§ 3.35 p.m.
§ The Minister of Defence (Mr. Harold Watkinson)
I beg to move,That this House approves the Report on Defence, 1961, contained in Command Paper No. 1288.The form of the White Paper this year confines itself primarily to policy, and the Services memoranda, to which I do not wish to refer in any detail today, have appeared rather better illustrated and set out in rather more detail. I hope that that balance will be for the convenience of the House. It is defence policy which is pre-eminent and the details, the single Service requirements, are better set out in the Service memoranda. The White Paper this year, therefore, tries to set out, clearly and factually, the broad frame of defence policy.
The White Paper is the first to be written against the background of the probability that both sides now have enough nuclear explosive to destroy one another. We have also rightly taken account of the growth of the industrial and military power of China.
There is one point I want to mention before coming to the White Paper policy in detail, and it is a matter about which the whole House will agree, however much we may differ on our method of getting there. In producing this White Paper, and its clearly and carefully thought-out policy statement, the Government have sought to face, I hope honestly, what I consider to be the dominant issue of our age.
In man's recorded history, peace has been a matter of only relatively short intervals between wars of steadily increasing destructiveness. Can we—and I hope that the House will bear this question in mind in this kind of defence marathon, as it goes on for two days—exploit the situation, that a major war would now destroy much of our civilisation, to deflect the course of history and break the sequence of alternating war and peace?
That is the basic fact that must underlie defence policy. Can we do it, or do we fail? If we fail, then time is running out for us all if we cannot break the sequence of peace as an interval between wars. Our primary task must be to stop our world destroying itself and the 1199 mission of defence is rightly enunciated as a mission of peace, but peace through vigilance and purpose.
That is why the White Paper begins by setting disarmament as the Government's first priority, but all of us will agree that there may be a long road to travel before we can achieve disarmament. We must, therefore, give equal priority—and this is the second main point of the White Paper—to the task of preventing any kind of war from starting. That is the reason for maintaining a powerful deterrent policy in concert with our allies.
Thirdly, the White Paper sets out the Government's considered belief that our contribution to the deterrent strength of the West must continue to cover both the nuclear and conventional aspects of defence, not only because we and the West as a whole must clearly show our ability effectively to react against threats of any kind, but to ensure that the views of this country carry their proper weight in negotiations for nuclear test agreements, in disarmament negotiations and in N.A.T.O. and our other alliances.
The fourth main point of the White Paper is that we must carefully assess the shape and size of our contribution so that it is reasonably well balanced, both in relation to our national resources as a whole, and in its various components, nuclear and conventional and, within those broad divisions between men and weapons.
To sum up the four main points of this year's White Paper before dealing with them in detail: first, there is the need for new progress on disarmament; secondly, the necessity for deterrence over the whole spectrum of defence, including nuclear as well as conventional; thirdly, the maintenance of a carefully balanced contribution to meet our worldwide commitments and our obligations to our allies—I merge three and four for the convenience of the House.
We have made good progress with the five-year plan for defence, constructed with such skill and energy by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations. [Laughter.] Yes, I know that it is often alleged, for purely political reasons, that the policies set out in earlier White Papers of this period have changed. The fact is that 1200 the main frame of British defence policy has not changed. The maintenance of peace through the maximum contribution to the deterrent forces of the West has not changed. Technology and weapons have changed, but these must be subordinate to policy, for it is policy and not any particular weapon system that is decisive, particularly in this age of probable nuclear sufficiency.
The Government believe that the best, and perhaps the only, way to have peace is to stick to our present carefully balanced policies and the responsibilities that flow from them. Those who preach the unilateral renunciation of our defence obligations should ponder the hard facts of the dangerous world in which we live. Perhaps they might even consider how they would get on squatting in Red Square instead of outside my Ministry. All I would say is that such actions, if noted at all by a potential aggressor, would only encourage it in the belief that its aggression was likely to succeed. Unilateral renunciation of our defence obligations thus increases, not decreases, the danger of war. So, in my view, does any action or misrepresentation which might cast doubt on our will to carry out our obligations.
Fortunately the Government, like, I believe, the majority of our countrymen. wish to stand aside from this twisting of defence facts to suit political ends. It may be that the official Opposition would wish to do the same. Certainly, their recent policy statement is vague enough to give plenty of room to advance or retreat. I do not wish to deal with it in great detail now, and whether it is an official statement that we should consider, or what the Daily Herald calls the Cousins' case, or the Crossman case, but I would like to ask the hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey), who, I think, is following me, to tell the House in rather more detail how this policy would work. [HON. MEMBERS: "What about your policy?"] If it is considered that the Opposition have no need to adumbrate their policy to the country, it obviously implies that they see no possibility of ever carrying it out. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will go into this in more detail, and tell us, for example, how he proposes to carry out Article 8 of the official statement.
Anyway, be that as it may, the Government's task is clear. It is to stick to 1201 their defence objectives and to state the facts concerning them. We believe that peace rests on a firm defence policy.
§ Mr. Watkinson
This policy has so far been justified—and this is the answer to the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman)—by the one result we seek from it, the maintenance of peace. That is all we seek from our defence policy, and we have no intention of deviating from our chosen course, which has so far won us that objective.
I now turn to examine in more detail the four main elements of our defence policy. First, disarmament. Disarmament and defence policy are obviously closely inter-related, and Her Majesty's Government hope that 1961 will see the conclusion of a nuclear test agreement. The other day I came upon something said by my right hon. Friend the Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill), and it shows how well he has always looked far into the future. In 1953, he said:We and all nations stand, at this hour in human history, before the portals of supreme catastrophes or of measureless reward, but I have sometimes the odd thought that, with the advance of destructive weapons which enable everyone to kill everyone else, no one will kill anyone.The conclusion of a nuclear test agreement would certainly be a very large step forward towards the ambition of having a world in which no one will kill anyone.
I want just to make this point so that there is no misunderstanding about the difficulties of this task, or of its cost; for the setting up, for example, of 180 control posts would be a very heavy burden on finance, manpower and on our technical capacity. None the less, this would be an immense step forward. It would be a great move towards broader measures of disarmament, and although it has all the difficulties of there being no known method of detecting hidden nuclear tests, plus the problem of clandestine manufacture and all the rest, 1961 should be the year in which we gain this first and vital disarmament objective.
For the rest, there remains for a Minister of Defence the problem of keeping the balance of force on which peace rests throughout the development of any 1202 disarmament plan. To pretend that such problems do not exist is no help to disarmament. I believe that it is equally unrealistic to pretend that Great Britain could at this moment cast away her position as a nuclear Power which is fundamental to ensure that our views carry weight in all these dicussions. With Russia and the United States of America, such an action would merely weaken our influence, perhaps at a vital moment, as I have tried to show, in world affairs. It would certainly not stop other Powers from creating their own nuclear weapons.
The White Paper sets out as the Government's second objective our determination to maintain the deterrent strength of our alliances and our worldwide commitments until disarmament is achieved. Before turning to N.A.T.O., may I say that I hope hon. Members have glanced at the map on page 4 of the White Paper. It shows the worldwide spread of our commitments, and I think that most of us today would agree that the risk of an incident which might lead to limited or unlimited war is perhaps more likely outside the N.A.T.O. area than within it.
That is why it is important, in the Government's view, to create the unified commands in the Near East and Middle East which are recorded in the White Paper, and to carry on the further re-organisation of our forces which will give us greater mobility, greater hitting power, and a chance of trying to deal with a small incident before it turns into a dangerous nuclear explosion.
Now I will turn to N.A.T.O. It is sometimes said that Her Majesty's Government do not contribute enough to N.A.T.O., or that we are perhaps somewhat half-hearted about our support of this great alliance. Perhaps the House will consider the facts. Of the Royal Navy, 85 per cent. of the active and operational Reserve Fleet is committed to N.A.T.O. When, in due course, Fighter Command becomes part of Saceur's unified air defence, over 50 per cent. of the Royal Air Force front line aircraft will be committed to N.A.T.O. Forty per cent. of all Army formations available are assigned to N.A.T.O. Here, while the Army is being reorganised, we shall not always avoid having units which are under strength.
1203 I must make it plain that we and the United States are disturbed at the world imbalance of payments, which is at present reflected in a substantial German surplus and United States and United Kingdom deficits, and at the military expenditure which, almost as a side effect, plays a part in bringing about this state of affairs. Nevertheless, it is the Government's wish to continue to maintain B.A.O.R. as close to full strength as we can in the circumstances, and we shall keep N.A.T.O. fully informed of our position here.
I now turn to the broader issue of N.A.T.O. policy and purposes. I hope that I have made it plain that the Government intend to give full support to the alliance, but I hope that it is equally plain to those who take the trouble to go to S.H.A.P.E. and Fontainebleau—as I know many hon. Members on both sides of the House have—and study the problems, that its strategy, especially nuclear strategy, needs a fresh appraisal to see if it is still right in completely changed circumstances.
I think that hon. Members know what is happening. Apart from the normal reviews—and N.A.T.O. is fairly review-ridden, anyway—a special review is now going on covering the whole of N.A.T.O. nuclear strategy. I wish to comment on only one or two points which I think important. Our representative there has already put forward British ideas for further progress. First, the terms "tactical" and "strategic", as applied to nuclear weapons, can be very misleading. It is the target that determines whether a nuclear weapon has been used tactically or strategically. The weapons themselves are often neither tactical nor strategic; it is only the rôle in which they are used which makes them one or the other, and we must try to keep that point in mind.
Secondly, N.A.T.O.'s main aim is to prevent war by maintaining an effective deterrent against aggression. To this end, N.A.T.O. strategy is based on the strategic nuclear forces of the West—S.A.C. and Bomber Command—and the shield forces in Europe and the naval forces in the Atlantic. If these forces fail in their deterrent rôle they will have to be used to fight the resulting war, but in our view their main task is to stop a war starting in Europe. That is the 1204 fundamental principle that we must never forget. There are many elements in this problem of taking a new look. One is a need to identify those weapons which are necessary for the rôle of the forces under S.A.C.E.U.R.'s command; another is the need to solve the very difficult problem of control—political as well as military—and a third is the need for weapons clearly to be subordinate to overall strategy.
Perhaps I could sum it up by repeating that we do not challenge N.A.T.O. purposes or principles. The fundamental problem could be summed up essentially as one of control and of the right balance between the nuclear and the conventional in N.A.T.O. forces. Therefore, our idea of N.A.T.O. is an alliance with strong conventional forces, backed by atomic fire power in the tactical rôle We do not see any advantage in setting up N.A.T.O. as a strategic nuclear Power; nor, I understand, does General Norstad.
I now turn to the second part of the N.A.T.O. problem, which can be summed up under the word "interdependence"—a much overused word. None the less. it is fundamental to the success not only of N.A.T.O. but of the world alliance of free people to make this concept of interdependence work. We feel it right that this should be considered in much wider terms than merely bilateral or multilateral arms deals. They are very important. but they are not the whole picture. There is the interdependence—although perhaps better words would be "standardisation" and "rationalisation"—of the whole allied defence effort. There is the problem of how to use our scientific, industrial and economic resources better together. There is the problem of trying to identify projects. At least, Great Britain took the lead there and presented N.A.T.O. with a list of a limited number of specific projects.
The Government regard that list as being a test of whether N.A.T.O. can make interdependence work. So far, I am glad to say that, as I am advised, the work on these projects is going well, but we must see some ascertainable success if we are to claim that interdependence is providing an end product. In the meantime, we have built up much better co-ordination between our military experts, scientists and technicians, and the chance of work being wasted is much less than it was.
1205 Interdependence also means that each N.A.T.O. ally must try to meet to the greatest extent the requirements of other N.A.T.O. nations British forces make use of many facilities on the Continent of Europe, and it therefore seems only common sense that we should be willing to help the Germans or any other of our allies if we can do so As the House knows, there has recently been a meeting of exports in Paris, under the auspices of N.A.T.O., to deal with the specific question of any help we can give to the German forces. No final decisions have yet been taken, but I thought that I should bring the House up to date with the progress of discussions at the beginning of the debate.
First, we have told the German authorities that we shall be ready to assist them in placing contracts for the maintenance of ships and aircraft in this country. That does not seem to be bad business, and our shipyards could do it well. Secondly, we have said that we could provide storage facilities for ammunition, petrol, oil, lubricants and general stores in some of the surplus storage capacity in our Service depots. Those depots will continue to be run by the Army or the Navy, and by British staff. Thirdly, we have agreed to examine the 'possibility of arranging German naval training in the manoeuvring areas normally used by the Home Fleet. That is a perfectly proper N.A.T.O. purpose.
We have also asked the German authorities to send a small party over to see whether the existing tank-firing facilities which we can provide for a limited number of German troops at Castlemartin would meet their demands. That party has yet to arrive, and no decision will be taken until an inspection has been made and we have had further talks. I hope that that brings the House up to date on that aspect of interdependence.
I now turn to the question of Anglo-American co-operation, which also comes under the heading and the broad scope of interdependence. Here, we share between us the responsibility for the Western deterrent. The United States Strategic Air Command and Bomber Command are closely linked, and I hope that they will remain so. We have given the United States facilities in Holy Loch for the maintenance of a Polaris submarine, and I am glad to welcome, on 1206 behalf of Her Majesty's Government, the United States mothership "Proteus" which will arrive there on 3rd March.
§ Mr. Watkinson
Possibly a different sort from the one the hon. Member is thinking of. It seems to me to be only common sense that when, because of our geographical position, we can help to increase the effectiveness of this great addition to the Western deterrent to war, we should do so. In my view, it is a sincere attempt to give a further insurance for peace in the world.
§ Mr. John Rankin (Glasgow, Govan)
Would not the right hon. Gentleman agree that Norway might have fulfilled, he rôle which is now being fulfilled by Holy Loch? Can he tell us why Norway rejected Polaris?
§ Mr. Watkinson
I would not know. No doubt Norway, Germany and other N.A.T.O. allies could have taken over this responsibility, but I prefer that the British Government should share in this task.
At many other points we are in the closest operational relationship with the United States. The United States development of Skybolt saves us research and development resources which we can divert to other purposes. I want to say again here what I tried to say about N.A.T.O. as a whole: if interdependence means anything to the Western world it must be a two-way trade, and it must work properly. That is why I very much hope to have an opportunity of meeting my new American opposite number, Mr. Macnamara, in Washington very soon and—
§ Mr. Watkinson
—to discuss with him ways and means of furthering our common aims and complementing our joint efforts. It is based on the belief, as I have said, that this must be a two-way trade and that it must be seen to work reasonably efficiently. So much for interdependence.
§ Mr. Jeremy Thorpe (Devon, North)
Accepting that interdependence is the cornerstone of defence policy, if it is such a good thing why should it not be equally applicable to nuclear weapons, particularly nuclear 1207 bombs? Why is it all right for conventional weapons and not nuclear weapons?
§ Mr. Watkinson
I am coming to the question of nuclear weapons in a moment, when I shall answer the point raised by the hon. Member.
I turn now to the Government's third objective, namely, the need to contribute to the whole range of defence. In this, to answer the hon. Member's question, we approach the area of fevered and highly inaccurate controversy which surrounds the nuclear weapon. I will expound the facts which are clearly set out in the White Paper for those willing to read them. This firmly restates the Government's determination that Great Britain can, and should, continue to make her contribution to the nuclear deterrent strength of the West.
I believe that this is the clearest definition one can have of our continuing purpose. It seems to me of little point to split hairs about the terminology of our nuclear deterrent. An aggressor knows that we have this weapon and that in certain circumstances —which I pray will never arise—we should use it. The Government have made it plain that we have, and will continue to have, this capacity over the next ten years at least.
There is another argument—which I shall deal with in detail, because the House should have the facts in front of it as far as I can properly give them—apart from the one of outright rejection. It might be called the bayonets versus bombs argument. Are we spending too much on the strategic nuclear weapons? Is the balance between nuclear and conventional weapons right? The Government think that they have done this, and I will explain why. The cost of our nuclear strategic deterrent is about 10 per cent. of the defence budget. The cost of our air defences, world-wide, is about 10 per cent. of the total defence budget. Of this second 10 per cent., about one-third is attributable to the requirements of the deterrent.
If we decided to abandon the air defence of the bomber bases altogether, at best the saving would be a very small one. The type of force that would be required in this country would still need to carry 1208 out the rôle of reconnaissance and preventing radar jamming, and so on. We should still need the control and reporting system which, I hope, will gradually incorporate civil aircraft, and we should still need fighter aircraft and defensive guided missiles for many tasks around the world.
The point I wish to emphasise is that it is very easy to overestimate the resources that would be saved if the United Kingdom were either to opt out, or reduce, the contribution to the nuclear deterrent.
§ Mr. Watkinson
No, I cannot give way. We have a two-day debate.
It is even easier to assume that if this change of policy were accepted we should be able to increase substantially the size, or the quality, of our conventional forces. If we gave up the whole of the bomber force completely there might be some real saving. Merely giving up the weapon will not result in any real saving. One would have to give up the whole of the delivery system, otherwise there is no real saving by cutting back in this field.
On the whole, I think that the balance in our defence programme is about right As for those who try to disguise an occasional doctrinal difficulty by claiming that our contribution is insignificant, I would say that they must face the fact that as it stands ready at this moment Bomber Command is capable, by itself, of crippling the industrial power of any aggressor nation. That is the truth of the present situation.
§ Mr. Watkinson
I will arrange for the hon. Member to visit Bomber Command and to see for himself, if he wishes to do so. The force is extremely flexible and geography is on its side. Its deterrent power can operate in circumstances far away from Europe.
§ Mr. Davies
I sincerely believe in the cause of truth. Is the right hon. Gentleman telling the people of Britain that subsonic planes, in this technicological age, would be able to get through and deliver as he implies? If he is saying that, he knows it to be wrong, and so do the hon. Members of this House
§ Mr. Watkinson
The simple answer to the hon. Gentleman is "Yes", and I know it to be right. Even in an era of nuclear sufficiency there are powerful arguments for the retention of a British deterrent. I know that there are divided views on this, but if we are approaching, as I believe we are, some kind of nuclear balance, then keeping the means of delivery diverse, dispersed and up to date is even more necessary.
We have a few ideas for doing this. The free falling nuclear bomb, with which the V-bombers are armed, can at this moment be delivered to its target if the need arises. As air defences increase it will be replaced by the stand-off Blue Steel. To enable the V-bombers to attack their targets with even greater stand-off capacity, we are arranging to introduce Skybolt in the later 1960s. It is under development in the United States and is making very good progress. It is by no means the only possibility for the later 1960s. There are other means of delivery which we could adopt for deterrent purposes.
I am trying to tell the House the whole story as clearly as I can. There is the Buccaneer, which is shortly to come into service with the Royal Navy, which will be able to penetrate enemy territory by flying at very low levels. There is the TSR2, which will come into service with the Royal Air Force in the mid-1960s, an even more advanced weapon with the ability to fly at very low levels and to follow the contours of the ground automatically.
There are also other possibilities under study which we may adopt. I quite accept that the position is inconvenient for the Opposition at this stage, but I think that they might have served their own interests, and perhaps the national interests, better if they had stuck to the line which we remember they took in the defence debate twelve months ago. I will leave it at that.
The Government do not judge these issues by internal political considerations. We apply the yardstick of their effect on possible aggressors. By this test I believe that we have just about the right balance between the nuclear and the conventional.
I turn now to the fourth main aim of defence policy: how to get the best value for defence expenditure and the best 1210 balance within it. What dividend do we seek? All we seek is a peaceful world in which the basic protection of our way of life can he preserved. So far, we have secured our end. No doubt I shall sit through this marathon debate and hear again the usual charge of money wasted on defence. Peace is not to be bought on the cheap. We have had peace and if one wants it one has to pay for it. It is as simple as that.
Some of the following figures may, perhaps, help to dispel this illusion. In the ten years from January, 1951, to December, 1960, 410,000 tons of naval shipping were laid down. In the same ten years, the lift potential of the global transport force of the Royal Air Force has been increased from 50 million passenger miles a month to 150 million passenger miles a month, and is still building up.
In 1951, as everybody knows, we had a mixed force of Lincolns, Washingtons and Mosquito bombers carrying conventional bombs; but now one Vulcan bomber carries a far greater load of destructiveness than the whole bomber force did ten years ago.
The equipment of the Army is changing out of all recognition. It is being re-equipped with the F.N. rifle, the Stirling sub-machine gun, the Mobat antitank gun, the 105 mm. pack howitzer, the 8-inch howitzer, and Thunderbird. The new Chieftain tank is undergoing trials. There are many other clear gains to our defensive strength which are the dividend of the money spent. I ask the House not to have any doubts about this. In my view, the right dividend is the peaceful state of the world we have so, far managed to achieve and for that the price we pay is a very small insurance policy.
I turn to the difficult problem of defence planning. I do not try to disguise the difficulty of getting the best balance in a rapidly changing world. It is an immense subject and I shall take only four examples. First, there is mobility. I accept that the case for relatively small Regular forces rests on greater mobility and greater hitting power. I say again, because I sincerely believe it, that in an age of nuclear balance it is perhaps the small "brush fire" which may hold the greatest risks for us all. One does not cope with that situation with small garrisons, but with large mobile forces.
1211 Commando carrier and seaborne support especially will greatly increase our ability to bring this kind of composite force to bear quickly. It also enables us to poise it perhaps below the horizon, where it does not produce any particular political side effects.
I think that we are working towards the right balance in new Regular forces to meet this need for knocking the small incident quickly on the head before it can spread to something more dangerous. What is the present position of this front line "fire brigade" force?
§ Mr. Watkinson
No I wish to go on.
At present, we have four commandos in the United Kingdom, Malta, Aden, and aboard H.M.S. "Bulwark", and we are planning to raise a fifth. Army deployment plans provide for a strategic reserve in this country and theatre reserves in East Africa and the Far East. Perhaps I should make plain that any large emergency would certainly allow us to draw on the seven brigade groups in Germany, as we have a right to do.
There is much talk about the necessity for quick reaction time in nuclear defence, but the rapidity of reaction time for conventional forces is as important. A considerable proportion of the strategic reserve in this country and in Kenya remains always at 48 hours' notice to move by air or land. In addition to commando carriers and commandos, this means that we could bring a substantial force quickly to any trouble spot. This is what we hope to maintain and improve as time goes on.
I turn to Regular recruiting. It is not my job to go into the details. I am sure the hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) will go into that in due course. What I want to say to him and to the House as a whole—I may be proved wrong, but I do not think so—is that I believe we shall succeed in recruiting our Regular forces provided the nation gives this task reasonable support. I hope, therefore, that right hon. Gentlemen and hon. Members opposite will not be backward in giving their support to this cause. I do not think that they wish to do anything else, but let us have it clearly on the record. Any mis-statement about defence, any cleverly twisted argument is a disincen 1212 -tive to a young man who wants to go into the forces. Let right hon. Gentlemen opposite take it to heart, despite all their saddle-soreness from galloping their hobby-horses all over the country.
I come back to recruitment. It is fair to say that not very long ago, in 1957—we must try to get this into proportion—it was forecast that the shortage of Regular recruits in the Army—and, of course, it is the Army which is the problem—might be about 50,000, or perhaps. at best, 25,000. Already, we can see that we shall do better than that. Although I try to be perfectly frank with the House and say that there has always been a risk in giving up conscription, I believe that it is absolutely the right thing to do. I believe that as the country sees the Regular Army formations with progressive training, better units, better accommodation, better weapons, and better equipment, we shall get the recruits we need, and not only the men we need but the right men of high quality.
§ Mr. Watkinson
Although it would be very unwise to make judgments on one set of figures or another, I am certain that the January recruiting figures will bear out that argument. We shall go on with our estimates, and this year, as my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War will tell the House, we have a very elaborate stepped-up campaign to draw the attention of virile, energetic young men to the good, well-paid life which the Army provides.
§ Mr. G. W. Reynolds (Islington, North)
Can the right hon. Gentleman tell us whether the recent article by the Bow Group is part of that campaign?
§ Mr. Watkinson
Recent articles by the Bow Group show what a broad-minded party the Conservative Party is. Right hon. Members opposite are always saying that we are a great monolithic party which never thinks out its policy.
To come back to recruiting, which perhaps is more important than what we have been talking about, I think that we could get the total of just over 400,000 men. At a cost of 52 per cent. of the defence budget, I want to make it plain that this is as large a force as we can 1213 properly afford if we are to have a reasonable defence budget. The figure of just over 400,000 would be divided into 180,000 for the Army—
§ Mr. George Wigg (Dudley)
The right hon. Gentleman is getting his figures wrong. If he is getting only 400,000 he has 135,000 for the Air Force and 88,000 for the Navy. That is a long way short.
§ Mr. Watkinson
My addition is: 180,000 for the Army, 135,000 for the Royal Air Force and 88,000 for the Royal Navy.
§ Mr. Paul Williams (Sunderland, South)
. My right hon. Friend mentioned 180,000 for the Army, but can he tell us where we are? Is it 165,000, or 180,000? It is very important.
§ Mr. Watkinson
Of course it is important, but, as I have been saying, I have reasonable confidence that we shall reach the 165,000 target early in 1963, which is the due date. I then have confidence, because by then we shall have the strong upward tendency in recruiting, that we shall be able reasonably quickly to get a little over 180,000, which will be the ceiling which probably will have to be imposed for financial reasons.
§ Mr. Wigg
In the 1957 White Paper the Government gave a categorical assurance, which was repeated by the Home Secretary, that unless they got the 165,000 by 31st December, 1962, in honour the Government were pledged to reintroduce some form of conscription. The Minister has now admitted for the first time—or, actually, for the second time, because the previous Secretary of State for War said the same—that they are not going to get 165.000 by 31st December. 1962.
§ Mr. Watkinson
I know that the hon. Member wants recruiting to succeed, but I think that he is saying exactly the sort of thing that makes recruiting a great deal more difficult.
I come now to the question of defence, research and development. I am very surprised that more notice has not been taken of the arguments put forward in the White Paper concerning this immensely difficult problem. I hope that we have made some important strides forward in our objective of trying to match—we can only do that in our own 1214 chosen spheres—the vastly greater potential of the United States and Russia. This is really our problem. We are trying to compete with two industrial nations who can afford to spend money and do research on a scale that we cannot hope to imitate. Yet, by trying to select our particular spheres, I hope that we can—we must certainly try—keep level with them, or even make an occasional break-through, in friendly rivalry with the United States and, in a deterrent sense, in respect of Russia.
To give the House an example, we might hope to do that in the Navy in relation to anti-submarine warfare, and in the operation and control of aircraft carriers. In these matters we have already contributed much. We are pressing forward to the maximum of our ability in the tasks relating to the science of submarine detection and location, the importance of which I need not stress to hon. Members who have studied the numbers of Russian and Chinese submarines.
In the Army, we are producing and continuing to develop the best family of tank guns and tanks in the world. I hope that the Germans will now take the British 105 mm. tank gun as the Americans and other allies have done. In the R.A.F., we are clearly right to make our contribution by means of aircraft. In that way we have already contributed much. By "aircraft" I mean, also, aero-engines.
In the TSR2, for example, we have a project which at present is ahead of anything else in the world. We believe that our bombers can become airborne more quickly than any others—and so on through the whole range of our effort. I am trying to say that if we can manage to select the right sphere in which to make a contribution of our own, we may still hope to stay level with those two industrial giants. The development of the vertical take-off and short take-off aircraft is another sphere where I think we have very much to contribute.
Having selected our fields of endeavour, we have to work out whether we are now successfully operating a better method of selecting our projects and monitoring them as they go forward into production. We must make greater use of the initial study contract to study the feasibility of any particular kind of 1215 weapon system or project and then to study its development and what it will cost over the time-scale and so on. We are making a great many careful developmcnts to enable us to pick the successful projects at the earliest possible stage in their production, and in the very difficult stage when they change from an operational requirement to something which has to go into industry or into a defence factory. A great deal of work is going on in connection with this.
My fourth point in this balance within the programme is that of cost. No one would be better pleased than I were it possible to turn this expenditure to more peaceful purposes, but this cannot be until we can get some proper moves forward in disarmament and control. In the meantime, I expect that this year defence expenditure will continue the trend shown in the graphs which appear on page 9 of the White Paper; that is to say, a further small decline—I think very small—in the proportion of the gross national product devoted to defence.
One point I wish to make in answer to those who say that we spend too much on defence, and that the money might be better spent on other purposes, is that despite the constant crises over the last seven years there has actually been a decline of nearly 20 per cent. in defence spending I think that a very good record, bearing in mind the immense task we have to perform around the world. I do not mean that by comparison with our allies we are not still carrying our full share. Only the United States and France contribute a larger proportion of their gross national product to defence than we do.
Another interesting point about finance is that, strictly and technically. the Ministry of Defence is responsible for policy and the Service Ministries are confined to our annual budgetary exercise, a year-by-year process. It has always seemed to me that this is a quite illogical way in which to plan a large expenditure of money on projects for which the time-scale is normally between five years and seven years. It presents industry, the defence factories and the research stations with an impossible task. 1216 I am, therefore, glad to say, as is mentioned in paragraph 31 of the White Paper, that we are trying—it is still to some extent an experiment—to solve the problem by having a five-year forward look at defence spending; so that industry and all those concerned can obtain a much clearer idea, over a proper time-scale of what kind of defence spending they may have to contemplate, and what their share of it may be.
I have tried to be factual and to tell the House where we stand as clearly and plainly as I can. I am happy to leave the "fun and games" until later in our proceedings. Naturally, we examine and re-examine the broad pattern of our defence spending and our defence policy. No one could stand at this Box and, with the help of the Government's advisers, bear this burden, if he did not make every possible attempt to see that we were getting the best value in our defence programme and policy. Having carried through this continuing process of examination and re-examination, we believe that our defence programme represents about the best balance within our contribution and that our contribution is as much as we can fairly be expected to make to our various alliances and in the performance of the job we have to do in the world. The difference between us is, perhaps, expressed in some words from Henry V:There is some soul of goodness in things evil, Would men observedly distil it out.My right hon. and hon. Friends and I believe that we can only get peace by holding a continuous responsibility; by not rejecting the nuclear weapon so long as it serves its purpose—as it is certainly doing today—and by firmly going forward with a clear and definite defence policy which plays its maximum part in keeping the peace and in our alliances, and represents within our own defence policy the best and the most clearly adjusted balance which we can provide. That is the position as it stands. It represents no broad change in our defence policy and it is the best insurance policy for peace that the country could ever have.
§ 4.30 p.m.
Mr. Denis Henley (Leeds, East)
I beg to move, to leave out from "House" to 1217 the end of the Question and to add instead thereof:has no confidence that the policy as set out in the White Paper, Command Paper No. 1288, will provide effectively for the defence of BritainThe White Paper which the Minister of Defence has just presented to the House is in many ways an extraordinary document. In presentation and tone it resembles, particularly in its strip cartoons, a "Robin" comic rather than a serious document of study. One can welcome some of the irreproachable platitudes which appear on the first two or three pages of the document, but. unfortunately, when the document descends into matters of detail it becomes clear that Her Majesty's Government have not the slightest idea what these platitudes mean.
Indeed, in so far as there might have seemed to be anything attractive in the White Paper, the Minister of Defence robbed it of all meaning when he confessed that this year's Defence White Paper represents no substantial change from the White Paper presented to the House in. 1957 by his predecessor, who is now the Secretary of State for Common wealth Relations.
I am sure that the House will find itself in general agreement with some of the statements with which the White Paper begins. We can agree, above all, with the opening sentences:There is only one answer to the threat to mankind posed by armaments. This is to reach a satisfactory agreement on general disarmament under effective international control.I believe, as I hope that everyone on both sides of the House profoundly believes, this statement to be true.
There is a further statement on page 3 which, I think, will command at any rate overwhelming majority assent on both sides of the House. It is this:Until general disarmament has been achieved, peace rests on the maintenance of adequate power by the West to discourage aggression by the Soviet bloc or by China.There is a further platitude about which we will all agree. It is when the White Paper states that there are certain limitations on the contribution which Britain can make to the Western defence forces—first, the other demands which may be made on our national resources as a whole, and, secondly, the other 1218 demands which may be made on our military resources in particular.
There is one glaring omission from the list of limiting conditions with which the White Paper begins, and that is the one to which I shall have to devote the bulk of my speech. We on this side of the House believe that, since disarmament is the only answer to the threat posed to mankind at present, it is absolutely essential that any steps we take in armaments in the short run should contribute to the long run end of disarmament and should not conflict with it.
We believe profoundly that defence policy must be subordinated to foreign policy, that generals must be subordinated to Foreign Secretaries. We believe that it is a tragedy that, not only in our own country but also in other countries, for many years the position has been the other way round. For years defence commitments which may have been made five, six or seven years ago have been tying the hands of diplomats and steps have been taken in the sincere hope of maintaining strength for negotiation which in fact have made negotiation impossible or futile.
It is from this point of view that I wish, first, to criticise the Government's defence programme. I believe that in 1961 there is a better chance than there has been at any time since the end of the Second World War to make real progress on disarmament and on agreement with the Soviet Union and her allies on arms control. I believe that there is a real danger that some of the policies now followed by Her Majesty's Government and by the West as a whole may make such agreements more difficult.
The biggest single threat posed to any agreement between the West and the Soviet Union at present in the field of disarmament is the very real and immediate possibility that atomic weapons will spread into the possession of a large number of countries which do not now possess them. When we on this side of the House raised this problem many years ago, a good deal of scepticism was expressed by Ministers and hon. Members opposite. However, we have now seen the French Government carry out test explosions. There has been recent evidence that perhaps the Israeli Government are seeking to produce atomic explosives. We know that at least ten or twenty other 1219 countries have, at any rate, the physical capacity to begin producing their own atomic weapons if they should judge it politically and economically advisable to do so.
I hope that the Minister will take this opportunity to deny that he meant what he said in the course of his speech that he sometimes had the odd thought that peace would be safer if everybody had the opportunity of blowing up everybody else.
§ Mr. Watkinson
That is not what I said. That is what my right hon. Friend the Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill) said. I will supply the hon. Member with the quotation if he wants it.
§ Mr. Healey
The Minister of Defence said that he sometimes had this odd this. [HON. MEMBERS: "No"] May I take it that on this issue the Minister of Defence disagrees absolutely with the right hon. Member for Woodford (Sir W Churchill)?
§ Mr. Watkinson
I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Gentleman again, but I want to keep the record straight. The record will be quite clear that I gave a quotation from a speech made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Woodford in 1953.
§ Mr. Healey
The right hon. Gentleman has still not said whether he agrees with the statement. Why did he quote it if he did not agree with it?
§ Sir Lynn Ungoed-Thomas (Leicester North-East)
Does the right hon. Gentleman agree or disagree with it?
§ Mr. Healey
The plain fact is that all of us on this side and a large number of right hon. and hon. Members opposite take absolutely the contrary view, namely, that if the possession of atomic weapons spreads to more countries than have them at present—if the existing balance of terror, as the right hon. Member for Woodford once called it, turns into a general thermo-nuclear anarchy—any possibility of reaching agreement on arms control in the world as a whole or with the Soviet Union will be lost beyond all possible recovery.
I hope that the Minister of Defence, in spite of his embarrassment when I asked him that question, shares that view. If he does, I hope that he will also agree with my further point that, 1220 if the possession of atomic weapons spreads inside the Western Alliance, it is certain to spread outside it—not only inside the Soviet Alliance, but also to a large number of countries in Africa and Asia, which may have suspicion or fears of the possible action of some countries which are now inside the Western Alliance.
I believe that action to stop the spread of nuclear weapons is not only vital, but extremely urgent. Unless action can be taken on this issue in the immediate future, there is the real possibility of atomic weapons spreading into the possession of so many countries that all the calculations on which both sides of the House now base their defence policies will become irrelevant.
We shall face a situation in which we no longer have to calculate our policies in the light of one particular thermo-nuclear threat. We shall have to calculate our policies in the light of possible atomic threats coming from a dozen or a score of separate Powers. It is, therefore, absolutely essential that in the immediate future our own defence policy is calculated to contribute towards stopping and not encouraging the spread of nuclear weapons.
§ Viscount Hinchingbrooke (Dorset. South)
Has the hon. Gentleman given any thought at all to the technology and testing requirements of any nation that possesses or uses the hydrogen bomb? How is it possible for possession just to spread in the way he is envisaging?
§ Mr. Healey
I have given a great deal of thought to this question. So have the American Government. So, I think, have Her Majesty's Government. That is one reason why they are trying to develop foreign policies calculated to stop the spread.
The point which I want to establish in this House this afternoon is that if one wants to stop the spread of atomic weapons one must also judge one's defence policies in the light of the impact that they are likely to make on the intention of other Governments. It is my belief that the Government's determination to continue developing new delivery systems for Britain's atomic weapons for at least ten years ahead is likely to be a major obstacle to any 1221 agreement on freezing the present situation.
I do not deny, as some hon. Members on both sides have done, that Britain possesses a formidable thermo-nuclear striking force. It is, indeed, a formidable one. I believe, however, and we on this side believe, that to keep our thermo-nuclear force effective over the next ten years will require a colossal effort by this country—and will be impossible without physical assistance from the United States of America, which would set a dangerous precedent for the action of other of America's allies.
The first question we must ask is why the Government are so set on this course. At the outset, we come across a serious contradiction between the views of the Secretary of State for Air and his supposed senior, the Minister of Defence, who has just spoken to us. Ever since he took office, the Minister of Defence has insisted that the aim of this operation from the British point of view is to make an independent contribution to the Western deterrent. In his Press conference on the Air Estimates last week, the Secretary of State for Air said that the first aim of our efforts in this direction was to establish an effective British deterrent. He referred quite separately to the question of making a contribution to the joint Western deterrent.
The difference is a very important one and I should like to spend a moment or two describing it. If the Secretary of State for Air and the Government want an effective independent and purely British deterrent, will they please tell us at some stage in the debate precisely what they want it for? Can any of them conceive of any situation in which we would need a completely independent deterrent because a military threat to which our deterrent was appropriate was being presented exclusively to these islands?
For myself, I find it almost impossible to conceive of such a situation. If, however, the Government can conceive of such a situation, I would ask them a second question. Assuming that such a threat is presented, do they really believe that over the next ten years—I speak not necessarily of the present, but looking ten years ahead—a situation could arise in which we could effectively use an 1222 independent thermo-nuclear force? Presumably, we would not use it against a country that did not have atomic weapons, because to do so would involve us in moral obloquy throughout the world from which we should never recover. Do we plan to use it against the Soviet Union or the United States? Against whom precisely do the Government plan to use this purely independent deterrent?
I suggest that if the Government are planning purely independent action against a major thermo-nuclear Power, it has no chance of success, because either of the other nuclear Powers which wishes to exert the whole weight of its nuclear striking force exclusively against these islands could be almost certain of knocking out our forces before they could be used, particularly because, with our existing V-bomber force, which is to remain an essential component of our delivery system for at least a decade, we are dependent on a warning system which we do not independently control and which is very largely manned and controlled by our allies.
Indeed, it seems to me that if one takes the evidence presented in the Memorandum accompanying the Navy Estimates and accepts that the Soviet Union is producing submarines with a nuclear missile capacity, it would be dangerous to rely on having any warning whatever, because submarines could fire missiles at this country from the surrounding waters without giving our aircraft even 30 seconds in which to get off the fields on which they are dispersed. The plain fact is that the contention of the Secretary of State for Air at his Press conference was one of his last spasmodic reactions at the end of the old Suez neurosis. The Government as a whole have completely given up the idea of a purely independent deterrent. It is simply a few remnants of the Suez group scattered around the benches opposite who still cherish the illusion.
If, as I think the Minister of Defence has done, we reject the conception of a purely independent British deterrent and we try to justify the Government's policy on the basis that it is a necessary contribution to the Western deterrent—I fully concede that this is the argument which the Minister of Defence used last 1223 year and has used this year; it is the only argument which he has ever presented to the House or to the country to justify this policy—I ask the right hon. Gentleman to give the House evidence that any of our allies wants us to make this contribution. I suggest that there is no such evidence, although there is a great deal of evidence to the contrary. There is also plenty of evidence that our alliance, if we are talking as part of an alliance, does not need it.
Let us look, first, at the American thermo-nuclear striking force as it exists and, secondly, as it will exist two or three years from now. Even at present, the United States of America, with which we are in alliance and on which we and the whole of the West depend for the deterrence of thermonuclear attack, has 2,000 long-range strategic bombers, two wings of tactical bombers with nuclear capacity, 14 aircraft carriers whose aircraft carry atomic weapons, 14 wings of tactical fighters, Atlas missiles, Snark missiles, Regulus missiles and Matador and Mace missiles.
That was the situation last year. By 1963, America will also have 13 squadrons of inter-continental Atlas missiles. It has already produced two Polaris submarines. It is planning to produce three more Polaris submarines every year for the next ten years and each of those submarines will carry 16 megaton missiles. By 1963, the United States is planning to produce three wings of B58 bombers. The Minuteman missile is likely to come into operational use a year or two before it was originally planned and the American Air Force will be equipped with the Hound Dog air-to-surface missile.
The question which I should like to put to Her Majesty's Government, which they have never answered, is that if we assume that we are an alliance and that if ever we are presented with a military threat by the Soviet Union we shall have the support of our allies, what is the sense—
§ Mr. Healey
The noble Lord may well say "Ah", but the Minister of Defence is precluded from saying so by the whole nature of the Government's foreign policy. The question which I put to the 1224 Government, and on which I should like an answer during this debate, is as follows. Given the colossal striking power of the United States in thermonuclear deterrents, what is the sense in spending £200 million a year in this country to keep 100 or more V-bombers in useful life for a few more years than otherwise they would be likely to be effective?
The precise cost of our thermo-nuclear programme is difficult to discover. I maintain, however, that insistence on giving priority to this effort has distorted the whole of our defence programme. We can be sure in advance that a very large proportion of our expenditure will be wasted, because, as the Minister of Defence has often admitted, it is not possible for a small country like Britain to try out six or seven alternative projects simultaneously. It must try to guess the right one, as the right hon. Gentleman once said, in the stable. We have had only one case so far. It was Blue Streak, a total failure which cost the country £100 million. That is well over three times as much as the groundnuts mistake cost the Labour Government ten years before.
The total loss on the Blue Streak project has reduced the Minister of Aviation, whom I am glad to see here, to the ignominious rôle of a latter day George Dawson carrying a load of surplus ex-service scrap round Europe in an effort to save money from the ruins. I suggest that on this issue, as on so many of the Government's defence programmes and policies, the Government are always making the fatal mistake of judging weapons which we may have in five or six years time against Soviet defences Which we know they have now.
The reason the Blue Streak effort was a complete failure is that we failed to take account of the fact that at the same time as we were producing missiles the Soviet Government were improving their missiles and their defences. The chance of this being so in the ease of a small Power trying to compete with great Powers like the Soviet Union is so great as to make any expenditure in this field unjustifiable.
I am glad to say that I am able to welcome this criticism also from a group of Conservative thinkers—in the old days that used to be an oxymoron—in a recent pamphlet which the Bow Group has published. I was very glad to see 1225 that, perhaps for this reason, the conference of Young Conservatives this weekend refused to endorse the Government's defence policy when the resolution was put to it.
§ Mr. Watkinson
I hoped the hon. Gentleman would say that, because it enables me to put on record the fact that they passed a strong resolution requiring the Government to retain their nuclear weapons with only three dissentients.
§ Mr. Healey
I am glad that the Minister of Defence feels fortified by the Young Conservatives' support on this single issue, even if they rejected the rest of his policy.
I am very glad to see—it is a good thing not only for the Conservative Party but for the country—that members of the Conservative Party should have wakened up from this age-long sleep in which they previously existed, in which the Government could completely revolutionise their defence policy from year to year without any of the hon. Members opposite even noticing, in which they got the same monolithic support, although one year the policy was completely different from the policy a year later.
I believe that as things now are, this country cannot stay in the atomic arms race with the great Powers unless it gets help from the United States and, as we know, the Minister of Defence has sought that help on more than one occasion. I feel more satisfied than ever, after a visit last week to Washington, that it will be quite impossible for the American Administration during the next ten years to give Britain help in this field of atomic military matters without offering help on the same terms to the rest of its allies, or at least to its more important European allies.
If we compel the Americans to set this precedent, we shall be creating a tremendous incentive for the Continental European countries to produce their own atomic warheads so that they can get help from the United States in producing their own delivery systems. In my opinion, the American Administration is coming to recognise this, and this explains the mystery of the vanishing Skybolt and why the Skybolt, which was the great deus ex machine of the Government last year, is reduced to a paragraph in the memorandum of the Secre- 1226 tary of State for Air this year. That is because the Minister of Defence knows that if the Americans ever produce Sky-bolt, they will not give it to us except under such stringent control terms as to make the idea of an independent British contribution to the Western deterrent complete nonsense.
I think the Minister of Defence admitted in other parts of his speech that we cannot in this country, nor can any other country, including the United States, hope to be independent in defence. What we must aim at through our alliances, as the Prime Minister has said, is interdependence. The only security offered to any country in this declaration is collective security, and interdependence can only be achieved in an alliance on the basis of specialisation. The Minister of Defence gave the House some impressive examples of how Britain could contribute to the military effectiveness of the Western Alliance by specialising on research and development in certain fields. The one field in which, by our very size, we are prohibited from making a further contribution is that of atomic weapons delivery systems.
I should like the Minister of Defence, or others who may speak later from the Government side, to make a rather more definite comment than the Minister made in his opening speech on the extremely important messages which President Kennedy sent last week, first to the N.A.T.O. Council on the general problems of N.A.T.O. co-operation, and secondly to the West German Government concerning the question of economic burden sharing within the Western Alliance. Do the British Government fully endorse those policies and proposals?
I should like also to hear from some future Government speaker whether Her Majesty's Government agree with the German Defence Minister who is reported as saying in The Times of today that Britain and France are the main obstacle to interdependence in N.A.T.O.'s logistical planning. I have often heard this said by persons who know a great deal more about Government policies than a member of the Opposition in any country is able to learn, and I think, in view of the extreme importance of this statement by the leading member of an allied Administration, that we should at 1227 least have some comment from the British Government on what they think about this problem. But I would insist that if, as I believe, we in Britain must share the burdens of interdependence within N.A.T.O., we must also share in the right to decide what N.A.T.O. strategy should be.
The second major criticism which we should like to make of the Government's defence policy is the Government's failure to press inside N.A.T.O. for the right Western strategy—indeed, in some cases the Government's obstruction of necessary changes in N.A.T.O. strategy which other of the N.A.T.O. allies would have wished. We believe—and we have, stated this point of view in many defence debates over the last few years—that the existing N.A.T.O. strategy in some respects is extremely dangerous. Moreover, we believe that some proposals, which have been made officially, for changes in N.A.T.O. strategy in the immediate future would merely increase the existing dangers of N.A.T.O. strategy.
In our view, the main danger in. N.A.T.O. strategy is that the nature and deployment of N.A.T.O.'s shield forces make it almost inevitable that any local conflict in central Europe must turn into an atomic war. Most of us have tremendous doubts as to whether, once atomic weapons are used, even on the battlefield, there is much chance of halting the progress of events before it leads to all-out total global thermonuclear war.
The main criticism that one would make of the proposed changes in N.A.T.O. strategy, and particularly the proposals put to the N.A.T.O. Council in December by General Norstad, is that his proposal for scattering medium-range ballistic missiles all over the Continent of Europe would make it certain that any limited war in Europe would spread immediately to total war It is no good the Minister of Defence suggesting, as he did, that the proposals made by General Norstad were purely in the field of tactical weapons. General Norstad was asking to have put under his control weapons with a range of 1,500 miles because he wanted them for the purpose of making atomic attacks on targets inside the Soviet Union.
1228 Does the Minister of Defence really believe that it would be possible for N.A.T.O. to drop atomic bombs on targets inside the Soviet Union without almost a certainty of a total Soviet Union response against the whole of the striking forces of the West? He can juggle verbally in Parliament as to the difference between tactical and strategic targets, but if an H-bomb drops on Vukovv Airport, just outside Moscow, and the fall-out blankets the whole of the capital of the Soviet Union, does he think that the Russians will be impressed by the fact that the weapon was aimed at and in fact hit a purely tactical target? Of course he does not think that.
The plain fact is that if this proposal were carried out and if there were any effective political control of the use of these M.R.B.M.s, there is an overwhelming probability that the West would decide not to use them. In fact, the West would have become dependent on weapons which, in an emergency, it was not willing to evoke. The West would be faced with the terrible choice which has always threatened powers since the atomic bomb was first invented, that in an emergency there would he a stark choice between suicide and surrender.
I am very disappointed, as I think we all are, that Her Majesty's Government have not come out openly in the N.A.T.O. Council and in public with these very powerful arguments against the Norstad proposals. I hope that at last in this debate we shall have some intelligent and precise comment upon them from the Government benches.
I am glad to say that I can announce to the House and to the country at large that on one issue on which there was perhaps thought to be serious disagreement on our side, there is no longer any serious disagreement at all; that is, that the West must have atomic weapons as long as the Russians have them. There is no doubt that if one reads the speech made last week by Marshal Sokolovsky, who was recently Chief of the Soviet General Staff, the Russians have these weapons in very large numbers, that they are very effective, and that they are planning to produce more. In a situation in which the other side is at least as fully supplied with these atomic weapons, both battlefield and strategic, as is the West, then it seems 1229 to me that these weapons are a certain deterrent only against their use by the other side. They are a possible deterrent against all sorts of other situations, but they are a certain deterrent only against their use by the other side. For that reason, I believe that we must try in the West to produce a situation in which we do not ever need to use these weapons first.
There is growing agreement—President Kennedy stressed this in an interesting interview which he gave in Washington a few days ago—that the West does not plan to use these strategic thermo-nuclear weapons first. America, as he said, is planning to have a second strike not a first strike strategic force; but it is still unfortunately the situation—and we cannot get away from this—that at the present time the West may face certain challenges from Eastern Europe which it cannot meet by the conventional forces which it now has in Western Europe alone.
Therefore, we believe that the West must now devote great attention to this problem: what steps can we take in order to get out of the situation which we are undoubtedly in at the present time, in which we can be faced with conventional challenges in Europe which we cannot meet unless we use atomic weapons against them? This is a very difficult problem in theory, but I do not believe that it is as difficult in practice as it is in theory. It seems to me that many people who study these problems particularly perhaps in universities and other institutions, make them much more difficult than they really are by refusing even to consider the question of the political context and what the Soviet Union is likely to do.
If we look at the problem as it is in practice and not as it is in theory, then I think that we are all agreed, even Field Marshal Montgomery, which only proves that nobody can be wrong all the time, that there is no substantial danger at the present time in Europe of a deliberate large-scale Soviet attack. The deterrent posture of the West is by itself sufficient to prevent that in practice, even though it may not be sufficient in theory.
The only real danger of war in Europe is a small, local conflict arising in a situation in which the whole spectrum of deterrence would be irrelevant, arising 1230 perhaps just across the Iron Curtain or in East Berlin. No military posture by the West could deter such an incident breaking out in the first place, because such incidents arise because ordinary men and women suddenly feel an irresistible desire to get rid of a local town councillor or to knock off a policeman on the corner. No one can be sure that such a situation will not arise so long as ordinary men and women are living under Governments which they dislike.
I remember last year asking Willy Brandt, the Lord Mayor of Berlin, if he thought that there was any chance today of another rising in East Berlin, such as the one which took place in 1953. He replied very acutely, "No, and I did not think so in 1953 either". This is the real danger. It is a danger to which the whole concept of deterrence is irrelevant. It is, in fact, the only real danger, in my view, which the West now faces in Europe. It is absolutely vital that if such an incident should arise N.A.T.O. should be in a position to halt the conflict locally without using nuclear weapons, without stepping on to the nuclear escalator which leads up to the final catastrophe of all-out thermo nuclear war.
I hope that we shall have some facts and figures given on this because a very large number of us. I think on both sides of the House, have had the unpleasant feeling in the last few years that the organisation of Britain's forces in Germany is a major obstacle to such a policy. Whatever Ministers may say in London, the officers in charge of troops in Germany now rely implicitly on fighting with atomic support, if they have to fight at all. If one talks individually to the officers serving in Germany, one finds that this is their expectation. My hon. Friend the Member for Woolwich, East (Mr. Mayhew) will have a good deal to say about this when he speaks later in the debate.
We all know that the way in which the Rhine Army has been equipped with nuclear weapons is essentially the price paid by the West for the policy of the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations in 1957. We were only just able to justify defaulting on the promises made by Mr. Eden in the Brussels Treaty by giving nuclear fire power to half the number of forces that we had originally 1231 undertaken to maintain in Germany. I believe that we must reverse this trend. Our major and most urgent task in N.A.T.O. should be to produce a highly mobile, conventional force which is capable of halting a small scale, local conflict without any recourse whatever to atomic weapons. In order to ensure that this force does not respond with atomic weapons, atomic weapons should be physically withdrawn from the immediate vicinity of the Iron Curtain, because no matter what control mechanism may have been worked out by Governments in peacetime, if once there is danger of an atomic missile being overrun by enemy troops the chance that those on the spot with the physical power to fire it will do so is a real one.
I do not myself believe that in order to achieve this objective it is likely to be necessary for N.A.T.O. greatly to increase the manpower now available to it in Germany because the sort of conflict we are considering now is not a major conventional attack by the Soviet Union but a local outbreak on a very small scale which must be dealt with quickly and which, if it is dealt with quickly, cannot develop into a large-scale attack. What is necessary is that the equipment of the N.A.T.O. troops in Germany should be vastly better than it is now and that our troops in particular should be much more mobile and very much better supplied with conventional artillery and signals equipment. My hon. Friend the Member for Woolwich. East will have more to say about that when he speaks.
§ Mr. E. Shinwell (Easington)
If I may say so in no condescending fashion, this is one of the most intelligent speeches on the subject that I have heard for a long time. I am trying hard to understand one of the points which my hon. Friend makes. He says that a local conflict may occur. He says also, or he implies, that a local conflict may occur in spite of the nuclear deterrent and, if a local conflict does occur, the nuclear deterrent has not prevented the local conflict breaking out. Does he suggest also that a local conflict could develop into a nuclear conflict? If so, I have great difficulty in understanding why he relies on the nuclear deterrent.
§ Mr. Healey
I can, perhaps, clarify that very briefly by saying that my con- 1232 ception is this. Fighting breaks out because somebody kills a policeman in East Berlin. Soviet troops take part in the fighting. Perhaps it drifts across the frontier and Western troops are involved. It is perfectly true, of course, that the nuclear deterrent has not prevented fighting breaking out, and it could not. But the existence of nuclear capacity on both sides is an effective deterrent for both sides against allowing the conflict to become a bigger one providing that both sides, or at any rate that our side, are capable of dealing with the local conflict rapidly and preventing it from spreading. Then, I think, there is no temptation to the Soviet Union to try to enlarge the conflict, because one already has powerful deterrents against any deliberate decision by the Soviet Union to enlarge the fighting. The danger I foresee is that, if the local Western forces have atomic weapons in their possession, or if there are atomic weapons in the area into which the fighting may drift, then the West may initiate the use of atomic weapons, and at that point it will be extremely difficult to prevent the conflict from spreading.
I come now to the problem of manpower which, I know, worries us all on both sides of the House. I believe that there are two lines along which it is possible to tackle the problem of manpower which the Government have so far shown little or no sign of investigating. In Europe, the obvious line along which the problem of the British contribution to the N.A.T.O. shield forces can best be approached is to try now to see whether we can reach agreement with the Soviet Union to limit arms and forces in both halves of Europe. The basic pre-conditions for such an agreement have existed for a long time. As we all admit, both sides recognise that aggression would be far too dangerous to risk. Each side appears fairly satisfied that the other side will not attack. Therefore, what is required is agreement in a situation which is inherently stable to rule out the possibility of surprise attack and to stabilise the present situation at the lowest possible level of armaments and forces.
I do not want to make a particular party point on this. In fact, the first proposal for such an agreement was made by Mr. Eden, with Mr. Dulles' support, 1233 as far back as 1955. We had valuable and impressive proposals from the Communist side by Mr. Rapacki in 1958, I think it was. When Mr. Macmillan went to Russia eighteen months ago, he reached agreement with Mr. Khrushchev to study the concept. Last year, at the United Nations Assembly, the Polish Prime Minister, Mr. Gomulka, raised the matter again.
I appeal most earnestly to the Government to do their utmost in the next few months to tackle the N.A.T.O. strategic problem along these lines. Nobody can be certain that, if we start, we shall succeed. I myself believe that the chances of success are, if anything, greater than the chances which we all agree to exist of achieving agreement on a nuclear test ban, and I believe that if we could reach agreement on this issue not only would it be by far the best answer to the strategic problems faced in Europe not only by N.A.T.O. but by the Soviet Union but it would create also a precedent for political agreements in Europe and for further steps towards disarmament in the world as a whole, the importance of which it is almost impossible to exaggerate.
Mr. John Beggs-Davison (Chigwell)
I am much obliged to the hon. Gentleman for his courtesy in giving way. I do not quite understand what he proposes. Is he now proposing that there should be a limitation of armaments throughout Europe, not just in one special zone of Europe?
§ Mr. Healey
What I am proposing is that we talk to the Russians about the general principle of limiting arms and forces in as large an area of Europe as possible, establishing ground control posts to ensure that these limitations are observed and also, perhaps, following the suggestion of Air Marshal Slessor, having overlapping radar screens, Western screens going up to the Polish-Soviet frontier and Soviet screens coming up to the North Sea or, perhaps, into Britain. How far we could reach agreement is entirely a matter for negotiation. The point I make is that the larger the area is the better will be the result. But, of course, the matter does require negotiation among a very large number of Governments. Although I could easily produce a sheaf of blueprints of possible solutions, I think it would be a waste of time to do so.
1234 The other line of attack on which the Government have shown far too little sign of pursuing touches our commitments overseas. My hon. Friend the Member for Woolwich, East will be dealing in detail with this matter. The more one travels about the world, the more convinced one becomes that a large number of so-called commitments which the United Kingdom now carries outside the Continent of Europe are out of date and do not make sense in 1961 in either military or political terms. If we look at the military problem, I think we must agree that it is doubtful whether by 1970 this country will have any land bases abroad except in the white countries of the Commonwealth. It is probable that there will be a barrier to the flight of military aircraft stretching from the Soviet Union through the Middle East, through Africa, to the Atlantic.
If we look at the political situation, especially in the light of our experiences in 1956 and 1958, we must conclude, I think, that there will be very few potential situations in which British military intervention would be likely to produce political advantages greater than the certain disadvantages attending it. I know that the Government themselves have already made up their minds that at least one type of intervention is to be ruled out. There are to be no more "Suezes".
I am rather worried in this respect by the prominence given in the White Paper to the Chinese threat. I cannot help wondering whether the generals and admirals are now fighting, a rearguard action and trying to justify the maintenance of inflated establishments by trying to create new commitments against China in the Far East because they know that the Government recognise that commitments in other parts of Africa and Asia may have to be cut.
The only thing in the White Paper which the House can genuinely welcome is a few odd signs here and there that the Government, for the first time since Suez, are beginning to look at the defence problem rationally. When the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations produced his White Paper in 1957, many of us had the very strong feeling that he was clutching at the megaton missile as a sort of virility symbol to compensate for the exposure of Britain's military impotence 1235 at Suez. Since that time one has felt to a large extent that Britain's defence policy required study by a psychiatrist rather than by a military technician.
Although there are signs that the Government are escaping from this phychosis, there are also signs that they are escaping from psychosis simply into a sort of sleeping sickness lit by a few flashes of schizophrenia. There is still no sign of any serious attempt to relate Britain's defence policy to Britain's political aims. The structure of our defence policy as it exists and as it is proposed in the White Paper is likely to be a major obstacle to the success of the West in disarmament negotiations with the Soviet Union. In spite of spending nearly £17,000 million since the Government took office, the country is still incapable of meeting any of the military threats which it is likely to meet. For this reason, I ask the House to reject the 1961 Defence White Paper.
§ 5.22 p.m.
§ Mr. Stephen Hastings (Mid-Bedfordshire)
I hope that the hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) will forgive me if I do not comment upon his speech. With the hon. Gentleman's concurrence, I prefer to leave that to someone with greater experience than I have.
I know that it is traditional for maiden speaker to avoid controversy. This I am most anxious to do. At the same time, I wish to try to make a contribution of some sort, especially in a debate as important as this, and for that reason, I propose to put forward a proposition. I shall do my best not to be contentious and I hope very much that I shall not tax the forbearance of hon. Members too greatly.
I wish to discuss two separate and distinct aspects of the defence problem. The first concerns the type of emergency with which we had to deal and from which we suffered in Malaya, Kenya and Cyprus. I believe that there is an analogy between the activities in those three emergencies. I have seen enough of this kind of activity in my life to hope most fervently that we shall not be called upon again to cope with anything of the sort, but I suppose that, in the present state of the world, it would be a bold man who could predict that with 1236 certainty. In any case, such an eventuality may, I think, fairly be discussed within the confines of this debate.
It is clear from the White Paper and from what my right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence has said that we can fly our conventional forces to any area of emergency with considerable speed. and, indeed, with increasing speed as time passes, and this is much to be welcomed. But I am not so much concerned with that aspect this afternoon as with what these conventional formations can or cannot do when they arrive.
Conventional formations and units are vital in a situation of this kind, for three reasons. First, they give confidence to the unfortunate people whose only crime is that they happen to live in the troubled area. Secondly, they serve to contain the emergency—that is, they prevent it generating into mass activity of one kind or another. Thirdly, they are necessary for a multiplicity of guard duties. But, in my submission, conventional units are not best equipped to penetrate to the core of this kind of trouble or to put a stop to it; which means that the capture of the leaders and their supplies of arms is necessary. I think that for this task an unconventional approach is necessary This is expensive neither in money nor in men. But there are two essential prerequisites—first, accurate information and, secondly, experience of this sort of thing. I do not propose to say anything about the first other than to comment that without accurate prior information no amount of experience of this activity will be of any avail.
Concerning experience, we should by this time know a great deal about the sort of techniques to which I am alluding—techniques of resistance, terrorism, subversion, or whatever one likes to call them. We learned much about them during the war and since then we have, unhappily, seen variations on the same theme in the jungles of the Far East, in the African forests and in the mountains and towns of the Levant. This activity can be as much political—even social or, if one likes, anti-social—as military. It comprises the intimidation, even the murder, of innocent people in order to spread fear. We know the disruptive possibilities of sabotage and of the apparatus of secret communications 1237 with the outside world, and so on. We know that all this can be governed and ruled by the particular and strange psychology of resistance, which is a very real thing.
But the experience to which I have referred is the property of individuals, although it also rests in the files. Now, as I understand it, towards the end of each of the three emergencies to which I have referred we trained a number of officers and N.C.O.s in these techniques. But when the emergency was over these men dispersed. They were posted to other units and subsequently lost as a body, with the result that, when the next emergency arose, they were not readily available; and it is not unfair to say that we were compelled to relearn the lessons which perhaps we should have known at the beginning which we had certainly learned in the past.
This knowledge should not be considered as a severely specialist subject. Rather should it form part and parcel of the training of all officers and men of the reserve liable for service in an emergency of this kind. I would go further and suggest, with respect to my right hon. Friend, that there might be a case for the raising or formation of special units composed, naturally, of men of a high calibre who are carefully trained and able to live and work in groups of two or three rather than in conventional platoons and companies, in discomfort, if necessary, well away from the N.A.A.F.I. or even the cookhouse, and able to stay doggedly and patiently on the trail of a quarry as elusive and dangerous as can be.
There is in an emergency of this nature a whole range of para-military tasks which do not necessarily fit within the normal duties of either the policeman or the conventional soldier. It is this gap that should be filled, not after such an emergency has begun but as a permanent feature of our defensive arrangements. In addition to numbers of troops who, as I have tried to indicate, are necessary, we need a precision instrument ready at all times to ensure that terrorism of this type is cut off at once rather than allowed to sputter on while the political wound festers and the bitterness spreads.
The second part of my speech, which I hasten to assure the House, is very 1238 short, concerns paragraphs 23 and 24 of the White Paper, and these phrases have already been referred to by my right hon. Friend the Minister for Defence and by the hon. Member for Leeds, East. Paragraph 23 says:A narrow, nationalist policy for the choice and production of arms makes no sense today.Paragraph 24 refers to interdependence as meaning:The interchange of research and development techniques…This is something in which I most strongly believe. I feel that it is here as much as anywhere that we could work towards the reduction of the enormous cost of our defence programme. The example I wish to give may be somewhat over-simplified, but in my present state of knowledge it seems to make sense. If, as a Power in the free world, a country like Britain or France or West Germany intends to build an aircraft of revolutionary characteristics—for instance, one with a Mach 2 or even Mach 3 capability, or one with vertical take off—it will, and does, cost the country concerned a very great deal of money.
Furthermore, the limited budget involved in most cases will have to be divided between research and development of the engine, on the one hand, and the airframe, the wings, the electronic system and all the other components on the other hand. When the project reaches production, the only certain market after all this expense is the requirements of the national air force involved. This may be relatively small, with the result that the operation turns out to be grossly uneconomic.
If, by international agreement, the research and development could be divided so that one nation could concentrate its resources entirely, for the sake of argument, on the development of the engine, and the other participants pursued separate lines of research, the cost of the project would be much less and the potential market would be much wider. One might then sell a thousand engines rather than 150. Such a system could, I suppose, apply only to major projects, considered necessary for the corporate defence of the West, and these might be selected by some such body as the N.A.T.O. Armament Commission.
1239 On the other hand, there would be no need for rigidity; that is to say, if this country concentrated on the development of engines, there would be nothing to preclude our technicians in other branches from co-operating in international research at the same time; and there would be nothing to prevent other nations developing projects for their own use if they considered it necessary for their own defence requirements. Lastly, projects brought to fruition on this international basis would become the sole property of the sovereign nation concerned once the project came into service.
I know that this argument carries wide implications, and it may be that I have under-estimated the difficulties or that I am ignorant of them, but, in conclusion, I should like to make two reflections on the theme. First, the sort of specialisation I have advocated seems to me to be no more than the extension of a trend already long established in every freely-developing economy. Secondly, an agreement like this would tend to force the Powers of the free world to depend on each other in a new and all-important field. I believe that we must come to depend upon each other in this way or we may well "pend" separately.
Before I conclude, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, I should like, in all humility, to pay tribute to the noble Lord, as he now is, who formerly sat for the constituency I now have the honour to represent. I am sure that the House would welcome this. I know of his great skill in debate, and that he has often enthralled this House. I believe, too, that in his long career in this House he made a vast contribution, not only to his country as a statesman but to the welfare of his constituency as well, where, I know, he was and is much loved and greatly missed. Of his many attainments and gifts, the one to which I should particularly like to refer on this occasion is his unfailing consideration and kindness for his neighbour. No greater quality can man possess than this.
§ 5.36 p.m.
§ Mr. Philip Noel-Baker (Derby, South)
On behalf of the whole House, on behalf of his colleagues on all the benches, I offer sincere congratulations to the hon. Member for Mid-Bedfordshire (Mr. Hastings) on his maiden speech. He has 1240 given us a brief and modest, but very thoughtful and constructive, contribution, and I can assure him that the House will wish to hear him again soon, and often, in times to come.
Like my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey), who made such an admirable speech this afternoon, I want to deal with paragraph 1 of the White Paper. When one puts something first in a document like this one may have one of two purposes in mind. One may think it the vitally significant thing one may have to say, which governs all the rest; or one may wish to make a gesture to silence critics, and then to bury it with the mass of other and, perhaps, contradictory matter that one judges to be the really important message one has to get across. I hope that the Minister of Defence has put his first paragraph in his White Paper with the first of those two purposes in mind.
I quote his wards again:There is only one answer to the threat to mankind posed by armaments"—only one answer:This is to reach a satisfactory agreement on general disarmament under effective international control.The right hon. Gentleman goes on to say:The Government intend to press for this by all means in their power…Other Conservative Ministers of Defence in recent years have used phrases in their White Papers with the same general purport; none has said it with such emphasis as this, none has given such a categorical pledge that the Government will press for it:…by all means in their power…I should like to feel that the Minister thinks of this pledge as personally binding on him; that he will regard it as the most important part of his Ministerial duties; that he recognises that there is much that he can do for its fulfilment; and not much that others can do, without his active help. For, surely, if what he says is true, this is the most important of his duties:There is only one answer to the threat to mankind posed by armaments.In other words, general disarmament is the only effective form of national defence; or, as his predecessor said, armaments are only a very dangerous second-best".
1241 But I am not much encouraged by the words which follow the Minister's pledge that the Government will press for general disarmament by all means in their power. For then the Minister goes on to say, as so many of his predecessors have said, thatwe should not under-estimate the difficulties of the task, or the length of time that it may take to accomplish it.The Government, all the Ministers of Defence and all the Foreign Secretaries, have been saying precisely that ever since they took office more than nine years ago.
What has happened in those nine years? The arms race has gone on with an intensity and a momentum which increase every year. In that time our British expenditure on military research and development, by far the most important item in the appropriations for which the Minister asks, has more than trebled; United States expenditure on research has been multiplied by ten; and Russia's, I have no doubt, by even more. What has been the result? That armaments, in the Minister's phrase, have become a threat to all mankind; but also that the disarmament which he says is the only answer has become technically, and perhaps politically, much more difficult to attain. In 1951 there were no H-bombs, virtually no nuclear stocks at all, no danger of the clandestine nuclear stock, no supersonic bombers, no missiles worthy of the name, no nuclear-powered submarines; Governments had not begun to make their recent development of "biologicals" and poison gases as major weapons of mass destruction.
Now after these nine years the Minister still speaks of the "length of time" that it may take to get disarmament and of the difficulties which must be over-come. He goes on to explain in the whole of the rest of his White Paper that we can keep the peace by the policy of deterrence, and that the V-bombers will be able to deliver the deterrent for another ten years to come. I was at the Air Ministry when the V-bomber was being conceived. I find the last paragraph of the White Paper very dangerously complacent.
But I do not desire to discuss this afternoon the technical, the highly debatable technical aspects, of what the Minister said. I only want to press on him that nearly all the scientists of all 1242 the countries are agreed that the constant increase in the number of nuclear weapons, and the prospective increase in the number of nuclear Powers, of which my hon. Friend has spoken, are making it mathematically more likely that at some unknown future date a conflict will begin. I was at a Pugwash Conference in Moscow in December. There were seventy scientists there, many of whom, from both sides of the Iron Curtain, in Britain, the United States and Russia, had taken part in making the nuclear weapons, and who were still in touch with all the weapon developments now going on. They declared without a dissentient voice that general disarmament was very urgent. They spoke—I quote their words—of theacute danger of accidental war.The word "acute" was inserted after debate and full consideration. But the Minister implies—I do not want to do him an injustice—that by the first four lines of the White Paper his duty about disarmament has been fulfilled, and that he can safely neglect the subject till he has to think up some similiar phrases, if he still holds his present office, in twelve months' time.
My purpose this afternoon is to argue that the Minister has a great, an urgent and an over-riding responsibility in this matter; that it is for him to take the lead in dawing up the technical plans for disarmament which are required; that he should treat this as the most, and not the least, important of his tasks.
I have been concerned with disarmament negotiations in one way or another since the Peace Conference in Paris in 1919. I believe that the Minister can help powerfully to secure immediate progress, that he can do much to prevent the locusts from eating another ten years. I have tried to impress upon the Prime Minister at Question Time that British experts—some of them, perhaps most of them, the Minister's experts, scientists and military men—should draw up a detailed draft disarmament plan, preferably in treaty form, and should lay this before the Disarmament Commission or Committee of the United Nations as a British proposal. No one can read the endless debates in the U.N. over the last fifteen years without feeling that it is urgently necessary to end the wrangles 1243 about headline objectives, both sides saying in broad terms that they want disarmament, neither setting out in detail how in practice they think it can be done.
Let me be more specific about what I am proposing. In March, 1933, Sir Anthony Eden, with the help of General Temperley, the representative of the War Office—to whose memory I should like to pay a tribute today—with the help of General Temperley, of experts from the Admiralty and the Air Ministry, prepared a complete draft disarmament convention, with all the technical clauses and schedules, with all the figures of armament and force reductions to be made in the first stage of the treaty, which he laid before the Disarmament Conference in Geneva. That was in March, 1933. That Convention was nine months too late. Hitler had come to power. But I know no one who was there, who lived through those months in the Conference, as I did, who does not believe that if Sir Anthony's draft convention had been put forward in June, 1932, an agreement could have been obtained, with what results on history we all of us may guess.
In November, 1952, I urged on Sir Anthony Eden, then Foreign Secretary, that he should instruct the British delegation to the U.N. to repeat what he had himself done twenty years before. I venture to quote the words I used:I want to urge on the Foreign Secretary that the Western proposals…give us…an ample foundation for an all-round treaty. The Commission should go ahead and write out its proposals on all these technical points. … The Commission should draw up a treaty showing, clause by clause and schedule by schedule, exactly what the first step towards a disarmed world would really mean.… I believe that such a document would have an immense impact on the opinion of the world. It would prove that the Western nations really do mean peace, and are ready as soon as possible to move towards it.Sir Anthony Eden, replying, said:I have the point and I agree with the right hon. Gentleman. I do not see why, beyond a certain period, we should wait for the Soviet Union.…"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 6th November, 1952 Vol. 507, c. 319–368.]which was then obstructing.
Sir Anthony Eden said that, but nothing was done; and nothing has since been done of the kind which Sir Anthony 1244 carried through in 1933. Years after that debate in 1952, in 1957 or 1958, if I remember rightly, the Prime Minister talked of the Anglo-French Memorandum of 1954 as the best disarmament plan which anyone had yet prepared. Of course, it was not a plan at all. It was a statement of first stage objectives; a good statement, which we supported. which we would support now, but nothing more.
I want to urge on the Minister—I hope that the Secretary of State for Air will pass on to him what I say—that one of the advantages of drawing up the kind of draft convention I have suggested, as Sir Anthony did, would be to show that the technical difficulties of disarmament —the "great complexities" of which people so often speak—are far less than is generally believed.
Indeed, if the Minister would start on this exercise, I believe that he would find so far as conventional forces and armaments are concerned, that Sir Anthony's draft treaty clauses, together with the Washington and London Treaties of Naval Disarmament of 1922 and 1930, solve virtually all the technical problems that arise in dealing with armies, navies and air forces; in limiting manpower and in preventing the secret building-up of trained reserves; in abolishing or reducing and limiting weapons, tanks, guns, aircraft and warships; and in establishing budgetary limitation and control, a vitally important matter, and one on which the very thorough work of thirty years ago is still wholly applicable today.
If the Minister starts on this exercise, I believe that he will find that the technical problems posed by the newer weapons, the nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction and the danger of the clandestine nuclear stock. can be dealt with by the plans which were first proposed by the British United Nations Association in its remarkable pamphlet, "A Policy for Disarmament". This was prepared by a working party which had highly qualified naval, military and air advice and which included members of all political parties and of none.
Those proposals for dealing with the danger of a clandestine nuclear stock by the abolition of the means of delivery—the bombing aircraft, the missiles, the launching ramps, the submarines, and so 1245 on—were taken up and put forward by M. Moch in the Committee of Ten in Geneva, last March. They were supported by President de Gaulle in speeches to our Parliament, to the Canadian Parliament in Ottawa, and to the United States Congress in Washington, a year ago. They have been endorsed, in guarded terms, by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, when he was Foreign Secretary.
They have been endorsed in the United States proposals of 27th June last year, though it was not at all clear at which stage the abolition of the means of delivery would be begun. The preparation of a detailed plan such as I am suggesting would show to all people of all parties and in all parts of the country that in what they are pleased to call the "immense complexities" of disarmament, solutions would be relatively easy to find. It is the duty of the Minister to help in that respect.
There is one special point on which a new and detailed British plan would be of particular value at the present time, namely, inspection and control. The Prime Minister proposed in the United Nations Assembly, last September, that that problem should be submitted to an international committee of experts, though he did not propose to put a British plan forward as the basis of the committee's work. When I suggested at Question Time last week that the Government should expand the Prime Minister's proposal by adding disarmament to inspection, the Lord Privy Seal replied that it was on inspection that the difference between the West and Russia was greatest. If the right hon. Gentleman meant—and I think that he did—that the Russians are behind the West in accepting inspection and control, I say that that is not true today and has not been true since 1955.
It was in 1957 that Mr. Stassen, the United States delegate, said in the United Nations subcommittee, at Lancaster House, that:There was a time when there was in my country considerable support of a very extreme form of control and inspection.…We have concluded that that extreme form of control and inspection is not practical, feasible or attainable.The Foreign Secretary admitted later, in debate in 1958, that the inspection clauses 1246 of the plans that we were putting forward then amounted to almost nothing at all. But last year in a plan which he intended to lay before the abortive Summit and which he put to the Committee of Ten on 7th June, Mr. Khrushchev went far towards accepting real inspection.
When, in September last, in the United Nations Assembly debate, Mr. Khrushchev interrupted the Prime Minister, it was to say that if the West would accept the Russian approach to disarmament, Russia would accept our approach to inspection. I confess that I do not see what more Mr. Khrushchev could have said in general principle than he put into his proposal of objectives in his paper of 7th June. The Minister could clear up this vital point if he drew the plan which I suggest.
I repeat that it is time that the disarmament negotiations got beyond the stage of general phrases. It is time that Britain played the decisive part which I think could be hers. I heard the other day an eye-witness account of the preparations in the Kremlin before Mr. Khrushchev made his disarmament speech in the United Nations in September, 1959. I was told that there was an immense amount of activity in almost every department of the Russian Government. The general staffs, the scientists, the Foreign Office, and Mr. Khrushchev's personal assistants were all mobilised to study every problem that could arise, all that had happened in the past, and every proposal, "partial" or "comprehensive," that had ever been made.
President Kennedy has just set up a new and powerful administration under Mr. John McCloy, a man who will be nobody's stooge, to reassess American policy on disarmament and defence. I hope that our Government will do the same. I hope that they will follow the line that I have suggested and will make now the major contribution which our people wish them to make towards the finding of the only answer to the danger that threatens all mankind.
§ 5.57 p.m.
§ Mr. Aubrey Jones (Birmingham, Hall Green)
This debate is taking place in the fourth year of a five-year defence plan. I hope that the right hon. Member for Derby, South (Mr. P. Noel-Baker) 1247 will not think it discourteous of me if I suggest that the main interest of the debate is the shape of the successor to the five-year plan. I hope, at any rate that he will forgive me if I make this the main theme of my speech and do not follow him on the topic which, despite its great importance, seems to me somewhat off the main path of the debate.
My right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence opened the debate by taking his stand on the ground that he stood by the broad framework of the five-year plan. He said that that broad framework remains unchanged and that what had changed was knowledge and weapons. This surely is an understatement. I question whether my right hon. Friend, either in the White Paper or in his speech, has faced the full implications of everything that has happened since 1957. It is not unlikely that history will describe the 1957 White Paper as the last attempt by this country to maintain an independent status.
It was an attempt to cover the whole gamut of weapons appropriate to an independent State while dropping the precautions which our limited resources do not enable us to afford—by dropping, for instance, manned aircraft prematurely in favour of the rocket. But it was an attempt to maintain an independent status. What we are witnessing is the visible collapse of that aspiration after independence and what worries me is that as yet I see no clear discernment of what we are to put in the place of this collapsing independence.
One concrete change, and one change only, has so far been made in the 1957 plan, and that is the dropping of Blue Streak. It has become perfectly apparent in the White Paper and in the speech of my right hon. Friend that the dropping of Blue Streak did not imply the dropping of an independent contribution to the deterrent. I confess that I am rather baffled by the distinction between an independent deterrent and an independent contribution to the deterrent. None the less, while Blue Streak is dropped, there is still an attempt to maintain an independent contribution to the deterrent. What we are witnessing is a change in the vehicle, a re-substitution of the manned aircraft for the rocket. In other 1248 words, the White Paper of 1957 killed the manned aircraft in favour of the rocket; the White Paper of 1961 has resurrected the aircraft and killed the rocket. The idea, however, of an independent contribution to the deterrent is retained.
§ Mr. R. T. Paget (Northampton)
Is not the distinction quite a simple one? The independent contribution to the deterrent is a deterrent which is dependent on the Americans. The independent deterrent—and that was what was always conceived of—is a deterrent which is independent of the Americans. That is all.
§ Mr. Aubrey Jones
I was about to come to that point. Whether we describe it as an independent deterrent or an independent contribution, clearly it is independence only in a very restricted and technical sense. It is independence in the sense that if things came to the worst, while the warhead was one's own even though the vehicle came from elsewhere, one was free to press the button oneself. This is very limited and technical independence. The fact remains none the less that we are dependent on another country for the main vehicle to carry the nuclear warhead.
§ Sir Harry Legge-Bourke (Isle of Ely)
I have myself, on an earlier occasion, raised this very point about which my right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Hall Green (Mr. Aubrey Jones) is speaking, as to whether or not the Defence White Paper of 1957 meant the end of manned aircraft for the delivery of the deterrent. I agree that if one reads the one paragraph which refers to V-bombers one can interpret it that way, but has not my right hon. Friend forgotten that paragraph 58 of the same White Paper indicated that research and development would go on?
§ Mr. Aubrey Jones
The last thing that I want to do is to indulge in semantics. The simple point that I am making is that we still retain the idea of an independent contribution to the deterrent. None the less, we are dependent for the vehicle on another country. There seems to me to be a danger that if one clings to the idea of an independent contribution to the deterrent and if one is dependent upon another country for the vehicle, one is 1249 under a temptation to insure against the non-delivery of the foreign vehicle by producing another vehicle of one's own.
§ Mr. Aubrey Jones
The vehicle from another country is the Skybolt, which is not a bomber; it is a missile to be carried by a bomber.
§ Mr. Aubrey Jones
Perhaps I may continue my speech.
I was making the point that if one clings to the idea of an independent contribution to the deterrent when one is reliant on another country for the main vehicle, one is under a temptation to produce another vehicle of one's own as an insurance against a non-delivery of the foreign vehicle. I wonder whether this is not the true meaning of paragraph 17 of the White Paper, which indicates that over the next ten years Bomber Command will carry a variety of missiles. British and American.
The only British missile at the moment, apart from the free-falling bomb, is Blue Steel Mark I, which will take us forward a few more years but certainly not ten years. I wonder whether this statement, coupled with the remarks of my right hon. Friend this afternoon when he talked about other possibilities in the way of delivery systems, does not mean that there is an intention to substitute yet another British weapon as an insurance against the possible failure of the Skybolt. I hope that my suspicions are ill-founded. I cannot imagine a greater folly than to cancel a weapon which is reasonably one's own after an abortive expenditure of £100 million and to rely on a weapon from elsewhere and then to take out an insurance policy against the possible failure of that weapon from elsewhere.
This, to my mind, would be sheer madness. I am driven to the conclusion that within a few years from now any talk about the desirability or undesira- 1250 bility of this country's making an independent contribution to the nuclear deterrent will be purely and utterly theoretical. I think that we are face to face with the plain fact that once the Blue Streak weapon had gone this country ceased to be able to develop and manufacture a deterrent weapon which was up to date. I am not at all sure—this is the source of my disturbance—that this truth is recognised, but I am afraid that until it is recognised I see no settled defence planning.
I suggest, then, that the attempt to maintain an independent contribution to the deterrent has failed. The attempt at independence in the tactical atomic field is also, I think, bound to fail. Again, I do not want to be drawn into semantics, and I apologise for the use of the words "tactical" and "strategic"; what is "strategic" to the Army is "tactical" to the Air Force. The jargon is there, and one is driven to use it.
If one takes, for instance, among the larger tactical weapons, Blue Water, the ground-to-ground weapon in which, as I understand from the Press, we have endeavoured to interest the Germans—the Germans have decided to take the American Sergeant, but we are going on with Blue Water—to the best of my knowledge Blue Water is a corps weapon to be used at corps level. How many corps are we likely to have? One Army corps in West Germany? Is it worth while producing at great cost a weapon to furnish one Army corps?
Again, I suggest that the attempt at maintaining independence is visibly collapsing, in part, of course, due to our limited resources. However, I doubt whether this is the entire story. It would, I think, be less than patriotic if we did not concede that the weapons programme as now constituted does not, in fact, conform with an objectively shaped plan. To the best of my opinion, it is a sum of items, a large number of them designed for no better purpose than to promote the interest of an individual Service. There is nothing more tragic, to my mind, than the spectacle of the Royal Air Force, young as a Service, having enjoyed a brief period of glory, now seeing its whole purpose threatened with destruction and reacting, as I see it, with extravagant claims and advocacy.
§ Mr. Aubrey Jones
My right hon. Friend this afternoon indicated certain measures to which he was resorting with a view to rationalising the weapons programme. However, I doubt whether he touched the real crux of the problem. Surely the crux of the problem is that the long-term advice on defence planning made available to the Minister of Defence is given by officers who are also the commanders-in-chief of their own individual Services.
It seems to me, therefore, that they are placed in an impossible dilemma. If they are objective they risk letting down the Service for the maintenance of whose morale they are responsible. On the other hand, if they shout the odds for an individual Service they do so at the expense of the national defence plan. This, it seems to me, is the crux of the problem, and I see no attempt as yet to touch it.
§ Mr. Watkinson
I am sure that my right hon. Friend will admit that the Ministry of Defence has a Chief Scientific Adviser responsible for giving the Minister advice.
§ Mr. Aubrey Jones
I am not suggesting that that is not the case, but, despite everything that has been done, despite the increases in the powers of the Minister of Defence, and despite the existence of the Chief Scientific Adviser, the objective advice on long-term defence planning remains deficient, and that is the crux of the problem
Independence, I suggest, is breaking down. What can be put in its place? My right hon. Friend says "interdependence", and, of course, he is right. But the question does not end there. There are several pertinent questions to be asked about interdependence. First, interdependence with whom? Is it mainly with the United States, or is it mainly with the countries of Continental Western Europe?
As a matter of history, it would be true to say that this country, so far, has thought of interdependence mainly in Anglo-American terms, partly as a legacy of the war, and partly as part of the chronology of interdependence. The use of the word first arose after the visit paid by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister to Washington in, I believe, October, 1957. Later, in December, 1252 1957, the idea was extended to the whole of N.A.T.O. But we have thought of it primarily in Anglo-American terms.
I question whether, even in Anglo-American terms, it is now of the value which it was. I suspect that the value of the exchanges of nuclear information which we have had with the United States is declining, and I certainly do not think that those exchanges have given this country any influence at all over American strategic thinking. But—and this is my main point—in so far as we primarily pursue interdependence with the United States, then I suggest that this makes more difficult interdependence with Western Europe.
I want to give two concrete examples, which are quite apart from any feeling of resentment which Europe may have as a result of our so-called special relationship with the United States. Take, first, the F.N. rifle. We adopted the F.N. continental rifle, but introduced into the design considerable modifications in order to stay in line with the Americans. But they, after we had decided on the modifications, withdrew from the weapon. We were left, therefore, with an unnecessary bill and with a certain legacy of resentment on the Continent.
Again, there was the example of Blue Streak. This was a weapon based on an American model. The very fact that it was based on an American model made it much more difficult for this country to have any collaboration with the Western European countries on a long-range ballistic missile. I suspect that even now, when we are talking of collaborating with European countries on the use of Blue Streak for space, the fact that it is based on the American model is some impediment to collaboration.
We must decide—and this is the heart of the national dilemma—in which of the two frameworks we are likely to exercise a larger influence. I maintain that the likelier framework is European and not American. But we have to choose, anyhow.
The second question I would like to ask on the topic of interdependence is whether there is a real prospect of interdependence with European countries while this country remains apart from the Six. The discussion of the Six and Seven problem in this country has been couched almost exclusively in economic 1253 terms. I suggest that the problem has quite an important military aspect to it.
There is no doubt that, although the agreements of the Six are couched as yet in economic terms, the fact of their sharing a common political aim has led them to conclude with each other preferential arrangements in arms, from which, alas, this country is excluded. But I go further than that. I would contend that the whole Six and Seven problem is fundamentally a military and not an economic problem.
This problem touches the basic fundamentals of power. It has become fashionable to lament the division of Europe into two parts. I suggest that the more important and the more pertinent problem of this country is that this country's interests are now divided into two parts. Economically, we are forming links with the Seven, but militarily our links must remain with the Six, because the Six remain our main European allies.
It cannot help one with one's military alliances to be forming economic ties in one direction while one's military ties are in another direction. Surely, in the light of history, it is the military link rather than the economic which matters the more. It does not argue the pursuit of a clearly conceived national purpose that we should have landed ourselves in this position—this unhappy and embarrassing position, as I see it—of straddle.
I recognise, of course, that the condition of this country's entry into the Six is now the acceptance of the ultimate goal of political unity. So far we have shrunk from this. But can we sensibly talk of interdependence without accepting that ultimate goal? Interdependence means that we as one country rely on other countries for certain crucial weapons. Are we likely to promote this interdependence while withholding our acceptance of the ultimate end of political unity?
Does not this also go to the root of the whole problem of N.A.T.O.? The problems of N.A.T.O.—particularly the questions of competitive nuclear effort as between one country and another, and the political control over nuclear weapons, small or large—surely go to the fundamental question of what is our conception of N.A.T.O.? Is it an asso- 1254 ciation of independent States, or is it to be something politically more cohesive? Can it continue to exist effectively unless we make it politically more cohesive?
How do we give political cohesion to a straggling alliance of 15 countries? I suggest that we can do it only in one way—by slowly and patiently building up compact political groups from below. So I come back, as I see it, to the fundamental question of the Six. In other words, I am trying to suggest that we have been forced off the perch of independence, but that we are not likely to make a success of interdependence either unless we are prepared to go some steps further than we are prepared to go now.
Lastly, I want to say something about manpower. My right hon. Friend expressed his confidence—though, I thought, with certain qualifications—that the manpower target would be reached. In my experience, in all exercises of statistical forecasting there are always two schools of thought—the pessimist and the optimist. Both schools introduce a considerable subjective element into their different estimates.
I shall not prophesy. I can only note that it appears to be one of the more serious problems of the affluent society that it is difficult for us to attract recruits to the public service. It is difficult to believe that the Army, with a not entirely up-to-date public image, will be able to exempt itself from that trend. Be that as it may, it is prudent to reckon with the possibility that the target of 180,000 men will be unattained and that we may rest at about 165,000, or even less, even a couple of years after 1963.
Will that figure be adequate? I have not yet had the advantage of listening to the speech of the hon. Member for Woolwich, East (Mr. Mayhew), but I do not see how anybody outside Whitehall can seriously say that this or that figure will suffice for our commitments. I notice that in the various statements on defence which it put out last week, the party opposite expressed its conviction that volunteer forces would suffice to meet our commitments. My experience is that when anyone says that he is convinced without giving evidence, there is prima facie a case for thinking that he has not thought the matter out, which is why he has not adduced evidence.
§ Mr. Aubrey Jones
I shall leave the hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends to their own altercations on defence.
I do not know whether the figure will suffice to meet the commitments or not, but there are two facts which constitute a presumption that a figure of 165,000, or even 170,000, will be insufficient. The first is that when this target was set. in 1957, there was implied a greater rundown of the forces in Germany than has since taken place, or than we now think ought to take place. Whatever contraction there may be in our overseas commitments, I doubt whether it is likely to bridge that gap. The second is that the amalgamation of regiments was based on the assumption of an Army of 200,000 men. If we have an Army of even 180,000 men, units will be below strength. If we get down still further, to 170,000 or 165,000, I do not see how we can avoid a further amalgamation of regiments, and a second amalgamation on top of the first would be disastrous for the morale of the Army.
It seems not impossible in the light of those two facts that we may find ourselves at an impasse. If the figure of 165,000, or even 170,000, is reached, that figure will be within the range of the Government's target, and on that account it would be very difficult at that moment to return to any form of selective service.
If I understand the Government's policy aright, they elect to wait, hoping against hope that the impasse will not, in fact, arise. Just because there is a distinct possibility that it will arise, it is surely preferable to take steps now—what steps one can—to avoid its arising. There seems to be only one way of avoiding it and that is now to start to change one's philosophy.
The philosophy of 1957, put in its most respectable form, was that with the threat of nuclear retaliation, only small forces could be committed, or dared be exposed to the field of battle, and that, therefore, only small forces were wanted in defence against them.
1256 It has become perfectly apparent that that concept of defence no longer has any popular support and has lost a great deal of its former military support. It has become a highly precarious basis for defence, because it is defence based in the last resort on nuclear bluff, and that is true whether one is thinking of small-scale atomic or large-scale atomic weapons.
I therefore agree with the broad aim of the West's seeking a parity of forces with the East on all levels—strategic, tactical and conventional. When I say "parity" I speak subject to the qualification that one needs a lower ratio of forces for defence than for offence. Subject to that qualification, I agree with the broad aim—and I understood this to be the belief of the hon. Member for Leeds. East—of parity of forces with the East at all levels. But that is to raise certain crucial questions from which the hon. Member for Leeds. East ran away.
First, if we are now to switch our emphasis from a reply by the use of atomic weapons to a reply at least initially with conventional forces, is it consistent, in an age of interdependence, to abide by our traditional precept that the brunt of any attack must first be borne by the Continent itself? Is it consistent, in an age of interdependence and while consciously seeking interdependence, that this country should be the one country without any form of National Service? Despite all the difficulties of selective service, on those broad grounds I have come to the conclusion that some form of selective service is unavoidable.
I make one plea to the Government. On this issue they have to make up their minds within the next nine months. The abolition of National Service was first pressed for by the party opposite. My own party followed, partly on the ground that this was an issue which it hesitated to take to the electorate. I ask the Government, in reconsidering the matter, to have an eye on not only what the electors may say about them tomorrow, but on what the history books may say about them in twenty or twenty-five years' time. I ask them to place before us the full implications of the difficult choices that we have to make, and, this time, to treat us as an adult democracy.
§ 6.28 p.m.
§ Mr. F. J. Bellenger (Bassetlaw)
I am almost constrained to congratulate the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Hall Green (Mr. Aubrey Jones) on his speech. My right hon. Friend the Member for Derby, South (Mr. P. Noel-Baker) congratulated the hon. Member for Mid-Bedfordshire (Mr. Hastings) on his maiden speech and asked him to take part in our future debates, and I must, therefore, request the right hon. Member for Hall Green to take part in our defence debates as often as he can. Her Majesty's Opposition have apparently enlisted a powerful recruit, because, although the right hon. Gentleman criticised the Government's present policy, he was responsible in part for the 1957 White Paper which, he said, was now sunk without trace.
I do not know in what form the Question will be put tomorrow night, but the right hon. Gentleman will have a problem more difficult than that which we are now discussing. He will either have to support the Motion, which says that the House approves the White Paper, which he has conclusively shown he does not, or he will have to vote for the Amendment and say, with the Opposition, that he has no confidence that the policy set out in the White Paper will effectively provide for the defence of Britain.
However the right hon. Gentleman votes, he has shown to the House today, quite sincerely, that he at least on the Government benches does not believe, as we do not believe, that the White Paper offers, in 1961, a reasonable preparation for the defence of this country and of our interests and those of our allies. Her Majesty's Government had better keep the right hon. Gentleman far away from Germany, because he is not a good salesman for Blue Streak, if, indeed, there were any salesman today who could sell that weapon in Europe for any purpose. I begin to understand now why it is that the German Minister of Defence and others in Germany are not prepared to subscribe to further research work on Blue Streak for any purpose whatever, civil or military.
I want, briefly, to examine what lies behind the Government's thinking, if they have any clear thinking, on this problem. For that purpose right hon. and hon. Members who have studied 1258 defence matters either in office or out of it have to consider who are the experts, because Ministers come and go. We know that Defence Ministers go quite frequently and have very little time to concentrate on the problem. It is the general staffs of the Service Departments and of the Ministry of Defence who give their minds to this problem, and they have to work on certain assumptions.
Every staff order issued in the field in battle contains various sections. One is "information", and I suggest that the Minister of Defence has given us very little, either today or in his White Paper, and I shall have a few remarks to make on that presently. Another is "objective", and we are not sure what the objective is to be, because, unlike war, when a Prime Minister can issue a directive to his commanders to destroy the enemy, we cannot do that in peace time.
The initiative is with the enemy. I will not attempt to indicate who is the enemy, but we know that poised against Europe, and not only against Europe but against different targets in the world, is a mighty Power, Russia, where democratic practices do not play the same rôle as they do in the Western world. They can mobilise their satellites and their forces—and they are tremendous forces—and if they feel like it they can launch them against the West. Therefore, the general staffs, in considering this much debated subject of nuclear strategy and tactical nuclear weapons, are faced with considering what form any attack or any aggression would take if it came.
I think that the Minister of Defence said this afternoon, and certainly my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) said, that all the military critics everywhere today say that global war is out. I hope it is, but, nevertheless, we must not forget that there is one great Power coming up in the Far East, China, which does not say that.
Many people there—and I believe that this is the cause of trouble between them and Russia—think that a global war, with strategic nuclear weapons, would benefit them, and that the Western nations would be wiped out. They do not say what would happen to Russia. I remember—and this is not a bad illustration of military thinking—that for ten 1259 years after the First World War that was the policy of at any rate most of the European countries, that there would be no major war, and yet it happened.
I am not going to put myself against all the military experts and say that there will be total nuclear war, but I say that it can never be absent from the minds of the staff planners. Indeed, I know from my early days in the War Office, after the war, that it was there, and that many Cabinet and military papers were written envisaging the possibility of a war which included that weapon. I would not be surprised if the Russian military staff do the same sort of thing. Military staffs all over the world work in a more or less uniform manner. They deal with military issues which cannot take into account political problems to the same extent as Foreign Secretaries can.
There is also, of course, in the minds of all military planners the form of weapons they shall give to their troops. After all, many countries, whether in an alliance or not, have troops all over the place. It is no good having troops if they have no weapons with which to fight if called on to do so, or at least to defend themselves.
I go so far as to say—and I think that most hon. Members who have been to the B.A.O.R know—that without tactical nuclear weapons the B.A.O.R., plus many thousands of dependants, would be overwhelmed if an attack proceeded further than a certain point. Therefore, military formations and units have to be trained. How are they being trained today? Hon. Members who know something about this subject know that the training manuals of the British Army include at least preparations for the use of tactical nuclear weapons. To whichever manoeuvre one goes one finds that that is part of the training tuition which commanders, high and low, are giving to their troops.
My hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, East tried to divide the problem into two compartments. First, strategic nuclear weapons—and I will not attempt to define them; we all understand the meaning of those words—and, secondly, tactical nuclear weapons. My hon. Friend dismissed, perhaps a little too easily, strategic nuclear weapons. We have no strategic nuclear weapons. The whole strategic force is in the hands of the 1260 United States of America. The whole command is there, and it is only they, either in association with N.A.T.O. or alone, who can launch any strategic attack on the enemy.
When we come to tactical nuclear weapons, if they are part of our defence, what have we? Perhaps my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) will know more about this. We have my hon. Friend as an old-established expert, and we have also my hon. Friend the Member for Woolwich, East (Mr. Mayhew), who is to compete in this sphere, and between the two of them we may be able to get somewhere near the truth. I am not saying that in any way unkindly to my hon. Friend. I hope that he will endorse what I say.
We have one regiment in the B.A.O.R. trained in the use of tactical nuclear weapons; one about to go out, and three more due to go out or be trained or formed at some time, as against seven regiments of so-called conventional artillery. I do not think that I am wrong in saying that as regards tactical nuclear weapons my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, East, need not worry himself unduly because there is very little in the B.A.O.R. When he talks about getting agreement to withdraw forces with tactical nuclear weapons away from the Iron Curtain, I wonder how many are there at the present time. At any rate, everybody knows that the warheads are under lock and key, and that the keys are in the possession of the Americans.
What are conventional forces for? The Minister tried to tell us. I have not the slightest doubt that we need a large number of conventional forces—not necessarily in B.A.O.R., because the Germans will have their 12 divisions by the year after next, and will then have the largest contingent. Indeed, I suspect that with eight divisions they have a larger contingent than the British at present. It is true that their training may not be as good as British training but, as we all know to our cost, the Germans are very adept once they apply their minds to military matters.
I therefore agree with the Minister that we need conventional forces, but I disagree with my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, East who illustrated the role of those conventional forces, as he saw it 1261 —in reply to my right hon. Friend the Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell)—by speaking of their stopping a brawl in East Berlin. I would say that what we want there is some sort of gendarmerie sufficient to stop the brawl—the kind of occasion where the "policeman" is knocked on the head, as my hon. Friend put it. But there may be a greater danger than those incidents which he put forward as illustrations.
Berlin is a problem which Russia has warned the West she means to solve, in the same way that the Arab nations have told Israel that they mean to solve the Middle East problems. If Russia means what she says, although she may not inject Russian troops she may easily encourage East German troops, who are fairly well armed and trained, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Easington and my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley know, having been there recently and seen some of those troops. That seems to be the strategy of Russia all over the world. As new African territories are obtaining their freedom I believe that a good deal of Communist assistance is sometimes being given, as well as American incitement—or Belgian incitement—in regard to the Congo.
It is, therefore, clear that we need conventional forces. What sort of forces should they be? The Minister would probably agree with me that we cannot recruit a sufficient number of conventional forces to meet the world commitments which he says in his White Paper exist at present. Let us suppose that a situation similar to that which occurred in Cyprus developed somewhere. Let us remember how many British troops were immobilised in Cyprus in order to carry out fire brigade or police duties. A similar situation could arise elsewhere. What would happen to the strategic reserve then?
We have heard a lot about the strategic reserve since a War Minister from the benches opposite invented the term, but I now begin to wonder what it is and where it is, and how it can get from where it is to the far distant places where trouble might break out.
§ Mr. Bellenger
I have one or two questions to ask the Minister. He talked about commando forces. He said that 1262 we have four marine commandos and a strategic reserve in Great Britain. I should like to know a little more about it. Perhaps the Secretary of State for War will tell us when he introduces his Estimates. The Minister went on to say that the Kenya reserve is ready to move at 48 hours' notice by land or air.
§ Mr. Watkinson
I must make it clear that what I said was that a large proportion of all elements of the strategic reserve, whether in this country, in Kenya or in the Far East—where we have other elements—are available to move at 48 hours' notice by land or air. I was not referring to Kenya alone, but to the broad pattern.
§ Mr. Bellenger
I am sorry if I misunderstood the right hon. Gentleman. What he has said makes my point even stronger. If our strategic reserve all over the world is prepared to move at 48 hours' notice by land or air, how will they do it? Where is the air transport to lift them?
Not long ago the Minister of Aviation told us that a contract had been placed for the production of ten Short Britannic stategic freighters for the Royal Air Force. He said that they are due to go into service in 1964, and that they would be a valuable addition to Transport Command's strategic airlift resources. When the Minister of Defence talked glibly about the whole of our strategic reserve—in bits and pieces all over the world—being at 48 hours' notice to go to any part of the world, I wonder whether he can be sure of this. As we now know from the dispatch from General Keightley, in Suez, the Government did not do it then. It took us a long time to get our troops from Malta to the Delta.
The right hon. Gentleman may say that we have learned a lot since then. I should not be at all surprised if he or his staffs have, but I assert that the mobility of these strategic reserve forces is not as it should be. If the right hon. Gentleman disagrees, let him tell us where his airlift will come from in order to get these forces moving.
§ Mr. P. Williams
Does not the right hon. Gentleman agree that in the last five years Transport Command has been built up, for example, by the purchase of Britannics, and that for a substantial 1263 emergency the civil airlines and the Corporations are always available to add to our transport forces?
§ Mr. Bellenger
I admit that there is some force in that argument but military forces usually have to depend on other military forces when it comes to anything like war.
As for the tactical airlift, namely, helicopters, I hope that the Minister will "come clean" and tell us what he has in B.A.O.R. When I was out there, some months ago, it had 24 helicopters, and they were all grounded. They could not lift any troops, or even the corps commander when he was badly smashed up. The British had to ring up the German command and say, "Can you lend us a helicopter to take our general to hospital?" The hon. Member for Sunderland, South (Mr. P. Williams) may know about that. It happened not long ago. I do not think that the right hon. Gentleman's rather optimistic statement about moving the strategic reserve at 48 hours' notice holds good. I challenge him to prove that he has the means to do it. At any rate, not long ago, when we had a little trouble in Jordan, who moved the troops? We had to depend largely on the Americans.
In matters of defence, the House has never been told the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, since I have been in it, when the first Defence White Paper was published in 1935. Ministers have hinted at many things, and have tried to tell us in their White Papers that all was well, but many of us know that if war comes, as was the case in 1939 we shall not be ready.
That brings me to a point that I have raised before, namely, the need to get at the facts. The Minister said that he would give us the facts, but I suggest to him, in no partisan spirit, that he has not given us them in his White Paper, or in his speech today. How can we get at the facts? Some hon. Members are well informed, such as my hon. Friend the Member for Woolwich, East and my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley, but the majority are not. How are they to get the facts?
I should like to give the House some information which I have been able to pick up from Germany, which was a defeated nation after the last war. Ger- 1264 many's parliamentary or democratic constitution was partly forced on her by the British, as well as certain other nations. It is ironical to think that we, the British, who had helped to defeat them and then imposed a constitution on them, should have given them something which we have not here—and we call ourselves the Mother of Parliaments. I could give a different term for it.
Under this German constitution, Western Germany has what is called a "Verteidigungsausschuss", which means defence committee. That defence committee consists mostly of back benchers and has passed on to it, secret information that is not given to the House—the Bundestag, as it is called. Confidential information, top secret and secret information are kept in the hands of the Government, as it should be, but a great deal of top secret information is given to members of the Bundestag who are members of the defence committee The members of that committee are selected by the Government party, the S.P.D.—the Socialist Opposition—and the F.D.P., which is roughly the German equivalent of the Liberal Party.
The committee is under great secrecy and if any hon. Member gets up in the Bundestag and demands information which, for security reasons, it is impossible for the answer to be given in open forum, he, if he is a member of the Verteidigungsausschuss can get it in that committee. Never once has any member of the committee in Germany disclosed in the Bundestag anything which could damage the security of the nation that he had learned in the defence committee. Quite often, when a Minister is questioned in the Bundestag, he refuses to give the information, but then says that he will disclose it to this committee.
Back benchers here who are jealous of their rights, and do not want any secret committees, will say, "How will one select those people, and why should some be in possession of this information and not others?" Look around these benches today and see how many hon. Members are sufficiently interested in defence to come and take part in the debate. I suggest that it would not be difficult to select those hon. Members and that they could get information there which would be of help to the Government as well as to the Opposition. 1265 I believe—and I think that there are many other hon. Members of the same mind—that defence is of great priority and urgency and necessitates what I would call instructive, intelligent argument. Defence should not be a subject for the partisan warfare that occurs in some matters appertaining to home affairs. Western Germany is in a very exposed and vulnerable position. Dr. Adenauer's Government have an overwhelming majority and yet the Socialist Opposition, who are attempting this year, as they have been for some time—unfortunately, without success—to turn out Dr. Adenauer and his party, are prepared to nominate their representatives to that committee and co-operate with the Government in the defence of their country.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Easington, some time ago, supported the same sort of idea and I know that on both sides of the House there is a feeling that if the House is to get more vital information, without which hon. Members cannot form a correct or honest judgment, that is the way. I know that there is an argument against it. There is a fear that if the Opposition go to the Government and get secret information like this, our criticism of the Government will, to that extent, be reduced. It will not. The Select Committees of this House often get very secret information. During the war a Committee under the chairmanship of Sir John Wardlaw-Milne was especially set up to investigate matters which could not be investigated in the House of Commons for security reasons. Its chairman was allowed to report direct to the Prime Minister then. We had many arguments, particularly about tanks. Quite often this Committee put forward its views and recommendations to the Prime Minister and at other times we went into secret session—which is really an enlarged form of the committee for which I am appealing.
When the right hon. Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill) went out to the Middle East and straightened out our lamentable handling of affairs there, as he did—it is all history now—he was prodded by the House of Commons. We even went to an extent of moving a Motion of censure. No information was then given to the general public likely to endanger our security, but we back 1266 bench Members knew what was going on because we had so many contacts with the forces—which we no longer have.
We were hopelessly outbattled in the Motion of censure against the Government—which was a Coalition Government and included members of the Opposition who had access to all the secrets in those days. Something was wrong in the Middle East. Not only was the conduct of the war wrong, but the weapons were wrong, especially the tanks.
I have been through very many disappointments in my political life and I suppose, speaking in the wilderness, as it were, that it will be a long time before this idea sinks into the minds of right hon. and hon. Members so that they will get together and urge on the Government of the day the setting up of such a Committee. Nevertheless, I tell them from long experience in the House, and from a close knowledge of military affairs, that we are fobbed off time and again. It is only when a Minister resigns, and becomes an ex-Minister, that the curtain is drawn aside a little and we are able to peep behind it and see his doubts and hesitations, which may easily have been there in those days before he was asked to resign from the Government.
It is because of the reasons that I put forward this afternoon, reinforced by the right hon. Member for Hall Green—a responsible back bencher, as we know, and one with considerable experience of these affairs—that I can support the Amendment proposed by the Opposition against the Government which, in itself, is a Motion of censure. I am not hiding the fact that there may be differences within my own party on defence—there are. However, I will say that the right hon. Member for Hall Green will easily get the support of my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman) on the question of selective conscription. He is on the record and I am not. He might even get my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley, who can speak for himself, on some of these fundamental issues—
§ Mr. Wigg
I am certainly on record, and I will repeat it if my right hon. Friend wishes, but what my right hon. Friend must not do is to put into the mouth of my hon. Friend the Member 1267 for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman) words that he has not used. He is on record as having said that we cannot get rid of conscription unless we cut commitments. Therefore, it is quite wrong, and I do not know why my right hon. Friend does it—I am a personal friend of the hon. Member for Coventry, East and I hold my views and, unlike my right hon. Friend, I do not change them easily. My right hon. Friend must not, by association of ideas, try to smear.
§ Mr. Bellenger
My right hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, East is on record. We have only to look at the pages of the Daily Mirror, when he was writing his daily column in it, to find that he is on record for selective conscription, as is the right hon. Member for Hall Green. There is co-operation! I am not on record to that extent. I helped to put conscription through in 1947. I thought it a necessity in the aftermath of the war. I do not believe in conscription unless there is a terrific emergency. My whole life and thinking and my service in the Army has always been on the voluntary basis. I have done what I could to induce my sons to join voluntarily and one did and served for eight years. There is disagreement in my party about certain aspects of defence, and that is one of them.
My hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, East, in a very intelligent and certainly intellectual speech, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Easington said, attempted to put the picture in a really convincing form. I will give one illustration of a point which was not so convincing to me. That was when he spoke of the use of conventional forces to stop a drunken East German knocking a West German over the head. If it is a question of defence, it is a question which affects hon. Members on both sides of the House equally. There may be differences, as I have attempted to show, between the two sides, but it is something of vital importance to the country. History has told us that all defence debates in the past were not able to produce the weapons or the troops when we were faced with war in 1939. All I am wondering is whether today we have a defence which is able and sufficient to quell what we might call the "brush fires" which are bound to break out all over the world. I doubt it.
§ 7.2 p.m.
§ Sir John Maitland (Horncastle)
The right hon. Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Bellenger) has covered the subject so thoroughly that I find it very difficult to follow him. I hope that he will forgive me, because I want to refer to one or two things said by my right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Hall Green (Mr. Aubrey Jones). The Times, this morning, says thatthe Government and the Opposition appear to enter today's defence debate in the House of Commons with fewer differences over policy than at any time during the past five years".On the face of it, that would appear to be correct. Particularly, I notice that some hon. Members opposite seem to be in absolute agreement on this question, and that is all to the good because I am old-fashioned enough to think that a defence debate—and also a foreign affairs debate—is not really a matter for party division if that can possibly be avoided. We have a three-line Whip for tomorrow. I do not think that that is a good plan for a defence debate when the differences between the parties are not really so large.
What are the differences? Briefly, I suppose Her Majesty's Opposition want to abrogate their responsibility for the nuclear deterrent and any influence that the Government may be able to exert in its use. There, I think, is one of the serious things between the two parties in this debate. I do not want to add to controversy, but I want to talk about some of the things which The Times indicates we should talk about and to make suggestions to improve the state of the defences of our country.
It is, of course, a platitude to say that defence against war and protection of our economic existence have to go hand-in-hand. Too much emphasis on the one obviously jeopardises the very existence, or effectiveness, of the other. We have had ample opportunity recently to learn that Mr. Khrushchev's doctrine of peaceful co-existence is far from peaceful in the economic sense and will threaten the very economic existence of the West. That applies not only to this country, but to all the countries of the Western Alliance. Yet I should have thought that the method of defence expenditure of the western world is about as wasteful as anything could be. 1269 By producing many different things in comparatively "penny numbers" we create great difficulties for ourselves in the economic sphere. We have almost the maximum expenditure for the minimum of effective defence.
I will remind my right hon. Friend the Member for Hall Green of something that he already knows, that in Western European Union we have an organisation based mainly on defence which has all the Six and this country in it. That would provide a bridge and make an opportunity, if the Governments of all those countries required somewhere where, in defence matters, the Six and this country can meet. The Assembly of Western European Union recently put forward a criticism of the economics of the logistic system of the West and drew attention to the lack of standardisation, the lack of common spare parts and the multiplicity of various weapons.
What is happening today is the absolute negation of what I understand by the principle of interdependence. I was very pleased to hear my right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence talk about interdependence. I thought that he made one of the best speeches from the Dispatch Box that I have ever heard him make. I was pleased to hear what he said about interdependence, but I am bound to say that it does not altogether fit in with what I have discovered in my contacts with these matters.
In his forthcoming talks with President Kennedy, I hope that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister will place very high on his list of priorities for discussion with the President the vital needs to bring reality to the idea of interdependence. My right hon. Friend the Member for Hall Green said—and I can see great force in his view—that when we are talking about interdependence we should consider Europe more than America. Yet it seems from my experiences that we should start by getting a really good business agreement with America over these matters. I can understand very well the pressure on the United States Government, with their generous foreign aid programme and high rate of unemployment, to allow the American arms industry practically to corner the supply of arms in the West. Perhaps that is an overstatement, but it is not very much of an 1270 overstatement. A policy of that nature may well in the end be disastrous.
There are simply not enough scientists or technologists and technicians, even in America, to ensure that only the best weapons go into production. By the present system we are exploiting to the full the weakness and difficulties which any group of countries must have when they are competing against a vast single dictatorship. Yet, if the Western countries were to have agreed zones for production and research—this is something to which my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Bedfordshire (Mr. Hastings) referred in an admirable maiden speech—we might turn that natural disadvantage into an advantage.
If we did that, we should have a more flexible organisation, less liable to all the snags and delays which are always evident when there is a central directive of two big a business. If we were able to achieve agreed zones of production and research, I believe that the saving in economic effort would be immense.
I hope that I am wrong about this, but it seems to me that this country is getting the worst of both worlds by trying to adhere to a kind of unilateral interdependence. We cannot go on in that way. I believe that we must choose firmly whether we are to go on with interdependence, which is the obvious answer, or whether we shall have to look after our own arms industry for ourselves. If we did that, while it would be an admission of defeat, at least we should know where we stood, and that would be an asset. But I hope and pray that it may be possible to make arrangements, first, with the United States and then with our European allies, which would bring about something which is so obviously clear and so right that it must be right for all the people in that alliance.
I believe that if we can make an agreement, and be seen to have done so, with the United States it will be far easier to make agreements with the European countries. My right hon. Friend must not think—I am sure that he does not—that because the European countries of the Six are cojoined together, they do not also have difficulties and problems over the multiplicity of arms.
1271 I should think that one result of the failure of interdependence is that today there is no mention in the White Paper of the Polaris nuclear submarine—
§ Sir J. Maitland
—which is practically the only method of exploiting the deterrent which has full credibility. I do not think that any country which has put its faith in the deterrent, and has nuclear warheads available, should be without the Polaris nuclear submarine. But the brutal truth is that we have no right to afford it. If the principle of interdependence worked properly, I believe that we might be able to afford it.
I wish briefly to comment on two other matters which are dealt with in the White Paper—
§ Sir J. Maitland
I apologise to the hon. and learned Gentleman. Perhaps what I said was badly expressed.
As we all know, today we have to balance our expenditure on arms with the effect on our economy. The acquisition of the Polaris submarine would represent such a considerable outlay that we Should not contemplate it unless we can show that we are cutting back and exercising a policy of economic efficiency in relation to our present arms expenditure. Unless we can do that, I do not think we have any right to involve ourselves in expenditure on the Polaris submarine. That is What I meant.
The first of the other two matters to which I wish to refer is combined operations, which I consider important. I was delighted to see that progress is being made with the second commando carrier. In these ships the work of all three Services is combined, although not necessarily by the individual Services. I think that we should go further, and try deliberately to integrate the work of at least a part of all three Services; that they should train together all the time and not just for a particular operation.
Everyone is agreed that mobility is the key to the economic use of manpower. But we do not get mobility just 1272 by having sufficient transport aircraft, transport ships, or landing craft, and weapons and men to be transported, although it would be very nice to have them. A great deal of special training is needed. I believe that it would be far more efficient—and in the long run far cheaper—to have as large a reserve as we can afford living and working together and fully trained in the science of mobility.
If such a reserve were impracticable without drawing on the establishment in Germany, I believe that to withdraw sufficient troops to form such a reserve would serve the interests of the West better than leaving those troops in Germany comparatively immobile. It seems to me vital to our general defence policy that we should be able to cope efficiently—and be known to be able to do so—with trouble in faraway places which might be promoted or exploited by the Soviets. Moreover, it seems to me an object for which the geography of the Commonwealth and our own tradition seem to be peculiarly suited.
Let us not forget that one of the advantages of such a policy of mobile groups working together would be that a reserve of this nature could form the nucleus of any military assistance which might be required by the United Nations to keep the peace. We believe sincerely in disarmament, but we shall always have to have some force to place at the disposal of the United Nations, and a system of reserves such as I have suggested would appear to place us in a position to supply that need.
Unlike my right hon. Friend the Member for Hall Green, I have always been in favour of bringing National Service to an end, in the interests of the Services themselves. In a country such as ours, where we enjoy independence and free ideas, it is better to have Regular Services without all the stigma of a forced call-up. I cannot think that my right hon. Friend has served in the Regular forces if he contemplates the return of National Service. It has always been my opinion, however, that while we should do away with conscription, we should inevitably have to operate in terms of manpower on the proverbial shoestring—whether, taking the Army as an example, the figure be 165,000 or 180,000.
1273 Things would be difficult. At all times we should be living with a manpower problem and it would always be a source of anxiety. But we should change our thinking on the whole question of reserves. People forget that between the wars we used our reserves on at least one occasion of which I am aware, because I was there—in China, when we sent 10,000 men to the Shanghai Defence Force—and I believe that we have used them on other occasions. We should face the fact that it may be necessary to use our reserves. We should not be afraid of being prepared to use them.
Of course, that would and should be expensive. It ought to be if proper compensation is provided and every man is assured of a job to come back to when his duty is done. But it would prove less expensive than keeping a standing Army, Navy and Air Force of a greater size than we require; particularly, as was pointed out by my right hon. Friend the Minister, when the manpower of this country accounts for 52 per cent. of the total defence budget compared with the 10 per cent. devoted to our nuclear effort about which so much is said. We should try to educate public opinion to accept that fad.
I was very interested in what the Memorandum on Army Estimates said about the Emergency Reserve. I do not see a similar mention of reserves in either the Navy or the Royal Air Force pamphlets. I hope that before the debate ends the Government will tell us more about their attitude to reserves. For example, what is to happen after 1965? It is fairly plain sailing until then, but what is to happen afterwards? What is the Government's general attitude to this problem?
The Minister of Defence is doing a very good job under very difficult circumstances. He has the genius of not always appearing in the headlines. That is an excellent thing. It is sometimes a very good thing to be quiet. The only easy thing about defence policy is to criticise it.
§ 7.20 p.m.
§ Mr. George Wigg (Dudley)
The hon. Member for Horncastle (Sir J. Maitland) carries me with him when he pleads that defence debates should be above party. I have always striven for that, because I 1274 believe that the resources available to us are so limited and the objects we pursue of such enormous importance that we cannot afford to make this subject a plaything as between parties. However, when the hon. Member talked in the latter part of his speech about the use of reserve forces, it was obvious that he had not done his homework. Reserve forces depend not only upon the existence of men, but upon a mobilisation plan and war reserves, There is no mobilisation plan. There are certainly no war reserves.
§ Sir J. Maitland
It was for that very reason that I made the speech I did, asking the Minister to give a report to the House on that very subject when he winds up the debate. I do not see why I am in error for having done that.
§ Mr. Wigg
If the Government make a report on it and implement it, they will double the Estimates. An effective mobilisation plan, however, requires the expenditure of enormous sums of money. At present the Government are hard put to it to find the money even for first-line equipment. If it came to building up war reserves we should find ourselves in a most difficult situation.
Of course we should have a mobilisation plan. Of course we should have war reserves. Of course the Army should be able to expand, if only in a limited way to meet an emergency. At present it would be idle to call up men, because there is no equipment for those who are already serving. This is the crux of the Government's problem.
Looking at the manpower problem over the last eighteen months, the first significant move was made in November, 1959, when the then Minister of Labour came to the House and announced that he was not calling up 60,000 National Service men who were under an obligation to serve. That was because he could not afford it. Since that time there have been two announcements—one by the Secretary of State for Air and one by the Secretary of State for War—that the Government would release men before their two-year service was completed.
Why was that done? The answer is that the Government have not the money. The hon. Member for Horncastle gave the clue. Fifty-two per cent. of the existing 1275 budget goes on pay. We have reached a point now when the Government are in a desperate dilemma. They want more men. They cannot get them, but even if they could get them they could not afford to pay them. This is the crux of our problem.
The first and most signficant feature about the White Paper is that it makes no mention at all of the five-year plan of which it is a part. I remember the enormous Press publicity, the talks on the radio and the build-ups in the Press which were the forerunners of the 1957 White Paper. This was the five-year plan which would not only save Britain but would save the West.
What was its first target? It was to save money. The 1957 Estimates were £1,420 million. This year they are £1,655 million. Since the present Administration have been in office, they have expended in ten years no less than £15,000 million. The uninitiated will at once ask what they have got for their money.
§ Mr. Wigg
That was not brought about by the Government. That was a United Nations operation and was brought about because there was an agreement between the United States and the Soviet Union. The Conservative Government have not a record of peace. They landed us in the biggest humiliation and national defeat since the Dutch sailed up the Medway three hundred years ago. It is true, as my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) said, that what has happened about the hydrogen bomb is in many ways a reaction of the difficulties we found ourselves in at Suez. It was a reaction from Suez, and the first objective was to save money.
§ Mr. Brian Harrison (Maldon)
The hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) is not quite fair when he talks about saving money. Paragraph 72 of the 1957 Defence White Paper says:It should not however be expected that it will show a decline in any way comparable 1276 with that in the manpower strength of the forces.
§ Mr. Wigg
I am only dealing with the cash, first. I must start at some point. I could have gone back even further, namely, to the speech of the Prime Minister when he was Chancellor of the Exchequer, because that was the starting point of it. I always try to follow the previous speaker, and I am making the point that the Government's five-year plan has not saved money.
Another point I wish to make at the opening of my speech is to draw attention to the fact that we are now at the end of the five-year plan which is now forgotten but which only two years ago, produced a White Paper entitled "Progress of the Five-Year plan". Since that time the Government have become much more modest. The White Paper is this year, like the 1960 one, entitled "Report on Defence". One almost has the impression, both from the White Paper and from the speech of the Minister of Defence, that 'the right hon. Gentleman wants to creep away from it very quietly—the least said about the past the better.
I come on to the core of my argument when I begin to make a detailed analysis of what we have achieved in the last five years and compare what is in this White Paper with what was in the 1957 White Paper. We were to have an atomic streamlined force. Early on we were not told the name, but subsequently it came to be called Blue Streak. A variety of reasons have been given for the abandonment of Blue Streak—holes in the ground, mobility requirement, and so on. My interpretation is nothing so romantic as that. It boils down to the one word "cash".
Paragraph 54 of the Civil Appropriation Accounts, Class VI, Vote 10, which appears on page xix, says:Following the completion in 1959 of a preliminary study the Ministry of Supply, with Treasury authority, embarked upon the development of…what afterwards came to be called Blue Streak. A little further on in the paragraph this passage appears:The Ministry tentatively estimated that the whole project would require expenditure of £50 million over a period of ten years to include extramural development costs…Paragraph 55 contains this passage:In October 1957 the Treasury were informed that it was then estimated that the total 1277 cost of development including the whole test firing programme would amount to between £160 million and £200 million …The House should also know this. Early in 1960—this is the time when the last White Paper was published, and when the right hon. Gentleman was defending Blue Streak in this Chamber—it is here recorded that the Estimate had risen to between £280 million and £310 million and that the total cost of the weapon project would be between £500 million and £600 million. I wish that the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Defence was here, because we could then at least watch his face.
That makes nonsense of all the excuses he then gave. We can now say with absolute certainty that a year ago he did not tell the House of Commons the truth. He knew then that Blue Streak was a dead duck. It might even be—and I have often suspected it—that the Prime Minister, who is a smart operator, indeed, if ever there was one, held the information back from 29th February to 13th April because he wanted the row to go on in the Labour Party.
We are asked by the other side not to play politics. I can assure hon. Gentlemen that I have never tried to do that, but if I am wrong in my supposition I should like to hear the explanation from the Minister, because he knew a year ago that the cost of Blue Streak would be so great that, irrespective of its technical triumph, whatever that might be, in terms of cost we could not afford to go on.
What was another principle on which the 1957 White Paper depended? It was the principle of mobility. We have heard this again today: atomic streamlined forces, limited in character, raised by voluntary recruitment, hard-hitting, well-equipped—like a fire brigade, going there, coming back here, on to the fire station, then off it goes again. Five years have gone by. One of the standards I bring to bear is the kind of goods the Government put in the shop window. Even if the shop window is well arranged but I can see that the principal piece is marked "dummy" I begin to doubt the stocks on the shelf.
When one looks at paragraph 43 of the Memorandum issued by the Secretary of State for Air it would appear that the Government have put two dummies in the same shop window. Paragraph 43 refers to an operation called "Star- 1278 light"—and this, of course, is put in to convince my hon. Friend and other hon. Gentlemen, who have to rely on it for their information.
This operation was intended to test mobility, and Transport Command took part in it. "Starlight" was held in the spring of 1960 and involved the movement of a brigade group to North Africa—4,800 troops, nearly 300 vehicles, and 175 tons of equipment. I do not know whether hon. Members are impressed. I know that it nearly brought tears to my eyes because, at the very same time, there was an exercise in the United States to test their logistic capacity—
§ Mr. Wigg
No, that was Transport Command.
As I was saying, there was an operation in the United States called "Puerto Pine/Big Slam." The United States lifted 21,000 troops and 11,000 tons of equipment—and that operation was subject to the most biting criticism. No doubt a little of the criticism was inspired. No doubt certain firms like Lockheed had a hand in the criticism, because that was one way to step up orders for transport aircraft. Nevertheless, it was pointed out that no fuel was included in that 11,000 tons. The point was made that the aircraft were flying twelve hours a day, for seven days a week for two weeks, which was pushing them to the very limit.
Every competent staff officer knows, on the basis of exercises already carried out, that the basis of the planning of an airlift is about 1 ton per man. And the criticism in the United States was aroused because the lift was only about half what it should be. But what about "Starlight", with its 4,800 troops and 175 tons?
The previous year we had another operation—and I do not deprecate such operations; they are very useful, if only to give the staff exercise—in which the artillery was not carried, because if it had been they could not have taken the ammunition. What sort of game is this? I do not deplore these exercises. Indeed, I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will have many more of them. What I do deplore is putting this in the forefront of the Memorandum of the 1279 Secretary of State for Air as though it were some gigantic achievement, whereas it was the most deplorable thing that could be imagined.
I have dealt with cash; I have dealt with mobility. We were next told that we were to get rid of conscription. I had not intended to say very much on this subject, but the debate has developed in a certain way and the right hon. Gentleman has challenged me. I shall not run away from that challenge. What is the history of conscription? The history is that in the 1957 White Paper the Government stated that they were to reduce the Forces to 375,000. No breakdown was given in 1957 of the division between the three Forces. In 1958 we got the division: 165,000 for the Army, 135,000 for the Air Force and 88,000 for the Navy—a total of 388,000
Two years later, recruiting happened to get a little better, and the Secretary of State for War announced a step-up of 15,000, making a total of 403,000. The extra 15,000 were to go to the Army, 11,000 being required in the strategical reserve because Cyprus had shown that the Army could not manage with battalions of 635 and needed about 800. Recruiting later got back to normality. The point I want to make in regard to that is something that I would almost call "Wigg's Law". It is as simple as this.
There are in the community only a given number of men who like service in the Armed Forces of the Crown—
§ Mr. Wigg
It may be so. My point is that there is only a given number, and if we increase the pay we borrow from the future. Funnily enough, I believe that if we increased the danger it might increase recruiting. The one thing that would pull the right hon. Gentleman's chestnuts out of the fire would be active operations overseas—that would push the recruiting figures up. Basically, recruiting is like a piece of elastic; one pulls it, and it contracts again when released. I am sure that the Minister is taking heart 1280 from the success of his films. I would warn him that the success may be here, but we are borrowing from the future. The chaps who step up today will not join tomorrow. All the recruiting curves show the same pattern—up and down, up and down.
I, therefore, took leave to doubt whether the success of 1958 would be achieved. However, when the Government announced their decision to abolish conscription, they gave the House of Commons and the country the following specific undertaking, in paragraph 48 of the 1957 White Paper:It must nevertheless be understood that, if voluntary recruiting fails to produce the numbers required, the country will have to face the need for some limited form of compulsory service to bridge the gap.That was quite a specific undertaking. It was repeated on 14th November, 1960. I then put down Questions to the Prime Minister, and they were transferred to the Home Secretary. I asked:Can the right hon. Gentleman give an assurance that the Government expect to get a minimum of 165,000 by the date they chose, namely, 1st January, 1963? Do they expect to do so or not?The right hon. Gentleman replied:I would say that the answer to that is quite justifiably 'yes, Sir'.Subsequently in the course of the discussion the right hon. Gentleman was also asked, again specifically, by my right hon. Friend the Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown) whether the Government's pledge in paragraph 48 still stood—that is to say, if they did not get 165,000 men by 1st January, 1963 whether they were pledged to introduce some limited form of National Service? The right hon. Gentleman said:Certainly the pledge in paragraph 48 of the 1957 White Paper holds good."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 14th November, 1960; Vol. 630, c. 32 and 33.]There are the two statements—first, that they are going to get the number and, secondly, that if they do not, they are going to do what they said they would do in the 1957 White Paper. I think that before the end of this debate we need some explanation from the Government Front Bench. This afternoon the Minister of Defence said specifically that they did not expect to get 165,000 until the early days of 1963. In other words, it was hoped to get them shortly 1281 after the date which they originally set. That is clear. But if the Government are going to break their pledge, if they feel that the margin is so narrow that they do not need to do anything about it, they ought to tell the House and should not try to get away with it.
I want to draw attention to another remarkable thing. The strip cartoons in the Defence White Paper give a manpower target of 165,000 to 180,000. This afternoon the Minister of Defence repeated that 180,000 was the target. I should like to draw attention to a speech that was made by the then Minister of Aviation, now Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations, to the Press Gallery on 29th June, 1960. He obviously had in mind the breakdown of the Government's defence policy. He said:It is said that the Government's defence policy is in ruins because we shan't get an army of 180,000 men. We may not get 180,000 men, but we have never said that we needed 180,000.It seems to me that the right hand knoweth not what the left hand doeth.
The present Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations must have forgotten all the arguments that had taken place in the Ministry of Defence and on the Floor of the House. On 28th July, 1958, Lord Head came to the House and challenged the Minister of Defence on the issue that 165,000, which the Government had decided as a target, bore no relation whatever to any order of battle. It was a number that they had thought of and which they hoped they would be able to recruit. In the circumstances, this is playing fast and loose with a most serious subject.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Bellenger) wants to know where I stand. There are in Berlin 3 infantry battalions and in the rest of Germany 17 infantry battalions—a total of 20. The total number after reorganisation and run-down, which was referred to by the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Hall Green (Mr. Aubrey Jones) in his able speech, was 49 battalions of infantry, 8 battalions of Guards and 3 battalions of the Paratroop Regiment—a total of 60. Of those, 20 are earmarked for Germany and 4 are on public duties in London. That leaves 36 battalions to perform duties which before the war were done by 120 battalions plus the Indian Army. 1282 It is not my place to argue the order of battle, but if that order of battle stands and if any Government, whether Conservative or Labour, were to do their duty and refrain from asking the Army to carry a burden which really rests on the shoulders of the Administration of the day, I would vote for that Government. If it were a Conservative Government I would vote for it, even if it meant my expulsion from the Labour Party. That is as clear as I can spell it out, and I ask hon. Members opposite to spell out their intentions as clearly as I have spelt out mine.
My reason for saying that is that I have been at the receiving end. I was in Chanak, Palestine and Iraq. I know what it is like to be at the receiving end. I shall never be party to playing politics with soldiers' lives, and if I have to leave politics this is as good a reason as any for doing so. I hope I have made myself absolutely clear.
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes
My hon. Friend is arguing for some kind of selective conscription. Cain he tell us whom he would select? Would he select miners, or agricultural workers or people who are badly needed in the export trade?
§ Mr. Wigg
The question how it is done is highly technical. It could be done on some basis such as is followed in the United States. I would remind hon. Members opposite that every major country in N.A.T.O. has got some form of military service. Britain is the only country which thinks that it can get away with it, and yet this is a country with world-wide commitments. That would give a rough conception of the sort of people that we want. I do not want to make too heavy weather of this but I was challenged and I have given my reply.
§ Mr. Hughes
I am sorry to interrupt again, but this is important. My hon. Friend has recommended selective conscription by ballot. How does he know that he would get the right kind of soldier?
§ Mr. Wigg
I think the laws of probability are that in the long run we would get a cross-section by this means. But I think my hon. Friend is being a little unfair. I have given my honest views and I have drawn attention to what appears to be a successful method which is followed in the United States. It would 1283 seem to me that this is one way of doing it. The standard of living of us all is maintained by the troops in Malaya, Hong Kong, Africa and in the Persian Gulf. It is not right to let those battalions rot there under establishment. I am not Minister of Labour, but if hon. Members would care to use their votes and put me in a position of authority that would be a different matter.
§ Mr. Charles Curran (Uxbridge)
I am following the hon. Member with interest. Could he give us a few of his own estimates? What, in his view, is the maximum number that we should get by the voluntary method, taking one year with another? What does he regard as the number that we ought to add to the normal intake?
§ Mr. Wigg
The right hon. Gentleman shakes his head. I hope that I am wrong. I think that the number will be about 160,000 on 1st January, 1963. In my view, with the order of battle that we have, to provide a perfectly safe margin we need 200,000, as was originally recommended. It could perhaps be cut down to 182,000, but every 1,000 that we cut down below 200,000 is taking an unjustifiable risk. We are indulging in a gamble.
It is common knowledge that there are differences in our party. Do not let us disguise it. There are honest differences. But I do not have to read my speeches with a sense of shame. A year ago I said that the Government's policy was not vacillating or confusing; it was unutterably wrong. One of my hon. Friends demanded that I should be expelled from the party. When the vote was taken the result was 43 to 1, and my vote was right. I am happy to say that even the Front Bench are now adopting the policy that I advocated. I have no cause for complaint. Blue Streak has gone. Let us see where this gets us. Of course we have to pretend that we have a nuclear deterrent. We have to say this because there was a great big lump missing out 1284 of the 1957 policy if the independent nuclear deterrent has gone. Therefore, we had to put our money on Blue Streak, long after it was perfectly clear that the policy had collapsed, because not to do so was to admit on the eve of the General Election that our defence policy had in fact collapsed.
In this White Paper the nonsense is still perpetuated. We talk about the V-bomber force, and its free falling-bombs. We are not children; we are all grown up. We have about 200 VI bombers. The first V2 bombers, the Vulcans, have just come into squadron service with No. 83 squadron. These aircraft are subsonic. Does anyone suggest that any of these V-bombers will have any chance at all against the Mig 19 except on the "deck"? Can the right hon. Gentleman tell the House how much flying practice they can get on the contours—about half an hour before they begin to rattle themselves to bits.
The Russians and the Americans both know that the V-bomber force has very little use in Germany. When Blue Steel and Skybolt come along they have some use, but if we put the whole lot into a hat it would not constitute 3 per cent. of the total American deterrent. Therefore, to base our policy on the reasons given this afternoon, that this carries any influence with the Americans, is unmitigated nonsense.
It is to the great credit of some hon. Members on this side of the House that they regard this talk about megatons and millions of deaths as repugnant and distasteful. They shudder at the thought. That kind of approach to our defence problem has in times of emergency been a great source of strength to this country. It was in 1940. Some hon. Members see only the underlying pacifist view which is expressed inside the Labour Party and see it as a source of weakness. The danger is, when pacifically-minded men get round to talking about weakness, that—and I say this very kindly—many of them do not know the difference between a tin of bully beef and a roll of barbed wire, yet they talk about the most abstract subjects, about the most technical of all weapons, which defy the understanding, even of the experts. We had obstruse arguments about the use of atomic tactical weapons in Germany in 1957. I listened to the 1285 admirable speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, East which was absolutely first-class. There was only one mistake in it, and that was when he repeated the debate about the situation in Berlin in 1958. The troops in Berlin are outside N.A.T.O. They have not got a tactical atomic weapon. They have not got even a support weapon. They are outside N.A.T.O.
This was one of the heresies advanced in 1958, from our Front Bench, that we could use atomic tactical weapons in support of the troops in Berlin. That was nonsense. I said so then and I have never withdrawn it, in spite of again being threatened with expulsion from the Labour Party for saying it. I am, however, still speaking from these benches.
Today, we have the same thing. There is a shortage of manpower in B.A.O.R. and to fill the gap there are discussions about the use of atomic tactical missiles. We have not got any. What atomic tactical missiles are there under British control in Germany at the present time? There is the 47th Guided Weapons Regiment. There are three Royal Artillery regiments armed with Honest Johns, and with 8 in. howitzers, all of which are American and under American control. Our independent atomic potential inside the Army of the Rhine does not in fact exist at all. I will go further. I say that there is not a kiloton weapon in Germany, not even in the Air Force, that does not belong to the Americans and that is not under American control. The high falutin' arguments that are put forward when we are discussing whether we should use atomic weapons in Germany are entirely academic in character.
The truth is that three or four years ago at the N.A.T.O. meeting there was a discussion on MC 70. It was decided that all N.A.T.O. countries should undertake training in atomic weapons, and we played our part, as did Germany and other members of N.A.T.O. Now a trickle of American weapons has in fact come forward, but they give us no atomic potential of our own in Germany. As long ago as 1958, ideas were discussed based upon weapons like Davy Crockett—a fractional kiloton weapon—but these weapons existed only in the imagination of those who, for purely political reasons, introduced them to balance their political arguments.
1286 Once again, the truth is related to the shortage of money. Our manpower policy has made us welsh on our N.A.T.O. commitment which was originally four divisions. The four divisions then became 77,000 men. The 77,000 became 64,000, the 64,000 became 55,000 and the 55,000 was cut down to 45,000. That was too much for our N.A.T.O. partners and the Government could not get away with it, so they paid lip-service to the 55,000 but they have not kept 55,000 in B.A.O.R. They say that we are organised on a seven brigade group basis, but two of those brigades for all practical purposes do not exist, and many of the units in the other five brigades are under establishment. They are organised, as is the whole of our defence effort, not on the basis of any military requirement but on how it fits in to the size of the bill.
The Foreign Secretary goes to N.A.T.O. and is forced to argue in favour of short wars because we cannot fight long ones. Indeed, if hon. Members would spend a little time in studying the plans of the major N.A.T.O. countries, they would see that the fantastic thing which strikes one is that they are all organised to fight different wars. Logistically and strategically the fact is that each country—all democracies—is approaching its defence problem in terms of what is financially and politically acceptable in the country of origin. One thing which we cannot do is to organise and build up farces in that way. If we do we shall ultimately meet with disaster.
I have been trying to say this for the last fifteen years. If we go on refusing to accept the lessons of the last war and refusing to face up to the fact that we are no longer a great Power in any real sense, then we shall ultimately face the humiliating disaster of which Suez was an example. I do not think that we can be an atomic Power. It is completely and utterly beyond our capacity. I do believe that we can make a real, honest and worth-while contribution to N.A.T.O. from a military point of view. I believe that we can discharge our Commonwealth obligations.
What I am sure about is that if we in the House of Commons and in Britain do not discharge our Commonwealth obligations, no one will do it for us. It is absolutely certain that, in the state of opinion existing in France, Germany and the United States, they will not 1287 underwrite us if we get into difficulties anywhere east of Gibraltar. It will have to be done by us, and no one should imagine that by slashing our commitments we shall escape trouble. I believe that the decision has already been taken, for instance, to take three major units out of Singapore. I do not believe that ignoring our obligations in Singapore lessens the likelihood of trouble. I believe that it steps it up. The word goes round. We have only to give a good rattle at the old tin can and out we go. In this game, once people know that we are going, the next minute we are half-way out.
Hon. Members both on this side of the House and on that must wake up before it is too late and see what the consequences are likely to be, not only in military terms but in economic terms, if we default on our obligations to both N.A.T.O. and the Commonwealth.
§ 8.1 p.m.
§ Mr. Anthony Kershaw (Stroud)
The hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) has made an interesting speech which the House has followed with great interest. I should like clarification from him on one or two points. First, speaking about the atomic capability of our V-bomber force, the hon. Gentleman said that judgment in these atomic matters was very difficult to come to because one had to be a great expert and even then one could not be sure of being right. If that is so, how can the hon. Member be so sure that our atomic force is worth nothing?
§ Mr. Kershaw
That is very much a matter of opinion which it is difficult to check on account of the security barrier surrounding operations.
When referring to cash, the hon. Member said that the Government cannot afford to engage too many troops because they could not pay and, in any case, the cost is rising. I hesitate to say this to the hon. Member, but I do not think that he can have done his homework thoroughly. Perhaps he got too bored with the White Paper before he reached page 9. 1288 On page 9, there are little diagrams to show that, in relation to constant prices, expenditure on defence has been falling steadily since 1954.
It is shown, too, that, expressed as a percentage of the gross national product, the amount spent this year is very slightly less than the amount in 1949, less than in 1950, and substantially less than in 1951. Also, it is less than it has been in other years ever since 1952. It appears, therefore, that defence expenditure, as a percentage of the gross national product, has fallen.
The hon. Member will see also that, as a percentage of total central Government expenditure, expenditure this year is lower than it has been in any year since 1953, and it is lower than it was in 1951 when the Labour Government left office.
§ Mr. Wigg
I quite agree that the tendency of the demand of defence upon the gross national product has been first to level out and then to fall, for the Government have other commitments to meet besides defence. Nor must we forget that we have a high cost, low investment economy.
If we read earlier White Papers, we see that one of the arguments for financial saving was the demand made by defence on the metal-using industries. The tendency now has been towards a shift back in the demand on these industries. But, of course, much of this is a matter of opinion. If the hon. Member is not satisfied, he should look at the manpower figures, and he will see that the decline overall is a very real one. If he does not accept my explanation, he must find one more acceptable to himself.
§ Mr. Kershaw
I do not think that this is so much a matter of opinion as a matter of fact. We can see the percentage being spent, and I think that the hon. Member should have rounded off his remarks about cash by dealing with the percentage figures in the White Paper.
Lastly, I have a question about selective service, in which the hon. Member and several of my hon. Friends believe. I wonder how many people it would take to train the numbers of people called up. Would it be as high as 40,000 men needed in our training establishment? To what extent should we be 1289 able to gain full efficiency from selective service? There is also the matter of morale, which I have no doubt the hon. Member has in mind, among the Regular forces if selective service is introduced.
§ Mr. Wigg
This is really a matter of opinion. Morale is a most ephemeral matter. It can change from hour to hour, almost from minute to minute. As regards training, I should not imagine that the number required would be as high as 40,000. We should not want that number of training establishments. We have training establishments for the Regulars, and the others could go in with them.
§ Mr. Kershaw
Perhaps the Minister can resolve the difficulty. It is important. I should like to know exactly what could be gained from selective service and what the requirements would be.
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes
When my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) spoke about selective service, I put to him a question which he simply cannot answer. We are told that we need soldiers for a highly mechanised war involving extremely complicated atomic weapons. How shall we get those by ballot?
§ Mr. Kershaw
My word—I find myself, on a military matter, in agreement with the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes)! I should like to put that on record. I agree that it is a difficult problem and I do not myself consider that selective service is the answer. In my view, there are two answers, either voluntary service or total conscription. That is the choice before the country.
In my speech, I wish to discuss the position of N.A.T.O. It is a paradox that, although N.A.T.O. has been, I would say, 100 per cent. successful in its effects since it was established, everyone seems to combine in saying that it is in urgent need of reform. Apparently, we do not question nearly so much our policy in C.E.N.T.O. or in S.E.A.T.O. or our policy of world-wide bases, but N.A.T.O., the one organisation where our policy has been so successful, we all agree must have something done about it. Before suggesting what should be done, if anything, I wish to pay my tribute to the effect it has had and record the fact that since its estab- 1290 lishment communism has not advanced by a single metre in Europe.
Of course, the nuclear balance which we have now attained brings its problems. How should we, in this new situation, organise our nuclear weapons which, if we use them, will, of course, destroy Europe? In the first place, I think that it would be helpful if we stopped talking about the nuclear weapon as the deterrent. In my view, we ought to speak of all the forces we possess as the deterrent. Every man in uniform is part of the deterrent. The nuclear weapon alone is not what a potential enemy has to bear in mind when calculating the chances of success. My thinking, and the thinking of the Soviet Union, too, I imagine, goes along these lines. In a conventional war Russia wins. In a purely nuclear war Russia wins, because she bluffs us out of it and she knows that we will not use the nuclear weapon.
§ Mr. Kershaw
In a mixed conventional and nuclear war, with the various forces available, Russia must hesitate.
I question whether it is possible for us to fight a purely conventional war in Europe. It is possible for us to conduct frontier operations, very small stuff so to speak, perhaps little larger than a brigade, but anything that needs to be coped with by something larger than the brigade is surely an outbreak of such seriousness that we should have to employ, or think of employing, all the weapons at our command.
N.A.T.O. is perfectly capable of fighting something slightly more than a frontier episode at the moment, but I very much doubt that it is possible to imagine a serious attack being held by conventional forces. My reasons are basically three. First, what do our troops in Europe need a nuclear force for? They need it not to be used on the battlefield immediately round them, but for interdiction in order to prevent the enemy falling upon them from a distance.
Secondly, I believe that we cannot conduct a war in Western Europe without nuclear weapons because we must envisage the possibility of their being used and, therefore, we must deploy ourselves in such a way that we shall not be annihilated if they are used. That 1291 means that we cannot ourselves forgo their use, because we cannot fill the very large gaps between our forces which it is necessary to do if we are deployed for nuclear war.
The possibility is urged by some that the weapons would not be used for the reasons that gas was not used in the last war, but I cannot think that any great nation would accept defeat or even forgo victory without using the most powerful weapon at its command. That is one reason why I believe that those who believe in the destruction of existing stocks of bombs are wrong. I do not think that it would mean very much. In the last resort the "know-how" would exist and in the face of defeat the bombs would be resurrected and used.
The nuclear weapon is technically essential to our troops in Europe and it is necessary for it to be integrated with the large forces we have there. It is, therefore, difficult to imagine how we can avoid having that type of force with nuclear weapons integrated in it. There is a great deal of talk about the strategic and the tactical. It is not very helpful to make this distinction between the two. Our targets are interdiction targets. We should not be trying to destroy the battlefield. We should not be trying to destroy Western Europe, but trying to hit airfields and supply and communication centres which lie far away. Therefore, we must have the nuclear weapon in Western Europe.
The next question that arises is whether we must have our own. I add, in passing, that I see absolutely no advantage whatever in throwing away the nuclear weapon which we already have. I do not see how that will carry the matter forward. But must we continue to support a nuclear weapon which costs 10 per cent.—which is a substantial proportion—of our defence expenditure, a cost which we must envisage will rise because we imagine that these weapons will become increasingly expensive?
We thus come to the question of interdependence. We have recently been discussing the possibility that N.A.T.O. in some way should share the control and presumably, therefore, the production and the cost of a nuclear weapon. But I wonder whether this is really much 1292 of an answer. Would it increase our forces? The answer is "No", because nuclear forces are already adequate for the purpose and are supplied only by the United States and ourselves. Would it increase our preparedness? I doubt it very much. Indeed, it might have the opposite effect.
Would it stop the spread of nuclear weapons? That might be a great gain. I very much doubt whether France would stop the course which she has mapped out for herself. It is possible that Germany would be in a different posture and frame of mind and might go for her own nuclear weapon if she were denied, in the long run, weapons of N.A.T.O. character, but I do not believe that that will be so. N.A.T.O. has its possibilities at the moment. I do not agree that we would stop the spread of nuclear weapons by giving N.A.T.O. greater control of existing ones. Would it make our allies feel any safer? On the contrary, they would have reason to feel less safe, because they would envisage the possibility of the United States withdrawing across the Atlantic and being prepared to leave Europe in certain circumstances.
I do not think that N.A.T.O. control of nuclear weapons carries us much further. Not that the problem of political control is fundamental. The much more difficult question that faces us is the problem of cost and the problem of mutual confidence between allies. It must be quite incontrovertible that the pooling of resources is the way in which both these problems can be met. Cost would be more widely shared and a feeling of mutual confidence engendered which would be indeed valuable.
All our allies can produce high-class modern weapons, but we cannot all have training facilities in our own countries; but it would obviously be a waste of money to do all this individually. The chief difficulty is that the United States armament industry can afford to supply this hardware at a much lower price to our allies than that at which we can produce them or our allies themselves produce them.
There is a possibility of the political contribution being more forceful within N.A.T.O. That might be valuable. The N.A.T.O. Council has hardly any personality of its own. It is just a place where ambassadors take their instructions 1293 from individual Governments. More might be made of N.A.T.O. in that respect and the next Secretary-General might be able to organise the Council in a way gnat would give greater political cohesion to the alliance.
I conclude that at the moment there is nothing to be done which we are not doing in our military policy. Our control methods for the nuclear weapon are satisfactory. I believe that in the long run questions of cost and of mutual confidence demand that a great deal of interdependence should be achieved, and it may be that we should have to sacrifice a great deal in that cause ourselves.
There is a further question which we all ought to ask. In envisaging this interdependence, we must also have in mind what type of weapon we shall have in future, of the nuclear and expensive sort. It must be a second-strike weapon of the Polaris type carried in a submarine, or some sort of poor man's Polaris carried in a different kind of ship.
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes
The hon. Member's "poor man's Polaris" is a curious phrase. Does he argue that this country can go in for Polaris submarines at £50 million a time?
§ Mr. Kershaw
No, I was hinting by that phrase that we cannot go in for them, but I cannot see any technical reason why we should not utilise merchant ships or some moveable vehicles on land for this purpose. I am just asking the question. I do not think that the House can make up its mind firmly until it knows what this second-strike weapon will cost. Is it possible for us to go it alone? I do not think we have been told. The information is not available. I do not expect the House to be told today or tomorrow whether we could or could not afford these weapons. There are considerations which inhibit a Government spokesman from saying that, but can we go alone on this matter or is it altogether out of consideration? In order to have this weapon is it necessary to cancel our present strategic air forces?
If we can have this second-strike Polaris-type weapon deployed all over the world, perhaps solely at sea, there is another thought which springs to 1294 mind. When one reflects on our history one recalls that at one time we were the blue-water school of strategy. If we return to the Atlantic Ocean and there we have our ultimate weapon, it is worth considering whether we shall also he in a position to have large numbers of troops dedicated to a continental war. We have never been in that position before without ruining the country in the long run.
If we have this weapon secure against any possible surprise to be launched against us, are we, at the same time, to maintain the large expensive Army on the Continent? I am a wholehearted and 100 per cent. backer of N.A.T.O., but these divisions of tasks and cost and responsibility can be made. I believe that these things are for consideration and that we ought to start to think whether that possibility can come in the future.
§ 8.20 p.m.
§ Mr. John Rankin (Glasgow, Govan)
The Minister of Defence told us today that his purpose in the White Paper was to break the sequence of peace as an interval between wars. I am certain that all of us in the House are animated by exactly the same motive. But there is a difference in method, and it is when we come to the method that I part company with him, because there is nothing in the White Paper to show that the right hon. Gentleman has a single original thought to contribute towards the end for which he expresses a desire.
The right hon. Gentleman has already found out, as I am sure millions before him have done, that one cannot obtain peace by preparing for war; and yet that is exactly what the right hon. Gentleman is doing at the moment. All through history that fact has been proved. The attempt has failed a thousand times. If failure comes this time, it will be different from all others because it will mean obliteration. We are faced with that terrible fact because man's capacity to construct new weapons has completely outrut his ability to control them, and in achieving the nuclear weapon he has not merely achieved a more powerful type of weapon but has got one which is completely novel in human history.
In the wars of old, which I am sure were in the right hon. Gentleman's mind, man fought against man. Now man, with 1295 his new weapon, will fight not only against those who are alive but against those who have still to be born. He will fight against the very seeds of life itself. It is because of these things that so many people today are opposing this method of waging war and trying to get this country to realise that it is a method which mankind simply cannot tolerate. As is evident now, that view is gaining support more and more rapidly.
I realise that one of the things that animates the right hon. Gentleman in his White Paper is what he himself says, that the existence of immense military power in the Soviet bloc must be of deep concern to the West. But I am sure he will agree that as Euclid used to tell us, the converse is also true and that the existence of immense military power in the West must be of deep concern to the Soviet bloc. If I may take as an example the existence of that power and the attempt to expand it, I should like to quote what was said by President Kennedy of the United States in his recent speech when he dealt with the state of the Union. He said:I have directed prompt action to increase our airlift capacity. Obtaining additional air transport mobility—and obtaining it now—will better assure the ability of our conventional forces to respond, with discrimination and speed, to any problem at any spot on the globe at any moment's notice.There is a comprehensive desire embodied in a comprehensive plan covering the entire world. In the same message the President of the United States went on to say:Only when our arms are sufficient beyond doubt can we be certain beyond doubt that they will never be employed.Once the President of the United States enunciates that as his objective, one is bound to realise that there will be a response from Khrushchev in the same terms. So the arms race is on; and never yet in the history of the world, to which the right hon. Gentleman very briefly referred, has the arms race ended in anything else but war. Now we are faced with the fact in considering this problem from that point of view that if we are engaged in an arms race of the magnitude which has been expressed by both of the chief contestants, then it is a race in which this nation of ours can play no effective part.
1296 When we are faced with problems of that nature we turn to the militarist to see how he expresses his plan to meet such a state of affairs. The Minister quoted paragraph 8 of the White Paper, in which he said:The primary purpose of our defence policy is, therefore, that it should protect us, our allies and our friends against the whole spectrum of possible aggression and military threats …That is the important part of paragraph 8. It is a tremendously widespread aim. But, having read paragraph 8 and progressed to paragraph 31, one reaches the conclusion that, whoever wrote paragraph 8, someone else wrote paragraph 31.
Paragraph 31 seems to express a more cautionary objective—how to keep our place, to preserve a proper balance in our effort, and how to avoid the risk of deploying our limited resources of manpower and money over too wide a field.That has been a subject of much study.
There appears to be an astounding contradiction between the two paragraphs. In paragraph 8, the Minister is to roam the world in warlike mood—or at least in defensive mood—in order to protect us. In paragraph 31, he has come to a different conclusion and feels that he must deploy our limited resources much more carefully than he was prepared to do in paragraph 8.
In paragraph 17, which he also quoted, the right hon. Gentleman said:We expect that our main contribution to the Western deterrent over the next decade will be provided by weapons carried in aircraft …The right hon. Gentleman talks here of a ten-year look-ahead, and yet he is helping to bring to Clydeside, at some date which has not yet been intimated, the so-called Polaris, which was conceived, designed, developed and built within four years. Despite that, he is still thinking in terms of ten years—and at the end of that ten-year period he will still be tied to the V-bomber, in its new Mark II version.
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes
Is not my hon. Friend doing the Minister an injustice? My hon. Friend says that the Minister brought Polaris here, but is it not a fact that Polaris was forced upon him?
§ Mr. Rankin
But from the intervention I made today, and which the Minister nicely slipped round, I think that there is some truth in what my hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) says, because it is well known that the negotiations preceding the agreement to bring Proteus and her Polaris submarines to Holy Loch took nearly ten months. That was a long time. It seems that there must have been a feeling that Proteus along with Polaris, might have found a safer place than Holy Loch.
I gather, though I do not know what truth there is in it, that there are some people who would accept it on Tayside. I would not like it there. I can see no advantage in that. It is well known that in Norway there are magnificent fiords where a vessel such as Proteus might find safe harbourage and be much nearer to its objective than in Holy Loch.
I wondered when the right hon. Gentleman was talking about cooperation within N.A.T.O., if any suggestion had been made either from Norway or to Norway by the right hon. Gentleman that perhaps her contribution to co-operation in N.A.T.O. might be expressed in a desire to offer facilities for Proteus and Polaris. There is a widespread feeling that Norway was invited to be the host, but declined, and that Polaris was ultimately forced upon this country.
I return to my second illustration of what seems to be the incompetence of those who are directing our defence. I quoted the apparent slowness in developing the weapons which are intended for our defence and I mentioned Polaris. Now I give Seaslug, which is being developed as a defence against manned aircraft attack on the Royal Navy over the next ten years. Who is to say that at the end of ten years there will be any chance of manned attack on the Royal Navy? Yet at the moment we are preparing a defence against it. There are many other matters in the White Paper which I would have liked to deal with, but I presume that in the Estimates there will be ample scope for examining them in more detail.
1298 I turn with interest to the last page of the White Paper, page 19, on which we are given an outline of Britain's alliances within the free world. I take, first, the Central Treaty Organisation, which consists of the United Kingdom, Iran, Pakistan and Turkey. Looking at that fragile group, how much can Turkey be expected to contribute, and how much can we depend on her? Which side of Pakistan is meant, West or East Pakistan? East Pakistan is seeking not separation, because that may be a word now being used too early, but we know that already friction between East and West Pakistan is taking shape. In West Pakistan, there is a type of society completely different from that in East Pakistan. In West Pakistan, there is the old feudal, patriarchal set-up while there is the business set-up of East Pakistan, and between the two there is strain. That is part of our alliance in the Middle East and it is obviously very unstable.
In the South-East Asia Treaty Organisation we again have Pakistan and there is also Thailand, neither of which can be regarded as a very reliable instrument of support. Each organisation is backed by this country and chiefly by the United States of America.
I turn to the N.A.T.O. Alliance. The Minister said that a large part of our defence effort was assigned to N.A.T.O. When one sees that Portugal is part of Britain's alliances within the free world, the wonder is how we managed to keep Spain out. Obviously, each of those alliances depends for its coherence and strength not on this country, but on the United States of America. America has bases in most of them and in N.A.T.O. has the supreme command. In all she holds the keys to the obliterative weapon. She has an economic and military power greater than the combined power of her 14 allies in N.A.T.O. She therefore obviously dominates the alliance, not only militarily, but economically, and it follows that all N.A.T.O. policy is bound to reflect the policy of the United States.
The result is that the N.A.T.O. to which we now belong is not the N.A.T.O. that we joined. We joined N.A.T.O. as a defensive organisation, recognised as such under the United Nations. Immediately we incorporated Western Germany into N.A.T.O. it became an offensive weapon. It penetrated nearer Russia. 1299 It was a probe towards Russia, and it completely changed its function from a defensive to an offensive weapon. In doing so, it conflicted with the purpose of the United Nations.
The Charter of the United Nations lays down that the nations which join the United Nations will sign the Charter which says that they pledge themselves not to go to war over differences in policy, but that they will try to resolve those differences by peaceful methods, and, if they fail to resolve them by peaceful methods, they will go on trying to do so, but they shall not resort to war as a method of solving their difficulties.
Russia has a seat on the Security Council, and so have we. Yet, while we sit in the Security Council on terms of friendship with America, Russia and France, in N.A.T.O. we treat Russia as a potential enemy. The right hon. Gentleman's speech pointed towards Russia as a potential enemy, and the White Paper emphasises that fact. That is its basis.
On Saturday of this week Proteus arrives here as an indicator of that policy.
§ Mr. A. C. Manuel (Central Ayrshire)
My hon. Friend is discussing an interesting subject with kindred problems arising from it. He referred to the interdependence of N.A.T.O. countries. I am sure that my non. Friend realises the possibility of conflict over the Island of Formosa, where America and China could enter into armed warfare. China being tied by treaty to Russia, Russia would also be brought in. We have a Polaris base here does my hon. Friend think that that would bring us into the conflict, even though we had never consented to the base being here, or does he agree with the Minister of Defence that interdependence would bring us into a war over Formosa whether we liked it or not?
§ Mr. Rankin
I agree completely with my hon. Friend about the dangers of our situation and the fact that we are now becoming so deeply involved with America that her quarrel might possibly become our quarrel.
In view of my hon. Friend's intervention I want to recall to the House an occasion when the Secretary of State in President Eisenhower's Administration 1300 was before the Senate. In America, they have a very interesting custom. Before a Minister is appointed to high office he must go before the Senate and state how he proposes to behave and what his policy and plans are.
§ Mr. Rankin
We believe in fair shares here. It would be an admirable idea if, when the Government appointed a new Minister, he had to come before a meeting of the Opposition to tell them exactly what his policy intentions were, so that we could examine them more completely than is possible in a debate of this nature.
§ Mr. Hughes
Is my right hon. Friend in favour of the system adopted in the United States in this connection? When the United States Minister of Defence, Mr. Macnamara, was appointed he had to go before a committee which compelled him to give up his shares in the Ford Motor Company.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Major Sir William Anstruther-Gray)
We had better get back to the debate.
§ Mr. Rankin
Perhaps I was overgenerous in giving way, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. I shall now remain on my feet until I finish, which will not be long.
In reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Central Ayrshire (Mr. Manuel), I would say that there is a danger of America's quarrels becoming our quarrels. I was going to point out what happened in the Senate when Mr. Herter, the former Secretary of State, appeared before it. He was questioned about his policy with regard to nuclear war, and he said:I cannot conceive of any President involving us in all-out nuclear war unless the facts showed clearly we are in danger of all-out devastation ourselves, or that actual moves have been made towards devastating ourselves.That shows clearly—and this has been emphasised by other Americans—that although we are committed to America she is not necessarily committed to us. If she were, under N.A.T.O. she would be committed to 14 separate nations, which would be an absolutely impossible situation. In the light of that possibility the whole N.A.T.O. policy of the right hon. Gentleman stands condemned.
1301 I know it has been said that there are 350,000 American soldiers and their dependants in Europe, and that America would not leave them abandoned, but we must remember that under President Eisenhower the order was sent out calling back more and more of those dependants over a certain number of years. If we weigh the safety of the 350,000 soldiers—who have joined knowing they have taken a risk—against the safety of nearly 130 million people, we can see that it is obvious that America would take no action to endanger her own population. I therefore submit that we cannot depend upon the presence of American forces on this side of the Atlantic as a reliable insurance against non-intervention.
The Defence White Paper will not produce the peace which the Minister seeks. He may find it, when his defence ideas become an instrument of foreign policy and do not dominate it and when he starts to strengthen the United Nations, not weaken it as he is doing now by his White Paper. In circus terms, he is trying to ride two horses at the same time—a horse called "Uno" and a horse called "Nato", and they are running in opposite directions. Like Humpty Dumpty, the right hon. Gentleman will take a great fall and the danger is that he may bring millions of innocent people down with him.
§ 8.52 p.m.
§ Mr. Paul Williams (Sunderland, South)
When I read through this White Paper my first reaction was not only that it was an extremely flimsy document, but that, if perchance it should find its way into Russian hands—and through the Russian Embassy it is quite possible that it would—they would begin to think that we could not possibly be serious about defence. When one looks at the illustrations on the latter pages one cannot take this White Paper too seriously.
There are two passages in the Report on Defence which I find of great interest. The first is paragraph 31, where there is a reference to the five-year review, or five-year forward look, which seems to me to be a fundamental step in the right direction towards financial control of expenditure in our defence programme. The two graphs on the bottom of page 9 I also find interesting. Having made my criticism of the pretty pictures, I must 1302 say that I found two of them to be particularly interesting because I could understand them.
I have two profound worries which arise out of the White Paper. The first is that the two graphs at the bottom of page 9 show conclusively that defence expenditure is a declining percentage of our gross national product. In the second one it is shown that defence expenditure as a proportion of the total central Government current expenditure is also declining. I cannot believe that in an age when we find ourselves to be short of manpower we can complain too strongly at this declining expenditure, because it seems to me that the nation is getting its priorities wrong. In other fields, I pursue as vigorously as I can the control of Government expenditure. However, defence is one area in which economy must be carefully looked at, not just with a view to economy but to great economy. I begin to wonder, when looking at these two graphs, whether we are not going a little too far in our curtailment of expenditure on conventional forces.
This brings me to my second point, the size and the intended size of conventional forces. On 7th November, 1960, the Minister for Defence was reported as having said:While the Army might prefer 170,000 to 180,000, the total of 165,000 will be sufficient to meet our world commitments, and we shall have to manage".I know that these words have been bandied backwards and forwards many times since then, but it is a tragedy that we should have to take a view of defence in which "we shall have to manage". This is far too much the attitude of decline and being forced into a situation where we cannot defend our national and our Commonwealth interest. On this score I regret that phrase, although at the time it might have been—
§ Mr. Williams
Perhaps, then, we shall have a statement during the debate giving in greater detail what is meant by these various figures of 165,000 or 180,000. What is meant by the other figure of 200,000 to which reference has been made?
§ Mr. Watkinson
It is clearly set out in the White Paper and, I trust, it was 1303 clearly set out in the answer which was given to the intervention made earlier. The figure of 165,000 is our immediate target because that is the minimum figure we must have at the end of National Service, but the figure that the Army needs and which, I think, will fulfil its proper requirement, is, as the White Paper says, just over 180,000—let us say, if hon. Members like, 182,000 or thereabouts.
§ Mr. Williams
The House must remain profoundly in doubt about these two figures, 165,000 and 180,000. If we take the lower figure it will demand considerable reductions in the development of the Army, particularly overseas, and considerable reductions in commitments overseas. One obviously thinks of the possibility, if we are forced into reductions in our commitments in the Far East, for example, of reductions in Malaya, and possibly reductions in North Africa as well.
I cannot believe that either of these potential reductions, if one is forced to the figure of 165,000, can provide for the maintenance of peace and security, not just in the world in general, but in the Commonwealth of Nations. That is why when we hear this figure of 165,000 the House should be profoundly disturbed. Even if my right hon. Friend can secure the 180,000 which he regards—
§ Mr. Williams
That is a very interesting interjection and it again becomes a three-party argument. Perhaps the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) will pursue that at a suitable moment in the debate, or in a later one.
If we take the figure of 180,000 we are still in the region of stretching our Army to the ultimate limit, even on that higher level. Even with the increased mobility through successive appointments which the Minister has tried to get for the Services, whether through Transport Command or added support by the civil operators, the work of the Army is bound 1304 to be at full stretch and its ability to cope with commitments will be suspect. One has only to go back to the 200,000 and even higher figures which have been mentioned.
Because I have promised to curtail my remarks, those are the two simple points I want to make. The first is the declining proportion of the gross national product for defence expenditure and the second the figure, whether it is 165,000 or 180,000, which leaves me profoundly disturbed about our ability to meet the conventional needs of a conventional Commonwealth. I ask my right hon. Friend: how much is this decline of manpower also a decline of willpower—willpower to maintain the defence of the Commonwealth in a changing, shifting world where something needs to be known? The hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) mentioned the danger of withdrawing forces from the Far East snowballing into chaos throughout that area.
The one thing which we should be able to bank on in foreign policy and defence policy is adequate ground forces. I do not believe that the House has been completely assured in the debate that those ground forces are there yet. Therefore, having this fear and concern, I ask the Government not altogether to dismiss the possibilities, which have been mentioned already in the debate, of selective call-up. It may well be that if we continue to have a shortage of recruits to which the hon. Member for Dudley referred we shall need to think again about the possibility of a selective call-up. Perchance that would cause some inconvenience to the Regular Services, but it is an inconvenience which must be met, for, after all, the Armed Services are not raised and trained for their convenience. They are raised, as they know and appreciate full well, for the defence of this land. So, if it be necessary that there should be a selective call-up, let it be so.
§ 9.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Frederick Mulley (Sheffield, Park)
It is one of the agreeable customs of the House that those who have the privilege of winding up a debate also have the privilege of congratulating hon. Members on their maiden speeches. I should like to add my congratulations to those already accorded to the hon. Member for Mid-Bedfordshire (Mr. Hastings). 1305 He spoke with a very real knowledge of his subject, and I am sure that the House will look forward to hearing him again in our debates.
It is a truism that a good foreign policy is the best defence policy. I thought that my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) did the House a great service in setting our defence problems in the foreign policy context. I should like to endorse what he said about disarmament. We are all agreed that the opening of the White Paper, on disarmament, is the most satisfactory part of it, and I accept the sincerity of the Minister when he says that he and the Government will exert all their efforts in this direction.
I ask the Minister not to be too pessimistic about the possibility of some success. As was said by my hon. Friend, this year is perhaps more encouraging than many in the last decade. I have a feeling that disarmament is rather like learning to walk—the first steps are by far the most difficult. With increasing confidence that success with the first steps gives, we shall probably be able to walk much faster. It is a good thing that the Ministry of Defence is of this mind, because it is sometimes said that those who want disarmament most do not know how to get it and those who do know how to get it—the experts—do not want it. I hope that at no time will our defence experts stand in the way of a possible disarmament agreement. We should also make quite clear that until we do get general controlled disarmament, by stages or otherwise, we must have effective defence, and this debate is on that question.
Although they have spent £14,000 million since 1951, have the Government provided this country with effective defence? It is on that basis that I turn to what is left of the White Paper, after the devastating attack already made on it by the unlikely but very effective coalition of my hon. Friends the Members for Leeds, East and for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) and the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Hall Green (Mr. Aubrey Jones). I was not aware that my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley had ever been in any danger of being expelled from the Labour Party. I can assure my hon. Friend, for what my assurance is worth, that no one who 1306 expresses his views honestly on the Floor of the House is ever in danger of expulsion from the Labour Party.
One can commend the idea behind the White Paper this year, namely, to concentrate on the broad field of defence and to leave a good many of the details about "hardware" and so on to the individual Service Estimates. One could also say that the speech of the right hon. Gentleman in introducing the debate matched the document. It would be quite easy to maintain that both were quite extraordinary.
We all know that the White Paper did not receive a very good Press. I was particularly taken with the comments of the Daily Mail on 15th February under the heading "Cagey". It said:The reader of the White Paper on defence who looks to it for some enlightenment on defence will look in vain. He will find a wealth of platitudes and some useless diagrams. This so-called Report on Defence is so cagey that it was a waste of money to publish it.That was perhaps a little hard, because the Daily Mail reproduced some of the diagrams on the following page. I will give the Minister that point.
My own impression on reading the White Paper was that it was someone's notes on the subject of defence, complete with the doodles, and that neither had been effectively worked out. The Minister must take the responsibility for the document, because on the front it says:Presented to Parliament by the Minister of Defence".I ask him to ensure that on future occasions the ideas in the White Paper are a little more clearly worked out. I do not want to be hard on the Minister or to call upon him to resign or anything of that sort.
§ Mr. Mulley
First, because we recall his predecessor, and wonder who might be called upon to succeed him. Secondly, we have the experience now that by putting skids under a Minister one seats him more firmly in the chair in the Administration opposite. We have the example of the Foreign Secretary, now the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and the more recent example of the Patronage Secretary.
§ Mr. E. Fernyhough (Jarrow)
Is my hon. Friend suggesting that the present Minister of Defence is an improvement on the last one?
§ Mr. Mulley
I have never been terribly good at splitting hairs, but as I develop my remarks I think I shall carry my hon. Friend with me that in one very important aspect indeed the present Minister is better than the last. I think that he has a more realistic appraisal of the consequences of using nuclear weapons.
As well as receiving a bad Press the Minister has been in trouble with both the Bow Group and the Young Conservative Conference. It is true, as he said in an intervention in the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, East, that he persuaded them that we should have an independent deterrent, but he did not persuade them to put back in their Motion the words that were, I understand, rejected, namely, an endorsement of the Government's defence policy.
A week ago the political correspondent of the Observer said that the White Paper and the Government's defence policy had been discussed by Conservative back benchers in terms which would have outraged the chastity of his column had he dared to reprint them.
We are, therefore, discussing a White Paper which has not commanded very great enthusiasm. It has not fulfilled the main function of the Defence White Paper, namely, to give us sufficient information properly to judge the effectiveness or otherwise of the Government's defence policy.
By saying, as the Minister did so often in his speech, that he was being frank and factual when he was referring to the White Paper, he did less than justice to his powers of evasion. Only a few days ago a political scientist put to me the serious proposition that, unless the Labour Party continued to have public arguments on the real issues of the day, there would be no forum at all for forming public opinion in this country. The Government owe a responsibility to the House and to the people to provide the information on which their policies can be judged. This year at any rate I assure the right hon. Gentleman and the Government that they will not escape 1308 from their obligation to defend their policy by making cheap cracks about differences on the part of the Opposition It is our intention to do our full duty in turning the searchlight of public opinion on to the Government's policy.
The extraordinary thing about our defence information and the wealth of detail in the Estimates is that we have all sorts of miscellaneous information. We know, for example, the cost of animal feedingstuffs in the Royal Air Force. We know the hard-lying allowance for the Navy. It is true that this year, by some change of policy, we are not given in the Army Estimates the extra cost of Gurkha hair-cuts.
We are given a wealth of detailed information, but we are not given that basic information about manpower, overseas bases and strategic mobility on which one must depend if one is to form a judgment on policy. Hon. Members are obliged to do their own research in order to come to these debates adequately prepared.
There is, of course, the problem of security, but one cannot resist the feeling that all too often there is a temptation to term information "classified" in order to cover up the absence of an agreed and clear policy. I would not favour the idea of a defence committee or any other mechanism that would enable members of the Opposition or other hon. Members being given secret information, but is the Minister really satisfied that all the information that is allegedly "classified" really justifies being put in that category? We are all familiar with the view of the official in the Foreign Office who, when asked about the New York Times, said, "It is a very interesting newspaper, but it is full of classified information." The House is entitled to much more information than it gets.
Another very important thing to get clear is whether or not the Government's policy has changed over the last years. The Minister was most anxious to suggest that there was no change between his policy and that presented to the House by his predecessor from 1957 onwards. This is a vital matter. Does he really think that paragraph 12 of the 1958 White Paper still stands? Is he really suggesting that it is consistent with what he has tried to indicate in this year's White Paper and in his speech today?
1309 To refresh the memory of the House, I will quote from paragraph 12 of the 1958 White Paper. It reads:The democratic Western nations will never start a war against Russia. But it must be well understood that, if Russia were to launch a major attack on them, even with conventional forces only, they would have to hit back with strategic nuclear weapons.
§ Mr. Mulley
Yes, I will read on:In fact, the strategy of N.A.T.O. is based on the frank recognition that a full-scale Soviet attack could not be repelled without resort to a massive nuclear bombardment of the sources of power in Russia.Does the Minister still stand by that statement? If he does, I can tell him that it is completely rejected as part of the N.A.T.O. strategy, and I reject it completely tonight. I do not see how that can possibly be held to be consistent with the White Paper we are now considering. The Minister could well have pondered his own words that we should not twist defence facts. He should come quite clean on how we stand in regard to N.A.T.O. strategy on this point.
§ Viscount Lambton (Berwick-upon-Tweed)
The hon. Gentleman has raised such an important point that perhaps the Minister might like to reply to it now.
§ Mr. Watkinson
My reply, as the hon. Gentleman is no doubt aware, is that with the permission of the House I propose to wind up the debate tomorrow night.
§ Mr. Mulley
I am glad to be able to give the Minister time in which to consult and think, because this is a very important question. I am very grateful to the noble Lord the Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Viscount Lambton) because there is one point on which one can say that policies have not changed. I am grateful to him also for an article which he wrote in the Evening Standard on 17th November, 1959, in which he said:Far called, our Navies melt away.So, prophetically, wrote Kipling in 1897. If you insert the words "Armies" and "Air Forces" after Navies you get our effective military strength in 1959. I think that paragraph could, and perhaps will, be written again by the noble Lord this year, because it is just as apt a 1310 description of the present state of our defences as it was in 1959. If that is what the Minister means by the policy not having changed, I must agree that he has a great deal of force behind his contention.
Before coming to the main issue of defence I should like to make one or two brief points about the details of the White Paper. I should like the Minister to tell us what is going to happen about the Thor missile. Is it the Government's intention to pursue the policy of the Thor missile, which is at best a first-strike weapon, and, I would have said, a dangerous weapon to have? Will he tell us—the White Paper is very reticent about the Thor missile—what are the Government's proposals?
As I mentioned, we get little guidance about strategic mobility in the document. Already the point has been touched on by my right hon. Friend the Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Bellenger), my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley and others, and it seems surprising that the only large freighters, the Belfast freighters, are not to be with us until 1964. I should have thought that transport by air ought to have a higher priority than it has in our plans. I recognise that there is to be a further allocation for this purpose in the present Estimates, but I should like the Minister to read the reasons which prompted President Kennedy, as one of his first acts, to increase the air transport facilities of the American forces.
We have heard very little about overseas bases and what our commitments really are. In the old days, it was thought that the purpose of an overseas base was to increase mobility and to permit people to get somewhere faster than they otherwise could do. I wonder whether, in the era of air transport, the Government are justified simply out of tradition, and whether or not today one may say that the tying down of troops in a large number of bases does not impede our mobility rather than assist it.
I should like to mention two other points arising from the White Paper. I refer to paragraphs 26 and 31. In paragraph 26 the Minister talks about the:… harmonisation of Service requirements…1311 and says that:In particular, special attention will be paid to this requirement in the planning of successors to the current generation of aircraft.I wonder if he really had this in mind in the controversy going on about the NA 39, the Buccaneer, which will become operational in the next twelve months, and the TSR 2 for the Air Force, a similar type of plane, which will not be available until 1964. Could we have a reply on that point?
Finally, I would say something about paragraph 31. The idea set out in that paragraph is extraordinarily interesting and helpful, but I would ask why is this study done… in the early summer of each year".Is it a coincidence that by then all our defence debates are concluded and there is usually no prospect of a further defence debate for a very long time? If, as I say, the Minister is trying to get a commitment forward for five years, is there any reason why this information should not be given to the House?
§ Mr. Watkinson
I shall study that. The summer is normally the gestation time when we are working towards the Budget for the following year. I take the point, which the hon. Gentleman has made, and, if I can, I shall give the House information about forward costings. I shall gladly look into it.
§ Mr. Mulley
I think that it would be of immense interest if we were to see the trends of expenditure of this policy projected forward for five years. The real point at issue—and to do justice to the Minister I think that he rather anticipated a debate of this kind—is the question of what kind of defence policy we ought to pursue in broad terms. A good deal has been said already in the debate about interdependence, but I did not get that impression from reading the documents. I got the impression that the Government still have a world-wide outlook which is appropriate to a large, world Power, which we certainly today are not. In reality, at least we cannot match up to the resources of either the Soviet Union or the United States. I appreciate that the evaluation of this hard fact may be difficult for some hon. Members opposite.
1312 It seems to me extraordinary that all the documents, with the exception of the Memorandum to the Air Estimates, contain a map of the world. In passing, I would congratulate the Secretary of State for Air on his originality in not having one in his Memorandum. One gets, to use the technical jargon, the impression that the Government want to have a full spectrum of options. They still want us to be able to do just what we like in the world. They have not yet understood that we cannot. By trying to provide a little of this and a little of that to meet any possible world contingency, they are quite unable to meet any serious crisis outside the N.A.T.O. area. The Times asked, what would be the difficulties we should have to face if things went wrong in Northern Rhodesia and military intervention was required there?
Equally, the Government are failing to play their proper part in the N.A.T.O. alliance. I do not want the right hon. Gentleman to take it only from me. There is a quotation which I would put to him from the Economist of 17th December, which, I think, sums up our position in the N.A.T.O. alliance:At present this country cannot avoid the charge that, on N.A.T.O. terms, it is a bad ally. Britain still clings to its own independent deterrent; it is also resolved to get back to its Mons army. Neither policy is calculated to help S.H.A.P.E. at all, and if the British delegation returns from the ministerial talks in Paris without an impression of its declining influence in N.A.T.O. affairs, it will be either inordinately lucky or surprisingly insensitive.No one who has talked with people in other European countries during recent months will doubt that our standing and influence both on the Continent of Europe and within N.A.T.O. is very low today compared with what it was some years ago.
§ Mr. Biggs-Davison
Does the hon. Member think that our French allies are opposed to the conception of an independent national deterrent?
§ Mr. Mulley
I go so far as to say that all the trouble we have had with France arises because we insist on pursuing this objective and, quite naturally, the French say that, if we must have one, they must have one, too. That point was made very clearly, I think, by my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, East in dealing very effectively earlier today 1313 with the problem of the spread of nuclear weapons. How can we put to other countries the argument that they should not have nuclear capability if we insist ourselves on pursuing into the future the objective of an independent nuclear deterrent? While the kernel of the argument is the future of the independent deterrent, there are raised the wider questions of our place in the world to which I have referred already.
There is no need for me to go again over ground covered by my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, East, but I wish to refer to the great help on this point we had from the right hon. Member for Hall Green. I am quite satisfied that there are no political, military or economic reasons for our desire to remain an independent nuclear Power in the next decade. My hon. Friend asked the Minister to tell us which members of the N.A.T.O. alliance have expressed the view that our contribution to the deterrent is of any value at all. We have, of course, co-ordination arrangements with the United States Air Force but, so far as I know, neither the United States nor any of the other N.A.T.O. allies would worry at all if we said that we intended no longer to try to remain an independent nuclear Power.
It is on these basic assumptions that we differ from the Government. In our view, the prime tasks of N.A.T.O. are these. First, we should build up a sufficient conventional strength to enable us to deal with conventional attacks by wholly conventional means, so that we can enforce a pause if, as my hon. Friend said, a local war should start by miscalculation or mistake. Secondly, we should seek to restrict the spread of nuclear weapons. Thirdly, we should try to achieve through N.A.T.O. a satisfactory political control of military strategy.
It is often said that the object of political control conflicts with the speed necessary for military decision. There is on question but that strategic nuclear weapons, particularly, must remain firmly within political control. I imagine that to be the case both in the United States and in this country. The argument in the case of strategic weapons is not whether there should be political control 1314 or military control. It is an argument whether there should be joint political control within the alliance or whether as at present the control should be exclusively in national hands.
The difficult decision is probably not how to arrange for an immediate retaliation in the event of a surprise full-out attack by an aggressor on us or on part of N.A.T.O. territory. The difficult question is, if there should be a conventional war, at what point and how one should raise the stakes from conventional to nuclear weapons, and if this difficult decision is to be taken, the question of there being means of taking a decision in 10, 15 or 25 minutes does not arise. There is time to have political consultations so that all members of the alliance have an opportunity of participating in the really vital decisions of the alliance.
As we have developed since 1954 the use of tactical atomic weapons with our troops, without I think realising what we have been doing, there is an equal need to bring the control or at least the initial use of any such weapons firmly into political hands. I understand that SACEUR is subject to some general directions in this matter, but I ask what thought the Government have given to it and whether or not they would put forward the idea developed by my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, East today that there is a case for bringing these weapons out of the front line and organising them, as the Russian tactical atomic weapons are organised, under a chain of command quite separate from that of infantry units.
In all these matters there is clearly a conflict between two points of view. There is a conflict between those who approach defence from the point of view of how best we can avoid war, and those who approach it from the position of the Services which are bound to look at it very much more from the angle of how they would fight a war if one started. Sometimes I think that we are not fair to those who are in charge of military operations if we do not make clear the point where political decision must over-vide military expediency.
If an airman, for example, is directed to bomb a target, he will use nuclear weapons if he is not told not to do so. If he did not bomb a target with a 1315 nuclear weapon he might need a hundred bombs to destroy the target by conventional means. Responsibility for seeing that there is no escalation from a conventional incident to a nuclear war rests firmly with the political arm of the alliance and, as I see it, at present there are no arrangements to ensure this.
I would be against the idea of N.A.T.O. being a fourth nuclear Power, because I think that that is a wasteful use of our resources. The alliance as such is not short of nuclear bombs. Taking the alliance as a whole, the main military problem is the means of delivery. But, over and above the military problem, for the well-being of the alliance, the main point is that there should be a joint political control so that no member should feel itself to be a second-class member of the alliance. As I think that we ourselves will now sooner or later be a non-nuclear Power, surely we should understand more fully the importance of this point and put it forward in N.A.T.O. deliberations.
§ 9.35 p.m.
§ Mr. John Hall (Wycombe)
I should like to begin by joining the hon. Member for Sheffield, Park, (Mr. Mulley) in congratulating my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Bedfordshire (Mr. Hastings) upon his maiden speech. I can remember only too well making my own maiden speech—more years ago than I care to think about—and I only wish that I had made it with the assurance and obvious knowledge of the subject that was displayed by my hon. Friend. The two points that he raised, one about the need not to lose the experience we have accumulated in different types of warfare in Korea, Malaya, Cyprus, and so on, and the one about paragraphs 23 and 24 of the White Paper on the need for interdependence, were extremely good ones.
This has been an extraordinarily quiet debate.
§ Mr. Hall
Listening to it, I was reminded of Sherlock Holmes's observation that the strange thing about the dog was that it did not bark. I do not know why the debate has been so quiet. I suppose that we shall have the "fireworks" tomorrow, when the other Labour Party 1316 policy on defence is put before the House. However, today we have had a constructive debate in which hon. Members on both sides have tried to approach this very difficult problem of defence very seriously and to make contributions which will be of some value. I found myself from time to time agreeing with the things which were said by the hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) and other hon. Members opposite.
§ Mr. J. J. Mendelson (Penistone)
If it will be any satisfaction to the hon. Member, perhaps I might predict that he will find that hon. Members on the Opposition benches will be highly satisfied with the presentation of our case which was given to the House this afternoon by my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey).
§ Mr. Hall
I am sure that the hon. Member for Leeds, East will be highly satisfied with that unsolicited testimonial, though I doubt very much that he expected it.
Listening to the debate, I thought there was something in what The Times had to say in its second leader today when it suggested that not much difference would emerge in the debate as between the policy advanced by the official Labour Party and the policy advanced by Her Majesty's Government. By and large, with one or two notable exceptions, that was not so far wrong, and I want to deal with one or two of the notable exceptions.
The hon. Member for Sheffield, Park referred to the fact that there was one major point with which we were all in agreement, and that was paragraph 1 of the White Paper, which refers to disarmament. All of us agree with that; but the trouble about disarmament is that one cannot disarm with any lasting results unless one also solves the major political problems. If one does not solve those problems, disarmament will not last. Human nature being what it is, and in view of the great capacity to disagree that we have, we should find some way again of arming and of fighting each other. Therefore, disarmament must come side by side with the solving of the major outstanding political problems.
§ Mr. Stan Awbery (Bristol, Central)
Surely there can be only one remedy, 1317 and that is agreement. There is nothing in the White Paper about agreement. We have N.A.T.O. mentioned twelve times, but the United Nations, the organisation designed to bring about agreement, is not mentioned at all.
§ Mr. Hall
The Defence White Paper has to restrict its scope; otherwise, it would be a large volume which would be impossible to read.
I listened with great interest to the speech by the hon. Member for Leeds, East, and I found it a very thoughtful and extremely good contribution which was, if I may say so without any attempt at condescension on my part, noteworthy for two omissions. First, he managed to avoid any reference to the possibility of National Service—unless I misheard him—and, secondly, he made only a slight, passing reference to the possible future threat offered to us by China. His only reference to that was that this might be used as an excuse by the Services to maintain their forces in that part of the world in order to offset falling commitments elsewhere.
I can understand the hon. Member's avoidance of dealing with the possible threat from China too much, because part of his case, as I understood it, for stressing that we should strengthen the conventional forces of N.A.T.O.—the Rhine Army in Germany—was that we should be able to withdraw our troops from overseas commitments which were no longer needed. Although he did not say so, the implication was that, by cutting out unnecessary overseas commitments, we would be able to strengthen the British forces in N.A.T.O. without the unpleasant necessity of having to resort to National Service.
§ Mr. Healey
I should like to clear this matter up once and for all. I thought that I had made it clear that I did not think it would be necessary for N.A.T.O. to increase the manpower at present allocated in Europe in order to implement its strategy. I recommended, however, that it would be necessary greatly to improve the equipment, both in mobility and in other directions. The reason why I referred to overseas commitments was that I share the views of a large number of Members on both sides of the House that the commitments the Government already have are unlikely to be fulfilled 1318 by the target they have set for the Regular forces.
§ Mr. Hall
That is another point, and I will come to it later. As I understood it the hon. Gentleman based his attack on the White Paper primarily on two main points. One was that he was against an independent British nuclear deterrent, and the other was that we should do our best to ensure that N.A.T.O. was made less reliant on the use of atomic weapons, and that it would be necessary, therefore, to increase, in some form or other, our conventional strength, either by manpower or by fire power.
I understood him to say that our allies do not really welcome our present independent contribution to the nuclear deterrent. I find that hard to believe. It is my information that the United States welcomes the presence of our V-bomber force very much as a most valuable contribution at present. If one wanted one or two reasons why, at this time in history, it may be necessary to have our own independent contribution, one could do no better than quote the words of the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition. It is only a year ago, in a defence debate in this House, that he said:The real case for having our own independent nuclear weapons is fear of excessive dependence upon the United States."—(OFFICIAL REPORT, 1st March, 1960; Vol. 618, c. 1136.]I was very interested to notice that the hon. Member for Glasgow, Govan (Mr. Rankin) gave support to that point of view. He said, quoting Mr. Herter, that it would be very unlikely that the United States would want to commit itself to go to the aid of any N.A.T.O. country in Europe that might be threatened, or, indeed, attacked, by nuclear weapons, because of the reprisals she would attract on to herself. Surely that supports what the Leader of the Opposition said twelve months ago?
I find it hard to understand what has happened which has caused the official Labour Opposition to depart from the point of view expressed then. I can conceive that there may well be circumstances arising in the future when it would be nonsense for us to continue having an independent deterrent, but I do not think that we have reached that stage at this moment. But I think it would be wrong for us alone to go ahead 1319 with the development of a new missile as a vehicle for delivery, because I believe that it is beyond our financial resources and that we start a little too far behind. Nevertheless, at this point of time there is no doubt that our independent contribution to N.A.T.O. is very valuable and one without which the N.A.T.O. forces could not well manage.
The second point of the hon. Member for Leeds, East was one with which I have some sympathy—that we should do our best to make N.A.T.O. forces less reliant on the use of atomic weapons, by which I took it that he meant tactical weapons in the field. I think that it is generally agreed that we would be very unlikely to use strategic weapons unless we were first attacked, so that they would be second and not first-strike weapons. What we are now discussing is the use of tactical atomic weapons in the field.
At this stage, I should express my own personal point of view—I do not say that it is official—about the use of nuclear weapons generally. I agree with the hon. Member that we must have conventional forces strong enough for us not to be forced into the use of nuclear weapons in the initial stages, but, nevertheless, that we have to have those weapons to protect ourselves from attack and that we should make it quite clear, without peradventure, that if we are in danger of being defeated by conventional arms, then we will use them. There are certain problems about adopting that point of view.
§ Mr. Fernyhough
Would not the hon. Gentleman agree that if we were ever to use them the whole basis of this defence policy would collapse? This is a policy of deterrence, and if strategic nuclear weapons are ever used the deterrent has failed and the world is no more.
§ Mr. Hall
The hon. Member has not done me the justice of listening with his usual close attention to what I was saying. I am discussing the use of tactical weapons in the field, dealing with limited battles or wars which are small and more contained than would be a world war, with the background of strategic weapons and the all-devastating powerful nuclear weapons which might be used against respective countries and which would be in themselves a major 1320 deterrent. The tactical weapons that am talking about are those used to deny ground and to make up, as we are using them at the moment, for the fact that there are not enough troops to cover the area for which the Rhine Army is responsible.
The problems which arise from taking this point of view are that at present the Rhine Army is deployed on the assumption that it will employ tactical atomic weapons if attacked. It is organised on the basis of brigade groups which can disperse very quickly. The whole of the tactical plan is based entirely on the concept of dispersal in the face of and using tactical atomic weapons. The problem of maintaining that deployment and yet denying ourselves the use of those weapons is that we are at a serious disadvantage if we face a conventional attack. It is the wrong kind of deployment for that kind of battle.
Therefore, we would have to redeploy our forces and deliberately decide so to deploy them as to meet a potential conventional attack, accepting two risks—first, the risk that the forces which we are likely to be able to deploy over the next few years will be quite inadequate without tactical atomic weapons to hold any serious threat made against them, and, secondly, the possible threat that we might find the enemy would start by using tactical atomic weapons when we were deployed to meet a conventional attack.
In both cases we would start at a serious disadvantage. That is not to say that we should not try to solve the problem, but we should be quite clear what the problem is.
§ Mr. Healey
There is one small point to put to the hon. Member and Which a Government spokesman may care to take up. Although, in -some respects, our front line deployment in Europe is for a limited nuclear war, the whole of our logistical organisation assumes that the war will be conventional, so that we are getting the worst of both worlds and cannot fight one or the other war.
§ Mr. Hall
Our logistical organisation is based on a civilian third line supply and maintenance, and on that kind of organisation we will be able to fight either type of war provided that we do not have to move forward to any extent. 1321 It is purely a defensive battle for which we are prepared.
I would not entirely support the present deployment or, indeed, training programme of the Rhine Army. It suffers from many defeats, largely the defect of the absence of sufficient troops, which make even its existing units under-strength. It makes it very difficult for it to train.
If we are to deploy conventionally in N.A.T.O., we require more men on the ground as weld as increased fire power. I do not think that we can get round this problem by pretending that we can reinforce by cutting overseas commitments, or that greater mobility and greater fire power will make up in numbers and strength of conventional deployment for the absence of the use of atomic weapons.
If we need more troops, from where will we get them? On the face of it it does not look as though we are likely to get all the forces we require from a volunteer Army. There are many advantages in having an all-Regular Army. Those advantages have been deployed on many occasions from both sides of the House in debates on the Army Estimates. One of the problems which we would face if we reintroduced National Service would be that in addition to the troops which we would need for operational use we would need an additional 12,000 to 13,000 officers and men for training and administration, so it adds considerably to the numbers we need.
We shall probably get the 165,000 men round about the time which my right hon. Friend mentioned, give or take a month or so. It is even possible that a little later we might get the 180,000 at present rates of recruiting. My only worry is whether 180,000 is the correct number. I have an unpleasant feeling that the original figure of 200,000-plus quoted on many occasions is probably much nearer the figure we really require.
The hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) pointed out that in his view—and he quoted it as "Wigg's Law"—only a certain number of men, and I suppose women, too, at any one time wanted to join Her Majesty's Forces. I am not sure whether he had in mind an exact number, or was thinking of a percentage of the population. If he was thinking of a percentage of the population, then one 1322 would expect the number joining the Army to go up as the population increased.
§ Mr. Hall
All who have served in the Army have views about whether they like it.
I have always advocated that we should strengthen our conventional forces. This is nothing new to me. Over many years, on the few occasions when I have had the good fortune to catch the eye of the Chair in debates of this kind, I have tried to stress that we should strengthen our conventional forces, because if we did not do so we were risking a nuclear war under conditions where a nuclear war should not be necessary. The logic of that, if one takes it to a logical conclusion, is that one has to be prepared to accept some form of National Service if we cannot raise a volunteer Army.
Does the hon. Member for Leeds, East accept the logic of that? If we cannot get enough fire power and enough additional troops by cutting commitments somewhere else, and we still require additional manpower to put our forces on a conventional basis and thus lessen their reliability on atomic weapons, will he be prepared to accept some form of conscription?
§ Mr. Healey
I accept the logic of that statement, but I am not prepared to accept the assumption on which the logical edifice is based. As is well known, Governments always refuse to answer hypothetical questions, so I cannot see why Oppositions should be asked to do so.
§ Mr. Hall
I can well understand the hon. Member's reluctance to answer the question. His hon. Friend the Member for Dudley was a little more forthright. He said that he would even leave the Labour Party if this came to a vote, because he believes strongly that we ought to reintroduce some form of conscription, selective or not, to make up the forces that we require.
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes
Will the hon. Member make up for the deficiencies of my hon. Friend the Member far Dudley 1323 (Mr. Wigg) and tell us what he means by selective National Service? Does he mean, as my hon. Friend suggests, a ballot, and does he think that he will get the number of men required for a mechanised Army by a process of balloting?
§ Mr. Hall
The hon. Member has "jumped the gun." I did not mention selective conscription, except to quote the hon. Member for Dudley. I know that many problems are likely to accrue with selective conscription. Many have been suffered by the United States for some time. It is a very difficult form of conscription to apply. I am fully aware of the difficulties. Nevertheless, nearly all, if not all, our allies in Europe have conscription, and our potential opponents—Russia and China—have periods of conscription from two to five years and for three years respectively.
In those circumstances, it is a little difficult to justify our refusal to have it, and to rely upon an all-volunteer Army in spite of finding, in the end, that it does not yield us sufficiently large forces to meet our requirements. Therefore, if we find that we cannot raise a sufficiently large volunteer force, I would not hesitate to support Her Majesty's Government if they decided to reintroduce some form of National Service.
As a nation we abhor war, and the conscience of some part of the nation is constantly voiced by the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes). The fact that we abhor war is shown by our always being unprepared when it comes along. If we are to get men and women to serve in our Armed Forces, and especially to accept the idea of the reintroduction of National Service, we must make them understand why they are being asked to do it. They must be made to realise that there is a real and definite danger facing us.
The trouble with us, as a nation, and with the Western world as a whole, is that we have lived with this threat for so long that we have got used to it. The original horror of nuclear warfare no longer means anything. The devastating photographs which are sometimes shown, the occasional shocking headline appearing in the newspapers, the efforts of the 1324 marchers to Aldermaston and the squatters on the Minister of Defence's doorstep have little affect except upon a small number of people.
It is difficult to get home to our people the fact that there is a danger and that to all intents and purposes we are at war at this moment. Throughout the world we have constant conferences, international squabbles and local wars, and these things have numbed our senses. We no longer react. We will have considerable problems facing us in getting the number of volunteers we require if we decide on the reintroduction of National Service.
One point which has not been mentioned so far in the debate is that we have never decided what we are trying to defend. Is it the freedom of the Western world, or the democratic way of life. If it is one of those, what does the conception mean to the ordinary man in the street?
§ Mr. Hall
In general, the desire of a nation is to survive and to preserve its independence, and safeguard its way and standard of life. But this, by itself, is a passive attitude, and it is a great disadvantage if it is opposed to the positive attitude of expansionist nations, with new and virile ideologies which give tremendous bite and vigour to all their efforts. That is a problem we have not yet succeeded in solving. Not only have we not got across to ourselves exactly what it is we are trying to do, but—
§ It being Ten o'clock the debate stood adjourned.
§ Debate to be resumed Tomorrow.