-interpret what he says—in the abolition of means of delivery—that is to say, bombers and missiles by which nuclear weapons can 1469 be used. Now Major-General Temperley's nightmare fear of instant and overwhelming attack is far more instant and far more overwhelming than anything that he conceived.
The Secretary of State told us yesterday that even with the early warning system, the notice to the Royal Air Force of an attack would be from four to 15 minutes—that is to say, no effective warning at all to the British people. Relatively few missiles—10, 15, 50—might finish the nation off. Whatever he may do about his bases for his missiles, the nation is a fixed target.
I am glad that the right hon. Gentleman has not tried this afternoon to nourish any trans-Atlantic hope of an anti-missile missile. I know that the Americans have actually intercepted a short-range missile at a low altitude, but I do not think that that takes us very far. I remember Dr. Tellers' talk about "clean bombs" when he wanted to go on with tests. He talked about that at a time when, as Dr. David Hill, his eminent colleague, has revealed, the United States Atomic Energy Commission was actually engaged on tests in the Pacific intended to make its bombs even "dirtier" than before.
The difficulties of the anti-missile missile have been explained in an admirable paper by Mr. Timothy Raison, of the Bow Group, called "The Missile Years". I quote it to ensure that it may reach a wider public through the OFFICIAL REPORT:If there is one thing on which scientists and defence experts are agreed today it is the almost incredible difficulty and cost of providing any sort of anti-missile defence that would stop anything like the proportion of missiles that would have to be stopped before any country could claim any degree of immunity to the horrors of nuclear war. The problem of detecting that missiles have been launched, of tracking each one as it comes into the radar horizon, of avoiding interference from enemy counter-measures, of gauging the exact trajectory of the missile, is vast enough in itself; but the problem of assessing this information by computer, of setting a counter missile into the exact trajectory of the on-coming missile and of getting close enough to destroy or at least deflect it—all this is recognised as being of a difficulty which makes previous military technological problems seem minor. Above the atmosphere the blast of even a megaton warhead will have little effect; and once the missile has reached the upper atmosphere there are only a few seconds before it lands. Finally, because of the shorter time in flight, defence against an I.R.B.M. is even harder than against an I.C.B.M.1470 The stark truth is—and it needs repeating in every defence debate; above all, in every debate about air—that there is no defence. There will be no defence for many years, if ever, against the modern weapons. As the Minister of Aviation said last year, there can be no safety for our nation, or any nation, until there is world disarmament. For that reason I appeal to the Secretary of State, as the Minister most intimately concerned, to do all in his power to promote success in the discussions which are shortly to begin.
We are face to face, as we were in 1932, with potential enemies who profess that they are willing, on terms that are safe and fair to all, drastically to disarm. Let him reflect on what the uncommitted world will think if we fail to take them up on what they say. Finally, let him think of the real nature of the instruments of destruction which he controls.
In the First World War we had poison gas. It was at Ypres that the Germans first used the chlorine cloud. I saw the French colonial troops running in panic, and Canadians who held the line gasping out their lives with an evil yellow froth oozing from their mouths. In the Second World War gas was not used—but we had gas chambers in which 7 million people perished. While Hitler was committing these atrocities, we held millions of German prisoners in our hands, but we did not kill them and we took no reprisals of any kind.
Yet today we say that, if an enemy attacks us, or any of our allies, we will immediately use instruments which might obliterate tens of millions of people who might have no responsibility for what their Government have done. I ask the Secretary of State: what is happening to the morality on which our civilisation is based? That is the brutal issue which every Government must face. The Secretary of State has a great opportunity to render an undying service to mankind. I hope that he will use it to the full.
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes
On a point of order, Mr. Hynd. There have been fewer than 24 Members in the Chamber in the last half hour. What course can I take to get the Members of this House interested in the fact that we are spending more that £520 million?
§ The Temporary Chairman (Mr. H. Hynd)
I do not think that the hon. Member needs any ac vice from me on that.
§ Notice taken that 40 Members were not present;
§ Committee counted, and, 40 Members being present—
§ 5.40 p.m.
§ Sir Arthur Vere Harvey (Macclesfield)
The Committee listened to the right hon. Member for Derby, South (Mr. P. Noel-Baker) with great interest. He began by saying that he would probably make a foreign affairs speech and I suppose that that is what it Alas, but that did not make it any less interesting. All of us would welcome the bringing about of disarmament at the earliest possible moment. It is just a question of the way to do it. I did not understand why the right hon. Gentleman, with his long experience in Government, should suggest that the Royal Air Force should be the first Service to go. He will remember the Berlin airlift, when aircraft saved millions of people in Berlin from probable starvation.
§ Mr. P. Noel-Baker
I think that I was the first Minister to propose the airlift, which broke the blockade. I remember it very well. I am not proposing air disarmament alone. There would have to be drastic all-round disarmament of all forces. I am saying only that air forces are so important in warfare that it is vitally important that air disarmament should be included in any agreement on disarmament.
§ Sir A. V. Harvey
I am sorry that I misunderstood the right hon. Gentleman, but I thought that he said that we must get on with abolishing the air forces.
§ Sir A. V. Harvey
Air forces could have a great part to play in final disarmament in the photographing of other territories. If we get disarmament, both sides will have to be satisfied about what the other is doing and that can best be done by aerial photography.
I feel much happier about the R.A.F. than I did one or two years ago. When the present Minister of Aviation brought out his White Paper on Defence, in 1957, the implication was that manned aircraft had a limited In the United States, 1472 two and a half years after the publication of that White Paper, there are vast reductions in orders for aircraft and equipment and many cancellations are taking place. On a relatively greater scale, the American industry is going through what the British aircraft industry went through eighteen months ago.
I do not suppose that any hon. Member has been more inclined to regard defence as an insurance than I have for the last fifteen years. I have looked upon it as insurance against war and I also know what the Royal Air Force can do in a humanitarian sense. But I am now coming to the conclusion that there are doubts about Blue Streak and that the tendency now is to return to the manned bomber as another means of delivering the deterrent.
That may be all right for the United States, which has the money and the resources, but this country does not have those resources. I do not say that we ought not to have defences. We have to march in step with other countries to bring about disarmament, but we cannot have both forms of defence. Personally, I would rather see the bomber force built up, but made more mobile and dispersed all over the world. I know that it is said that the bomber is probably more expensive than the missile launched from the ground, but I do not think that that is the case in the long run.
We criticise the Service Departments for increasing Estimates, but I am sure that it is almost impossible, when an order is placed, to work out what the probable cost will be. With rapid advances in science and technology, the bill will continue to increase. I am afraid that if we go on as we have been doing, three or four years from now the bill for defence will be approaching £2,000 million a year.
Our country cannot afford that and such a bill will cripple us. I am now dealing with economics. I believe that the success of the economy and the welfare of our people depend on an all-round reduction of taxation and better pensions, but we can achieve that only if we watch our defence policy carefully.
The other day the Minister of Defence spoke of the possibility of launching a ballistic missile from aircraft—the Sky-bolt. I wonder how far that is a goal. 1473 It may not be developed for several years, but I have heard it suggested that its development is not very far away, and this afternoon my right hon. Friend talked about a new type of aircraft which would deliver an air-launched ballistic weapon. I wonder whether we should not be considering that form of development and working closely with the Americans to see what can be done.
The development of Blue Streak continues, but I hesitate to think what the eventual bill will be. The Government are being criticised by hon. Members on both sides of the Committee about Blue Streak, but I do not think that the Government can be blamed for changing their minds about Blue Streak. The Minister of Aviation showed great courage when he presented his Defence White Paper. The Government had to give Blue Streak a run to see whether it would work. When expressing views of this kind, one is always handicapped by a lack of information, but from what one reads in the newspapers, and from what the technical people say and from the information which hon. Members pick up here and there, one is able to piece together a story, and there must be some element of doubt about it. I hope that the Government will consider the matter and weigh the situation very carefully in the near future.
The key to the effectiveness of our future defence is mobility. I welcome the improvement which my right hon. Friend said had taken place during the last twelve months, but it has not gone nearly far enough. We have to be able to move men in greater numbers and at greater speed. That will be costly, but if we are to have smaller Services let us make them more efficient.
We are to get the Britannic and I hope that it will do a good job for the Royal Air Force. Has a firm order been placed and not merely an order to proceed with a prototype? When will the prototype fly and when will deliveries begin? When the Minister of Aviation made his recent statement about the reorganisation of the aircraft industry, I criticised the firm making the Britannic and said that it had not made a profit. I have now been informed by that company that it has made a profit. I have done some research at Bush House and found that I can trace the balance sheets for only the last three years, because the company 1474 did not have a London office before that date. If I am wrong about what I said, I withdraw it and apologise to the company and I hope that it will produce the Britannic very quickly.
My right hon. Friend stated that there was a possibility of an order for a small number of Comet IVs as well as VC 10s. I welcome that, but what has the department of operational requirements been doing for the last few years? The VC 10 was ordered by B.O.A.C. nearly two years ago. I thought that it had been agreed that in future, if it were possible, the Royal Air Force would order transports and the airlines would take them subsequently when the "bugs" had been "ironed out" and when we had efficient air liners to sell to the world.
With the VC 10 we may be repeating the mistakes which were made with the Britannia, when we got bad advertisements all over the world because of engine troubles, and so on. My right hon. Friend will get all the support he wants if he needs these aircraft, but the department at the Air Ministry which considers future requirements does not appear to have been very busy in the last few years and it is now a little late to say what aircraft are required. I prefer to see the Royal Air Force placing orders in conjunction with B.O.A.C., as in the case of the Comet II.
This country has to live by exports. If we are to pay for these things, we must work the building of our military aircraft in with the building of civilian types which we can sell overseas. My right hon. Friend referred to the Comet II, which has given remarkably good service to the Royal Air Force. It has done well, but I should like to refer briefly to a few remarks made by Air Marshal Sir Denis Barnett to the Institute of Transport. He said:In terms of load-carrying characteristics which need representation within the strategic fleet, the bracket of requirement is a wide one. At one end of the scale is the need for as liberal a capability for the carriage of a mixed passenger and freight load as is compatible with the overriding need for really high performance—not only in range but in speed.I hesitate to refer to the Britannic again, but is my right hon. Friend satisfied that he will have in the Britannic what Air Marshal Barnett mentioned at the Institute of Transport? I hope that 1475 the Air Ministry and the Government are satisfied about that.
My right hon. Friend referred to refuelling in the air. I often wonder why the Royal Air Force public relations department does not say more about refuelling in the air. For years we have read about American bombers flying round the world and being refuelled at different points, but we have heard practically nothing about the Royal Air Force being refuelled in the air. It would be good propaganda for recruitment to say what is being done. The public should be made more aware of how the Royal Air Force carries out this type of operation.
Our V-bombers have done remarkably well. They have flown round the world, but it is only rarely that one reads about them. I ask my right hon. Friend to try to shake up the public relations people at the Air Ministry and tell the public, who, after all, are paying for these bombers, what is being done.
§ Sir Beverley Baxter (Southgate)
Newspapers would be glad to give the Royal Air Force such publicity. The air is of perennial interest to the Press.
§ Sir A. V. Harvey
I am glad to have the support of my hon. Friend the Member for Southgate (Sir B. Baxter), who is an eminent journalist. Perhaps he would give my right hon. Friend some advice.
I asked a Question about the delivery of the Mark II bombers. I did not do so to be mischievous We all recognise that the Mark II bomber is the mainstay of our bomber force, or will he. I hope that my right hon. Friend will do everything he can to speed up delivery. We know that a tragic accident took place in one of the V-bombers last year, and the wreckage was never found. That happens when one is dealing with new aircraft. Another type is being delivered, and I hope that something will be said about it.
I should like to ask the question which the hon. Member for Lincoln (Mr. de Freitas) asked about the stand-off bomb. What progress is being made?
I want to refer briefly to the N.A.T.O. air defence under the command of General Norstad. He is a fine gentleman and one of the most capable officers I 1476 have ever met. He is a remarkable man. When will these forces be unified? I regard N.A.T.O. as the right and proper channel for the defence of Western Europe. We cannot "go it alone". We must do it through N.A.T.O. and this unification is long overdue.
One hon. Member spoke about the running down of the Soviet bomber force. We know that Mr. Khrushchev made a statement earlier this year that the Soviet bomber force was being run down, but it does not mean that he will do without bombers. It probably means that he has sufficient bombers to carry on with for several years when used in conjunction with missiles. Let us not underestimate his capabilities. The fact that he is running down some of his production may mean that he wants to increase production of something else.
Despite the trend of missiles for defence, bombers of the Strategic Air Command and the Royal Air Force Bomber Command will remain our main system of protection for a long time. Air defence against bombers and missiles is to be by contramissile projects, for example, the Nike-Zeus. It is an American project. How is that progressing?
We have been told about the early warning system but, as Lord Trenchard has been quoted as saying, the bomber will always get through. About eighteen months ago I had the privilege of visiting the United States Strategic Air Command, at Omaha. No command could be more efficient and more on the alert, yet in the exercises that they carry out with dummy runs the bombers still get through. I welcome the early warning system, but I wonder what would happen if an enemy submarine off the west coast of the Isle of Man lobbed something in from that direction. What would we know about it? It is rather frightening.
This afternoon, my right hon. Friend said that the standard is being raised for entrants to the Cadet College at Cranwell, but he did not mention the number of entrants there at the moment. Nor did he mention the entrants at the engineering college, Henlow. It need not be a secret. The Committee ought to know if there is a large percentage of entrants not attending those colleges. My right hon. Friend is right in raising 1477 the standard for entrants into the Royal Air Force. It is a technical service which will become even more technical, and we must get the best men.
I have read the Memorandum and I have listened to the speeches made so far this afternoon. Very little has been said about the volunteer effort in the Royal Air Force. I am sure that that is not a deliberate omission, because there is still a considerable volunteer force in the Royal Air Force. There is the Royal Air Force Voluntary Reserve, the Royal Auxiliary Air Force, which controls the fighter control units, there are the cadets, the university air squadrons at seventeen universities, and the Royal Observer Corps. Why have we heard so little about the men and women who give up their spare time to these organisations? They are not now playing the part that they were playing a few years ago, but one day we might require them again. I ask my right hon. Friend not to forget the volunteer element of the Royal Air Force, which rendered such good service some years ago.
The cost of running the Air Ministry has gone up by £180,000, although the Air Force is smaller. No doubt we shall be told that the Air Force is becoming more technical, and that that accounts for the increased cost, but with streamlining the cost of running the Air Ministry ought to be less. Why is it now costing more?
I am glad that the Minister of Defence is present, because ten days ago he was kind enough to receive a deputation on pensions. He did not give a decision, but said that he would think about it. I appeal to my right hon. Friend to support the case for widows of Service personnel. I cannot for the life of me see why we should have two types of widows, the widow whose husband died on a certain date and, therefore, gets a smaller pension than a widow whose husband died subsequently. I realise that pensions have to be graded, but there are not many widows. Surely they could all be treated as equals. We will do less than justice if we do not recognise that there is a strong case for equal pensions.
Finally, I should like to congratulate my right hon. Friend on introducing the Air Estimates for the eighth time. He also introduced the Navy Estimates once, when he was at the Admiralty, thus 1478 making a total of nine Estimates. I also congratulate the Parliamentary Secretary on the way he has performed his duties in the few months that he has been at the Air Ministry. He went to Aden a few months ago and cleared up what was a great misunderstanding in a situation that should never have been brought about. I only wish that somebody could have gone earlier. No doubt the affairs of the General Election prevented that.
I am convinced today, more than I was two years ago, that there is a good future for the Royal Air Force. We have the best material, and if we look after it properly it will serve the country well in the future.
§ 6.0 p.m.
§ Mr. James Boyden (Bishop Auckland)
I agree with the hon. Member for Macclesfield (Sir A. V. Harvey) that there might be scope for economy in the Air Ministry. I propose to suggest a way in which £32,000 could be saved. I know that this is a small amount considered beside the astronomical sums of money we are discussing, but the fact that it is possible to save this sum reveals a certain attitude of mind which could well be altered. The main tenor of the speech of the Minister of Defence was that we wanted the greatest efficiency at the least cost. I notice that the White Paper on Defence referred to work studies, just as does the Memorandum on the Air Estimates. The Defence White Paper said:We are continuing to use work study as widely as we can … the object of that is the more efficient use of manpower.In the Air Estimates Memorandum we find the words:Work study continues to yield valuable dividendsI wish that the Secretary of State for Air would apply his mind and his work study methods to the R.A.F. Ceremonial Unit. This unit costs £64,000 per annum. It consists of 125 airmen, six N.C.O.s, and two officers. It is responsible for the safe custody and the provision of escorts for the Queen's Colour; for guards of honour, and for drill demonstrations. In January, 1958, this unit turned out three times—twice at three-quarters strength and once at one-third strength. In January, 1959, it turned out once, at one-fifth of its strength. I agree that the Secretary of State for Air pointed out that this was 1479 the quietest month in the history of the unit. In January, 1960, it turned out twice—once at one-third strength and once at three-quarters strength. In December, 1958, it turned out three times, and on no occasion was it at more than half strength. In December, 1959, it was turned out five times, only once at over half strength.
In five months, selected at random, it turned out only three times at anything like full strength, and only fourteen times altogether. I calculate that each turnout cost the taxpayer £1,800.
§ The Temporary Chairman
I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Member, but this debate is on Vote A, and is supposed to be a general debate on the Air Force. Matters of detail can be raised at a later stage. The whole idea of this evening's debate is to avoid raising specific matters of detail.
§ Mr. Charles Pannell (Leeds, West)
On a point of order. It is a pity that that Ruling was not made clear earlier in the debate. Anybody who listened to the Minister and to my hon. Friend the Member for Lincoln (Mr. de Freitas) would know that they went into considerable detail. With great respect, I would suggest that the matter which my hon. Friend has raised is in order in a debate on the Air Estimates, because we are considering the de tailed Estimates. It seems wrong to let the Minister get away with it and then to pull up my hon. Friend.
§ The Temporary Chairman
I was basing my remarks on the specific Ruling given from the Chair last year. The whole idea of arranging debates in this way this year was to make tonight's debate a general one, with specific points being raised on another occasion. If the hon. Member is raising only one specific point I must rule him out of order.
§ Mr. Boyden
I wish to draw attention to the use of work study, and by means of this illustration to show that there is scope for its use in the Air Ministry.
§ The Temporary Chairman
If the hon. Member is using this as an illustration to prove a wider point, he is in order.
§ Mr. Boyden
I was suggesting that a unit which costs £64,000 a year and turns 1480 out on fourteen occasions in five months could be rationalised if the methods boasted of by the Air Ministry were applied to it.
I go on from there to take another example of the same sort of thing. It seems that the conventional attitude to the problem of funerals is defeating economy. The unit was called out on four occasions to attend funerals and the number of men used varied from 29 to 75. It struck me that it might be a good idea to look up the different military instructions in respect of this field of ceremonial activity. I first referred to the Air Council Instructions, and found that the instructions for Royal Air Force funeral parties were that for an air marshal there should be not more than 10 officers and 200 men, and that for an airman there should be one sergeant and 10 airmen. I then turned to the Army Regulations and found that for a lieutenant-general the funeral party should not exceed 1,750 all ranks, while for a soldier it should not exceed two sections.
Lastly, I turned to the Navy Regulations, and found that the Navy took a different attitude. Although this is a conventional matter it is capable of rationalisation, with consequent economy to the public purse. The Navy Regulations said:Funeral honours are to be paid officially only at the funerals of officers and ratings … who have died on active service … the Admiralty may authorise the rendering of funeral honours at the funeral of an officer who has held certain high appointments.The point I wish to make is that there is a great contrast between the expenditure of public money in one field of activity and economy in another field, namely, the burial and transport of bodies of other ranks. The Navy Regulations in this respect say:The bodies of officers and ratings who die abroad cannot be brought back to the British Isles at public expense for burial. Repatriation is not prohibited in peacetime if the next of kin are prepared to arrange and pay for it; it is, however, exceedingly expensive, and the next of kin should be discouraged from undertaking it.There seem to be several standards of public expenditure, all of which need looking into closely.
Taking guards of honour, the standard number of men to be marshalled seems to be fifty-two. Cannot that point be 1481 looked at? Cannot the scheme which sets out these conventions be looked at? I am sure the Secretary of State and the Minister of Defence are modest men who would not mind a slight reduction in the number of men turned out for them, and if the Secretary of State will not abolish this unit, which would save £64,000, I would ask him to consider some way of reducing the numbers involved, making the maximum use of the unit but saving for the public purse at least half its present cost, namely, £32,000. That sum would build twenty council houses, or provide the staffs of three good secondary modern schools.
If this attitude of mind exists in respect of the expenditure of money on this sort of thing, we cannot be sure that the same attitude of mind does not exist in respect of other fields of military activity covered by the Estimates and it is on these grounds that I ask the Secretary of State to consider the matter seriously. I end by saying that another step, which would also increase efficiency, would be the provision of an index to Queen's Regulations and Air Council Instructions.
§ 6.9 p.m.
§ Mr. Michael Clark Hutchison (Edinburgh, South)
I hope that the hon. Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Boyden) will forgive me if I do not follow him in his remarks about ceremonials and similar matters. I wish to draw attention to the Royal Air Force base at Aden. I understand that my right hon. Friend is launching a building programme there, involving about £3 million, and I want to be sure that the buildings will be properly designed. It is no good relying upon some large United Kingdom contractor to put up the buildings, or upon an architect who has been out there for perhaps only three days and thinks he knows all the answers—because he does not.
Local advice should be taken on this matter, and I want to be sure that my hon. Friend is taking advice from people who have lived in the territory for a long time. It may be that air conditioning is a good thing; in fact, in most houses one air conditioned room is a satisfactory idea. But it is much more important that buildings in Aden should have very wide and large verandas. That is far more important than ten air conditioning units. I hope that my right 1482 hon. Friend does not intend to put up accommodation which is not of a permanent nature. Any temporary accommodation will not last, and in the long run it will prove a waste of money.
The large influx of Service personnel into the Colony, due to its geographical position and the part it plays in imperial defence, has resulted in a heavy strain being imposed on the water and electricity services. Capital expenditure is needed for these services in order to expand and extend them to cover present needs. I wish to be certain that my right hon. Friend will ensure that a reasonable contribution is made from imperial funds for the establishment of these additional services. Can the Under-Secretary tell me whether this question has been discussed fully between the Air Officer Commanding in Aden and the Governor and also between himself and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Colonies?
I believe it a fact that the Royal Air Force authorities are thinking of supplying their own electrical power units, on the ground that having them under their own control would make for greater security. It may be that they have the idea that such units could be mobile and that they could be taken away if the base were moved. I think that a false assumption. It is part of the duty of a local garrison to see to the security of the Colony, and therefore it does not matter whether the power stations are under Royal Air Force or civilian control. In fact, were they under civilian control, the Royal Air Force would save money because there would be no need to allocate personnel to man them. In the event of the base being moved, I do not believe that such items could be packed up and taken away. History proves that this just does not happen: the Egyptian base was a case in point. I hope that my hon. Friend has discussed these technical matters with his opposite number in the Colonial Office and that discussions have been going on among the personnel in Aden.
I wish to refer to the relationship between the Royal Air Force personnel and the local people in Aden. It is my belief that some of our troubles in the past have been due to the fact that, where there are military, naval or Air Force bases, the personnel have become 1483 involved in trouble because they have not been on good terms with the local inhabitants. I lived in Aden for about six years. The people there are extremely friendly and highly intelligent and I hope that the Air Officer Commanding and his staff will take the local people into their confidence and tell them what they are trying to do, and why. I hope they will carry the local people with them. It is most important that relationships between Service people and the local inhabitants should be the best possible.
I wish to ask my hon. Friend whether there is to be any further expansion in Aden and, if so, whether he will consider building runways or accommodation over the boundary in the Protectorate, say at Lahej, which is only sixteen miles away. The area of the Colony is only seventy-five square miles and it is overcrowded; there is no room for expansion. But there is a vast area in the Protectorate. At Lahej there is vegetation and water and facilities to supply the basic needs. I believe that some further building and expansion in that area would prove most helpful to the local people, who are poor and who find it a problem to raise their standard of living.
I hope that my hon. Friend will look into all the points which I have put to him, because I have a great affection for Aden. I wish to see the people who are serving in the R.A.F. at that base given the chance to like the place as much as I did and I want their relations with the local people to be the best possible.
§ 6.17 p.m.
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes (South Ayrshire)
For about the last fifteen years I have listened to debates in this Chamber on the Air Estimates, but I have never known such a poor attendance of hon. Members as there has been today. I am at a loss to understand the reason, because less than a week ago, and even at Question Time today, hon. Members opposite were attacking the Leader of the House for not giving them an opportunity to examine public expenditure. Those hon. Members are not present today.
Where is the noble Lord the Member for Dorset, South (Viscount Hinchingbrooke), who talks so loudly about the need to examine the expenditure of public 1484 money? What about the "Nabarro plan"? Those hon. Members are not taking any interest in the discussion on the expenditure of this huge sum of £527 million.
Although the Minister and I have disagreed, at least the right hon. Gentleman will agree that I have always been present to provide him with an audience. He is polite and courteous and gives us every facility to examine the work of his Ministry. But today the right hon. Gentleman and the Opposition spokesmen have been so polite that I felt I was not in the Chamber of the House of Commons but attending a nice, genteel table tennis party.
Why is that? It is because there is no official Opposition. I suggest that if there is to be an official Opposition in this Chamber it should do something to liven up the proceedings by at least making a show of challenging public expenditure. This debate has been a "cake walk" for the Secretary of State for Air. There has been no serious opposition to the underlying idea of this gigantic programme.
After listening to the speech of the Minister of Defence, hon. Members would have thought that defence debates were like a cigarette kiosk. We were asking so little from the nation that it was like asking for one cigarette per person for each of the Services. We are to have a new kind of currency talked about in these debates; it is to be packets of cigarettes. When we ask for an increase in old-age pensions we shall not be asking for packets of cigarettes, but for half a cigarette and the Government will say, "We cannot afford this; it is a huge burden on the economy which will cause inflation and ruin the country."
Where is the right hon. Member for Monmouth (Mr. P. Thorneycroft), who writes important articles in the Financial Times about the burden of national expenditure? I understand that some time ago his statue in Madame Tussaud's was boiled down to make room for Tommy Steele. Now, with the prospect of political recovery, Tommy Steele is out and the right hon. Member is coming back again, so they will make up the wax statue again. There is no real, live right hon. Member for Monmouth here to ask questions about this huge burden of national expenditure.
1485 It has been left to the hon. Member for Macclesfield (Sir A. V. Harvey) to ask some of the most pertinent questions which have been asked in this debate. What is the economic prospect? This is not a trivial sum, but £527 million of unproductive expenditure, and unproductive expenditure is one of the causes of inflation. So I say that I am performing a public service in once more calling attention to the fact that this is a big slice out of the national economy. Once more I am glad to co-operate with the hon. Member for Macclesfield in asking that we should get some value for our money.
When we have a debate on the railways, if a subsidy of £15 million or £20 million is proposed hon. Members opposite will ask, "Where is the money coming from?" We shall be able to say, "It is coming from the same place as is providing the cigarettes." We are paying, so we were told by the Minister of Defence, 3s. per head for the Navy, 3s. 6d. for the Army and, for the Royal Air Force, 3s. 11d. That works out at a comparatively insignificant sum. We give 21s. a week to old-age pensioners and £2 12s. 6d. to a low-paid railwayman with three children. I say that this is not an insignificant sum at all and that all the figures given by the Minister of Defence were just a smokescreen.
Let us try to get some relativity into the matter. I said in an interjection that I would rather that the money was spent on hospitals. How does the money spent on the Air Force compare with what we are asking for the National Health Service? The total running costs of hospital capital expenditure, the general medical services, the pharmaceutical services and dental services all added together are about the same cost. If we read the Press, we find there is much more questioning about these Estimates than there is in the House of Commons. The Press has been trying to picture this controversy as some dramatic headline quarrel between an ex-Minister and the Leader of the Opposition.
I do not deal in personalities on this issue. I have never attacked the Leader of the Opposition. I always recall the advice given by Bernard Shaw in 1930 when there were differences between 1486 the I.L.P. of those days and Mr. Ramsay MacDonald. Bernard Shaw said, "Do not attack Ramsay MacDonald. Just say what you think he should be saying." I am trying to do that today. I believe that what I am saying should have been said officially from the Opposition Front Bench. There is in the country an urgent demand that we should realise these are grave issues on which the life of the country depends. We should be putting the point of view of the Opposition in critical, penetrating, persistent, Opposition terms on these Defence Estimates.
We have been given a very interesting piece of history this afternoon by my right hon. Friend the Member for Derby, South (Mr. P. Noel-Baker) which deserved a bigger audience. He recalled that the Russia of today is not the Russia of the 1930s. Of course it is not; it is an immensely strong and powerful nation economically, technically and militarily. We are proceeding with this arms race and coming year after year with these inflated Estimates on the assumption that some day we shall catch up with the Soviet Union and in that way be able to argue from strength. That has been happening in the arms race and in the air race.
The Secretary of State talks of the 1970s, but what has happened in Russia during the last ten years? What is likely to happen in Russia during the next ten years? There has been an intense scientific, technical revolution. Anyone who says that Western Europe or the Western Hemisphere will be superior to the East in the next decade is simply ignoring the facts. Ask the previous Minister of Supply. Ask anyone who realises the tremendous industrial potential of Russia today. They will admit that there is very little prospect at all of our winning the arms race against the Soviet Union.
China is coming along. Are we to proceed on the assumption that in the 1970s we are to have an air war against China? Year after year we see this tremendous expenditure growing and becoming a greater burden on the economy. It is a ruinous burden on the economy and the result is that some Government or other ultimately will realise that they have to call a halt. I want to call a halt now, before we have spent another 1487 £15,000 million which should have been invested in the life and wealth of this country during the last decade. We could have rebuilt the slums and built new hospitals. We could have changed this country into something undreamed of if only we had sunk this vast sum of money in our own national economy and not squandered it in a futile armaments race.
My right hon. Friend as quite right to say that there is a different mood in Russia. Mr. Khrushchev is talking in a way which appeals to the imagination of the world. Unfortunately, he is getting no useful response. The response of this country is an increase in the total Defence Estimates this year. In nearly every speech which Mr. Khrushchev makes, in Russia, in Poland, or in Indonesia, his theme is that Russia is prepared for total disarmament in four years. I believe that the change is real and that it has to be met, and I would welcome a halt in the arms race and the diversion of this vast sum of money into social and reconstruction work.
When I see how the Government try to prevent money from being spent usefully and, on the other hand, see how ready they are to raise money for the Air Estimates, I am shocked. It is staggering to see the meanness which the Government adopt towards useful public expenditure, contrasted with the extravagance and lavishness with which they devote money to the Air Force.
The farmers in my constituency want the small sum of £90,00 for reclaiming the land, but it has been refused them. I have to tell them that money can be found readily enough for the Air Force, but that it cannot be found for agriculture. I would reverse the whole process. I argue, as I did during the General Election, that we should be diverting this enormous sum of money into the land, into housing and education, and into the social services generally.
The Vote provides for 172,000 men. Where are they to come from? The Minister hopes that they will be young, alert and intelligent men. They must come from the available manpower of this country. Yet we are short of manpower in some of the most essential industries. In Scotland, as my hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross) 1488 knows, we are short of teachers and scientists; yet potential teachers and scientists are being drawn into a Service which I believe is unnecessary. Other industries are short of manpower. Most of the industries which are necessary to maintain our economy are short of scientists and technicians, and yet these people are being drawn into the Royal Air Force. To do what? To wait and to sit by, leading a life which from the national point of view is utterly unproductive. They do not produce anything.
If these young men are to man the bombers, they face the dilemma that if war starts they will go into the air to bomb the enemy country, and when they return it will be to a cemetery. If the Government claim that this is not their purpose, but that the purpose is to keep the peace, I nevertheless maintain that they are leading a life which is irrelevant to a national recovery.
§ Mr. Hughes
Certainly not. The police force is quite a different kind of organisation from the Royal Air Force. The R.A.F. is not policing the Soviet Union.
§ Mr. Hughes
The analogy breaks down immediately. The police force is relevant to the social organisation of law and order.
§ Mr. Hughes
But the argument is irrelevant in so far as the purpose is that of preparing for war with the Soviet Union. We have to keep 172,000 young men in a career the purpose of which is to be suicide or which will be a cul-de-sac.
§ Sir A. V. Harvey
Does the hon. Member agree that he is probably the only one in step? As conscription is being abolished, these 172,000 men will be joining the R.A.F. willingly. They are not being forced into the Service, but are joining of their own accord. It is the hon. Member who is wrong.
§ Mr. Hughes
That makes no difference to my argument. I am arguing that 1489 the brains, ability and energy of these young men are being used in a way which is not conducive to the good of the national life. Whenever the hon. Member for Macclesfield takes part in these debates, I recall his comment not very long ago when he said, frankly, that he would not put his son in the R.A.F. because he did not believe that there was a future career in it.
§ Sir A. V. Harvey
If the hon. Member had listened to my speech today he would have heard me say that I think there is a better future today than there was three years ago.
§ Mr. Hughes
I do not want to go into the hon. Member's domestic affairs, but he told us that he would not put his son into the Air Force. I do not know where his son is. That was the argument that the hon. Member used only three years ago. As a matter of fact, the enterprising young man of the ruling class does not go into the Air Force.
§ Mr. Hughes
I do not know; probably because he makes more money in advertising.
I read in today's newspaper that the new chairman of the Conservative Bow Group will not be attracted into the Air Force. He is in advertising. I am sure that if the Secretary of State for War had his career over again he would pause at the crossroads and wonder whether it would be better for him to go into the Air Force or to become a professional photographer. Sometimes I see him looking dreamily up to the roof and wondering where he would have been if he had not taken the wrong turning.
Appeals are being made to the young generation to join the Air Force, but these young people are wondering what are the possibilities in the Air Force for them. I cannot believe that anyone looking dispassionately at the right hon. Gentleman's institution can say that it offers a career for an intelligent, farsighted, young man. In the Air Force we have built up a very big bureaucracy. It is a nationalised industry which should be carefully examined.
I have here figures detailing the amount of money spent on the upper hierarchy of the Air Force. This is a nationalised industry which should be 1490 probed. At the top there are 240 air officers at £58 10s. a week. There are 6,400 group captains, wing commanders and squadron leaders at £33 a week. There are 14,660 flight lieutenants, flying officers and pilot officers at £20 a week. On the W.R.A.F. side, there are 81 air commandants and group officers at £12 a week. This is a huge empire which will provide every possible excuse for maintaining its existence, but which, I maintain, is a real burden to the nation.
I want to ask the Minister a question about chaplains. I asked him about this in a supplementary question recently. Will the right hon. Gentleman be more informative than the Minister of Defence, who said that he had not been long enough in his office to understand his religious duties. I asked about the chaplains. There would be an outcry in the House from the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro) if the British Transport Commission asked for chaplains for the railways, or if chaplains were suggested for the mining industry. However, the Air Force is a nationalised industry in which the Chaplain in Chief receives £3,270 a year, or £60 a week.
§ Mr. Hughes
There are two principal chaplains who, together, receive £4,950, or £47 a week each. Throughout the country there are other chaplains. What do they do? What kind of sermons do they preach? I pointed out how absurd it would be if a chaplain preached as a sermon, "Thou shalt not kill". I do not see that there is any need for an expensive Chaplains Department in the Air Ministry. The right hon. Gentleman should look at some of these items with a view to economy.
There is outside the House of Commons, if not within it, a movement which is asking how this country can possibly be protected by the Air Force in another war. What is the answer to the missile which Mr. Khrushchev has told us can travel so far? The Russians have sent a rocket to the moon and have been able to get within a mile and a half of a target at a distance of 6,250 miles. What is the meaning of that? Our huge expenditure is absolutely irrelevant to that threat. There is no possibility of this country being adequately protected in an atomic war.
1491 I agree entirely with the Minister of Defence that the only hope is disarmament. I am sorry that more has not been heard of our disarmament as an alternative to the huge, mounting, ever-growing expenditure. I am sorry that we did not hear much about disarmament in the defence debate. I did my best. I tabled an Amendment, which was not selected, in which there was plenty of talk about disarmament.
§ Mr. Hughes
I will send it to the Kremlin. I am prepared to send any information I have to the Kremlin. The only way to get disarmament into the minds of the Kremlin is to show the Kremlin that this country is not being made a base for an attack on the Soviet Union.
§ Mr. P. Noel-Baker
Is it not a fact that Mr. Khrushchev proposed the abolition of all missiles before Russia launched the first Spurnik and that, since then, he has on many occasions proposed the abolition of the means of delivery of bombs and of missiles of all ranges, and said that there is no problem of control?
§ Mr. Hughes
Yes. I certainly think that the most constructive-minded man in the world today is Mr. Khrushchev. The proposals which he is making to an ever-growing audience and at the General Assembly of the United Nations deserve to be treated seriously and should form the basis of negotiated total disarmament. If we accepted that idea, there would be no need for the Minister to come to Parliament and rack his brains when I ask him what is likely to be the position in 1970.
We have heard this week from one of the Ministers about the Thor. We have been told that there are installations of Thors pointing at Russian cities—pointing at Moscow, Leningrad, Stalingrad and at the big industrial centres of the Soviet Union. On the other side, Russian brains and scientific ability which should be used to build up the Soviet Union are being diverted into purely unproductive expenditure in pursuance of the arms race. The most important thing to keep in mind in these debates is that we should be moving as fast as possible towards total disarmament. We should 1492 be critical of these Estimates, and it is our duty to our constituents and the country to be persistent and to continue until we hear a more reasonable policy from Her Majesty's Government.
§ 6.47 p.m.
§ Mr. Stanley McMaster (Belfast, East)
I should like, first, to refer to the comments of the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) on the nuclear deterrent. We have in this country, by the policy of our Government, developed a V-bomber force consisting of the three large V-bombers—the Victors, the Valiants and the Vulcans, which are the finest in the world. We have, in addition, the United States Thor intermediate ballistic missile. We are now developing Blue Streak. It was suggested during the defence debate that it was a mistake of the Government to spend so much money on Blue Streak. However, I believe that these missiles, which fill the gap until Blue Steel—that is the stand-off bomb—can be delivered, are the only means we have at the moment capable of delivering the nuclear deterrent. They are the only weapons which we could use which are capable of protecting us.
It is all very well for people to talk about the Russians developing in two, three, four or five years' time hundreds of intercontinental ballistic missiles which they could use against Blue Streak. That is not the position today and it will not be so for some time. It would be almost impossible for the Russians completely to wipe out our present intercontinental ballistic missile force which can be dispersed very widely and, though the missiles have fixed sites, can be hidden in many places, not only in this country, but in other parts of the world.
I am firmly convinced that those comments which have been made in the House and those criticisms which have been levied at the Blue Streak policy miss the whole point of developing an intercontinental ballistic missile which is capable of delivering an atomic or hydrogen bomb in the event of Britain herself being attacked by an aggressor nation. Throughout the history of mankind we have had a continuous series of aggressor nations, one coming up and taking the place of the other. There is nothing to ensure that this series or this trend has come to an end.
1493 We must be in a position to protect ourselves. It is only by developing missiles of this nature—along with this wonderful early warning system described by my right hon. Friend—that we can put off effectively the aggressive ideas of any country that might think that it could use its heavy atomic forces to get its own way in international affairs. It may well be that in five, six or ten years, when Blue Steel is developed, and we have more mobile ballistic missiles, that Blue Streak will be out of date, but, in the meantime we require these fixed-site missiles.
I particularly welcome the news that the Air Ministry has decided to replace the Comet II with a new jet plane. It is important that our forces should be highly mobile. We have commitments all over the world and it is obvious that a new jet, whether it be the VC10 or any other specially-designed jet aircraft that can take our troops wherever required at short notice to any part of the world, will be a very valuable asset to our forces.
The Britannic has been particularly mentioned in this debate, and I am glad to know that the needs of Transport Command are to be given priority by the Government. The hon. Member for Lincoln (Mr. de Freitas) and my hon. Friend the Member for Macclesfield (Sir A. V. Harvey) referred to the speed at which the Britannic would be developed and got into the air. The management of Short and Harlands has assured me that it is going ahead at very high speed with the planning and detailed design of this aircraft. The firm has great experience in designing planes rapidly. It created a record when, in 17½ months, it developed the Seamew.
I hope that the Government's action in paying more attention to the needs of Transport Command, to the development both of jet planes for the troops and Britannics for heavy items of equipment and freight, will be followed by their treating the signing of a contract as a matter of the most urgent priority so that the prototype machine can get into the air as soon as possible. I have no doubt that the company has been going ahead on its own, putting in its own money and advancing as rapidly as is physically possible, but it would be of considerable assistance for it to have confirmed by a written contract the exact 1494 details of the types and numbers that the Government will order.
There is no doubt that in production this plane will prove to be a first-class design job. It will be the largest and most economical freighter plane in the world, capable of halving freight charges, and with a great civil as well as a great military potential. The fuselage, unlike that of any other freight plane, is 12 ft. by 12 ft.—clear and unimpeded. The plane has high wings, and there are no struts and spars to impede the freight, which can be loaded either at the back or the front. It will be an ideal machine for its purpose.
I also hope that once the design of the Britannic is finished the Ministry will remember that this firm has built up a very fine design team, and that future contracts either for planes to replace the existing ones or for future freight-carrying developments will be placed in order to keep that design team working together.
The great increase in the Estimates over those of last year is justified by the needs of our defence. We have a very important part to play in world affairs, and can play it only if we ourselves are one of the major countries. Situated, as we are, between Russia and the United States, we can exercise great influence in the cause of peace, and I am sure that spending money in this way on our Armed Forces increases our power and influence in the world. The expense is justified.
I do not share the view of those who advocate that we should give up the atomic weapons we have developed. We should take part in universal disarmament, but until we have that, and until the two major nations, Russia and the United States, give up their nuclear arms and accept proper inspection, we must continue to be prepared to exercise our influence.
§ 6.58 p.m.
§ Mr. Frank Tomney (Hammersmith, North)
I am not sure whether, in the earlier part of his speech, the hon. Member for Belfast, East (Mr. McMaster) was speaking as a politician or as an aeroplane salesman. Whichever it was, he showed a colossal ignorance, not only of the defence situation but of our defence requirements. Blue Streak is 1495 not ready—it is not even at the firing pads.
If the hon. Gentleman wants to study how the aircraft industry can procrastinate, I commend to him the Report, published a few years ago, of the Select Committee on Estimates, on which I had the honour to serve. He will there see a sorry tale of over-spending, over-ambitious planning, extravagant demands, money spent, in some cases on aeroplanes that never got off the drawing board and in others on aeroplanes that never got into the air. If he thinks that the Britannic will come into operation tomorrow or next year, he can think again. These things take a long time to develop.
That is why I was surprised when the hon. and gallant Member for Wembley, North (Wing Commander Bullus)—who ought to have known better, because he has been in the Air Force—spoke of scientific developments and changes in industry as though we could adapt such things from day to day like getting loaves from a bakery. I worked in the scientific industry. I spent weeks, months and years developing radio valves, then something new came along and all those production lines were scrapped. Someone comes along and scraps the lot, at a moment's notice. That is how those things are done. Science and the work of research and development is a slow job. That is why Blue Streak has been in the course of development for no less than seven years, and it still has not gone up and is not likely to for another eighteen months.
I am glad the hon. and gallant Member for Wembley, North is still in his place, though I am sorry that the hon. Member for Macclesfield (Sir A. V. Harvey) has left, because I want to refer to something they said in their speeches. We are being asked here for a colossal sum of money for a reduced personnel in the Air Force. Apparently, this demand is likely to continue for a long time. In the Defence White Paper of 1957 the Minister took a risk. It is incumbent upon Ministers and those in charge sometimes to make a judgment in these matters, and it is very difficult to do so.
Some of us on this side of the Committee warned the Minister then against 1496 placing his entire reliance on Blue Streak alone. But he did so, and, at the same time, he did a little good in other directions. He abolished conscription and reduced demands for other armaments, while pinning all his defence on one missile.
What does this all mean to as now? The Russians have made great developments since. People may attribute their success to the German scientists which Russia took after the last war, but no matter what the reason may be, the Russians have gone ahead in the race for the conquest of space and the universe. The Russians have always been good mathematicians and, at the moment, they seem to be winning the race. Obviously, attached to their rockets they have a directional system far superior to the American one. To put a rocket round the moon and to put satellites into space, as they have done several times, is no mean achievement.
The consequence for us is that fixed-site rockets for the defence of this country are obsolete before they are fired. That is why I want the deterrent shifted from these islands as soon as possible. It is no good. If there has to be a deterrent carried by some kind of rocket or missile, it must be a mobile one, launched from carriers or from submarines. In 1957, when the drastic reorganisation was carried through, each Service protested, but each was left with one plum and was, apparently, satisfied. The Navy had a promise of submarines, with or without nuclear power. The Royal Air Force got the missiles and the retention of the V-bomber force. The Army had a high rate of recruitment under better conditions of service. Each had a plum left.
We have now to make another decision, but this time nobody can guess wrong. If we are now to develop the missile for the defence of this country, it must be a mobile missile; yet we cannot afford it on these figures. This part of the general Defence Estimates will go up and up. Last Tuesday, we had a defence debate which ranged far and wide—too many speakers talking for too long and saying nothing. The outcome of it all was that the country is now realising that it is once again dependent upon its V-bomber force and is likely to be dependent upon 1497 it for ten years. What we really want will not be with us for ten years, although Blue Steel might be something. In the meantime, we have the fixed missile sites in this country.
The United States is developing Polaris, the underwater missile, which can be fired from a submarine sitting on the ocean bed anywhere in the world, but at what cost? In our currency, according to my estimation, it amounts to no less than £30 million each. How many are we to order? Something must be done now. We have carried more than our fair share of the burden, and it cannot be carried by this country any longer. President Eisenhower is prepared to relax part of the McMahon Act for those countries which already have a nuclear capability and a certain measure of technique and "know-how". This is not enough. If the Western Alliance means anything at all, the United States must trust this country and realise that these islands, over-populated and over-vulnerable, are entitled to share in the development of the Polaris underwater missile.
We cannot afford to go on as we are any longer. The Minister, who is not in the Cabinet, and the Service Chiefs, should consult the Cabinet and absolutely demand the ultimate in this matter. Otherwise, we shall be faced with this ever-mounting cost not for ten years, but for longer than that, if world disarmament does not come about.
What can we do? It is true that we became a nuclear Power on our own. We developed the H-bomb on our own. We developed the Black Knight rocket, Sea Slug and other missiles. Every power in N.A.T.O. regards itself as in an alliance, but it does not act as if it was in an alliance. Each country tries to place reliance on itself.
I have read the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Park (Mr. Mulley) last Tuesday. When one becomes involved in the politics of Western European Union, it is easier to see the point of view and problems of Europeans. We did our developments on our own. The suggestion, in what became known as the "Mulley Paper," was to advance to Western European Union, as a free gift, bomber squadrons from this country, ballistic missiles and the whole range of knowledge which had been 1498 acquired. It could have been done years ago. It should not be done now.
In 1954, as a result of the annexation of Czechoslovakia—it was no less—and the installation of the Communist Government there, there were hurried consultations to form the European Defence Community. That failed as a result of Franch intransigence, and N.A.T.O. was then formed, with Germany making a contribution in N.A.T.O. to Western defence. If we carry through what Western European Union wants, it will mean, willy nilly, no less than having Germany as a full partner of the alliance, having nuclear warheads and the right to manufacture nuclear weapons.
Who will face that prospect? Are memories so short? A very alarming thing happened in the last week or so. With or without back-door consultation with the United States or anyone else, Germany suddenly decided to demand bases in Spain. The German contribution within N.A.T.O., under the Paris Treaty, fully controlled, is one thing. The Supreme Commander can disperse the troops under his command for operational or training purposes.
§ Mr. Tomney
I am sorry, Sir Gordon. I have been led away. This is not desirable. Wherever political control rests, we should do our damnedest to see that this venture is not continued.
I want to refer to several matters in the Estimates which, I think, are worthy of consideration. It is difficult for anyone without inside knowledge in reading the Estimates to decide, unless he decides on a purely political issue, where waste has taken place, where improvements and savings can be made, and where the policy is wrong. The R.A.F. is probably in its highest state of efficiency and greatest state of readiness ever. It is true that a lot of money has been wasted in the past. Obviously, it must carry the burden of defence for another ten years. In so doing, it is obvious that for all the equipment it orders and for all the things that are to be put in the aeroplanes the closest consultation will have to take place between the manufacturers, the supply Departments and the Service chiefs.
1499 I am informed—I should like to know whether it is true—that a new anti-tank gun named Malkara has been developed It is to be transported by air to possible theatres of operation. I am told that this gun is four inches too wide to go into the Argosy aircraft which is being developed. This sort of thing should be avoided.
§ The Under-Secretary of State for Air (Mr. W. J. Taylor)
Surely the hon. Member's information must be wrong. The Argosy aircraft is a transport aircraft for medium and short-to-medium range.
§ Mr. Tomney
This is an anti-tank gun which is to be transported by the aircraft. It is either four inches too wide or too long to fit into the aircraft. The Estimates Committee which produced the report on the aircraft industry gave innumerable instances of this kind of thing. I should like to know whether what I have said is true.
Something which has a wider significance than that concerns general recruitment for the Royal Air Force. I refer to the new structure in respect of officers and training which has just been announced. I am the last person to decry the need for the highest efficiency in manpower in the R.A.F. To fly a modern aircraft is a highly complex scientific job. I notice that in the advertisements currently appearing in the Press for recruits to Henlow and Cranwell a new qualification is demanded. I know that Flying techniques have changed since the days of the Hurricane and Spitfire. It is not so much a question of individual combat in the air, or being the member of a crew of a Lancaster; it is a matter of sitting in the cabin of an aircraft and doing a job by push-button methods, not knowing where he is going. The whole complexion of flying has changed.
An instructor does not know what makes a good flying man and what does not. It is indefinable. The qualification which is being asked for now is no less than two passes at "A" level, which is the qualification required for entrance to university. The old matriculation certificate has gone up and up. To pass the G.C.E. at ordinary level is a good achievement. If one has gone through the State school system without financial assistance or special tutoring and has 1500 achieved two passes at "A" level one has done extraordinarily well.
During the war we were training pilots in as short a time as nine months. Now the situation is different altogether. Two passes at "A" level are required. Anyone who has sat on a scholarship examination board to award scholarships to candidates for university realises the diversity of boys and girls who come before such a board. Although one may have a candidate at "A" level who will make a good chemist, accountant or physicist and who, if given a problem, can solve it, it does not mean that he would make a good flying man who would have to make quick decisions in the air.
Boy after boy has come before me with eight passes at "O" level who wants a career in the R.A.F. as a member of a flying team—navigator, radio operator or pilot.
§ Mr. W. J. Taylor
There are ways of entering the flying grades in the R.A.F. other than through Cranwell. There is no reason why a suitable boy should not achieve ultimate success in those grades if he takes the trouble to inquire which other alternative methods are available to him.
§ Mr. Tomney
All I am saying is that there is no guarantee that he will get in as a member of a flying crew unless he has passed at "A" level.
What happens to the "A" level man? Suppose that he enlists for eight or twelve years and then finds that he is not suitable for flying. Is he discharged, or must he remain in the Service? There are dozens of bright, intelligent and alert boys with passes in four subjects with good backgrounds and homes who wish to become flying men, but who are up against it from the very start.
It is all very well to say that we shall accept men who have worked their way up through the cadet force, but he has the whole of his time to serve knowing that he may not eventually get in. I ask the Minister to consult his advisers and see whether the terms of entry can be widened. It is not easy to choose a flying man. There is a great demand in industry, commerce, banking and the arts for people with passes at "A" level. I know that the R.A.F. demands the best and deserves the best, but it should not debar suitable people from 1501 qualifying for a worthwhile career in the Service.
I would ask, once again, that the Minister, in asking the Committee to approve the Estimates, should pay heed to my remark before I was ruled out of order. If political decisions have to be taken—one of the difficulties in N.A.T.O. is that there is never any particular political decision capable of being taken—there is one which surely has to be taken. That is that we in this island, in view of our previous contributions, not only to ourselves but to the rest of the world, in fighting against Germany and against other people who would overthrow the accepted standards of civilization, demand that this burden which we have to carry should not be carried alone. If the Americans intend to own Polaris, we should have a full share in the result of their scientific inquiries.
§ 7.21 p.m.
§ Mr. Airey Neave (Abingdon)
After you gave some assistance, Sir Gordon, the hon. Gentleman the Member for Hammersmith, North (Mr. Tomney) made some very valuable contributions to the practical problems of the Royal Air Force. I am sure that the Under-Secretary of State will take note of them. I want to make a very short contribution because I was in my hon. Friend's place when the last debate on this subject took place, and I also want to say how much I enjoyed my time, short as it was, in the Air Ministry.
The principal thing about some of the very good speeches which we have heard today on the broader subjects of defence is that we have not got round to some of the things which we are supposed to be discussing on these Estimates and particularly the Memorandum. I should like to raise a point about Transport Command which is a very important feature of the R.A.F.'s work. The Secretary of State is not here at the moment, but I congratulate him in his absence on the way in which, for the eighth time, he has presented the Estimates. Today he made one of his very best speeches and I think that the whole Committee enjoyed it.
The rôle of the R.A.F., generally speaking, is determined largely by mobility and by the work that Transport Command can do in carrying the 1502 Army. Perhaps I may be allowed to say a little about that. I have a great personal interest in it because Abingdon is in my constituency and it is one of the biggest and most important stations in that Command.
If hon. Members will read paragraph 24 of the Memorandum they will see what I mean in regard to the future equipping of Transport Command with Britannias and Comets. When one compares the Britannias and Comets with the Hastings, for example, one can see that vast improvements have been made. The Britannia can carry two-and-a-half times as many passengers and is half as fast again. I do not want to be entirely uncritical about this. I should like the Under-Secretary of State to say a little more precisely what is to be done about an aircraft of the right speed and range for Transport Command in future. That is very important. Of course, I agree that the Comet can carry the same number of passengers as the Hastings twice as fast over a greater range. I am not trying to make a complete comparison with the Britannia. But the development of air transport has become immensely important and it is one of the key rôles of the R.A.F. in future.
I was very impressed by what my right hon. Friend said about Appendix B of last year's Estimates about the rise in the millions of passenger miles which Transport Command is travelling. I think that it was most impressive, and we are all very glad that the second Britannia squadron is coming into service very shortly. I think that my hon. Friend would like to say a little more about what he thinks will be the most suitable aircraft for this purpose, in view of the importance of the work of Transport Command, and the development of that sort of aircraft.
I think that the introduction of the AW660, about which I had a little battle last year with hon. Members opposite, will add to the airlift. That will help. I also think that flight refuelling is an obvious way of increasing aircraft flexibility in this matter. Perhaps my hon. Friend would like to explain a little more about that.
We should pay some tribute to the safety record of Transport Command, which is very good indeed. Although 1503 there was a serious Beverley accident, I think that the Beverley record has been very good. So far as the record of Transport Command as a whole is concerned, perhaps my hon. Friend could give some details to show how excellent it has been. I have not the details myself.
The re-establishment of 38 Group, which has a very famous war record, as many of us will remember, has helped enormously to make clear the essential rôle of tactical transport support generally. Will my hon. Friend say something about the chain of command in 38 Group? I think that is quite an important point. Perhaps he would also say, not entirely of Transport Command, something about airborne planning and parachute training in that connection. I am particularly interested from a constituency point of view about that.
May I conclude this brief speech by welcoming the Under-Secretary of State, my successor, and hoping that he will have as happy a time as I had in the Air Ministry.
§ 7.28 p.m.
§ Mr. B. T. Parkin (Paddington, North)
There is a long-standing convention that there is not a vote on the occasion when these Estimates are discussed. Although there is a growing body of opinion on these benches which would welcome the opportunity for a straight protest vote at the direction nuclear strategy has taken us, it is obvious that such a vote would be more appropriate on an occasion when the Minister of Defence, rather than the Secretary of State for Air, was leading the debate.
I feel that there is a case for making a protest in present circumstances at the way in which the Estimates are presented, because if we let them go by default without a vote we are assumed by people outside to have consented to them. My protest tonight on the way in which they are presented is at the complete failure to present what I call plan B.
We spend a lot of time discussing what would happen if war broke out and we were attacked and not enough time in discussing—as, surely, we should on an occasion like this, when the Estimates are presented—what will happen if there 1504 is not a war and if, as we all hope, tension is reduced and our duties merge more completely into the conception of a United Nations world police force.
To anyone who has had the privilege of serving in the Royal Air Force, this should be the occasion to discuss not only all the many detailed day-to-day aspects of the Royal Air Force work and organisation, including welfare, education and training schemes, but to begin to revive the type of discussion which, I am told, was initiated by the right hon. Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill) at the end of the First World War, the only result of which was to supply the Royal Air Force with armoured cars.
If we are thinking in terms of a police force, we must think in terms of a political follow-up to our activities. The Royal Air Force has as much to contribute in that direction as any arm of the Services. It has most to contribute in intelligent leadership with a proper understanding of the political background in which it is asked to take part, including the capacity to deal with populations after a disturbance in a local war, which is the kind of thing one has in mind and which would be dealt with by the United Nations police force. This moving backwards into the press-button era makes the rôle of the Royal Air Force completely inhuman.
I would rather have heard from the Secretary of State a great deal more about the plans for future trooping methods. One or two hon. Members have already criticised some aspects of this matter. Surely, there are opportunities to work a little faster in the realm of transport aircraft. In the presentation of the Estimates, why not make a passing reference to plan B? What would be the rôle of the Royal Air Force if the disarmament negotiations were successful and if the United Nations had a police force to deal with possible outbreaks of local war?
§ Mr. Parkin
Yes, so far, but I go a little further than that. We should also be told about who goes into the planes, what they do and the health services aspect. It is not enough nowadays to be 1505 merely a policeman. A policeman must be a welfare worker, also. I would include, also, the question of equipment for dealing with a catastrophe among civilian population, the restoration of morale and all that sort of thing. That is what should be in plan B.
This should have been an opportunity for the Secretary of State or the other Ministers concerned to present to the country an idea of what would happen to the economy if disarmament arrived. If the old idea that we cannot afford disarmament because it would cause unemployment is no longer held, all our major political parties should say so. In support, they should present an idea of what would happen if, a few weeks after we pass these Estimates tonight, there ca me an indication that it was no longer necessary to spend this enormous sum of money in this way. Plan B could have been presented to us today and it would have been helpful to know what was in the minds of Ministers of the Crown these days, when—
§ Mr. W. J. Taylor
I am a little hazy about what the hon. Member is driving at. Will he tell us more about what plan B is, if that is in order?
§ The Temporary Chairman (Sir Godfrey Nicholson)
The hon. Member should be reminded that although speeches in the debate can range widely they must have some direct relevance to the Estimates under discussion.
§ Mr. Parkin
I began, Sir Godfrey, by complaining that the way in which the Estimates have been presented to us today could have been improved if the Minister had thought fit to say that behind them there were two plans—my phrase "plan B" was a conventional one—to indicate what would be done if the main scheme did not come off and—
§ Mr. W. J. Taylor
I see no reference to plan B in this year's Air Estimates and I fail to follow the hon. Member.
§ Mr. Parkin
I am glad at least that the Under-Secretary understands what I am complaining about. He will have his opportunity later to reply at length.
It is fair to ask what are the relationships between the Air Ministry, the Ministry of Aviation and private industry. We are voting very large sums to purchase a number of aircraft from the 1506 aircraft industry through arrangements made by the Ministry of Aviation, and we have a sorry record of money which, in the past, seems to have been spent to no great benefit. If the Minister replies tonight to the remarks which have been made by other hon. Members as well as by myself about Transport Command, surely he must refer to the relationships which exist, and in which he is involved, between the Service Ministries and manufacturing industry generally. He must be in regular consultation with aircraft firms—
§ Mr. W. J. Taylor
Surely the hon. Member knows that that is the responsibility of my right hon. Friend the Minister of Aviation.
§ Mr. Parkin
Yes, I have said so. I expect, however, that the Minister of Aviation takes guidance from the Secretary of State for Air about the sort of aircraft he would like. If the Secretary of State wants a new range of transport aircraft, surely it is more economical and sensible that the plans for those machines should be integrated with the plans for the development of other types of civil aircraft, which are the concern of the Ministry of Aviation.
I would not wish to stray outside the rules of order in this debate—I am trying to relate my remarks to the Estimates—but I thought it fair to make the comment that there might be a change in the political purpose of the Royal Air Force in the next twelve months if the attitude of the Government in the disarmament negotiations takes a positive form. If the disarmament negotiations look like being successful before the expiration of the period covered by the Estimates, the Ministers concerned must come to the House and say what plans they have to make a positive redirection of their effort towards the new kind of air police force that would be required instead of the button-pressing rocket-firing deterrent, as it is now described. I think that it is fair to ask that.
Unfortunately, we have these inhibitions which lie over the debate and the feeling that it is not profitable to discuss these details. Hon. Members are so depressed by the looming of this four-minute warning. There are two things which ought to have influenced the way in which the Estimates were presented to the Committee and to the nation. 1507 There is the public reaction in the last few weeks to the revelations about this early warning system We have been repeatedly told by the Secretary of State and the Under-Secretary, and we have to accept it, that that early warning is not for us. It has nothing to do with the civilian population. It is merely a way to ensure that the bombers get off the ground.
We are told that there is no question of consulting the Prime Minister, of evacuating the civilian population, or of taking any other precautions. All that is required to do is to get the bombers off the ground, on the assumption that some harm can be inflicted on an enemy—and I hope that the right enemy is picked, because mistakes can happen at such a time. Nothing is said about where those bombers are to land again.
The most dramatic and appalling thought of all is that in these four minutes, with mutual destruction on the two sides, the sole aim of the warning system is to ensure that in the air there will be a few pilots in a few aircraft with nowhere in the universe to land. If that is not enough to influence Governments to remind themselves that disarmament negotiations are about to take place, I do not know what other means public opinion can use. An opportunity has been missed tonight, because it would have been a useful gesture, which could have been easily understood, if we had replied to the Khrushchev proposals that are set out in considerable detail—
§ The Temporary Chairman
I am sorry to stop the hon. Member, but he must realise that it is not fair to the Minister to make a speech on lines which the Minister is not entitled to take up in his reply. I hope that the hon. Member will relate his speech to the Motion under discussion.
§ Mr. Parkin
I am sorry, Sir Godfrey, but I was not trying to make yesterday's speech in today's debate. I said that I regretted that there was to be no Division. I regretted that convention particularly tonight, because I felt that there was a case for putting it to the Minister that he should not present the Estimates as if only one thing could happen this year, ignoring the fact that a conference on disarmament was about to take place.
1508 I was about to end by saying that if the Minister had been able to come here with the authority of the Cabinet and say, in view of the proposals made and the study devoted to them throughout the world, "These Estimates will be provisional and we hope that we can come back in a matter of months and say that it is not necessary to go on with this programme", and if he had been able to say tonight what, in that case, would have to happen to secure a sensible and progressive transfer in the British economy and in the industries which are dependent on these Estimates, it would have been a helpful, useful gesture which would have aroused a response in many parts of the world.
§ 7.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Richard Collard (Norfolk, Central)
I should like to begin by calling attention to a strange circumstance, namely, that this is the air age but in spite of that most of the airlines of the world are in the red, aircraft industries in most countries are in need of a certain amount of assistance, and whenever we discuss aviation in this Chamber the place is usually nearly empty. I do not propose to follow in his remarks the hon. Member for Paddington, North (Mr. Parkin), because I am not sufficiently athletic. His speech ranged over such a great distance that I think it is a matter of physical incapacity to follow him, though by that remark, of course, I do not mean any discourtesy.
The hon. Member for Hammersmith, North (Mr. Tomney), referring to another hon. Member's speech, said that it was no use expecting aircraft and similar weapons to be produced quickly and developed quickly. He added. "People will tell you that it can be done quickly, but it never is." The hon. Member is quite right. I should here declare that I have an interest in the aircraft manufacturing industry. There is no doubt that we are much too optimistic in that industry, but I can only say in extenuation that if we were not optimists we would not be in the industry at all. We should be undertaking something rather more simple.
The hon. Member for Hammersmith, North also said some interesting things about the qualifications necessary for a pilot today. He wondered whether the academic qualification was a little high and whether we would not be excluding 1509 for that reason a number of people who otherwise would be quite suitable as pilots. I have some interest in that, having for many years taught flying. I think that there is something in it, but it must be remembered, in relation to academic qualifications, that flying modern combat aircraft is a very difficult business which calls not only for great skill and the other qualities which the hon. Member mentioned but also for a very high standard of technical education.
I want to deal with two matters, one administrative and one operational. The administrative matter refers to the R.A.F. Command at Aden and the difficulties over accommodation which have arisen there during the past six months. No doubt the Air Ministry and the Air Force had a certain amount of adverse publicity over that business. I propose to state some facts, so far as I have been able to establish them, and to draw certain conclusions.
The first fact is that over recent years the importance of Aden has enormously increased. Instead of being a subordinate command on the fringe of the Middle East theatre, it has become the centre of a theatre itself and therefore, of course, the strength of the personnel stationed there has enormously increased. The R.A.F. strength, which I believe was 1,800 in 1955, has more than doubled. The Army has increased from a mere handful to about 4,000, and there is a total garrison there now of about 9,000. Therefore, an accommodation problem was inevitable. It is not surprising that it has arisen.
It was necessary to fulfil the technical requirements first. The buildings and installations required for technical and operational reasons had to be provided first, but I have no doubt that the command there and the Service Department drew up plans for domestic accommodation. These things do not get forgotten by the Services. I have no doubt delay was imposed by changes of plan—because, in military matters, plans do change—and that it was caused by the fact that no one quite knew what the eventual policy was for Aden. Finally, no doubt delay was also imposed by the extraordinarily cumbersome method by which affairs are regulated between the Service Departments and the Treasury—and I shall return to that.
1510 I understand that there is now a comprehensive domestic building programme for Aden, both at Steamer Point and at Kormaksa, which are the two Royal Air Force stations at Aden, and that these improvements comprise more single quarters, both for officers and men, seven new barrack blocks between the two stations—air conditioned, as these modern blocks are—some 150 additional married quarters with possibly more to come, and increased recreational facilities. Furthermore, the rent paid for hirings—the civil accommodation taken over by a Service for the benefit of its own married families—is, I understand, to be higher and, therefore, the hirings themselves can be of a better quality.
It was the private accommodation for families which came under the most criticism. It certainly got the most publicity. It is to be remembered that this accommodation is what has been found by the airman himself for the accommodation of his family. It is true that the Service inspects that accommodation and has to be satisfied that it is adequate before it gives the family a passage. It may well be that the standard has been too low in the past, but this has to be weighed against the undesirability of separating a Service man from his family when he has found local accommodation which he personally thinks is good enough for them. Nevertheless, the standard of this accommodation is to be raised somewhat, and that is right.
All this will not be done merely by rubbing a lamp. It will take two or three years to complete. There are 4,000 Army troops in the Colony, and they have to be accommodated too. No doubt there is a parallel programme for them. I understand that the cost of domestic building in Aden in the present programme, though £3 million is mentioned in the Estimates, is likely to be eventually as much as £10 million for the two Services. We may well ask why we are doing this in a Colony which will get its independence and, perhaps, want to see the back of us. But we cannot have it both ways. The decision was taken that permanent accommodation would be provided for the garrison, and it is a great pity that the decision was not carried out with more dispatch. However, we all approved and were glad when the Under-Secretary of State, so soon after his appointment, made a point 1511 of going out personally to Aden to look into these matters for himself. I have no doubt that any improvements that were necessary in the programme which will now be put into effect will, to some extent, be due to that visit.
I have two comments to make. The first is that I believe the Royal Air Force is more bedevilled by Treasury control than are the other two services. I served for twenty-one years in the Royal Air Force and the Treasury was always looked upon as a bogy. I am sure that is still very largely true, because this is the way these things go: first of all, the Estimates have to be approved; then each main project has to be approved; then all the individual projects within the main project have to be approved; and all these matters are the subject of continuing argument and discussion between the Air Ministry and the Treasury.
In addition, every major disbursement arising out of these decisions and projects is also the subject of interminable argument and discussion, and all of this is within the nightmare system by which the spending of the Service Departments is compartmented into each financial year.
I should like to know how many times the Treasury questioned the Service Departments as to how long they expected to stay in Aden, as if they could possibly know. I wonder how many times the same question was put over each separate building programme, how much to-ing and fro-ing there was, and how much paper work was held up in the pending tray. It would be a very good thing if the pending tray—that pernicious item—were to be forbidden in all Government offices. I wonder how much delay was caused by postponing decisions on these matters until the next meeting of a committee, because the decision had not been taken, for no good reason, at its last meeting.
In these matters I am criticising the system of Treasury control and certainly not the staff work at the Air Ministry, because the Air Ministry staff spends endless time, ingenuity and patience and is involved in endless paper work in arguing these matters with the Treasury. It may be right that this tight control should be exercised over our spending, but if we have it we will inevitably also 1512 have the sort of delays in building programmes which have occurred in Aden.
I do not know whether it is possible for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State to do anything about streamlining this procedure, such as was suggested by my hon. Friend the Member for Wycombe (Mr. John Hall) during the Adjournment debate on Aden in October last. Shortage of accommodation is nothing new on overseas stations; it is something which Service men have to live with. I do know that the Secretary of State, with his long experience of the Royal Air Force, was personally most concerned over this matter, as he is indeed in all matters affecting the efficiency and the welfare of the Service.
My other point about Aden is that I believe that it behoves visitors who pay official visits to Service installations to be rather careful in what they say publicly about the conditions they find, particularly if these matters are related in any way to morale, because it may be that by speaking of these things in public, particularly if they speak critically, they will make a regrettable reflection on the spirit of our Service men serving overseas. I may add that these aspersions will be hotly resented by the Servicemen concerned. Here I must draw attention to some remarks which were made by the hon. Member for Barnsley (Mr. Mason) in a debate on the Adjournment on 27th October, 1959. The hon. Member is not in his place, but I sent him word that I intended to raise this matter.
§ Mr. de Freitas
My hon. Friend the Member for Barnsley (Mr. Mason) asked me, if this matter was raised, to say that he was grateful to the hon. Member for letting him know that he intended to raise the subject and to apologise for his not being able to be in his place.
§ Mr. Collard
I am obliged to the hon. Gentleman.
The hon. Member for Barnsley in that Adjournment debate said:To say that morale is high among officers and men is contrary to my point of view … because I did not find one airman who was not absolutely sick and fed up with the station and counting the time until he could go home again. Lads who had been there only from five to seven months were counting the days to the end of their two-year period of service when they could escape back home Such was 1513 the state of morale among the men."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 27th October, 1959; Vol. 612, c. 199.]I am sure that the impression which the hon. Member for Barnsley gained was not a correct impression, but, of course, he was entitled to draw his own conclusions. What I say is that if he has that kind of comment to make, he should not make it in public.
I heard on good authority that the wife of an airman in Aden, on receiving a visit from a distinguished personage from England, burst out with the remark. "Why do you important people from home keep coming out here to tell us how unhappy we are?". She said that with a great deal of feeling and resentment. The morale of Her Majesty's Forces does not depend on the precise standard of the amenities which they enjoy. Naturally, the House of Commons is solicitous and tender about the conditions in which the Armed Forces operate and live both at home and abroad, but temporary discomfort does not demoralise a good airman any more than it demoralises a good soldier, or a good sailor, and such a man will have a very hostile opinion of anybody who says that it does.
The other matter with which I wish to deal is an operational matter. I want to refer to Bomber Command. While it is true that all the forces of the three Services comprise the deterrent, while it is true that the terms "conventional" and "nuclear" as applied to weapons are becoming increasingly unreal and that that arbitrary distinction between the two tends to darken counsel and confuse more than clarify the issue, nevertheless it is still true that our power of massive nuclear retaliation—and, indeed, it is massive—is still comprised within Bomber Command.
Of course, that power is wielded through the V-bomber force and the Thor missiles. That is the case as it is today. In future years, it may be that new weapons and new methods will mean that the strategic nuclear deterrent will be wielded by other Services and in other ways, but at the moment it is contained within Bomber Command.
At this point, with all the force at my command, I put the proposition that any defence policy for this country which does not include a strategic nuclear deterrent, as a principal feature, 1514 is completely unreal. I listened with great interest and great respect to the right hon. Member for Derby, South (Mr. P. Noel-Baker). I have great respect for his world-wide reputation and his great experience of disarmament matters. He made the point that there was no defence against nuclear weapons. I agree, but that is just the point.
To some extent, wars are made by people who think that they can defend themselves, who think that they will get away with it. It is one of the virtues of the fact that, whether we like it or not, we have nuclear armaments in this age that nobody need any longer be in any doubt as to whether he can defend himself—he cannot. That is one of the basic factors about the deterrent.
Of course, there were arguments to and fro on this subject in the defence debate and I do not intend to repeat them now, but those who think that our nuclear power is puny or small are completely misinformed. Before I became a Member of Parliament, which was not very long ago, as some form of instruction and indeed some form of penance, I used to be a regular reader of HANSARD. From my reading of the debates on defence and Service Estimates, I acquired great respect for the knowledge of the hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) who is aware at any one time of precisely the strength of any given platoon in the British Army. But twice I have heard him say that we are not an atomic Power and that we do not have a nuclear capability. He, with others, is completely misinformed on that point.
On the other hand, those who put down the unofficial Opposition Amendments in the defence debate, those who would exclude nuclear weapons from the defence picture altogether, are running away from the hard facts of the case. They are refusing to grasp the nettle, because it is an inescapable fact that, for better or worse, this is the nuclear age. Anyone who thinks that he can comprehend defence without considering and including nuclear weapons is living in a world of complete make-believe.
In this matter of our strategic nuclear deterrent and Bomber Command, we are not engaged in an arms race. An arms race in this context is an old-fashioned 1515 idea. I have a feeling that the hon. Member for Dudley lives in the age of arms races when it was necessary to keep one's forces right up to establishment at any one time because one was vulnerable if one did not do so when an extra few divisions, an extra few squadrons of aircraft, an extra few ships, might well make all the difference between defeat and victory.
But in the case of the strategic nuclear deterrent, that is not the position, because the aim in these matters is to be in a posture in which one can do a certain definable damage to the potential enemy—and it is healthy for the enemy to be aware of that. It is something which can be defined. It could not be defined on the Floor of the House of Commons because it is a matter of great security, but the amount of damage which we can do to a potential enemy can be defined. If we are able to maintain our strategic nuclear deterrent in such shape that it is capable of doing that amount of damage, then we remain in a strong and safe position. We may be quite sure that a potential enemy, whoever he may be, will be aware of our capability and, within limits, it is important that that should be so.
It follows that the "strategic nuclear deterrent"—I use that term because it seems to sum up the part of the complete deterrent which I am talking about—must not fall below a certain standard of effectiveness. It also follows that if there is to be a ceiling to the defence budget there must be a limit to the amount that can be spared for conventionally armed forces, but I would remind the Committee that the amount spent on the nuclear deterrent is about 10 per cent. of the total defence budget.
§ The Temporary Chairman
I hope that the hon. Member will take care to relate his remarks directly to the Estimates under discussion.
§ Mr. Collard
I am trying to do that. I am relating my remarks to Bomber Command to which we are voting money, and I have referred to the defence budget of which these Estimates are a part.
The only point I wanted to make was that, if it was thought that we could make quite a dash with increased conventional 1516 arms, I ask what extra conventional arms could be acquired with 10 per cent. of the defence budget which would contribute even one-thousandth, or one-millionth, of the striking power which we have by spending that sum on the Royal Air Force Bomber Command?
I believe that our strategic nuclear deterrent in Bomber Command is effective in its own right. It is effective as to training, equipment and readiness. It is conscious of the heavy responsibility which lies on it twenty-four hours a day, and I am sure that the Committee appreciates the high standard of training, morale and readiness which Bomber Command of the Royal Air Force maintains at all times.
Bomber Command is fit for this heavy responsibility. It may have to change its weapons in time, and the other Services may have to take a share of the strategic nuclear deterrent, but it is important that hon. Members should realise that in these matters there is always an overlap. One does not suddenly stop having V-bombers and instead have rockets fired from fixed bases. One does not then stop having rockets fired from fixed bases and change over to ballistic missiles fired from mobile bases, without overlapping. It is as well that that should be so, because the variability of this kind of weapon, whether it is launched from an aircraft near the target, or from an aircraft which is nowhere near the target, or from a fixed base, or from a submarine, gives the kind of diversity and flexibility which keeps the enemy guessing. There is, therefore, virtue in overlapping.
We know that Russia can demolish us. She knows that we, on our own, can inflict sufficient damage on her to make aggression not worth while, even if the United States are not involved. That is an inestimable advantage which is paid for from the sums included in the Air Estimates. I believe that money to be well spent.
§ 8.15 p.m.
§ Mr. Charles Pannell (Leeds, West)
I know that it has almost become a cliché to say it, but I do not intend to follow the hon. Member for Norfolk, Central (Mr. Collard) in what he said. If I did I would probably put myself out of order as he very nearly did. He speaks as a 1517 professional. I speak as a layman, but on three occasions I have been with the British delegation to the N.A.T.O. Parliamentarians' meeting and I have been a member of its Economic Committee.
I was impressed by the hon. Gentleman's argument. I understand that during the time of the Berlin trouble the only thing that stopped the 115 Russian divisions, or whatever the number was, moving this way was the threat of atomic force. To that extent, and in retrospect, I am impressed by the argument. I do not glory in it, and I am sure that the hon. Gentleman does not, because I remember General Gruenther saying that if or when atomic war broke out then we would all have failed, which is an echo of what my right hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) said: "Do you defend yourself by threatening international suicide?".
This policy pays only to the extent that it is a deterrent. It is not a defence. We must draw a sharp line between something that is a deterrent and something that is a defence.
The hon. and gallant Member for Wembley, North (Wing-Commander Bullus) said that he always spoke during debates on the Air Estimates. I have never spoken on the Air Estimates before, and I have been in the House for ten years. This occasion gives me the opportunity to say that, as one who has corresponded with the Minister's Department for many years, I am impressed by the humanity with which it always deals with every claim that is made on compassionate grounds. I mention this in the hearing of my right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede), and other hon. Members, in the hope that the Minister will regard this as an unsolicited testimonial from this side of the Committee to his officers who deal with great humanity with these claims, which often arise because of real hardship.
We are considering a sum of £527 million. Sir Gordon, your predecessor came down hard on the hon. Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Boyden) and said that detailed discussion was not possible, but I hope that you will look on me kindly because I think that the whole includes the part. I want to refer to one or two small points.
1518 First, the early warning system is to be set up in Yorkshire. It will cost £43 million and will be in one of the most beautiful parts of the Yorkshire countryside. It will give but four minutes warning. I do not know whether the station is necessary, but there appears to be a degree of insensitivity in the Service Department which decided to set up this station in a national beauty spot. When a Service Department has to approach a problem where the choice lies between intruding into a national beauty spot and opposing vested interests, I know which side it comes down on. It is always on the side of the vested interests.
As a Yorkshire Member, I know that people in my part of the world would expect me to raise this objection and to ask, even at this stage, that there should be second thoughts in the matter. I ask whether this sort of thing is really worth while.
I now turn to one or two other matters in these rather interesting Estimates. On page 91, paragraph 4, which deals with air passages, says:Contracts are let at competitive rates to civil operators for trooping movements and the conveyance of entitled civilians, including families. Exceptionally, conveyance by civil airlines may be arranged at commercial rates.Does that exclude the nationalised airlines? Do the wordscompetitive rates to civil operatorsmean competitive rates between one civil operator and another, or between civil operators as a whole and the nationalised airlines? How far are they allowed to compete? Is this in fact a monopoly, handed to the civil airlines? If it is a question of competition only within the private sector I should have thought that it might lend itself to the abuse of arranged prices. That question ought to be examined.
On page 118, under Subhead J, dealing with the repayment of sums issued under the Armed Forces (Housing Loans) Acts, there is a reference to:Additional payments arising from the sale of approved married quarters.The Estimate for this year is £300,000, as against £250,000 last year. What is the policy here? I believe I understand what is behind it. When an air station is shifted the married quarters are sold. But are they sold to a local authority, or are they put out to tender? Where 1519 does the money go? Does it go back into the Air Vote, and does it have to be re-estimated next year? Is there an attempt to sell the accommodation to Government Departments, or to convey it to local authorities, to meet real housing needs? Or is it just put on to the open market?
Housing is a social service. We often hear claims, especially from the Home Office—we certainly did when my right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields was Home Secretary—that some local authorities are rather insensitive to the need for housing policemen. I should have thought that there could be some liaison with Government Departments in order to meet the needs of other Service personnel, or even of Civil Defence personnel. After houses have been built for a Ministry I would not like to think of their being tossed straight into the arena of the free market, without any consideration being given to the social needs of other Departments.
§ Mr. Ward
I will ask my hon. Friend to deal with this point. I would merely say that there are two quite separate sorts of married quarters. One sort is built from money provided from the Air Votes, and the other from money provided under the Local Government Loans Act. Those houses which are built with money provided from the Act have to be handed back to local authorities when we no longer need them.
§ Mr. Pannell
I appreciate what the hon. Member has said about the latter category, but I should like to know what happens in the case of the other houses. My argument still holds good.
There is another matter which puzzles me. On page 147 there is a reference to the commutation of pensions. I have read all that has gone before on this subject and I have heard what the Minister said this afternoon, but I should like to know who decides whether a pension shall be commuted. I have already said a kind word about the general humanity of the Air Ministry, and I should like to know whether a man can opt for a commutation of his pension on compassionate grounds. One meets these cases from time to time. I know of a case where a man had been called into the Service but had to be allowed out because of what happened to his father. 1520 The explanation given in the Estimates is rather enigmatic.
There is only one other point to which I wish to refer. I recently sat on the Select Committee on Procedure when it discussed the question whether the Estimates should not come before specialist committees.
§ Mr. Pannell
But we are discussing the Estimates, Sir Godfrey. I want to know whether the procedure that we have followed this afternoon is the best sort for a discussion of the Estimates.
§ The Temporary Chairman
That would be out of order. In discussing certain Estimates we cannot discuss the question how they should or should not be dealt with. We are discussing the Estimates themselves.
§ Mr. Pannell
Then I must refer to the debate which took place earlier this afternoon. In a previous argument on this point, when my hon. Friend the Member for Bishop Auckland was speaking about the ceremonial unit, the question was raised whether the whole was greater than the part, and whether we could discuss the part when discussing the whole. I began with a very general consideration, which you considered to verge on the point of being out of order. I then discussed certain detailed Estimates which, according to the earlier Ruling of the then occupant of the Chair, would have been out of order. I am merely indicating the difficulty experienced by hon. Members when trying to discuss Estimates in a rational manner.
§ The Temporary Chairman
The hon. Member can go on as long as he likes, and I shall call him to order when he is out of order. I do not propose to apply the Ruling that detailed points are out of order.
§ Mr. Pannell
It is because I want to remain in order that I am attempting to tell you what happened earlier in the debate, and to explain the confusion caused in the mind of an hon. Member who has had ten years' experience of the House of Commons and has considered matters of procedure. It seems to me that in a Chamber like this, when 1521 we are trying to grapple with these matters, so many of which—including those which I have raised—are Committee points, a case can be made out for the consideration of these matters before a Defence Committee rather than by way of an attenuated meeting in the Chamber.
Having said that, I cannot be ruled out of order again, Sir Godfrey, because I now intend to sit down.
§ 8.30 p.m.
§ Major H. Legge-Bourke (Isle of Ely)
I wish to congratulate my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Air on his opening speech. Unfortunately, I was unable to hear it because I was engaged in a deputation to another Minister and was prevented from being present in the Committee, but I was able to read the report on the tape.
My right hon. Friend said something about the nuclear deterrent which I believe to be profoundly true, and which must be very reassuring to those who dislike war and all its stands for. A question which I always ask those who say that the money we are voting would be better spent on other things is: "If we had not spent all that we have over the years, beginning in the days of the Labour Government in 1945 to 1951; if we had not gone on spending it in providing this country with the equipment which we now possess and the weapons which we have, can you honestly say that we should still be at peace?" I believe that the answer to that question is. "No".
We must accept, however reluctantly, and however much we may deplore the terrible devastation which these weapons could cause that they are the price of peace. They are our insurance for peace. We should thank not only the Governments but our allies and the good sense and humanity in the Western world that we have had the courage to do what we have done. Had we abandoned our arms programme and not modernised our forces over the years it may well be that there would now be no Western Europe as we know it today, in which case the United Kingdom would have ceased to exist.
I wish to refer to paragraph 14 of the Memorandum, which deals with the question of the Thor missiles. We have a Thor missile base in my constituency. 1522 Thanks to the good offices of my right hon. Friend and various Royal Air Force officers I was afforded an opportunity to inspect a base and I was shown the control system, the count-down, and so forth. The first thing which impressed me was the extraordinary understanding displayed by my constituents about the need to establish this base in the constituency, despite the demonstrations made by various organisations. We have had a demonstration march in the area. One group of marchers came past my house and I was asked by the organisers to receive a deputation.
I considered that my only duty was to my own constituents and I said that I was prepared to receive any of my constituents who wished to see me. I met only seven people who, I understand, were my constituents, although 300 people took part in the march. Participation in such marches has become almost a profession, although I am sure that those who take part are sincere in their belief that they are doing what is dictated by their consciences.
I refer these people to the question which I posed at the beginning of my speech. If they can honestly say that if we had not done all that we have in the matter of defence they would still be in a position to take part in such marches, I should be prepared to revise my opinion. But at the moment I consider that if we did what they would like us to do, it would not be possible for them to organise their marches.
One matter concerns me about the siting of Thor missile bases in East Anglia. The local people understand the need for them. The reaction among my constituents is that on two previous occasions we have been caught inadequately prepared, and "Do not let us be caught again." Even so, I think it raises special problems of civil defence. I realise that is not a matter for detailed consideration under this Vote and, therefore, I do not propose to pursue it, save to ask one question of my right hon. Friend. I hope that he and his advisers are keeping in the closest possible touch with the Home Office and all others concerned with civil defence to see that in areas where these bases have been sited proper thought has been given to the consequences upon civil defence of that siting, because I realise there must be 1523 special conditions which come into the picture.
I am certainly not technically qualified to say what they should be, but I think that my right hon. Friend will agree that this raises special problems. I know there is considerable enthusiasm for civil defence in the district. I hope that he will be ready at the appropriate moment, if requested by the Home Office, to give whatever technical advice is required, although I realise that this involves a certain amount of secrecy.
On the question of rockets, I have always been one of those who believed that in the White Paper which is so often quoted back at us—the one which was introduced by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Aviation—it was by no means certain that in stating, as he did, that the V-bombers were for the time being the last bombers which would be introduced, it meant that research and development would not have to go on with a view to producing suitable manned aircraft. I have been rather surprised to see the enormous emphasis given as a result of this year's Defence White Paper to the allegation that a great change of policy has taken place. I do not think that it is a change of policy nearly so much as a change of emphasis.
I have believed all the way through, and I believe that in his heart of hearts my right hon. Friend would have done the same, so far as thought can reach, that there is a future for manned aircraft in the Royal Air Force. I have felt there was one obvious and immediate disadvantage to the land-based rocket from the moment it was decided that that was a temporary method of providing a nuclear deterrent. Quite simply, it is that, considering the operating power of nuclear weapons, quite a wide miss could cause complete disruption of the whole power to provide retaliation.
Perhaps it is almost ludicrous to talk of it in the light of what has happened at Agadir, but I have always felt that if a nuclear weapon were to land in this country the territory round about for quite a number of miles—only a technician could tell us how many miles—would suffer something in the nature of a minor earthquake. If that took place 1524 it is highly probable that as a result the rockets we have would no longer be able to be safely launched.
For that reason, I have always felt that the more we can base our deterrents on manned aircraft the better. No doubt submarines would also be used, but I have always felt that the manned aircraft have a part to play. For that reason it is extremely important that research on and development of manned aircraft capable of launching these weapons should be continued day and night.
It is always impertinent for an ex-professional soldier to take part in a debate on the Air Estimates, although I have seen the absolute nadir of Army-Air co-operation as well as witnessed a supreme example of it. Having been in Greece in 1941, I suppose I can say that the relationship between the Army and the Royal Air Force was never worse than at that time. It was one of the most satisfactory things to watch the steady improvement which took place after that, which led to the great victories eventually in Europe. I have always hoped never again to see the misunderstandings which arose in 1941.
My belief is that the Army must accept the fact that, although it is vital for keeping the peace on the ground, the Air Force has by far the most important part to play in the deterrent. This is not meant to be disparaging of the Army. I know it to be of high morale and well equipped. That is a subject for a later debate. But the Army must accept that the nuclear deterrent, which, I believe, is the principal safeguard to peace, must rest largely in the hands of the R.A.F.
If we are to ensure that the R.A.F. is capable of delivering it, we must ensure that the aircraft available to the R.A.F. keep pace with the times. As a soldier, I was taught one lesson, above all others, about strategy, and it was that this country owes her strategic position largely to the fact that, because of her Commonwealth associations, and now her N.A.T.O. associations, too, she can work on exterior lines of communication, whereas her most dangerous potential enemy has to act on interior lines of communication. If hon. Members look at a globe—and it is important that they should look at a globe rather than a 1525 map—they will see that the Commonwealth, together with the Americans, forms a most superb strategic organisation based on exterior lines of communication. What is the big advantage of that? Primarily it means that we can leave the enemy guessing the whole time about the point from which we shall attack him if he attempts to do anything to us.
There has been some talk lately of making the missile mobile and of taking missile platforms around the country, sending some to Scotland, for example. I believe that that is almost ludicrous. We ought to be thinking about whether the missile should be launched from Australia if the Soviet Union were ever to attack the Western world. We ought to be thinking in terms of imperial communications and of making that vast land mass of Asia wonder all the time, if Moscow ever tried to occupy Western Europe or to attack this country, whether retaliation would come from the Antipodes, from the Indian Ocean, or even from Africa. We ought to be thinking in those terms. Once we start doing that, the speed of delivery matters enormously.
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes
What purpose could the Soviet Union have in attacking this country when this country is even sending her factories for the seven-year plan?
§ Major Legge-Bourke
Let us hope so, but I am not certain whether they would recognise it if we denuded ourselves of arms, as some people wish. That is the point. I do not suppose that the Soviet Union will stand still in its armaments development any more than we shall stand still. If we stood still, it would give an immediate advantage to those who continue to progress with their research and development. It is because we cannot be certain that a potential enemy will not stand still that we must continue with our research and development.
I hope that the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) is right. We all hope that. He is typical of so many pacifists. They will try to 1526 monopolise on the love of peace. All of us who have had anything to do with war detest everything about it which we can possibly think of. We loathe it. It is because we loathe it that we are determined to see that the sort of things which led to the last war are not allowed to happen again. Not very long ago the hon. Member and I debated at Cambridge University the great adage, "Si vis pacem, para bellum". Many of the speakers in that debate, especially those who came from India, said that they did not wish to prepare for war; what they wanted to do was to prepare for peace.
Of course, we all want to prepare for peace, but there is a prerequisite to it all, namely, that every bully or potential bully in the world knows that he will not be able to get away with it if he starts bullying. That is the prerequisite of peace, and that is what all this is about. I say to the hon. Member and anyone else who shares his view: love of peace is not enough, just as pacifism is not enough. It is not only bitterness which we must rule out. We must rule out, also, liberty to the bully to behave just as he likes. Our defence policy is designed to try to prevent that happening.
I will return now to the theme I was trying to develop, on which the hon. Member so successfully interrupted me. The biggest asset which the British Commonwealth of Nations has is that it is united from a strategic point of view on exterior lines of communication. When we talk about dispersing or being able to vary the sites from which our nuclear deterrent could be launched, we have not got to think in terms of one end of the United Kingdom or the other. We have to think in terms of what part of the Commonwealth it is coming from and, in conjunction with our allies, what part of the United States as well.
If we once accept that, mobility is essential. We must keep pace with modern aeronautical developments. I hope that we are no longer talking in terms of Mach 1. We now have to think in terms of Mach 4½. So far as we know, that is the highest speed at which any aircraft having steel in its construction could travel. I understand that steel melts at about 500 degrees Centigrade. An aircraft travelling at Mach 4½ would probably reach a surface temperature of about 450 degrees Centrigrade.
1527 That is why we should be thinking in terms of that speed. Some new material may be discovered by another nation before we discover it which will enable even higher surface temperatures to be endurable. We have to think in these sort of terms. Our minds reel at them. The less technical we are in our knowledge, obviously the more our thoughts boggle at the whole conception.
My hon. Friend the Member for Macclesfield (Sir A. V. Harvey) rightly drew attention to the appalling cost of all this and to the absolutely essential need for us to ensure that our economy can stand the strain. Many people think that the defence budget this year is too high. If it makes us better able to keep the peace of the world, this money is worth spending, and if, as my right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence told us, the total defence budget represents the cost of only one packet of cigarettes per head per week, I am quite prepared to give an extra packet of Players a week—
§ Mr. de Freitas
I think that the figures given were one packet in relation to each Service, so it is three packets of cigarettes.
§ Major Legge-Bourke
Very well. I am quite prepared to make it six packets if, as a result, we are able to play a bigger part in maintaining world peace. I suppose that, for this Vote, it represents something between one packet or two packets a week, at the moment.
I very much hope that we in the House of Commons will be sympathetic as we possibly can to any Minister who tells us that if we are to keep up in the race we must be prepared to spend on research and development, but in page 101 of the Estimates I have noticed one rather unusual passage which relates very particularly to this matter. It says:Airframes, aero engines, guided weapons, electronic equipment, and their associated equipment, are obtained through the Ministry of Aviation. …and goes on to say:Payments to the Ministry of Aviation … are, with certain exceptions, made under the bulk settlement arrangement.It is to the next sentences that I wish to draw particular attention, because if hon. Members can understand it, I confess that I cannot. It states: 1528Under this arrangement, payment to each department in 1960–61 will be based on a forecast made towards the end of the financial year of the value of deliveries for the whole of the year, and will take into account any adjustment necessary in respect of the value of deliveries through each department during 1959–60 determined after the close of that financial year as compared with the forecast of value on which payment in 1959–60 was based. The value of deliveries in 1960–61 will be determined after the close of the financial year and any adjustment necessary with either department will be taken into account in the 1961–62 settlement.So it goes on. I think that my right hon. Friend will agree that that wording is rather characteristic of some of the wartime regulations that we experienced, and is not really quite as clear as a Committee of Supply is entitled to have it—
§ Major Legge-Bourke
My right hon. Friend will remember that, a few days ago, my noble Friend the Member for Dorset, South (Viscount Hinchingbrooke), my right hon. Friend the Member for Monmouth (Mr. Thorneycroft), one or two other hon. Members and I raised the whole question of Votes on Account. It seems to me that there is a good deal of Vote on Account wrapped up here.
As I have tried to point out on that occasion, Erskine May says very clearly that one object of Vote on Account is to permit of money unexpended in the previous year, instead of being returned to the Exchequer—which is what would otherwise happen—to be carried over on Vote on Account to the following year, so that the Department still has the money available. I wonder whether that is really what all this amounts to. I rather suspect that it may.
If that is so, I think that we are at least entitled to know what are the amounts carried over, and what is new in the expenditure for the coming year. After all, we are dealing with quite a considerable Vote—it is over £200 million—and it would be rather nice to know whether some is unexpended from the previous year and that, therefore, there will not be quite so heavy a burden to be met from new taxation as otherwise might be the case. I hope that my right hon. Friend will not think that, in raising this, I do not think that it is absolutely essential to have these airframes, 1529 aero engines, armaments, radar, radio, etc. I am quite convinced that they are essential.
Indeed, one of my greatest delights has been to witness the Battle of Britain displays at various aerodromes, for instance at Duxford and Waterbeach, which is just at the side of my constituency and see what is done there. One of the most impressive things I have ever seen in my life was a Vulcan bomber turning in the air as it was rising vertically. I have no doubt that the Air Force has a particular name for this maneouvre. Even the Air Force officer who was giving the commentary on the loud speaker system became so excited at seeing the Vulcan doing it that he went into ecstasies over it.
I rejoice to see such things—the products of the skill of British engineers in the hands of pilots in the Royal Air Force for whom I have the utmost admiration. It would, I think, ill become any of us in the Committee to suggest that the money is not well spent. I believe it to be extremely well spent. The aircraft which our pilots fly are a credit to the British engineering industry. The men who fly them are well in the tradition of all the greatest figures of our history.
I hope that I have made it clear to my right hon. Friend that, in saying what I have, I am not criticising him for bringing forward an increased Vote this year. While I fully appreciate what my hon. Friend the Member for Macclesfield has said, I would say, ex-Regular soldier though I am, that I hope that the Royal Air Force, of all the three Services, will be the last to have a reduction in its Vote. I believe that the nuclear deterrent and the effectiveness of it depend primarily upon that Service. I hope that the Committee will not think me pompous if I say that it is a privilege for a soldier to say it.
§ 8.57 p.m.
§ Mr. Tom Driberg (Barking)
The hon. and gallant Member for the Isle of Ely (Major Legge-Bourke) spoke, as he always does, with all the sincerity with which he himself credited the marchers with whom he personally disagrees, but I must say that some of his speech, at any rate that part in which he was philosophising about war and peace, seemed to me to do no more than retail 1530 the old clichés which most of us were taught at school and which have been proved false throughout the centuries.
Another thing we learned at school was a tag, from, I think. Tacitus, "Solitudinern faciunt pacem appellant" We are certainly making a desert, in the name of peace, of four squares miles in Yorkshire, and it is about that that I wish to speak tonight. My hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, West (Mr. C. Pannell) has already referred to the scenic beauties of the National Park which is now to be devastated by the ballistic missile early warning station at Fylingdales Moor.
It is very difficult to say which out of the Air Ministry, the Service Departments generally and the Central Electricity Generating Board is ahead in vandalism. It is certainly a very near thing. We have in this case a right and, indeed, a duty to ask that much more should be told us about the necessity and desirability of this gigantic project before we assent to the Vote. We are told that it is costing this country £8 million and, of course, it is costing the United States very much more.
I think that the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for Air will probably agree that he has been rather lucky at Question Time in the last two weeks since he announced the project on 17th February, because, by the luck of the rota, he has been able to give Written Answers to the many questions about Fylingdales which have been put down. I hope, therefore, that tonight we shall have a little amplification and clarification of some of those rather terse Written Answers. As every Minister knows, it is much easier to be rather more concise and less forthcoming in a Written Answer than when exposed to the barrage of oral supplementary questions.
§ Mr. Driberg
I am much obliged to the right hon. Gentleman. As he was good enough to say, I did notify him that, unfortunately, I could not be here. 1531 I shall, therefore, speak as briefly as I can. If I repeat any points that have been covered already, I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will excuse me, but no doubt the Parliamentary Secretary will cover them if necessary.
The first point is the basic one of the necessity of this project at all. We are told that it will improve the effectiveness of the Western deterrent. I think that we should be out of order if we attempted to argue the whole theory and policy of the deterrent, but, even granting that theory and that policy, I should like to ask how this project really improves or increases the effectiveness of the deterrent. Is it not already certain that the great powers can mutually commit suicide? We have been assured for years by those who believe in the policy of the supreme deterrent that the existing nuclear deadlock, grim as it is, has been a factor in maintaining peace. Can it be increased or improved still further?
Secondly, I should like to deal with the question of the site. I apologise again if the right hon. Gentleman dealt with this matter. He gave a rather longer Written Answer than usual on 24th February, when He said:The whole of the United Kingdom was considered before this site was chosen.But he did not answer the part of the Question which askedwhat consultations he had with other Governments regarding the possibility of siting the station outside the United Kingdom.The right hon. Gentleman did not say whether there had been any consultation. He merely said:No site outside the United Kingdom would have given a comparable degree of early warning."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 24th February, 1960; Vol. 618, c. 49.]Can the right hon. Gentleman assure the Committee that that is so? I do not know as much as he or the scientists know about this matter, but is it the case thatNo site outside the United Kingdom would have given a comparable degree of … warning"?The question which, I think, has caught the public imagination most, and perhaps caused most apprehension, is the question of time. I realise that the four minutes of which the right hon. Gentleman spoke is only the minimum time, as it were, but is he really certain that, as 1532 he put it, a substantial part of the bomber force can take off and be effectively on the way in that time? Are the crews sleeping by the aircraft already? If not, when will they start doing so? It seems an extraordinarily short time. Are they already sleeping by their aircraft, on the eve of the disarmament talks, which is another of the political points which I ventured to make to the Minister of Defence the day before yesterday? It seems a strange moment to announce this particular project.
The most serious doubts and criticisms which have been expressed, however, appeared in an article, which I have no doubt the right hon. Gentleman has seen, in the Guardian, by its scientific correspondent, on 22nd February. The scientific correspondent of the Guardian, who is known, I expect, to quite a few hon. Members, is undoubtedly in touch with people who are, to put it mildly, well informed. He is probably better informed than many hon. Members of the House. He is certainly much better informed in these scientific and technical matters than I am. He raised two points which he said have been causing disquiet among British scientists. The first is simply the question of cost. It seems that many scientists take the view that the cost announced by the right hon. Gentleman is very much too high and that is clearly a matter with which we are concerned here tonight.
Secondly—and much more serious than the cost—he queries, on the authority of scientists with whom he has discussed this matter, the effectiveness of the devices likely to be installed at Fylingdales. He cites two possible methods of detection and says:With each method of detection there are, however, thought to be serious difficulties of interpretation. Thus, it is being questioned how even the most sophisticated computing system could distinguish accurately between ballistic missiles at a distance of 2,000 miles and the trails of ionisation left behind by meteors constantly entering the earth's atmosphere …There is also the difficulty of distinguishing beween ballistic missiles and artificial satellites—as demonstrated by the discovery a fortnight ago by tracking stations in the Pacific of an unknown object only after some daysnot within four minutes—identified as part of a Discoverer satellite.He quotes many other things which may be mistaken on a radar screen for 1533 ballistic missiles. We have all heard and read stories from the United States of errors being made and that even flocks of starlings have been for a moment mistaken.
If things are to be kept moving with such extraordinary rapidity that a substantial part of our bomber force has to be in the air within four minutes, how on earth can there be the absolute certainty that is necessary in a matter of this kind, where an error might precipitate a third world war? It is as serious as that.
The scientific correspondent of the Guardian ends with the comment:All these considerations have led in some quarters to the conclusion that Britain will be paying too much for a system that is less adequate than it might be to the stringent needs of missile detection.If this is true, and if, perhaps, our American allies have put something across the Government here which means, in effect, greater peril for the British people rather than more effective protection, then this costly and hideous project, with its thermal radiation devastating the Yorkshire moors, is really a fraud at the expense of the British people.
§ 9.9 p.m.
§ Mr. John Howard (Southampton, Test)
I do not propose to detain the Committee for more than a few moments, but before we part with these Estimates I should like to refer to a couple of the least expensive items for which my right hon. Friend is responsible.
First, I should like to refer to the Air Training Corps. I see on page 35 of the Estimates that in 1960–61 we expect to have about 3,000 officers and 750 warrant officers responsible for the training of 34,000 cadets. It is, I think, appreciated very generally by the public that this work is performed by a devoted band of men who give a great deal of their time to the training of cadets in the A.T.C.
Representations have been made to me from time to time in my constituency by those responsible for the Air Training Corps warning me, and, through me, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, of the dangers of losing these valuable officers and warrant officers. We must never overlook the fact that most of 1534 these people who lecture to, and look after, the cadets in the evening, could easily spend their spare time in a profitable occupation such as lecturing at the local technical college, or doing similar work. I would like my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary, when he replies to the debate, to assure us that this position is being watched carefully to ensure that the voluntary worker who has a commission in the Air Training Corps is not penalised by reason of devoting his time to the Services.
I know that those officers who go to camp receive the appropriate pay for their rank, marriage allowances, and so on, but it is the weekday evening time on which we rely for the services they render to the Corps. Not only does the Corps provide trained cadets for the Air Force, but, at the same time, the Corps organisation provides a valuable social service. It is somewhere for youngsters to go in the evening and somewhere for them to follow an interesting occupation, irrespective of whether they intend ultimately to join the Royal Air Force.
My second point, which also refers to one of the less expensive items in these large Estimates, concerns the provision for the meteorological services. About £5 million is to be spent under this heading. I am particularly attracted to this item in the Estimates because during the war, when I served as an able seaman in the Navy, one of my tasks was to take the readings for sea water, wind speed, temperature, and so on, and also to decode the meteorological information.
I was amazed to discover that this information is now worked out on electronic computers and, moreover, that the weather maps, when compiled by these electronic means, are transmitted by some other magic to all centres using weather maps, where a facsimile map is provided on a screen. This is a great advance on the days of laboriously plotting the weather charts by hand.
I notice, also, that two weather ships, frigates of the "Castle" class, have been added to the fleet which already provides this weather information. The addition of these two ships is a reminder that however quickly the information may be collated by electronic means and transmitted to the point where it is of value, the collection of the information is still an arduous task. It necessitates 1535 weather ships being out in the oceans in all sorts of weather. However rough the seas, the weather ships are still around collecting the vital statistics and sending them back to base.
The collection of data for weather maps is a co-operative effort. Not only do the weather ships provide the information, but selected merchant ships also participate in the collection of information about the weather and a vast number of flights are flown by aircraft from Cornwall, for example, which similarly collect weather information.
One further point on the meteorological aspect is the provision of scholarships. I notice that we are now providing two scholarships, one of them directed to the study of seismology. Again, this is an indication of the need of technical and scientific training in all branches of the Air Ministry's services.
I undertook that I would not detain the Committee for more than a few minutes, but I did not wish to allow the Estimates to pass without making these two points. In particular, I was anxious to make reference to the weather ships and to the part which the merchant ships play in providing information. Many of my constituents who sail out of the Port of Southampton rely on the reports provided by the Air Ministry not only in order to enjoy the benefits of sailing, but also in earning their livelihood.
§ 9.15 p.m.
§ Mr. William Warbey (Ashfield)
Other hon. Members have referred to the high cost of the air defence of the country and I want to say a few words on that subject, because it is very important that those of us who feel that this cost is far too high and ought to be substantially reduced should make our position clear. I do not go as far as my hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) who takes the completely pacifist point of view and would do away completely with all military expenditure. That can be achieved only by general multilateral disarmament.
I challenge the necessity or value or utility to the people of the country of defence Estimates of this magnitude which are very largely inflated by reason 1536 of relying upon the use of nuclear weapons. In my view, and in the view of a number of my hon. Friends, the nuclear weapon is a weapon which it would be immoral for this country to use; but, even disregarding that point of view, it is a weapon which if it is to be used effectively as a deterrent will be economically crippling and, because it cannot really be for the country an effective and credible deterrent, is politically unwise and, indeed, stupidly provocative.
In talking about the money which we are asked to find for these Estimates, we ought to take the matter more seriously than in terms of so many packets of cigarettes a week. Two or three packets of cigarettes may not sound very much, but if one takes the total defence budget for this year, the annual expenditure for a family of five is equivalent to £160. That is an expenditure of more than £3 a week, which for a railway worker, who brings home only £7 10s. a week in his pay-packet, represents far more than he personally can afford and far more than we can afford on the average as a country.
If we take the Air Estimates alone at a figure of £527 million we are spending very nearly as much on just one section of our defence as the Government are contributing towards expenditure on education, and if we take the whole of our defence budget, we are spending more than twice as much on non-defence, because that is really what it is, as we are spending on education. If in terms of our national expenditure we are thinking, as some people do, in terms of keeping up with the Joneses, we ought to recall that the Soviet Union spends as much on education as it does on defence. Its defence expenditure is a great deal higher than ours; so also is its education expenditure.
If this country spent as much on education as it does on defence, it would be beginning to gets its priorities more in their right order. That, of course, would mean that we would have substantially to reduce our defence expenditure in order to increase our expenditure on education and on social services, housing and those other economic and social needs on which this country really depends, and will depend in the future if it is to play a leading part in the world.
1537 Many people besides my right hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) have said that the main and essential challenge of Communism today is not military, but economic and social. If we are to cripple the possibility of our economic and social advance, and our economic and social leadership in the world, in order to arm ourselves with nuclear weapons, which can provide no defence for our people nor even a credible deterrent, and which would mean total devastation and suicide for all of us, then we cannot possibly make the kind of contribution that this country ought to make to peace and to the welfare of the world.
I hope, therefore, that we will recognise before long that in air defence, as in defence generally, we will have to make a very sharp and clear decision. If we are to continue, as was suggested by the hon. and gallant Member for the Isle of Ely (Major Legge-Bourke) and by the Front Bench opposite, with the development and maintenance of credible deterrents—in other words to keep up with all the new developments in this aspect of defence—then we will have an ever-increasing expenditure of some of our most vital resources.
We are putting our vital resources into the production of these weapons and the bombers, missiles and other means of delivering them. The plutonium needed for the development of cheap and abundant sources of energy is, as we have seen from the Report of the Select Committee on Estimates on the Atomic Energy Authority, being devoted at present so much to the manufacture of H-bombs that the future development of our fast breeder reactor at Dounreay is being starved of necessary fissile material. We are putting into the research and development and production of these weapons our scarce resources of manpower and of the scientific skill of the physicists and engineers whom we rely upon for the industrial and economic development of this country. We are doing all that and yet in return we have no security, no safety.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Strachey) made a complete and unanswerable criticism of the use of the Thor missiles. He pointed out that these missiles are trained on Russian cities and are, at the same time, 1538 right under the enemy's guns. He went on to say:I put it to the Minister and to the House that it is asking a good deal of the Russians not to object to this."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 1st March, 1960; Vol. 618, c. 1035.]I am sure that the Russians do not like it. I am sure, as my right hon Friend said, that that is an example of provocation without either effective defence or deterrence.
What can be said of the Thor missile applies to the whole range of nuclear weapons. It applies equally to Blue Streak and to the V-bombers, because, in spite of what has been said by the Secretary of State, very few people accept the view that it is possible for a substantial number of bombers to get into the air on receipt of two or three minutes' warning, and nobody knows how many of those bombers, if they get in the air, will be able to get through to deliver their loads.
This weapon, in any form which we can conceive at the moment, is therefore not a credible deterrent and it is certainly no defence. At the same time, its retention in this country, together with that of the other bases for nuclear weapons, our own or those of our allies, is a form of provocation without being able to provide us with any means of defence. That is why I, for one, regard the expenditure proposed in these Estimates as totally excessive, largely futile, ineffective and wasteful.
§ 9.27 p.m.
§ Mr. Graham Page (Crosby)
The hon. Member for Ashfield (Mr. Warbey) addressed his remarks to the high cost of the Services. I address mine to an organisation in the Royal Air Force whose cost is very low compared with its importance, the Royal Observer Corps. The hon. Member and other hon. Members referred to the ballistics warning device, the four minutes' warning, and so on. When we talk about things of that sort, we might make the Royal Observer Corps seem, like the man with the red flag walking in front of the motor car, something out of date. I hope that the Committee will not think that this particular organisation within the Royal Air Force is out of date. I hope that my hon. Friend will confirm my view that the Royal Observer Corps has a very important function to perform.
1539 In the Explanatory Notes on page 37 of the Estimates we are told:The Royal Observer Corps is a uniformed civil organisation, the members of which are trained in the identification and reporting of aircraft, and in the measuring and reporting of radio-active 'fall-out'.The Corps consists of a number of salaried officers, spare-time officers engaged on administrative duties and as instructors, and spare-time observers. The Explanatory Notes estimate the average strength of the members in 1960–61 as 83 whole-time officers, 410 spare-time officers, and 15,300 observers.
Those observers are the volunteers of the Service. In many areas of the country, according to my information, there is a feeling of a sort of Cinderella-ship. They feel that they are not getting from group head quarters and from the Service as a whole the attention which the importance of their job ought to command. The members of the Royal Observer Corps may lose heart if this goes on. It may be very difficult to keep up the number of volunteers which is estimated as being necessary. There is an unreality about the exercises which they are called upon to carry out. Perhaps unreality is not the right word, because one would not wish these exercises to be completely real. Perhaps I had better say that there is an ineffectiveness in the exercises in which they take part as part of their training.
These exercises take place once a month, either on area or group level. Sometimes the exercises are held at weekends. They are held for two training purposes. First, to detect fall-out, and, secondly, to identify and report aircraft. Fifteen to 20 men form the crew of a post. Only two or three men are on duty at a time. These exercises last for about two hours, so each man has very little training if he is on actual duty for only a short period of these two hours once a month.
Generally speaking, the exercises for detecting low-level aircraft are farcical. In the area of my constituency, that is to say, Merseyside, where these exercises are undertaken, there is no co-operation from the Royal Air Force during the exercises. I am told that for years no Service aircraft have been seen in the vicinity when an exercise is being carried 1540 out by the Royal Observer Corps, yet the whole purpose of the Corps is to identify service aircraft. They are told to spot civilian aircraft. The only civilian aircraft that go over Merseyside are on scheduled airlines, and the Royal Observer Corps can by now tell to a second when the aircraft is coming over and what type it is. The exercise is purposeless in training to identify Service aircraft.
I am going into these details because I do not believe that we shall continue to attract volunteers to that sort of job. They are men who give up their time in the hope of becoming efficient members of the Corps. There is a lack of silhouette and identification equipment at the observer post. They seldom see things like flash trainers and films to help them identify aircraft.
Fall-out exercises consist of one man reading a figure every two-and-a-half minutes from a paper sent to them by group headquarters. That is the exercise they go through to identify fall-out. I am sure that more effective training could be devised. These posts have never seen such things as radiac calculators, slide rules, or any of the instruments used in the proper detection of fall-out. I do not know whether it is the case throughout the country, but on Merseyside there is not one operational observer post. There is one post with a surface post only, which has been condemned. There is one with an underground position only and no surface position; another with an underground and surface position, both partly destroyed by vandals, and another which is without a site at all. That is the position of the Royal Observer Corps on Merseyside.
I ask my hon. Friend whether the Royal Observer Corps is really necessary. I hope that he will be able to say that it is, and that it has an important part to play and will be looked after by its group headquarters and by the Service itself. I hope that the Corps is something more than a merely Civil Defence organisation. I hope that it will be taken into the Services and treated as an important part of them, so that the idea of its being some sort of Cinderella will be dispelled, and we shall be able to maintain the number of volunteers which the Estimates deem to be required.
§ 9.37 p.m.
§ Mr. William Ross (Kilmarnock)
We have had a full and very wide-ranging debate. We have got ourselves to Christmas Island, and have come back to Yorkshire, looking in at Aden two or three times. I believe that at one time we were in Gan. We have considered the Meteorological Service and the Royal Observer Corps. Few branches of the Royal Air Force have not been mentioned.
I am surprised that we have not paid more attention to the size of the Estimate. I have been wondering where the watchdogs of financial stability have been in our discussion of the highest of all the Service Estimates—£527 million. It was wrong of the Minister of Defence to try to put the matter in proportion the other day by likening the cost of defence to the cost of a packet of cigarettes per head of population per week for each of the Services. Even if we accept that analogy we must realise that we are discussing the Service which represents the aristocrat of cigarettes, because even on the right hon. Gentleman's estimate the Service costs more than his analogy would indicate.
I would rather express it by saying that we are discussing the expenditure of £10 million every week. That is a very dear packet of cigarettes. We should therefore not be surprised if doubts are cast on the advisability of spending all that money, or if suggestions should be made as to how some money could be saved. Perhaps even the Minister of Defence will appreciate that today's cigarette is cork-tipped. If he cut off the relevant 7d. it would mean a saving of about £75 million in terms of these Estimates. I think that if the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues applied themselves to the task, they might be able to do it.
This debate is important from another point of view to which there has been little reference. This is the third year in succession in which the Secretary of State for Air has presented us with increased Estimates. I wonder whether the right hon. Gentleman would estimate what will happen next year. We should regard this matter in the light of what we were told three or four years ago by the present Prime Minister when he talked airily about saving £600 million. 1542 The actual facts are astounding. In 1955–56 there were in the Service a total of 272,000 officers and men. Under Vote A we are budgeting for 174,000 which represents a reduction of 98,000. I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) will pay attention to what I am about to say now, in view of the Motion which he has placed on the Order Paper.
§ Mr. Ross
My hon. Friend is advising us to reduce the number still further. In 1955–56 the cost of 272,000 officers and men was £89 million. We have lopped off nearly 100,000 from that figure and the cost is now £113 million. If my hon. Friend proposes to reduce the figure any more, it will cost the country more money, because that is what has happened every year.
I am glad that the Minister is now in the Chamber. I think we must appreciate this trend. This is the last year of National Service and whatever else was achieved by National Service, the great body of men which was called up included valuable specialists. With the end of National Service it will prove very difficult to attract these specialists into the Service. This is the third year in succession that the Secretary of State has told us in one way or another that we are still failing to get the right number of men with the right qualifications into certain branches of the Service. The efficiency of the Service may be determined by the presence or absence of an adequate number of such people. There are limits to the extent to which we can civilianise certain jobs in the Royal Air Force. I hope that the Under-Secretary of State can give us some information about how it is hoped to tackle this problem of attracting the right number and kind of men with the ending of National Service.
Publicity will be important. I am very glad that the Secretary of State for Air has already taken some steps to ensure that he will get good advice on the subject. I do not think the Royal Air Force has been lacking in publicity. We saw what it was able to do in the Daily Mail air race to Paris. These things have an effect. It attracted into the Air Force, when he was doing his National Service, the cycling champion of Ayrshire—I do not know whether my 1543 hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire realised it—a lad called Mick Mason. I wonder how much that affected the showing of Royal Air Force colours in the Daily Express tour of Scotland race in which some of the crack cyclists of Britain took part. I wonder also whether it was only the inconvenient timing of the Estimates and the defence debates that robbed us of yet another opportunity of parading the versatility of the Royal Air Force, the flexibility of which we have heard so much from the Secretary of State and the Under-Secretary, by not being able to participate in Billy Butlin's race from John o'Groats to Land's End. I could visualise a supply of helicopters following competitors in that race.
Seriously, turning to the future, I think that the steps which have been taken in relation to the officer structure will bring a certain measure of reassurance, or assurance, to those going in, but immediately there arises in relation to this the question of what reassurance we can give to those who are already in. I say quite seriously to the Secretary of State that his layout of the explanation of this scheme in the Memorandum shows all the marks of haste and hurry and is not terribly clear. He lays out in paragraph 44 of the Memorandum exactly what the scheme is. Anyone who reads it would say, "This is wonderful. If we are on the general list it means that after sixteen years' service, or when we reach the age of 38, which ever is later, we can have the option of going on and being guaranteed a career up to the age of 55. If we make up our minds to go on to 55 it will still be open to us at any time thereafter to apply for retiral although there is no guarantee—
§ The Deputy-Chairman (Major Sir William Anstruther-Gray)
Is this a point of order?
§ The Deputy-Chairman
Order. In fact, as the hon. Members knows, a Member is present if he is to be seen through the doorway. I said there were forty Members present. Mr. Ross.
§ Mr. Ross
I meant let us get back to the age of 38. I shall not say anything about Scotsmen because I am a Scotsman myself. The criticism I make is that it is only when we get to paragraph 45, the succeeding paragraph, that we discover to whom this applies.
We have to read the first sentence, the last sentence, and then return again to the subject in paragraph 47. It would have been far better to have laid it out in relation to those officers to whom it will apply—that is, those who enter on the General List after 1st April—I do not know who chose that date—1960; and then in relation to those who are presently on the list; and then in relation to the other types of commissions which are not covered.
The first sentence reads:This new career will apply to officers awarded General List permanent commissions on or after 1st April, 1960.That seems all right, but we come to the last sentence of the same paragraph:The new scheme will apply initially to most officer branches"—not to all of them but to most—but there will be minor variations in some of the specialist branches to meet their particular needs.The question immediately arises, exactly which officer branches? In paragraph 47 we read:This 'new deal' for officers is primarily designed for those wishing to make a full career in the Royal Air Force on the General List. It will apply to Cranwell and Henlow cadets, University graduates, other specially qualified civil servants and selected serving personnel.This is in a paragraph headed "Other Officers". It is most confusing.
Next we deal with the question of those who are presently on the General List, presently commissioned, and we read:It will not, however, be possible for it to apply to all officers already serving on such commissions at that date, as this will depend on the manning situation in the various branches and ranks. It will be possible to offer the new career to younger officers, and it will apply to older officers automatically when they are promoted. But not all older officers can be retained till age 55.1545 Immediately those who are in this position start asking the question, "How am I affected?" They read the Memorandum and get no answer. I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary will have another go at this.
In relation to the younger officers we have had a little more information from the Minister, but it is not good enough for something as important as this to be thrown at us in this way and spread over the Memorandum in a manner making it very difficult to understand the exact intentions.
§ Mr. W. J. Taylor
The Memorandum should be read in conjunction with Cmnd. 945 on Service Pay and Pensions.
§ Mr. Ross
I agree, but many people will read only the Memorandum, and it should have been put much more explicitly. On the whole, we on this side of the Committee applaud the new structure. It will give a far better idea of what is in front of those intending to go on to the General List. But there will be a hold-up in promotion. There is bound to be. We have to balance that against the assurance of a career up to the age of 55. I do not doubt that it is a considerable improvement on what we previously had.
I want to make a criticism of the Explanatory Memorandum, taken with the Minister's speech and the speech of the Minister of Defence the other day: I think that it gives an impression of power, both in relation to deterrents and in relation to mobility, not entirely merited by the facts. It plays down the dangers of the present deterrent policy and it spreads doubts about the future, especially when taken with the speeches of the Minister of Defence and the Secretary of State. It must alarm those who are concerned with keeping the cost of defence within bounds.
It was interesting that today the Secretary of State made no mention, not even a whisper, of Blue Streak. The Explanatory Memorandum went as near that as possible, giving it six words. According to the estimate of expenditure which we had from below the Gangway the other day, that amounts to £100 million a word.
§ Mr. Ross
We shall probably have the full stop next year, because by then we shall probably have spent a few more million pounds.
We on this side, for perfectly valid reasons, opposed the establishment of the Thor missile bases and their development. We have always questioned the advisability of going on with Blue Streak, for more or less the same reasons. The Minister of Defence now says that no decision has been taken about what will be the proper balance between fixed site missiles and mobile launchers.
We shall now have, evidently—heaven knows what it will cost us—the V-bomber, with the new capabilities which we learned for the first time recently. They are spoken of in the Memorandum and give the impression of power, though it is not there. That is the standoff, capable of carrying both free falling and stand-off nuclear weapons. We are to have fixed site bases for rockets and we are to have more mobile bases. About two or three years ago we were informed that the V-bomber would gradually phase out and the missile would come in, but did I understand the Minister of Air aright that we are now thinking in terms of something to replace the V-bomber, namely manned aircraft? All this builds up into a fairly expensive picture. As we are to be left and landed with the fixed bases, we are making ourselves provocatively vulnerable.
I am glad that so many of my hon. Friends spoke about the early warning system.
§ Mr. McMaster
What does the hon. Gentleman suggest we use to fill the gap before the stand-off bomb is prepared and ready if we do not use Thor and Blue Streak?
§ Mr. Ross
I do not think that there is a gap. We are certainly not going to use Blue Streak.
Under the early warning system we shall now have anything from four to fifteen minutes' warning. In order to get fifteen minutes, the Minister of Defence sited the fixed bases of the Russian rockets back as far as he could. It is a wonderful power when the Minister of Defence in this country can shift the rockets back sufficiently far. The right hon. Gentleman says that it 1547 is common sense, otherwise they are vulnerable. If that is common sense, it makes our fixed sites nonsensical.
What is the time lag between four minutes to fifteen minutes and scrambling our V-bombers? Who gives the orders? Someone his to make a decision. It is said that with this early warning system we can pinpoint the target. What happens if the target is the point of decision as to what we do?
§ Mr. E. G. Willis (Edinburgh, East)
My hon. Friend should spell it out simply to the right hon. Gentleman.
§ Mr. Ross
I appreciate that decisions have to be taken by somebody about what we do when the early warning system picks up a missile approaching. The Minister told us that the system is so wonderful that it can compute the direction in which a missile is travelling, and even the target. It will take some time to work that out. That will not be done in four minutes.
§ It being Ten o'clock, The CHAIRMAN left the Chair to report Progress and ask leave to sit again.
§ Committee report Progress.
That this day the Business of Supply may be taken after Ten o'clock and shall be exempted from the provisions of Standing Order No. 1 (Sittings of the House) for Two hours after Ten o'clock.—[Mr. Ward.]
§ Supply again considered in Committee.
§ Mr. Ward
I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Gentleman, but he has said that the whole of this warning is nonsense because someone has to take a decision. What he does not realise is that the bomber force is under positive control the whole time it is in the air. It goes off, and if we want to recall it, we can. That is a very important point.
§ Mr. Ross
The longer we take about that, of course, the more ineffective it will be from the point of view of the actual defence of what would be the enemy's target. There has been a lot of confused thinking about this. I think that this system will be of more value to the United States than to Great Britain. I therefore question the £7 million or so that it is to cost us, and the continuing expenditure on its R.A.F. manning—
§ Mr. McMaster
If the hon. Gentleman doubts the early warning information for the V-bomber force and, at the same time, questions Thor and Blue Streak, how does he suppose we will protect the country?
§ Mr. Dudley Williams (Exeter)
Will, the hon. Gentleman tell us whether he is one of the forty-three Members who got a rocket this evening?
§ Mr. Ross
Of course, no one knows where the hon. Member for Exeter (Mr. Dudley Williams) has been this evening. He has certainly not been in the Chamber. He has been here for only about five minutes. If he had been here 1549 during the whole debate, he would have had the pleasure of seeing at least myself sitting here practically all the time and he would know where I was and that there was no chance of my getting rockets or anything else.
The fact is that we are not entirely satisfied about this early warning system, but no one should imagine, on that account, that we on this side of the Committee have no desire to defend our own country. Does anyone wish to question that?
§ Sir A. V. Harvey
I have been following the hon. Member's speech very carefully. He is, a assume, speaking on behalf of the Opposition, and I find it very difficult to know whether he is in favour of having an Air Force or not.
§ Mr. Ross
We are in favour of the Air Force. We are in favour of the Air Force in its main tasks of deterrence and its other task of preserving the peace through protection and through supplying and co-operating with the other Services. But we have always questioned the establishment of these missile bases, and that is what I have been applying myself to tonight. I think I have made the position fairly clear.
When I spoke on the Estimates last year, making this same winding-up speech—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."]—I said that we were discussing them in the year of a Summit Conference. The fact is that we are discussing them now and the Summit Conference is but a few weeks ahead. I should have thought that decisions like those which have been taken in relation to the early warning system could quite well have waited for a few more weeks. Some of the timing of these matters has been very bad.
As regards mobility, once again I feel that the facts are not exactly in line with the impression given by the White Paper, the Explanatory Memorandum and the speech of the Secretary of State. Undoubtedly, our mobility as represented by the ability of Transport Command is very much better than it was a year ago or two or three years ago, but it is far from being what we want. It may well be that the decision taken in relation to missiles meant that we sacrificed mobility—I think this should interest the hon. Member for Belfast, East—by 1550 spending too much money on some of the missiles.
We have not all the strategic carriers we want, not even the ones we have talked about in the past two years. The hon. Member for Macclesfield spoke about this himself and made exactly that point. We have not yet the Argosy. I think it was the hon. Gentleman who asked whether even the contracts had been placed in respect of the Britannic. Until we have these things, we have no right to talk about having adequate mobility to deal with the kind of situation which might well arise at any time in the Middle East or elsewhere. This, to my mind, is the first and more important task to which we should address ourselves when thinking of the Royal Air Force at the present time rather than the spending of money on these very vulnerable and very provocative fixed missile sites. Does the hon. Member for Exeter wish to interrupt again?
§ Mr. Dudley Williams
I was only thinking that the hon. Gentleman seems to be in the anti-nuclear department.
§ Mr. Ross
The hon. Member was quite incoherent.
Let us appreciate the change which has taken place in these Estimates compared with previous years. In 1956–57 we spent £165 million on airframes, spares and engines. This year, it is proposed that we should spend £127 million—a very considerable drop. This has happened every year. In 1956–57, we were spending £30 million on armaments, ammunition and explosives. This year, we are estimating for £75 million. The figure has more than doubled. This is the sort of thing that effects our ability to get the planes for mobility, because we cannot spend the money on everything. Whereas in 1956–57 the ratio in relation to armaments, ammunition and explosives as against airframes, spares and engines was 1 in 5, today it is 1 in 1.7. Let us face it—we have not the mobility.
Indeed, we have not even the spares. The Parliamentary Secretary has just come back from Aden. I think that he will have been told while he was there that one of the difficulties of Transport Command in Aden is that it is dealing with about twelve or thirteen different types of planes and has not the spares 1551 to keep them in the condition which it would like. There is therefore even within our resources in Transport Command a loss of efficiency because the spares are not always available to keep the planes in the air. This was stated by the hon. Member for Wycombe (Mr. John Hall) in an Adjournment debate. The hon. Member for Norfolk, Central (Mr. Collard) took exception to something said by my hon. Friend the Member for Barnsley (Mr. Mason) in that debate. I shall return to that matter.
We must get our priorities right in relation to the task of the Royal Air Force. There should be no doubt where we stand. I appreciate the sincerity of the views of my hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire, as much as anyone else. I have known him all my life. He has been consistent. But he made one mistake today. He told us that he has been present at all these debates, but he missed last year's debate, and we finished very early. He was dogging the footsteps of the Prime Minister in Russia. No doubt the Prime Minister would have preferred that he had been in the House of Commons.
The position has been fairly well put by my right hon. Friend the Member for Derby, South (Mr. P. Noel-Baker). He made a moving speech. He underlined the continued need for the pursuit of disarmament. The democracy that shrinks from its own defence is doomed. The democracy that fails to pursue world peace is already dead. We must both defend ourselves and pursue world peace, and I think that we shall do both if we have an efficient Royal Air Force which is carrying out its proper tasks.
Whatever else has been said today, there has been no criticism of the Royal Air Force. There have been some jumbled statements about Aden. The hon. and gallant Member for Wembley, North (Wing Commander Bullus) said that there has been a lack of publicity. The hon. Member for Edinburgh, South (Mr. Clark Hutchison) referred to misunderstandings. These may well have arisen out of publicity.
§ Mr. Ross
The trouble does not arise from wrong publicity. The publicity arises from the facts. The hon. Member spoke about some woman who had been interviewed by someone who had gone out there—some highly important personage—who said, "Why is it that people come out here to tell us how unhappy we are?" The hon. Member was criticising my hon. Friend the Member for Barnsley on what he said in an Adjournment debate. Let him take it from me—I was one of that delegation—that we did not go out to tell people how unhappy they were; but as soon as we got there Transport Command was very willing to tell us of everything that was wrong. It was brutally frank about the conditions. We were waited on by a delegation of women, the wives of Service personnel, who told us how unhappy they were. Let us face the fact that conditions were far from happy.
§ Mr. Collard
Would the hon. Gentleman give way, as he has referred to some things that I said? Would not he agree that there is all the difference in the world between the ordinary Service complaints about indifferent accommodation here and there and bad morale? That was my point. The two things do not go together in the British Services.
§ Mr. Ross
I want to come to that. We are evidently going to be in Aden for a long time, judging by the amount of money we are spending and have been spending there over the past three years. We have had a very quick build-up and this obviously followed events in Suez and in the Middle East. We have more than trebled the Service population in Aden. The Service Departments just cannot cope.
We went into this matter. It is not just a question of married accommodation for officers or men, it is a question of the accommodation for the actual Service men themselves. This used to be a very small military garrison, with one big barrack block at Steamer Point, built about 1860. That barrack block today is bursting at the seams, with Service men sleeping inside and outside on the verandas.
I would say this about the publicity. It high-lighted far too much the position 1553 of married people and too little of the position of the ordinary serving man. Let us face this other thing about Aden. It has a very mixed population in relation to the actual task of the Services there. There are operational units and Transport Command is carrying on its job day in and day out and night in and night out. There is also there the headquarters base. In other words, we have officers without men. What we have in Aden are not the sort of temporary grouses which we all had when we were in the Services; indeed if we were without them, then there was really something wrong with our morale.
We have the position where there are different standards of treatment for different people and different lives for different people. There is a social life in Aden. The hon. Gentleman must know that many people have a domestic life and a social life. What about the overcrowded conditions of the men at Steamer Point? What about the position of the men at Khormaksar? There is no place to which to go from Aden. There is no road out of it. I think that we are making one now. There is only the sea. There is nothing for the men to do. The recreational facilities are pretty slight from what I can see. It is something on which we have to build up. We have to look at this from the long-term point of view. We shall be concerned about recruitment in the R.A.F. in future. We do not want Aden to become a place where men who have had two years do not want to sign on. It could become a drag on recruitment and I hope that it will be considered from that viewpoint.
There is the question of education. I remember visiting a family living in what is a slum according to our standards. There was a child under the age of 7 who could not go out because of the surroundings. Furthermore, there was no place for her in a school. How does this affect morale? My hon. Friend the Member for Barnsley reported things as he saw them and the feelings of Service men as he heard them. He would have been very wrong to keep quiet about them. People out there are equally concerned that we speak frankly about what we saw.
We have been waiting about three years for the new school at Aden. My hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Mr. Swingler) has been 1554 pressing and asking questions about this for long enough. The school has not yet been opened. We are to get, I think, nine new classrooms before long. The position of children under 7 and over 11 years of age is much more serious. Some people send their children to a private mission school, but it was not built for that purpose. I hope that a continuing interest will be taken in the conditions in Aden. I know that matters are improving considerably, but the Under-Secretary will appreciate that when we went there shortly before the General Election, things were bad. I sincerely hope that they will continue to be taken care of.
We will need to pay a lot more attention to education in the Royal Air Force, Over £2 million of the £4 million which is being devoted to education will be spent on the five establishments, the colleges and the schools. I, too, was interested in what the Secretary of State said about the raising of the standards of Cranwell and Henlow. Why is the right hon. Gentleman raising the standards? Is it because he will now be able to get far more people from whom to select and this will be his method of discrimination? If that is the reason, I favour an educational rather than a class discrimination. That may well be the best way, but I hope we will be given an explanation. We do not want a lopsided balance in the General List commissions.
I heard an hon. Member speak about equipment for the Royal Observer Corps. One of the things that appals me is the reduction in the money which is being provided this year for educational equipment. It is a serious matter in view of the fact that we need to apply ourselves in greater measure to education within the Service. Last year, the entry of apprentices and boys accounted for 22 per cent. of recruitment to the Royal Air Force. This necessitates a greater job of education within the Service for the apprentices and in general education. We will deal next week in fuller detail with the Estimates, but far more must be done in that respect.
The position of the Air Force is undoubtedly far better than when I first started speaking in these debates about two years ago. We are getting a greater measure of mobility. I sincerely hope, 1555 however, that the Secretary of State for Air will play his part in making an early decision to stop the drift about the proliferation of types of deterrent and will ensure that he is serving not only the Royal Air Force, but also the nation as taxpayers.
§ 10.25 p.m.
§ The Under-Secretary of State for Air (Mr. W. J. Taylor)
Although the Committee has not been attended very well today, I think that we can say that we have had a very good debate, ranging over a large number of topics relating to the Royal Air Force and, indeed, other matters connected with defence. Many questions have been raised. I will do my best to reply to those questions, which have been put, to me by hon. Members in all parts of the Committee. I hope that hon. Members will bear with me if, in doing so, I take rather longer than is usual in winding up speeches.
It has been the custom for a Minister winding up the debate on these Estimates to dwell more on the human side of the activities of the Royal Air Force than upon its deployment and equipment, and that is what I intend to do tonight. While endeavouring to answer the questions which have been raised, I should like, first, to say something about the officers and men and women who comprise the R.A.F. From the tributes that we have heard, I know that my admiration for the Royal Air Force is widely shared, and I am sure that the tributes which have been paid by right hon. and hon. Members will be read with great pleasure by those who serve in the Air Force.
As my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Air said in opening the debate, over 40 per cent. of air Votes are spent on personnel. I use that term to cover pay, allowances, movements, clothing, and the accommodation of Service and civilian personnel. Reference was made, in reply to my right hon. Friend, to the new career structure. My right hon. Friend went into some detail about that and I believe that we can now claim that the prospects for anyone who embarks on a long-service career in the Royal Air Force are better than they have ever been. I am sure that that is right.
1556 In our expanding economy, with greater rewards for skill and initiative in civil life, we cannot expect to get good men for the Services at cut rates. Industry, commerce, the professions, the public services, and the Armed Forces are all competing for the best products we can secure from our education system at all its levels—those who leave the secondary modern schools and technical colleges as well as those from grammar schools and universities.
The Services must offer a competitive rate for the job. To some extent, we must be prepared to offer better than the rate for the job, because Service life must involve certain restrictions and disturbances which do not apply to civilians to anything like the same extent. Moreover, the last thing that we must do is to lower our standards. The vast majority of us will welcome the ending of National Service, but we must take into account the other side of the policy, which means highly trained professional forces with first-class officers and men in the numbers that we need.
We have in this country a fine tradition of professional service in the forces, but in modern conditions we shall weaken that tradition if we do not see today that the financial rewards for officers and men are fairly related to the high standard which we expect from them. In any case, we need to widen the field of recruitment and selection. We should like to see many coming in from families in sections of the community where, so far, there has been no tradition of service to the Crown in the Armed Forces. As things stand—that is, when the new pay and pensions codes and the new policy for officers' careers come into effect on 1st April this year—prospects for the forces will certainly bear very favourable comparison with prospects outside.
Let me give some examples. A Royal Air Force officer in the Secretarial Branch can reasonably expect to be a flight-lieutenant by the time he is 26. If he is married he will receive about £1,300 a year in pay and allowances. He will get an increase in his pay of £36 for each year of service in the rank, and when he goes overseas he will get a special allowance to meet the higher cost of living on an overseas station. A general duties flight-lieutenant drawing flying pay will be in the salary range of £1,700 to £1,900 1557 a year. It is true to say that only one or two of the recognised professions can guarantee such attractive rewards at such a comparatively early age.
These comparisons must not be pressed too far, of course. Penury in the early days of a civilian profession is sometimes an acceptable price for prosperity later. Even so, a Service career taken as a whole stands up to examination. A typical career under the new policy will extend from the age of 21 to 55 and, with average success, an officer could reach the rank of group captain before retirement. On this basis—I am looking at the table of professional earnings shown in the Report of the Royal Commission on Doctors' and Dentists'Remuneration—the earnings of a general duties officer of about £80,000 are better than in seven of the twelve professions shown in the table.
I grant that the table in the Royal Commission's Report is based on earnings four or five years ago, whereas my calculations relating to the Royal Air Force officer are based on the new rates of pay; but I think that the comparisons, somewhat by and large though they are, show that regular service in the Royal Air Force is a very good proposition indeed for the right kind of man. It is important to keep it like this, which is why the Government accepted the recommendation of the Grigg Committee that Service pay and pensions should be reviewed every two years.
I have been talking principally about officers up to now, and I should like now to say a few words about the airmen's pay increases. As many hon. Members know, the majority of airmen are tradesmen. Our aim is to ensure that their remuneration, taken as a whole, compares favourably with earnings in industry. From 1st April all Royal Air Force tradesmen will receive increases in basic pay varying from 3s. 6d. to 17s 6d. a week. For some there will also be improvements and increments for long service. Over and above these increases, all advanced tradesmen in the aircraft engineering, armament engineering, electrical, instrument and radio engineering trade groups will have their trade pay increased from the present rate of 10s. 6d. a week to rates varying from 14s. 6d. to 45s. 6d. a week, depending on rank, technical qualification and trade. These new rates will provide a greater incentive 1558 to acquire higher levels of technical skill.
There will be two scales of trade pay. The higher scale will be reserved for airmen in trades requiring a specially high degree of skill or combination of skills. It will not be wide in its application, and out of 25,000 men who at present receive trade pay only about 3,000 are expected to qualify for the higher scales. They include aircraft servicing chiefs in charge of servicing V-bombers, fitters employed on the complicated systems in Lightnings and Britannias and certain systems in radar and missiles.
The new arrangements for trade pay can be summed up like this. They increase the reward for skill. They will ensure that the Royal Air Force is competitive with the rates paid by industry to craftsmen, and they put special emphasis on rewarding tradesmen who matter most to the Royal Air Force at this stage of its technical development.
I can give further examples of how this system will work, but time is rather restricted. If any hon. Member would like to know how this or that rank will fare under the new system and will write to me, I will give him full information. I hope that what I have said already will indicate that we have not neglected the airman and that service in the Royal Air Force is a well paid job by any fair comparison with other callings.
I will now deal with the subject of Aden, a subject which has been raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Norfolk, Central (Mr. Collard), my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Wembley, North (Wing Commander Bullus), my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, South (Mr. Clark Hutchison) and the hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross). I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Norfolk, Central for the terms in which he referred to the work which the Air Ministry and the Royal Air Force are doing in Aden.
As has been said, I visited the Colony a few weeks ago and I must at once say that I was very impressed with the tremendous effort that is being put in by all concerned. There has been a good deal of criticism and, on the whole, I accept what the hon. Member for Kilmarnock said that he found in Aden. However, I must say that we did not wait 1559 for a delegation to wait upon me. I went into the homes of the officers and men in Aden and saw for myself what conditions were.
It is not without significance that, following the criticism in another place and in the House, when a circular letter was sent to 1,000 families asking if they would like to opt to be repatriated at a somewhat earlier time than they would otherwise be if they stayed for completion of a normal tour of duty, only one family opted to go home.
§ Mr. Taylor
I thank the hon. Gentleman for that and accept completely what he has said.
An immense amount of work is going on in Aden. This year, we are spending £3 million on domestic accommodation alone—barrack blocks, married quarters, messes and clubs—and we have plans for another £7 million worth of work. That represents a great deal of bricks and mortar, but barrack blocks cannot be built overnight. However, I am satisfied that work is pressing on at the best possible speed.
I can say with all due modesty that I looked at this aspect of the problem with a somewhat practised eye, as I have spent the greater part of my life in the building and civil engineering industries, so that I was able to see not only that the work was going on as fast as it could, but that the standard of building was up to the standard that I should expect to see.
There is no doubt that in this respect the local people have had some grave difficulties with which to contend. Reference was made to the employment of European contractors. It is only in recent days that the restriction on the importation—if I may use that word—of skilled labour has been lifted by the local government and while the Adenese, the local building force is extremely good and extremely quick at getting up what are known as the carcases or outside walls of buildings, they are not so quick at getting all the electrical services 1560 and the more skilled work of other trades finished off. It is necessary to bring people in to do that work. We ought to be a little reserved in criticising the rate of building when we know the difficulties with which the contractors have had to contend.
All the new buildings will be equipped with air conditioning, which, as we all know, makes life tolerable in the hot season. The hon. Gentleman referred to accommodation for single airmen. I agree with every word that he said. This disturbed me very much and I was surprised that I had not heard about that before I left on this rather long journey.
We are now building new barrack blocks. Some will be ready by the summer, and the rest by the end of this year. Even then there will be some overcrowding for some months.
I found that the morale of everyone was very high. Service people can see what is going on. They can see the new buildings going up and the measures that are being taken to relieve the difficulties. They feel that somebody is taking notice of their problems.
As a temporary measure we are putting up aluminium huts to house about 600 men.
§ Mr. Taylor
I was going to say that these huts will be air conditioned. All the new buildings will be air conditioned, and we are now examining the possibility of installing air conditioning in the older buildings which have been remodelled and improved.
There are three types of service accommodation in Aden, as there are elsewhere. First, there is service accommodation provided for the married service man and the single service man. Secondly, there are officially hired quarters. These quarters are hired on an approved scale and allocated through the command. Thirdly, there are quarters which are hired by the men themselves and which are subject to inspection by the unit. It is in that last named category that complaints about married accommodation principally arose.
We have already done a great deal towards solving the problem in Aden. We have placed a contract for 156 more 1561 married quarters, and we are planning to build more married quarters this year. We are getting more hirings. I saw buildings being built by speculative builders in the Colony, and they were very good buildings. We have tightened up the standard of accommodation.
I thought that the hon. Member for Kilmarnock was rather less than fair, although I do not think that he meant to be, when he said that sports fields and general amenities for leisure and recreation were paltry. He did not use that phrase, but I think that that is what he meant. I do not think that he was doing justice to the position.
We are spending a lot of money on enlarging and improving messes, clubs and schools. We are building a big school at Khormaksar, and it will not be long before it is ready for use. Whatever we do, Aden will never be an ideal place to serve in. It is a very hot spot, and, as the hon. Gentleman said, very restricted, but we are doing what we can at this end to get a completely satisfactory state of affairs there.
When I was in Aden I promised the Royal Air Force that the Air Ministry would do everything in its power to improve conditions, and I believe that we are keeping the promises that I made.
§ Mr. John Hall (Wycombe)
Can my hon. Friend say whether there will be sufficient electrical power to provide the increased power necessary to install air conditioning and the refrigerating plant that is required? That appears to be one of the problems.
§ Mr. Taylor
I was coming to that. Before I do so I should like to reply to the question about Treasury control, which was raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Norfolk, Central and repeated by the hon. Member for Kilmarnock.
I can truthfully say for once in a while that Treasury control has had nothing to do with the rate of progress of building in Aden. If the criticism had been levelled at almost any other activity in the Service, my hon. Friend and the hon. Member for Kilmarnock might have been right, but this time they are wrong. We are not short of money. We have been short of the physical means to get the money spent and the building done. There has been no 1562 adverse effect as a result of Treasury control.
My hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, South has had a long experience of Aden, for he served out there in the civil administration for a long time, and I have the greatest respect for his views. He raised the question of air conditioning, which I have dealt with, and he also asked us whether the presence of the Royal Air Force in Aden is throwing an additional burden upon the local community. We provide our own fire brigade and we make our own arrangements for the education of Service children. We pay normal commercial charges for water, and the Services are contributing £200,000 towards the capital cost of a new sewage scheme which the Government of Aden are undertaking.
We are proposing to rely on our own electricity supply rather than on local resources. Existing local supplies would be quite inadequate for our use and, on looking into the matter, we came to the conclusion that, all else apart, it would be a great deal cheaper for us to have an independent supply for the bulk of our installation rather than pay our share of the cost of expanding the local supply.
This has a bearing on the question of air conditioning. My hon. Friend the Member for Wycombe (Mr. John Hall) asked whether we should have enough power to run the motors for air conditioning units. The electricity authorities of Aden are well seized of this point, and as we expand our consumption on the private side, they will be able to keep pace with us.
I cannot agree that there is any gulf between the R.A.F. and local inhabitants. For example, a senior R.A.F. officer is a member of the Legislative Council. I do not know whether he has a vote, but I saw him sitting there, and he assured me that he was a full member of the Council. The R.A.F. out there keeps in the closest touch with the Governor and his staff and with local Ministers and the police.
My hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, South said that we could reduce overcrowding if we moved out into the Colony. I agree that there is congestion, but it would be quite impracticable for the R.A.F. to ease 1563 matters by decentralisation. We could hardly put Command headquarters in the desert, and we have sunk many millions of pounds in the Khormaksar airfield, which we could not afford to re-provide a few miles away. That is not a practical proposition.
Various references were made by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Wembley, North and other hon. Members to publicity. With the end of National Service in sight, the Air Ministry has, naturally, been turning its attention to the increasing importance of recruiting publicity to ensure that the all-Regular force is built up and maintained. Our main efforts go into Press advertising, which we find an indispensable medium. I have some details here of the steps that we are taking to improve our publicity, and if any hon. Member is interested I shall be glad to let him have them.
In general, by means of exhibitions, by personal contact between our officers and the schools and the public generally, by Press advertising, by films on television, by radio broadcasts, and so on, we are keeping a very lively contact with the public—and with very good results. I can, therefore, assure my hon. Friend the Member for Wembley, North that he really need have no anxiety on that score—
§ Lieut.-Commander S. L. C. Maydon (Wells)
Can my hon. Friend tell the Committee whether the school liaison officers are allowed access to all schools by all local education authorities?
§ Mr. Taylor
I should I think that the short answer is, "No," but my hon. and gallant Friend knows, I think, that the admission of Service officers, in these circumstances, depends on the permission of, first, the local education authority and, secondly on the personal permission of the headmaster of the school concerned. There is, therefore, no uniformity there, but I think that, in general, the Royal Air Force and the Ministry receive a great measure of co-operation from local education authorities.
On recruiting, I should like to refer to the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Southampton, Test (Mr. J. Howard) about the Air Training Corps. I have had a little to do with the 1564 Corps since it came into being nearly twenty years ago. It is true to say that the Corps, and the Royal Air Force section of the Combined Cadet Force, have been, throughout those years, a valuable source of Regular recruiting, and continue so to be.
In his speech on the 1958–59 Air Estimates, my right hon. Friend announced the introduction of a number of important improvements, particularly in the facilities available for flying and gliding, in order to encourage the air cadet forces. I am glad to say that these improvements have borne fruit, and that the strength and efficiency of the Corps is rising. It is significant that, last year, the Corps provided 36 per cent. of the total apprentice entry into the Royal Air Force, and nearly 70 per cent. of our officer cadets, and almost 20 per cent. of all Regular recruits come from the Corps. That is a first-class recruiting record, and I cannot praise too highly the valuable work of the many volunteers who run the Corps, without whose help it would be impossible to run the service.
The hon. Member for Lincoln (Mr. de Freitas) and my hon. Friend the Member for Test referred to the Meteorological Service. Its task, and the opportunities, are developing very quickly, indeed. On the scientific and research side, we are getting very promising results from the use of an electronic computer for certain types of forecasts. We are pressing ahead with research into the possibilities of long-range forecasting, although it is clear that there will not be any simple or early solution of this extremely complex problem.
We are making particular efforts in research into upper air conditions, which very largely govern the air down below. A special section has been set up to deal with the task, and one job will be to design and prepare meteorological instruments to go into the Scout satellites—in which, I think, the hon. Gentleman takes great interest—which our American friends are making available to us.
Parallel with these developments, the Meteorological Office has been developing arrangements for passing all fruits of research to the public. In addition to the regular broadcasts on radio and television, the telephone inquiries 1565 answered automatically over the G.P.O. network average about 100,000 a week.
The London Weather Information Centre, in Kingsway, is now well established. It was formally opened by my predecessor in this office, and he will be glad to know that it is doing well. A second one was opened in Glasgow last December. We plan to open a third one in a month or two's time in Manchester. There is no rush of volunteers for the Manchester job, because no overtime is to be paid there and they know they will not have a sinecure in the meteorological office in Manchester.
§ Mr. Taylor
However, the service continues to give information to the shipping and aviation industries, and goes on 24 hours a day every day of the year. This service deserves the thanks of this Committee. The work the Meteorological Service does is of immense value and well merits the money which we spend upon it.
I would just say about the earth satellites that if we get the results from that tremendous development which are expected by the scientists the effect on long-range forecasting could be almost revolutionary and could benefit mankind by many millions of pounds every year.
Time is going, and I do not know whether I shall be able to deal with all the questions which have been raised by hon. Members—
§ Mr. Taylor
—but I will try. The hon. Member for Lincoln raised the question of visits of hon. Members to operational stations. I can say that my right hon. Friend and I are very anxious indeed to co-operate with hon. Members as far as ever we can and as far as practical arrangements will allow to enable Members to visit Royal Air Force commands and operational stations wherever they may be. Only in these last few days we have been looking at a new list of possibly interesting stations which Members might visit, and in due course, through the usual channels, we shall be 1566 inviting Members to indicate what they would like to do.
The hon. Member for Lincoln asked for further information about flight re-fuelling. He remarked on the references which my right hon. Friend made in his speech and asked whether tankers were being provided to match the increase in the V-force. I can assure the hon. Gentleman that we already have a substantial tanker force in the Royal Air Force consisting of Valiant aircraft and that more tankers are being provided.
The hon. Member also raised in a question the contacts between Members of Parliament and Service men. I would never myself—and I am quite sure this applies to my right hon. Friends, also—do anything to prevent a Service man from approaching his Member of Parliament with a genuine complaint, or any complaint at all, for that matter, but I would hope that, before he did that, he would exhaust the Service channels for complaints and make sure that he had reached the end of what may be called the established machinery before he came out to his Member of Parliament. Subject to that, I can assure the hon. Gentleman that we would never countenance anything which would close the door of communication between the Service man and his Member of Parliament.
The hon. Gentleman the Member for Lincoln mentioned the question of transport aircraft. All I can say on this is that 20 Argosy have been ordered, that 20 more will be ordered shortly, and that we expect the first ones to be in service by 1962. The Britannic freighter aircraft was referred to by the hon. Member for Lincoln and by my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, East (Mr. McMaster). We are pressing both my right hon. Friend the Minister of Aviation and the firm to get on and get the contract for the Britannic signed. In my view, there has been too much delay already and I am doing everything I possibly can to push on all concerned with the business. I wish that I could do more, but I assure hon. Members that I am doing all I can within the limits of my position in the Government.
The Women's Royal Air Force has not been mentioned much in the debate, but the hon. Member for Lincoln asked how the local scheme, introduced a year ago, 1567 was progressing. I am glad to say that since the inception of the scheme in April, 1959, 406 girls have joined. I cannot without notice—and I do not think that I could even with notice—break down that figure to tell the hon. Member how many came from Lincolnshire. If he is keen to know, I will try to find out.
The question of work study also has been raised by one or two hon. Members. We are doing a great deal in this direction. Tribute was pad to Air Vice-Marshal Freebody, who has pioneered this work, not only in de Air Force, but in the Services as a whole. He has done a first-class job. Only last week, I opened a conference, at which he presided, consisting of senior officers of the three Services, at which he gave a first-class exposition of what was involved in work study and all that it means in the saving of manpower and, of course, of money. I assure hon. Members that we shall not neglect this side of our responsibility and that we shall move on to the stage, I hope, where commanders and commanders-in-chief themselves feel just as strongly as we do about saving men and money.
The question of the ballistic missiles early warning system was raised by the hon. Member for Lincoln and the hon. Member for Barking (Mr. Driberg). It is not my intention in this reply to deal with the policy side of this matter. It has been referred to by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence and by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Air and during the last few weeks Questions have been asked in the House about this installation.
In reply to the hon. Member for Lincoln, who spoke about the choice of the site, I have traversed this ground on my flat feet many times. It is a completely isolated part of the Pickering Moor. There have been no local complaints of any serious nature. Indeed, the local reaction to the scheme has been nothing but favourable. Municipalities have expressed almost their pleasure that somebody will bring work into the area. Two thousand men will be working there for some years and the local authorities have welcomed this development.
The new station is part of the work that is necessary to fulfil our international obligations in N.A.T.O. The 1568 fact that it is being sited where it is means that the specification was of an exacting character. The criteria that had to be fulfilled in regard to soil, latitude and other scientific aspects were so exacting that this was the only uninhabited place which could be used for this purpose in the whole of the United Kingdom. I say this with all sincerity to the hon. Member. I am a Yorkshireman myself and I do not want my beautiful county to be desecrated any more than he does; but, if he will look at a map drawn to scale of the area of this station coloured red, with the rest coloured white, he will appreciate how much there is still left of the National Park.
Further, an undertaking has been given by the Government that when this installation is no longer required, the area will be restored; and we shall take every precaution with regard to landscaping which will tend to minimise the disturbances to amenity and the generally desirable features of this neighbourhood. To pass on—
§ Mr. Driberg
May I interrupt the hon. Gentleman? There are much more important aspects which he has not touched upon at all. Can he give an absolute assurance of the certainty of exact identification of approaching missiles under the system of detection that is to be used? Furthermore, since the Secretary of State has defined, fairly precisely, the lower and the upper limits of warning time—"from about 4 minutes to about 15 minutes"—can he say about how many minutes he calculates will be required for getting "a substantial part of the bomber force into the air", and for the political consultations which the Prime Minister said on Tuesday would be possible?
§ Mr. Taylor
The hon. Member is asking me to reply to highly scientific and technical questions on this subject which it is not for me to do; but I can tell him, in short, that we have the finest scientific and engineering advice that is available in the western world, and we have accepted that advice.
The time of the announcement is not a matter for me and I would ask him to address his question—
§ Mr. Driberg
No, I am sorry. The hon. Gentleman has misunderstood what I asked him. Since the Secretary of State 1569 has given the warning time fairly precisely, can the hon. Gentleman say how many minutes are estimated as necessary for getting the bomber force into the air and for the political consultations which would be necessary, after receipt of the warning, before irrevocable action is taken?
§ Mr. Taylor
The Secretary of State has referred to the speed with which the bomber force could be got off the ground. He did not refer to the preliminary consultations, and I will not do so myself, for it is not within my purview but the Royal Air Force will carry out in an emergency what is expected of it with expedition and skill.
My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Wembley, North spoke of the casualty evacuation service and paid tribute to those taking part in it. I should like to associate myself with him and to say that they are doing a wonderful job.
I will not deal with the speech of the right hon. Member for Derby, South (Mr. P. Noel-Baker). It was an excellent speech, although it had little to do with the Estimates, but I have no doubt that it will be widely read in disarmament coming, as it does, from such a source.
I cannot answer all the queries which have been raised, although I have prepared many replies. I will try to write to every hon. Member who has raised points that I cannot deal with now and give an explanation as far as I can.
§ Mr. Taylor
Unfortunately, I missed the pleasure of hearing the hon. Member's speech. I had been in the Chamber for some hours up to that point and I went out for a little refreshment. It was a self-denial on my part, but I will look up the speech in the morning and if there is an answer I will let the hon. Member have it. I am not sure whether there will be an answer.
My right hon. Friend began his speech with a reference to the officers and men 1570 of the Royal Air Force. He explained what we were doing to improve conditions, pay and career prospects. He stressed the importance of having first-class men of all ranks in the Royal Air Force of the 1960's, and rightly so. Though material things are important in themselves, a great organisation cannot survive without the spirit of service and sacrifice such as we have in abundance in the Royal Air Force. But service and sacrifice are not enough. We must provide the material rewards to go with them.
I should like to remind the Committee of the motto of the Royal Air Force—Per ardua ad astra—which, I am told, means "Through struggle to the stars". From what I see of the Air Ministry—and this goes for the Minister as well—it is a case of, "By hard work to the heavens."
§ Mr. de Freitas
When the hon. Gentleman writes to hon. Members on points which he has not had time to answer tonight—and I thank him for answering so fully and clearly those with which he did deal—will he deal with the points raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Barking (Mr. Driberg) about the station in Yorkshire, which have worried a number of people? A number of points have been put in the course of the debate.
§ Question put and agreed to.
That a number of officers, airmen and airwomen, not exceeding 174,000, all ranks, be maintained for Air Force Service, during the year ending on the 31st day of March 1961.
§ Resolution to be reported.
§ Report to be received Tomorrow; Committee to sit again Tomorrow.