Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a number of officers, airmen and airwomen, not exceeding 164.000, all ranks, be maintained for Air Force Service, during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1962.
§ 4.6 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for Air (Mr. Julian Amery)
In eight out of the nine last financial years the Air Estimates have been moved by my right hon. Friend Lord Ward. I should like, at the outset, to pay my tribute to him. No Minister has known the Royal Air Force better; indeed, he belonged to it. Before the war he had been a pilot, and in the war he carried out with distinction both flying duties and staff duties in the Royal Air Force. Later, for the best part of a decade, he was, first, Under-Secretary of State and then Secretary of State for Air.
It would be entirely presumptuous for me to discuss his personal qualities. Many years hence the obituary writers can do that. should like to place on record what he did for the Royal Air Force. When Lord Ward came to the Air Ministry, Bomber Command was equipped with Washingtons, Lincolns and Mosquitoes. When he left it was equipped with Valiants, Vulcans and Victors and had attained its present power and strength. Over the same decade, Fighter Command evolved from being equipped with Vampires and Meteors to being equipped with Hunters, Javelins and Lightnings. The whole position of Transport Command and the transport forces was transformed. A decade ago, our transport forces rested on Hastings and Valettas. By the time Lord Ward left the Air Ministry, Beverleys, Britannias and Comets had been introduced and we had built up a sizeable force of Pioneers and helicopters. The weapons story is much the same.
485 In 1951, the Royal Air Force bases were defended by anti-aircraft guns and our main weapons were 20 m. m. cannon and high explosive bombs. By 1961, ground-to-air missiles and air-to-air missiles had been introduced and Bomber Command had built up a substantial stock of nuclear weapons in both the kiloton and megaton range. Over the same period, the large National Service Air Force of the post-war period was streamlined into the almost all-Regular Air Force of today. Lord Ward presided over the transformation of what was essentially the Second World War Air Force, at the time of Korea, to the modern Air Force of the present time. This was no mean achievement, and I am sure that both sides of the Committee would like to join in giving him our salute.
My own connections with the Royal Air Force have been much more slender. I was for a very short time in 1940 a sergeant in the Royal Air Force, which only goes to show that whatever the facts may be about field marshals' batons and private soldiers' knapsacks, if one rummages hard enough in the kit-bag of an N.C.O. one can still find the seals of a Secretary of State.
§ Mr. Amery
It is said, and the hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) has often told us the story, that when Lord Haldane went to the War Office in 1905 he took each arm of the Service in turn and asked: What is it for? What does it do? What is its justification? With, I hope, proper humility, I have tried to follow that illustrious precedent.
Many right hon. and hon. Members in the Committee know much more than I do about the Royal Air Force. It would not be possible, in the compass of a speech of reasonable length this afternoon, to cover all the many significant problems that arise in connection with it, most of which, I hope, are treated in this Memorandum, but many of which must have escaped even that. I thought, however, that it might be of some interest, at any rate to the less-informed members of the Committee, if I said something to them this afternoon about how I have approached the main problems of the Service as I see them, what 486 questions I have asked, and what conclusions I have so far drawn.
The first question one is bound to ask is: what is the Air Force for? What are the dangers against which it has to defend us? I think that there is a fairly general consensus of opinion that there are two main dangers which confront us at present. One is the danger of an all-out attack, whether nuclear or conventional. The other is the danger of violent action against our interests ranging from insurrection to limited war. Let me deal, first, with the problem of major attack. You do not have to go to the Air Ministry to discover that the Soviet Union has the capability of mounting such an attack today. Unless we can find the means of guarding against such an attack we shall be faced with the continual threat of destruction; that is to say, at every stage we can be subjected to the blackmail that unless we follow a particular course we might be annihilated.
How can we guard against that threat? Is a purely defensive strategy possible? Lord Baldwin, in a famous aphorism, said:The bomber will always get through.That aroused a great deal of controversy at the time. I am not sure that Lord Baldwin was right, but I think it true that some of the bombers will always get through. As we enter into the missile age, so the problem of defence will become more difficult. There will be less warning and far less capability of interception. It may be that at different times the offensive or the defensive will have the advantage. Technical development may lean one way or the other, but I am satisfied that there is no absolute defence; and, when we are thinking in terms of an area as small as these islands and of nuclear attack, no purely defensive strategy would be much good unless it gave full protection.
How, then, are we to maintain our security? Look on it as you will, I think that, in the end, you are driven back to the conclusion that the only way that this can be done, looked at both nationally and in the context of our alliances, is by a policy of deterrence. So long as we have the means of delivering swift, certain and devastating retaliation upon an opponent, and so long as he knows that we have the means, we will be safe.
487 Is it within our power, skill and economic resources to provide a deterrent of this kind? I must tell the Committee frankly that when I went to the Air Ministry I had no idea what the answer to this was. The theory was clear enough to me, but, whether we had the capability I could not tell. Hon. Members will not expect me, this afternoon, to give details either of the size of the V-bomber force or the targets which it could reach, but I am satisfied—I say this after careful thought, that the V-bomber force, equipped with British nuclear weapons, constitutes an effective strategic striking force. The devastation which it could inflict on an aggressor would, as I see it, far outweigh any advantage he could conceivably hope to attain by his attack.
I asked, and a number of hon. Members in recent debates have asked, two obvious and crucial questions. Could the V-force be destroyed on the ground? Could we be sure that they would get through to their objectives?
§ Mr. Amery
Those are obvious questions which must occur to anybody who looks at this problem. They certainly occurred to me as soon as I went to Bomber Command, and I should like to deal with them this afternoon.
First, could the V-force be destroyed on the ground? At present, air forces of the world, the American, the Soviet and our own, are equipped, in the main, with manned aircraft. The threat to this island would come predominantly from manned aircraft and, so long as that is the case, we would have ample warning of an attack. There would be no great difficulty in getting the V-force airborne. Indeed, the resources of Fighter Command would also be mobilised to maul and claw down the aggressor. As we move into the missile era, this problem will become much more difficult. The warning time would be reduced, in the worst case, to a very few minutes.
Against this danger, we are developing three main counter-measures. In the first place, in conjunction with the United States, we are erecting at Fylingdales, a ballistic missile early warning system station which will give us the best and 488 most precise information about the threat of any missile attack.
Secondly, we are doing everything we can to cut down the reaction time of the bombers, that is to say, how fast they can be airborne and away from the area of missile nuclear blast from the moment they get the warning. Some hon. Members may have seen at Farnborough three types of V-bombers scrambled in about two minutes. That was no mere piece of exhibition Technique. I have seen them myself scrambled in one minute twenty seconds. This is something which is regularly practised and I am satisfied that we shall achieve even quicker reaction times. The third step is still further dispersal of the V-bombers in emergency to other bases throughout the United Kingdom.
Taking these three steps together, we believe—and I can only give it to the Committee as our very best judgment of this matter—that even when the missile threat predominates—and it does not yet—V-bombers will avoid destruction on the ground. I cannot, of course, put my hand on my heart and say that none of them will be destroyed, but, whatever the more defeatist section of the Press may have said at the week-end, all our calculations confirm that the major part of them will be away in time.
The second big question is: would the V-force get through to its target? As of now, as the Americans say, the United States Air Force, the Soviet Air Force, and the United Kingdom Air Force are all equipped with free-falling bombs. I am satisfied, from inquiries I have made, that our V-bombers are second to none in the world today among bombers of their particular range. It is, of course, true that bombers equipped with free-falling bombs, whatever their nationality, must penetrate right over the target area to achieve their objective. Some would, of course, be intercepted, but after allowing for the maximum number that we believe would be likely to be intercepted—based on the best intelligence that we have—we calculate that enough would get through. When I say enough, I mean enough for the enemy.
One hon. Member said during the recent defence debate that he could not see how subsonic V-bombers would be able to penetrate to their target against the 489 danger of interception by supersonic fighter aircraft. The whole question of the interception of bombers is extremely complicated. Fighter performance is only one factor. A great deal depends on the early warning and control system, and on the more mysterious factor of electronic counter measures. The Committee will not expect me to go into details on this. Obviously, the inventions in this field of defence are very carefully guarded.
Let me say this, however. We have in this country a highly sophisticated air defence system, covering, by world standards, a very small area, and built up on a wealth of bitter experience in the last war. We also believe that our Lightnings and Bloodhounds are the best weapons of their kind for air defence in the world. Even so, we would not claim in the Royal Air Force that we could intercept and destroy enough of an attacking force of subsonic bombers armed with H-bombs to give us safety.
It should, therefore, not be lightly assumed that the Russians would be any more successful in stopping our bombers from getting through. After all, they are working in an environment where air defence problems are immensely increased by the vast areas which have to be defended.
§ Mr. John Cronin (Loughborough)
The right hon. Gentleman appreciates that the scrambling time is an important factor in getting the nuclear bombers off our airfields to the targets. What does he mean by scrambling time? Is it the time that it takes the airmen to get from the ground beside the aircraft into their places and to get the aircraft off? Or is it the time that it takes them to get from their quarters into the aircraft?
§ Mr. Amery
The hon. Member will not expect me to go into all the procedures involved. All I am saying is that we have achieved a scrambling time, which I have seen done, of well under two minutes. The hon. Member was justified in asking his questions, but he will appreciate that it would be very far from the national interest for me to describe exactly the state of readiness of our crews. Once the word is given, the scramble can be brought off in the very narrow time limit which I have stated. I know the answers to the hon. Member's questions, and I 490 would like to give them, but it would not be in the public interest to say exactly what our state of readiness is at any particular moment.
§ Mr. Cronin
The right hon. Gentleman must appreciate that this is very unsatisfactory. He gives a scrambling time of one minute, twenty seconds as an important safety factor in our speed of reaction. It must be of some consequence for us to know what that really means. If it means the time it takes for the men standing beside the aircraft to climb in and take off, then it is meaningless, since the crews cannot stand by their aircraft the whole time. The right hon. Gentleman should elaborate a little more, without prejudice to security.
§ Mr. Michael Foot (Ebbw Vale)
Is there a security reason why the right hon. Gentleman should not answer my hon. Friend's questions? The right hon. Gentleman started by mentioning figures. Surely the point of that was to impress on everybody, including a potential enemy, how fast a scramble can be done, and, therefore, the more he reveals about this, the greater the strength of the supposed deterrent.
§ Mr. Amery
Four. Again, I must not go into details, but on the programme of dispersal that is quite a large number.
When I was interrupted, I had passed from the question of how we could take off to the problem of whether we could get through. At that time the hon. Member for Loughborough (Mr. Cronin) was obviously thinking of other problems. At present, the tendency on the other side appears to be to concentrate on close defence of potential target areas. As 491 these build up, it will become more difficult for our bombers to get over the target areas in safety.
To meet this danger, we plan to introduce the Blue Steel weapon. This is a stand-off cruise missile, with a range which would enable the bombers to launch it without themselves penetrating the close defence area of any particular target. This weapon will assure the validity of the deterrent at least until the second half of the present decade.
Of course, we must, and do accept that the power of area defence will also increase in time. It is against this that we plan to introduce the Skybolt ballistic missile, which can be launched from our V-bombers without the bombers themselves penetrating the enemy air defence at all. The subject of Skybolt engendered a little heat in the recent defence debate. Members opposite, particularly the right hon. Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown)—who, I am sorry to see, is not present—advanced two criticisms of the Government's arrangements for participating in the United States Government's Skybolt programme.
In the first place, the right hon. Member for Belper has repeatedly asserted that the weapon does not exist. Of course, it does not exist in its final form. Nor does any weapon still in the development stage. But the right hon. Gentleman implied that Skybolt not only does not exist but, in his view, never will exist. The facts are that when the idea of an air-launched ballistic missile was first investigated as far back as 1958. some mock-ups were prepared, using standard items of equipment already available. Within a few weeks, an air-launched missile had been assembled and successfully fired over a distance of more than 900 miles.
Of course, the equipments then used will bear very little relation to the ultimate design of the Skybolt, but this achievement in itself has convinced us that an air-launched ballistic missile is in every way feasible. In fact, an entirely practicable programme, using known techniques and based on well-known principles, has been evolved. As I have discovered from my experience in my short time at the Air Ministry, the weapon's development programme has 492 so far been achieved on time at every stage.
The right hon. Member for Belper also suggested that all that we have agreed with the Americans is a development programme. He and the hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) have argued that even if we obtain the weapon it will be subject to such close United States control as to make nonsense of the idea of an independent British contribution to the deterrent. The facts are that, as my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister informed the House on 26th April, the Skybolt weapon sold to us will be fully under our control.
In the recent defence debate the right hon. Member for Belper suggested that we had no agreement with the Americans covering the acquisition as distinct from the development of the weapon. The memorandum of Understanding with the United States, signed by Mr. Gates on the American side and by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence on our side, affirms that if Skybolt is successfully developed, the United States Government are prepared to sell us the Skybolt missile. As I have said, it will be supplied without the warheads. These we shall make ourselves.
§ Mr. George Wigg (Dudley)
I am following the right hon. Gentleman's fairy story with great attention. Will he tell us the position about the Lightning? He has made some bold claims for it, stating that it is the best aircraft of its type in the world. I understand that there are two or perhaps three squadrons which can fly at about 1.8 Mach, but that they have to cut their speed down and that they are developing the same kind of trouble as that of the Hunter and fly at 1.3 to 1.4 Mach. They are, therefore, a long way short of the best weapon in the world.
§ Mr. Amery
For once, I am sorry that I gave way to the hon. Member. I have been talking for the last five minutes about Skybolt. After thinking all that time, he raised a question about the Lightning, which I was discussing some minutes ago. In our procedure it is legitimate for an hon. Member to comment on what is being said in the debate, but not after he has been thinking about it for some minutes. That is an example of esprit d'escalier.
493 The distinguished defence correspondent of The Times has argued that our fighter aircraft and Bloodhound are superfluous in view of the rapid reaction time which we are developing for our bombers and has suggested that we might well scrap the Bloodhound missile. This bears on the point which the hon. Member for Dudley made about the Lightning. At present, the Lightning and Javelin squadrons, equipped with the Firestreak air-to-air guided missiles, the Hunter squadrons and the missile units equipped with Bloodhound could account for a high proportion of any enemy bomber force. They would not get the lot, but they would compel the enemy to make a very much greater effort than he would otherwise have done. That is why I think that Mr. Grant's criticism slightly ignores the time scale.
Of course, as we move into the missile era the role of Fighter Command and of our air defences will tend to change. As I stressed earlier this afternoon, early warning of attack is the key, and the greatest danger to our early warning system comes from jamming. We believe that a high degree of resistance to jamming can be developed by technical means, but there will still be the need to deter jamming aircraft and aircraft reconnoitering our bases and approaching too close to our shores. As we move into the missile era, Fighter Command will have as its main task, to watch, to identify and if necessary to intercept aircraft engaged on such pursuits. The Lightning will be the main instrument, and a later mark of this aircraft, with even higher speed and an improved air-to-air weapon, will be introduced before long.
I am satisfied that the British strategic striking force and the air defence which goes with it are effective. The question arises: are they within our means? Careful calculation shows that about 10 per cent. of the overall defence budget is devoted to the cost of the deterrent. I include capital and running costs of the V-bomber force, including the pay and allowances of the men and officers who man and maintain it, research and development, the expense of nuclear weapons, the capital equipment in terms of runways and hangars, and the running cost of Thor.
494 It would be fair to add to this total about one-third of the cost of air defence world wide. It is inevitably a fairly arbitrary process to break down the exact part of air defence which is attributable to the deterrent. Even if we had not the deterrent we should need a good deal of the control and reporting system and the fighter force. The best estimate which I can give to the Committee is that about one-third of the expenditure on world-wide air defence can be attributed to the defence of the deterrent.
This means that about £200 million, or 13 per cent. of the total defence budget, goes to pay for the deterrent and the defence of the deterrent. This is certainly quite a large sum, but it is less than 1 per cent. of the gross national product. I think that historians will be a little surprised to know that it was ever questioned.
So far, I have been talking about our own British deterrent force and its defence. It is a powerful force and, like the old fleet in being, it adds immensely to our safety and to our influence. Unlike a defence debate, this debate is not the occasion to rehearse all the arguments for or against the nuclear deterrent. I have been trying to point out how far our deterrent is effective. This advantage which we have built up is not one which we should lightly cast away. It takes ten years to build up a weapons system of this kind. None of us can hope to tell how the world will look in ten years' time. We may have all-round disarmament. We may be going on as we are. Transformations may be brought about which none of us here can even imagine at present. But, whatever the future may hold, I am convinced that the possession of an effective national strategic striking force will not only greatly strengthen our security but will also strengthen our hand both in consultations with our friends and in negotiations with our foes.
§ Mr. Frederick Mulley (Sheffield, Park)
The hon. Member spoke of a national strategic force and an independent contribution, presumably to the Western deterrent. To my mind, those two things are not synonymous. If we are contributing to a pool, then to that extent the independence is removed.
§ Mr. Amery
I take the other view—that we must have a national force before we can make a contribution. Whatever the deterrent power of the V-bombers at present, the V-force by itself could not, in the world as it is, hope to defend the cause of freedom world wide or our way of life indefinitely. We in this island could not stand for long if the other bastions of freedom fell away. Overall safety, whether in defence or economics or politics, is to be found only in common co-operation with our allies. Accordingly, we have always, from the beginning, regarded the British strategic striking force not just as a source of national strength and safety, but also as a contribution to the joint deterrent power of the West. What is more this is how it is regarded both by our allies and by a potential opponent.
Bomber Command's plans are closely co-ordinated with those of the Strategic Air Command. The link between High Wycombe and Omaha is very close, and when I say close, I mean close. As an experiment, the other day I tried to get through from a Bomber Command station to Omaha. It took me just over twenty seconds.
The links are very close. The plans are closely co-ordinated, and I think that our co-operation is pretty well exemplified by the Thor. The Thor system is manned by the Royal Air Force, and its operational control is in the joint hands of the United States and the United Kingdom. As we move into the missile era Thor will become an increasingly "soft" weapon, but at present it is a powerful contribution to the joint deterrent, and I dare say that it would be on the target before anything else.
§ Mr. R. T. Paget (Northampton)
Surely whatever else may be said about Thor, it is nothing to do with the deterrent, because it has obviously been knocked out by that which we seek to deter. If it is a contribution to anything, it is a contribution to the American concept of counter-force, but it has not, and never has had, anything to do with the deterrent because the deterrent is the second-blow capacity, and Thor has no second-blow capacity.
§ Mr. Amery
The hon. and learned Gentleman asserts these facts dog- 496 matically but, if he calculates the warning time we will have before an attack from manned aircraft, he will realise that Thor could be brought to readiness and launched. I am not criticising the hon. and learned Gentleman. These are frightfully difficult problems, and unless one has absolutely up-to-date information it is easy to go wrong. I suggest that in making our comments we should make them a little tentatively and not assert them.
§ Mr. Paget rose——
§ Mr. Amery
I am sorry, I cannot give way again.
Complementary to the strategic forces about which I have been talking are the N.A.T.O. shield forces. The Valiants and the Canberras in the United Kingdom and Germany have a nuclear capability, and it would be their role to attack communications and bases in the event of war. There are also important reconnaissance forces in Germany. They are under S.A.C.E.U.R. In the same spirit, Fighter Command has been included in a unified fighter system under the control of S.A.C.E.U.R.
In these days of supersonic performance, it is right to regard the whole of Western Europe as a single area for air defence, and we are to be one of four defence regions within that area. We shall gain great advantages from this, in the standardising of procedures and the speeding up of transmissions, but there will be no loss of sovereignty. We retain the right to decide the size, composition, rôle and deployment of Fighter Command. We also retain the right to deploy overseas in case of need those fighter forces which we think should be so deployed.
I turn now to the second danger which I suggested at the beginning of my remarks threatens this country, and against which the Royal Air Force must be prepared to guard. It is the danger of forceful action which might range all the way from insurrection as we have known it in Malaya, to limited war as we knew it in Korea.
What part can the Royal Air Force play in operations of that kind? As I see it, it has three main tasks. It must be capable of transporting the ground forces from their bases to the scene of operations. It must be capable of 497 defending the Army against air attack when it gets to the scene of operation, and it must be capable of bringing ground attack to bear in support of the Army in the course of operations.
This is a subject in which I took a good deal of interest when I was at the War Office, and I know that the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) has also taken an interest in it. I am glad to say that we have made great progress in this sphere. Let me first say a word about transport. The diagram at the end of the Memorandum illustrates the present transport force and, in boxes, the transport force as it will be by the end of the year. We have managed to treble it in the last five years, and the improvement has been not just in quantity but in quality. That is to say, there are certain tasks which we could not have attempted before but which are now within our power.
What is the capacity of this transport force? In the defence debate I gave figures of 150 million passenger miles a month, or 300 million passenger miles per month in an emergency. Many questions were asked about the movement of freight. Translating passenger miles per month into ton miles per month, it works out at about 20 million ton miles per month at normal rates, or 40 million ton miles per month in an emergency.
The hon. Member for Dudley took us to task over Operation Starlight. He said that we were able to lift only 170 tons. I did not have the answer with me, but I have since made inquiries. A good deal of the freight that was carried consisted of vehicles and helicopters, and I find that the total adds up to about 600 tons. This is not a bad figure.
§ Mr. Amery
I do not quarrel with the hon. Gentleman for taking the figures, but he and the right hon. Member for Belper took us to task for an inadequate lift. I am attempting to explain that in fact the lift was not as bad as he, perhaps legitimately, thought it was. I am trying to give him the facts, which are that we carried about 498 600 tons in Operation Starlight. That is not too bad.
The question arises: is the transport force big enough? I think the answer is, "Not yet". But it is well on the way to being big enough. The Committee will understand that for security reasons I cannot give details of exactly how long it will take us to move a particular size of force to a particular point on the map, but the build-up of the transport force is closely geared to plans prepared by the Chiefs of Staff to meet a number of eventualities.
As regards heavy freight, the build-up takes account of the parallel build-up of stockpiles of equipment at strategic points overseas, such as Cyprus, Aden and Singapore. We expect to have to carry considerable numbers of troops from the United Kingdom to the main overseas bases, but we also expect to pick up much of their heavy equipment when we get to those bases.
The task of the transport force can be broken down into three stages, as indeed we have tried to break it down on thy chart. First, the strategic stage. This is the task of getting the strategic reserves from the United Kingdom or Kenya to overseas bases, for example, Aden or Singapore. For this we need a fleet capable of carrying at least a brigade. The backbone of this fleet is the Britannia. We have twenty-three in service, plus a number of Comets, and later they will be strengthened by the introduction into service of the Belfast.
The biggest problem facing the strategic transport force is that of the air barrier, that is to say, the refusal of certain countries in the Middle East and Africa to let us overfly their territories. This means that when the transport force goes to reinforce the Army in the Indian Ocean it may have to undertake considerable detours north or south. We can cope with this problem with the number and range of aircraft we have at present, but the existence of the problem underlines the importance of maintaining long-range aircraft and of ensuring the security of our bases.
The second stage is the tactical stage, that is to say, getting the troops and the equipment from the main base, such as Aden or Singapore, to the base from which operations are being conducted. This is the stage, when most of the heavy 499 equipment will have to be carried—the heavy equipment which has been pre-stockpiled in the main overseas bases. For this purpose we shall use the Hastings, the Beverley and, this year, the first of the 56 Argosies will come into service.
The third stage could be called the battle stage. This is the transport of troops and equipment into the actual field of operations, where there may be no airfields. We have to think in terms of trying to supply our troops while they are actually fighting, or putting down the troops close to the objectives which they want to seize. Until recently this has been a sphere of action in which we were rather behind the French and other countries, but slowly our short take-off and vertical take-off forces are growing. This year the Belvedere should come in in larger numbers, and the jet-engined Whirlwind 10 helicopters, and soon these will be joined by the Wessex, which will be a more powerful aircraft, capable of carrying a heavier load, with a better performance under tropical conditions.
The problem of supplying troops in forward areas has always interested me. Men and equipment can be parachuted from the Hastings, the Beverley and the Argosy. These aircraft can be used at relatively long ranges, and carry considerable loads. Against this—and I speak from experience—it is not always easy for a pilot to drop his men at exactly the right spot, particularly when flying at night. Besides, parachuting is a one-way operation. We cannot parachute upwards. Helicopters can carry men and material to their objectives with greater precision. Flying low, they can often escape observation and they can bring a return load back. On the other hand, they are very expensive vehicles. Their range is relatively short, and they carry much smaller individual loads. Between the long-range parachute drop aircraft and the helicopter comes the short take-off aircraft, like the Twin Pioneer, which can operate from small, virtually unprepared airstrips.
The choice of method will depend on circumstances, but in each case the success of the operation will depend on the existence of a close understanding between the air and ground forces. They must have worked out their tactical doctrines together, learned to know each 500 other's problems and trained together extensively. It was with this object in mind that in January of last year No. 38 Group was reformed within Transport Command. No. 38 Group has Army officers on its staff, and works in intimate association with the units of the Strategic Reserve in the United Kingdom.
I now want to say a word on the question of the defence of the Army against air attack.
§ Mr. John Rankin (Glasgow, Govan)
Before the right hon. Gentleman leaves the question of Transport Command, will he say a word about the Valetta? He has mentioned almost every other aircraft, but he has jumped over the Valetta.
§ Mr. Amery
Its accident rate in the Air Force has been extremely low.
I now come to the problem of the defence of the Army against air attack. It is no use carrying troops thousands of miles to a scene of operations if they are attacked from the air when they get there. There is a growing danger that they will be. The Soviet Union has supplied a number of Asian and African powers with modern weapons, and as it goes over to missiles we must expect an increasing number of its superfluous aircraft to be sold off or given away. The main task of air defence overseas falls upon the resources of the local overseas command. We also practise regular fighter reinforcement to the Mediterranean. Reinforcement beyond the Mediterranean presents a considerable problem, because of the distance involved, but last year we undertook the 501 reinforcement of Singapore with Javelins using inflight refuelling for most of the way. The results of this experiment have satisfied us that this is the solution of the problem, and in future all our fighters will have this capability.
In the air defence of the Army overseas attack will often be the best form of defence. This brings me to the third task of the Air Force in a limited war, namely, close reconnaissance and ground attack. Where short-range operations are concerned, it is the Hunter reconnaissance and ground attack aircraft that we shall use. For longer range operations our instrument will be the Canberra and, in due course, the TSR2.
I want to say a word about the TSR2. The hon. Member for Dudley said, yesterday:Hon. Members can search these islands from Lands End to John o'Groats and they will not find a single piece of metal or anything else that anyone can tell them is part of a TSR2."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 7th March, 1961; Vol. 636, c. 327.]I read his words only this morning because I was not present in the debate yesterday. I have made a few inquiries, and I have discovered that, no further afield than in my constituency of Preston he can find a main tailplane spigot under development, and if he goes a little further afield from Preston, to Accrington, also in Lancashire—which is always ahead of the rest of the country—he will find wing planks being made. I hope that on that point he will feel reassured.
The TSR2 will have a large radius of action. It will be able to fly a variety of sorties, involving flights at very high supersonic speeds at high altitude and, at low altitudes, at high subsonic speed with a supersonic dash. This is necessary to penetrate the enemy defences which are likely to be encountered during the life of the aircraft. It will carry a full range of reconnaissance equipment and be able to carry either nuclear or conventional weapons. It can also be used on short runways of low bearing strength. Finally, it will have a long ferry range.
The TSR 2 is the only aircraft which is expected to be able to meet all these stringent requirements — and this includes the American aircraft which the 502 hon. Member for Dudley mentioned in his speech yesterday. Besides, in its manner of meeting these requirements the TSR 2 will offer certain particular advantages. It is expected to have exceptional handling qualities at low level, which is crucial for avoiding crew fatigue and maintaining operational effectiveness. Its navigational equipment will enable it to follow the contours of the ground while flying low down at very high speed, in all conditions of weather, by day and night. It is designed as a tactical strike aircraft, but from what I have said the Committee will understand that it could well be used in a strategic rôle.
I have spoken at some length about co-operation between the Air Force and the Army. I now want to say a word about the maritime air forces, whose duty it is to co-operate with the Navy. Their main task is to detect, to fix and to destroy enemy submarines. The Soviet Union has a large and growing fleet of modern submarines. In certain circumstances, these could threaten our supply lines and might also provide a platform for a seaborne missile of the Polaris type. The maritime air forces of Coastal Command are composed in the main of Shackletons. These aircraft have very long endurance. They can stay aloft for nearly twenty-four hours without refuelling. They are large enough to carry all the equipment needed for detecting and destroying submarines, and they also have the virtue, which is pretty rare in these days, of being able to fly slowly. This is very necessary in the task of submarine detection.
I must admit that submarine detection has become much more difficult with the development of modern submarines, which are swifter and more silent and have a longer endurance. A great deal of work is being done by the Navy and the Royal Air Force together in the search for some new device to bring about a break-through in submarine detection. In the meantime, the Shackle-ton is fitted with the best anti-submarine equipment obtainable and the squadrons of Coastal Command have given a good account of themselves in submarine hunting exercises both with the Royal Navy and with our N.A.T.O. allies.
Neither the best strategy nor the best equipment will be much good unless we have the right men. Are we going to get 503 them? As a matter of fact, the overall prospect for the Royal Air Force is good. Our all-Regular target figure is 135,000 adult males and the Regular element today is not far short of 130,000. The pattern of engagements is encouraging. Two out of every three airmen are serving on engagements of nine years or over. Still we have difficulties in certain trades and branches of the Service.
My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State will discuss this aspect of our difficulties, and, more particularly, the problem created by the shortage of officers in the technical branch. I want to refer only to what is our most serious manpower problem, the one dark shadow on our manpower horizon. We are not getting enough officers for the general duties branch and this means that we are not getting enough pilots or navigators. It is only a question of a few hundred men, but unless we get them the sharp end of the Service will become blunted.
The intake into Cranwell, I am glad to say, is satisfactory. We look to Cranwell to provide a larger proportion of the senior officers for the future. But the greater part of our aircrew will still have to be drawn from officers joining under the direct entry scheme. This offers a permanent commission of sixteen years, or to the age of 38, whichever is the later. After that time some officers will have the opportunity to continue in the Service up to the age of 55. The others will leave the Service with retired pay and gratuity at an age when they can still expect to start a successful career in civil life.
There is no lack of applicants for the direct entry scheme. A lot come forward. The problem is to get enough men of the high standards we require—standards of character, of education and of medical fitness. I think that we are right to insist on a very high standard. The training of a modern pilot is one of the most exacting and expensive educations in the world. It takes about two years to train a pilot to wings standard and that costs about £60,000. Thereafter, the pilot has to have conversion training on to an operational aircraft and learn his job as a pilot in a squadron. To train the captain of a V-bomber costs around £100,000, all of 504 which puts the cost of Eton and Oxford, or even Borstal, rather in the shade.
It is not surprising that the cost should be so high. A bomber pilot is responsible in a very personal sense for an aircraft worth more than £1 million. We should remember that he and a few hundred of his colleagues provide our main defence against destruction. The extra numbers we need are not very large. A few hundred would be enough to close the gap. Why are we not getting them? I do not think that pay and conditions are at fault. With full allowances a flight-lieutenant in his mid-twenties can earn over £1,750 a year—a figure with which hon. Members will not be unfamiliar. If he leaves the Service at the age of 38, he can take with him a pension of just under £500 a year for life and a capital grant approaching £1,500. But he can leave earlier if he wishes to. There is provision in the scheme for those who wish to leave after twelve or eight years' service with gratuities of £4,000 or £1,500 though, of course, no pension.
I do not know whether hon. Members can think of any jobs in civilian life where a young man of 28 or 32 could retire with a capital amount of that size. I do not think that pay and conditions have anything to do with the short-fall in entry. Nor is the high standard the cause of the short-fall. I believe the root trouble, the real reason we are not getting enough of the best young men, is the still widespread and persistent belief that there is no future in flying and that in a few years from now aircraft will have given place completely to ground-based missiles.
I appeal to hon. Members to join me in making clear to their constituents that nothing could be further from the truth. As I have tried to show this afternoon, we expect manned aircraft to play an essential part throughout this decade and beyond. The missiles with which we plan to maintain our contribution to the Western deterrent—the Blue Steel and Skybolt—will be mounted on V-bombers. Our decision to introduce a further mark of the Lightning and to build the TSR.2 illustrates the continuing future we foresee for manned combat aircraft. Meanwhile the transport force has undergone a three-fold expansion and I think that the Committee will make sure we keep that up. Ten years from now, as I see it, the Royal Air Force will need at least as 505 many pilots and navigators as we have in the Service today, and I do not think that conditions will be any different in twenty years from now. All this means that, provided he has the necessary qualifications, the Royal Air Force continues to offer a life career to the man who wants to fly.
The Air Estimates which we are considering today amount to about £527 million. This is a vast sum of money, and it is right to ask whether we are getting value for this expenditure. It is not an easy question to answer but at any rate we have passed one test—we are still at peace. The second difficulty is that much of our work is inevitably "crystal gazing". In a Service like the Royal Air Force decisions which Ministers or advisers take today about equipment may not mature for seven to ten years, so that it is very difficult for Ministers, let alone hon. Members, to judge the value of the work being done at any give time. Perhaps that is lucky for the Ministers but it does not make their task any easier.
There is one other consideration which I wish to bring to the attention of hon. Members. Over the last ten years the Air Force Estimates have averaged about £500 million a year. But, of course, the great bulk of this expenditure goes on maintenance. It goes to pay the salaries and pensions of the officers and men of the Service, to maintain their equipment and accommodation and to move them round the world. On average, less than £150 million is left each year for new capital investment on all new capital projects whether equipment or building. This is not a very large sum in the context of our total defence expenditure.
§ Sir Harry Legge-Bourke (Isle of Ely)
In the light of what my right hon. Friend has said about the majority of the money going on the men, how does he tie that up with what is contained in Vote 7, where there is a total of £238 million?
§ Mr. Amery
My hon. Friend must have misheard me. I said that the bulk of the money goes on maintenance, that is to say on the pay of the men and the maintenance of existing equipment. The amount of money available for new projects is very limited and constitutes on average over the last ten years, about £150 million a year, or rather less. This is the room for manoeuvre which would be available, so that anyone criticising the Government's programme in the Air Force must think in terms not of £500 million but of about £150 million, which is just about all the money which is available to spend.
§ Mr. Cyril Osborne (Louth)
I am sure that my right hon. Friend will agree that £150 million is a vast amount of money. The ordinary taxpayer hates high taxes. He wants to know whether we are getting value for money. Is there anyone in my right hon. Friend's Ministry who is economy-conscious and who is trying to find where he can make savings, or does he think that his promotion depends upon his spending more and more?
§ Mr. Amery
I can assure my hon. Friend that a great many of our advisers, both on the civilian and on the Service side, are very economy conscious. But we must see this problem in perspective. The Defence White Paper says that the proportion of the gross national product which we spend on defence has fallen to about 7 per cent. The proportion of the gross national product which we spend on the Royal Air Force is, therefore, about a little over 2 per cent. With this 2 per cent. we provide, in my belief—and I have tried to show this this afternoon—a strong deterrent against the danger of nuclear attack and global war and a powerful means of transporting the Army and of supporting it in defence of our world-wide commitments.
I am bound to say that in relation to the stakes at issue and to the risks we run in the modern world today this seems to me to be a fairly reasonable premium to pay.
§ 5.12 p.m.
§ Mr. Frederick Mulley (Sheffield, Park)
The Secretary of State for Air began his speech with a well-deserved reference to the unique record of Lord Ward in. I think, presenting eight out of the nine Air Estimates over the last 507 years. I should like to draw the attention of the Committee to a notable change on this side in that my hon. Friend the Member for Lincoln (Mr. de Freitas), I think, has replied for us on almost every occasion since 1951. I cannot, I am afraid, bring even the slender Air Force experience of the Minister to bear in discussing Air Force matters. My own very limited military experience was in the Service served so well by my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg).
I am glad that today the Secretary of State delivered his speech in a rather different tone from that of his intervention in the defence debate, and I wish to congratulate him and the Ministry on a very well-presented document. On visits to the Royal Air Force I have always been extremely impressed by how well it presents information and how efficient it is in these matters. In fact, I would venture to say that the R.A.F. is extremely efficient. Even if the R.A.F. does not have the rather dramatic slogan that one reads over the entrance to the Strategic Air Command in Omaha, "Peace is our profession", I believe also that it bears its heavy responsibilities with a proper regard to how much depends upon them.
I hope that nobody will take the criticisms which we on these benches shall make of the Royal Air Force and of the Ministry today to be in any sense an unpatriotic criticism of the people serving in that Force. As we see it, we are obliged to make these criticisms of the Air Ministry, and we hope that the Minister will take it as a political criticism. One gets the impression that very often the Minister of Defence regards any criticism of any defence matter as being not directed at him personally but through him to those serving in the Forces.
I shall not go as far as the editorial in Flight last February and advocate the abolition of the Royal Air Force. The same point, but perhaps for quite different reasons, was put briefly in a previous debate by the hon. and gallant Member for Croydon, North-East (Vice-Admiral Hughes Hallett). It has, however, been suggested that a reform could be made whereby the Admiralty as such should be abolished and that it should take over the other two Services. It was 508 thought that this might make relations with the Treasury a little easier.
Our basic criticisms are that the Government, not only in this field but throughout defence matters generally, have adopted the wrong scale of priorities. It is not that we are asking for more money to be spent on defence or on the Royal Air Force but that the money should be spent in a different way. Before I come to the points that divide us, I wish to say a word about something on which I am sure hon. Members in all parts of the Committee agree, the desire of the Committee that the conditions of service should be as good as possible.
The Secretary of State has referred to pay and conditions. He suggested that the figure of £1,750 would be within our recollection. I think one can say that many ranks of the R.A.F. are paid relatively higher than Members of Parliament. I personally would not use that argument to suggest that they are overpaid. I would prefer to balance the equation on the other side, but perhaps I should not pursue this point too far today.
In my opinion, the recruiting problems of the R.A.F. are in no way as serious as those of the Army. Probably the advantages of flying and the higher standards which the R.A.F. can demand of recruits account for the fact that its wastage rate is only 3 per cent. compared with the wastage rate of 13 per cent. in the Army. But I think, also, that there may be some aspect of man management for which the Royal Air Force is entitled to take credit.
The problem of aircrew is not, I think, alarming, but there is certainly a shortage of aircrew. I do not think that the Secretary of State should, as it were, blame hon. Members if he has not been successful in putting over the case which he was deploying today about the future of the R.A.F. as an independent deterrent. I think that the fact that people do not see a future in flying in a deterrent force is frankly not surprising. I believe that if the transport function and the importance of the planes for the Strategic Reserve had been stressed rather more it might have been easier to get the number of aircrew which we require.
509 It does not seem to me necessary that all pilots should be officers. In the war a great number of warrant officers and N. C. O. s served as pilots with great distinction. Certainly for helicopters and short and medium transport planes it should be possible to use N. C. O. s if there is a shortage of officer pilots. In connection with some of the other specialised ranks that are needed, I was interested to see that there is a shortage of police. I do not know that such a shortage would be a very great loss to the Royal Air Force. I think that very often the Royal Air Force police take on functions which could equally well be carried out by the military police.
I am sure that the Committee welcomes the nine-year engagement which is now possible for apprentices, and also the fact that it will now be possible for new entrants to sign on for a full 22-year engagement in the Royal Air Force. I am sure that these are improvements which will assist in getting the necessary number of men.
There is very little information in the Estimates this year, although we were promised it in last year's Estimates, about the additional provision of married quarters; it was said last year that 3,800 would be ready this year. I wonder whether those plans have been carried out. We have also heard very little this year about Aden. I feel that the plans for building in Aden are giving a very considerable hostage to fortune. As so much was said about conditions in Aden in previous debates, it might be a good thing if the Under-Secretary would later tell us what the present position is.
Paragraph 73 envisages a change in the arrangements for training. It is proposed, I understand, that there will be much more specialisation in the training of pilots. While this has, clearly, great advantages, I hope that it will not lead to the setting up of an élite of jet pilots, because that idea would be bad for the Service in the long run.
In considering the Coastal Command function, we ought all to express gratitude for the peace-time service which it performs. The splendid figures which we have been given—it performed 109 rescue operations and carried out 63 special ambulance flights—are, I am sure, 510 greatly appreciated in constituencies throughout the country.
Before I turn to the strategic considerations so largely dealt with by the right hon. Gentleman, I wish to refer to the position of Cyprus. The sovereign base areas in Cyprus are dealt with in paragraph 67. As a result of a previous duty, the right hon. Gentleman knows a good deal about this situation. Does it mean that in future we have to discuss any questions about sovereign areas on the Air Estimates? Does the right hon. Gentleman have a political responsibility for all aspects of the sovereign base areas in Cyprus as they are now? Am I correct in my reading of the Estimates?
§ Mr. Amery
Yes, Sir; that is so. Both the Air Ministry and the Secretary of State are responsible. The Secretary of State for Air is responsible to the House for the sovereign base areas themselves. I did not extend what was said in the Memorandum, but I can say that our relations with the Republic are excellent and we think that the decision of Archbishop Makarios to propose that Cyprus shall be a member of the Commonwealth is a gaud augury for continuing good relations.
§ Mr. Mulley
I do not want to develop the point. I wanted to get clear whether there was any Ministerial responsibility other than that of the Air Ministry. In fact, the air officer commanding there will have both civil and military responsibilities.
I now turn to what has been the main point of the debate. It can be summed up in the question: what is the role of the Royal Air Force today? Rather surprisingly, I thought, the Minister in introducing the Defence White Paper said that it was the first White Paper which had been introduced since the situation of nuclear parity had been reached. I think that everyone other than the Government came to that conclusion two or three years ago. We still have not got an answer—because the Minister of Defence did not reply to the point when it was raised in the debate—to the question whether paragraph 12 of the 1958 White Paper still applies. Whether the Government's conversion is belated or not, the rôle of the Royal Air Force has now to be considered in the light of a quite different N.A.T.O. 511 strategy, or what should be a quite different N.A.T.O. strategy, from what it was when the programme of defence was begun in 1957.
We all insist that the only satisfactory defence for this or any other country is full and complete disarmament on the lines envisaged in paragraph 1 of the Defence White Paper. In the meantime, we have to organise effective defence. I suggest that it is quite impossible for this country or any other country today to provide effective defence by its own efforts. It can be done only by way of membership of an alliance. Therefore, we should be rather less concerned about the concept of providing a national defence system or a national air force. We should be much more concerned to ask: are we making the best British contribution to N.A.T.O. on the one hand as well as making satisfactory provision on the other hand for the discharge of our obligations outside the N.A.T.O. area?
Secondly, in days of nuclear parity—in fact, it has been so ever since nuclear weapons have been in existence—we have to satisfy ourselves that the political will is supreme and that in any conflict between military and political considerations it is the political considerations which will carry the day. The lack of political control and the question whether we are providing the best contribution to the alliance are the basis of the criticisms which we make of the Government's policy.
With regard to Bomber Command, I do not question the fact that today the V-bomber force is extremely efficient and could in appropriate circumstances discharge its function. How many would get through and what devastation they could cause would, of course, depend very much on the circumstances—whether it was after a large raid on us, whether or not they were on their own without support, and so on.
The Minister was a little naughty, even to the point of not disclosing information about scrambling, in respect of information. Surely, as my hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. M. Foot) said, one of the points of a deterrent force is that the person to be deterred shall know that it exists. I feel that a great deal of the classified information 512 in this field should not be classified, especially when one compares the information available here with that available in the United States.
This is the point of difference between the Government and the Opposition. We do not feel that there is a political, military or economic case for continuing to attempt to maintain an independent deterrent. Indeed, as I suggested in my intervention, the term "an independent contribution" by itself is a little contradictory. If the Government were so keen on making a contribution to the Western deterrent one could understand it, but this idea of having it both ways—having a national strategic force and also playing a part in the N.A.T.O. Alliance—seems to me to be contradictory.
§ Mr. Mulley
The right hon. Gentleman has said that a great number of facts cannot be disclosed. If we do not even know the scrambling time, it is impossible for us to make any decision here and now, because we do not know the full circumstances.
I certainly do not suggest that the best thing for the Secretary of State to do would be to go back and destroy all the V-bombers. In all these debates any decisions taken now will be implemented 4, 5, 6 or 7 years in the future. We are always talking about weapons which, as the Secretary of State said, are not even developed. This is, as I understood him, the core of the present argument—not what we do tomorrow, but what we shall develop. It would be a mistake to develop the independent deterrent.
§ Mr. Mulley
It would be a mistake to develop it in the future. We have at the moment a manned bomber potential, although all the argument has been that it will not be effective after the mid-1960s. We have Blue Steel. We have heard a lot about Skybolt. It is rather extraordinary that from the information we have been given it looks as if the Air Force will get Blue Steel one year and Skybolt the year after. Is this the time sequence envisaged?
§ Mr. Amery
I do not want to interrupt the hon. Member more than I can help, but I must tell him that Blue Steel is to be in service next year and Skybolt will be in service about the mid-1960s. I ask the hon. Gentleman to go a little further. He reassures me by saying that he does not want to scrap the force as it is today. He says that he does not want to develop it. Would he be against acquiring Blue Steel, or Skybolt if it can be acquired?
§ Mr. Mulley
This is the oldest trick in the political game. For too long the Government have depended in all defence debates on asking the Opposition what they would do. They have never stated their own case for the £1,600 million a year they have been spending on defence.
I give the right hon. Gentleman credit to this extent. Today he obviously made the case as he sees it for having these weapons. If he will allow me, I will state my reasons for thinking differently. The idea that the Opposition will pull all the Government chestnuts out of the fire on conscription, and so on, has firmly to be disabused. It is not our function. How on earth can we put forward a defence policy if we cannot even be told where the men are standing when they do a two-minute scramble?
§ Mr. Frank Tomney (Hammersmith, North)
The whole of the deterrent bomber force is not concentrated in this country. It is spread from here round to Hong Kong. It is available on average on a four-minute scramble. It is practically impossible for the Soviet to knock out all the bases in one operation. This is the deterrent which is in operation today, from here to Hong Kong round the globe. This factor must be taken into consideration. These bombers are available at this moment with the deterrent from here on a 3,000 mile radius. This cannot be denied. It is undoubtedly the position.
§ Mr. Mulley
I do not want to deny that it is the position. I was asked what my policy would be if I had to decide about the development of Blue Steel and Skybolt.
§ Mr. John Biggs-Davison (Chigwell)
It is a little unfair to say that it is trickery to ask the Opposition what they would do. My right hon. Friend the 514 Secretary of State and the hon. Member for Hammersmith, North (Mr. Tomney) have stated the case for the British national deterrent. The hon. Member for Sheffield, Park (Mr. Mulley) has stated the case against it. If he is against it, will he say what he would do with it? Does he mean that when what we have today becomes obsolescent we should finally become a satellite of the United States? Is that the policy of his party?
§ Mr. Mulley
I have not even begun to state the case against the British national deterrent. I spoke at some length on this subject in the defence debate. So did several of my right hon. and hon. Friends. We do not want to spend the whole of the debate on the Air Estimates on strategic considerations, which were thoroughly canvassed in the defence debate.
My case is that the decision whether or not we should keep the independent deterrent must depend on whether it is a necessary requirement for N.A.T.O. I cannot envisage any circumstances to justify Britain having an independent deterrent or in which it would be used without consultation with the United States and our N.A.T.O. allies.
We are very concerned to get some real political control—N.A.T.O. control, not only over one deterrent, but over the whole range of N.A.T.O. 'nuclear weapons. I do not know if having an independent deterrent means that we are dependent on an American weapon. Perhaps I misunderstood the right hon. Gentleman today. He said that we would get this weapon if it was developed. I understood that two conditions were made in the original discussions. The first naturally was that the weapon would be developed. The second was that it would go into production if the American Air Force wanted it for its B.52 as well. These two conditions still obtain.
§ Mr. Amery indicated assent.
§ Mr. Mulley
It seems a very poor way of maintaining one's independence that we have to depend not only on the United States but on the United States Air Force wanting exactly the same weapon as we have chosen.
I am also against the Thor missiles. I regard them as extremely dangerous. 515 They are a first-strike weapon. The idea that on receipt of an early warning message they could be put into action on the approach of manned planes before one had satisfied oneself that those manned planes would discharge nuclear weapons on this country feeds all the suspicions many people have of the danger of a war by miscalculation. On such information as we have, we on this side of the Committee want no part of the Thor missile.
§ Mr. Amery
I am very grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving way to me once again. There is no danger of these weapons being launched until it becomes clear—with Fighter Command it is quite easy to discover long before the approaching planes get to the coastline—that the bombers are coming on an aggressive mission. There is no danger of their being fired simply because bombers are coming over the North Sea, for example. It would only be if the bombers attempted to penetrate through fighter defences. With the missiles at the ready there would still be plenty of time to launch them.
§ Mr. Mulley
This makes it even worse. This should be made very clear. As I understand the position of the United States—there have been public statements to this effect—they will not authorise retaliation by their forces until at least one, possibly two, bombs have exploded on United States territory. Does the right hon. Gentleman mean that it will rest on the opinion of some fighter pilot who says, "These boys are on an aggressive mission and, in my judgment, they will use nuclear weapons?" Does the right hon. Gentleman mean that we should discharge our Thor missiles on such information as that? This is very serious.
§ Mr. Amery
I am not trying to discuss the politics of it. I am only trying to explain to the hon. Gentleman that there is no reason for him to fear that the missiles would be launched against what appeared to be an attack but was not—that is to say, against a spurious attack. There is plenty of time both to get them to the ready and to discuss whether or not it is an attack.
§ Mr. Mulley
I am becoming more and more alarmed at the prospect. If we 516 waited, as we think we should, until it was clear beyond any doubt that we had been subjected to an all-out nuclear attack, the Thor missiles would not be in a condition to retaliate.
I do not want to spend all the time at my disposal on this subject. It is the point of difference which will be developed in other speeches. What is puzzling about the provision for the future is the talk, which is always the case in these debates, of plans for other planes. One thing we have heard very little about is the Mark II Victor bomber. It was hinted that Skybolt would fit that, but I gather now that it will not. Is it to be used for Blue Steel? What is the position of the Victor Mark II bomber? I could not find any reference to it in the present Air Memorandum.
What of the other planes which the Minister of Defence always seems to have up his sleeve, although one cannot see that they would fulfil a very useful function there? Last year, the then Secretary of State, after giving a hint that the Ministry was after the Skybolt missile, before Blue Streak had been cancelled, said:In the longer term, perhaps, when the V-bombers at last begin to wear out, their missiles could be taken over by a different type of aircraft—not a bomber in the historic sense but a longer-endurance aircraft, capable of combining the role of missile-launching platform with, for example, that of the transport aircraft. This would preserve the continuity of our skill and experience, it would conserve our resources, and it would carry the concept of flexibility and versatility to its logical limit."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 3rd March, 1960; Vol. 618, c. 1441.]What plane had the right hon. Gentleman in mind then? Have we any other planes in mind except the TSR2, about which the Minister said a little this afternoon? I do not think that any plane in history has been so extolled before it existed. It seems extraordinary that a plane can perform a tactical support role, a strategic strike role, reconnaissance, and almost, I thought the right hon. Gentleman was going to say, fit into Transport Command as well. It seems that this plane will do absolutely everything, although it was only two years ago that the then Minister of Supply said that the new aircraft, the TSR2, was not a deterrent weapon. Has it been modified during the last two 517 years and changed its function? When it was first talked about, it was thought to be only a weapon for the support of ground forces and not part of the strategic strike force.
We want to know when the TSR2 is to be available. There has been a great deal of discussion about why the Air Force insisted upon having its own type in this generation of planes. Superficially, at any rate, it seemed that the NA39, as it was then called, the Buccaneer, could have been adapted to serve a Royal Air Force purpose as well with, of course, the important advantage that it would have been ready in, say, 1962 as against, perhaps, 1965 or later. Perhaps the Under-Secretary of State will tell us what is up the sleeve of the Minister of Defence for provision against the failure of the Americans to supply Skybolt if the party opposite persists in its concept of a British independent strategic nuclear force.
I come now to Fighter Command. I am sure that hon. Members on both sides of the Committee will wish to send their congratulations to No. 111 Squadron. We read in the Memorandum that it has now been disbanded as a Hunter Squadron and it is to be developed as a Lightning Squadron. We have all enjoyed the remarkable displays which No. 111 Squadron has given over many years, and we congratulate all concerned in it on being awarded the Britannia Trophy by the Royal Aero Club.
Paragraph 27 of the Memorandum which deals with Fighter Command is really no more than eight lines without a meaning. This is the paragraph which explains the handing over of our Fighter Command to the operational control of the Supreme Allied Commander Europe. The Government have done something sensible here in relation to the Alliance. I suggest that it would be much better if they took credit for it instead of trying to pretend that they have only told SACEUR that he can call on these planes but, of course, they have not surrendered any national sovereignty. In my view, it is absolutely essential, if we are to mount any kind of air defence in Europe, that it should be done on a fully co-ordinated basis, and our participation is vital.
The Lightnings, the new fighter planes, have been the subject of comment, and there was publicity recently about the 518 radar attached to them. I do not know whether the newspaper articles were right or not, but it appeared that rather a mess has been made of the provision of radar if we are to be obliged to rely on American equipment, although about £2 million, so it has been suggested, was spent on trying to produce suitable British equipment. Perhaps we may hear something about that later.
In previous debates there has been a good deal of discussion about the function of Transport Command, and there were Questions at Question Time today about it. We were all extremely impressed by the fact that one of President Kennedy's first acts as President was to order a substantial number of additional transport aircraft. It is good that the Government now seem to be aware of our deficiencies in this respect and, as the right hon. Gentleman has told us, we have substantially increased our number and capacity in recent years. But have we enough? If we have not, what is being done to accelerate the programme along with the acceleration which the United States has been doing?
Will the ten Belfasts which have been ordered—I think they were christened Britannics in the first place—be ready two, three, four or, perhaps, five years from now? It still seems that we are unable to do very much more than move a number of men with very light arms. We cannot give them adequate logistic support and we cannot move the larger weapons which would be required if we were to make intelligent use of the Strategic Reserve.
There seems to be a lack of coordination between the Air Ministry, the Army and other user Departments. My hon. Friend the Member for Hammersmith, North raised this point last year in connection, I think, with an anti-tank gun. It was found that the aircraft which was to carry it was just a few inches too small. I believe that the same criticism has been made about tanks, and there does not appear to be any co-ordination between the ordering of planes to carry freight and the consideration of the freight to go in them. Clearly, this kind of mess must hold up the production of the necessary planes as well as add to the expense. Although we have the very useful diagrams at the back of the Memorandum, I suggest that it might 519 well be useful to put in a box showing the planes which will no longer be with us at the end of the year. A number will surely be worn out or obsolescent by then. One would expect the Hastings and the Valettas to wane as the Argosy waxes.
While the Minister has today put the record straight about Exercise Starlight by his amendment of 175 tons to 600 tons, it seems inconceivable that those concerned should have been so modest as to put a lower figure in the original text. However, the position is improved, although we still have a long way to go if we are to have an adequate airlift to support the very limited number of troops we shall have for any overseas engagement. We still must give much greater priority to transport.
I come now to Royal Air Force, Germany. This rates only three short paragraphs in the Memorandum. It is, of course, part of our Brussels Treaty commitment; as well as the four divisions, we are committed to keeping one tactical air force there. I hope we shall get an assurance that it is not intended to reduce our commitments in this regard. I do not find the information here, but I think it has been said publicly that we are introducing Valiants into the Second Tactical Air Force to support, and, in some senses to replace, the Canberras.
The important question that arises is what political control exists over their use of nuclear weapons? They are committed to S.A.C.E.U.R., and when General Norstad made what was thought to be a highly controversial proposal that he should be given Polaris missiles in nuclear submarines, he was in a sense only asking for the preservation of the status quo, because in the Tactical Air Force he already had his nuclear strike capability, comparable to what the Polaris would give him in 1963 or beyond. In a sense, therefore, he was only asking for his nuclear deterrent to be brought up to date.
This is a force which, in a sense, was allowed to grow up without anyone realising what was happening. At the time when N.A.T.O. strategy was one of global nuclear war, and the concept was that, no matter what kind of incident happened, we should go straight on with 520 the use of the ultimate nuclear weapon, it did not very much matter who authorised the use of nuclear weapons by the Tactical Air Force in Europe. Today, when we are concerned about the prospect of a limited conventional incident, escalating through tactical nuclear weapons to all-out nuclear war, it is of immense importance.
I am not satisfied that there is satisfactory political control over the use of the nuclear weapon in the Tactical Air Force. I believe that the weapons used by our planes in that force are American weapons, but I am not sure that there is satisfactory political control. I am against General Norstad having Polaris missiles. I do not blame him for asking for them at all, because he has been given, under the N.A.T.O. plans, certain interdiction and other tasks to perform, and it is not unnatural that he should ask for adequate weapons with which to perform those tasks. I ask the Government, if they have not done so already, to suggest that the task given to S.A.C.E.U.R. should be reviewed in the light of the nuclear parity of which, at last, the Minister of Defence spoke in presenting this 1961 Defence White Paper.
In my judgment, the possibility of nuclear bombs being used by tactical aircraft is, in many ways, a more likely and serious prospect of getting into the nuclear war which none of us wants than by the use of nuclear weapons by the Rhine Army. I do not wish, and indeed it would be out of order, to go into that point, which has already been developed in previous debates by my hon. and right hon. Friends, but just as we are concerned about the use of tactical atomic weapons in the Army, we should be concerned with the political control of the initial use of tactical weapons in the Air Force, particularly in the Second Tactical Air Force, which is our own particular concern.
What I should like to know from the right hon. Gentleman is whether, if the order were to be given to an air squadron today to bomb a particular target, it would use conventional or nuclear bombs? Has there been a clear decision spread through the Air Force that it is not to use nuclear bombs in any circumstances without especial and specific direction? There is clearly a 521 conflict between military and political requirements in this respect. If a commander is just told to bomb a target, obviously, if given no guidance, he could probably do it with one or two planes with nuclear weapons, but if he has to use conventional weapons he might need 50 or even 100 planes.
Clearly, this is not a matter which should be left to military commanders. We must take full political responsibility for it, and unless there is a clear chain of political control and political command over the use of the nuclear weapon, not only in the Army but in the Tactical Air Force as well, in the judgment of myself and my hon. Friends there are grave dangers of slipping into a nuclear war which otherwise would be avoided.
I have dealt only with a certain number of points, because I am quite sure that my hon. Friends will take up others in the course of the debate. I should like now to try to answer one question which the right hon. Gentleman posed more than once in his speech. He asked if we had been getting value for money. My answer is that we have a very efficient force in terms of personnel but that we doubt very much if the resources have been spent in a way best calculated to provide us with the efficient and effective defence which we need. In short, we have had very little value for a lot of money in the last nine years, and that is the answer that I give to the right hon. Gentleman.
§ 5.57 p.m.
§ Sir Arthur Vere Harvey (Macclesfield)
May I, at the outset, congratulate my right hon. Friend on his oppointment at the Air Ministry? I feel that already he has a good grasp of the complicated affairs of the Royal Air Force, and that he will fight his battles, as he no doubt will have to do, even with the Minister of Defence, as time goes on.
I should like, also, to endorse what my right hon. Friend said about his predecessor, now Viscount Ward, who stuck it out for nearly nine years, first as Under-Secretary and then as Secretary of State. He, too, had his battles to maintain the identity of the Royal Air Force over the years with some of his colleagues, but he held out, and, I think, won the day.
522 The Royal Air Force owes him, personally, a very great debt for what he did.
The hon. Member for Sheffield, Park (Mr. Mulley) has just made a speech with which I would not greatly differ, except that I thought he was a little confused, or, at any rate, not very clear, as to what he would do with the deterrent. We have got a V-bomber force, which has taken nine years to bring about, and, incidentally, it was his own Government, in the early ways, which ordered and developed the V-bomber. The hon. Gentleman said that there is no case for us now to maintain an independent deterrent, but when my right hon. Friend asked him what he would do with it, he was not very clear, though he said that he would not scrap it. If we do not scrap it, do we keep it or use it as a deterrent? It is a very effective deterrent.
Like one of his hon. Friends, I have been to Omaha, the headquarters of the United States Strategic Air Command, where we were shown almost all that they had got by General Power and his officers, who could not have been more frank. I feel that there has been a very close link between the Royal Air Force and the United States Strategic Air Command. I am quite certain that General de Gaulle is following his policy of going into the atomic business to give himself a platform in world affairs, and that if Britain had not got the deterrent today—we do not want to use it; nobody does—and I have very little more time for the Americans than I have for the Russians, because it seems to me that they make a lot of trouble for us—and is to play her part in world affairs, and bring some sense into disarmament, we should not be listened to if we had not got the deterrent.
§ Mr. M. Foot
If that is the main case on which the hon. Gentleman rests his argument for keeping the deterrent, does he not agree that this case could be put forward by every other country in the world, including Western Germany? Why should that country not have a platform in world affairs?
§ Sir A. V. Harvey
Of course it is not my main case. I have only just started my speech, and I shall develop it as I go along. The hon. Gentleman took the same line as his right hon. Friend the 523 Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey), who opened for his party in the defence debate. He was trying to steer between both sides of his own party and not to cause too much trouble. That is what I suspect. He made a skilful job of it, but I do not think that we were taken in by it.
§ Mr. Mulley
If the Government were willing to let us take over defence matters, we should make ruthless decisions. However, I think that even in the interim period between when he was elected President and when he had executive power President Kennedy was careful not to say what he would do. Until we have full information, it would be unwise for any opposition to make detailed plans.
§ Sir A. V. Harvey
The hon. Gentleman is learning political wisdom. We have heard so much in the past about what hon. Members opposite proposed to do that that is one reason why they are not sitting on this side.
The hon. Gentleman referred to the United States Transport Command and orders placed by President Kennedy. That is probably a very good thing. America already has a very big Transport Command, and I suspect that it could have some connection with the 8 per cent. unemployment in California today.
We are voting nearly £600 million. With great respect and humility, I contrast the situation of a week or two ago, when we were discussing one or two minor affairs, such as the White Fish Authority, when we were up all night, with the situation today. The attendance in the Committee today is very thin, yet we are voting nearly £600 million of taxpayers' money. I am critical of much of the expenditure on armaments by successive Governments. The hon. Gentleman said that the country was not getting value for money. I remember his party placing a large order with Vickers for the Swift fighter. We had to cancel it at a cost of £35 million. Mistakes have also been made on this side. Successive Governments have not looked far enough into the future in considering what their plans should be and have not co-operated closely with industry to bring about sense in orders.
524 In looking through the figures in the Estimates, one thing which disturbs me is that the salaries and wages at the Air Ministry have increased by £241,000. I should like my right hon. Friend to go into this matter. I am certain that the Air Force is more efficient than the Navy. The number of admirals has either increased or has remained the same. In the Air Force, there are ten fewer air rank officers than there were a year ago. I congratulate my right hon. Friend and his predecessor on that reduction. It is the cost of the civil servants about which I am particularly concerned. They do a very good job, but I think that probably there are too many of them.
The Memorandum to the Estimates at least tells us what we are to get, not tomorrow, but at some time further ahead. That is a very good thing. Recruiting towards an all-Regular Air Force is going well. I thought that the Secretary of State was very frank with us when he admitted that there was a shortage of air crew. That is the nub of the problem. We may have all the aeroplanes we need, but unless we have competent pilots and navigators in them they will not be of very much use to us.
I wish to make one or two suggestions to my right hon. Friend. Before the war, Army officers, youngsters of 22 or 23, were seconded from the Army to the Air Force for four years at a time. If the arrangement worked out all right, they stayed. If it did not, they went back to the Army. My right hon. Friend spoke about retirement at the age of 38 and the eight-year engagement. If a man retires at 38, he is not following a career. It is probably the most difficult age at which to get another job, although, admittedly, he comes out with experience.
I should like to see a different approach to the recruitment of air crews. My right hon. Friend referred to the flight lieutenant, who is married and has one or two children, and who earns £1,700 a year. Today, if industry wants a good chartered accountant, aged 28, it has to pay him nearly £2,000. I do not look upon the salaries paid to air crew as excessive. Perhaps my right hon. Friend will have a look at this matter and perhaps follow the American pattern, where the pilot of an aircraft, carrying out a risky job, gets a high rate of flying pay. When he reverts to staff or 525 ground duties that pay is stopped. My right hon. Friend may have to pay flight lieutenants £3,000 a year. Such men can join B.E.A., B.O.A.C., or the independent airlines, and earn nearly £3,000. The salaries in these organisations are extremely high.
Before the war, after an officer in the R.A.F. had finished flying he could transfer to the Indian Army until he retired at 50. Could not some officers start off in the Air Force for a period and, afterwards, when they have done a six months' or a year's course, go into the Army or the Fleet Air Arm and continue their career? We must have a larger measure of integration. I do not go as far as some of my hon. Friends, but I am sure that more could be done by integration to bring about efficiency.
I should like to know the position concerning the Technical College. It is said in the Memorandum that there are not enough engineering officers. I should like to know how short we are of them, because they carry out a very important function. These are people who look after the technical side of an Air Force, which is becoming more technical every day. We all recognise that the aircraft apprentices Who have been trained at Halton have made a real contribution to the Air Force over the last twenty or thirty years. Today, a higher standard of education is being demanded of these boys as entrants. I sometimes see them wandering around and wonder whether the Secretary of State would consider giving them a better uniform. Their uniform still looks very drab. The youngsters like a good uniform. If they have the initiative and the will to join a Service then they should have a smart uniform instead of the present rough serge. We may then get more apprentices at Halton.
We do not hear enough of the Royal Air Force. It is almost the "silent Service" these days. It carries out remarkable flights all over the world. Occasionally we read about one of them, but not very often. We are constantly reading about the feats of the American Air Force—refuelling in the air, and so on. If we want recruits, we must show young people what the Air Force is achieving. There is a prejudice, particularly on the flying side. against the Air Force on the part of many educational authorities. Head- 526 masters are not prepared to recommend the Air Force to parents as a career for their boys. My right hon. Friend said that there is a career on the flying side for the next twenty years for a boy of 15 or 16 years contemplating going to Cranwell. This may perhaps be so for ten, fifteen or sixteen years, but not for the rest of his career.
When parents are advising their children about the career that they should follow, the question they ask is whether the Royal Air Force is a full-time career for their children until the age of 50. If we do not have V-bombers a boy is just as well off flying jet airliners as flying a Transport Command in the Air Force. I shall refer to this in a moment, because I have not made myself clear. There is a career for a boy in the Air Force, but it must take on a different shape in the immediate years ahead. That must be put over to the entrants on the flying side.
Transport Command has done a remarkable job in recent years. During the last ten years it has trebled its strength. Its rôle is to move the Army's Strategic Reserve, naval reinforcements and to support the redeployment of squadrons. The hon. Member for Sheffield, Park referred to moving heavy equipment. When we have the Belfasts their rôle will be to move heavy equipment. What concerns me is what is to happen in the next four years before the Belfasts arrive.
I think that it is well worth burying one's pride and hiring or buying some big second-hand American transports to do the job for us. We could get them for practically nothing and we could buy about 20 to see us through. The British aircraft industry understands the problem and appreciates that we must have mobility if we are to have reduced forces and make them effective. Likewise, the Hastings has done a wonderful job, but is now getting long in the tooth and, no doubt, will soon need replacing.
Nothing has been said about the next generation of fighter aircraft. We do not know whether there will be another generation. Can we be told more about that? We have not been told anything about the Hawker P1127 vertical takeoff aircraft. I understand that it is carrying out trials at Dunsfold, still tethered to the ground, but performing 527 quite well. Here is a development about which the Committee should be told. We want to sell it to other countries. We have the lead in vertical take-off development at the moment, and that lead should be maintained and the world told about it.
We hear many suggestions and read articles, like that which recently appeared in Aeronautics, advocating that the Air Force should be abolished. That would be a grave mistake. These suggestions are being made because of the advent of ground-launched weapons. It is wrongly believed that ground-launched weapons will take the place of the Air Force. It is suggested that the Air Force is confused and its loyalties divided.
I do not agree. I think that that view stems from the 1957 White Paper. My right hon. Friend was quite right to say that that policy was put over the wrong way and that the Air Force has suffered a great deal because of it, and that his recruiting problems go back to that date.
All three Services are going through a period of readjustment. They are getting new weapons, National Service is ending and even the voluntary effort behind the Services is going out. That causes me a great deal of concern. In the past, the country has always greatly relied on volunteers. For various reasons, the flying side of the Auxiliary Air Force was ended a few years ago. The Auxiliary Air Force was rather shabbily treated and now my right hon. Friend has said that its control units are to be disbanded. I am not clear about that. I know that fighters are to be controlled by N.A.T.O., but surely a measure of control will be required in this country as well. I hope that my right hon. Friend will be able to explain why fighter control units in Britain are to be disbanded.
Much forward thinking has to be done about the Air Force, as with the other two Services. Where is the place of the Air Force in space research? I would like the Government to say something definite on this issue. The Minister of Aviation has gone round Europe applying himself to this problem and trying to bring about space research with the minimum cost to Britain. That is all right as far as it goes, but I would like to see 528 the Air Force brought right into space research and taking over control of it. The United States Air Force is working in that direction, as is well known, with Atlas, X-15, and the anti-missile Nike Zeus.
Most space vehicles in the United States are controlled by the American Air Force, and at least there is one chain of command, whereas all the Royal Air Force has been given is control of four United Kingdom Thor bases with the warhead controlled by the United States, which is not a very big rôle for the R.A.F. The Air Force should have full control of all long-range artillery, which should be centralised and about which there should be no misunderstanding.
As I have said, the bomber force is a very effective deterrent today and will be so in the years immediately ahead. But my right hon. Friend is being too optimistic when he talks about a ten-year life for the V-bombers. Even with the Viscount one hears about hair fatigue cracks, and so on, appear in the wings. The V-bombers are very high-performance aircraft and it is expecting a lot to depend on them for the next ten years. I hope that arrangements will be made for the V-bombers to be followed before their life ends.
The deterrent is costing Britain very little money compared with the remainder of the defence expenditure. Expenditure on the deterrent is about £156 million per annum, which is 10 per cent. of the defence budget, and that includes the V-bomber force, airfields and nuclear weapons. Expenditure on research and development has remained unchanged for five years. Many people will say that that is a good thing, but I do not believe that it is. I would rather that more money was spent on research and development to give us the lead.
I do not believe that the credibility of the deterrent is enhanced by too much public discussion. The hon. Member for Sheffield, Park asked my right hon. Friend where the pilots stood when they were made to scramble. We talk too freely about our weapons in this country. We do not hear much from the Russians. We do not know how long it takes them to scramble, or what they do or do not do, and we hear very little from the Americans. The hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. M. Foot) said that 529 if we have the deterrent we should tell the world. I understand that argument, but the line must be drawn about how much is told, because there are enough people on the look-out for information without giving it to them.
§ Mr. Cronin
The important thing is that the Secretary of State should not quote a figure of one minute, twenty seconds for scrambling to give the impression of reassurance when we have no idea of what is done in one minute, twenty seconds.
§ Sir A. V. Harvey
My right hon. Friend was quite right. Without going into details, what he said proved that the bombers could get off the ground before the enemy attack could arrive here. Whether the pilots are in the dispersal but or alongside the aeroplane is irrelevant from that point of view. The fact is that the bombers can get off the ground in that short time from the word "Go", and that is a remarkable performance.
We hear a great deal about Skybolt. I am not sure whether some hon. Members opposite want us to develop our own Skybolt and spend large sums of money doing so when we can get the ironmongery from the Americans and supply our own warhead. I do not know whether that is what they want, but for years the right hon. Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown) has been decrying Skybolt, saying that it will never happen and we shall never get it.
Even the hon. Member for Leeds, East, who opened the defence debate for the Opposition, said that he had just come back from Washington and went on to say that Skybolt would not be delivered. He said: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."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 27th February, 1961; Vol. 635; c. 1226.]In major debates of this kind, hon. Members should not suggest that they have been to Washington and received those impressions. That is bad not only for them and their party, but for the country. These debates are carefully read everywhere, especially the main defence debate. We know that Skybolt is going ahead and my information is 530 that good progress is being made. We shall be complete masters of the situation. There is an arrangement with the Americans that they will supply how ever many are ordered—we have not been told how many that will be.
My only concern is that we shall not get the weapon until 1965. However, the Americans are very good at producing weapons of this type and if they put everything behind it, and get on with the job, we can hope to get it very soon. I hope that my right hon. Friend, through the Minister of Defence, will press for early delivery and stress the urgency of the delivery of Skybolt.
The hon. Member for Sheffield, Park referred to the TSR2. I rather agree with the remark made from the benches opposite that it is not always advisable to talk too much about aircraft while they are still on the drawing board, at least before they fly. In previous years, we have been inclined to be disappointed, particularly with aeroplanes which have the capability of the TSR2. It is a remarkable machine and I have no doubt that the designer, Sir George Edwards, and others are confident that it will fulfil its purpose. It comes from a very good stable, from which some good machines are coming, but I should like to know when it is likely to fly. It is no good waiting several years for it.
I fully appreciate the reason for keeping the Shackleton aircraft for Coastal Command. There is no point in having a pure jet chasing across the Atlantic looking for submarines when the task can be done by slow aeroplanes which are more suitable. I should, however, like to be told a little more about the progress that is being made with detection gear to detect atomic submarines. Are we working closely with the United States in this matter? Are we working closely with the French, who have an Air Force, about which we do not hear a great deal? I should like to feel that the French and ourselves were getting together more closely on these matters, so that we could work closely with our friends on the other side of the Channel.
We have not been told much about the R.A.F. Regiment. It is a very efficient force, comparable with the Marines, but I am wondering what its role is today? Can we be told a little about it?
531 There is no doubt that the five-year programme will help all concerned in defence spending. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Air and my right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence will get better value for money as a result of long-term planning and working more closely with the industry. Much more thinking is required on distant planning. We have made many mistakes in the past. I wish that the Government would take the industry into its confidence. I know that many matters are confidential, but the designers and the men in the factories have to make the aeroplanes. They know how they are progressing. Managements and people concerned should get much closed to the Ministries affected in planning for the future.
We need an aero-space force, and that should be the Air Force. Today, I cannot place my confidence in aircraft carriers. When I was over at Omaha, not long ago, a high-ranking American Air Force Officer said that aircraft carriers were like sore thumbs sticking out of the ocean. That is probably true. For the money that is being spent on the deterrent in that respect, it would be a far better long-term policy to order even two or three Polaris submarines if we could get them quickly. If we are to have a deterrent at all, for heaven's sake let us have an efficient deterrent.
Our Air Force, which in 1940 saved Britain—not alone, but nearly—has the best material that Britain can produce in men and equipment. We should not neglect it or underrate what it can do for the future, because the Air Force is there and it can back Britain up in all its affairs and what it may have to face.
§ 6.23 p.m.
§ Mr. Malcolm MacMillan (Western Isles)
It is usual nowadays on this side of the Committee to preface our remarks by saying that we are not attacking the personnel of the Royal Air Force when we are discussing the Air Estimates. I do not know why it should have become the fashion. Obviously, we are not concerned with criticising the Service or the personnel. We are concerned with the political and other issues involved, for which the Minister and the Government have responsibility.
The hon. Member for Macclesfield (Sir A. V. Harvey) struck what might have been made the one theme against the 532 Government's case today when he said that the credibility of the deterrent had not been enhanced by public discussion. We can all agree with the hon. Member on that. The more that people know about it—and they surely have a right to know about it in as much detail as we can possibly give to the people who are paying for it at the expense of their social services and their standard of living—the less will they be confident in the effectiveness of the so-called deterrent.
The hon. Member was afraid also that, when we went into detail, we might be telling the Russians how to get to Venus or something of that kind; that we might be giving something vital away to the enemy. I do not think that in any of these debates we have ever had vouchsafed to us sufficient information even for adequate criticism, let alone for the better equipment of a potential enemy in nuclear weapons.
My hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Park (Mr. Mulley), who opened the debate for this side today, said that the Government have never put the case to justify the £1,600 million of spending, including the £600 million which we are being asked to approve today. That is the case of those of us who are speaking to the Amendment. The Government have never made the case. I doubt whether they ever can. On the other hand, that sort of basis on which my hon. Friend made his comment is not one which makes me terribly enthusiastic in voting the £600 million for which we are asked in these Estimates.
The more often we have these debates the less and less place in them does the word "defence" seem to occupy. We have hardly heard it mentioned today in connection with this instrument of our defence policy. There has been hardly a word about it, for the simple and obvious reason that nobody believes that defence is being provided by the present policy or by the instruments upon which it is based.
The hon. Member for Macclesfield talked about certain bases in America "standing out of the ocean like sore thumbs". What on earth is Polaris and the Polaris base but a great sore thumb —if the hon. Member wants to use that figure of speech—sticking out of the ocean, much nearer to us than the places that the hon. Member was visiting when he was studying American defence?
533 Then there was the fantastic little exchange of questions and answers—or rather, questions and no answers—between the Minister and my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Park when there was doubt as to just when we should start hitting back or defending ourselves against approaching missiles. According to the Minister, we must first wait to make sure that the attack is not what he called a "spurious" one. Why on earth should any enemy make a spurious attack knowing that if his missiles are on the way the defending Power will already be slamming back nuclear missiles as hard as it can from Polaris and everything else right into his cities? Why should there be such a senseless thing as a spurious attack? What the Minister was referring to was, perhaps, an accidental attack. There is, however, so great a reluctance to believe, publicly at least, that it is possible to set off a nuclear holocaust by accident or by electronic, human or all the other failures that could happen without an actual policy decision, that the Secretary of State prefers to talk about a spurious attack rather than an accidental setting off of a nuclear war.
The Secretary of State has not yet told us when the four-minute nuclear attack warning begins. Does it start when we are absolutely sure that there is actually something well inside the zone of our defences, or does it apply from the moment when we are aware that it is heading for our shores? That is something to which the Minister should address himself. As nobody else has asked the question, I ask it now and I hope that we shall be given the answer in this debate.
Then there was the other fantastic little fiction that is still being maintained here, the assumption that there will be a tacit gentlemen's agreement in the field after war has actually broken out. Having failed to get disarmament in the cool atmosphere of peace, or even in the cold war, do we then, in the heat and violence of war, expect to be able to maintain a tacit gentlemen's agreement on the basis of escalation, of going from nuclear tactical to worse by stages in the hope that things will not go from worse to worst? How could we control a situation of that kind? If it were even remotely possible to get an agreement of 534 that kind in the heat of war, surely it might be a little easier to get agreement to prevent any resort to nuclear arms in the atmosphere of peace, while there is still peace.
That is an extraordinarily naive assumption. I cannot see anything in experience, logic or even in imagination that can justify the idea—once we are at war—of a tacit gentlemen's agreement, and we go step by step and no further, until a given moment in the gradual worsening and the greater violence of the forms of attack. It is a fantastic fiction and I am sure that hon. Members on both sides will agree that it should be discarded and no longer brought into our debates to insult the intelligence of Members of the House of Commons. The more one listens to this the more one is conscious of living in a world of suicidal fantasy, where the word "defence" has gone out of currency—and gone out with good reason indeed.
We then come to discussing the deployment of the non-existent methods of effective defence and equipment for defence. It clearly at this stage also becomes a Boy Scouts' jamboree, does it not? When we know we cannot defend, what is the sense of talking of defence weapons? And when we are using the wrong defence weapons, how can we justify the expenditure of this £600 million in these Estimates and call this a defence Estimate and frankly face our constituents?
That is half the trouble today. We in this Committee are far more concerned with pleasing our constituents and holding their votes than with telling them the truth about so-called "defence".
§ Mr. C. Osborne rose—
§ Mr. MacMillan
Well, it possibly does. Perhaps I should be too harsh with the hon. Member if I said that he might know more about that than I do. But it may well be so.
We still have the old, smarmy political vote-catching, telling the people what they like to hear and giving them back their own illusions, and comforting them 535 with the idea that they can be protected and defended with the old physical symbols of defence, tanks and guns and battleships when we know perfectly well that that is all nonsense today. The most jingoistic diehard Tory today would hardly dare get up and say, "We can protect you with these things and these things mean defence." Not one.
It was different a few years ago before the war, very different, when we had the most jingoistic speeches in defence debates, if they could be called debates on defence in those days. Then they were, at least, talking of physical symbols which at that time meant something in protection and defence. But we know that that time has gone. Yet we are going on spending more and more of the taxpayers' money upon these unrealities, simply to satisfy their demand to feel comforted and protected; not giving them the reality of defence but only this illusion of defence. We are all pandering to it. In spite of what the hon. Member for Macclesfield said, the sooner we have more public discussion of the credibility or the incredibility of the deterrent the better for all concerned.
I want, if I may, to come to a rather more local issue for a minute. I see I have been speaking for thirteen minutes already and I ought to have come to this before now. In my constituency, I understand, there is to be a N.A.T.O. base established some time during the next year or two. That, for the information of the Under-Secretary of State for Air, is in the Western Isles. It is to be within the next year or two?
§ The Under-Secretary of State for Air (Mr. W. J. Taylor)
A N.A.T.O. base?
§ Mr. MacMillan
Yes, a N.A.T.O. base, for which the responsibility, at the moment anyway, is with the Air Ministry. We should like to know a little about it. In fact, I should like Ministers themselves to know just a little bit more about it than they appear to know up to date.
The people locally are concerned about the establishment of this base in the midst of their island population. There is probably no place where people are more conscious of being a priority 536 target for enemy nuclear attack than in an island. That is true of our island of Britain itself. Ministers themselves say, hon. Members of the Committee say and everybody knows that the smaller the area or island the more it is conscious that it teeters on the verge of nuclear obliteration today. The idea of organising effective Civil Defence and all the rest of it in such places simply goes out of the window. Suddenly the islands find themselves in the forefront not only of a British but of a N.A.T.O. striking force, pushed right into the forefront of possibly disastrous world events, which can only mean, after the time limit of the four-minute warning, the complete obliteration of places of that size and in such areas. They have at least the right to ask Ministers to give them the fullest information possible in good time about what has happened, what is proposed for them and to what extent their whole way of life will be disturbed and upset by the coming of the N.A.T.O. base.
The Air Ministry is in charge of this. So far, local people are only guessing. We see planes and N.A.T.O. top brass flying in and flying out from time to time; somebody comes and gives a date, somebody else changes it, but nobody really knows anything. I do not know. I have plied Ministers with questions, and I doubt whether Ministers themselves know a very great deal about it. If they do know they should certainly have told us a lot more about it by now.
We have another anxiety in that area, and it is this. The base, while it is being established, is under the Air Ministry. It then comes directly under the control of N.A.T.O. I think that is correct. What does that mean? It means, again, that, like Polaris and the Holy Loch, we are going to come very largely under the control of a foreign Power. That, of course, is what Polaris itself means. That is what any such base means. It simply means that for the first time Britain will not be consulted and will have no share in the control of the use of these weapons used from her soil. For the first time. It was bad enough with Thor bases; but this Polaris is infinitely worse.
Now we are to be in a position in which in this country we have bases controlled by S.A.C.L.A.N.T. from Norfolk, Virginia and other remote centres. Any 537 enemy with reasonable intelligence can guess the source of nuclear weapons coming from this place, because it is known. The Minister has said that he can give no assurance that the base will not be used as a nuclear storage base or as a place for landing H-bombs, or as a base from which nuclear weapons can be used. That has been said and confirmed.
When my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Park who opened the debate for this side of the Committee came to this question of the Thor bases he rightly said that we in the Labour Party do not approve of the Thor bases. That, indeed, was an echo, to me a long, dim echo, of something said and, I think, approved by this party away back in 1957—which shows that we are at least holding our own, in terms of Irish miles.
I recall that no fewer than 101 Members of this party supported a Motion to the effect thatthis House deplores the action of the Prime Minister in committing this country to the establishment of ballistic missile bases in Scotland at the cost of many millions of pounds with American custody and control of the nuclear warheads while the means of defence are lacking.That view was later adopted officially by this party. It was adopted officially by the Labour Party and advocated in speeches, some very passionate speeches and some studied, reasoned speeches, from the Opposition Front Bench and from these back benches, saying that till at least a Summit Conference had been held—not an abortive Summit, sabotaged by some unfortunate U2 flights and other things—there should be no nuclear missile bases established in this country. I am not aware that the Labour Party has ever gone back on that decision. By that I mean the Parliamentary party or the party throughout the country. Therefore, I was glad—but not very surprised—when my hon. Friend said that we do not approve of the Thor bases.
There are, however, many other bases which I do not think we approve of very much either. Whether we should merely relate their rejection to the date of holding a Summit Conference or be doing something more urgently and permanently about them now, with the risk which they most certainly will involve, is, I know, still a matter of argument in our party and between the 538 parties in this House. I find it today extremely worrying to feel that in some ways we have not got so very far since 1957. In fact, however, I am even more worried when it comes to talk about the first use of nuclear weapons. We shall find ourselves singing the "Red Flag" in the muted cadences of paragraph 12 of the 1958 Tory Defence White Paper if we go on like this. But I must say that what disturbs me more than any other thing at this moment is the expression of this mad nuclear policy in physical terms in the bases in this country, bases under the control of other countries and in the use and activating of which we can have no real share and no effective control.
I wish that all hon. Members would be quite honest with each other and the electorate and face the fact that the more dependent we are upon the American nuclear weapon or the H-bomb the less consultation there must be and the less control. The hon. Member for the Isle of Ely (Sir H. Legge-Bourke) appears to smile, but he knows and probably feels the same way at heart on this very point. I think that most Tories do: but they do not like to say it in case they embarrass their Ministers. I am sure that the hon. Member agrees?
§ Mr. Rankin
The hon. Member for the Isle of Ely (Sir H. Legge-Bourke) does not object. None of the hon. Members opposite does.
§ Mr. MacMillan
We have been wondering in my constituency and in other areas to what extent Polaris will be a substitute for the other types of nuclear bomb and will make out of date altogether these bases from which nuclear weapons may be used as well as existing stocks. If I may localise the question, is a base now to be established in the Western Isles at all? Are we to have there a nuclear N.A.T.O. base in addition to the Uist rocket base, which is as out of date already as the present Government? Has Polaris put these bases out of date? We want to know because the establishment of a base involves many millions of pounds. The Under-Secretary of State for Air smiles very blandly; but a great deal of money is involved and I do not think that we ought to pass these Estimates until we know a lot more about this matter.
539 One of my hon. Friends has said tonight in a Front Bench intervention that he could see no justification so far for the spending of those £600 million. He had doubts about it. I have doubts too; though perhaps not the same quality of doubts. We feel that any money spent on N.A.T.O. bases in the islands or elsewhere in this country is completely wasted money. I should like to know what is the justification for going ahead with this project which will distort and disturb the whole way of life of the people in the area.
Even the area of the Clyde, with a population of over 2 million between Glasgow and Dunoon, is affected in such a way that already local authorities, with the help of my hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) and other responsible, public-spirited citizens, are taking action not only to frustrate any possible enemy attack, but the only too friendly blandishments of certain sections of the population who are finding their way down towards the new haunts of the American sailors. Already the people around Holy Loch are anxious and worried about the influx of all sorts of undesirable characters and there are complaints about the rising prices of goods sold in the area. Even Coca-Cola has gone up by ld. a bottle.
§ Mr. MacMillan
I withdraw the Coca-Cola, but it was a gesture of respect to the American alliance—the only respect that I would wish to show it in this matter of nuclear weapons. I was relating this complaint most directly to the effect which the establishment of these bases in areas like the Clyde, but even more particularly in places like my own constituency, was likely to have. There can be no doubt that the old Free Church of Scotland and almost all responsible citizens in the Western Isles area are anxious and are protesting as strongly as they can against this proposed intrusion and invasion, because they know that it will bring an alien way of life under the umbrella of the Air Ministry. The Under-Secretary appears to be shaking his head——
§ Mr. W. J. Taylor
I thought that the hon. Member was talking about Holy 540 Loch and I could not relate that to the Estimates.
§ Mr. A. C. Manuel (Central Ayrshire)
My hon. Friend the Member for the Western Isles (Mr. M. MacMillan) is, I am sure, aware of that and will no doubt deal with the point that we understand that there will be certain Air Ministry expenditure in connection with that base. I am sure that the Fleet Air Arm and the Royal Air Force will need to provide air cover for submarines coming into the vicinity of Holy Loch and going out on expeditions.
§ Mr. MacMillan
I apologised already for having dropped a bottle of Coca-Cola into the Estimates and into Holy Loch. Had the Secretary of State for Air been in the vicinity he would have been baffled as to whether it was one of his "spurious" attacks by an imagined enemy, or the real thing; but, anyway, it was only a bottle of Coca-Cola and I have apologised about it. It was nothing stronger than that and I do not think that anybody would have taken exception to it at Dunoon or even in my more severe constituency.
We have made our protests. All of us, from those representing the Church down to ordinary citizens like myself, have protested in our different ways and we have not had more information than the perfunctory replies to which I have referred, which are an insult to the local citizens. I wish that the Under-Secretary would tell us more about this threat to our community and way of life.
I wish that the Ministries also would not involve my constituency in the German rearmament plans by the bringing of German units for training into the islands; or elsewhere in this country for that matter. I know that the Under-Secretary will say that he has already sinned, but that is not a very good defence of a greater sin that he is about to commit. We know that there have already been trainee members of the Luftwaffe in Morayshire and that there has been a certain amount of other training. That is more, not less, reason for objection.
It does not tend to make my constituents believe in the reality of defence if out-of-date Corporal missiles are shot out into the Atlantic because the Services are too ashamed to dump them all at once and save the money wasted in all 541 these exercises in South Uist. Not only are they fed up over the hesitations and the anxiety about the establishment of nuclear air bases under American control in the area but they are deeply concerned about this further insult that is proposed when the Luftwaffe or German Army personnel are expected to be dumped in South Uist. If assurances cannot be given, we shall make our protest and use every method that we can to try to prevent this.
The Minister himself, unfortunately, is not now present and therefore I will not enter very far into the details, but I should like to refer to the conditions in which men of the Royal Air Force are living in West Berlin and to certain matters concerning pay, including local overseas allowances, compared with the conditions and allowances paid to men in West Germany and in the Services at home. I know that there has been an Army inquiry and that this is a rather complicated business, but I am talking about West Berlin air personnel who are under Army command. I have checked carefully both there and here among people who know something about conditions in the Services at home and in West Germany and West Berlin and among people who know something about accounting and the comparative cost of living.
I am told as a result of a recent Army inquiry and, I think, by the Minister, that West Berlin is not more expensive than West Germany generally; but it is known to almost everyone who has visited West Berlin that it is one of the most expensive places to live in Europe, particularly for Service men. At this moment with the revaluation of the Deutschmark there will be adjustments no doubt, but there is a danger that these men and their wives—I am speaking particularly about married men—will feel for some time to come that things are being made a little harder. This may be a localised case of unfairness to some of the specialist troops; but I think that the Ministry should go into this matter carefully because it is important that no injustice is done and that it should be clearly known and seen that no injustice is being done.
I finish on the note which the Minister of Defence introduced in his speech in the House the other day. One of the 542 first comments in his speech, with which I think we can all agree, wasOur primary task must be to stop our world destroying itself."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 27th February, 1961; Vol. 635, c. 1198.]While we are bringing these local cases, making these local complaints and talking about individual happenings in the Hebrides and north-east England and Morayshire, at the end of it all it is not the case of one constituency or one group of people or class of people or one base. It is a case of one world. We are not any more working on the relatively Boy Scout and bow and arrow scale on which we used to fight our wars, however terrible they were in the context of their own times. We are on a world scale now and war is war against the whole world.
It is quite dishonest to talk, as we do on both sides of the Committee, of weapons of defence, as though there still were weapons of defence, and of all the other devices with which we are deceiving ourselves, and, I am afraid, only too consciously deceiving our constituents as well.
To justify the expenditure of this money today in the terms of the old arguments which we have been using up to now is to go on deceiving people into thinking that there is such a thing as defence and real protection against nuclear weapons. There is only one way to prevent war and that is the civilised, political method, which is what we are here to promote and use. We are here not as soldiers and strategists but as politicians. When I hear speeches from both sides of the Committee dealing with the technical details of weapons, which will never be used as weapons of defence, and boasting about the deterrent power of weapons, which can never be proved to be deterrent if anything ever happens, and which will certainly show themselves to have been a farcical and wasteful expenditure. The whole of our debate sounds unrealistic and fantastic.
§ 6.53 p.m.
§ Wing Commander Eric Bullus (Wembley, North)
I hope that the hon. Member for the Western Isles (Mr. Malcolm MacMillan) will forgive me if I do not follow him very closely in the arguments he has advanced. I presume to think that many of his arguments might more usefully have been used in 543 a defence debate or even in the Scottish Grand Committee. I do not for one moment doubt the sincere views held by the hon. Member, but I sincerely hold the view that because we possess the deterrent and because of our alliances we have peace today. We have to continue to negotiate, to hope and pray that sanity will prevail, and that we shall get universal disarmament and finally world peace. I think that until those days we must argue from strength.
I should like to join in the congratulations bestowed on the new Secretary of State for Air on the introduction of his first Estimates, more particularly as he is labouring under the disability of a heavy cold. I congratulate him on the way in which he is discharging his duties and settling into his office. He has proved helpful to those of us who have sought information about the Royal Air Force since he attained his office.
Like one or two of my colleagues in the Committee today I have spoken in most, if not in all, of the Air Estimate debates in the last eleven years. I am happy to feel that some of the constructive criticisms made from these benches—and I have made a few—have been heeded and that some of the difficulties have been eliminated. For instance, last year I had something to say on publicity and the public relations of the Service. I recalled at that time that it was my belief that for some time in the past there had been at the Air Ministry a mentality which was adverse to useful and sound trumpet-blowing on behalf of the Royal Air Force.
Indeed, I had experienced this in the war years when I attended the headquarters war room and day after day I heard the Air Force account given which began with "Of 100 sorties flown 35 were abortive". One day, when it was my turn to give the review, I looked up all the Air Force records for the past week, and I told the assembled company of the record tonnage of bombs and of supplies dropped and what the Air Force had done. I was rather pleased with myself but my commander-in-chief was not. He sent for me and told me that the Air Force did not do that sort of thing. Therefore, I am delighted to know that some sound methods are now being used in aid of recruiting and general publicity.
544 I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Macclesfield (Sir A. V. Harvey) that there is still much to do and that we do not make enough of the exploits of the Air Force. We see on the front pages of the newspapers what the American fliers have done but very little about the Royal Air Force. There is, however, an improvement, a subtle difference and a shift of emphasis, and I notice it particularly in regard to recruiting.
I have a young brother-in-law who has just completed service in Cyprus and Malta. He speaks highly of Royal Air Force conditions. Unknown to him the Air Ministry sent his photograph and details about his service and more particularly about the history of the squadron to which he was attached to the local newspaper. Although all the glamorous exploits of this famous squadron occurred when my brother-in-law was at school it made very good reading and I am certain that a number of youths reading that would be attracted to the Service. I have seen the same sort of thing in many local newspapers. I pay tribute to those who are responsible for it. My young brother-in-law was a National Service man and for him and thousands like him the nation owes thanks, for they represented a valuable and cheap reservoir of manpower. Their service was often given willingly, frequently at personal financial loss.
After twenty-two years we are in sight of an all-Regular Air Force. Since we last had an all-Regular force there have been many changes in the country and many changes in the conditions of service. Could the Under-Secretary give us an assurance that the Royal Air Force has moved with the times? What, for example, of the trades structure and of the general conditions of service, married quarters and accommodation?
In Germany, Malta and Gibraltar, in recent months, I have seen something of the great improvements which have been made, and I should like to congratulate those who are responsible for them. I am not so well versed in the conditions at home stations, and that is why I value the recent invitation to hon. Members to make informal visits to Royal Air Force. stations. I hope that many of my colleagues will make personal visits to see the Royal Air Force at first hand.
545 The Secretary of State has mentioned the difficulty of recruiting aircrew. Conditions of training and pay are good—indeed, one might say that they are excellent—but is my right hon. Friend satisfied that it has been made clear beyond doubt that we shall want manned aircraft for very many years to come? I know that he mentioned it in his speech, but it is a vital point and it should be made manifestly clear—it requires the widest publicity—that for many years to come we shall require manned aircraft.
Can the Under-Secretary tell us whether he is satisfied that everything is being clone to attract the best type of entrant for flying duties? For instance, are the liaison arrangements with our schools satisfactory? My right hon. Friend has made some reference to the antipathy of headmasters. Has everything possible been done with the schools, because it is from there that we must draw many of our recruits? Are the results of our advertising good enough? Is the Press advertising bringing results? I think that the Press advertising is as good as any of the advertising media that the Service uses. Will the Minister say something about the methods of selection? Are men who otherwise would make good aircrew rejected for some other reason? I know that we require very high standards, but do we tend to make the standard impracticable? That is a fine point.
I sometimes think that the opportunities—they are wonderful opportunities—of a career in the Royal Air Force are not widely enough recognised. The apprentices and boy entrants are, after all, the backbone of the Service, and everything possible should be done to attract the right type of youth to a Service career of great potential success. Perhaps the Minister will also say a word about the new terms of service for women recruits and enlarge upon the four lines which are given in the Memorandum to the Royal Observer Corps. Also, what does the future hold for the Royal Auxiliary Air Force?
The Secretary of State is to be congratulated on this very useful Memorandum with its graphs and statistics. An extended graph which I have seen in the last few days shows that recruiting drops in the summer months and then picks up rather rapidly in October and 546 November. Is this because increased enlistment follows the long school holiday, or is it because of the attractions of an open-air live as against a desk Job following the summer months? Perhaps we may be given some ideas about this when the Under-Secretary replies to the debate.
Finally, will the Minister say something about the Air Training Corps, with which organisation he has been closely associated over many years? Has the Minister any plans for extending the activities of the Corps? Also, will he say something about the exchange scheme?
I think it is true to say that those of us who have been associated with the Royal Air Force for any length of time take pleasure in the way the Service is being streamlined for its modern role. Its striking force as a deterrent to war or as a preserver of the peace is astounding. Its destructive power could be devastating. But our energies now must be concentrated on securing adequate numbers of the right calibre of manpower if we are to maintain a Service which is a continuing pride.
§ The Chairman
I propose now to call the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) to move his Amendment.
Perhaps I should explain to the Committee that the scope of the debate on the Amendment is the same as the scope of the debate on the main Question. Therefore, hon. Members who wish to speak on the main Question will not be restricted to my calling the Amendment at this stage.
§ 7.5 p.m.
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes (South Ayrshire)
Thank you, Sir Gordon.
I beg to move,That a number not exceeding 163,000, all ranks, be maintained in the said Service.This is the traditional Parliamentary form of protest against what we think is an excessive demand in men and in money on the part of the Air Minister. It was, in fact, Parliamentary form long before the Air Ministry came into existence. For two centuries hon. Members who have been opposed to the policy of the Government and have thought that the demand for money and 547 men was excessive have made their protest in this form. My Amendment does not mean that I wish to reduce the Vote by merely 1,000 men; I should like to reduce it by a great many more. But this is the conventional form, and I want to advance some arguments why I think the Secretary of State for Air is asking us for too much money and too many men.
Like the hon. and gallant Member for Wembley, North (Wing Commander Bullus), I have taken part in these debates for many years. Sometimes. I have followed the hon. Member for Maccles- field (Sir A. V. Harvey) and sometimes he has followed me, but I think that on all occasions we have disagreed.
I wish to join in the tribute which has been paid to Lord Ward. Although I differed from him very fundamentally and made a great deal of criticism of his policy, I always found him a very courteous Minister. He had, of course, a very gallant record. During the that he brought forward the Air Estimates, he asked us for a great deal of money. I miss his familiar figure at the Dispatch Box. All I can say is that in the political mausoleum to which he has departed may he rest in peace.
There have been great changes since Lord Ward made his first speech at the Dispatch Box. Quite accidentally, I came across a speech which I made twelve years ago. At that time the right hon. Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill) was the Prime Minister. We were still thinking of the warning he had given about the tremendous change which had come over the international political and security situation as a result of the establishment of the American bomber base in East Anglia. It was the right hon. Member for Woodford who, in very eloquent words, pointed out, in 1951, the implications of the establishment of that American base in Britain. I have frequently quoted in these debates what he said.
I remember that in the debate in 1952 I held up an American magazine, Collier's Weekly, which had published a sensational issue dealing with the whole future of possible war with Russia. It created an international sensation. The contributors to it were very prominent authorities on air warfare, very prominent military correspondents, including 548 that of the New York Times, and political correspondents in this country, and also, I think, Mr. J. B. Priestley, who, since then, has been converted to nuclear disarmament.
The purpose of the magazine was to try to look forward to developments in air strategy in the next ten years, and it discussed the possibility of a war with the Soviet Union. This war was to begin in 1952 and to last for eight years. There was a very lurid picture on the cover showing how the Royal Air Force and the American Air Force were to descend upon the Ural Mountains. It was to be a long war, in which the West would defeat the East.
Now it is eight years later, and we are not talking like that today, because we do not seem to be gaining strength. We do not seem to be in the position of dictating to the Russians from a position of strength. I remember Lord Ward and I asking, from different points of view, the Labour Secretary of State for Air how a fighter could stop a rocket. We are still waiting for the answer, yet we are in the rocket age and are looking with anxiety towards further developments. This is a completely new age in the history of warfare and of humanity. A great deal of the information and material in the Estimates Memorandum is simply obsolete and irrelevant.
In 1952, when we unfolded our rearmament programme, we thought that we were technically a decade or more ahead of the Russians. Indeed, we thought that they did not matter very much in the technical age. We do not talk like that now, because we never know what we shall read in tomorrow's newspapers about the latest technical advance made by the Russians. A Russian rocket is on its way to Venus. I have heard it said, in relation to the controversy about Holy Loch, that if the Russians can hit the moon they can hit Dunoon. That is the alarming thing about all this, especially for those living near Dunoon.
The general public is beginning to wake up to the realities of the situation and of the jargon which we hear so much in defence and Service debates. It is jargon about the deterrent, and the credibility of the deterrent, and it is just not registering with the man in the 549 street. He is asking how we can be defended in the nuclear age of rockets and H-bombs, and there has been no answer to that question in this debate.
During the two days of the defence debate I waited for somebody to mention Civil Defence, but nobody did. Surely defence is the defence of the civil population? We are paying out all this money, and yet we went through the defence debate and through the debate on the Navy Estimates without mentioning Civil Defence, until the hon. Lady the Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Miss Vickers) raised the question. Nobody has said anything about Civil Defence in this debate. She could not get it dealt with on the Navy Estimates, and is optimistically waiting for an Adjournment debate tomorrow. But defence is defence of the civil population, and how far is the Air Ministry able to defend us against the possibility of a hydrogen bomb explosion over this country?
The hon. Member for Bute and North Ayrshire (Sir F. Maclean) told us in an earlier debate that one H-bomb exploding over Glasgow would mean that within a radius of 100 miles everything would be turned into cinder. He is an authority on military affairs, and I am prepared to give a certain amount of credibility to that statement. But if that is so, what is the use of deluding ourselves with all these things in the Estimates, and of wondering whether an aircrew can scramble in one and a half or one and three-quarter minutes?
The Secretary of State was very eloquent about this business of scrambling. The Air Ministry hopes to reduce the period by a split second, and perhaps by the next Estimates the time may be one minute and a quarter of a second. He told us how quickly the aircraft can get away. I want to know how quickly they can come back. He has not said anything about that.
The reality is that these airmen may get as far as the Russian defences and drop their bombs on the Soviet Union, but will come back to a charnel house in this country, because nobody questions the power of Russia to destroy us and no intelligent person questions our power to destroy Russia. That is why Mr. Khrushchev is so anxious about disarmament. I believe that he is completely realistic and honest when he goes 550 to the United Nations and says that the Soviet proposal is total disarmament in four years. We have not faced up to that.
The strategic and political idea behind the Secretary of State's policy is the deterrent. But the deterrent against what? The argument is that it is the deterrent of a possible aggressive attack from the Soviet Union. I believe, however, that the leaders of the Soviet Union, however much we may disagree with them, are realistic and understand what is going on in the world, and are not likely to embark upon policies which are not in the interests of the Soviet Union. Their country is engaged on a seven-year plan, and after that there will possibly be a five- or ten-year plan. They do not want to be involved in anything in the nature of foreign adventures.
§ Mr. Hughes
I am coming to that, if the hon. Member can understand it.
Now I come to my reason why there is a basic fallacy in the claim that we need to spend this £526 million to get a deterrent to stop war. I believe that an intelligent foreign policy and an intelligent and understanding agreement with the Soviet Union are possible, and that the Secretary of State is not justified in asking for this money.
Some hon. Members say that they do not trust Mr. Khrushchev. Let us try to understand his point of view. We recently sent a Parliamentary delegation to the Soviet Union and when I looked at its composition I thought, "Well now, we shall get a rather lurid report." I said that the people who did not like the Soviet Union, who were afraid of it, and who thought that everything in the Soviet Union was bad, were well represented on that delegation.
One of the leading personalities on it was my old friend, the hon. Member for Ayr (Sir T. Moore), who, I am sorry to say, is not here to listen to the tribute which I am about to pay him. The hon. Member for Ayr has never been what would be called mildly sympathetic to the Soviet Union. I have followed his career with great interest for about thirty years. When he first came into politics, he had been in the Archangel expedition in 1919, and he returned as 551 an authority on the Soviet Union. In his election speeches he used to dilate on how religion had been destroyed in Russia and how Russia had nationalised all the women.
When I saw that he was going to Russia, I thought that we would get the latest about the Soviet Union and I and my hon. Friend the Member for Central Ayrshire (Mr. Manuel) read with great interest the hon. Member's impressions of Russia and of Mr. Khrushchev. The delegation had the opportunity to go wherever it wished, and everywhere they went its members were treated with the utmost courtesy. The Russians were very pleased to meet the members of the delegation, because they thought that they had come in the spirit of peace.
The hon. Member was quite objective in what he said, because he spoke of the bad things about the Soviet Union as well as the good. For example, in Moscow he did not find enough lipstick.
§ Mr. Hughes
I am going over the background in order to give a first-hand impression of the Soviet Union, against whom we are arming and against whose activities we are being asked to provide £526 million for the Air Force. Are we entitled to spend this money against a nation which does not want to aggress— —
§ Mr. Hughes
—or against a statesman who is perfectly peaceful?
The hon. Member for Ayr told us:Although we argued pleasantly for a couple of hours"—that is, with some Russians—I rather felt that the only impression I had made was that our British love of peace was as strong as theirs. Indeed so strong and universal is this hove, even demand, for peace, that I cannot believe that Mr. Khrushchev will ever wittingly let loose a nuclear war on his people and he himself, of course, by his more liberal methods of government, has encouraged this attitude throughout the Union.Here we are, preparing to deter an aggressor who does not want to aggress. That is the fundamental fallacy throughout these debates.
552 There is no desire for aggression in the Soviet Union. Although the Soviet Union is building up its defences, and spending much money in the ridiculous way that we are, its policy is not such as to make the Government want to increase the Air Estimates in order to pursue this policy of the deterrent.
§ Mr. Farey-Jones (Watford)
If there is any basic truth in what the hon. Member's opinion of Mr. Khrushchev is, or has been, why does not this "apostle of peace", as my hon. Friend the Member for Ayr (Sir T. Moore) described him, accept the "Open skies" policy offered him freely and without condition by the President of the United States?
§ Mr. Hughes
I have very great respect for the hon. Member for Watford (Mr. Farey-Jones). Whenever he rises to interrupt me I remember his great exploits in the First World War. He once crash-landed an aeroplane on Ailsa Craig, and anyone who can do that deserves the greatest respect from this Committee. Mr. Khrushchev is prepared to go further than the "Open skies" policy. He advocates a four-year programme of total disarmament, in which the skies will be open and there will be no danger of bombing from anyone.
I greatly agree with what the hon. Member for Macclesfield said about the attendance for Service debates, especially for Air Estimates debates. I have always said that it is an absolute scandal that hon. Members can get excited about pots and pans in a Budget Resolution, or about whether there is to be a tax on Scotch whisky, or football pools, and neglect these opportunities when we are spending such enormous sums of public money.
§ Mr. Hughes
The hon. Gentleman should look behind him, for he will find the same phenomenon. I am not making any criticism of either side, but I am saying that these enormous sums of public money are not receiving sufficient attention.
Yesterday, the Prime Minister made a speech about the dangers of inflation. I hold that the expenditure of £520 million is inflationary. It is all very well for the Prime Minister to say, at a Conservative 553 conference, that he does not agree with the reduction of the rate of interest for local authority expenditure because any increase in local authority expenditure would be inflationary. These are far bigger bills than anything at stake in the municipal elections in London. This very large expenditure is inflationary and if the Chancellor of the Exchequer is not here to protect the public purse, I have to step in.
It is a scandal that the Treasury does not take the slightest interest in these debates. We have not seen the Chancellor of the Exchequer or even the Minister of Defence. The remedy is for the Opposition to oppose these Estimates. The Opposition do not do their job when they divide the Committee on defence and then leave the Air Estimates to go through without a Division. I have always been in favour of Divisions, because experience shows that when there is to be a Division hon. Members come to listen to the debates. There will never be much interest in these debates until we have a political attack which is carried on with the utmost vigour.
I go further. These sums should be the subject of a series of discussions in Standing Committee before the Estimates are presented. I know that the Select Committee on Estimates periodically discusses various activities of different Ministries and presents Reports, but those Reports are debated and then forgotten. As one who has had some experience of local authorities, I believe that if their finance committees were carefully to study the Estimates before the debate took place, there would be scrutiny by hon. Members who are well-informed about these matters. Expert opinion would then be brought to bear on the Estimates, which would consequently be lower. The Air Force has absorbed an enormous amount of money since the last war. In fact, it has been receiving "National Assistance" for a long time, by way of very substantial sums.
There is an interlocking of interests between the Ministries and the industries concerned. This should be watched over with great vigilance. We have seen civil servants retire from certain Service 554 Ministries—the Admiralty, the Air Ministry, and so on—and then appear on the boards of companies as expert advisers, and we find that those companies get lucrative contracts within a few months' time. That is bad. Grave financial scandals, respectable ones perhaps, are lurking behind these inflated figures.
I found one yesterday. Under the programme for the Air Ministry and for the American forces a considerable amount of money is to be spent on new runways at the landing grounds to he used by the American Air Force and by our Air Force. These require a great deal of cement, and yesterday I read this in a newspaper:Profits from cement at a peakThe report says that the trading surplus of the Rugby Portland Cement Co. Ltd. has gone up by £348,771 to £2,282,671, and that profits, after tax, have reached a peak of £1,138,908.
§ Mr. C. Osborne
I am sure that the hon. Gentleman would not wish to misrepresent people who cannot answer for themselves. Will he accept three things? First, that the Rugby Portland Cement Co. Ltd. produces cheaper cement than any other firm in Europe?
§ Mr. Osborne
Secondly, that it has a greater turnover, which gives a greater profit? Thirdly, that it is amongst the finest employers in the country? Merely to give these figures irrespective of turnover, and what the company is doing, is not fair, and I hope that the hon. Gentleman will not continue to do so.
§ Mr. Hughes
I will not accuse the hon. Gentleman of being a paid propagandist for the company, because that would be out of order. The hon. Gentleman showed some sensitivity before I had concluded my argument. I am sure that my hon. Friend the Member for Dundee, East (Mr. G. M. Thomson) would not have been as polite about it as I have been. The chairman of the company has referred to the share bonus, which means that shareholders will get a 25 per cent. dividend against 21 per cent. last year, and the dividend is covered 3.2 times. I have no doubt that it is a very successful firm, but it is making too much profit, and, therefore, I am in favour of—
§ The Temporary Chairman (Mr. H. Hynd)
I was beginning to wonder how the hon. Member related this to the Air Estimates.
§ Mr. Hughes
I travel from Prestwick Airport to this assembly. It has a long runway, and there are great piles of cement there. Naturally, I wonder which company is making a profit out of the cement.
§ Mr. Dudley Williams
Further to that point of order, Mr. Hynd. Prestwick Airport has nothing to do with the Royal Air Force, and nothing to do with the Air Estimates.
§ The Temporary Chairman
I realise that. I was hoping that the hon. Member was going on to talk about Royal Air Force airfields.
§ Mr. Hughes
The hon. Gentleman shows a lamentable lack of knowledge about this matter. It is one of the centres of the American Air Force, in which the R.A.F. co-operates. This is going on all over the country. An enormous amount of money is being spent on runways for airports, and I want a Select Committee to go into the business thoroughly to reduce the expenditure which ultimately appears in this request for £526 million.
§ Mr. Manuel
My hon. Friend has raised a point of absorbing interest. Will he elicit from the Minister the actual expenditure on cement in extending or making new runways during the past year, and, also, what is provided in the Estimates for the coming year?
§ Mr. Hughes
I am told that I cannot elicit anything from this Minister. He does not know, and if he did he would not tell me. I am suggesting that a considerable amount of public money could be saved if we examined these Estimates before they came to the Committee in their present form.
I have referred to the change in our attitude, the change in strategy, and the change in the ideas of the Air Force since Lord Ward first became the Air Minister. There has also been a change in public opinion. This is taking the form of a great political discussion. People are asking themselves, "Can the 556 Air Force defend us in the event of a nuclear war, and where is this policy of suicide—the deterrent—leading us?" Many young people are asking the political parties to define their attitude to this controversy of the expenditure of so much money on the Air Force and on the H-bomb.
I am a pacifist. I am used to arguing the pacifist case, but I have never been under any illusion that I was making a large number of converts, or that I was addressing my arguments other than to a small number of people, but during the last two years there has arisen in this country a movement for nuclear disarmament. It has expressed itself in such a way that the Labour Party—I do not mean the Parliamentary Labour Party—has come to the conclusion that it must oppose nuclear weapons and the American bases. That point of view is being more and more accepted in the country.
Nine years ago people dismissed people like myself as cranks, and even now, when people criticise the H-bomb and the policy of the orthodox Labour Party, they are dismissed as cranks and "a few young people wearing beards and duffle coats". I do not know whether there is anything wrong with having a beard. Shakespeare and the twelve Apostles had beards; and beards may become fashionable. But there is a tendency to look on this young movement as something which is cranky and not to be taken seriously. That is a great mistake. I am trying to put the point of view of those people because I believe that the Aldermaston march represented a revolt of public opinion against the complacency of Governments on the whole question of the H-bomb and nuclear warfare. During the next nine years, if we can look forward to then, this point of view will be expressed to an increasing extent in our debates.
I conclude by saying that, although the Minister is a very agreeable personality, he is the last person I would like to ask me to spend money. After Suez, merely to think of the apparition of his asking the Committee for £526 million of public money is incredible. If I were a member of the Preston Town Council I would not give him a job in the department which looked after the slaughterhouses. I have no confidence 557 in him as a Minister, and no desire to give him any more money for the Air Force.
Therefore, I shall take my Amendment to a Division. I am going to do something to shock the political complacency with which the Committee is faced, and I believe that in doing so I shall be expressing the point of view of the people I represent and of a considerable section of public opinion all over the country.
§ 7.41 p.m.
§ Mr. Michael Hamilton (Wellingborough)
I always enjoy listening to the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes), but whenever I do I find that a thick white Scottish mist seems to descend upon the business in hand. I find myself lost and stumbling, and fearful that I might agree with what he is saying.
§ Mr. Hamilton
There are a few points in the Air Estimates to which I want to refer. The first is concerned with the swift progress, referred to by my right hon. Friend, towards an all-Regular force. A long-service force is incomparably the finest military machine. I do not dispute the part played by the National Service man, but the discipline and skill obtainable in an all-Regular Air Force is beyond dispute. At the moment the conscript and the Regular wear the same uniform, but I am looking forward to the day, which is not far off now, when that uniform will have a new significance—when, automatically, that uniform will stamp a man as being one who, of his own free choice, has decided to make the Air Force his career. With every passing month new skills and greater specialisation are needed in the Royal Air Force, and as this process goes on the contribution which National Service men can make inevitably decreases.
Today we still have about 14,000 National Service men in the Royal Air Force, and they are very welcome. But having had conscription for twenty-one years we tend to forget the immense 558 advantage of an all-Regular professional force. To dilute it and to seek numbers simply for the sake of numbers does not strengthen it. We tend to overlook this fact in our attitude towards the Services. I suppose that in my lifetime the best instance of this was in 1919, when we made a classic mistake. It was in that year that we forbade Germany to reintroduce compulsory military training into any of her services. The Allies, and especially the French, clung to the belief that God marches with the big battalions and that numbers are the deciding factor in war, whereas Germany, in 17 out of those 21 inter-war years did not have a conscript in any of her services. Only in 1935 did she repudiate the relevant clause in the Versailles Treaty.
During those years she learned the value of a small, Regular, highly professional force. By denying Germany compulsory military service we were ensuring the one thing that we sought to avoid. We ensured that when the time came the quality of Germany's military machine would be superlative. We handed her all that she needed on a plate. Much as I respect National Service men and the job they are doing, I believe that the morale of the Air Force will lose very little if it becomes an all-Regular Service. Hon. Members are watching the Secretary of State for Air juggling with these numbers—building them up on the one hand and running them down on the other. I hope that my right hon. Friend will have great success and reward in his endeavour.
Some of us have seen the V-bomber bases which were referred to earlier, and the new Vulcan II's in squadron service. We have seen the "scrambles" that we were discussing earlier. I have never seen or talked to men who had more confidence in their equipment—and rightly so. Never before in our history have we deployed such a weapon.
If the taxpayer asks himself whether there will ever be a use for this weapon, he is showing that he has completely failed to grasp what our nuclear effort is about. The mere fact that this force exists is its whole justification. It is not something which may show a good return tomorrow; it is not something in the future at all. It is fulfilling its role today. The taxpayer has got something for his money. This is the British deterrent that we have been talking about, and it is defending 559 freedom today, however much certain Members may see fit to decry it.
We are concerned with a sum of £526 million. Last week the Minister of Defence likened defence expenditure to an insurance policy. He was only partially right; it is more than that. I hope that even if he does not appreciate that fact the Secretary of State for Air will. An insurance policy can compensate the policy holder in the event of serious trouble arising but it cannot reduce the degree of risk, whereas defence expenditure, although it cannot compensate the policy holder in the event of serious trouble arising, can reduce the degree of risk. With the one we are reducing the effect of the calamity, but with the other we are doing more, we are reducing the likelihood of that calamity. Having seen something of these V-bombers I believe that their role of prevention is more constructive than the role of a cure.
In my constituency there is a large American air base and we are very glad that it is there. The men at the base come from Tennessee, from Georgia, Nebraska and Texas. None of them vote for me and I do not suppose they would if they could, but I am always glad to see them. Measured by any yardstick their country's defence effort is stupendous. These men are content to live thousands of miles from home in a strange country, because they know what it is all about even if all hon. Members do not. They have a sense of purpose and they have a job to do.
When I meet them I am very glad and proud of the extent of our own defence effort alongside theirs. I am not one who would like to hand over more of the job to the Americans. We in this House may have our divisions—I thought we were going to have a division just now—on this issue, but I believe that the majority of hon. Members agree with me in not wanting to pass over more of the load to the Americans. To the Opposition goes the credit for having started rearmament eleven years ago, and in the creation of the V-bomber force the Government have had the support of the Opposition Front Bench right from the start. I feel that in the 1930s there was indecision, uncertainty and unpreparedness, whereas today at 560 least we have consistency. We are clearer about our responsibilities as a force for peace in the world. I am one who is glad to approve these Air Estimates.
§ 7.54 p.m.
§ Mr. Michael Foot (Ebbw Vale)
The hon. Member for Wellingborough (Mr. M. Hamilton) directed a considerable part of his speech to discussing the principal matter which we are debating, that is, the deterrent theory.
I hope to say a few words about that in a few minutes, but first I wish to say that I agree strongly with one thing that was said by the hon. Member for Macclesfield (Sir A. V. Harvey). He said he thought it deplorable that when we were discussing such large sums of money there should be such a small number of hon. Members present. I agree, not only because of the huge amounts of money involved, but also because, whatever view anyone may take about it one way or another, we are discussing what is, I suppose, the most serious and potentially the most dangerous aspect of all the policies which have been pursued by the Government.
That applies generally to the whole defence position but it applies, in particular, to the Air Force and to the maintenance of a strategic deterrent force, because in that respect we are dealing with a phenomenon absolutely new in the history of mankind. For those reasons, I think it deplorable that so few hon. Members should be present.
I must say to my hon. Friends—it is no use saying it to those who are present and so I say it to those who are absent—that when the Labour Party puts down a Motion condemning the whole defence policy of the Government, as it did during the defence debate, and after a most formidable speech from my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) attacking the central feature of the Government's policy, I think it should be the business of the Opposition to follow that up by debating the matter equally fully when we are discussing the Air Estimates and indeed to bring the question to a vote. For all these reasons, I think it deplorable that such a grave matter should be discussed in such a manner.
I listened to the speech of the Secretary of State for Air with great care. 561 I thought it was a more agreeable speech than the one he delivered during the defence debate, but I hope the right hon. Gentleman will not regard that as an excessively glowing compliment, because he managed on the previous occasion to speak in unfortunate terms of many of those who oppose him on the whole of this question of nuclear deterrence. He referred to them on one occasion as "rats" and the implication was that they might be traitors. He talked as if they suffered from a guilt complex. If the right hon. Gentleman really thinks that an issue which goes so deep and affects the whole future of mankind can be discussed in those terms, he is making a great error. Indeed, what I would say about his speech and his whole approach to the question—as revealed by his speech during the defence debate and the speech which he delivered today—is that he showed an utterly sterile imagination. He does not seem to realise what a deadly and devilish machine he is in charge of. I do not think he approaches the matter with a full enough sense of responsibility, because, if he did, I do not think he would use language of that nature.
At least in his speech today he spared us the bad psychoanalysis approach and did not resort to the kind of "Boys' Own Paper" language which was the level of the speech he made during the defence debate. Occasionally he soared into more modern terms and compared the situation today with that of the 1930s. Even that was a revelation of the failure of the right hon. Gentleman and his friends in the Government to understand the problem, because in this situation there is no comparison with the 1930s.
The hon. Member for Wellingborough said that the situation was much better than in the 1930s. I do not know how he worked that out, but he said that the Government were much more consistent. If he meant consistency in stupidity and folly, there may be something in what he said. But all the comparisons between what is happening in the world today and what happened in the 1930s are made invalid by the fact that nuclear weapons are so infinitely destructive that no nation will survive their use in a general war. Therefore, in such a situation all such comparisons are false.
562 I wish to turn to another contrast contained in the speech of the Secretary of State today, a contrast which I think shows the difficulties into which the Government get themselves. I do not mind the Government getting into difficulties, but they get themselves into logical contradictions, or rather illogical contradictions. It was revealed in the right hon. Gentleman's speech today and perhaps even more clearly in the contrast between what the Minister of Defence said on the first day of the defence debate and what was said by the Secretary of State for Air on the second day of that debate. On the first day the Minister of Defence stated that Bomber Command was now capable of crippling the industrial power of any potential aggressor. In other wards, the Minister of Defence stated that Bomber Command, the British independent deterrent by itself, is capable of crippling the industrial power of the Soviet Union.
§ Sir A. V. Harvey
What the Minister of Defence said, if I recollect, was that Bomber Command could cripple 30 per cent. of the industrial power. He mentioned a percentage.
§ Mr. Foot
Prompted in that way, I will give the exact quotation. The Minister of Defence said on the first day of the defence debate:I would say that they"—that is, the Opposition—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 aggressive nation. That is the truth of the present situation."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 27th February, 1961; Vol. 635, c. 1208]That is the claim of the Minister of Defence, that Bomber Command, by itself, is capable of crippling the industrial power of the Soviet Union.
The Secretary of State for Air was a little more cautious today. He said that enough of the bombers would get through. He did not tell us what he meant by "enough". Does the right hon. Gentleman agree with the statement of the Minister of Defence?
§ Mr. Amery
I said that enough would get through to inflict such a degree of devastation as to. more than outweigh any advantage which could be gained from attacking this country. As I have been asked a question, I will now take this opportunity of saying that I agree 563 entirely with what the Minister of Defence said.
§ Mr. Foot
The right hon. Gentleman cannot have it both ways, because there is a difference between what he and the Minister of Defence said. I shall not make very much of it, because it does not matter a great deal. I thought that the Secretary of State for Air was a little more cautious than the Minister of Defence. If he says that he agrees with the Minister of Defence, I will take that answer. The Minister of Defence stated that British Bomber Command is capable of crippling the industrial power of the Soviet Union. That is a very big claim.
I ask hon. Members to consider what the Secretary of State said, in contrast with that. He said that the amount of money which we devote to maintaining the British independent deterrent is about £200 million.
§ Mr. Foot
Yes, including defence. The hon. Member for Macclesfield mentioned £165 million, but the Secretary of State added on some figures for what should be required. He said that it was £200 million. Therefore, by the expenditure of £200 million a year we are capable of maintaining a force which can cripple the industrial power of the Soviet Union. If is a very remarkable state of affairs, if it is true. Two hundred million pounds is a great deal of money, though compared with our total expenditure it is not so great.
I presume that the purpose of the United States Strategic Air Force is to cripple the industrial power of the Soviet Union if ever a war should come, but they spend much more money on it. Apparently we can maintain the credible deterrent, according to the terms described by the Government, for £200 million, but the Americans spend probably a hundred times that amount. They spend vastly more on missiles alone.
This is not all that the Secretary of State for Air said. He also said that the cost of maintaining our independent deterrent will decline in the next ten years. He says that it will get lower and not higher. For the next ten years, according to the right hon. Gentleman, 564 we in this country will be able to maintain the power to cripple the Soviet Union at the expense of £200 million this year, a little less next year, and a little less later on. He says that we can do it by spending this small amount of money, although the Americans are spending vastly more to achieve the same result.
This is a strange contrast and it makes me slightly suspicious, or—shall I say—it breeds doubts even in my unsuspicious mind about the Government's statements. Anyone who listened to previous debates on the Estimates heard how the Government go about deciding the figure for the Army. They do what the schoolboy does. They look up the answer in the crib first and then make the equation fit. Everybody knows that that is so. It has been proved time and again. Perhaps they have been doing the same kind of arithmetic with the Air Estimates. They discover what they want to prove and make it fit that way.
Perhaps they have been stretching it a little. I certainly think that the Minister of Defence was stretching it a little when he said that we have sufficient power to get a sufficient number of aeroplanes off the ground in the scrambling time which has been described, a sufficient number of them across the Continent, and a sufficient number of them through the defences of the Soviet Union to cripple its industrial power. I do not believe it, and it will need more persuasion and more facts than the right hon. Gentleman is prepared to give us to persuade me. Indeed, if the Minister of Defence can prove it, why does he not do so? It would surely bolster the credibility of the so-called great deterrent. If it can be proved that we could destroy so much, why not prove it? No facts to support this case have been brought forward by the Ministers in these debates. It makes me suspicious about many other things that they say.
The Secretary of State for Air was not very clear when he intervened about the Thor missile. Perhaps it was all done at the Air Ministry before he got there. Perhaps he does not approve of the Thor missiles, but has to get up to defend them. Very few people will defend the Thor missiles on any grounds. They are either useless or highly dangerous.
565 I do not think that the right hon. Gentleman's explanation of the circumstances in which the Thor missiles might be used convinced anyone in the Committee. He said that he would not answer the political points. What he said was that the Thor missiles might be used before any bomb had been dropped on this country. That is a very dangerous situation.
This is one of the troubles with the Thor missiles. They are first-strike missiles. They would be one of the targets if a war broke out. One of the reasons why an attack would be made on this country would be the presence of the Thor missiles, because they are first-strike weapons. That is why we have been in favour of clearing them out, but the Government, apparently quite tamely and obediently, because the Americans want to have them here, still keep them here.
They are very dangerous weapons. The Secretary of State for Air should have given clearer answers about them today, but he conveniently smudged it up and blurred the issue so that no one could understand what he was saying. This is what the right hon. Gentleman and the whole Government do so often in defence matters. Whatever else we have a right to, we certainly have a right to be told the truth about these matters. We should be told much more of the truth than we are told.
The right hon. Member for Birmingham, Hall Green (Mr. Aubrey Jones), when speaking in the defence debate, said that the reason why he thought that the Government were maintaining the independent deterrent and were so wedded to the idea was that they had some plan or some misconception of maintaining the prestige of the Royal Air Force. Those are not my words. They were used by the right hon. Member for Hall Green.
Perhaps it is part of the explanation. Service Ministers are very good at grinding axes. Indeed, these axes seem to be about the only conventional weapons which are now in full supply. Service Ministers are also very good at blowing their own trumpets, even if they sometimes burst themselves in the exertion. Indeed, the Treasury Bench is littered with the remnants of previous Ministers 566 of Defence who have indulged in this 'unbecoming exhibition.
The Government should tell us the truth about more of these matters, and not try to muddle them up in the way that the Secretary of State for Air and some of his colleagues have done in the other Estimates debates. If they started to tell the truth, they would start with a very different proposition.
The truth is that this country is more defenceless now than it has ever been in its history. It is more defenceless in any true meaning of that term. It is more defenceless in the sense in which the Army, the Navy and the Royal Air Force defended us in the last war. In that sense we are defenceless. I do not put all the blame on the Government. Ninety per cent. of the blame is due to the nature of the weapons which have been invented and perhaps 10 per cent. of the blame is due to the incompetence of the Government. In the defence debates we spend most of our time discussing the 10 per cent. which is due to the incompetence of the Government. I think we should do well to spend more of our time discussing the 90 per cent. which is due to the nature of the weapons themselves, because this is the bigger problem.
If, therefore, we started from the proposition that this country is really defenceless, we might discover a better solution. It is not a solution to decide that we must go on maintaining an independent deterrent. That does not contribute very much towards a solution, and I shall have a word to say about that a little later. The Government should recognise the facts and tell the country that we are defenceless. This is just what the previous Minister who is now Secretary of State for Commonwelath Relations declared when he said that we would not attempt to defend the civil population at all but we would defend only the bomber sites. It may be that that was what he was sacked for. There were plenty of other reasons for removing him from office, but perhaps that was it—he blurted out the truth. If we started to tell the country the truth, that we are naked in the face of this horrific nuclear invention, we should begin to lead the way towards a better solution.
The Minister, like his colleagues when they talk about solutions, pays lip-service 567 to the idea of disarmament. The Government say that that is what they want in the end. They put it at the beginning of the White Paper. But the more one listens to defence debates, the more one wonders whether they really believe what they are saying about disarmament. Many Ministers, having said first that they agree with general disarmament, revert later to a quite different argument, the argument that it may be that we can get a perfectly good protection in another way. Indeed, the Minister of Defence in his speech went out of his way to quote the famous statement made by the right hon. Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill):'We and all nations stand, at this hour in human history, before the portals of supreme catastrophe 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'."—[OFFICIAL. REPORT, 27th February, 1961; Vol. 635, c. 1201.]There are some people who believe that proposition. A few hon. Members opposite believe it. There are many people who say that we really have a balance of terror and this balance is something to be preserved because it offers the best possibility of avoiding war. But, if people do believe that, they cannot at the same time say that they are in favour of general disarmament. The two propositions are contradictory. Which one do the Government really believe? They pay lip-service to general disarmament, but time after time in the speeches of Ministers they show that what they really believe in is this theory—a quite false theory, I believe—adumbrated by the right hon. Member for Woodford.
Indeed, the Minister of Defence is so attracted by that doctrine that he said in his speech, and I think the Secretary of State repeated something very similar, that the British contribution to the independent deterrent—or the interdependent deterrent, the British independent deterrent, or whatever it is; I am not quite sure what the fashionable name is at the moment—had contributed powerfully to maintaining the peace of the world. He said that our contribution to the deterrent had helped to preserve peace. There is not a shred of justification for it. When I hear Ministers say such things, I am reminded of the story 568 about a man who used to go about wearing a potato necklace round his neck. Someone asked him why he wore such a necklace. "Oh", he said, "I wear it to keep the elephants away". The other chap said to him, "But there are no elephants here". "No," said he, "it works, doesn't it?".
That is really what hon. and right hon. Members say about the deterrent. We have not been blown up so far, so it is all right. It works. Of course, there is not the slightest proof that the world is not at war today because of the existence of the deterrent, certainly not because of the existence of the 3 per cent. British deterrent. Not a scrap of proof.
Indeed, it so happens that the moment when we did not have the deterrent but when the Americans had it and the Russians did not have it was the very moment when, in fact, the Russians were most aggressive, at the time of the Korean crisis. There is not the slightest evidence to support this theory that the British contribution to the independent deterrent, the British independent deterrent, or whatever it is, helps to maintain the peace of the world.
One reason why the right hon. Gentleman's speech was so unconvincing is that he has no perspective of what is happening and will happen in the years ahead. He does not even attempt to describe how his plan to keep the V-bombers for ten years and to keep the independent deterrent for ten years fits in with what is likely to happen. I recently read, as I dare say many hon. Members read, a very interesting and illuminating article in the Sunday Times by Mr. Dennis Gabor, who is certainly an authority on the subject. He described his perspective or his view of what was likely to happen in the development of missiles over the years to come. He pinned his faith, to call it that, on the development of the American Minuteman. His argument is that if one can have a sufficient number of these Minutemen developed by the Americans, and an equivalent number of similar weapons developed by the Russians, the deterrent on both sides will be so invulnerable that a real balance of terror will be established.
I believe that there are many arguments to put against his general proposition, but what he underlines in that article is that there is no balance of 569 terror in that sense now. He says that the danger today is that one side might think that it could still score an advantage by a kind of nuclear Pearl Harbour. Of course, I do not want any balance of terror, but it may be that if one produced weapons which are more nearly invulnerable, then, at any rate, the danger will be somewhat diminished. That is obviously true. Then it would not be so necessary to have the appalling system we have at present of the response to an attack having to be prepared to let loose in a matter of minutes. One would not need to have so swift a scramble if one had weapons which were invulnerable to attack.
But what does Mr. Dennis Gabor say is the deduction to be drawn from the theory? He says that if things develop as he supposes, and as is quite possible, the real necessity will be to get rid of all the other weapons which are cumbering up the place and which are the real potential cause of war. He says:It is absolutely imperative to break in as many points as possible the fatal chain which might lead from a frontier incident to all-out war. The most obvious and dangerous link in the chain is tactical nuclear weapons. … The second link is the bombing plane, which is now becoming obsolete but which is still dangerous.The right hon. Gentleman's programme is to go on spreading more tactical nuclear weapons in Europe, to use aeroplanes capable of flying with tactical nuclear weapons, and to maintan the bomber planes to carry nuclear weapons. I doubt very much that his programme fits in with any reasonable perspective of what is likely to happen as a result of the development of much more extensive and far-reaching missiles in the years to come. He certainly did not explain to the Committee how it fitted in.
The right hon. Gentleman said also in his speech, referring particularly to the money, that he thinks that when historians come to write about this state of affairs they will wonder how the maintenance of the independent deterrent could ever have been questioned in the House of Commons. I do not think that the historians will wonder about that, if they are there to write about it at all. I think they will wonder very much more about the sanity of the 570 rulers of such a country as this, the most vulnerable country of the world, who decided to make their country the most obvious and immediate target if a nuclear war should come. That is what will baffle the historians. Indeed, if we succeed in having the nuclear bases removed from our soil and in extricating ourselves from our present most perilous position, within two or three years people will look back in amazement at the peril in which this country placed itself in being prepared to make itself the certain target if nuclear war broke out.
Some hon. and right hon. Members, particularly the right hon. Member for Flint, West (Mr. Birch), in the defence debate, posed to this House, and it seemed to be accepted by most hon. Gentlemen opposite and by some hon. Members on this side, that the great conflict in the world, the danger to all of us, arises from the cold war, or peaceful co-existence, or the danger of a hot war, whichever we call it, between the Communist part of the world and the rest of the world. That is the argument which the Secretary of State invokes in support of his case. This is a plan for resisting Communism, and the right hon. Member for Flint, West put this very clearly. He says that there is a struggle in the world, and in this great struggle we must decide which side we are on, and then back up that side by whatever measures we want to use to back it up. Even on that basis. I think the measures we take to back up our so-called side in any war are not very successful measures.
However, what hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite must see is that something very different is happening in the world. The real menace to the world at present is not that we are likely to be overrun by Communism and suffer slavery, which the right hon. Gentleman said some of us would prefer to death, not whether the world is to be conquered by Communists or Americans. The danger is the possibility of nuclear war itself, the infinite possibilities of accident, the huge pressures imposed by the persistent arms race, and the fact that this nuclear arms race interferes with very possibility of peacemaking in the world and every offer that is made.
571 Offers have been made to us. They were made in the Rapacki Plan. Why was it turned down? It was because the military chiefs and their advisers in this country said, "No, we must have the tactical nuclear weapons in Germany," and, because they said that, we did not even consider the possibility of peace. The same conflict of interest between the process of peace-making and the pursuit of nuclear strategy goes on all the time. Hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite will have to understand, if they really are to discover what age they are living in, that the real threat to humanity arises from the terrible momentum of the arms race in weapons of this sort, more than ever from any other cause.
It is all very well for hon. Gentlemen to say that those who oppose the whole nuclear strategy are only a small number. They may be a small number in this Committee, but there are very large numbers elsewhere, and not only in this country. The vast majority of the people in the world in different countries would think it lunacy to invite nuclear bases on their soil or to have nuclear weapons as part of their armoury. Does anybody think that Ghana would be safer with nuclear bases? Does anybody think that Ghana would be safer if it had joined N.A.T.O.? Does anybody think that Finland would be better off and less likely to be subdued by the Soviet Union if it was a member of N.A.T.O. or was protected by nuclear weapons? The hon. Member for the Isle of Ely (Sir H. Legge-Bourke), who interrupted a short while ago, asked what about Hungary. The answer is that the deterrent and the nuclear weapon could not save Hungary. It could have done that only at the expense of general war.
Hon. Gentlemen opposite have not begun to think about these things. I do not expect to be able to convince hon. Members on that side of the Committee at this stage. To get them to understand would, as someone has said, be like getting a joke into the Scots' understanding; it would require a surgical operation. I do not think we can convince them tonight. But the way in which they will be convinced is by events, and, believe me, in the next few months and years, I do not think the 572 world will develop in the way in which they think it will develop. It is going to develop with more and more nations, particularly the newly independent nations in Africa which the right hon. Gentleman is not so eager to see independent, saying, "It is insane for us to play a part in this mad nuclear arms race which is pushing the world to oblivion. Let us keep out of it and try to bring sanity to the other nations."
I think our nation would be supremely fitted to lead those nations and to show those nations the way of doing this, in association with all the others who want to bring back sanity into the world. I would hope to see the party to which I belong preaching that doctrine, but I do not think it will do it by half-hearted methods and by the way in which it regards some of these matters. It will require much more strength than that.
The proper course to adopt is to get the world to recognise this nuclear menace as the most terrible menace in the world today, and we will never escape if we get ourselves encoiled in the arguments about the cold war. This demand for the renunciation of nuclear weapons will not diminish; it will grow and blow to oblivion the kind of irrelevancies in the Air Estimates which we are discussing today.
§ 8.25 p.m.
§ Mr. Airey Neave (Abingdon)
The hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. M. Foot) has presented a forecful and dialetical argument opposed to the idea of the deterrent. I agree with him that events will, no doubt, take control, to a certain extent, as to what happens in the future. The question is whether events will occur in the way in which he asserts, and whether we can afford, at the present time, to abandon the deterrent, which, in this case, is the V-bomber force.
There is one thing which the hon. Member said with which I think most hon. Members in the Committee will agree, and that is that it is most deplorable that there are not more hon. Members from both sides attending and taking part in this debate. After all, the deterrent question is the great issue of our time, and, although we had a two-day defence debate on general topics, to a large extent, it seems to me very unfortunate that hon. Members should 573 not be here to discuss the most important of these deterrents, which is the V-bomber force, whether one agrees with it or not, whether one is in favour of total nuclear disarmament, or believes, as I do, that the R.A.F. is an effective way of preventing war at present.
Whether events will take shape as the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale suggests or not I do not know, but I certainly do not think that we can afford to abandon the deterrent. Since we had a two-day defence debate last week, I think it is proper that some hon. Members should refer specifically to what is in the Memorandum on the Air Estimates. Therefore, if the hon. Member will forgive me, I will not follow his argument any further.
I should like to join in the tributes paid to Lord Ward, under whom I served for a short time at the Air Ministry, and to congratulate my right hon. Friend on his appointment as Secretary of State and on his speech.
In taking part in the corresponding debate last year. I said that the Committee would agree that the rôle of the Royal Air Force was largely determined by mobility and the work that Transport Command could do in carrying the Army. I wish to refer to its further progress in that respect and to ask a few questions to which I hope my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State will be able to reply.
Paragraph 37 of the Memorandum refers to athreefold increase in air transport capacity over the past 10 years …".The colourful diagram about Transport Command at the back of the Memorandum is welcome and very useful. I do not know whether it has ever appeared before in the Memorandum, but I think that it is very helpful. Hon. Members will see that it is divided, like my right hon. Friend divided his speech on Transport Command, into strategic, medium range and short-range sections.
The strategic force of Transport Command now has Britannias, which I understand have ranges of up to 2,500 miles. Since I last spoke we have had a second Britannia squadron. I should like my hon. Friend to tell us the position concerning the Comets. It would appear that the Comet II aircraft are 574 now coming to the end of their useful life. I am told that Comet 4Cs are being bought. When does the Ministry expect delivery of them? What progress is being made in new aircraft of that type for the strategic section of Transport Command?
The Memorandum refers to medium-range aircraft for Transport Command. They are coloured blue. The Hastings is still in service. It has been a very reliable aircraft, but I do not suppose that it will remain in service for very much longer. We should welcome what my right hon. Friend said about the Argosy. I am told that this aeroplane can carry 70 troops, or 35,000 lb. of stores. My right hon. Friend said that he thought that a number of them would be in service this year. I wonder how many he meant. I am told that 50 have been ordered. When will we have the remainder?
§ Mr. Neave
I am obliged to my right hon. Friend. I understand that orders have been placed for up to 56 of these aircraft. Can my right hon. Friend say when the Ministry expects delivery of them?
The short-range aircraft are coloured green and this section refers principally to helicopters. I am glad to hear of our plans for having more helicopters, particularly of the large twin rotor type. I welcome the re-establishment of 38 Group in the role of tactical transport support, to which my right hon. Friend referred. I hope that I shall be forgiven if I am rather specific about these matters, but I wish to inquire particularly about Transport Command because one of its most important stations is in my constituency. It is concerned a great deal with airborne planning and parachute training. This comes under the short-range section.
I want to ask a long-term question of vital importance. As Transport Command will be the mainspring of the mobility of the Army, what will be the pattern of Transport Command in the next ten years? I cannot ascertain this information from the Memorandum.
Concerning the strategic section, we will obviously need something bigger and faster than the Britannia. I notice from 575 paragraph 44 of the Memorandum—reference has been made to the airlift "Starlight" in this connection—that over 50 air mobility exercises in 1961–62 will involve at least a battalion. What about air mobility exercises for the future? It will obviously be necessary to consider airlifts of a much bigger strength if we are to make an effective intervention in a limited war where it is required, and it will be necessary to conduct airlifts of at least brigade strength. When my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary replies, I should like to know whether it will be possible to do it at least in brigade strength. What aircraft has my right hon. Friend in mind for this purpose apart from the Belfast, to which he refers in paragraph 39 of the Memorandum?
There has been much argument in the past about the Belfast. Most of us remember it as the Britannic, by which name it was known when I was at the Air Ministry. Two years ago, I was advised that it was likely to be economic and to operate with the range, capacity and runway performance that was needed. It certainly sounds as if it would have advantages for transport, particularly of freight. Is it fast enough, however, for the purpose? I am considering a long-term period of ten years and thinking in terms of much heavier airlifts for the Army in the future than we have been able to undertake so far. When will the Belfast be in service? Attention should be directed to some of the criticisms, from both sides of the Committee, concerning the size of these airlifts, which, if we are to make an effective intervention by this means, will, in future, be much bigger and on a larger scale.
I now turn to the long-term aspects of the medium-range aircraft in Transport Command. We have heard tonight that the Argosy will come into service. The Hastings and the Beverley will need replacements and I hope that this fact has not been overlooked. The Hastings has done valuable service and in the near future is likely to outlive its useful life. A large number of Beverleys are stationed in my constituency, at Abingdon, but they are employed mainly on short-range and tactical support work. I hope that the need to replace them for medium-range purposes has not been forgotten. I should like to know what 576 my right hon. Friend has in mind about replacing these aircraft, apart from what I have said about the Argosy.
With regard to short-range Transport Command aircraft, the need for helicopters will certainly increase. It is probably true to say that they will tend to replace vehicles for close support with the Army. What is likely to be the long-term programme for helicopters? What thought has been given to this question?
My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has said that the Royal Air Force and the Army have to work closely together. All of us who support the idea of having a Royal Air Force and any deterrent at all will agree with that, and the equipment of the Army must be so manufactured to fit the aircraft. One hears that in one or two cases, this does not necessarily follow. Obviously, there must be much closer co-ordination between the two Services in this respect. The Royal Air Force must meet the Army's needs.
The Committee should be given assurances on these points. I hope that by being so detailed and specific I have not in any way gone from the main trend of the debate, which is really about the Royal Air Force as a Service. The deterrent problems are, however, so great that perhaps I might mention something about nuclear weapons.
Earlier in the debate, the hon. Member for Glasgow, Govan (Mr. Rankin) interrupted my right hon. Friend concerning Skybolt. The hon. Member implied that it was not yet in existence and asked what would happen if it did not become operational.
§ Mr. Neave
The hon. Member may have been asking the question for a different reason from mine, but it is a perfectly legitimate one. Suppose that Skybolt is not brought to a satisfactory stage of operational development. I agree with the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) that we are in a changing age and that there are big technical changes, and these weapons do not always work out as one expects. This is known to hon. Members, on both sides, for various reasons, and the point is a legitimate one to make.
577 It would be much less expensive for us if Skybolt was, in fact, successful—if one believes in having that form of deterrent—because we would save on research and development, although it has a British warhead. Have we any plans to develop guided weapons on our own? What will we do if Skybolt is not a successful technical development? I am not dealing with the merits of whether we should have a deterrent of that kind, but am asking what would happen in the event of its not being satisfactory to those who have to decide operationally.
I should like to know when tests will begin with the fitting of Skybolt to the Mark Il Vulcan and the firing of Skybolt in the United States for that aircraft. I imagine that such arrangements are being made with the Americans. Sky-bolt, if it is a satisfactory weapon—and, again, if one believes in a deterrent and in a V-bomber force—will have the great advantage of our continuing the big national investment in manpower and technical skill that now exists in the V-bombers. Personally, I think that that is the solution to our deterrent problem, but it does change from day to day.
I close by again congratulating my right hon. Friend on what he said today and wishing him very well in his time with the Royal Air Force. The issues presented by these Estimates are very big issues, and I repeat my great regret, as other hon. Members have done, that more hon. Members are not here to take part in this debate. I hope those in the Service will not assume, from our pointing out that there are so few here present, that we do not take a great interest in their welfare and what they do in what they believe to be their duty.
§ 8.40 p.m.
§ Mrs. Judith Hart (Lanark)
The hon. Member for Abingdon (Mr. Neave) has agreed that there is a real problem in considering whether or not this country should have an independent deterrent. I am glad that he accepts the fact that this is disturbing a great many people and so merits a great deal of discussion and a great deal of serious, balanced argument, which I think has been tending to be lacking in much of the discussion in the country as a whole, par- 578 ticularly in the Press, over the last few months
I shall not attempt, if the hon. Member will forgive me, to follow him in the detailed points he has been putting to the Committee, for I want to take up, as have some of my hon. Friends earlier, the basic question of the independent British contribution to the Western nuclear deterrent. I want to remind the Secretary of State of what he said this afternoon, when he emphasised that in passing one test, that "we are still at peace", we have relied a great deal on what has become—I quote his words—"a highly sophisticated air defence system." The right hon. Gentleman laid a great deal of stress on the ballistic missile early warning system, on the electronic equipment which has come into operation to assist the air defence system, and on the need—and the success there has been, as he claims—although this is a matter of some dispute—to cut down the reaction time from the point at which the warning is received to the point at which the bombers get into the air.
My hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. M. Foot) quoted in his speech Professor Gabor's Sunday Times article last weekend, and I want to give another sentence from that article, because it is really the key of the points I should like to make tonight. Professor Gabor said thatpublic opinion … ought to exert pressure on the Government"—and he meant not only the Governments of the West, but the Governments of the East and all those Governments who possess nuclear weapons—to introduce safety-catches on every possible chain of errors, extending the decision-time from minutes to at least several hours, and, what is most important, to make this publicHere, immediately, is a conflict. It is a conflict which is produced by the nature of the nuclear strategy itself, a conflict which I believe to be incapable by its own nature of being resolved. On the one hand is the need to establish adequate safety precautions, and in doing so not to produce the result that we shorten the reaction time between that of receiving some indication that there may be a need to launch nuclear weapons and the point at which launching is actually done—and which with missiles cannot be revoked. From the point of view of safety precautions there is a need to extend the reaction time. From the point of view of 579 credibility of the deterrent, there is a need to shorten it. There is a conflict.
What can be done about it? I believe that one of the strongest arguments against the British independent nuclear deterrent and in favour of a unilateral decision by Her Majesty's Government to renounce it, and then to play a considerable and more effective part in persuading America and Russia both to abandon nuclear weapons, and to prevent, by our own example, a further spread of nuclear weapons is the situation which has now arisen—that there is a real danger that an unintended war may begin. I mentioned this briefly in the debate on the Navy Estimates last week and I referred then only to one aspect of the dangers of an accidental war.
The Minister may know that in June last year there was published in the University of Ohio a research paper which was the product of a considerable period of research carried out by a number of people employed by the Mershon National Security Programme. They studied various factors which might lead to war being caused accidentally in the course of the present decade. Their conclusions, while not intentionally alarmist, are worthy of the deepest consideration by the Governments of Britain, America, Russia and France who, at the moment, possess nuclear weapons and by the Governments of every country which is contemplating developing them.
§ Mr. Amery
To avoid confusion, may I point out that when the hon. Lady talked about tightening up the reaction time, this is, of course, the reaction time within which we get the aircraft airborne. They will still be under radio control for quite a long time and, therefore, the speeding up of reaction time does not mean the speeding up of a counter attack.
§ Mrs. Hart
Yes, but the missile itself is, in some cases, manually put into operation and, in other cases, electronically or automatically. In any event, this is our contribution to the nuclear deterrent of the West. It is by no means wholly manually operated and from that point of view we need to consider our own part in it and the effect that we should have in persuading other countries of the West and Russia to abandon their nuclear weapons.
Professor Gabor also said in the article to which I have referred:After all, the public has a right to know whether an aeroplane or a missile gone astray, or a `mad colonel', could really trigger off the catastrophe as is now rumoured.This idea of a mad colonel or a mad admiral or a mad commander in the Air Force is one to which most of us have not given serious attention in the past. This has seemed to be one of the rather more improbable fantasies of a possible nuclear war, but the Ohio University research paper gave a great deal of attention to the Possibility of perhaps a temporary breakdown among people with positions of considerable responsibility within the Western defence system.
To begin with, one needs to establish—and these research workers agreed upon it—that as a result of the elaboration of nuclear strategy there is a great deal of delegation of responsibility. It is no longer a question of saying to one man, "Would you press the button which would begin a nuclear war?" Authority has been delegated and a great many of the decisions that would influence the pressing of the button have had to be given to people lower down the scale.
It is true to say that the President of the United States no longer takes upon himself the prime responsibility of making the decision, because a large part of the decision has been taken from him and has been already made when he is being supplied with the information on which the decision must be based.
We must seriously consider, therefore, not only the possibility of a breakdown among one or two of the persons in supreme authority, but also among a number of people in positions of subordinate but still important responsibility. Some of the evidence collected by the team at Ohio University is of tremendous value and, I think, should be studied by 581 Her Majesty's Government. If possible, I should like to see an inquiry initiated by the Government into similar circumstances in this country.
I hope that hon. Members will forgive me if I burden them with four or five simple facts.
In the Second World War, 43 per cent. of all medical discharges from the United States forces were for neuro-psychiatric causes. In other words, 43 per cent, of the people who had to leave the United States forces for any kind of medical reason did so because a contributory factor might have been a temporary mental breakdown. A large proportion of those cases occurred before operational or combat experience. They were not the product of strain in war, but the product of strain before active participation in war.
In the R.A.F., it is understood that 40 per cent. of the discharges during the Second World War which took place for neuro-psychiatric causes again took place before operational experience. It was not, apparently, the case of a pilot exposed to the severe strain of taking part in bomber raids, or in his fighter squadron's active work, but the actual responsibility and the strain of knowing that he was about to do so, or could be asked to do so, which was a contributory factor.
In 32 per cent. of the R.A.F. cases there was no predisposition to mental breakdown. No doctor could have looked at a pilot and said, "Here is a man who, we think, could possibly break down under stress or strain". It is unpredictable. There can be no guarantee that men selected for the supreme responsible positions will not similarly have a breakdowns under strain, although they have given no indication beforehand that they might do so. These may be the key people who will be actually operating the nuclear strategy of this country and of the West.
Twelve psychiatrists in America selected by the Ohio research team, agreed that, in fact, there were not existing tests which could at the moment be devised to screen people going into responsible positions against the possibility of mental breakdown. The psychiatrists could not tell us of a way to avoid this risk. The main qualifications of the American bomber and missile 582 crews—and I should like the Minister to tell us whether the same applies within the Royal Air Force—are high-performance ratings. No specific psychological screening is at present used when selecting people for jobs in the American Air Force. It it the same in the R.A.F.?
The research team come to this conclusion on this aspect of mental breakdown causing a mistake which could start off a war:The possibly harmful effects of great responsibility maintained over long time periods in an essentially passive peacetime or cold wartime rôle, one nearly impossible to detect. … On a statistical basis and over a period of years, the probability of a few breakdowns in positions of great responsibility is high.What safeguards can be introduced? Is it possible, is it rational either to expect, to demand or to offer safeguards in this field of risks when we know from the psychiatrists that there are no certain tests that can be used? Here is a field of risk of accidental war which is unavoidable so long as we have nuclear strategy. It is one of the developments of nuclear strategy itself. There are others.
There is only one more in which I want to go into detail. I am not touching with any degree of elaboration on mistaken intelligence information. It is well known that no intelligence system can ever be infallible. It follows that if one learns from one's intelligence information of some move that is being made by one's enemy and bases one's actions on that information, one could be making a mistake. In this split second timing which would be involved in the beginnings of a nuclear war, that kind of mistaken intelligence information could be a vital factor. So can misinterpreted radar warnings. We have had examples of that, so I will not go into them in detail. Before Christmas, there was an incident in America, the so-called moon alert, when all missile and air force stations were alerted as a result of a mistaken interpretation of pictures on the radar screens. There have been many other examples of that kind of thing.
There have also been some examples of missiles which were accidentally sent on their way. There is the famous example of one which was supposed to have been launched from Russia and 583 was making its way towards Alaska before the Russians succeeded in destroying it in flight. That was an example of a missile which could have started something off. There have been examples the other way, too.
I want to go into a little detail about a second possible accidental cause of war. It is one to which I had not given a great deal of attention until I saw the report of the Ohio team. This is the contribution which could be made by accidental nuclear explosions in the military field—not in the sphere of the peaceful use of atomic energy. This could be a cause of war if it occurred during a period of international tension or a crisis period, during, for example, a period such as Suez, Hungary, Korea, Indo-China, Taiwan, or activity involving the Chinese offshore islands, or West Berlin. In any of the crises which occur from time to time, an accidental nuclear explosion, if it was an important one and an important target was hit, and if it was believed to have been caused by the enemy, could start off war.
There are many known instances of this. There are several known instances in America. At least one has taken place in England, and there may be more, but they may be hidden behind the barriers of "Classified" information. I do not know whether the Minister can come out of the barriers tonight to tell us whether there has been more than one in Britain as a whole.
§ Mrs. Hart
I am not discussing accidental nuclear explosions involved in the production of nuclear energy. I am concerned with accidental nuclear explosions involving nuclear weapons. Therefore, it is not quite Windscale.
In America, there is an unclassified code term for these—"Broken-Arrows". I am sure that there is an unclassified code term for them in the Royal Air Force. There have, apparently, been two fairly recent cases of "Broken-Arrows" where nuclear weapons were jettisoned over water in an emergency by planes in flight. There was the example of the explosion of a B47 bomber on the ground. There was one case in England 584 and another in North Africa. There have been 50 minor incidents—not major ones—and in all these cases there was what has been called a localised radiation hazard, and precautions were taken.
However, no actual nuclear weapons exploded. The Ohio University team takes this as perhaps offering some hope that, however many accidental explosions involving nuclear weapons one may have, the result is not necessarily the explosion of the hydrogen bombs which are being carried. However, it goes on to say that the fact that no H-bomb itself has exploded shows that there must be effective built-in safety features in the nuclear weapons carried by manned bombers. Here is the relevance of the Minister's intervention a few moments ago concerning the manual operation of weapons in manned bombers. It goes on to say:For weapons inaccessible in flight, in missiles such as Atlas or Minuteman … arming must be accomplished automatically or electrically, and more difficult safety problems are clearly presented.Many people would like to know—though I do not know whether it is a question which can be answered—what the chances are of a nuclear explosion involving the blowing up of a hydrogen bomb. The Ohio team makes an attempt to give some assessment of the possibilities. It is not very reassuring.
The team says that, taking into account United States weapons alone, and making reasonable assumptions about the number of H-bombs of one kind and another possessed by America, the number of miles they will travel, the crash rate of the various carriers, and the frequency of any significant maintenance operations, the chances are about 1 in 100 that an American nuclear weapon will explode some time during the next ten years.
We must add to that the chances that a Russian nuclear weapon will explode. I do not believe that the Russians are any further ahead in devising safety precautions than are the Americans, because I do not believe that effective safety precautions are possible. Then we must also add our own nuclear weapons, and those which may be possessed by Powers which, at the moment, have not got them, but which are likely to have them within ten years.
585 If we accept as accurate the chance of 1 in 100 that an American hydrogen bomb will explode—with the possibility of starting a nuclear war by accident—and add to the American weapons all these others, then I believe the chance will rise to considerably higher than 1 in 50. That is a higher chance than anyone in this country would like to contemplate if these facts were put before them. I believe that these factors, taken together with others, which the Ohio team goes into, but which I have not time to deal with—the document is in the Library—bring us to its conclusion which was shared by Sir Charles Snow, in Washington a few weeks ago, when it says:Taking together all the dangers, there is a significant chance that a major accidental war may occur at some time in the 1960s.We are faced with this conflict: if one accepts that a war which nobody intended to happen could begin as a result of factors against which we can take no truly effective safeguards. Then one comes up against the risk of aggression being committed against us by Russia or by another country. One must decide in the light of the facts and of our knowledge which of the two risks is the greater.
It is not an easy decision. For me, it is probably a good deal easier than for many hon. Members opposite, because they have an emotional conviction that the Russians want to commit aggression. I take the view that, in present circumstances, the chances have become increasingly less that they do not want to commit aggression.
All those who are concerned in deciding whether Britain should maintain her contribution to the Western nuclear deterrent, or whether she should unilaterally renounce it and bring her influence to bear on others to renounce it, must decide whether they think we are more likely to end up with war because the Russians decide to start one, or—what is more likely—to end up in a nuclear holocaust as a result of the inherent nature of the technology of nuclear weapons themselves.
I take the latter view. I believe that the risks of accidental war are now so great that there is no logical alternative but for Her Majesty's Government to accept that they must renounce it. I am prepared to accept the political con- 586 sequences of doing so. I am prepared to accept that it means that we would be bringing our influence to bear in a way different from that in which we are doing so at the moment. But it offers us opportunities of broadening and extending our influence to other parts of the world.
It is often said—by those who are rarely to be seen at meetings of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament—that neutralists are in some way cowards, people who want to back out of the world and give up any hope and shut themselves up in the British Isles, taking no part in the world's affairs. That is quite wrong.
Those of my hon. Friends who are, as I am, committed to unilateral nuclear disarmament want Britain to do infinitely more, to be more vigorous, more positive, more determined, more aggressive in trying to create the conditions of peace. We want Britain to be playing a rôle at the United Nations which is infinitely more positive and likely to be more successful than the negative rôle which she is now playing. That kind of positive action can make a British contribution not to the means of the world's destruction, but to the means of creating the conditions for true world peace.
Although he can give no real reassurance, I hope that the Minister will tell us that for the first time he is prepared to consider the risks of accidental war and to weigh them against the emotional convictions which lie behind his belief in our own nuclear deterrent and that. before very long he will begin to think again.
§ 9.7 p.m.
§ Mr. William Teeling (Brighton, Pavilion)
Before referring to the speech of the hon. Lady the Member for Lanark (Mrs. Hart), I want to associate myself with all that has been said about Lord Ward. I listened to all his speeches on the Air Estimates and even earlier than that, for I remember having the pleasure of congratulating him on his maiden speech. It is true that he has gone to another place. The hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) said that he would there rest in peace and my right hon. Friend the Minister said that there would be a lot in his obituary. I hope that people will not think that 587 Lord Ward is leaving us for another world. I have a strong feeling that we shall hear and see a lot of him in years to come and that he will do extremely well in another place. We are sorry to lose him, but that does not mean that we are not very glad to have the present Secretary of State to take his place. Most of us, especially on this side of the Committee, are delighted to feel that the responsibilities and the risks of the office are now in his hands.
The hon. Lady the Member for Lanark made an interesting speech, although it was a little emotional, as she said herself. We all know the facts as she put them, and they are horrible facts. These things can happen and they may happen in Russia, and, later on. even in Red China. Are we to understand that the hon. Lady believes that after all that has been done about our nuclear defences, we should give up because of this risk and leave it to the Russians and later Red China, who would presumably retain their nuclear weapons? They have shown no signs of giving up their weapons. Would not the risk be just as great that they in turn would cause almost the finish of the world? Admittedly there is a risk. However, I believe that we should find ourselves very much in the position of Hungary if we gave them that opportunity. Possibly it would be more likely to be from Red China than Russia.
The hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. M. Foot) seemed very bitter in his attack on my right hon. Friend. It was quite unnecessary. I am glad to see the hon. Gentleman back in the Committee, because he is able to be the leader of this little group on the Opposition benches. He is able to take the lead and show to the country how depressing it is to find people led by him who seem always to feel that everything is wrong in this country. The very fact that my right hon. Friend says that there is a chance, or a possibility, or perhaps almost a certainty, of our being able to do immense damage to Russia on an Estimate of £200 million leads the hon. Gentleman to refuse point blank to believe it because he says that the United States spends so much more and still cannot be certain of what it can do. Why can he not for once realise that this country has great brains and great possibilities, and may be able on less 588 money to do far more and be in a stronger position than we realise?
I have listened to the speeches of hon. Gentlemen opposite, and I am reminded of what happened to me during the war when I was at the Air Ministry for a short while. I had the fascinating job of having to go to the Air Council every morning at half-past nine to listen to what had happened over the last twenty-four hours, together with what the Navy and the Army had to say. With that full knowledge I had to pass on each day to the air attaches in the countries where we still had air attaches details of what might be of use and interest to them. The moment I became a Member of Parliament, which was in the middle of the war, I was told that I could not possibly have that job because I would know far too much for an M.P.
I am inclined to agree. It does not do much good to go into too many details on these secret, or almost secret matters, and it is very difficult for the Minister to say more than he has said today. I doubt if he can say very much to the hon. Lady the Member for Lanark either, but we must at least know that my right hon. Friend and the Under-Secretary of State for Air, and indeed the whole Government, are as much in favour of peace as the Opposition are, and are trying to do their best in the best way they can. I will not say any more on that point.
Reference has been made to too few hon. Members being present. We have had a two-day defence debate. These Service Estimates debates are to my mind supposed to have a lot to do with dealing with details connected possibly with hon. Member's constituencies or with minor details in the different Services. That is why I should like to raise one point which links up with the South Coast.
Before doing that I wish to say how much the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Macclesfield (Sir A. V. Harvey) impressed me, especially with regard to public relations for the Air Ministry. We must make more of that in the coming years. We must get the work of the Air Force and the Air Ministry better understood. It is not that we have not a first-class public relations department at the Air 589 Ministry. Some of its members are listening to the debate today. Those who were doing the job during the war had the difficulty of keeping away from secret matters, but yet they did a wonderful job. I am sure that the present personnel of the Department could do the same given the chance.
We read in the Estimates that various trips are being taken by aircraft to Brazil, to the Argentine, to western parts of South America and elsewhere, for propaganda purposes to a certain extent.
I wonder whether they have kept in touch with all the members of the squadrons which we had from the Argentine, Brazil and other parts of the world during the war—countries that were not on our side officially but from whom money was sent. We had out there an amazing organisation called the Fellowship of the Bellows—people who were friendly to us and who helped to provide many aircraft and did a lot for this country. Are we keeping in touch with these people today? I know that my hon. Friend probably cannot answer tonight, but I should like him to look into the matter, and to read what I have said in HANSARD tomorrow.
We are short of people for the Air Force. Must all recruits come from this country? Cannot we again have squadrons from Malta, Gibraltar and the remaining Colonies? Cannot we have squadrons made up of English people living abroad and their children? There is a tremendous wealth of friendship for this country among people connected with the Commonwealth who are not in Great Britain at the moment.
The question of helicopters overlaps all three Services. We have heard a little about them tonight, but not nearly enough. The Memorandum tells us that their numbers are about to be vastly increased. How do they compare with the numbers of helicopters in the possession of France, United States or other friendly countries? Are we keeping up to their level?
Can my hon. Friend tell us a little about developments in helicopters? At present they are used largely for air-sea rescue; that is, for the air-sea rescue of R.A.F. personnel, officially. But I am told that very few airmen have to he rescued by them. Many helicopters are 590 to be stationed at Thorney Island and in other places, and these could be used to help civilians. If it proves that the Royal Air Force does not spend a lot of time in rescuing its own people, could we not see whether they could be used to help civilians?
I now want to quote a Question which I put to the Prime Minister as far hack as 1958. I asked:… whether, in view of the coming closing down of the Royal Naval Air Station at Ford. and of the Royal Air Force Station. Tangmere, ceasing to be operational, he will discuss with his fellow Ministers what can be done to maintain a helicopter service for sea rescue along the Sussex coast where this service has now proved to be far faster and more efficient than lifeboats?The latest report of the Lifeboat Institution shows that it has nearly doubled its number of rescues during the last year, and I understand that by its charter it is not allowed to take money to provide helicopters. In reply to my Question the Prime Minister said:Although Royal Naval and Royal Air Force search and rescue helicopters give civil rescue organisations whatever help they can, their primary rôle is the rescue of aircrew, and this must he the governing factor in deciding their deployment.That is true, but is that a very big job? Is much of that rescue work being done for the Royal Air Force? The Prime Minister went on to say:There are no Royal Air Force helicopters at Tangmere, but there is a helicopter unit at Thorney Island which it is not at present intended to move.That was in 1958. I think that something went wrong about helicopters last year, but I believe that they are now coming back to Thorney Island in a month or two, although I cannot be certain how long they will stay there. In a supplementary question I asked the Prime Minister:Will my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister bear in mind that this is a comparatively new service which has, so far as we can see on the Sussex coast, given tremendous help to the lifeboat service? If anything can be done to develop it and to link it up with other ports on the coast, will my right hon. Friend use all his influence in that direction?The Prime Minister replied:Yes. I will do everything I can to help, but I would remind my hon. Friend that the primary purpose of the Service is rescue of aircrew. There are considerable limitations on the help that helicopters can give. They cannot at present operate in darkness or fog"—591 I should like to know whether that is still true—and in strong winds their capacity is somewhat limited. However, the area now covered by Ford will be reasonably well covered by the Royal Air Force helicopters at Thorney Island, which is only 16 miles away."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 13th March, 1958; Vol. 584, c. 609–610.]This Thorney Island station is the only one we have to cover the whole of the area from Eastbourne to Bournemouth. All the coast round England and Scotland is affected in the same way, at places where people go yachting and bathing. Yachting seems to be increasing in popularity especially on the South Coast, and many of the people who go yachting seem to know nothing about it. The result is that there has been an appalling increase in the number of drownings. We hope something will be done to remedy this situation. We know that an approach has been made to the Under-Secretary by local councils. He has promised to leave the helicopters there as long as possible, but they may have to move elsewhere at short notice.
I understand that fresh types of helicopters are to be produced. They will be larger machines and will have more important work to do. It may be, therefore, that the smaller helicopters, which would be useful for this purpose, would be scrapped or may become available. I should like my hon. Friend to tell us whether it is possible to get in touch with the Ministry of Aviation to discover whether these machines can be sold to other Ministries, or to somebody, so that they can be used in this way. The problem arises not only on the South Coast, but all around our coast line. I should like to know whether these helicopters could be used by other bodies, whether Government bodies or county councils, and whether the people who use them would be allowed to take advantage of the training facilities which could be provided at Thorney Island or elsewhere.
§ 9.21 p.m.
§ Mr. John Rankin (Glasgow, Govan)
I gather from what was said by the hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Mr. Teeling) that he wants us to know the least with the greatest possible expenditure— —
§ Mr. Rankin
I do not want the hon. Member to interrupt me before I have uttered a complete sentence.
I am certain that hon. Members on this side of the Committee will disagree with that, because those of us who have taken part in these defence debates realise that this is the first occasion when we have heard so much about the complications and difficulties and the security reasons for hiding things which Members of the House of Commons and the public ought to know about.
I am glad that the hon. Member for Abingdon (Mr. Neave) pursued the point which I raised regarding Skybolt. The Secretary of State for Air told us that Skybolt will take the place of Blue Steel. That would happen in the mid-sixties. It is worth recording that during the defence debate, the debate on the Navy Estimates and during this debate we have heard a great deal about what is to happen in the mid-sixties. That would seem to be the sort of "Father Christmas time" for Ministers. Everything is to happen in the mid-sixties. Among other things we shall get Skybolt in the mid-sixties.
When I asked the Secretary of State, what happens if we do not get Skybolt, the right hon. Gentleman did not hear it; he slipped it very nicely, but now his hon. Friend is supporting me. I hope that we shall be told something, unless of course, the matter is too complicated for us—or for the Minister—or too difficult for us, or unless it is hedged round by security reasons why we cannot know anything more about what would happen if Skybolt does not materialise. I cannot think of any security reason which would prevent the Secretary of State telling us what he has in view if Skybolt fails us.
I have gone through the Memorandum and the Estimates with care. I have a strong feeling that the general public should know a little more about what is happening in Government circles. One way of putting it over to them is by raising it in the House of Commons. Under the heading "The Rôle of the Royal Air Force" we are told in paragraph 8 of the Memorandum thatBomber Command could inflict devastating retaliation upon an aggressor.593 That is a much more extravagant claim than that made by the hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion. My hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. M. Foot) dealt adequately with the word "devastating" and I shall not pursue that point.
The last sentence in paragraph 8 is this, dealing still with the role of the Royal Air Force:Other squadrons in Bomber Command, Fighter and Coastal Commands, and the Royal Air Force, Germany, all fulfil a major role in N.A.T.O.That prompts me to ask: what is N.A.T.O.? The Defence White Paper contained a list of all the nations making up N.A.T.O. Amongst them are America and Canada. If those two nations were taken away, the major power of N.A.T.O. would disappear.
The new President of the United States has said that America is not necessarily pledged to come in to support us in any of our quarrels, but because we have bases like Polaris and other nuclear bases in this country we are necessarily bound to support America in all her quarrels. It is not a two-way traffic. We are bound, but America is not.
Last Friday's edition of The Times contained these wards:A reminder that Canadian forces might not always be available for the defence of Europe was given by Major-General Kitching, Chairman of the Canadian Joint Staff, at a luncheon of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce in London yesterday.The general is quoted as saying:Although so far we have produced fairly important contributions in Europe, I wonder how soon it it will be before we have to turn more and more to our own back yard.That comes from a member of the Commonwealth. That must be added to the statement from President Kennedy's message to the Union which I quoted in the defence debate that she is not necessarily bound. Neither is Canada.
I therefore ask the Secretary of State for Air what N.A.T.O. is. An examination of what is happening to N.A.T.O. seems to indicate that its purpose is chiefly to make this country an expendable base in the event of an American war.
I want to refer to one or two other passages from the Memorandum. The 594 first of these is under the heading "Bomber Command." Paragraph 14 says:The threat today is mainly from enemy bombers. In a few years' time it will be mainly from enemy missiles".I suggest that that phrase "in a few years' time" is not consistent with what the Minister said at the Box today, because he relegated the idea of the missile to a period much further away than would be denoted by the phrase "in a few years' time".
The paragraph goes on:But even when there may be only a few minutes warning of missile attack, V-bombers at dispersal and readiness will still be able to fly many miles clear of their airfields within the warning time available.That fact should be known all over the country. It is not. There are millions of people in Britain today who do not know that the instrument of their defence will disappear on the advent of the enemy. There are people—I have spoken to hundreds of them at meetings—who believe that the bomber will defend them, yet here in the Memorandum we are told that, immediately there is a signal that the missile is coming or the enemy bomber is coming, our bombers will get out of the road. That is not defence. It is not known in the country. It may be known here. I shall come to the argument that lies behind it, but the fact remains that when the signal is given that the enemy is approaching our bombers will get off their bases.
In paragraph 16 we are told that the current expenditure on the deterrent is £165 million. Of course, in that expenditure are included all the other things like capital, running costs, and so on. Under the heading "Fighter Command" we have the statement thatExpenditure on air defence world-wide is expected to absorb somewhat less than 10 per cent. of the Defence Budget. Of this about one-third is attributable to the requirements of the deterrent.If I understand paragraph 16 aright, the requirements of the deterrent are £165 million. According to paragraph 31 an page 7, the requirements of the deterrent are about one-third of the £165 million. I do not know which of these is correct, but one-third of £165 million is £55 million.
§ Mr. William Warbey (Ashfield)
If my hon. Friend will look at it more closely 595 he will see, I think, that the £55 million to which he has just referred is expenditure on the protection of the deterrent, the defence of the deterrent by Fighter Command. Thus, in order to arrive at the true figure of the deterrent cost, one has to add together the £165 million and the £55 million.
§ Mr. Rankin
That, of course, puts the matter in an entirely different light, and that is the sort of thing which we feel the Government are concealing. That is one reason why the hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion—I am sorry he has now left his place—did not want us to know too much about what lay behind these Estimates. As I pointed out, this is one way of finding out exactly what the Estimates conceal, unless again, of course, that fact is too complicated for those of us here to understand or for the Minister to explain.
§ Mr. J. M. Coulson (Kingston upon Hull)
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the point which he has been labouring for so long was made quite clearly by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence during the defence debate?
§ Mr. Rankin
I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman was present during the debate on the Navy Estimates. I fear that he was not, because if he had been, he would have found that we were ruled out of order if we tried to raise any of these points. That is why I am raising this one, with which the Secretary of State deals in the Estimates before us.
The hon. Member for Macclesfield (Sir A. V. Harvey) asked if the Air Force could not be used more for space research. I agree with him, but I wonder how far the TSR 2 is being used for the production of a supersonic aircraft for use in civilian flying. I assume that it is correct to say that the TSR 2 is the Air Force's supersonic bomber, and whether or not that will form the pattern on the civilian side I do not know, but perhaps we might get a word about it.
The hon. Gentleman also expressed his disappointment with the development of the TSR 2, if I followed him correctly, and it seemed that he wondered about Skybolt, because he was dealing with it at the same time. It appeared that at the back of his mind there was the fear that Skybolt might also turn out to be a disappointment.
§ Sir A. V. Harvey
The hon. Gentleman has got me quite wrong. I thought I had made myself fairly clear about Skybolt. In reference to the TSR 2, I only indicated to the Minister that I thought it was wrong to have too much speculation about the performance of a complicated aircraft until some further tests had been made.
§ Mr. Rankin
Many of us feel the same about Skybolt, and I am glad to hear that the hon. Member for Macclesfield has separated the two disappointments, one on each side, and not just two on his side.
I now come to paragraph 58, which refers to training involving the movement of battalions to Borneo and Hong Kong. I wonder what the battalions in Hong Kong would do in the event of war. The Minister, in shifting them there, must know that the main water supply lies in Chinese territory; and, without control of the water supply, I should imagine that troops would not last very long in that part of the Far East.
§ Sir A. V. Harvey
The hon. Gentleman has got it quite wrong. If he has ever been to Hong Kong, he will know that the reservoirs are in Kowloon, which is British territory for another 40 or 50 years, though the Chinese control the cabbages, and could starve the country if they desired.
§ Mr. Rankin
It is a temporary possession, but, nevertheless, it is not secure, and the hon. Gentleman knows it quite well. Two or three years ago we were assured that we were keeping a force in Singapore—Navy, Army and Air Force. Its purpose was to "go it alone" in the Far East if necessary. That statement was made by the Prime Minister in Melbourne during his Commonwealth tour. I raised the matter in the House at the time. Is it still the Government's intention to "go it alone" in the Far East? We should know in view of the fact that even then, when S.E.A.T.O. was in being. we were still prepared for such a venture.
I turn to air safety. We are told that the fatal accident rate for all aircraft was 30 per cent. lower in 1960 than it was in 1959. Like many other things, that does not tell us a great deal. What was the casualty rate in 1958–59? What was it in 1960? So that we may understand exactly what that paragraph 597 means, we should have the actual figures instead of a percentage, which does not mean a thing.
I offer a word of welcome to paragraph 123 of the Memorandum which deals with meteorology. In paragraph 123 we are told:In the work on the upper air, the design and manufacture of meteorological instruments for a satellite to be launched by the U.S.A. is nearing completion.The rest of this part is commendable and I have nothing to say about it. Today I put a Question to the Secretary of State for Air in which I asked what invitation he hadreceived from the United States Government to co-operate in developing a weather prediction programmeHe replied:We have received no direct invitation, but we noted with interest the general invitation to all nations contained in President Kennedy's State of the Union message.I did not think that that was a very comforting reply. Why cannot the Government, for once, invite America to come in with them instead of always being a satellite of the American Government? They are doing quite well in their weather programme. Why could not they ask America to share it with them instead of assuming a secondary rôle?
During the Secretary of State's speech I asked him a question about the Valetta and why he had passed it over. I did so because I was surprised to see that this aircraft was still in existence in Transport Command. It was never a very popular aircraft when it flew as the Viking. When it was taken over by the Royal Air Force it was rechristened, but I am not sure that that altered many of its qualities.
It may be within the recollection of the Committee that a number of us who visited the Royal Air Force in Germany returned home in a Viking, which took a sudden, unexpected dive. The result was that many hon. Members were upset, temporarily at least, and one hon. Member was rendered permanently incapable of further service in the House. I was astonished to find from the Memorandum that this aircraft was still in the service of the Royal Air Force and I wonder in how many accidents it has been concerned during its service.
598 Apart from the Estimates, the big issue has been the question of the deterrent. The core of the debate is whether the V-bomber is a deterrent. We can claim that the majority of those who have spoken from this side of the Committee think that it is not. We have heard from one or two Members that the deterrent has kept the peace. The Minister has made it clear that he relies upon it.
At no time in our history has the deterrent kept the peace. One can go as far back as one likes. In the Stone Age man discovered that the stone launched through the air could deliver the knockout blow to his enemy. His enemy retaliated and they began to pile up their stocks of missiles. That progressed through the bow and arrow stage, the rifle stage and the cannon stage to the bomb. At no time did the deterrent ever prevent war.
We went through it all in the seventeenth, the eighteenth and the nineteenth centuries with the deterrent not, perhaps, holding the balance of terror, as it does now, but trying to hold the balance of power. On every occasion it failed. Our fear about this latest deterrent is that it, too, either accidentally or purposely, will fail. Because of that, we on this side must appeal to the Government to think about this policy again.
The deterrent has never brought peace. It will never maintain peace. It provokes only suspicion or fear. It creates the race that has always ended in war. Unless we stop the race now, the outcome will be the same as it always has been—war; and this time it will be war that obliterates.
Man has never feared his weapons. We have heard before of new weapons so powerful that man will not dare to use them. But he has used them. So we say to the Government: think of other ways, think of the United Nations, instead of thinking of N.A.T.O., and do not try to ride two horses which are now running in opposite directions. That is what the Government are trying to do. In U.N.O. there is a chance of safety, there is a chance of peace. With N.A.T.O. there is the possibility of neither. Therefore, I appeal to the Secretary of State to rethink his policies, to rethink them along the lines of peace and not along the lines of war.
§ 9.50 p.m.
§ Mr. R. J. Maxwell-Hyslop (Tiverton)
There are two considerations which I should like my right hon. Friend to bear in mind particularly when he is considering orders and planes for Transport Command.
The aircraft industry of this country has, since the war, provided a substantial and increasing contribution to our exports. The timing of orders from the Air Ministry for transport aircraft is of very great importance. Let me take a case in point, the Boeing 707 civil aircraft in America. Before that was produced and offered on the civil market 594 military versions of that aircraft were ordered by the American Government. In most aircraft sales in the export market there is a most-favoured-nation clause; that is to say, an aircraft is sold on condition that it will not subsequently be offered to other people on more generous terms.
So the question which faces the British aircraft manufacturer, and it is a very important one, is this: over how many units is he to amortise his development costs? If, three or four years after an aircraft has been on offer in the export market, and has failed to sell against the competition of, generally speaking, American aircraft, the British Air Ministry then orders an aircraft, half of the value of that order is lost. Certainly, there is an order for a certain number of aircraft, but because that order was not accurately foreseen by the manufacturer he was unable to take it into consideration in pricing the aircraft which he offered on the commercial market three years earlier and he is, therefore, unable to offer it at a competitive price.
I would, therefore, ask my right hon. Friend to bear in mind the importance not only of ordering equipment suitable for the purpose for which he requires it, but also the importance of ordering it at the earliest possible opportunity. It is very difficult, with the best will in the world, to see why it is that commercial airlines, in business to make a profit, are able to make up their minds to order equipment earlier in some cases than the Air Ministry to whom the same information is available.
Secondly, I should like to draw attention to the importance, among other considerations, of whenever possible order- 600 ing aircraft, adaptations of which can be used on either the civil or military markets. That is certainly exemplified in the order for the Armstrong Whitworth 660 aircraft, which will undoubtedly assist the sale of the civil version, the 650. Some of us felt that the order for the Britannic, now called the Belfast, has not been of the same assistance to the British aircraft industry in promoting the construction of a saleable product as it might have been if a freighter version of another aircraft had, in fact, been ordered. I do not want to elaborate this point, because, undoubtedly, the Belfast has some characteristics which were not shared by the once projected freighter version of the VC10. Particularly at a time when our requirements are to some extent difficult to apportion, there is a lot to be said for ordering aircraft which can be used in civil as well as in military capacity.
When the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. M. Foot) was speaking and came to his conclusion that the country was now defenceless, I was left with the impression that that was the conclusion he wished to arrive at rather more than the one which he arrived at from the available evidence. I regret that, having addressed the Committee, he has apparently lost further interest in it.
§ Mr. Malcolm MacMillan
It would be quite an inadvertent injustice to my hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. M. Foot) if I did not tell the hon. Member that he was asked to go upstairs to HANSARD to check a quotation in his speech, and that that is the only reason why he is absent.
§ Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop
Good, then no doubt the hon. Member will return.
It seems to me extremely difficult to maintain that a nuclear deterrent which undoubtedly we possess to a limited degree in this country, and which America and Russia also possess, is not an effective deterrent in the context of the state of the world today. It is a reasonable premise that no one starts a war unless he thinks that he can win it, and if we grant that the phrase "winning a war" in a nuclear context is not a significant phrase, then surely it would be granted that the possession of a deterrent by at any rate two States is more likely to prevent the beginning of a war than would be its complete absence.
601 Much as many of us would wish to see the United Nations as an effective means of preventing the outbreak of war between two or more States, and if it is unable to do that at any rate check hostilities after they have broken out, I must confess that both the activities of the United Nations in the Belgian Congo and the attitude of Russia, in particular, in failing to assist those activities do not lend weight to the theory that the United Nations is a body either able to prevent the beginning of even a minor war or able to bring a minor war to a safe and comparatively harmless termination once it has broken out. Without doubt, the amount of money that is being poured into the United Nations at present, with so noticeably little effect in the Congo, is just a sweetener for the amount of money that would have to be poured into it if it was to be made into an effective peace-preserving body.
When we hear pleas for the abolition of the nuclear deterrent I always wonder whether they mean exactly what they say, or whether we should not, from the abolitionist point of view, develop our deterrent and then permit the United Nations to use it. These are considerations which we might bear in mind before any of us is encouraged to throw away what I believe to be an extremely effective deterrent, even if my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Air has not been able to define, or has not thought it expedient to define, the exact nature of the damage that it would inflict.
It seems to me reasonable that my right hon. Friend should not define the exact extent of the damage that he would expect it to inflict nor the percentage of aircraft which he would expect to succeed in penetrating to the target.
§ It being Ten o'clock, The CHAIRMAN left the Chair to report Progress and ask leave to sit again.
§ Committee report Progress.
That this day the Business of Supply may be taken after Ten o'clock and shall be exempted from the provisions of Standing Order No. 1 (Sittings of the House) for Two hours after Ten o'clock.—[Mr. Chichester-Clark.]
§ Supply again considered in Committee.602
§ Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop
If one knows the percentage of aircraft required to penetrate existing defences one knows, as a purely mathematical calculation, what is needed to extend the existing defence to prevent that penetration. I do not regard the effect of the deterrent as being in any way reduced by any reticence about defining the exact damage which it is expected to inflict. So long as the damage can be expected to be substantial, then surely it is, and must be, an effective deterrent.
An hon. Member opposite asked whether or not the Americans would necessarily come into a war in which some of the N.A.T.O. countries were involved, although not directly America. If this is an argument for anything, it is an argument for the retention of American bases in N.A.T.O. countries so that America is automatically involved in any war in which those countries are involved. I do not want to stress this argument, but that seems to me to be the logical outcome of it.
In conclusion, I should like to reiterate the importance which the aircraft industry in this country has in our export markets. It is a subject which has concerned the House to a large extent recently. Any assistance which the Air Ministry can give by making clear its procurement policy at the earliest opportunity will undoubtedly be very welcome to the industry, and there is no reason to suppose that it will involve the taxpayers in any greater expense.
§ 10.4 p.m.
§ Mr. A. Fenner Brockway (Eton and Slough)
I do not propose to intervene tonight primarily for the purpose of taking part in the debate on the issues which are before us. In a sense I rise to make a personal statement. What I am about to say I feel impelled to say.
The purpose of the Amendment tonight is to protest against the possession of the British nuclear weapon as reflected in the nuclear strategy of the White Paper and in a very large proportion of the expenditure on nuclear weapons which there is in the Air Estimates. One can argue the case against a British nuclear deterrent on practical grounds. I think that it can be shown that it is no defence. Indeed, 603 it is admitted that these weapons are no defence. I think that it can be shown, in view of the comparatively small stockpile of these weapons in this country compared with those in America and Russia, that it is no real contribution to a deterrent. I think that it can be shown that the possession of them and the possession of American air bases is an invitation in the event of war to the destruction of our whole population.
But I am rising tonight not so much to argue on those practical lines as to express a moral feeling which, I believe, is shared by many hon. Members. It is now admitted that the nuclear weapon could destroy the whole human race; that there are enough of these weapons in America and Soviet Russia, now supplemented by this country, to destroy all life on this planet.
It seems to me that each hon. Member must ask himself whether he will support and vote for an instrument which is a repudiation of life as the nuclear weapon is—life through its aeons and its ages, its development from the lowest forms to higher and higher forms, the attainment of the human being, the struggle of the human being against his natural circumstances, the struggle for liberties, the martyrs which freedom has had in the story of the human race, the great search for the beauties of literature, architecture and art; and when man has achieved all those things, we come to a point where the science of man has also created an instrument which can destroy all that progress, and destroy not merely what is past, but all the fulfilment of those possibilities in the ages ahead.
I put it as simply as this, that the nuclear weapon is a blasphemy against creation and that any one of us who supports it is denying the very human family to which we belong. I put this loyalty to the human race as something greater than one's loyalty to a nation. It is loyalty to life itself. Anyone who today gives a vote for this weapon which can destroy mankind is repudiating the whole process of creation and the human family of which he is a member.
I recognise that many Members opposite, and, indeed, on this side of the Committee, who believe in the nuclear 604 deterrent, are just as earnest in their desire for peace in the world as those of us who are absolutely opposed to it. They argue that, because of the very terror of this weapon and its possession by both sides, it can maintain peace in the world. But I put two points to those who argue in that sense.
The first is that it can be no deterrent unless one accepts in principle that it may be used. Unless it is a threat, it is not a deterrent. Therefore, those who accept the deterrent theory must accept responsibility for being prepared to use a weapon which may mean the destruction of mankind.
The second point is the danger of accidents. It has been well illustrated by the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Lanark (Mrs. Hart). I put a question to the Secretary of State today concerning the incident of 5th October last, when, by a mistake at the radar station in Greenland, American intelligence was informed that Russian missiles were on their way to attack. I do not think that it is too much to say that we are extraordinarily fortunate that an air marshal of the Royal Canadian Air Force was in charge of the decision at that moment. He insisted upon checks with other radar warning stations.
In the split second of a report coming in that Russian missiles are on their way to America, or that American missiles are on their way to Russia, the chance of the human factor failing, or even of some mechanical error in the radar warning stations, means that the danger of war and of the destruction of man by accident must be placed very high indeed.
§ Mr. G. W. Reynolds (Islington, North)
I am interested in the theory which my hon. Friend is putting forward, particularly the first aspect. Does not he accept that if this weapon is regarded as a deterrent—I regard it so—it puts the onus upon someone else deliberately to use it first? If that were to happen then, as a deterrent, the weapon would have failed. It should not be assumed that those who believe in it as a deterrent are, at the same time, ready to use it. It deters others from using it first.
§ Mr. Brockway
My hon. Friend has failed to follow what I have been arguing. I argue that neither side may be wanting to begin an attack, but that one side may hear that the other side is making an attack, and that that information may be wrong. That is what happened on 5th October.
§ Mr. R. T. Paget (Northampton) rose——606
§ Mr. Brockway
I do not want to get involved in such an argument, because I desire to make this personal statement of my fundamental attitude on this matter. I conclude by saying that many of us have been content, during a long period, to refrain from voting for this weapon. Many of us have now come to the conclusion that we would not be true to our own convictions if we did not take the opportunity tonight to vote against what we regard as a disaster and danger to mankind.
§ 10.15 p.m.
§ Sir Harry Legge-Bourke (Isle of Ely)
There has always been a large element in the Labour Party which was fundamentally pacifist and it is obvious that there still is. I am grateful to the hon. Member for Eton and Slough (Mr. Brockway) in that at least he has not done tonight what so many of those who hold his view so often do—to monopolise on a love of peace. I am glad that he gave some of us who disagree with him the credit for being just as devoted to the cause of peace as he is. I wish that he would spread that attitude among the neutralists, and especially to the hon. Lady the Member for Lanark (Mrs. Hart).
There are two things which I call to the attention of the hon. Member and to those who think as he does. The first is that in 1927 there were a number of Members of the Labour Party who voted in the House for the total abolition of the Royal Air Force. At that time Hitler had not come on to the scene, but the fact that we had but the semblance of an Air Force at that time did not discourage Hitler. Never in the history of Britain in time of peace had our defences been allowed to fall lower than they were between 1919 and 1939, but that did not stop Hitler.
I at once see the argument that that is history and that we are now dealing with an entirely different situation, which was the point made by the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. M. Foot). I agree that, whatever then might have been the case, we are now dealing with a completely different situation and that we must deal with it in a completely new way.
It once fell to my lot to appear on a television programme with a Jewish lady who was Austrian by birth and who had been walking along the streets of Vienna just after the Anschluss. Two members of the Hitler Youth came up to her, one from behind and one in front. They had revolvers and they put one in her stomach and one in her back. They then had an argument about whether if they fired at the same time, the bullets would meet in the middle of her stomach. Mercifully, she was rescued and she is now happily living in this country, I am glad to say, with a family.
608 If we follow the line of the hon. Member for Eton and Slough we will put Britain in precisely the position of that lady, in nuclear terms, between the Soviet Union and the United States—completely defenceless and not knowing what they are talking about and with no possibility of escaping them and not even a bullet-proof waistcoat, in nuclear terms. I agree that it is a choice between two evils, as it so often is in politics, but I am convinced, as I have rarely been convinced since I have been a Member of Parliament, that it would be far more dangerous for this country to surrender her share of the nuclear deterrent than it would be for her to continue to hold it.
§ Mr. M. Foot
It is quite incorrect to say that the Labour Party in 1937–1927 voted for the abolition of the Royal Air Force. What the Labour Party did during those years was to vote against the Estimates in protest against the whole foreign policy and defence policy which had been pursued and which in fact landed us in war.
§ Sir H. Legge-Bourke
I am sorry. I think that the hon. Gentleman had assumed that I was referring to 1937. I know that was the attitude then, but this was a straight pacifist Amendment for total abolition of the Royal Air Force to which I was referring. I think that thirty hon. Members of the Labour Party voted for it, but it did not stop Hitler.
In considering these Air Estimates today we are having to consider the same thing all over again. There is only one inadequate statement——
§ Mr. Sydney Silverman (Nelson and Colne)
The hon. Gentleman says that the fact that thirty members of the Labour Party voted for the abolition of the British Air Force in 1927 did not prevent Hitler. He will remember that there were more hon. Members of Parliament than those thirty, and that those thirty lost. Did that prevent Hitler?
§ Sir H. Legge-Bourke
No, but the hon. Gentleman will no doubt recall that Ribbentrop came to the conclusion that this country would not fight. By 1937, Ribbentrop was repeating to Hitler that 609 Britain had lost the spirit to stand up for her rights—[Interruption.] I do not agree with those who allowed our defences to slip between the two wars.
§ Sir H. Legge-Bourke
I came into politics in 1945 and I was a Regular soldier. I remember that year after year the Labour Party voted against the Service Estimates.
Perhaps after that slight historical digression T may come to the Air Estimates for 1961. There is one sentence in the Report on Defence, 1961, which I think is totally inadequate to express the problem we are up against, and that is the opening sentence: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.That leaves out a great deal. There is only one way to get that state of affairs, and that is when the hearts and minds of men change. Until the world changes in its thinking over these matters I say that a country which lowers its guard is inviting the most ghastly destruction of itself. For that reason, I have misgivings about the possibility of multilateral and general disarmament today, both of conventional and nuclear weapons. I wish it had more hope in it. Those who are doing the most harm are those who are leading the people to believe that it is possible, when they know in their heart of hearts, if they have studied the matter, that it is not possible. For that reason, I have grave misgivings about a policy of disarmament. It is for this reason, above all others, that I welcome the Air Estimates, because one thing to which nobody has referred, and it surprises me, is that yesterday one man flew faster than any other man has flown. He flew at over 2,600 miles an hour.
610 I do not know whether the Committee realises the significance of that. From the newspaper reports which I have been able to read of this extraordinary event, we are told that the surface temperature went to 700 degrees, I presume centigrade. If the temperature went to 700 degrees at the height at which it was released—it was 45,000 feet—it is an event of the greatest possible significance in the future of aviation, because never before has it been found possible to fly an aircraft made of steel alloy at that height at a speed which would increase the temperature over 450 degrees.
The trouble is that although the melting point at the surface of a steel alloy may be 1,450 degrees, or even higher, if the temperature of that steel alloy rises above 500 degrees its whole stability and elasticity is affected, and it becomes completely unstable and unsafe in the air. If the Americans have achieved this it may be one of the most important things for the future of the Royal Air Force that has happened since I have been in the House. It may mean that, at last, we can fully implement paragraph 58 of the 1957 White Paper, which referring to research and development, said:If the weapons and equipment of the Armed Forces are to be kept tin to date, an adequate effort on research and development must be continuously maintained. However, in view of the shortage of scientists and technicians in civil industry, it is important to restrict the military programme to those projects which are absolutely essential.Paragraph 61, which is so often quoted in debate, says:Having regard to the high performance and potentialities of the Vulcan and Victor medium bombers and the likely progress of ballistic rockets and missile defence, the Government have decided not to go on with the development of a supersonic manned bomber, which could not be brought into service in much under ten years.If the incredible speed record of yesterday means what I think it does there will be a really practical possibility of going ahead with a supersonic manned bomber, which will make far more sense —and here I agree with the hon. Lady—and be far safer than a defence based upon inter-continental ballistic missiles. I dislike missiles intensely, because they are uncontrollable once they are set off.
§ Sir H. Legge-Bourke
They cannot be recalled.
611 The hon. Lady, although she quoted from a good authority—and I should like an opportunity of studying the document before I make a final comment on it—was a little alarmist. I have seen a count-down performed, and it seems to me that the chances of its going wrong are extremely unlikely.
In connection with a manned aircraft carrying a nuclear weapon, she referred to one member of the crew suffering from strain, but I think that my right hon. Friend can bear me out in saying that we need not visualise Vulcan, Victor or Valiant bombers, or any other bombers in the future, flying with only one man in them. We must accept the fact that there will be a crew in a bomber, and I do not see any fighter carrying a great nuclear weapon.
The hon. Lady's speech was an interesting one, but since she quoted American authorities I would commend to her attention Volume 1 of the Report of the Joint Committee on Atomic Energy to the Congress of the United States, published last October, a copy of which some unknown American has kindly sent to me. It is a report to the Committee of which Mr. Clinton P. Anderson was head, by Mr. Robert McKinney. In that report she will see that the Americans are doing everything they can to find ways of using fissile material for peaceful rather than warlike purposes.
§ Mrs. Hart
In reference to the point I made about a whole crew being involved in any decision made by manned bombers to use these weapons, I should like to quote another sentence from the document from which I quoted, which says:Whether an aberrant commander can compel his subordinates to carry out a suspect order seems to depend on various circumstances, but a great deal of evidence seems to suggest that in many oases he can.
§ Sir H. Legge-Bourke
As I say, I should like to study the report which the hon. Lady mentioned, but I would say that she has taken the most alarmist view that she could take. I believe that the safeguards are a great deal better than she indicated. I have seen the procedure following a count down at the Thor base in my constituency, and I do not think there is any likelihood of the Thor being let off by mistake. Bombers 612 carrying nuclear weapons are preferable to me, because there is some chance of them being recalled in the event of a mistake about identification.
I rejoice in these Estimates because we are getting back to the development of a successor to the Victor, the Valiant and the Vulcan. I do not know whether this aircraft will be a Mark 11 or whether it will be a completely new aircraft, but I see in the amazing thing which happened yesterday the opportunity of providing a new type of bomber and not merely a Mark 11 type of the Victor, Valiant or Vulcan. If we can penetrate the heat barrier in the same way as we penetrated the sound barrier, there will be a role for men in the Royal Air Force for as far ahead as we can see. I hope that we shall not be too ready to assume that the present V-bombers are the last. There may be a completely different type altogether.
I wish to express my gratitude, perhaps it should be to Lord Ward—I join in the tributes which have been paid to him—or it may be to the new Secretary of State for Air, for the great improvement in the wording in Vote 7 relating to the bulk agreement. This is the machinery whereby we finance the purchase of airframes and engines, etc. It is a vast bill. I interrupted my right hon. Friend today to remind the Committee that the total we are finding this year under Vote 7 is £224,700,000. Vote 7 explains exactly what is the authority for the procedure by which this is paid. I have read the Treasury Minute referred to. I dare say that is more than the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) has done although he told us we ought to read the Reports of Select Committees. The Third Report of the Committee of Public Accounts is referred to in the Memorandum. There is a reference to the Treasury Minute of 27th February, 1950, which I have read, although I had to get a copy from the Library of the House of Lords, as there was no copy in the Commons Library.
The procedure followed is that an Estimate is made in January of each year of what has been the expenditure in the nine months of the financial year, and an estimate is made of what the other three months will cost. If the figure turns out to be wrong, there is either a Supplementary Estimate or an adjustment in a subsequent year. The Treasury was not 613 in favour of the Ministry having a Supplementary Estimate, and the reason why I raise this is that there is a supplementary increase in Vote 7 of £500,000 this year. I am wondering how that has arisen, because presumably it means that the Air Force took delivery of £500,000 worth of stores from the old Ministry of Supply, now the Ministry of Aviation, more than it expected to receive. I think that is what it means if I have interpreted this extraordinary paragraph aright.
I thank my right hon. Friend for the great improvement in the wording. It enabled me to check up the authority. I drew attention to the matter of the wording during the last debate on the Air Estimates and I got an admission from Lord Ward that it was not good enough.
I should like to remind the Committee that there is a Thor base in my constituency and that only seven of my constituents opposed it when they were encouraged to do so by the hon. Member for Rossendale (Mr. Greenwood) and the hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington (Mr. Skeffington) who came to speak in my constituency. There were 300 people who took part in the march, but only seven of them were my constituents.
Nowadays, as the hon. Lady the Member for Lanark and the hon. Member for Eton and Slough said, that movement is growing. I very much hope that we shall not allow any potential aggressor to form the same opinion of this country as Hitler was so easily and readily encouraged to form, with the help of Ribbentrop and the impression he formed of this country when we were appeasing. I would far sooner see the R.A.F. Hospital at Ely, which is the largest in East Anglia, go on treating civilian patients, as it does so well and with such readiness. I would far sooner see the R.A.F. making arrangements with the National Health Service to treat civilian patients, as is referred to in the Vote, than see them having to treat casualties.
I should like the Minister to tell us whether, in the event of an emergency, it is intended that rocket bases shall be guarded by the Royal Air Force Regiment, the local Territorial Army, or merely by the civilian authorities. Whatever may be the policy about R.A.F. aerodromes, different machinery is needed 614 to deal with a fairly small rocket base plonked down in the middle of a civilian area, with a wire fence round it and lots of light at night, which presumably will be switched off in war time. It is apparent from the Defence White Paper that a great change is taking place in civil defence. To what extent will the R.A.F. Regiment co-operate in this matter?
I was horrified to see that a man whom I had hitherto greatly respected, Mr. Oliver Stewart, said in a recent article in Aeronautics that he would like to see the Royal Air Force abolished. I understand why he is anxious about the R.A.F. becoming static. I see the whole danger of having too many men locked up on rocket bases behind a wire fence with perhaps an Alsatian on guard. I see all the dangers of that, but that is not a case for abolishing the Royal Air Force. It may be a case for turning the whole control of rockets over to the Royal Artillery.
Whatever Mr. Oliver Stewart may have been thinking when he wrote that article and whatever anybody else may have thought, I am convinced that yesterday's event should have changed our thinking. If we are through the heat barrier successfully, if we have found a metal to stand up to the colossal temperatures which are experienced at colossal heights and speeds, if we can, as I believe we are rapidly doing, lead the way in finding a means of getting off the ground and up to the height at which aircraft fly most efficiently, we shall need a Royal Air Force as we have never needed one before.
We may say, "Thank God that we did not abolish the R.A.F. and thank goodness we voted the necessary money to keep good heart in it." We owed the men of the R.A.F. much in the past. We owe them more today, because Britain's share in the deterrent today is largely the responsibility of the men of the Royal Air Force. We have reason to be grateful to them and I believe that we also have reason to be proud of them.
§ 10.39 p.m.
§ Mr. William Warbey (Ashfield)
The hon. Member for the Isle of Ely (Sir H. Legge-Bourke) has made an eloquent attack on the pre-war Tory Government headed by Mr. Neville Chamberlain. I am sorry that he included in his chastisement those hon. Members who now honestly seek and in the past have 615 honestly sought a way towards disarmament and peace.
I was appalled when the hon. Gentleman, while claiming that he was a man of peace and condemning those who might suggest that not all Tories are, nevertheless went on to proclaim his utter disbelief in any possibility of achieving multilateral disarmament at any time in the foreseeable future. Therefore, his contention was that the only way in which peace could be maintained was by maintaining a maximum degree of armaments. This, of course, is to advocate the policy of dissipating our resources in the arms race and of continuing the kind of process which in the past has never prevented war and which under present conditions could lead not only to war but to the elimination of the human race. Therefore, it is not surprising that some of us should be a little sceptical sometimes at the profession of peaceful intentions made by hon. Members opposite.
It is not an accident that this debate has turned mainly on the question of the nuclear element in British armaments. Let me say right away in case the hon. Member for the Isle of Ely and his hon. Friends should seek to abuse us in the future, that we are not tonight voting on the Amendment moved by my hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) for the abolition of the Royal Air Force or against the Air Estimates as a whole. We are voting for a reduction for a specific purpose. We are voting for a reduction in order to protest against the nuclear element in the armaments of the Royal Air Force.
I know that my hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire would like to go further and take the full pacifist view. Nevertheless, that is not the view of the majority of those who will be supporting the Amendment in the Division Lobby later tonight. We shall do so because, as I have said, we are opposed to the nuclear element in British armaments and think that that element should be eliminated. We do so because, in addition to the moral reasons put forward so eloquently by my hon. Friend the Member for Eton and Slough (Mr. Brockway), we believe nuclear weapons are for this country costly, futile and dangerous.
616 As far as the cost is concerned, we have had a little argument about that and I think that the matter ought now to be clearly on the record. I must say that the Minister of Defence, although he is not here, has really not been very honest with the House and the country about the cost of the nuclear element in British armaments. In the White Paper he stated quite specifically that the cost was about 10 per cent. of the defence budget and in the strip cartoon with which the White Paper is illustrated he shows a picture of Britain's contribution to the nuclear deterrent. The cost is £1,655 million of which one-tenth is cut out, represented by a silhouette of the V-bomber.
From that one would assume—and this is probably intended to convince those who do not read all the small print, as otherwise we should not have these pretty pictures; that is their purpose—that the cost of the British contribution to the deterrent is only £165 million. However, the Secretary of State for Air has been more forthcoming and has been honest enough to say that we must add another £55 million to the cost, bringing the total up to £220 million.
§ Mr. Amery
The cost of the deterrent itself, as my right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence made clear, is 10 per cent. of the defence, that is to say, the running costs of the bomber forces, the men and the cost of maintaining it, the accommodation, the runways and the running costs of the Thor, the capital investment, the R. and D., and the nuclear weapons. I was going a stage further and saying that one could, if one wished, on top of that add about one-third of the air defence system which is directly linked to the deterrent. It is not part of the cost of the deterrent any more than Fighter Command is part of the cost of Bomber Command, but it is related to it. This would bring the total, on the best estimate I can make, up to about £200 million.
§ Mr. Warbey
I am obliged to the right hon. Gentleman who very gallantly has come to the defence of his right hon. Friend. Nevertheless, he has made it quite clear that it is not a case of "one could if one wished". It is a case of 617 what he has himself honestly and specifically stated in the Memorandum, in which it is said, on page 7, thatExpenditure on air defence world-wide is expected to absorb somewhat less than 10 per cent. of the Defence Budget. Of this about one-third is attributable to the requirements of the deterrentThere is no "one could if one wished" about that. It is specifically and honestly stated. So let us have no more beating about the bush. One-third of 10 per cent. is a further £55 million, which, according to my arithmetic, brings the figure up to £220 million.
On top of that, there is the concealed expenditure of the Atomic Energy Authority on research and development for the manufacture of plutonium and for fissile materials for the production of nuclear weapons. That total net expenditure in 1960–61 of the Authority will be £78 million. If we take, say, two-thirds of that, there is another £52 million which really ought to go into the Defence Estimates but which is kept out for security reasons. Does the right hon. Gentleman wish to intervene again?
§ Mr. Warbey
But I am quite sure that the right hon. Gentleman will not have forgotten that his hon. Friend the Financial Secretary last year admitted, in reply to a Question from me, that there were elements of the expenditure of the Atomic Energy Authority which really went for war purposes and not for peaceful purposes and which could not be given for security reasons. I do not think that that can be denied, whatever the right hon. Gentleman may say. Therefore, the total figure is really about £265 million. Does the hon. Member for Isle of Ely wish to interrupt? If hon. Members wish to intervene, I wish they would stand up and do so. I understand that my hon. Friend wishes to begin his winding-up speech fairly soon, and I have promised not to be long. I am forced to take longer than I had intended because of interruptions or mutterings from hon. Members opposite. If they have anything to contribute, I wish they would stand up and say so.
§ Mr. Warbey
The point is that the real cost of the nuclear element in British armaments and of trying to maintain this country as an independent nuclear power is not £165 million, as the Minister of Defence tried to suggest, but about £265 million. That is what we should have on the record. In other words, it is not one-tenth but something nearer one-sixth of the total defence budget, and of that the greater amount is spent by the Royal Air Force and is, therefore, the subject of the Estimates we are now discussing. In other words, at least between 40 and 50 per cent. of these Estimates is attributable to the nuclear element in our armaments. If it were eliminated, there would be a substantial saving.
When considering whether this is a costly element, we have to relate it, as the Minister said, to the question of whether our expenditure on defence may not be so high as to interfere with our ability to engage in other necessary activities, including competitive coexistence with other parts of the world.
§ Mr. Wigg
My hon. Friend's figures are borne out, and the Minister's figures are denied, by a statement made by the former Minister of Defence, the present Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations, on 26th February, 1959, when he said:Expenditure on the V-bomber force, ballistic rockets and nuclear weapons, including research and development. continues to run at about 10 per cent. of our total Defence Estimates. Expenditure on the protection of the deterrent bases represents about a further 10 per cenit."—[OFFICIAL, REPORT, 26th February, 1959; Vol. 600, c. 1417.]In other words, it represents a total of 20 per cent., which the Minister this afternoon, entirely for reasons of political convenience, forgot to tell the Committee.
§ Mr. Warbey
I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg), whose contributions to our debates on defence matters are always extremely helpful.
It is right that the country should know what this element is costing and what could be saved if it were eliminated. It is four times what the Minister of Health and the Chancellor of the 619 Exchequer are trying to save the taxpayer at the cost of the contributors to the National Health Service and those who make use of it. If we were to eliminate this item, we could pay for the whole of the increased cost of the National Health Service. We could pay for another 10s. a week increase in old-age pensions and we could develop Governmental aid to the underdeveloped countries. These things would help to maintain the morale of our people, increase our exports and enable the country to play an effective part in competitive coexistence and in trying to raise our status with the countries of Asia and Africa, who, whatever hon. Members opposite may think, are coming to play an increasingly significant rôle in the world.
That this costly expenditure is also futile has been demonstrated by other hon. Members. I call in aid only the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Hall Green (Mr. Aubrey Jones), who as long as four years ago said that the V-bombers would soon become obsolete because of the technical developments of Russian defence. We still have only a hundred or so operational V-bombers with free-falling bombs, and there has been four years in which the Russian defences have been still further improved. When the Minister suggests that any significant number of those V-bombers could get through against Russian defences, he is merely taking to keep up his spirits and his courage and what he says has no relation to the facts.
§ Sir O. Prior-Palmer
In what conceivable situation does the hon. Member consider that the British V-bomber force would be used on its own and not as part and parcel of the strategic striking force?
§ Mr. Warbey
It is part of the argument of the Minister of Defence and of the Secretary of State for Air. It was the Minister of Defence who said that the V-bombers on their own were capable of crippling the industrial capacity of the Soviet Union.
§ Sir O. Prior-Palmer rose——620
§ Mr. Warbey
I have answered the hon. and gallant Gentleman's interruption, and I have shown that it has been an argument—
§ Mr. Warbey
I wish the hon. and gallant Gentleman would stop interrupting. Perhaps he will rise if he wishes to say something.
§ Sir O. Prior-Palmer
I want to try to explain to the hon. Gentleman that my right hon. Friend never said that the British V-bomber force could ever be used on its own. What he said about its capability related to the fact that it is integrated completely and absolutely with the strategic bomber force. There has never been any suggestion that it would be used on its own.
§ Mr. Warbey
The hon. and gallant Gentleman is trying to have it both ways. I was using first a military argument about what it was capable of doing. That is the whole point.
§ Mr. Warbey
The question of how it will be used politically, whether in alliance with others, is a separate argument altogether. On the purely military point, the hon. and gallant Gentleman has completely conceded the case.
§ Sir O. Prior-Palmer rose——
§ Mr. Warbey
I cannot give way any more. My hon. Friend the Member for Loughborough (Mr. Cronin) is looking anxiously towards me because he wants to begin his speech very soon and I want to give him a word of encouragement before he begins.
I will merely say that on the showing of the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Hall Green, as of others, the V-bomber force is really already obsolescent, and we see nothing definite yet of the vehicles which are to replace the 621 free-falling bomb—Blue Steel, which has not yet had its trials, and Skybolt, of which journalists are still allowed to see only mock-ups.
Therefore, the whole thing in military terms is probably futile. In political terms it is complete nonsense to add our little 3 per cent. to the vast power of the United States. But, unfortunately, it is not merely that this weapon is futile because it is neither a means of defence nor an effective deterrent t it is also positively dangerous because it encourages the spread of nuclear weapons to other countries.
I want simply to recall what I thought was the excellent speech made by my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, Fast (Mr. Healey) during the defence debate last week in which he pointed out very clearly indeed that this country's continued attempt to maintain a British nuclear deterrent was a direct encouragement to other countries of a similar rank to our own to follow our example. The whole argument which he put forward—he exposed the attempt as wasteful expenditure—was directed to showing very conclusively that this country ought to give up the independent British nuclear deterrent very largely because in this way we should he setting an example to other countries which might very well be followed.
I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for Loughborough will make it quite clear that we on this side of the Committee now, whatever our disagreements may be in defence, are united in opposing the attempt to maintain a British nuclear deterrent and that it would be entirely logical that not a certain number of us but all of us on this side of the Committee should join my hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire in the Division Lobby in support of his Amendment.
§ 11.0 p.m.
§ Mr. John Cronin (Loughborough)
I am obliged to my hon. Friend the Member for Ashfield (Mr. Warbey) for his encouragement. I might, perhaps, have made more things clear if he had allowed me more time. This is the first occasion that I have appeared at the Dispatch Box, but I usually sit on the Front Bench in an unloquacious 622 capacity. It is usual to ask for the indulgence of the Committee on these occasions, but I am not sure that a Whip gets any indulgence. If anyone feels my performance to be inadequate he has my sympathetic concurrence in advance.
This debate has turned very considerably on the matter of the nuclear deterrent, but we have a duty—as the Under-Secretary of State will agree—to discuss also questions of welfare, administration and recruitment. Thus, although I will have plenty to say about the strategy and weapons of the Royal Air Force, I will first of all refer to the perhaps less exciting matters of welfare.
We know that in the R.A.F. there are no great complaints about pay and allowances. As far as we can tell, accommodation and feeding for single men, at least in the United Kingdom, are satisfactory. But most of us have no idea what is going on abroad, and I hope that the Secretary of State will make arrangements whereby Members can visit stations abroad to gain a more effective idea of what is happening out there, particularly as National Service is ended and we shall not have the same amount of information from our constituents that we have had hitherto.
I want to ask the Under-Secretary of State—who is always courteous and helpful—questions about welfare. Could he explain the rather peculiar attitude that the Air Ministry takes towards marriage? Why is it that there is discrimination in allowances against a married officer under the age of 25? Both the Secretary of State and his hon. Friend no doubt attend fashionable weddings, and are familiar with the purpose of marriage as expressed in the marriage service. Why do not these allowances apply equally to officers under the age of 25?
I now turn to married quarters. In view of the change of strategy of the R.A.F., there have been considerable movements between various stations. As a result, many officers and airmen are finding themselves in married quarters a long way from the places where they work. Perhaps the Under-Secretary of State will tell us what is happening about producing more and improved married quarters in the United Kingdom. I understand that in 1958 and 1959 about 500 new quarters were produced each year. Was that figure improved upon 623 last year, and is it intended to do so again this year?
One of the difficulties has been Aden. During the last couple of years hon. Members have heard numerous complaints about the general accommodation situation in Aden for airmen. Can the Under-Secretary of State tell us what has been done there? Are there to be improved married quarters in Aden? Are we to get rid of the disagreeable situation in which so many officers and airmen take their wives unofficially and have to quarter them in rather inferior local accommodation? This is a matter of importance, and I hope that the hon. Gentleman will reassure us.
I hope that he can also give reassurance on the matter of schools in stations overseas. We know that, until quite recently at least, officers and airmen stationed at Steamer Point or Khormaksar have been sending their children to civilian schools. I should be very glad to know if more suitable school accommodation has been made available.
Turning to recruitment, the hon. Member for Macclesfield (Sir A. V. Harvey) pointed out that there has been a great lack of publicity about the Royal Air Force. This is a matter which should be closely studied. We hear very much about the United States Air Force, and it would be very nice to read in the newspapers about the Royal Air Force. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will have something to say about public relations, for improved public relations could help to stimulate recruitment.
Can we be assured that the R.A.F. will reach its target figure for recruitment in 1963, a matter of considerable importance? How is aircrew recruiting progressing? One of the most disastrous effects of the 1957 White Paper was to give the impression that flying was to cease or virtually to cease, and that had a deleterious effect on aircrew recruiting. Can the hon. Gentleman tell us what is happening in the recruiting of ground officers—education officers, doctors and dentists? Are there still grievous shortages of those three types of personnel?
The hon. Gentleman should also mention the present rôle of the R.A.F. Regiment. From the Memorandum to the 624 Air Estimates it will be seen that there have been substantial changes in the Regiment's rôle, and that its members are now being used to load aircraft and act as fire and rescue services. What exactly is the situation, because how this redoubtable force is employed is important?
Having dispensed with the more humdrum and routine questions, I now turn to more critical comments. In the last week or so, we have heard that Transport Command is grievously inadequate for its purpose of making up for the serious shortage of recruits for the Army. We are glad that it has been increased three times, but what is being done to increase it still further? The Secretary of State gave us some interesting figures about the capacity of Transport Command, but did those figures include lifts by civilian charter planes, or were they purely R.A.F. Transport Command figures?
§ Mr. Cronin
I am glad to have the right hon. Gentleman's reassurance. In Subhead III A of Vote 5 there is an item of £2,300,000 paid to civilian charter companies for the conveyance of personnel. Presumably, those are routine movements and not the movements which the right hon. Gentleman had in mind.
§ Mr. Amery indicated assent.
§ Mr. Amery indicated dissent.
§ Mr. Cronin
Hon. Members from both sides of the Committee have been to North Cotes to see Bloodhound. This is an impressive ground-to-air guided missile and all hon. Members will probably be in favour of it, for it is a purely defensive missile and obviously excellent for destroying hostile aircraft. But will it be useful for dealing with intercontinental ballistic missiles and intermediate range missiles? The Memorandum suggests that to a substantial extent we are going on with the Bloodhound programme, and yet one reads on page 5:The threat today is mainly from enemy bombers. In a few years' time it will be mainly from enemy missiles.625 If the threat is to be mainly from enemy missiles, why are we pressing ahead so hard with the Bloodhound programme which apparently can cope only with hostile aircraft?
§ Mr. Ellis Smith
Did my hon. Friend see the well-informed article in last week's Sunday Times which confirms what he is saying? It said that there was no defence.
§ Mr. Amery
Perhaps I might clear up the point. Bloodhounds are deployed in East Anglia against the threat of the manned bomber. As is made clear in the Memorandum, Bloodhound 2 will be mainly deployed overseas where we believe that the threat from manned bombers and fighter aircraft will continue very much longer than it will in this country.
§ Mr. Cronin
I am glad that we have had that explanation. I take it that the right hon. Gentleman agrees that Bloodhound is of no value in dealing with ballistic missiles?
§ Mr. Amery
It will be useful for some years to come. I think that where the hon. Gentleman is mistaken is that he does not appreciate—I am not blaming him for this—that without access to all the intelligence one cannot easily assess exactly how much longer the manned bomber will be the main threat. We believe that it will be the main threat for some years to come.
§ Mr. Cronin
The right hon. Gentleman has a curious habit of throwing a wave of obscurity over these subjects and saying that he is doing it in the interests of security. I clearly said that I took it that he agreed that Bloodhound was useless for dealing with intercontinental or intermediate range ballistic missiles. Does the right hon. Gentleman agree?
§ Mr. Cronin
The right hon. Gentleman agrees that he is going ahead with a programme which has no relevance to the future threat.
§ Mr. W. Griffiths (Manchester, Exchange)
On a point of order, Mr. Hynd. As a matter of courtesy, when the Minister has an interjection to make he might get to his feet and not recline there.
§ Mr. Cronin
I think that the right hon. Gentleman has had a tiring day.
I should like the Under-Secretary of State for Air to tell us a few things about the ballistic early warning station at Fylingdales. It is a matter of substantial importance to our safety. We have heard from the right hon. Gentleman that the station gives four minutes warning of aircraft or missiles.
§ Mr. Cronin
It has been said by previous Government spokesmen. We should like to know the extent to which the station will be accurate in its information. Can it identify such a small object as a warhead on an intercontinental or an intermediate-range ballistic missile? Is it certain that there can be no mistake about asteroids or similar foreign bodies going through the sky? What will happen if a ballistic missile goes from one of our allies in the screen, which is possible with these various practice shoots? Are we certain that we have a foolproof system?
Turning to the Royal Air Force in Germany, one of the unhappy defects of the White Paper is that it contains no reference to vertical take-off aircraft. This was pointed out by the hon. Member for Macclesfield. This is a completely new concept in which Great Britain leads the world. We have in existence the Hawker P1127. It is not an experimental model but a fully developed one, which could carry missiles and guns. There is nothing in the Memorandum about the adoption of this aircraft. Can we have some explanation of that? It is obvious that this kind of aeroplane will be of the greatest value for the tactical support of troops. Needing no runway, it can take off within a few hundred yards of the troops.
627 My hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Park (Mr. Mulley) spoke about the Canberra passing into obsolescence, and said that we have no satisfactory aircraft to take its place. In the Memorandum there are some disturbing comments on this. In paragraph 49 there is a reference to the Canberra tactical atomic strike force and further on, in paragraph 52, a reference to the strike role, in support of CENTO, of the Canberra force in Cyprus. Hon. Members on both sides of the Committee would like some reassurance that the accent is not to be too much on the Canberra atomic strike force. We should like to be quite sure that these aircraft and their crews are capable of, and trained and deployed for, conventional warfare. There is nothing in the Memorandum which gives that impression. It is very important that we should be given some assurance that all the Royal Air Force aircraft deployed with N.A.T.O. are capable of conventional strikes, and also that any atomic capability they have is under very careful political control.
In his speech on 21st November, General Norstad said that an atomic weapon is useful only after a decision by an established authority,except in certain well defined cases of self-defence.This is rather uncomfortable. What are "well defined cases of self-defence"? We might be reassured if the Under-Secretary could confirm that there is a very strict control on the use of the Second Tactical Air Force for nuclear warfare.
The subject of Bomber Command has engendered a good deal of heat in this debate, but it is one that we must try to approach as unemotionally as possible. Many hon. Members have referred to its cost—£165 million in a year. My hon. Friend the Member for Ashfield has pointed out that that sum is equivalent to 10s. a week for every old-age pensioner. Actually he is wrong in his calculations. According to my figures the sum should be 12s. a week. But that is insignificant. The main point is that this is an enormous expense to our economy, and we should like to know whether we are getting our money's worth for it in Bomber Command.
628 We should examine this matter particularly because of some comments made on the matter by the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Hall Green (Mr. Aubrey Jones) a former Minister of Supply. No one knows better than he how effective Bomber Command is, yet, in the defence debate on 27th February, he said: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."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 27th February, 1961 Vol. 635, c. 1250.]These are grave words, coming as they do from a right hon. Gentleman who was so recently Minister of Supply and so recently responsible for the development of aircraft. We must examine the value of Bomber Command very carefully to be certain that it is being used in the right way.
We are agreed that Great Britain would not use the nuclear weapon first, so that a nuclear weapon is credible only if it is a second striking weapon and can be used after a nuclear strike has been made by another country. I should like hon. Members to consider what is the value of the sixty Thor missiles which are deployed in East Anglia. Surely we must assume that their positions are pin-pointed on the maps at the headquarters of every Soviet missile regiment. If there is any question of a first strike by Soviet Russia, it would be made on those ballistic missiles and they would cease to exist. They cannot be credible as a deterrent. One can regard them only a provocation.
The Secretary of State made play with the idea of this country receiving some warning from the ballistic missile early warning station at Fylingdales, and that in the few minutes available those Thor missiles could be dispatched on their errand. He also said that they could be dispatched if enemy bombers entered our fighter screen. This seems to me a grievously dangerous doctrine. These Thors are so obviously irrecoverable once they are set off. Are they to be sent off on a short alarm of a few minutes? If that is the case, the outlook is baleful indeed. I thought that the Secretary of State referred somewhat prematurely to Lord Ward's obituary, but if he really intends to use these Thors in that manner, he can start to write the obituaries of us all.
§ Mr. Cronin
I am a little surprised that the Secretary of State should take this so seriously. I think he must know, as hon. Members of the Committee must know, that the Thors will never, and can never, be used. I am surprised that the members of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament took them so seriously. I should have thought that they might have laid down in front of the Treasury for having wasted the money, rather than at the missile sites.
With hon. Members from both sides of the Committee I have visited the V-bomber stations and we were all enormously impressed by the high estate of morale and the high efficiency of that force. But what is its strategic value? These V-bombers are mostly concentrated in Eastern England and again I think we can say that their positions have been marked carefully on the maps of the Soviet ballistic missile organisations. We are told by the Secretary of State that these V-bombers can take off very rapidly within the time of the warning we shall receive from Fylingdales—and incidentally, that is a warning system which will not operate until between 1962 and 1964.
The Secretary of State again threw a cloud of obscurity over this. He talked about bomber crews being able to scramble in one minute and twenty seconds. This sounds very reassuring, but what does it mean? Does it mean that they can take their aircraft off in that time, provided that they stand beside their aircraft all the time? If so, does he think that bomber crews will stand beside their aircraft permanently in a period of tension? Or does he mean that they can take their aircraft off in one minute and twenty seconds starting from the time they leave their quarters? The figure the right hon. Gentleman gave us is meaningless, although anyone who does not give the most elementary analysis to it might well be taken in by it and think that it means extra security for the country.
What will happen to the V-bombers if there is an attack—and I do not confine the question to aircraft coming into the fighter screen or on to the radar screens at Fylingdales? As my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) said the other day, the attack might be 630 from a missile submarine in the Atlantic south or west of the British Isles. The warning would then be a few seconds. I do not think that the Secretary of State will suggest that he could scramble his bomber crews in a few seconds and have the aircraft in the air. There is plenty of evidence that the Soviet Union has nuclear missile submarines in use. She will certainly have many more in the near future.
I suggest to the Secretary of State that the only potentially deterrent value of the bombers is that proportion of them which could get off before a strike was made on their airfields. That would be quite a small proportion. When they get off it is not the end of the story. We know that Soviet Russia has 3,500 fighters. We know that some of them are the MiG 19 and the MiG 21, which are better than our Lightnings. We know that Soviet Russia has been the pioneer in making the very land-to-air rockets of which we are so proud and which we have at North Cotes and other places. We can be certain that, even if a small proportion of bombers did get off, only a small number would penetrate to their targets.
Blue Steel modifies this conception to some extent. We know that Blue Steel may give an extra 200 or 300 miles range. The Government recognise that Blue Steel is quite inadequate. That is apparent from the fact that they are trying to obtain Skybolt.
We have heard a lot about Skybolt. It is a subject which I do not think should be carried too far. Most of us are rather dubious about whether Skybolt will ever materialise for the V-bomber force. The Secretary of State is rather in the position of a man who is trying to find a Derby winner by putting his money on a foal which is still unborn.
The Minister of Defence told us that Skybolt will be given to us with no strings if it is finally developed and fitted to the B52s. The Secretary of State merely said "if it is finally developed". Why should we think that it will be finally developed? The United States Strategic Air Force is now moving very rapidly from bombers to guided missiles. Its B52 is already equipped with Hound Dog, the equivalent of our Blue Steel. It is common knowledge in the United States that the role of the bomber is to follow up a missile strike. If any hon.
631 Gentlemen do not believe me they can look at the proceedings of the Air Force Association Convention which was held at San Francisco in September.
§ Sir H. Legge-Bourke
Has the hon. Gentleman read the very interesting series of articles in The Times by its defence correspondent in which he was told quite definitely:Even the keenest missile, however, men do not doubt that there is a continuing role for the manned aircraft. As General Schriever has put it, 'We must keep manned bombers in the inventory to prevent technological surprise—we cannot depend on any single system.'
§ Mr. Cronin
I have a great respect for The Times, but even Homer nods.
I think we have to face the fact that the United States now has a tremendous intercontinental ballistic missile programme. The Minuteman, for instance, has a range of 5,500 miles. It has a speed which is twenty-two times that of our V-bombers and can deliver a 2 megaton bomb. How can any bomber compete with that in rival efficiency? It is obvious that we are entering a race for nuclear deterrents for which we are economically completely unfitted. We cannot possibly compete.
The most disagreeable circumstance of all is that the United States ballistic missile programme is a rather feverish attempt to catch up on the Soviet Union's ballistic missile programme. One assumes, therefore, that the Soviet Union is much more fully equipped still. It is well known that 2 per cent. of the United States total strategic nuclear weapon could by itself destroy all the principal cities in the Soviet Union. What possible value are we giving to the nuclear deterrent of the West if the United States can deal with the whole situation with 2 per cent. of its forces? If the Secretary of State for Air or the Under-Secretary of State denies that figure, I shall be glad to give way. That is the situation.
The Government must face up to the inexorable reality that although the V-bomber force still has some deterrent value, it is a diminishing defence asset no matter how much it is refurbished with Blue Steels or hypothetical Sky-bolts. The plain fact now is that we are spending much more than we can afford 632 on V-bombers and probably providing less than 5 per cent. of the West's total deterrent.
As we on this side have been pressed on the point, I should like to say clearly and unequivocally that in our view Britain should cease to attempt to remain an independent nuclear Power in the West. We have a disciplined, intelligent and courageous body of young men, and all of us who take part in these debates feel proud to be associated with their welfare. But if the Government continue their present air defence policy the Royal Air Force is likely to have, to a large extent, the wrong tools and the wrong job.
I ask the Government to give more careful consideration to the future of the Royal Air Force so that it may serve most usefully the interests of its country and the cause of world peace.
§ 11.35 p.m.
§ The Under-Secretary of State for Air (Mr. W. J. Taylor)
It is customary for the Under-Secretary of State, when winding up this debate, to reply to the questions put to him during the course of it. A great number of questions have been put to my right hon. Friend and myself by hon. Members on both sides of the Committee. It must be obvious to the Committee that I shall not have time to reply to every question put to me. I apologise in advance to those hon. Members to whom I give no reply now, and I promise them that, if there is a reply which I can usefully give, I shall write to them in due course.
It will have been noted that this debate takes place formally on Vote A, which refers in the main to the manpower position of the Royal Air Force. I shall deal, first, with the general position of the Royal Air Force, with particular reference to recruiting. The general picture is good, and there is every prospect that we shall reach the target which we have set ourselves for 1963 of having 135,000 adult males in the Royal Air Force. This number excludes apprentices and boys and the Women's Royal Air Force. A very encouraging feature of the recruiting picture now is that many more men are taking on for engagements for nine years and over. The proportion of engagements for nine years and over has risen from 34 per cent. in 1955 to 80 per cent. today.
633 Our aim is to have 118,000 airmen in ground trades by 1963. We already have 99,000 committed to serve until 1963. Hon. Members will see that there is no great difficulty to be expected in filling the gap. There are certain difficulties in some trades, the unpopular trades, which are also unpopular in civil life, such as domestic and clerical trades, nursing attendants, telegraphists, and so on.
My hon. Friend the Member for Macclesfield (Sir A. V. Harvey) and other hon. Members referred to the publicity which the Air Ministry gives to the Royal Air Force in the effort it is constantly making to attract more men to serve in it. It so happens that the Under-Secretary of State is the Chairman of the Publicity Committee of the Air Ministry, and I can, therefore, state that there has been a great improvement of late in the publicity. In my capacity as Chairman of the Committee, I shall continue to press on with this work.
My hon. Friend the Member for Macclesfield, my hon. Friend the Member for Wembley, North (Wing Commander Bullus), the hon. Member for Sheffield, Park (Mr. Mulley), and other hon. Members emphasised the importance of aircrew recruiting, and there is no doubt that there is a serious potential danger here. If the record does not improve, we shall, by 1970, be in serious trouble. The cause of this is the retirement in fairly substantial numbers of war-time entrants to the Royal Air Force and to the increases in planned air crew recruiting which have now been made to meet the new strategic and operational conditions.
My hon. Friend the Member for Wembley, North asked whether we were paying air crews enough. Quite frankly, we feel in the Air Ministry that we have reached the point where the offer of more money would not make a great deal of difference to the total number of people who would come into the force. We feel that we have reached the stage where pure financial attraction will not make anything more than a marginal difference. There is no doubt that an erroneous impression is abroad that flying as a career in the Royal Air Force is finished. I hope that that impression will not be allowed to con- 634 tinue and that hon. Members, on both sides of the Committee, who, I know, at heart are in support of the Royal Air Force, will do all they can to remove that impression.
We are doing all that we can in connection with our liaison arrangements with schools and public bodies generally to publicise the Royal Air Force. I was asked what we are doing to improve recruitment of aircrew. The Central Office of Information, for example, is making a market survey amongst a cross-section of likely men who would be regarded as aircrew candidates, to ascertain the trends. We are awaiting the result of the survey and we shall do all we can in that and in any other direction to get the numbers we require.
I should like to give hon. Members an up-to-date figure to indicate the trend. For aircrew, we had 1,886 inquiries in January, 1961. The monthly average for 1960 was 616. We do not know how many of these inquiries will go forward. At least, we can take heart from the fact in the first month of this year inquiries trebled, and by about May we shall reach the effective time to see the fruits of this new interest in the flying branch of the Service.
The hon. Member for Sheffield, Park raised the question of N.C.O. aircrew and whether we ought not to do more about them. There is still a limited requirement for N.C.O. aircrew. Since 1948, the policy has been that pilots and navigators should, in general, be commissioned officers. The exception is air signallers. We do not recruit externally for N.C.O. aircrew. Those serving in the Service as aircrew are either wartime entrants or came in immediately after the war. The small number that we require of N.C.O. aircrew for signals is met each year by internal recruiting.
The hon. Member for Loughborough (Mr. Cronin) spoke of the specialist branches. We are very short, and, with the ending of National Service, we will continue to be short, in certain specialist branches. In the Education Branch, for example, we are very short. This is a symptom which is reflected in the civil life of the country, also. We are short in the Medical and Dental Branches. I have detailed notes of how we are trying to combat these shortages. We have a new career plan for the Education 635 Branch, for example. In the Dental Branch, we have instituted our university cadetship scheme and we have awarded 21 cadetships in fifteen months for that purpose.
Now that we are no longer, as it were, protected by National Service, and are in the position of having to compete with civilian life for scarce professional manpower, we hope that all the new methods that we are using to interest professional men in the Royal Air Force will have the desired effect and bring them into the Service, because without doctors and dentists we should be in grave difficulty.
Recruiting for the Women's Royal Air Force is generally satisfactory. There is a very big turnover in the W.R.A.F. The difficulty arises from the short service given by members of this branch. The average service is only 2.4 years. so that hon. Members will appreciate what difficulty we have in trying to keep up the numbers.
§ Mr. Taylor
I hope that the hon. Member will allow me to make my speech in my own way. He and his hon. Friends have had a field day and have allowed the debate to range widely over defence matters which got a long way from Vote A of these Estimates. I will talk now about the men and women, working in this great Service, who are looking to this Committee for something to be said about their conditions, prospects, and livelihood. It is my duty to say something about these things, and the hon. Member for Glasgow, Govan (Mr. Rankin) can make his speech on Skybolt next weekend. I might make a speech about it then as well.
§ Mr. Malcolm MacMillan (Western Isles)
On a point of order, Sir William. The Under-Secretary of State has suggested that we wandered everywhere except over the Estimates in our debate. That is wrong and unfair, and is a reflection on the Chair. We did discuss Service men's conditions
§ The Deputy-Chairman (Major Sir William Anstruther-Gray)
I think that what the Under-Secretary of State said was fair comment.
§ Mr. Warbey
Further to that point of order. Are we to understand, Sir William, from what you have just said about the Under-Secretary of State making a fair comment, that you are saying he was fair when he suggested that hon. Members on this side of the Committee had wandered beyond the bounds of the Estimates?
§ The Deputy-Chairman
Not at all. It will be in the knowledge of the Committee that the debate has gone very wide. Indeed, this Memorandum justifies it being wide.
§ Mr. Rankin
Further to that point of order. In view of what you have just said, Sir William, had the Under-Secretary of State's remark to me any justification?
§ The Deputy-Chairman
I do not think that I was very far wrong when I said, first, that the Minister's expression was fair comment.
§ Mr. Taylor
Thank you, Sir William. I hope that the hon. Member for Govan and his hon. Friends do not take exception to what I have said. I do not take exception to what they say. I was merely putting my point of view. After all, I have been sitting here eight hours listening to their points of view.
I want now to refer to the point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Macclesfield about apprentices and boy entrants. Apprentices are the future highly skilled tradesmen of the R.A.F., and we are not getting enough of them. I hope that the new nine-year engagement from the age of 18, as an alternative to the present twelve-year engagement, will attract more entrants.
We have no lack of applications, but we have not sufficient numbers of the high quality we require. These boys get a first class training at Halton, and it is not irrelevant to mention that an apprentice at 17½ years gets 18s. 6d. a day, with board, lodging and clothing found. If he graduates as a junior technician—say, in the radio engineering trade—his pay goes up to nine guineas a week, all found, at the age of 19. That is fairly good for boys of that age, and I hope that many more of the right quality will come forward.
637 My hon. Friend also mentioned liaison with schools in this connection. We conduct our liaison in two ways. One is with the Headmasters' Conference schools. That liaison is done direct from the Air Ministry. Generally, our relations are excellent, and the schools liaison officer is given every opportunity to put over our case. For other schools, we have a staff of 18 liaison officers under the inspector of recruiting, covering 6,000 schools throughout the country. In general, the co-operation in that direction is good.
The hon. Members for Sheffield, Park and Loughborough asked me to comment on the married quarters situation. We hope to complete more than 2,000 married quarters this year compared with 1,100 in 1960, and 500 each year in 1958 and 1959. Overseas we shall complete 600, including 155 in the Arabian Peninsula, and in that theatre we are installing air-conditioning wherever necessary.
This year we are spending nearly £4½ million on accommodation for single men at home, concentrating particularly on improvements at boy entrant and apprentice schools and building new barrack blocks of very attractive design. We shall go on doing this. We shall build overseas 1,900 quarters for officers and airmen, and over half of these will be in the Arabian Peninsula.
The hon. Member for Sheffield, Park asked for a specific reply to his inquiry about conditions in Aden. The Royal Air Force is responsible for housing the families of all three Services in Aden. In the year ended 1st March, about 600 Service families have been rehoused, and there will be 500 more by April of this year. This figure includes privately-built accommodation which is rented to the Services. A number of flats for airmen and officers are being built—48 for the former has been completed and 84 for the latter should be ready later this year. Seven barrack blocks to house 1,050 airmen have been completed. A new airmen's mess and extensions to officers' and N.C.O.s' messes are planned, with single quarters for 70 officers and 130 N.C.Os. I am glad to report to the Committee—
§ Mr. David Webster (Weston-super-Mare)
Could my hon. Friend tell me 638 how many families have been taken out of the Crater in Aden?
§ Mr. Taylor
I have not got that figure, but I will let my hon. Friend know. The situation in Aden has very much improved since I was there just over a year ago.
I am glad to report to the Committee that two new schools have been opened this day at Aden to accommodate 950 children. They are first-class schools and are air-conditioned. We are going on with Service clubs and amenities generally. We are proceeding with the provision of schools in other theatres abroad and of N.A.A.F.I. facilities, and so on.
I turn now to one or two questions asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Abingdon (Mr. Neave) about transport affairs. First, with regard to strategic transports he asked when the Comet 4 was coming into service and whether we had plans for ordering later types. We expect to take delivery of all our Comet 4s next year. As for the more distant future, there is the Belfast Freighter, to which there has been some reference in the debate, and we hope to see this aircraft in service by 1964.
My hon. Friend asked whether we believed that these aircraft would be fast enough. The answer is that high speeds are not easily reconciled with the carrying capacity which the Belfast will afford, and high speed is only one of the characteristics—and not the most important—that we like to have in a strategic freighter. We expect the Belfast to give many years of useful life.
It is too early yet for me to say anything about plans for equipping the transport force with later types of aircraft, but I can assure my hon. Friend that this is a question to which we have devoted a good deal of study during the past year and if, in due course, my right hon. Friend has any decision to announce, he will inform Parliament. My hon. Friend also asked when we expected to take delivery of the 56 Argosy aircraft which we have on order. The first delivery of these aircraft will take place later this year and we expect the order to be completed within a period of three years.
My hon. Friend the Member for Brighton. Pavilion (Mr. Teeling) asked 639 about helicopter units. As he himself said, he and local authorities on the South Coast have been in touch with the Air Ministry about this subject and I received a deputation of representatives of South Coast resorts about the matter recently. The plain fact is that the helicopter units around the coast of Britain are established for the purpose of search and rescue and their deployment is dictated by Air Force needs at any particular time. That is to say, these units are placed in areas where operational flying by the Air Force is taking place. From time to time they are called upon to help civilians in emergency, but my hon. Friend will appreciate that we cannot allow that to influence their deployment.
We are getting a lot of new helicopters shortly, and it is our intention to use them for an expansion of the transport force. I am sorry to have to disappoint my hon. Friend, but we shall have no more to spare for air-sea rescue work and nor will any more be necessary. My hon. Friend will appreciate that what he said about the use of helicopters for civilian use is a matter which does not
§ lie within the responsibility of the Air Ministry.
§ My hon. Friend the Member for Macclesfield asked what the present rôle of the R.A.F. Regiment was, and this matter was mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for the Isle of Ely (Sir H. Legge-Bourke). The Regiment provides active ground defence and antiaircraft defence and there are units in the United Kingdom and other units in the Middle East and Far East. The protection of airfields and Thor sites is undertaken by the Air Force police and there are arrangements for reinforcing the Air Force police in an emergency if the need arises.
§ I am sorry that I have not been able to deal with all the topics raised during the debate. There have been many interesting comments with which I would like to have dealt, but I hope that the Committee will now agree to Vote A.
§ Question put, That a number not exceeding 163,000, all ranks, be maintained for the said Service:—
§ The Committee divided: Ayes 22, Noes 144.641
|Division No. 86.]||AYES||[11.59 p.m.|
|Brockway, A. Fenner||MacMillan, Malcolm (Western Isles)||Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.)|
|Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)||Manuel, A. C.||Spriggs, Leslie|
|Davies, Harold (Leek)||Parkin, B. T. (Paddington, N.)||Swingler, Stephen|
|Foot, Michael (Ebbw Vale)||Pavitt, Laurence||Warbey, William|
|Griffiths, W. (Exchange)||Probert, Arthur||Watkins, Tudor|
|Hart, Mrs. Judith||Rankin, John||Zilliacus, K.|
|Hill, J. (Midlothian)||Silverman, Julius (Aston)|
|Kelley, Richard||Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Mr. Emrys Hughes and Mr. Allaun.|
|Agnew, Sir Peter||Critchley, Julian||Harvey, Sir Arthur Vere (Macclesf'd)|
|Aitken, W. T.||Dalkeith, Earl of||Harvie Anderson, Miss|
|Allason, James||d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry||Hastings, Stephen|
|Amery, Rt. Hon. Julian (Preston, N.)||Deedes, W. F.||Heald, Rt. Hon. Sir Lionel|
|Atkins, Humphrey||Donaldson, Comdr. C. E. M.||Hill, J. E. B. (S. Norfolk)|
|Barter, John||Doughty, Charles||Hirst, Geoffrey|
|Biggs-Davison, John||du Cann Edward||Hobson, John|
|Bingham, R. M.||Eden, John||Hollingworth, John|
|Bishop, F. P.||Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton)||Hornsby-Smith, Rt. Hon. Patricia|
|Black, Sir Cyril||Elliott, R.W.(Nwcstle-upon-Tyne, N.)||Hughes-Young, Michael|
|Bossom, Clive||Errington, Sir Eric||Hutchison, Michael Clark|
|Bourne-Arton, A.||Finlay, Graeme||Iremonger, T. L.|
|Bowen, Roderic (Cardigan)||Fisher, Nigel||Johnson, Eric (Blackley)|
|Box, Donald||Fraser, Hn. Hugh (Stafford & Stone)||Johnson Smith, Geoffrey|
|Boyle, Sir Edward||Fraser, Ian (Plymouth, Sutton)||Kaberry, Sir Donald|
|Bryan, Paul||Gibson-Watt, David||Kerr, Sir Hamilton|
|Bulius, Wing Commander Eric||Glover, Sir Douglas||Leather, E. H. C.|
|Campbell, Gordon (Moray & Nairn)||Glyn, Dr Alan (Clapham)||Leburn, Gilmour|
|Carr, Compton (Barons Court)||Goodhart, Philip||Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry|
|Channon, H. P. G.||Goodhew, Victor||Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)|
|Chataway, Christopher||Gower, Raymond||Litchfield, Capt. John|
|Chichester-Clark, R.||Grant-Ferris, wg Cdr. R.||Loveys, Walter H.|
|Clark, Henry (Antrim, N.)||Green, Alan||Low, Rt. Hon. Sir Toby|
|Clark, William (Nottingham, S.)||Gresham Cooke, R.||Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh|
|Cleaver, Leonard||Grimston, Sir Robert||MacArthur, Ian|
|Cordeaux, Lt.-Col. J, K.||Gurden, Harold||McLaren, Martin|
|Corfield, F. V.||Hamilton, Michael (Wellingborough)||McMaster, Stanley R.|
|Coulson, J. M.||Harris, Reader (Heston)||Maddan, Martin|
|Markham, Major Sir Frank||Prior-Palmer, Brig. Sir Otho||Taylor, Edwin (Bolton, E.)|
|Mathew, Robert (Honiton)||Proudfoot, Wilfred||Taylor, W. J. (Bradford, N.)|
|Matthews, Gordon (Meriden)||Quennell, Miss J. M.||Teeling, William|
|Mawby, Ray||Redmayne, Rt. Hon. Martin||Temple, John M.|
|Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.||Rees, Hugh||Thatcher, Mrs. Margaret|
|Maydon, Lt.-Cmdr. S. L C.||Renton, David||Thomas, Leslie (Canterbury)|
|Mills, Stratton||Roots, William||Tiley, Arthur (Bradford, W.)|
|Montgomery, Fergus||Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard||Turner, Colin|
|More, Jasper (Ludlow)||Royle, Anthony (Richmond, Surrey)||Wakefield, Edward (Derbyshire, W.)|
|Morrison, John||Russell, Ronald||Wall, Patrick|
|Neave, Airey||Scott-Hopkins, James||Webster, David|
|Nicholls, Sir Harmar||Seymour, Leslie||Wells, John (Maidstone)|
|Osborn, John (Hallam)||Sharples, Richard||Whitelaw, Willlam|
|Pannell, Norman (Klrkdale)||Shaw, M.||Williams, Dudley (Exeter)|
|Pearson, Frank (Clitheroe)||Smith, Dudley (Br'ntf'rd & Chiswick)||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Peel, John||Steward, Harold (Stockport, S.)||Wise, A. R.|
|Percival, Ian||Stodart, J. A.||Wolrige-Gorden, Patrick|
|Pickthorn, Sir Kenneth||Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir Malcolm||Woodhouse, C. M.|
|Pike, Miss Mervyn||Studholme, Sir Henry|
|Pilkington, Sir Richard||Sumner, Donald (Orpington)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Pott, Percivall||Talbot, John E.||Colonel J. H. Harrison and Mr. Noble.|
§ Original Question put and agreed to.
That a number of officers, airmen and airwomen, not exceeding 164.000, all ranks, be maintained for Air Force Service, during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1962.
§ Resolution to be reported.
§ Report to be received this day: Committee to sit again this day.