§ 3.49 p.m.
§ The Minister of Defence (Mr. Harold Watkinson)
I beg to move,That this House approves the Statement on Defence, 1962, contained in Command Paper No. 1639.Before we start our debate, may I welcome the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Smethwick (Mr. Gordon Walker) and wish him well in his first venture on the wide—and perhaps the right hon. Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown) would agree—often uncharted seas of defence philosophy. At least the right hon. Member for Smethwick is a traditionalist in that the usual censure Amendment appears on the Order Paper.
I am very conscious that this is the third time that, inevitably, I have to subject the House to a series of highly compressed facts in presenting the White Paper. I only promise to be as plain and as brief as I can. I think that a daily newspaper called my speech on last year's White Paper "grey and sober." I think that that is an accurate description, because if one knows all the facts about nuclear weapons—I certainly have to know them—it is a grey and sober experience.
Speaking as Minister of Defence, nobody would be more delighted than I if the initiative which the Prime Minister has just described to the House proved to be fruitful and led at least to a treaty banning nuclear tests. That would be a great advance. None the less, as long as there are nuclear weapons, this remains the greatest problem in our military history, and it cannot be brushed aside. The hard fact is that, as long as there are nuclear weapons, they must condition every kind of military thought and activity. I believe that as long as they exist Britain has her essential part to play.
I therefore think that it is right that the White Paper has taken careful account of how we see war in a nuclear age and it is right that, against a nuclear background, the Government have set out the broad outline of their strategy for the 1960s. This is based on an immense amount of work and study by the Government's advisers over the past two years. Here, I might be allowed to say how grateful I am to them. They 41 have enabled the Government to produce a White Paper which is sharper and clearer in its long-term outline than has been produced for some years, because its main concept—the concept of unified command, joint service operations and greater mobility and hitting power—has been generally welcomed.
The Government therefore believe that this is the best kind of framework within which the Government's defence objects, which are set out in paragraph 3 of the White Paper, can be achieved. We can say this because what we advocate for the future has been tested by results and is, at least to some extent, the result of practical achievement. My first purpose, therefore, is to deal with some of the successful achievements on which we have tried to base our future long-term policy.
Let me turn, first, to recruiting. My right hon. Friends the Service Ministers and myself have been much criticised from time to time for sticking to the policy of creating all-Regular forces. We went on with our task because we believed that Regular long service men were the right basis for our new defence strategy. I have never understood those who maintain that the conscript principle is better than the volunteer principle. Any form of compulsory service, however hedged around, can only be a very bad second best.
Two-and-a-half years ago, when I came to this task, I felt sure that one of the main aims of our defence policy must be to make it possible to get all the men we needed on the basis of volunteers who were willing and proud to serve their country in this way. On the last lap of the five-year period, I think that my right hon. Friends and I can fairly claim to be making a success of this task. I say this not because television and better publicity have increased the numbers substantially—which they have—but because, over the whole field, we now have, I think, the kind of climate which will make people believe in and see the solid advantages of a career in the Services.
We have for the first time the right kind of job indoctrination in the Services. We have a much better acceptance of the man as an individual, much better man management, much more concern for married men, much better accommodation, and all the rest. In other 42 words, the figures are based on solid fact.
The 25 per cent. by which the Army has increased recruiting over 1961 as a whole, or the 40 per cent. by which recruiting has increased over the last five months, is a tendency which, I think, can continue. The January figures, published today, support this contention. They show that recruiting in the Army is 22 per cent. up on last year, or 40 per cent. up on the same month in 1960. I am grateful to my honorary adviser on recruiting, Sir Frederic Hooper, and to all those who work so hard at this task.
It is important that I should open this presentation of the White Paper with these figures, because I cannot see any reason why this trend should not continue. Therefore, I cannot see any reason why Regular recruiting should not, as paragraph 36 of the White Paper says, give us as many men as our long-term plans require. They will be better and more efficient men and will serve on the right long-term basis because they are Regulars.
I should like the right hon. Member for Smethwick, when he moves his Amendment, to tell us why he has no confidence in all-Regular forces as the basis of defence policy, because we should get this plain between us. The Opposition's Amendment is a general censure on the policy set out in the White Paper.
§ Mr. Watkinson
I am delighted to hear that it is a selective Amendment. I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman will tell us how selective it is.
Meantime, we propose to get on with the fascinating task of creating long-service professional forces. The aim is a defence force of between 390,000 and 400,000 British Service men, with the highest possible proportion in effective combat units. This we can achieve because of the success of something of which little account is taken, namely, the success of the civilianisation policy which now allows our uniformed forces to be backed up with an equal number of civilians. In other words, there is one civilian member of the forces backing each uniformed member.
43 That means that the structure of our peacetime forces will contain nearly 800,000 men, all on essential duties, whether in uniform or not, because all contribute directly to the strength of the total forces. Behind these 800,000 men are the Navy, Army and Air Force reserves, particularly the Territorial Army Emergency Reserve, the "Ever-readies", which, I am sure, will be a great success, and will play a much more significant part in our planning and policy once they are formed.
It therefore looks—and I say this with reasonable confidence—that we can get the men we need for our new all-Regular forces. While the new strategy is given further detailed study, I do not propose to lay down precise manpower ceilings for each Service. What we propose to do is to go flat out on recruiting for all three Services in the knowledge that all will work more closely together in future.
This brings me to the question of pay for the Armed Forces. The biennial review provided for under the Grigg Report, due this year, has been carried out in the usual way. The results are now to hand and they point to fully justified increases in emoluments, averaging 9½ per cent. for other ranks and rather more than 5 per cent. for officers. By "emoluments" I mean the basic emoluments—pay, marriage allowance and ration allowance. The Government attach great importance to carrying out pledges on service pay. I think that everyone in the House agrees that the Services are in a class apart from the general body of wage and salary earners. I am certain, therefore, that it would not be right or fair to apply to them the full rigour of current wage restraint policy.
Nevertheless—this is my decision—I believe that the Services themselves should not wish to be excepted from all sacrifice at a time when others are called upon to exercise restraint in the national interest. Therefore, the Government have decided to pay these increases in two equal instalments—the first half on 1st April this year and the other half on 1st April next year. Each payment will add about £14 million to the defence budget. The full details will be issued in a White Paper later this month. I thought that the House would like to 44 have the earliest information of what we have decided to do.
§ Mr. F. J. Bellenger (Bassetlaw)
Does that have any effect on the figures which the right hon. Gentleman is now giving to the House?
§ Mr. Watkinson
If the forces have a trade union leader, it is I. I must look after their interests, and I intend to do so.
§ Mr. Harold Wilson (Huyton)
Will the right hon. Gentleman tell us of any precedent in Parliamentary history of a Supplementary Estimate being announced before the beginning of the financial year to which the main Estimates relate?
§ Mr. Watkinson
No, I did not. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will be kind enough to recall that I said that I thought the House would like to know the cost of the proposals, and in answer to a question I said that this would require a Supplementary Estimate. If the right hon. Gentleman does not support this increase in pay for the Services, perhaps he will be kind enough to say so when the time comes. I am not in any doubt of the Government's position.
Now I turn to another successful operation on which much of our future planning is based—the operation in Kuwait. Its importance was that it gave us a chance to have a real test of the framework of future defence policy. For example, unified command was tested not only in Aden and Bahrein, but in the general operation of the exercise in Whitehall. It proved an excellent test of joint Service control in the Ministry of Defence, and I think that my right hon. Friend the Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill) would have enjoyed seeing the headquarters he knows so well—the Ministry of Defence—and in which 45 he played such a noble and historic part, once again being put to some useful service.
As a result of the experience gained in this operation, as set out in paragraph 42 of the White Paper we have decided to set up a joint Service operational staff in order continuously to process current plans and to ensure that the framework is ready for immediate action when required at any moment.
Kuwait also proved our increasing air mobility. For example, we had a strong paratroop force poised ready to fly in if there had been an opposed landing. As R.A.F. Transport Command now has well over 100 fixed-wing aircraft of various types on order, this mobility will steadily increase. It also proved the usefulness of the amphibious task force which we have strengthened in the Middle East Command, and which remains there.
There were lessons to be learned, and they have been learned, but what Kuwait proved was that the doctrine of unified command, of joint Service operations, the doctrine of the task force concept, both seaborne and airborne, was the right basis of the future plans set out in the White Paper, and I hope that those hon. Members who are interested in this will read paragraphs 23 and 24, which set out very clearly the concept of being able to poise forces by air and sea from a limited number of bases.
To develop the new doctrines and techniques which we shall require for this policy, I have set up in the Ministry of Defence a joint Service staff which, through my Deputy Chief of Defence Staff, is responsible to the Chiefs of Staff and myself. I attach great importance to the work of this new organisation. The joint Service staff, and the joint Service exercises round the world can be used not only to train forces, but to poise them for rapid use in any emergency. As we learn to work more closely together, I think that new possibilities of rationalisation and co-operation will open up, so I think that this basic idea has been tested and is right.
There were a wide range of other operations, all of which demonstrated our growing mobility and flexibility. There was the hurricane in British Honduras; the Congo airlift which went on month after month for the United Nations; and 46 the rescue work in the East African floods, with naval helicopters, among other things. We poised at least two major operations for South-East Asia, which I am delighted to say have not been called on. In British Guiana recently we showed how quickly British forces could be flown half way across the world.
In Berlin, we have met every operational requirement. British forces are playing their full part in all preparations to maintain access, and SACEUR has been the first to recognise the full part that British forces are playing. Perhaps the House will allow me to pay a tribute, with which I think all hon. Members agree, to the steadiness and efficiency of our Berlin forces and their Commanding Officer.
The success of all these various operations clearly shows that at least we are planning on the right lines. I do not see what more we can ask of Armed Forces than that they should carry out successfully and efficiently all that they are asked to do, and I have a sense of great pride in the first-class job that these British Service men are doing for their country.
Now I turn to the broader strategy set out in the White Paper, and it is very largely a question of trying to get the right balance. Those who seek to challenge its conclusions must find a better balance or a more workable alternative, and I do not think that they will find this an easy task.
Let me give some examples of our commitments. We are equally committed to three major alliances—N.A.T.O., CENTO, and S.E.A.T.O. We have to make our contribution to all three. We also have those areas of the world where we stand alone, and it seems to the Government inescapable that in our small world the collapse of one alliance must undermine the rest. For example, I do not think anybody would challenge the statement that N.A.T.O. and CENTO are closely interlocked, and, if peace is indivisible, then I think that all our alliances are interdependent and we must play our full part wherever we are needed. How to do this is set out in our plans for the future with regard to overseas bases and garrisons.
Here is really in the long term a fundamental change in policy. It is no longer a concept of British forces dispersed 47 round the world in small pockets, but a concentration on three main bases from which to fan out by air and sea. These bases are Britain, Aden, and Singapore. The treatment of bases must differ on each side of the air barrier, and I think that the House knows what I mean by that—the area of the Middle East and North Africa and other places where air staging rights are not always easy to obtain.
North of this area, that is to say in N.A.T.O. and the Atlantic areas, there is no air staging problem. Therefore, over this period Britain will become the main base and we shall not require to hold large armed forces in the Mediterranean for operations elsewhere. It would clearly be much more efficient to provide such forces direct by air from Britain. Therefore, what we want in Gibraltar, Malta, North Africa and Cyprus, are facilities, stockpiles and limited garrisons. Cyprus, of course, remaining the main air base for CENTO under the command of the Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief. This will save overheads and, over the period will result in a return to Britain of forces which can strengthen our central reserve here.
Of course, consultation will have to take place, and I appreciate only too well the difficulties in, for example, Malta, where the presence of British Services has provided so much of the livelihood of the island. But that is our long-term plan—a thinning out in the Mediterranean area, based on the capacity for rapid air reinforcement.
South of the barrier the story is different. Here we have to hold larger forces because we cannot always rely on immediate staging rights. These forces will be fully air portable and there must be at least one, and possibly later two, modern amphibious task forces in the area so that we can poise forces at sea.
As an idea of the size of the task, I wonder how many hon. Members realise that the Middle East Command alone—that is to say, the command based on Aden—covers over 7 million square miles. It may be asked, "Is it right to rely upon Aden and Singapore? May not there come a change in policy, or an alteration in the Commonwealth, which will deny these to us?" We must insure against that possibility, however 48 unlikely we may think it. We have already had an interesting experience on the island base of Gan. We also use other islands. There is a possibility of using the Seychelles. Beyond the strategy of the three main bases east of Suez, we are examining a possible strategy which could be based on these small islands, where we can have an airfield and an anchorage and be independent of most political problems.
I do not believe that a better method can be found of meeting our commitments. We can jettison commitments, but a policy of scuttling out of them is not one that the Government believe would do anything but make war more likely.
§ Mr. Watkinson
Therefore, after the most careful and detailed examination, we believe that this strategy will enable us to meet all our commitments with the manpower and resources available over the period ahead. We shall see considerable manpower savings as our internal security task diminishes in the area of the world that I have been describing, and this will strengthen our forces in Britain as well as in our other bases.
Although disarmament is covered very clearly in the White Paper, I know that the House will not expect me to deal with this subject today, except to say—as I have already said, and sincerely believe—that nobody more than myself wishes that the new initiative at Geneva will lead to success and to an end of this stupid business of the nuclear test race.
But having said that, I must turn to the nuclear problem. I do not think that the nuclear deterrent has ever had a more severe test than in recent events in the Far East, the Middle East and Europe. So far, it has worked. I do not believe that anything else would have stopped a war, and I believe that if ever we show that we fear to retaliate with nuclear weapons war will become inevitable. That is why, in paragraphs 7 to 9 of the White Paper, we have tried to set out as carefully and as factually as we can how we think this balance should be maintained, and why we think that anything that weakens the nuclear deterrent increases the chance of war.
49 This brings me to the immense problem of maintaining the validity of the Western nuclear deterrent. This task must be of major concern to the American and British Governments as the only way of holding the peace, as we say in the White Paper, until disarmament can provide, as we pray it will, a more lasting solution. This justifies the recent American and British decisions.
The amount that Britain still has to contribute to the joint task should not be underestimated. An example of recent technical collaboration is the small Nevada test, which was arranged last year before the Bermuda meeting but after the Russian test series had begun. As my right hon. Friend has just said, this was an underground test, which took place successfully on 1st March. Its purpose was to test a British development which will advance significantly our own weapon technology and, therefore, the nuclear strength of the West as a whole. It will certainly enable the easier handling of nuclear weapons.
I do not see how we can forgo this kind of improvement in the struggle between the offensive and the defensive, where the Russians have sought to obtain unilateral advantages. This was something that our scientists contributed to the common effort, and we are grateful to the United States for providing facilities.
I want to say a word about the military aspects of the United States test at Christmas Island and why we felt, and feel, that, failing an agreement—which we certainly hope will come about—these tests must go forward. First, the assessment of Russian nuclear weapon development is not a very easy task. Anything that happens in a democracy can be read about in the newspapers—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Oh, yes, especially on my front, in our technical newspapers and the American technical newspapers. Anyway, we are not provided with this kind of information by the Russians. Every effort is made to obscure the situation and to mislead the West as to their progress in this critical field.
§ Mr. R. T. Paget (Northampton)
Can the right hon. Gentleman refer me to a technical paper which will tell me what 50 was tested at Nevada? I have asked several times in the House, without success. Perhaps there is a technical newspaper which will tell me.
§ Mr. Watkinson
I have told the hon. and learned Gentleman. If he will be kind enough to read what I have said he will see that I have told him the facts, so far as security conditions allow. At least, the Russians do not tell us when they are making underground tests or any other tests. The House either wants to understand this problem or it does not. On the whole, I think that it does.
It is the basis for some very difficult decisions, which may yet come upon us, and I propose to try to set it out as clearly as I can. First, any development of a successful defence against ballistic missiles achieved by one side would obviously dramatically upset the whole balance on which the deterrent rests. For some time it has been clear—from what indications we have been able to get—that the Russians have been devoting an increasing slice of their technical effort to this problem. I know that it is a very difficult one. For example, what we are trying to do is to direct one missile against another at an approach speed of between 15,000 and 20,000 m.p.h.—or between twenty and thirty times the speed of sound. But did not we underestimate the Russians' capacity to launch their first sputnik? We may have made a similar underestimation of their progress in the anti-ballistic missile programme.
Progress in this field is shown by the fact that a weapons designer must try to increase the number of options open to him and to the military forces by whom the weapons are deployed. I mean by this that the need has to be met by achieving a greater yield of explosive power per unit weight of warhead, because this permits either a greater potential range in the weapon or, alternatively, a higher payload to provide a greater capacity to incorporate all the electronic counter-measures, decoy systems and the rest of the complicated art of confusing any defending or attacking system.
§ Mr. E. Shinwell (Easington)
This is very interesting. Is this what we are doing, or is the right hon. Gentleman referring to the United States?
§ Mr. Watkinson
I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for that intervention. I am trying to indicate what we think the Russians are doing at the moment—as best we can estimate it. We think that they are trying to lighten the payload in their weapons in order that they can incorporate these technical devices which are an absolutely essential part of the art of either defending against ballistic missiles or attacking a defending system.
I have said that the Soviet Union have clearly made advances in their yield-to-weight ratios. They have also obviously acquired a lot of useful information upon which they can base further developments. They may have obtained a good deal of weapons effects information, particularly in the field of communications. To wait until we are absolutely certain about his kind of development is probably to wait until it is too late—to wait, in fact, until the balance has been tipped decisively against us.
Therefore, if we have to face this decision the Government are quite clear that we should not be carrying out our duty to maintain the efficiency of the Western deterrent if we did not agree to this limited series of tests, much as we hope that they may be avoided by a nuclear test agreement, which I do not believe would be a very difficult thing to sign now, if the Russians wanted to go ahead and stop this race. It is not, or it will not be, an easy decision to take if, in the end, we have to go on. But I fear that it is only by keeping this balance of the deterrent that we can hope to hold the peace.
I wish now to refer briefly to the contribution of the Government to the Western deterrent. Our position is quite plain. So long as we can continue to make a significant contribution of our own to the Western deterrent, thus adding to its effectiveness, we intend to do so. I think that recent developments support this belief. Russian attempts to step up their defensive capacity, whether against missiles or anything else, clearly put an increasing premium on mobility, flexibility and dispersal of the Western deterrent forces, and, therefore, the contribution that British nuclear forces would make by diversifying methods of retaliation are a most important element in maintaining the balance of deterrent 52 power. In other words it is, in my view, 10 per cent. of the British defence budget very well spent.
I turn now to defence and the economy and I wish to make it plain that we are maintaining—as I said last year, and, I think, the year before—that the defence budget should take around 7 per cent. of the gross national product. Next year's figures will be about the same. This means that we are spending more than any other N.A.T.O. nation, except the United States of America and France, and spending about £100 million more this year. The Government, therefore, have certainly not sought to cut defence, and our judgment is that this is about the right proportion of our resources to contribute to this task. But it does not mean that the painful task of containing the defence budget—that is a very difficult task indeed—must not go forward.
Here is the main element of balance in defence policy. Those who would have larger forces or heavier commitments must face a defence budget which would run well above £2,000 million a year. Those who say that we must cut our defence must clearly say what they would cut in commitments, men and weapons. Those who accept the current figures and the commitments will find it difficult to avoid striking the balance where the Government have struck it.
I wish now to turn to N.A.T.O. As the White Paper says again and again we clearly accept that… the provision of adequate forces to support the strategic objectives of N.A.T.O. must continue to be one of Britain's primary responsibilities as far as we can see in the present decade.Therefore, the Government intend to remain what I hope we have always been since we helped to found the Alliance—a good N.A.T.O. ally. Those who criticise our contribution should in fairness at least remember what it is. We commit to the Alliance 85 per cent. of the operational and reserve Fleets; 50 per cent. of all Royal Air Force front-line aircraft including the whole of Fighter Command and 100 per cent. of all surface-to-air guided missiles in Britain.
In Europe at the moment—turning to manpower—we have 60,000 British Servicemen, plus 3,000 in the Berlin garrison. We have 10,000 West Germans in uniform as military auxiliaries, and we have 34,000 West German civilians 53 backing British troops. In other words, we have and we are paying for in Deutschmarks and foreign currency, over 100,000 men in Europe at this moment.
§ Mr. John Hall (Wycombe)
When my right hon. Friend gives the figure for British forces does that include all the forces, or does it refer to the Army alone?
§ Mr. Watkinson
I made that plain. I said British Service men, and that includes B.A.O.R. and the Air Force and all British Service men, plus 3,000 in the Berlin garrison. In other words, a total of 63,000 Service men in Europe.
Despite the obvious difficulties with the change-over period from National Service to Regular forces we have held seven brigade groups in B.A.O.R.—
§ Mr. George Wigg (Dudley)
The right hon. Gentleman has touched on every figure except the one which really matters. Will he tell us what is the strength of B.A.O.R., excluding the forces in Berlin, so that we may form a judgment, or estimate, what is the gap between the existing B.O.A.R. and our original commitment of four divisions?
§ Mr. Watkinson
I have just said that despite the difficulties with our changeover, we have kept seven brigade groups. They are slightly under strength, I agree. I have never made any secret of that to SACEUR. The hon. Gentleman knows how many there are in the forces today—[Laughter.] There is no secret about that. The present figure lies between 51,000 and 52,000, against a total figure of 55,000—
§ Mr. Watkinson
As the right hon. Gentleman knows very well, the four division figure is a figure that, with the agreement of SACEUR and W.E.U. was cancelled a long time ago—
§ Mr. Watkinson
The right hon. Gentleman can out it as he likes.
54 In addition, we specifically pledged ourselves in the White Paper—we cannot do it more plainly—in paragraph 15, that we will reinforce B.A.O.R. at any time and in a few days if we think that the situation in Berlin or anywhere else in Europe justifies it.
In August, my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary set out clearly what we could or could not do in the face of the Berlin situation. He said that we would hold B.A.O.R. over the changeover year at its present level. Hence the Army Reserve Bill. I ask the Opposition how they can square their support for N.A.T.O. with their unreasoning opposition to this Bill, which was introduced because we felt that we must keep our N.A.T.O. obligations. It is a piece of political double-talk which will not impress anybody, much less N.A.T.O.
We are still reinforcing our forces in Germany on a plan agreed with the Commander-in-Chief, who has said that the main requirement there at the moment is anti-aircraft defence. For this reason we sent the first guided missile regiment and we are in process of sending two light anti-aircraft regiments; and we are forming a reserve division here at home allocated to N.A.T.O. Therefore, we have done our best to meet our N.A.T.O. obligations. Of course, SACLANT and SACEUR would like more. I have never met a commander who would not. But they knew of the difficulties we were bound to experience in this changeover from National Service men to Regular soldiers. That is clearly understood.
We also have a case to plead and this again is based on the W.E.U. Treaty. N.A.T.O., after an impartial examination of our foreign exchange burden, has said—this is what N.A.T.O. has said and not the British Government—that Britain bears a heavier burden in foreign exchange terms than any other member of the alliance. N.A.T.O. has said that it should do something about this, and we are grateful to Dr. Stikker and N.A.T.O. for the efforts which have been made to meet this situation, which, it is recognised, is placing a heavy and onerous burden upon us. That is why I quoted the total number of men we are keeping in Germany. That is the total number for which we have to pay.
55 I have to report to the House that no complete solution of this problem is yet in sight. In the meantime, we have kept our side of the bargain and, as I say, if things turn ugly, we will reinforce and be there as we have always been in the past. As a further proof of this I wish to announce that the Government have now agreed that plans should be prepared to hold a mobilisation exercise in September, 1962. This is known to N.A.T.O. It will be linked with regular N.A.T.O. exercises and it will test to the full the mobilisation arrangements of the Territorial Army, following its recent reorganisation.
My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War will be saying more about this when he introduces his Estimate later in the week. It will certainly involve a number of territorial units mustering in the United Kingdom and some going overseas. This is to show how quickly we could reinforce, and we would reinforce if the situation made it necessary.
As I have said, we are doing our best to be what we aim to be, a good N.A.T.O. ally. We must await the outcome of the N.A.T.O. exercise on our costs, but I must make it plain that we must face the sort of questions I shall now put to the House. Are the Communist Powers most likely to launch an all-out attack where they know that the West is strongest? Is not the nuclear weapon after all still the main deterrent to war in Europe? Would it strengthen N.A.T.O. to weaken the British economy by a massive call-up of reserves before they are absolutely necessary? Is it not just as important to strengthen N.A.T.O.'s air forces and modernise its weapons as to build up its numbers? We must try to strike the right balance in these admittedly very difficult problems. We shall do our very best to do that.
I want to deal with the question of weapons and equipment. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Aviation will deal with this in detail tomorrow, but I say a word or two now from the user's point of view. What the forces need are weapons which fit current defence policy. Perhaps this might be some offset to the usual bout of self-denigration every British weapon seems to go 56 through. I am sure that our enemies must enjoy the sight of the British running themselves down in these matters.
The best test is the judgment of other nations. For example, I do not think that Sweden, Switzerland and Australia would have bought the Bloodhound if they had not thought it the best surface-to-air missile, or that West Germany and Sweden would have bought the Seacat missile if they did not think it the best weapon. Our new "Hampshire" destroyers, as they come into service, are the most advanced guided missile ships in any navy. I wish that when I was a naval gunnery officer we had been able to count on 90 per cent. hits on aircraft targets. The Chieftan tank is the best of its class in the world.
I turn to two examples of interdependence where Britain leads the world, the Rolls-Royce plastic lift engine and the Hawker P1127, the first V.T.O. fighter. I said last year how much importance should be attached to interdependence as an essential part of British defence policy. These two agreements with France, the United States and West Germany, plus the increasing sales of British 105 tank guns and aeroengines are a practical start to interdependence. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will make it plain that this is not a part of Government policy which he is anxious to censure. It is the best way of strengthening N.A.T.O. I hope he agrees with that.
We intend to press on with interdependence in tactics and training, perhaps the best and only long-term way of giving N.A.T.O. the kind of strength and forces it needs. I do not restrict this to weapons. We gained a great deal in the past twelve months from Anglo-German and Anglo-French staff talks. This year's programme will include American units visiting the Hebrides and there may be other visits. As the German visit to Castlemartin went off so well last year—although it was not much helped by the Opposition [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."]—the West German authorities are to use the range from June to October this year. We also welcome the interchange of paratroops with the French.
To sum up. We have set out the evolutionary stages for British defence 57 policy, not only of the 1960s but of the 1970s. Although we call it "evolution," in my view it has a great many revolutionary aspects. This policy will give us a powerful, well-equipped joint Service defence force under unified command which will be fully capable of makingour contribution to the defence of the free world and prevention of warwherever or however we may be called upon to make it. In this fantastically dangerous world, a Minister of Defence, if he is to live with his conscience, must be able to say where he stands. Where I stand, with all the knowledge and advice available to me, is on what I believe to be the right policy for our country over these future years. It is set out in the White Paper and I commend it to the House.
§ 4.35 p.m.
§ Mr. Gordon Walker (Smethwick)
I beg to move, to leave out from "House" to the end of the Question and to add instead thereof:has no confidence that the policy as set out in the Statement on Defence, 1962 (Command Paper No. 1639), will provide effectively for the defence of Britain.I thought that the Minister of Defence, whom I thank for his opening kind words, was rather on the defensive in his speech today. I have sympathy with him. Although I do not think that he likes it, he is still caught in the toils of the turn that was given to our defence policy in 1957.
That was a policy which the Prime Minister thought up, which he put the present Commonwealth Secretary into office to carry out when Lord Head found that he could not stomach the job. The then Defence Minister, now Secretary of State for Commonwealth Affairs, rather complacently described the White Paper of 1957 as the biggest change in defence policy ever made in normal times. It certainly was the biggest change; it was a baneful and disastrous change from which we have not yet escaped. It committed us to a perilous nuclear strategy in Europe and led us to starving and stunting our conventional forces.
The present Commonweath Secretary asked them for five years for his plans to develop and those five years have now elapsed. The result upon our forces was 58 set out in sober, factual words by the defence correspondent of The Times on 14th September last. This is what he wrote when describing the present state of our Army five years after the 1957 White Paper:In 1963, many of the Army's 60 battalions of infantry will be at very low strength, … Some Royal Artillery regiments will be similarly weak, and the Royal Corps of Signals will be unable to supply all the communications upon which the present organisation and deployment depends. There will be shortages of drivers, and non-specialist doctors and medical orderlies, probably brave enough to restrict the employment of formations in battle. The overall picture is one of an Army of weak units.That is what we have got for the £16,000 million that has been spent in the ten years under this Government.
The present Minister of Defence, in his White Paper, has some scattered sentences which could be read as a repudiation of the policy of the 1957 White Paper. He described it as a clear and incisive White Paper, yet it seems to me to come in a muddle-headed way to much the same conclusions as the present Commonwealth Secretary did. As The Times said today, this isnot so much a statement of new policy as an attempt to put a new face on an old one.This is fundamentally why we reject the White Paper. It has its priorities wildly awry and in some ways they are worse now than they have been in the past.
The doctrine on which the White Paper is based is still the same as that in 1957 as regards Europe, namely, that only a nuclear war is conceivable. This comes out in paragraphs 7 and 9 and elsewhere. Like the Commonwealth Secretary, the idea of the present Minister is that it will be all or nothing. This was borne out by the speech of the Minister today. The Government think of nothing but a major war in Europe which would rapidly become a nuclear war. They make no provision for, nor even consider, any lesser challenge than a major war.
They therefore conclude, logically, that the nuclear deterrent is all that matters and that conventional forces in Europe do not matter very much. That underlies what I think is the main theme of the White Paper, which is to play down N.A.T.O. and to play up commitments anywhere else in the world. I do not believe that any other White 59 Paper we have ever had has so deliberately set out to depreciate N.A.T.O. There are only a few scattered references to it, every one of them qualified. N.A.T.O. is not even mentioned in the three basic priorities set out in paragraph 3 and three times in the White Paper it is lumped together with S.E.A.T.O. and CENTO. Indeed, the right hon. Gentleman said that we are equally committed to all three alliances. There is obviously an attempt by the Government to suggest that our commitment to these three alliances is a similar kind of commitment.
But this is, of course, quite false. These are not similar alliances or organisations. S.E.A.T.O. and CENTO are organisations in which there are no committed forces but into which the allies undertake to throw forces from outside if necessary. That is the idea which the Government are beginning to develop about N.A.T.O., and that is why they constantly put N.A.T.O. together with CENTO and S.E.A.T.O. as if they were the same sort of alliance when, in fact, fundamentally, they are different.
This tendentious putting together of N.A.T.O. with CENTO and S.E.A.T.O. shows what is the Government's idea of N.A.T.O.—to keep the smallest possible number of troops on the ground and to have the capacity to put them in from outside, just as with S.E.A.T.O. and CENTO. This is already being applied to N.A.T.O., as the right hon. Gentleman told us, for the 3rd Division is back in the United Kingdom earmarked, we are told, for N.A.T.O.—we are not sure how heavily earmarked it is—with its heavy equipment in Germany.
It is a good thing, always, to have reserves in any military undertaking, but in the present circumstances it seems to me military madness to constitute our reserve by taking essential troops out of the front line; for that is what the Government and the Minister of Defence have done. As The Times said in a leading article today:To suggest that a division on Salisbury Plain is as good as one on the Elbe"—and that is the Government's idea—is to misrepresent the whole point of the N.A.T.O. strategy.That is absolutely right, and we wholly agree with it.
60 What is even more disturbing in the White Paper is that it creates the impression that the Government are preparing for further reductions in our troops in Europe. There are widespread fears in Europe, in S.H.A.P.E. and elsewhere on this point. The Economist said, on 24th February:There is a growing European belief that Mr. Watkinson wants to have 15,000–20,000 more troops in strategic reserve to cover his manpower liabilities elsewhere.Certainly, a reading of the White Paper gives food for these suspicions in Europe and amongst our allies. I do not think that anybody in Europe will be fooled by the right hon. Gentleman's arithmetic, which makes it out that we have 100,000 troops committed in N.A.T.O. He said that we pay for 100,000 troops who are vital to defence.
§ Mr. Watkinson
Because I intended to deal with the argument about overseas costs and foreign exchange, I made it plain how many men we were paying for in Germany.
§ Mr. Gordon Walker
I am glad that that has been amended. It is not quite as I heard it originally. But I will let that go, for it is not important to the argument.
People in Europe has seen us pledge originally, in October, 1954, by treaty, to keep four divisions in Europe. Sir Anthony Eden, as he was then, said that this was a committed treaty pledge and that it would last until the end of the century. In 1958, it was cut down to seven brigade groups, nominally 55,000 men, but, in fact, I believe, never more at any time than 51,000 men. We have never even kept the pledge which we made in 1958. In this White Paper they see the pledge whittled down to one of keeping adequate forces—which is adequate forces as the right hon. Gentleman may at any time interpret that need. The Times said today, it isa perfunctory nodtowards our obligations to N.A.T.O.
Even this pledge of adequate forces binds us, according to the White Paper, only as far as we can see into the present decade. What does this mean—As far as one can see into the present decade"?Does it mean a pledge to keep adequate forces—undefined—in Europe for three 61 years or five years or seven years? How far does the right hon. Gentleman think that he can see into the next decade? This is very different from a pledge to keep four divisions in Europe to the end of the century.
These doubts in Europe about our intentions will certainly be fed by the key passage in paragraph 15 of the White Paper. It reads:During this period"—which means until some date in this decade—the proportion of these forces to be stationed on the mainland of Europe and in Britain respectively must depend to a large extent on the balance of payments position.That will be read, indeed has been read, in S.H.A.P.E. and elswhere in Europe as a preparation for a further withdrawal of men. I hope that this will be categorically denied when the Minister of Aviation replies to the debate.
There is, of course, something in the balance of payments argument. N.A.T.O. has admitted it. We are bearing a special burden, and it ought to be shared. But it is exaggerated. Now that sterling is convertible, the maintenance of any British troops anywhere outside this country involves considerable payments across the exchanges. That is not mentioned in the White Paper, but on no fewer than three occasions the problem is mentioned in connection with N.A.T.O. Three times the right hon. Gentleman felt that he had to bring this point into quite a short White Paper.
We can press this balance of payments argument with some hope of success only if we carry conviction in Europe that we intend to carry out our pledges to keep men there. People in Europe today are saying—one hears it in S.H.A.P.E. and elsewhere—"The British are determined to reduce their forces, anyway. If it were not for the balance of payments they would find some other reason. Why, therefore, should we solve their balance of payments problem for them?" We must carry conviction that we shall meet our commitments, in a way in which the Government and the right hon. Gentleman have not succeeded in carrying conviction, before we can hope to press this balance of payments argument, which has weight in it, with success.
The Government's policy of relying on nuclear weapons for Germany and of 62 keeping very thin British forces there, keeping men back in this country, will have very grave consequences. One is that it will lead to the military dominance of Germany. This will be an inevitable consequence if our forces become both absolutely and relatively very small, even insignificant, in the army of S.H.A.P.E.
The most grave consequence is that these forces, so thin on the ground, are appallingly dependent on the use of tactical nuclear weapons. They are so thin on the ground that they would have to make an immediate call for the use of tactical nuclear weapons even for a minor Russian conventional challenge, even for a trouble which started by accident. This is so universally supported now by evidence from all observers that it can hardly be challenged, but it is borne out very strikingly in a sentence from the Memorandum to the Air Estimates.
The paragraph is headed, "Royal Air Force, Germany". It is paragraph 46, and it reads:The Canberra Squadrons have achieved a high state of proficiency in their primary rôle of low-level nuclear attack. They are also trained in the conventional interdiction role. …That is an almost casual admission that the normal thought of the Government is that there should be tactical nuclear weapons always ready in Germany and that conventional weapons are only a secondary afterthought.
§ Mr. Watkinson
I know that the right hon. Gentleman accepts, but I hope that he will say so, that our air and ground forces carry out exactly the doctrine which SACEUR imposes on them. That is what they are doing.
§ Mr. Gordon Walker
I agree, but the Government give SACEUR very little choice. They have our troops so thin on the ground that it is impossible for them to carry out their duties in N.A.T.O. without this great over-dependence upon nuclear weapons. If there are so few troops there that that is the only way they can defend themselves, that is what SACEUR will order, but he does not want to and he has made that very clear. It is no secret that the Government have refused his request to bring our seven brigade groups up to 90 per cent. strength. He does not want 63 to be dependent upon tactical nuclear weapons in this way, but, because the Government will not meet his requests, he has no choice but to give these orders.
§ Mr. John Hall
Does the right hon. Gentleman believe that, with the disparity in the number of troops which can be deployed by Russia and her allies against even the maximum number that would be called for under the M.C.70 plan, N.A.T.O. forces could meet them without the use of tactical nuclear weapons?
§ Mr. Gordon Walker
I am coming to that. I have not said that. I said over-dependence upon tactical nuclear weapons. I will come in a moment to the question of tactical nuclear weapons in Europe. I shall try not to dodge any of the difficult issues.
This over-reliance on tactical nuclear weapons in Europe flies flat in the face of all present military, scientific and political thought on the subject. There was the article by Sir Solly Zuckerman in Foreign Affairs, published recently with the authority of SACEUR. It is supported by other writers, like Henry Kissinger and others. Tactical nuclear weapons are so horrible and would cause such immense damage that it is no longer a question of the danger of escalation; tactical nuclear warfare would already be full nuclear warfare, directly it was resorted to.
This doctrine of the Government, on which their White Paper rests, is in flat contradiction with the strategic doctrine now being urged by S.H.A.P.E. and by the United States. Part of the right hon. Gentleman's speech today was really an answer to General Norstad's known view that we ought to commit more men today to S.H.A.P.E. We are in complete conflict now with the United States, with S.H.A.P.E., and with nearly all military and political thinking in the doctrine to which we still stick.
The United States has been engaged on a really very courageous recasting of its whole strategic thought in order to find an alternative to the repellant doctrine of massive retaliation. President Kennedy has himself led and initiated this. As he says, he wants another choice other than between humiliation and a 64 holocaust. He must have a means of meeting at any appropriate level attacks which might come from Russia on any scale, including non-nuclear attacks met by non-nuclear forces. This is the so-called doctrine of the pause. If a non-nuclear attack or any challenge of this kind which might be made can be met by non-nuclear or conventional weapons at the proper level, a pause can be imposed during which there is time for thought to be taken before the world is plunged into destruction.
This doctrine is based on the idea that if a country relies, as we do, on tactical nuclear weapons so much, and if it has such inadequate conventional forces on the ground, then a situation is created which would tempt Russia to face us with a fait accompli, not necessarily a very large one. Then we would be faced with the choice either of accepting it, in which case N.A.T.O., if this happened once or twice, would wither and crumble away; or of responding to it by a war to save Europe, which would destroy Europe.
That is the idea underlying the new Doctrine of General Norstad, Mr. McNamara and President Kennedy—that there must be men on the ground in order to get away from this horrible dilemma. I accept that we must have tactical weapons in Europe as long as Russia or the Communist bloc has them. They are part of the Western deterrent. We certainly cannot have our men out there at the absolute mercy of a possible enemy. But we must also escape from this perilous dependence upon them.
We must get ourselves into a position when we, by which I mean all of us, the whole of the West, need never be the first to use any nuclear weapon, tactical or strategic. But there must be more men on the ground—not on Salisbury Plain, and not as "Ever-readies" able to fill up gaps. There must be men on the ground if we are to escape from a perilous dependence—an over-reliance—upon tactical nuclear weapons.
We are strongly against this part of the White Paper. Obviously, our Amendment is in this sense selective. We are not against the entire forces of the Crown. We are against this part of the White Paper, because we totally disagree with the Government's policy towards N.A.T.O. We demand that there 65 shall not be further withdrawal. We demand an assurance today that this is not the intention, as it appears to be, of the White Paper. We demand that we should at least keep our seven brigade groups there. We should bring them, as General Norstad has asked, up to 90 per cent. strength as soon as we possibly can. We should reorganise and plan continuously with a view to strengthening our forces in Germany.
I want now to discuss another matter where I think that the Government have also got their priorities wrong. This is their determination, which was briefly restated by the Minister of Defence, at all costs and indefinitely to remain an independent nuclear power. It is our established policy on this side of the House, on grounds of cost and use of resources, that Britain should cease the attempt to remain an independent nuclear power. The right hon. Gentleman asked me some questions and I am just giving the answers to one or two of them.
We do not say—we never have said—that we should throw our existing weapons and means of carrying them into the sea. But each year the bombers that are the carriers of our weapons are becoming more obsolescent. Now they are becoming rather obsolescent. Therefore, the question must arise whether the attempt to extend our possession of an independent nuclear weapon is not so costly and so elaborate that it really amounts to a new attempt to remain an independent nuclear power. There comes a point when an attempt to extend our existing weapons is tantamount to trying to equip ourselves with new weapons in order to continue, as we do not think we should, as an independent nuclear power.
§ Brigadier Sir Otho Prior-Palmer (Worthing)
May I ask the right hon. Gentleman what is honestly a question of clarification? I do not understand what the Opposition mean by the phrase "independent nuclear weapon". The V-bomber force is entirely and absolutely integrated with the American strategic striking force, under one American commander. Where does the independence come in?
§ Mr. Gordon Walker
The hon. and gallant Member should attack his own side on this. It is the Government who 66 talk about the independent nuclear deterrent. They say that our deterrent alone is enough to deter the whole of Russia and all the rest. He had better direct his attacks, not on me, but on his right hon. Friend.
The expense of doing what the Government want to do will be enormous. The Government's plans are based on a number of rather hazardous gambles. The first step, as we all know, is to equip our bombers with Blue Steel. The cost of this is rising astronomically. The original estimate was £12½ million. By September, 1960, it was £60 million. The Guardian of 21st February said that it is likely to cost not far short of £150 million. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will be able to give us some idea of what he now expects the end cost to be. This is disturbingly similar in pattern to what happened with Blue Streak. The same official doubts are beginning to creep in here as we experienced in that case.
This comes out in the Report of the Comptroller and Auditor General in the Civil Appropriations Account. Witnesses from the right hon. Gentleman's Ministry said this to the Comptroller and Auditor General:However, should the project"—that is, Blue Steel—not be brought to an effective conclusion within the period considered reasonable by the Ministry, they would have to consider what further action should be taken.This is a statement by the Ministry of Defence, on the Minister's own authority, and he really ought to tell us what it means. What does "further action now being contemplated" mean? What is the present estimated cost of Blue Steel? We have the right to know these things. There is a tremendous amount of public money at stake, and I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will be able to answer these relatively simple questions.
The second stage is Skybolt. I know that the Americans are spending a lot of money on it themselves. They want to extend the life of their own bombers, but they have alternatives if anything should go wrong. The Government are tied to Skybolt and one hopes that it will turn out all right. But there must be doubts about any weapons not yet in production. This overtook us in Blue Streak, too. Costs of Skybolt are also shooting 67 up. The original estimate was 120 million dollars and it is now 450 million dollars—about £160 million. There has been a tremendous rise in the cost of these weapons. What will happen if we are to continue with this attempt to remain an independent nuclear Power? The White Paper only talks about the end of the 1960s and the right hon. Gentleman used the phrase, "So long as we can afford it". But we must look further ahead. What are the next prospects? Skybolt II and new bombers to carry it? The costs already involved—the costs that open up—are extremely great.
We do not believe that, apart from the cost, this really strengthens the alliance, as the Government always claim it does. We represent about 2½ per cent. of the Western deterrent. This is, of course, and must be, vulnerable, but I do not believe that it has anything like as great a power as a second strike weapon—which is the only way in which it could be used—as the Government claim. In any case, this percentage is bound to diminish as American expenditure continues to outstrip ours.
The rate of expansion of American research and production is absolutely fantastic. The increase last year in American expenditure on production and research was greater than our total expenditure for the same period. The increase in American expenditure was £875 million and our total was about £700 million. At this rate the proportion that we can contribute to the Western deterrent—I am talking about cost and the proper use of our resources—will become an ever-smaller proportion.
I do not believe that the Government are right in thinking that this very considerable expenditure increases our influence in the world. I believe that our nuclear contribution to the West is a relatively small factor and does not really enter very seriously into the calculations of our allies. On the other hand, if we had really good mobile and well-equipped conventional forces they would be an indispensable contribution to the West and would give us correspondingly much greater influence. Therefore, I argue this case both on grounds of the general deployment of our resources and of the political influence 68 which it would bring us in the world.
We should now take a firm decision not to go in indefinitely trying to remain an independent nuclear Power. This would mean that we should have to take a firm decision to let our nuclear weapons taper off as they became obsolescent, and we say that it would now be wise to take a firm decision along this line.
§ Sir Arthur Vere Harvey (Macclesfield)
The right hon. Gentleman has been suggesting that we should discard our V2 bombers as they wear out each year. If he honestly thinks that this is the right policy, would it not be more honest to scrap the whole lot now and face up to the issue?
§ Mr. Gordon Walker
I really do not know the facts. [Laughter.] The Opposition cannot possibly know the facts on which a decision of this kind has to be based. We can only say what we responsibility can on the known facts of the costs involved, and on our calculations of the advantages and disadvantages. This is why we say, that this firm decision should be taken. But only the Government are in a position—hon. and gallant Gentlemen opposite do not know this, either—to decide the time and scale of the cut-off and all the rest. But one should make a firm decision to bring this attempt to remain an independent nuclear Power—
§ Mr. Gordon Walker
I am always very grateful for the readiness which my hon. Friend invariably shows to support us on the Opposition Front Bench.
It follows, of course, that it was a mistake to conduct these tests in Nevada, because, as the right hon. Gentleman said, they were part of our attempt to continue to remain an independent nuclear Power. The tests were a small matter and not very important, but they must have cost a 69 great deal, and we think that it was an error to have engaged in them.
Our expenditure on retaining our nuclear weapons represents a very considerable sum of money—the Government say that it represents only 10 per cent.—but this amounts to a very large sum that could be better spent in other branches of defence.
We cannot have defence on the cheap. Equipping our conventional forces will be very expensive. I do not think that the money which could be saved by gradually tapering off the nuclear weapons will be able to be used except for strengthening our conventional forces. I do not think that we need conscription. I agree with the right hon. Gentleman in this. Our allies in Europe keep their major forces at home, which is easier for them. I still do not believe that the conscript armies which they maintain are as efficient as Regular armies. But we need fundamental changes in the organisation of the equipment of our forces if we are to meet the prime aim, which is to get more men on the ground in Germany. That still remains the prime requirement which the Government are failing to achieve.
In the White Paper the Government make some leisurely and tentative approaches in the right direction, but they are going at a pace which we cannot afford. We cannot continue with our present shortage of men. We must give a hard look at our commitments. Of each, we must ask: what is it for? We cannot keep even small numbers of men in bases and garrisons which are not absolutely strategically relevant. I cannot see the relevance of bases or garrisons in the Mediterranean. The U.S. Sixth Fleet is the real power there. The Arab air barrier, about which the right hon. Gentleman spoke, stops movement eastwards. Troops could be reduced in Cyprus and other Mediterranean garrisons.
I cannot see the strategic relevance of troops in Hong Kong. We are told that it is now for internal security. This, of course, is a proper task, but British soldiers are far too precious today to be used as policemen. Our normal way, where local security is needed to be protected, is to train a local gendarmerie to 70 do that work. We could call on Australia, which has an interest in this part of the world, to help.
In the Indian Ocean where our commitments must still continue, we must realise that land bases in newly independent countries are not long tenable. This is a lesson which we have learned at great expense and at tremendous loss in Suez, and Cyprus; and now, apparently, Kenya is to be given up. The White Paper—it was not so true of the right hon. Gentleman's speech—is too optimistic about Singapore and Aden. We must move towards a final tenable strategy. In the end, we shall have to have a base in Australia and mobile task forces. This will be very expensive, and this is one reason why I think that our money can be better spent than it is being spent on the nuclear deterrent, and so forth. But in the end it will save manpower, because it will give us very great mobility.
We need, of course, more mobility for our strategic reserve in the United Kingdom. Progress here is still desperately slow. I am glad that the Comet IV is entering service, but we are still using the same language as we used in 1957. We are still dependent very largely on the Britannia—side loading, and awkward to handle—and the Beverley, which lacks lift and range. Perhaps the Minister of Aviation could tell us when the Belfast is to come on. Could he also say what has happened to the OR351, which was to be the successor to the Beverley?
I turn now to the Western nuclear deterrent and the tests that President Kennedy has decided to make. As I have said, we on this side take our attitude to the British deterrent on grounds of cost, use of resources, and the effect on our alliance and our influence in the world. We accept without question that there should be a deterrent in the Western Alliance, and that there should be a balance of deterrence to prevent the outbreak of war in the world.
We quite agree that if that balance were disturbed the danger of war would be increased. Therefore, if the balance is upset, the West has a duty, as well as a right, to restore it. At the same time, we absolutely abhor these atmospheric tests that poison the atmosphere and 71 could start a great new arms race. We are against them unless they are absolutely necessary, and we want no test to be made until there has been a real chance of talks at Geneva.
President Kennedy, as far as he can tell the public, has made out the case on military grounds. I was very much impressed by his obvious reluctance to test; by his determination not to test for political or prestige reasons. I was also impressed by the way in which he did not over-play the advances the Russians may have made. They have made advances. The important point is that if they were able to analyse for some years what they have done in these tests and then started another series they really might get very far ahead. That is something that the Western Alliance clearly cannot allow. I therefore think that President Kennedy's line is right, and can be justified. It has, indeed, produced, as far as one can see, the very hopeful result that Russia will send its Foreign Minister to Geneva to talk with the other Foreign Ministers.
It is desperately necessary that these horrible tests should not take place; indeed, that they should cease altogether. The West must, therefore, approach these talks with a real desire to achieve success. After all, the immediate aim is not a universal ban on everything, but a ban on atmospheric tests. There must be an adequate control system—the Russians did secretly prepare their tests in the middle of talks—but there does not have to be the complex, absolutely water-tight control that would be needed if we were getting a general armaments or nuclear control.
Obviously, if an agreed test ban were again to be broken by the Russians it would be the end to any attempt to get any kind of self-policing or self-detecting system of control—
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes
Now that the right hon. Gentleman is speaking about tests, does he agree with what he said in Reynolds News on 24th December, that, on ethical grounds, the resumption by the West of atmospheric testing was quite indefensible?
§ Mr. Gordon Walker
That was said, if I did say it—I cannot remember—at a time when it was generally assumed that the Russians had not made 72 any progress at all technically, and were doing this for prestige reasons, which would be a horrible thing. Since then, it has been established that they have made considerable military progress, and there is the danger that if the Russians repeated those tests they would—there is no question of it—destroy this balance, and it would have to be restored.
The hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) is a unilateralist; I am a multilateralist. I believe that there must be only all-round controlled disarmament. I believe, standing here now, that if the balance is upset by one side, it must be restored by the other. If the Americans got ahead, the balance would be restored by Russia, too. That is clear to both sides in this business. I do not agree with the hon. Gentleman. There is a great gulf between us, and we cannot be brought together—
§ Mr. Gordon Walker
If I said it, I did so, as I have explained, on the assumptions that were then generally made that the Russians had not made any serious military advance as a result of their tests.
As my right hon. Friend said, if very real progress is made in Geneva, but only on that condition, I hope it will be possible that the tests can be postponed a little. I emphasise the word "if"; I do not want those talks to become another great propaganda forum, or a cover for secret preparations to test. But, if real progress is made, there will be a very strong case, which we urge on the Government, for the Government to use their influence to get further postponement of the American tests.
The country—the whole world—needs a real break-through on the road to disarmament. I believe that the fundamental and underlying developments are hopeful. Nuclear weapons are unique: they are different in kind from anything in the history of warfare. And they are bringing a correspondingly unique change in the mind of humanity. Human beings and their leaders are, for the first time in all their history, now beginning to regard major war as unthinkable. That has never been the case in 73 all our long history, but it is beginning to be the case.
Her Majesty's Government must, therefore, strive with all their might and main to bring about success in these talks. We will fully support them in everything that they do in that direction. Success may provide the breakthrough which will enable mankind, for the first time in its blood-stained history, to get down to the real task, of which it has dreamed in the past, of abolishing war and the instruments of war.
§ 5.17 p.m.
§ Mr. Aubrey Jones (Birmingham, Hall Green)
The right hon. Member for Smethwick (Mr. Gordon Walker) has the advantage over some of us that he speaks on an unchanged subject with a fresh voice. Others of us run the risk of repeating ourselves, but I shall try to avoid that danger as best I can. I find myself in substantial agreement with his broad conclusions, but there are one or two in which I differ from him. I also differ from him in one or two of his interpretations of the White Paper, but I hope that my areas of agreement and disagreement will become clear as I go on.
There are two questions which I should like to ask on the White Paper. The first is: does it square with the country's foreign policy objectives? The second is: does it square with the goal of economy? I take it that it is the search for economy which very largely explains the shap6 of our present defence policy.
Does our defence policy square with our foreign policy? The traditional purpose of a defence policy is to sustain a foreign policy, and it is probably the case that in these days, when defence may be a rather meaningless concept—in certain circumstances, after all defence is tantamount to national suicide—this trite saying that the purpose of a defence policy is to sustain foreign policy is probably truer than ever.
What are, or ought to be, the diplomatic objectives of this country? I see the present international situation rather like this. The Soviet Union is engaged in a contest for men's minds and, rightly or wrongly, it is convinced that it will win that contest. We should not underrate its chances of success. New 74 countries, for instance, anxious to industrialise themselves and accumulate capital, may see the compulsory methods of the Soviet Union as something much more suited to this end than are our freer methods; but, be that as it may, a country that is convinced that it will win the struggle for men's minds has no need to unleash a great offensive war against the West. It is in keeping with this that growing evidence shows that the main emphasis of the Soviet's weapons effort is on defence rather than on offence. Witness for instance the tremendous investment in anti-air defence. It may well, indeed, be that it is this very preoccupation with defence which may have led the Soviet Union to stumble upon some kind of anti-missile device. I do not know; that is a matter of speculation, but nevertheless I think the main effort to be defensive.
We in the West, on the other hand, I suggest, seeing the Soviet Union eager to capture men's minds, have tended to identify this with a military purpose, and we have tried to meet what we regard as a military purpose by building up what everyone must acknowledge, and what my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister earlier this afternoon acknowledged, to be a substantial nuclear offensive superiority vis-à-vis the Soviet Union. This I take it now to be an unchallengable fact: It is my view that in seeking an offensive nuclear superiority to this extent, we have suffered in two ways. I believe that this has distracted us from the real nature of the struggle with the Soviet Union, the capture of men's minds, and, for that reason, I believe that it may have disabled us in meeting the Soviet Union in that struggle; secondly, it has had, I think, a distorting effect upon the Soviet Union. What we have seen as essentially defensive measures, they have seen as concealing offensive intent. That is my broad assessment of the international situation.
The British objective, the rôle of this country in this situation, if I am right, should, I think, be twofold: first, to keep before the West the real nature of the struggle with the Soviet Union, the struggle for men's minds; and, secondly, in this process of reciprocal distortion which the Soviet Union and the West have had upon each other, to play a moderating part. I think that very few 75 hon. Members would care to disagree with this statement of the objectives of a British foreign policy. I take it that these have in fact been the objectives which the Prime Minister has endeavoured to follow.
This to my mind is the real importance of disarmament. The question which I should like to ask is: does the defensive policy that we have pursued and repeated in the present White Paper square with these objectives? I should like to look at the two aspects mentioned by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Smethwick—first the British deterrent and, secondly, our policy towards Europe.
First the deterrent. So far as the Soviet Union is concerned I do not believe that the British deterrent makes one iota of difference. It clearly has no mollifying effect on the Soviet Union, but equally it has no intimidating effect either, because we are not identified in Soviet eyes with aggression. In Soviet eyes the two potentially aggressor Powers are the United States and Western Germany.
What, then, of the United States? Does our deterrent enable us to exercise an influence over the United States? I believe that at one time that was true. I no longer believe that it is true. I believe that the deterrent is the one thing which enables this country to lay claim to a continuance of the special relationship with the United States which we founded in the war. I think that the claim for this special relationship is wearing increasingly thin. Other allies of the United States have now come into being, equally powerful with ourselves, Western Germany, for instance, and that we of all allies of the United States should be singled out for nuclear secrets, for special treatment, is increasingly a source of embarrassment and discomfort to the United States and therefore, I believe, an increasing source of estrangement between us and the United States.
The British deterrent is certainly, I think, a cause of estrangement between us and the European Continent. If we have the deterrent, France wants the deterrent. If France has the deterrent, there is a danger that Germany may have the deterrent; and, to stop Western Germany from having the deterrent, 76 there is increasing talk of a N.A.T.O. deterrent.
Indeed, I believe that the N.A.T.O. deterrent may increasingly be an American objective. Judging from my reading of the Press, I take it that the Government are opposed to a N.A.T.O. deterrent, and in this, for a variety of reasons, I believe them to be right. First, I believe that a N.A.T.O. deterrent would mean Western Germany's participation in the deterrent, and I think that this would be likely to inflame Soviet fears rather than assuage them. Secondly, I believe that a N.A.T.O. deterrent would encourage the illusion of European independence of the United States without in fact altering the basic reality that Europe is overwhelmingly dependent in nuclear matters on the United States. I do not like fictions at the best of times. I think that a fiction of this kind would be calculated to weaken the bonds of alliance rather than strengthen them.
The third and most important reason why I am against a N.A.T.O. deterrent is that we are about to start very important talks on disarmament. It seems to me quite inconsistent to start these talks and at the same time to proliferate the deterrent. We shall not have any success in the disarmament talks unless we have an atmosphere of détente. To establish a N.A.T.O. deterrent and so proliferate the deterrent would be, I believe, to run in quite the opposite direction. I think that it is very important to stop a N.A.T.O. deterrent. So far I think that I would be right in assuming that the Government would be with me. The Government equally do not want a N.A.T.O. deterrent. If that is so, I think that we have to go a step further. If we are all of us against a N.A.T.O. deterrent, then I think that we must be against the British deterrent because, after all, the claim and the agitation for a N.A.T.O. deterrent takes its origin in the British deterrent. I think that that logic is inescapable. Sooner or later we have to face it. I agree with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Smethwick that the deterrent is a decaying asset, and decaying assets are best given up sooner rather than later.
§ Sir A. V. Harvey
How can my right hon. Friend make that statement, quite sincerely I am sure, when he as Minister 77 of Supply ordered millions of pounds of equipment for aircraft which he is now saying we should give up? The two facts cannot be reconciled.
§ Mr. Jones
I do not think it entirely inconsistent. I genuinely believe that the British deterrent gave us at one time enhanced influence with the United States, but I believe that that has completely changed. I believe that the prospect of a N.A.T.O. deterrent also makes a considerable difference.
§ Mr. Anthony Kershaw (Stroud)
My right hon. Friend has given three reasons why there should not be a N.A.T.O. deterrent and has said that they apply equally to the British deterrent, but for quite different reasons from those that he was talking about previously. How does he reconcile the two statements?
§ Mr. Jones
The claim for a N.A.T.O. deterrent springs from a number of national deterrents, and the national deterrents in Europe have sprung from the British deterrent. I therefore have to face the logic, that if I am against the N.A.T.O. deterrent I must be against the British deterrent.
The right hon. Member for Smethwick said that he would taper off the V-bomber force and not equip it with standoff bombs. I would agree with that. But I think that I would go one step further. If the disarmament talks at Geneva were to achieve some success and if there were as a result some dismantling of delivery systems, then I would be prepared for the entire British delivery system to be dismantled. This admittedly is very difficult. But I ask the House to reflect that our history, and our colonial history in particular, is studded with examples of our having gained influence by surrendering a declining privilege earlier rather than later. I think that this is an exact parallel. I think that this is a case where, without in any way altering the military balance, we could surrender a privilege and increase our influence and our moderating power.
I turn now to the European question with which the right hon. Gentleman dealt at length. Once again I should like to ask about our attitude towards Europe: is it consistent with our foreign policy? One thing has emerged perfectly clearly from the White Paper, and that 78 is that our manpower policy—the reliance on voluntary recruitment—does not enable us to fulfil both our overseas commitments and our commitments in Europe.
The right hon. Gentleman asked for a further withdrawal from our overseas commitments. I am not going to join him in that. I recognise that while we are a declining Power, we are entangled with commitments from the past from which it is not easy to disembarrass ourselves. I am not prepared to upbraid the Government with not withdrawing quickly enough from overseas. But I agree with the right hon. Gentleman in what he said about Europe, and once again I ask: is it consistent with our foreign policy to adhere to a manpower policy which makes us short in Europe?
I should like to examine why we are involved in Europe. The White Paper, rather plaintively, I thought, talks of our increasing involvement in Europe. Why are we more and more involved in Europe? Is it desirable that we should be so involved?
Fundamentally, I think it is because the threat of replying to anything from the East with massive retaliation has become more and more unrealistic. There is a desire for a greater conventional readiness on the European Continent, but I would add this important qualification—a greater conventional readiness but not to a point of allowing the Russians to believe that we might want to unleash a conventional attack on the Soviet Union. [Interruption.] This is perfectly true. The thirty divisions under the revised M.C.70 plan are clearly a defensive measure. They do not constitute an offensive measure. I think that it is important not to give the appearance of intended offence.
We were asked by N.A.T.O. to make our contribution towards this increased conventional readiness, for two reasons—partly for its own sake, and partly as some offset to the German forces. Obviously, the broader the sector of the front which we occupy, the narrower the sector which the Germans occupy. No stationing of forces in this country in exchange for having them in Germany can deal with this problem.
The right hon. Member for Smethwick interpreted the White Paper as meaning 79 that we still saw nothing between total defencelessness and total retaliation. I differ from this interpretation and I would ask the House to note in particular paragraph 8, where this is written:We must continue to make it clear to potential aggressors, however, that we should strike back with all the means that we judge appropriate, conventional or nuclear. If we had nothing but nuclear forces, this would not be credible. A balance must be maintained, therefore, between conventional and nuclear strength.I take this as implying on the part of the Government a step forward in the acceptance of the N.A.T.O. doctrine; but, at the same time as we have this step forward, we have a step backwards in its application—a statement that henceforth our forces in Germany will depend upon our balance of payments position.
Is it wise to retreat in this way from the expectation of what we should do in Europe? The right hon. Gentleman was quite right; this is not the first time we have done it. In 1954 we signed the Brussels Treaty pledging ourselves to four divisions for an indefinite duration. Under the revised M.C.70 plan we are asked to supply to Western Germany three divisions. We applied for a reduction to seven brigade groups. What we are now doing is applying for a further reduction.
In other words, it seems to me that we are detaching ourselves increasingly in the military sense from Europe, at the very moment when we are trying to attach ourselves economically and politically to Europe. We have made an application for entry into the European Community. If I read the signs aright, there are two reasons why we did it. The first was that the Summit conference of 1960 showed that we had lost influence over the European countries. The second was that the coming of the Kennedy Administration showed that we were not going to have influence over the United States except through Europe. Is it consistent with the aim of increased influence over Europe and the United States thus to be retreating from our European obligations? I do not thank it is. Once again our defence policy seems to me to be at variance with our foreign policy.
Then I come to my last question. Is the defence plan, despite these inconsistencies 80 with the foreign policy, consistent with financial economy? After all, in our conduct of foreign policy we have to be economically strong. The shape of the defence policy of the last few years is that we reduce the number of men and compensate for this reduction by increased fire power and increased mobility. Is this really the way to economise? This is a field of great uncertainty, and the last thing I wish to do is to speak of this with any dogmatism. But I would express one or two doubts.
From this point of view I think the key to the White Paper is to be found in paragraph 9:… we must maintain carefully balanced forces …There is only one thing that that statement can mean, and that is that, though we may no longer be a great Power, we must still try to do more or less everything. I hope that that is not an unfair interpretation. It is the only interpretation that is borne out by some of the salient figures.
If we look at our defence expenditure, we see that it amounts to but one-tenth of American expenditure. Yet within this smaller total the relationship between some broad categories of expenditure and others is the same. For instance, the proportion of our expenditure on research and development of weapons to our expenditure on the supply of weapons is one-third. In the United States it is, again, one-third. There are, no doubt, some areas in which with one-tenth of the effort expended in the United States one can achieve results as effective as those obtained in the United States. But I suggest that those areas must be very few. Because of a low absolute level of our research and development expenditure trying to cover a broad field, I think the conclusion is inescapable that, as a result, much of our effort is ineffective.
What we have been trying to do in the last few years, if I may draw an analogy from industry, is this: we have been cutting down our output—that is, our manpower—and trying, none the less, to retain the same range of products and, relatively to that output, increasing our overheads. This is not the recipe for prosperity in an industrial company; nor is it a recipe for economy 81 in defence. And I suggest that this situation may get worse rather than better.
Consider, for example, mobility. What does "mobility" mean? It means that fewer and fewer forces are now available at any one point, and that to make them available in a moment of crisis or emergency there must be increased overheads behind them—aircraft, carriers, with all the research and development necessary, administrative overheads, and so on. Thus, the overheads increase in relation to the striking power to be applied. I question whether the full financial consequences of this policy could, at this juncture, have been worked out.
§ Sir John Maitland (Horncastle)rose—
§ Mr. Jones
I venture to suggest that that when these consequences become apparent we shall shrink from them and our ability to fend for ourselves overseas will be less than now. Does my hon. Friend the Member for Horncastle (Sir J. Maitland) wish to intervene? If not, I was almost at the end of my remarks. I was suggesting that our defence policy is inconsistent with our foreign policy and I suggest—although I am not dogmatic about this—that it is inconsistent with the quest for economy which now governs its shape.
How does one explain these inconsistencies? My explanation is that our great national problem—our very grievous problem—is our adjustment to a diminished status in the world. That is a difficult thing to do, but in this painful process of adjustment our defence policy is still, to a large extent, determined by pressures from below—still reflecting the aims and ambitions of services which were relevant to an earlier point of time but which are now no longer realistic. Equally, in so far as our defence policy is inspired by a conception from above, I think that that conception is still confused. The conception appears to be that, although we are no longer a great Power, we can, at least, be a great little Power. I submit that the notion of a great little Power is chimerical and that the pursuit of this notion is calculated to accelerate and aggravate our "littleness". We all want to see increased influence overseas. The 82 key to this increased influence is the abandonment of our badges of differentiation, the deterrent and the volunteer force—and I suggest their abandonment sooner rather than later.
§ 5.43 p.m.
§ Mr. F. J. Bellenger (Bassetlaw)
No hon. Member listening to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Birmingham, Hall Green (Mr. Aubrey Jones) will doubt his sincerity or will fail to have been impressed by the cogency and logic of his case. The only doubt in my mind is that the right hon. Gentleman, who was one of the architects in his own Government of the independent nuclear deterrent, should have been able to maintain himself in Government for so long. Listening to his speech today it seemed—and I wish him no injustice—that he was in direct conflict with his Government. After all, paragraph 13 of the White Paper states:Although the British effort in this field"—and it is referring to the Western strategic deterrent—is manifestly smaller than that of either the United States or the U.S.S.R., and although it consumes only about 10 per cent. of our defence resources, our contribution to the Western strategic deterrent remains significantThat is quite opposite to what I understood the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Hall Green to say. At the end of that paragraph the Government say:The efficacy of our deterrent will therefore be maintained throughout the 1960s by using our V-bombers and fitting them with stand-off weapons, Blue Steel in the first instance and later Skybolt.The right hon. Gentleman's concluding remarks seemed directly opposed to that policy. If so—and if I have not misunderstood him—he should at least abstain from voting tomorrow night on the Opposition Motion, if not on the substantive Motion concerning the White Paper.
The tone, indeed the substance, of our debates on defence is obviously set by the White Paper which the Minister introduces. Today's debate is no exception. The Minister commenced his speech with certain remarks which led me to the conclusion that there was some, if not double thinking, irresolute thinking on the part of the Government when they composed their White Paper. 83 Those who have participated in Government know that matters of this kind first of all go to the Defence Sub-committee of the Cabinet and are then dealt with by the Cabinet collectively. Presumably this White Paper bears the imprint of the Government's approval.
But, relatively speaking, a few moments after it was published the Minister told the House that he had agreed, on behalf of the Service Departments, to increases in Service pay—with which we all agree—and then, replying to a Question of mine, he said that the cost of that increase was not included in the White Paper. I urge hon. Members to consider what they would think of a Chancellor of the Exchequer who told the House, having got his Budget approved by the Cabinet, that while he proposed to do certain things regarding various taxes he was going to impose—and he slipped this in as an afterthought—an extra 1d. a pint on beer? To a large extent that is what the Minister of Defence is doing. He is asking hon. Members to accept a statement to the effect that we should not take his figures as being accurate but only as an approximation for, in due course, he will bring a Supplementary Estimate for the extra cost of the increased pay of the Forces.
That leads me to the conclusion that what the right hon. Gentleman really wants to convey to hon. Members about his White Paper is not the gospel truth. The House is entitled to know, on an occasion such as this and faced with a White Paper of this import, just what the Government are doing. We do not want the situation to arise that, just as an afterthought, the Government can say that they are going to do a little extra, however worthwhile that little extra may be. The reading of this and other White Papers makes me think that although they present a sort of important strategic peep-through, a tremendous amount of filling in, make believe or, if you like, platitudes, are left unexplained.
It is obvious that when composing a White Paper the Government cannot give away the whole secret to the world. We cannot afford the world to know all our strategic plans, all about our weapons and our services, and how we intend Co implement them. Nevertheless 84 this Government treats hon. Members in a similar way—and this illustration may appeal to married men—to wives telling their husbands that they want money to spend on clothes. A wife says to her husbnd, "Here is the bill", and the husband has to foot the bill, just as Parliament is asked to foot the bill on this occasion. But how often—those with a little experience know this—does the wife not say "Here are the bills", but says, "Here is an estimate of the bills, and I think it would be better if you gave me a dress allowance". The Government are saying to Parliament now, "Do not forget that you must foot the bill, a hefty bill, but it would be better if you passed the amount which we are asking for and left it to us to dress ourselves out in our Service Departments as we think fit".
That is not the right attitude to take towards Parliament. Throughout the ages, Parliament has been accused of neglecting to act as the watch-dog of the public purse. Although I do not put my argument on that level only in relation to the White Paper, I say in all seriousness that we should be given a little more information—apart from matters governed by considerations of security, which I quite understand—than has been given in the recent series of Defence White Papers.
The White Paper is a little like a Bill which comes before Parliament. On Second Reading, although we cover the ground generally and discuss what is not in the Bill, we often refer to the Clauses. I wish to refer here to what is, in effect, Clause 3 of the White Paper, which impinges to a certain extent on the question put in his opening remarks by the right hon. Member for Hall Green about what the overall strategy should be. Paragraph 3 of the White Paper states that'' The basic objectives of Britain's defence policy will remain"—and then there follow items (a), (b) and (c). Item (a) is:to maintain the security of this country.This is one of what I referred to as the platitudes of the White Paper. I should have preferred the position of (a) and (c) to be reversed, for (c) isto make our contribution to the defence of the free world and the prevention of war in accordance with the arrangements which we have 85 with individual countries and under collective security treaties.If objective (c) is carried out effectively, there will be no need for (a). We shall be as secure as a baby in its cot watched over by beneficent parents, the international treaties which, presumably, will implement the policy set out in (c).
In considering our overall strategy, we know that Communism has an offensive policy which constantly puts us on the defensive. The weakness of the position of the West is that, whereas the Communists have the initiative always, we have to react to that initiative rather than take the initiative ourselves. Anyone who has read, for example, Lord Alanbrooke's books on the strategy pursued by this country during the war, in co-operation, of course, with our allies, particularly the United States—though in that case not until after 1941 when the United States itself was attacked—will know that we had to look at the overall picture. This is what I suggest that the Ministry of Defence should do, and, not only that, it should inform the House in as simple language as possible about the way it is doing it.
I admit at once that there are important signs in this White Paper leading one to believe that the strategic picture which has been sketched only in bare outline in the White Paper is something which the Ministry is now paying attention to. Perhaps I should not refer so much to the Ministry of Defence as to the Service Ministries, because I do not believe that the Defence Ministry is operating as the Defence Ministry did under the right hon. Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill) during the war. However, the Ministry is, I think, seized of the importance of certain things which hitherto it has not carried out.
For example, I turn to paragraph 24 which tells us that the Ministry has set up a new organisation in the Ministry of Defence,a new Joint Service Staff … under a senior officer as director.I do not know who the director is, but, presumably, that senior officer of the group will have considerable powers. The staff will report to the Chiefs of Staff and, presumably, the Chiefs of Staff will report to the Cabinet. I do not know what the machinery is, but one section of the White Paper tells us that 86 the Ministry of Defence will be responsible for operations. If the Ministry is responsible for carrying out operations, not merely for co-ordinating the three Services, presumably it ought to be equipped with the right staff for doing that. However, if one looks at the costs of the Ministry of Defence in relation to the costs of the other Service Ministries, one finds that a very small amount of money is allocated to the Ministry of Defence compared with what is allocated to the other Ministries, even taking into account the large sum of money—50 per cent., it is said—related to the pay and allowances of the troops.
On the evidence submitted to us, I am not convinced that the Ministry of Defence is anything more than a Ministry of co-operation for defence, a little more elaborate than what we had before the war, but, nevertheless, not fully equipped to carry out operations.
§ Mr. Bellenger
Exactly. I quite agree with my hon. Friend. He reinforces my argument. I was about to refer to an operation which was not mentioned today but which is the classic example of a serious operation engaged in by Britain since the last war. Of course, if one wishes to speak about operations generally, one has to go back to the war itself, and there are plenty of examples of how the Ministry of Defence operated then. But the Ministry of Defence during the war was really the Prime Minister of the day calling himself the Minister of Defence when he felt so inclined. Since the war, however, as one realises if one refers to theh White Paper setting up the Ministry of Defence, we expected something different.
I take the Suez operation as an example. I wish to refer not to the political misdemeanours of the Government then but to the military operation. If one refers to the dispatch of the commander-in-chief at the time, General Keightley, one sees there written down for the Staff College an examination in detail of how an operation should not 87 be carried out. Whether that was done by the Minister of Defence in those days or not, I do not know, but it certainly was not the way to win a war, and war it was. If we had carried out operations like that during the war, our position would have been very different from what it was in 1945 when, in conjunction with our allies and the Joint Chiefs of Staff, we could say to the world that Germany was utterly beaten and had unconditionally surrendered.
One of my criticisms of the White Paper is that the Ministry of Defence is not operating in the way originally envisaged or in the way we are entitled to see it operating, bearing in mind that the words I have quoted—words which my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) has endorsed—make it responsible for executing operations.
I am pleased to see in the White Paper the passage concerning co-operation between the Services on an inter-Service basis. I shall not go into detail about the military purpose of such co-operation, but much more could be done about integrating the Services in static areas. The Minister referred to what has been done by what he called "service agencies", and I believe that, in big bases and garrisons, much more could be done more thoroughly to integrate the Services.
I am disturbed to learn from those who are supposed to know that units in B.A.O.R. are very much under strength in the number of doctors available. When units go into battle they must have their medical officers with them, and, of course, the remarks I have just made about static bases and garrisons do not apply to them. I am told that these units are 50 per cent. under strength with medical officers. I was given that information by a responsible authority, and I want to hear what the Government have to say about this serious deficiency. Hon. Members may say, "If that is so, how can we alter it without conscription?" But the Government have said that they will reach the target of volunteers on which they have set their hearts, and that includes doctors as well as other troops.
I do not want the right hon. Gentleman to think that I am indulging in facetious criticism of him, although I 88 thought that he was a little bellicose when he spoke about the Opposition denigrating consistently Ministers of Defence and what they have said. There may be reasons for denigration, but I want now to put my remarks in the best perspective I can.
I hope that I shall not be blotting my copybook when I say this in support of the right hon. Gentleman, but I agree entirely with him that we cannot keep large forces in B.A.O.R., with a steadily mounting burden of about £70 million of hard currency to find in order to keep them there—not only for our own protection and security but also for the protection of others as well—unless we are compensated in some way or another. Therefore, if the right hon. Gentleman's threat is real and is not just bluff to those in N.A.T.O. who have the final say, we must be prepared for a diminution of our forces in Europe unless some financial help is forthcoming.
The right hon. Gentleman gave us figures of the numbers of troops and their supporters, all of whom have to be paid for. I found these figures staggering. There are 60,000 troops in Western Europe—and 3,000 in West Berlin—with 10,000 uniformed German auxiliaries and 34,000 civilians who have to be paid for.
§ Mr. Watkinson
I do not want there to be any misunderstanding. The 3,000-strong Berlin garrison is paid for because that garrison is still, strangely enough, part of the occupation forces. But everything else has to be paid for in Deutschmarks.
§ Mr. Bellenger
Even if we deduct the 3,000 men of the West Berlin garrison, we are still responsible for 104,000 on the British payroll. We in Parliament who are concerned with finance as well as other matters must take cognisance of this fact and, if necessary, support the right hon. Gentleman in his attempts to extract a contribution from N.A.T.O. towards these finances which we have to find.
I was interested to hear what the right hon. Gentleman said about a mobilisation exercise in September. The trouble about Ministers is that they often let fall, as an aside, as it were, certain important facts which raise a host of questions in the minds of right hon. and 89 hon. Gentleman who understand the implications. What does the right hon. Gentleman's announcement about the mobilisation mean?
Mobilisation of the forces was preparatory to a declaration of war at one time. We must assume that political factors can be got over quite easily and that we can assure the Russians—for September is the awkward time of the year, when wars are likely to break out—that this is purely a military exercise and nothing more. The Minister seems to be quite confident that the Foreign Office can persuade Russia to that effect. I hope that he is right. He must know that the Russians are very suspicious.
Let us leave it at that for the moment. The Government must persuade the Russians that we do not mean anything more than a mock mobilisation in September. The right hon. Gentleman went on to say something else, however. He said that this mobilisation will mean calling up reserves, and he also mentioned the Territorial Army.
§ Mr. Watkinson
My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War will deal with this matter when the Army Estimates are debated on Thursday. Any test mobilisation of the Territorial Army—which is what I was talking about—will take place at the weekend and will be a weekend drill. This is not quite as alarming as the right hon. Gentleman is making out. It is very useful, all the same.
§ Mr. Watkinson
That is another matter. I want to show that, when we say to N.A.T.O. that we can mobilise very quickly, our statement is based on that.
§ Mr. Bellenger
I do not want to take this matter too far as the Secretary of State for War will tell us more of the detail on Thursday. But I say to right hon. and hon. Members on both sides of the House that we must take many statements made by Ministers with a grain of salt. We must not merely accept that it does not mean anything more than a weekend exercise. The thought occurred to me at once, when the right hon. Gentleman referred to this in his speech, 90 that the mobilisation might mean calling the men up by proclamation. Now the right hon. Gentleman says that it will only be a little weekend jaunt for the Territorial Army. My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) was quite right to ask whether this was to be a real mobilisation, from which we could draw certain conclusions, or whether it was not to be.
If it is to mean only a weekend calling up of the Territorial Army or the Reserves it will not yield much information, except perhaps a little administrative information. I thought that this would be a mobilisation involving B.A.O.R. forces. What becomes of the statement in the White Paper that, if the necessity arises, we can have the whole of B.A.O.R. up to war strength in a few days? I would have thought that a mobilisation would have been conducted on a sufficient scale to give the right hon. Gentleman conclusive proof of that statement. It seems to me that he is a little doubtful about the full meaning or implication of some of the things he has put in the White Paper.
There are several other points which I have singled out as testing the reality of the views put forward in the White Paper. Therefore, I come to my concluding remark, to which I referred earlier in my speech. Hon. Members will know that on almost every conceivable occasion when we have discussed Service Estimates, I have made a plea for some sort of Select Committee of this House in which hon. Members who are sufficiently interested could be given more facts than we are given today.
I believe that there are quite a few hon. Members on the Government benches who agree with the plea which I have made on previous occasions, but it does not look as if we will get what I have requested, in spite of the fact that I have given illustrations of where this procedure operates in countries like Germany, which presently will be the largest military force in Central Europe, far larger than Britain's or America's force in B.A.O.R. In spite of those illustrations which I have given, no notice is taken of my plea.
Now, I shall try another line and I do not know how far this will appeal to the Minister of Defence. He must know that there is a limited number of 91 hon. Members who take sufficient interest in service and military matters as to study them. It is no good the House going off on generalisations on occasions like this. Before the war—indeed, going back to the early part of the century—we had what was called an Imperial Defence College. Probably the Secretary of State for Air will remember it and, possibly, he has even appeared at the College. Responsible Members of the House were invited to the I.D.C. on various occasions. Now, we have the Defence College, which not only deals with the instruction of military, naval and air force personnel, but also includes civilian personnel in the shape of civil servants.
I put this proposal to the right hon. Gentleman in all seriousness. To enable those hon. Members who study the matter to have access, under proper conditions, to facts which would enable them to form a judgment as to whether our forces are capable of doing what we are told they will do—and, perhaps, even to avoid a Motion of censure on occasions—the right hon. Gentleman might be able sympathetically to consider enlisting the aid of those who are prepared to help on a matter which I for one never believed should be partisan. I put the defence of the country in the forefront of my duties as a Member of Parliament. If occasion arose, although it has not arisen so far, that I felt inclined to vote against my own party—as I have suggested to the right hon. Member for Hall Green that in view of his speech he should consider such action if he is to retain our belief in his sincerity—we might be doing something which would help forward rather than hinder the Minister, as he himself said this afternoon, in getting his Estimate through or his White Paper accepted.
It would be very good psychological warfare or action if it went out to the world that the British Parliament was ananimous about the size, shape, colour and the rest of it of our defence forces. Never let us forget that there is such a thing as psychological warfare, even in the cold war. I sometimes wonder whether we have not given too much to the Russains, who are putting it across all over the world and effecting conquests 92 —that is what it means in Cuba if it is allowed to go to its logical conclusion—at small cost to themselves other than their terrific radio propaganda.
In making my remarks on this subject, I have put forward, I hope, one or two constructive propositions. Although I regret to say to the Minister that I shall have to vote against him tomorrow night—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."]—for reasons which he well understands, nevertheless I wish him well in his projects and I only hope that he will give us a better opportunity for saying,Well done, thou good and faithful servant.
§ 6.15 p.m.
§ Sir John Maitland (Horncastle)
I think that the whole House could agree with the right hon. Member for Basset-law (Mr. Bellenger) in his sentiment that we should put the defence of our country first. I do not, however, entirely agree with the right hon. Member that we do not have the right to disagree or that we should not disagree. The fact that we are critical—I hope constructively critical—emphasises that we are taking an intense interest in this most vital subject. I agree with much of what the right hon. Gentleman said. I will not follow him immediately, although one or two of the things which I shall say may fit in with what he has said. Although I cannot possibly hope to compete with the right hon. Member's oratory, I will at least be a little shorter.
I must be almost unique in this House ni saying that the White Paper seems to me to be a very good one. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence was quite right to set it out in the form of a plan. He made much more difficulty for himself, however, in doing so. On the one hand, he had to avoid rigidity with all its problems of wrongful commitments, and, on the other hand, he had to avoid flexibility, from which in the past we have suffered too much, with all its difficulties of indecision leading to a whole litter of unfinished projects. On the whole, my right hon. Friend has not done too badly. The White Paper is pretty well balanced.
The right hon. Member for Smethwick (Mr. Gordon Walker) was critical about our attitude to N.A.T.O. He seemed 93 to me to be exceedingly well indoctrinated. He did not, however, point out that we alone of the European nations have commitments in C.E.N.T.O. and S.E.A.T.O. as well. Obviously, other countries cannot understand our feelings about these matters. It is also true that there are flanks in this business. In the Middle East and a little further East than that, there are areas over which we alone are the people who can play a reasonably decisive rôle.
I agree entirely with my right hon. Friend the Minister. I put it down as the most important passage in the White Paper when he states, at the top of page 4, thatThe contribution which we make to each of these alliances must be judged in the light of our total contribution to the defence of freedom and the maintenance of peace, not only in Europe but also in the Middle East, the Near East and the Far East, all areas of vital interest to the Free World as a whole.I also do not think that the people of Europe, or the Americans for that matter, altogether appreciate and like countries who are subservient and do not take their own line. I am entirely in favour of taking our own line in this matter and of believing it to be right and not paying, perhaps, so much attention, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Hall Green (Mr. Aubrey Jones) did, to what the Americans will think or, in the case of the right hon. Member for Smethwick (Mr. Gordon Walker), to what the Europeans will think. I believe that if these things are right, we should do them.
I go further than the White Paper. If in future we were able to withdraw part of our military commitment and station it in England, that might be feasible; but it depends entirely on whether we can have efficient mobility. I did not agree with what my right hon. Friend the Member for Hall Green said about this subject. When this country forgets the importance of mobility, most of the contribution which we can make to Western defence will have gone. Every country has its own advantages and disadvantages. We have many disadvantages, one of which is that we are particularly and peculiarly unsuited to fighting a continental war, even though we are members of Europe.
I am not ashamed of learning from the past, because I believe the future is 94 very much reflected in it. We, because of our position as islanders, have learned over the years the importance of mobility. I would stress to the Minister that he should press on with and emphasise this business of mobility even more than he did in the two previous White Papers. We saw the importance of mobility beginning to creep in and to be emphasised in those White Papers and this one emphasised that importance even more. I should like to see it stressed even further. If we are to have full mobility it means interdependence between the Services, and interdependence means greater emphasis on dovetailing the Services.
It is interesting to note that nowadays all the Services have themselves integrated the other Services with them. Almost for generations the Navy has had its own army and air force. The Army has its air force and a considerable navy. The Air Force has some magnificent military weapons in Aden, and it has its own small army and navy. If, therefore, sensible people realise the need for these branches of the Services to act together there is an argument for greater integration between them.
There must be inefficiency and lack of manœuvreability if the Services are allowed to continue to have their own little private armies and navies. Surely they could be run together much more efficiently. If we could do that I believe that they would fight even more efficiently than they would at present, because men who have worked and played together and drunk beer in the same canteen fight better than those who have led entirely separate existences.
I would therefore do what I could to try to make it possible for the Services to share the same barracks and various activities which would bring them closer together. I am glad to see that emphasis is now placed on inter-Services exercises. I hope that that emphasis will grow. Moreover, there should be to some extent, and I believe that there can be, an interchange of rôles. I may irritate some elderly military Members, when I say that I believe that at present the Navy is better off in manpower than the other two Services. I think that, as we have done in the past, it is perfectly practicable and feasible to use a naval brigade. I cannot see why we should not ask the 95 Navy to train a naval brigade. If we have "Ever-readies" why not have a naval brigade? Obviously, it would be futile to expect sailors not as well trained as infantry to engage in major military operations. It would be murder to send them into battle at the front, but there are many jobs they could do in these bush-fire wars.
There have been several such occasions recently, some of which were mentioned today by the Minister. British Guiana is one. Garrison duty at Hong Kong is another. There are many places and occasions where a naval brigade could do as well and as efficiently and perhaps could assist the Army which, as we know, is now drawn out and hard pressed for numbers. I commend that to the Minister as a serious idea.
I was glad to note from the White Paper that ideas in the Navy are turning more and more towards amphibious warfare. It is interesting to note from the White Paper how my right hon. Friend proposes to deal with that aspect at headquarters. I cannot quite see what the answer is in the field. Is there to be another organisation, or will command be given to the senior officer of the three Services on the spot? Is it intended to train a special staff which would be able to take charge of a large operation? This brand of amphibious warfare needs a great deal of close study, and perhaps greater consideration should be given to the question of the command of these operations before they take place.
I should like to deal also with our responsibilities in connection with the decision to have Regular Army, Navy and Air Forces made up entirely of volunteers. I know only too well that we shall hear later on in the debate some very good reasons why some hon. Members think that that will not be possible. I have always been convinced that Regular Forces are the answer for this country, but if we decide to have them we enter into two definite but different commitments.
First, we have a duty to the short-term and medium-term people and then a rather different duty to the long-service people. I am pleased to see from the Memoranda to the Service Estimates that there is a tendency to sign on again 96 for longer periods. This is excellent, but there is a danger in it if it goes too far. If we have everybody signing on we shall clutter up the normal channels of promotion and to some extent diminish our active reserve. In future, therefore, we must watch this business of re-engagement. If recruiting goes reasonably well there may come a moment in all the Services when we may have to control re-engagement. If we have to do that, as I believe we may, it will emphasise our duties to the two different branches.
First, as I have said, there is our duty to the short-term people. Recently I visited Holy Loch, in company with another hon. Member, and I was immensely impressed by the training which the American Navy gives to its sailors. The American Navy has been made the finest means in the United States of obtaining technical training. If we want good Army, Navy and Air Forces we must have forces made up of technicians and officers who are technologists. There is a tremendous opportunity here not only to help recruiting but to enable the short-term men to learn jobs which will make them, par excellence, employable in good jobs when they come out of the Services. We should concentrate a great deal on that for the short-term and medium-term people.
The long-service people must be treated in a slightly different way, particularly if we have some control over re-engagement. Their service must be a good career offering all the opportunities, that is to say without envisaging some other job afterwards when the man is on retirement pension. These are the people who must be helped in that direction. Those are the two great duties which we cannot evade and which we must tackle if we are to make a success of regular enlistment. I should like to have seen more about this in the White Paper. I agree that it is mentioned in the Memoranda to the Service Estimates, but this seems to me to be a central matter which should be dealt with in the Defence White Paper.
I hope that we shall do everything in our power to get a Regular Service. I do not think of it so much in terms of numbers, although if we do it the right 97 way I think that the numbers will come in just as they would were we to nail the flag of conscription to the mast for ever. What an awful thought! I think that the great advantage of a Regular Service is that we keep the Services in the affections of the people in a way that we can never do with conscription.
§ 6.31 p.m.
§ Mr. George Wigg (Dudley)
I have great sympathy with the hon. Member for Horncastle (Sir J. Maitland) in his desire to look carefully at our overseas commitments, but when he wants to maintain those commitments at the expense of our N.A.T.O. commitments, he is a little late in the day. The time to have looked at these commitments was when Sir Anthony Eden as he was then, came to the House of Commons and committed not only his party but the country to maintaining four divisions in Europe. Where was the hon. Gentleman then? He should have been alongside me saying, "This is all very well, but I am against this because I know full well that we cannot honour this country's word to maintain four divisions in Europe without conscription." He cannot have it all ways. He cannot now look nostalgically over his shoulder at the little reds spots on the map, turn down conscription, and say, "I back the Government's White Paper". It just will not do.
§ Sir J. Maitland
The world marches on. It is true that I supported Sir Anthony Eden when he brought in that proposal, but I think that I am entitled to change my mind after all these years. Is one to be so conservative, and always stick to a thing, as the hon. Gentleman does? I have heard his speech at least four times.
§ Mr. Wigg
I have made it more than four times, and the hon. Gentleman has not yet learnt it by heart. If he is saying that his word of honour, and his country's word of honour, can be thrown away lightly, I do not agree with him. If that is Conservative doctrine, I am glad that I am not one, because that is partly our trouble. Nobody trusts us. When the hon. Gentleman meets his N.A.T.O. colleagues they do not take notice of what he says. They read the flannel in the White Paper, and they read his speeches, and they know that 98 this country has the reputation of always being able to find excuses for doing what it wants to do. I am being courteous to the hon. Gentleman in replying to that part of his speech, but I want to turn to the White Paper and to the speech of the Minister of Defence.
I have taken part in, or at least sat through, every defence debate since I came to the House in 1945. I cannot remember a worse speech than the one I heard this afternoon. I think that in all charity I must say that his Department briefed him extremely badly. On point of fact after point of fact he was off the target. But I will not dwell on the right hon. Gentleman, because the issues involved in this White Paper are fundamental and, therefore, more important.
We are told that this is the policy for the next five years, and we are told that it is evolutionary. The country is invited to believe that this White Paper has grown out of what happened during the last five years. One of the advantages of the discipline of sitting through every defence debate is that at least I know what has been said, and I have read what has been written. This White Paper bears no relation at all to the 1957 White Paper.
We were told in the 1957 White Paper that we were going to save money. The raison d'être was to save money. We were going to have atomic streamlined forces. We were going to depend on the missile. We were not going to have a new fighter. We were not going to have a new bomber. That policy has been falsified in every respect. The cost has gone up. We have a successor to the V-bomber in the TSR II. Blue Streak has gone down the drain. The Government have imposed a form of selective service. No one can deny it; certainly no one who listened to the debate on the Army Reserve Bill, or who looks at the White Paper. After that Bill becomes law there is to be an examination into the reserve forces, and of course we have been playing with a new fighter.
The right hon. Member for Birmingham, Hall Green (Mr. Aubrey Jones) cogitated on the reasons for this. I think that it is not unimportant to consider the reasons that make not only the Government, but the Opposition, tick. 99 The recognition of our present position brings tears to my eyes, and I am not optimistic about things ever being put right. This White Paper is not a defence policy. It is a policy of bits and pieces, which maximises the cost and minimises the defence content. If we are ever to get this right, we must understand how we reached this position.
I suppose that what went wrong with Suez was that there was a certain sense of national wrong-doing. Moreover, even those who could overcome their consciences recognised that the operation had been incompetently carried out. I suppose our new Prime Minister thought that he could salve his conscience, wipe away the memories of incompetence, and at the same time save money. And so he went for the missile. This was Blue Streak. I do not think that these were ignoble motives. He took over the reins of office when the fortunes of his party were at their lowest ebb, and he had to nurse them back.
When we look at the Opposition, their record is not much better. I well remember the broadcast given by my right hon. Friend the Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown) on 30th March, 1957. What was he going to do? There were to be no fighters, and no bombers. He, too, was going to have missiles. He was going to get rid of conscription.
The consequence to this country of the joint forces in this pillow fighting, this playing with a soft ball between the two Front Benches, meant that we kept Blue Streak for at least a year after it was no longer viable. It had another result. Anybody who knows anything about the Rhine Army, anybody who has relatives or friends there and has visited the units there and talked to other ranks and officers, knows that the trouble there is that the Rhine Army is deployed too far back. It has no medium artillery. It has three composite regiments, Honest John, atomic artillery, and two Corporal regiments stuck on an old airfield at Dortmund because this is the only place with the juxtaposition of an old airfield and barracks, guarded when they go into action by Panzer Grenadiers. Every one knows that these tactical atomic weapons do not add up to a viable fighting instrument. This is what the Americans complain 100 about. If we are going to provide fighting forces, at least let us organise ourselves to do it properly.
I share the view expressed by my right hon. Friend the Member for Smethwick (Mr. Gordon Walker). Perhaps the greatest of all threats to peace is the emergence of twelve German divisions—well-equipped and well-trained, and armed not with Honest Johns or Corporals but with Mace, or the latest American Pershings. We all know that orders have been placed fox Pershings. This is a picture which belittles our influence on the Continent. It is a picture of a Britain with a minimum viability, and at the same time it guarantees that we shall be engaged in permanent exchange difficulties because of the hard currencies involved.
The Minister opened his speech by mentioning a matter to which I have referred on many occasions—the question of conscription. I shall not say much about it this afternoon, but I must mention it, because if I do not somebody will say that I have run away from it, and I certainly do not want to give that impression. I have done my sums, and I will give the House the advantage—if that is the right word—of those sums. Last year we were given an estimate of 166,200 Regulars on 1st April, 1962. This year the figure was broken down to 158,700 Regular male adults plus 9,600 boys, totalling 168,300.
During the course of the last year we improved our manpower position by 2,000, but let the House note that during that period we have given a bounty of £200 to every Regular soldier extending his service to nine years, and a similar bounty to every National Service main who undertakes a Regular engagement, and have lowered the standard of entrance into the Army to an unbelievable degree. No announcement has been made, but it has happened. We have scoured the Commonwealth for Fijians, people from the Seychelles, and any other Commonwealth members whom we can persuade to join the Army.
This is a once-for-all increment, in all cases. Yet, at maximum cost, we have turned on television publicity in order to try to persuade all sorts of people to come in, irrespective of whether or not they will stay in. At the end, all that we have managed to do is to push the 101 estimate up by 2,000. I still believe that we shall not get 165,000, but whether or not we do so is irrelevant. What is important this afternoon is that the right hon. Gentleman is back again, playing the old Sandys trick.
We know it well. We have recognised it before. We know its history. When the first 1957 White Paper came out we were told that the target was 375,000. The figure was not broken down; it was simply 375,000 for the three Services. The following year it was broken down. There were to be 165,000 for the Army, 135,000 for the Royal Air Force, and 88,000 for the Navy—a total of 388,000. A year later recruiting was going a little better, and pressures inside the Services were very great. The Secretary of State then said that the Army of 165,000 was to be increased by 15,000. That made the total 403,000. It was subsequently leaked that the real target for the Army was 182,000, which made the total 405,000.
Now, in the sacred name of integration, the Minister tells us that the strength of the three Services is to be 390,000.
§ Mr. Watkinson
If the hon. Member will read the report in HANSARD in the morning he will see that I said quite plainly that the figure would be between 390,000 and 400,000.
§ Mr. Wigg
I know, but these things do happen. We were told that the figure would be 390,000. The Minister did not say 390,000 for nothing. That is what he is aiming at at present—so we can knock 15,000 off our 182,000 and we are now back to 167,000. This produces the sum that is to be met by the Government and by my right hon. Friend the Member for Smethwick.
If he were riding a horse in the Grand National, he would not go right up to Becher's Brook and then stop. He might stop the horse, but he would go on, and that is exactly what happens if we try to build up the Rhine Army to a figure between 60,000 and 65,000. All that we shall be doing, over a long period is to 102 run away from our commitments and get the worst of all worlds by pretending that we make do with half a battalion instead of a battalion in Malta and Gibraltar. We cannot meet our commitments without having conscription in some form. This fact must be faced by both Government and Opposition alike. It is no good telling me that I am advocating conscription. I am not advocating conscription. What I am saying is that both Government and Opposition—not by their words but by their actions—have created a situation in which conscription if, inevitable.
Last week I received a telegram from Captain Taylor who, in the early part of the week, was still serving in the 16/5th Lancers. In that telegram he asked me to support his conscription campaign in the Lincoln by-election. I sent him a telegram in return saying that I stood by my views about conscription, but that I thought that these policies ought to be put through by the major parties and that the problem should not be tackled by putting up Independent candidates at by-elections. Nevertheless, I am proud of the fact that it was a Regular soldier who was prepared to sacrifice his career for his country's good. That is an example that might be followed by Ministers of Defence and perhaps even by budding politicians
I think that Captain Taylor's political actions are wrong, and I mention his case not because he sent me a telegram but because of the many occasions on which the House has been told, "The Army wants to get rid of conscription. We cannot find any Regular officers who do not want to get rid of conscription." This young officer, serving in a crack cavalry regiment, with all his Service career in front of him took the view that conscription was necessary, and those of us who have been to Germany know that the view is held throughout B.A.O.R., for this force can fight only one sort of war, and that would be a nuclear war which they could fight for a few days. The House must face this fact.
I now turn to another far more serious consequence of the defence policies which have been followed during the last five years. We are told that we cannot maintain our forces in Germany because of currency costs. I am not an economist, and I will not go into the 103 question whether or not that statement is true. I will take it at its face value. But what has been the consequence of the Sandys policy on the aircraft industry? I have done my homework, and have gone through it stage by stage. I have read the bogus document produced by the present Secretary of State for Air last year and again this year. He made the second worse defence speech that I have ever heard, a year ago.
We are told that the Lightning is the best fighter in the world. Perhaps I may quote the actual words. Paragraph 30 of the Air Estimates says:The Lightning has proved itself to be in the forefront of contemporary fighter design.There have been eight international fighter Mach. II competitions, five of which have been won by the American F.104 and three by the French Mirage. In case anybody thinks that the Mirage is not comparable with our Lightning, let me say that it carries the same load with half the thrust, and has 10 to 15 per cent. more speed. May I hasten to add—the right hon. Gentleman may not tell us—that the speed of the Lightning is under Mach. II.
We turn now to the sphere of light transport. There have been eight international competitions which were all won by the Dutch F.27. The Avro 748M, of which the Royal Air Force has ordered 40, has won none of these competitions. There have been nine competitions for regional jets. All these competitions are organised by Governments or, in the case of civil aircraft, by private firms. In the medium range category, there have been nine competitions of which five were won by the Caravelle and four by the Boeing 727. The British Trident failed in all the competitions. There were three competitions for heavy freighters, of which two were won by the Canadian CL44 and one by the American DC8F. The Belfast, which has not yet been delivered, did not win any. In all, there have been 28 international competitions and not a single one has been won by a British aircraft. Yet we are asked to believe that when it comes to a question of fighters, bombers and transports we are second to none.
Let us turn to the question of helicopters, for which there should be a 104 ready market and for which our forces are crying out. In the case of the Allouette, of which the French have manufactured 800, 400 have been exported. The only major British aircraft which have been sold is three VC10s to Ghana, which has no money, six Viscounts to China—and, politically that was a pretty "dodgy" decision. There are six B.A.C. 111s which an American firm has ordered, but I believe there is an escape clause in the contract which would enable the firm to cancel the order if it wished.
This is not all. Let us look to the future. The only aircraft which this country is producing at the present time which has any hope of gaining access to the markets of the world is the VC10, the TSR 2, the Belfast and the supersonic transport. Of course, we have no orders for any. The consequences of the policy of the Ministry of Defence, the defence policy which has been pursued, are disastrous for the Services; but also they are disastrous from the point of view of the economy of the country.
§ Mr. R. J. Maxwell-Hyslop (Tiverton)
I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman is aware that the Indian Government are building the Avro 748 under licence and that, to the best of my knowledge, the Argentinians have ordered the Avro 748 and a couple of Canadian airlines recently ordered the Herald?
§ Mr. Wigg
I know that the Indians have been playing around with the Avro 748 as a Dakota replacement, and I know the special difficulties of the Indian Government which has made it recently buy the extended Orpheus and the Olympus. But I do not think that the experiences of India and the Argentine is a fair example. Much more to the point, in my opinion, is that in the case of fighters, where the Dutch and the Swiss regularly took British aircraft, one type after another they and the Australians—we lost the Australian market a long time ago—have switched to other aircraft. I do not think that the Avro 748 will make much impact on the markets of the world, and this I think answers the hon. Gentleman.
The hon. Gentleman's question, however, misses my point, which is that there is a market in certain fields, such as utility aircraft, helicopters and fighters, 105 for which we ought to produce something. The responsibility for not having done so rests fairly and squarely on the Minister of Defence, on the one hand, and the Secretary of State for Air, on the other. They have taken wrong policy decisions. Anyone who has studied the matter knows that the Air Force has not an efficient aircraft.
One can turn, of course, as I now intend to do, from aircraft to rockets, where the story is the same. Bluestreak, which involved us in fantastic cost, was maintained for at least a year after it was no longer effective. There are three possible air-to-air weapons—Firestreak, Red Top and Seaslug. Firestreak was moderately successful. It is true that the market for Bloodhound Mark II has been very successful, which again shows that there is a market if we produce the right weapon. But the Navy has taken the Seacat, a weapon designed to hit low-flying aircraft. The PR 428 intended for the Army has been cancelled, and the Army will have to be content with the second best.
My argument does not depend on the question of limited resources or of tackling things Which are beyond our capacity. It relates to the question of aircraft and missiles. My point is that the right decisions have not been taken. I think that Bloodhound is a good example of what could be done when the right decision is taken. But let us see where this policy goes. We went for Blue Streak, a strategic weapon. We never troubled about producing a tactical weapon. Now the Navy, for Bucanneer—our old friend N.A.39—is reported to be buying 1,000 American Bullpups. I should have thought it would have been possible for this country to produce a weapon which we could have sold to the N.A.T.O. countries and to countries in the British Commonwealth.
The Bucanneer was an aircraft which the Air Force declined to take, and it went to the Navy as a low-level strike weapon. Now, if you please, the rumour is that the Air Force is contemplating taking it back again. The consequences of all this militarily and economically, are absolutely disastrous. I do not know whether it is technically possible, or whether it is too late to make any change, but certainly we are left to pay the bill for American weapons and we shall get 106 nothing back into the "kitty" from selling something which we might have produced ourselves.
I wish now to turn to another aspect of the defence White Paper. Last October, those who are near and dear to the Ministry of Defence were running the line that the motif of the present White Paper was to be integration. There was to be an attempt to integrate the three Services and produce a viable balanced force. It is interesting to note that in three places in the White Paper there is mention of balance. In three separate paragraphs the question of balance is referred to. Today the Minister of Defence did not tell us anything about it. He passed it by.
I wish to remind the House, as I have on many previous occasions, that in the debates on the Gracious Speech, what I thought the most revealing statement was when the Prime Minister admitted, and was frank about the fact, that our forces lacked balance. They certainly lack balance. How can it be restored? This will be no simple task. If we are to integrate the three Services, I think that we should start by having common user storage on such simple things as medical personnel and supplies, on the chaplain service and the supply services as a whole. Unless we are to lay ourselves open to a period of prolonged weakness, the process would have to be done gradually and over a long time. The Minister of Defence seems now to have dropped the idea. It seems to me that the right hon. Gentleman has "given up the ghost" and has said to the three Services, "There is your Estimate, this is the broad policy—get on with it."
When one reads the White Papers produced by the three Service Departments, as I have tried to do, it is perfectly clear that there is no thought of integration in the mind of anyone in the three Services. These are three separate papers of three separate Departments each looking at defence policy and seeing three different pictures and each going its own way.
§ Mr. Wigg
The overall policy is there, but the way they handle it is in three different ways. We have a defence White Paper which talks about the next five years, which talks of evolution as if the 107 policy adumbrated grew out of the last five years, whereas what we were given in 1957 was thrown away in 1958, 1959, and 1960. We get a rehash of bits and pieces, yet the White Paper talks of the next five years.
I think that in its own way the Opposition has come up to Beecher's Brook. It is producing a viable, sensible defence policy, all except in one field, in the question of manpower.
§ Mr. Wigg
My hon. Friend says that it is the vital thing. I am inclined to agree. We have to remember that it has always been the view of many of my hon. Friends—and their views are as honest as I hope mine are—that the reason that they have gone for atomic tactical weapons was that if they did not they would be brought face to face with a difficult decision about conscription. An atomic arms policy was a substitute for a viable manpower policy. This is the view which I believe has been honestly held.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Smethwick put his finger on the subject when he spoke of the situation in relation to V bombers. Obviously he has not the knowledge, nor has anyone else, to say at what point we should cancel contracts for the Mark IIs or the T.S.R. IIs. He cannot make that decision. It is a decision for Governments to make knowing what effect it may have not only on ourselves but also on our allies. But, having got as far as that, we are brought to the inescapable conclusion that we cannot maintain a viable force in Germany and cannot serve our Commonwealth commitments unless we have some form of selective service, which is what the Government have done through the Army Reserves Act.
I say this to my right hon. Friend the Member for Smethwick and any other hon. Member, including the hon. Member for Horncastle (Sir J. Maitland). If they try to juxtapose the Rhine Army with our Commonwealth commitments they are asking the wrong question. The problem which faces us is, what is the minimum number of infantry battalions and armoured regiments—teeth arms— 108 we require in order to meet our N.A.T.O., S.E.A.T.O. and CENTO. obligations and to maintain the strategic reserve? The decision in July. 1957, was 60 battalions of infantry. Can we produce 60 battalions of infantry of a reasonably effective establishment inside 165,000 men and at the same time provide them with the necessary services to enable them to fight and at the same time provide a strategic reserve? My answer is that we cannot.
Until someone demonstrates that we can, I shall go on—even though people complain of my boring them—saying over and over again that the basic decision which will put this country once again on the bottom rung of the ladder which may lead to economic and defence viability is a firm, hard decision about selective service.
§ 7.5 p.m.
§ Sir Harry Legge-Bourke (Isle of Ely)
I hope that some of the remarks I shall be making later in my speech will interest the hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg), if he can bear to wait that long. He has added to his long list of accusations against the Government one which I particularly hope to deal with. That is the question of what he alleges to be misjudgments over selecting various types of aircraft and so forth.
I wish to go back to the beginning of the debate and to refer to some of the remarks made by the right hon. Member for Smethwick (Mr. Gordon Walker). He got on to a subject on which we are entitled to have different opinions. I think that he has the wrong opinion, and no doubt he will think that I have the wrong one. It particularly relates to the deterrent. There are many factors which always affect our defence policy. Some are ephemeral as weapons come and go, and others vary in the relevance they have to the policy, such as manpower, fire power and so forth, which vary over the years, but some are constants.
I believe that the most constant factor of all is one which we frequently tend to overlook altogether. It is the fact that man's natural state is not peace. Ever since man has been created he has been warring with other men down the centuries. I firmly believe that the most important thing for us all to remember is that man is by nature a warring animal. In other words, he is 109 fighting to survive just like every other species of life. He is fighting to survive, or to stop someone preventing him surviving.
If we look back to creation we can see that man has traded in fear through the whole of his existence, up till now. It seems that we have reached the point, for the first time in the history of man, when he can no longer trade in fear because something else has happened. He has been given power for the first time in history which, if he misuses it, can destroy whatever form of civilisation he has tried to produce to restrain the natural instinct of man to war. He is now given this power which at once forces him, for the first time in his existence, through his own actions to hold in awe the power he has got. If that does not teach him humility, I do not suppose anything ever will. I believe that this distinction between fear and awe is profoundly important in nuclear deterrence, but perhaps the right hon. Member for Smethwick would say that probably the nuclear deterrent is still trading in fear.
§ Mr. Gordon Walker indicated dissent.
§ Mr. Gordon Walker
I do not know if the hon. Member is talking of the Western deterrent. If he is speaking of the Western deterrent, I certainly agree.
§ Sir H. Legge-Bourke
I am glad to hear the right hon. Member say that, because the deterrent part of nuclear weapons lies in the balance of nuclear equality, or as near equality as we can keep in the world. That was made clear by the Prime Minister earlier today, before this debate, when he was telling us of the awful decision he has had to take. That decision is absolutely right. I believe that the American President's decision is also absolutely right, because the one thing we must do if we want to retain the awe which nuclear power ought to give man is to keep the balance even and to see that no one side is allowed to be so predominant that eventually the effectiveness of the deterrent disappears altogether.
110 War is never natural if we keep the balance, but I am certain that if we let the balance go, in the end war becomes almost inevitable. I had the privilege of watching on television yesterday the right hon. Member for Derby, South (Mr. P. Noel-Baker) in a programme called "Freedom from Fear". I do not share his most pessimistic views about the disarmament conferences which are to be held. He suggested that if they fail, nuclear war is inevitable. I tell him with all the sincerity that I can muster that I am far more frightened of the prospect of disarmament than I am of the nuclear deterrent being kept in existence.
§ Sir H. Legge-Bourke
Nothing is more likely to lead to war than for us to sign a disarmament agreement.
§ Mr. Philip Noel-Baker (Derby, South)
I was not aware that this programme had appeared in Britain. It was originally prepared for the United States. Is the hon. Member aware that the view which I expressed was enunciated twelve months ago by the twelve Prime Ministers of the Commonwealth and last September by President Kennedy, without any reservation of any kind?
§ Sir H. Legge-Bourke
I do not dispute that. It does not mean that I need agree with them. I do not.
§ Sir H. Legge-Bourke
It would not be the first time that I have been in the minority of one. In fact, there is a big difference between my right hon. Friend the Minister of Aviation and myself. He himself left the Government whereas I suggested that others should. Sometimes one finds oneself in a minority of one, but on this occasion I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Horncastle (Sir J. Maitland) in welcoming the White Paper, because it shows a sense of reality which previous White Papers have not shown.
Among the basic constant factors in deciding a defence policy is one which is all too frequently forgotten—that the natural state of man is war. From that we come to the next most important 111 constant factor for Britain, and that is her geographical position. One of the reasons which makes me welcome the White Paper more than any other White Paper is that for the first time since World War II a Minister of Defence appears to have realised the immense importance of mobility and of economy of force in the United Kingdom's defence policy.
I have said this before in the House, and I hope that I shall be forgiven if I say it again: our geographical position in the world is unique. If we put the United Kingdom at the pole and draw a line at the new equator, the only land which is not in the hemisphere of which the United Kingdom is the pole is the very tip of South America, Australia, New Zealand, Antarctica, the Malayan Peninsular and the very tip of South-East Asia. All the rest is in the hemisphere of which Britain is the pole. It is for that reason that in the maritime age—as we are in the air age, and as we remain from a maritime point of view—we were the centre of the land masses of the world. There is more land of which we are the centre than in the case of any other country in the world.
This reason above all others dictates that we must adopt exterior lines of communication in our strategic thinking. This is no greater danger arising out of the present Common Market negotiations than the possibility that we shall eventually move on to interior Continental lines of communication to an extent which would make it impossible for us to extricate ourselves in time if we determined to do, what we must always do—to remain on good terms with the greatest sea Power of the day, if we cannot be that sea Power ourselves.
For centuries we were that sea Power, and we kept the Pax Britannica longer than any other country has kept peace in the world. But nothing could be more terrifying from our point of view than to find ourselves involved politically and inextricably on interior lines of communication on a Continent overrun by Communism, because I do not believe that the Americans would give us time to get out before they started to deal with that situation. That is what terrifies me about the present negotiations with Europe. Economically, I 112 see the arguments in favour with closer links with Europe, but by far the most dangerous aspect of the Common Market negotiations is the likelihood of their leading us eventually to interior lines of communications.
For this reason, I welcome greatly the change of emphasis—I put it no stronger than that—in the White Paper, away from committing Britain quite so much into Europe and towards concentrating more on the flanks of N.A.T.O. and on the other two great Treaties of which we are members, S.E.A.T.O. and CENTO. I am sure that this must be right, because it is essential that exterior lines of communication around the great land masses form the basis of our policy.
I appreciate all the arguments used by the hon. Member for Dudley. If Sir Anthony Eden or anybody else pledged the word of the country that we shall maintain four divisions within treaty territories, then we ought to honour that commitment to the best of our ability unless we get agreement from the other signatories of the treaty providing that we need not do quite so much. It would be quite wrong to default without permission.
Certainly the impression being given by such newspapers as the N.A.T.O. Journal, which is becoming a thoroughly anti-British publication, is quite different from the impression which I have about the relationship between SACEUR and the Government. As far as I can see, our difficulties are understood. The right hon. Member for Smethwick quoted the significant sentence in paragraph 15,During this period the proportion of these forces to be stationed on the mainland of Europe and in Britain respectively must depend to a large extent on the balance of payments position.I quite agree, and I cannot believe that that sentence would have been included in the White Paper had it not been known to the N.A.T.O. authorities that it was intended to include it. Surely it was a sensible thing to do. This is why I wish to turn to the question of how to finance the defence policy.
§ Mr. Shinwell
Before the hon. Member leaves that point, may I ask him whether he is aware that when we pledged ourselves to provide four divisions for 113 N.A.T.O. it was on the clear understanding that the troops and all the appurtenances would be financed by the German Government?
§ Sir H. Legge-Bourke
I know. As my hon. Friend the Member for Horncastle said earlier, circumstances have changed a good deal since those days. Some things which have happened have not pleased the right hon. Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell). Some of them have not pleased me, either. But the situation has changed. My right hon. Friend the Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill) once made a comment with which I profoundly agree—that when circumstances change one must be prepared to change one's mind a little. There is nothing more fatuous than to go on taking the same doctrinaire attitude about a situation when the circumstances no longer obtain which obtained when the attitude was first struck.
How do we finance the defence policy outlined in the White Paper? Nothing will make any sense in the White Paper, which I think is a very good White Paper, if the economy of the country cracks. It can crack easily. We are living in the most extraordinary period of mankind. We are living at the moment, in a sort of latter-day epicureanism, when the new cry seems to be "Eat, drink and have all the 'lolly' we want, because tomorrow we may fry". That seems to be the outlook held by all too many people at the moment. The modern word for it is "inflation". If we allow inflation to continue, if we have these everlasting alterations of a Budget which we are told is fixed, we shall not pull through this period.
The Times of 6th February, in a very notable leading article, said:It will be no use having held the front door against inflation, if the Government themselves supinely continue to let it in at the back.I hope that my right hon. Friend the Minister of Aviation saw the article on the same terms which appeared in the Sunday Times yesterday. Mr. Margach said:Too many of Mr. Lloyd's colleagues are inflationists themselves, which exposes the Government to the charge of applying double standards in the economic field.If we are uncertain whether we shall really make the economy sound, the 114 White Paper will not be capable of implementation. That is my point. I do not want to elaborate it now. In debating the White Paper it would not be proper for me to go into detailed suggestions of how we could put the economy right, but I say without any hesitation whatsoever that if there are inflationists in the Government today they ought to get out, because we shall not keep our economy sound and have a sound defence policy if we allow inflation to undermine our economy. We can only hope to have a sound defence policy and play our full part in keeping the peace if we earn our keep in the world. We shall not earn our keep in the world if we allow inflation to exist in this country.
The debate began with my right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence telling us that as a result of implementing a pre-pause pledge, which the recommendations of the Grigg Committee certainly were, the bill for defence this year, which is already £93 million higher than it was last year, will now be another £28 million, given in two bites each of £14 million. I regard pre-pause pledges as demanding implementation and, with the right hon. Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Bellenger), I put defence very nearly at the top of the tree, but not quite. I put productivity, education and research and development higher than that, because without these things the country cannot hope to finance its defence. For it will not be exporting enough and, consequently, will not be paying its way in the world.
Apart from these matters, defence comes very high indeed and we must honour that pre-pause pledge. We have to pay for it, and it will be all the more difficult. It will be £28 million worth more difficult to meet the defence bill this year. This means that there ought to be £28 million less for something else. It is no good the Government keeping on saying that they must do the right thing but they cannot hold it at that price, and so it is going up again. We must be prepared to change policy if we cannot do it in any other way. The one thing we must not do is to allow inflation to be the excuse for getting out of our duty.
I want now to say something about paragraphs 44 and 45 of the White 115 Paper. The hon. Member for Dudley made some comments about aircraft. A very important report was published recently by the Committee on the Management and Control of Research and Development, under the chairmanship of Sir Solly Zuckerman, who is the Chief Scientific Adviser to my right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence. The Report makes seventeen specific recommendations in relation to defence alone. The White Paper contains the statement that the Government have already accepted and are largely putting into effect the main recommendations of the Committee.
I am glad that my right hon. Friend the Minister of Aviation is here at the moment, because I hope that when he speaks in the debate, which I understand is to be tomorrow, he will be able to say something about this. The Committee made some intensely important observations. Perhaps the most important of all, which would cover the point the hon. Member for Dudley particularly had in mind, is contained in paragraph 192, which refers to the Deputy Chief of Air Staff in the Air Ministry and, under him, the Assistant Chief of Air Staff in Charge of Operational Requirements. The Report says:An immense responsibility rests on the shoulders of these officers and they cannot, in our view, fully discharge this responsibility, bearing in mind the great complexity of modern weapons and equipment, without experience of scientific and technical as well as operational matters.If the hon. Member for Dudley studies this Report—I assure him it is well worth studying—he will see that some of the mistakes which have been made in the past stemmed very largely from the fact, that this requirement was not met. Let us hope that it will be in future. It merely emphasises what we have all felt for some time, namely, that the scientific qualifications and "know-how" of the Civil Service, as well as of the Service Departments, must be improved.
I hope that this Report will be used as a springboard for further things, not least a review of the whole question of ordering once research and development are over. I know that many people in the aircraft industry agree with me in this. I do not believe that it is right at the moment, because I think that there is too often a collision between 116 the Minister of Defence and the Minister of Aviation. However cordial they may be personally, there is bound to be a collision because of the way things are set up at the moment. I hope that a further review will take place into these matters.
I do not want to detain the House any more. I am grateful to hon. Members for having been so patient with me. Our manpower, our economy, the £ sterling can go all too easily if we overstrain the economy. In all that we have done, since I have been in the House at any rate, we have been repeatedly told, "Oh, because of this, that and the other we have not been able to hit the target". La Pucelle in Henry VI said this:Glory is like a circle in the water,Which never ceaseth to enlarge itself,Till, by broad spreading, it disperse to nought.So is manpower. So is the Welfare State. So could be our defence effort. So all too often is the value of the £. When all those circles in the British home waters are spread too broad in the world, the economy collapses and there is nothing left to defend, least of all Governments.
§ 7.28 p.m.
§ Mr. William Baxter (West Stirlingshire)
I agree with at least one thing which the hon. Member for the Isle of Ely (Sir H. Legge-Bourke) said, namely, that it is right that minority opinion should be heard, even if the hon. Member is in a minority of one. I have listened, as many hon. Members have, to many debates in the House on more or less the same topic as that which we are discussing today. Each speech to which I have listened, by the Prime Minister, by the Minister of Defence and right down to back-bench Members, has filled me with nothing but depression.
Most right hon. and hon. Members have not fully realised or grasped the full significance of what we are trying to accomplish in the world today. In his opening remarks, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Birmingham, Hall Green (Mr. Aubrey Jones) struck the nail on the head. He said that the important thing is for the minds of men to be interested in and captured by the ideas we seek to propagate. We are not discussing a question of military might. 117 We are discussing a question of winning the minds of men and interesting them in the sort of society we seek to establish. When I was at school I was told that—Stone walls do not a prison makeNor iron bars a cage.That is as true today as it was when it was written.
No matter what arms we may possess or what conquests we may make, we do not change the minds of men. We do not inculcate new ideas by ruthlessness or military might. All the peoples are longing for the tension that has developed over the last twenty years or so to be wiped away and for peace to become a reality. Our own people are looking to this House, and to each hon. Member in it, and to this five-year plan for some ray of hope. Are they likely to get that ray of hope from this assembly? I think the answer can only be in the negative. There is likely to be a feeling of fear and despondency when this debate is read.
Various speakers have put different points of view and have dealt with various aspects of the White Paper. Some get the idea that we could fight the next war, or a conflict in, say, central Germany over Berlin, by what is generally termed a conventional war; a little war that could be held for a period until the politicians got to work and brought about a settlement before the whole holocaust of nuclear war was let loose.
The great tragedy is that those who have spoken today, and who have spoken so often before in Defence debates, do not seem to realise that when a war is unleashed, its strategy takes a very difficult and unpredictable path. Today, the Minister of Defence referred to "the wide and uncharted sea of defence". That is an important phrase and should be stamped on the minds of all hon. Members, because we must realise that whenever war breaks out it is quite impossible to predict its course.
The White Paper states:War today, wherever it might start, would be an immediate threat to the whole world".That is quite true. Nobody could forecast where it would stop. There are those who suggest that the policy of the nuclear deterrent is the best means of preventing war. If that were so, why 118 should we object to Germany having nuclear arms, or why should we complain about France having them? I notice that there is a possibility of Canada having nuclear arms. Does any hon. Member believe that for all nations to possess these weapons would make peace more secure? But if we believe that it is good for us to have nuclear arms and that it is the only way to keep the peace, surely it is good for other nations to possess them, too. The same justification would be there, but everyone knows the falseness and stupidity of such an argument. At the same time, the nations that have them do not want to give them up.
Paragraph 13 of the White Paper says quite clearly that at one time Britain and America were the only two nuclear Powers in the world. We could then have taken the initiative to do away with this great weapon of destruction, when Russia did not possess it, but we continued to experiment with it and to develop it to such an extent that the Russians were ultimately bound to try to get it—and they succeeded.
This question of defence is like many others that come before the present Government. We can take their unfortunate approach to the Common Market, or their attitude to home affairs in this jet and atomic age. Generally speaking, the Government's line of approach is procrastination. They were unable to make decisions, and that inability to take decisions is one of the country's great disasters. In fact, their approach almost borders upon criminal negligence. The hon. Member for the Isle of Ely has indicted the Government on the financial side, because he feels that if we go on with the policy in this White Paper to its full extent only ruination can face the country. There is not a single hon. Member who has spoken today who has not stated quite categorically that the Government's actions in this matter of defence are foolish to the extreme. I call them criminal—indeed, they border on lunacy.
The great tragedy of our generation lies in the great mistakes made by our Governments even immediately after the war. In 1945, the troops of Britain, of America and of Russia met in Central Germany and embraced each other. Friendship was at a peak. Peace was 119 almost secure for the whole of mankind, for the future. We were marching—not marching, but free-wheeling—to a time of peace, plenty and security for all. What has happened since? Mankind has been betrayed by the politicians—by people like us. Today we are nearer to the holocaust of war and the brink of destruction of the human race than ever before, and most of our own people and many of the people throughout the world are beginning to lose faith in the politicians and in the possibility of peace in the future.
Who must take the blame for our being in this present unfortunate pass? It is, I think, reasonable to remind the House of what one of Roosevelt's sons thought about it. He was not a Russian or a pro-Russian, but just one of Roosevelt's sons; the son of a man who tried his best to establish a reasonable state of affairs in the world. He has said:It was the U.S.A. and Britain who first shook the mailed fist, who first abrogated collective decisions.He went on to say:A small group of wilful men in London and Washington are anxious to create and foster an atmosphere of war and hatred against the Russians.If that is true, it is a tragedy. Its truth is probably debatable, but it is the honest opinion of the son of that eminent man, who has spoken out to show that there have been at least as many mistakes in the attitude of the West as in that of the East.
Who has gained by Britain's dwindling influence in the world? Has it been Russia? No—it has been America. The influence of America has grown at the expense of Britain's influence. Most of us can recollect how difficult it was after the 1914–18 war to balance our economy, and how difficult it was to get the gold out of Fort Knox to keep things moving throughout the world. I do not want to debate the position of America. It is an interesting topic, but it is worth while our looking as unbiasedly as possible at this question to try to see the trend of events over the years—a trend which will put us into a more unfortunate position if we accept their dictates and go into the Common Market.
120 Let us reflect for a moment before we go too far with the ruination of the Great Britain we have known in the past. This, at least, is accepted by a great mass of reasonably intelligent people who are anxious to see the cold war stopped. Let us compare what is in the White Paper on page 4, paragraph 7, under the heading "War in the Nuclear Age", with what is stated on page 16, under the heading "Civil Defence". We find tragic contradictions. On page 7, we read:An armed clash involving the vital interests of either side is, therefore, likely to lead to the virtual destruction of both and not merely to conquest or defeat.Under "Civil Defence" we find that while we have spent £18 million this year, it is suggested that we should spend a little over £19 million next year. Am I to understand that if a nuclear war breaks out and we have four minutes' warning that the Civil Defence, scheme will be sufficient to get the civil population out of a city like Glasgow or London?
Do we think for a moment that this will make people believe that Civil Defence is a reality and a matter of practical politics? If, on the other hand, we have time at our disposal to evacuate these great cities, where shall we put the people, how shall we house them, feed them and give them water to drink? We are told by scientists of great eminence that the fall-out from a nuclear attack will be sufficient to contaminate not only the food but all the water that we seek to drink. It is fantastic. On the one hand, it is suggested that if war comes it will be a nuclear conflict, and on the other, that we shall be able to evacuate the public from the towns and villages to save them from mass destruction. What hypocrisy and what deceitfulness. It is astonishing and amazing.
The hon. Member for the Isle of Ely talked about the N.A.T.O. Journal being anti-British. Are we prepared to subscribe to an anti-British organisation—
§ Sir H. Legge-Bourke
The hon. Gentleman must make a distinction between what I said about N.A.T.O. as an organisation and what I said about the N.A.T.O. Journal. I was attacking the N.A.T.O. Journal for being an anti-British organisation. I was certainly supporting N.A.T.O. as an organisation.
§ Mr. Baxter
If that is what the hon. Member feels, that is his point of view. My point of view is that one of the great tragedies of this age and generation has been the birth of N.A.T.O. N.A.T.O. has been a tragedy from the beginning, and will be to the very end. The natural consequence of N.A.T.O. had to be the Warsaw Pact. We could not expect anything else.
One of the great calamities of our generation was the birth of N.A.T.O., and future generations will live to regret it. Does anyone think that the bases that we have here—the Polaris base, the Thor base and the various American bases—will save one person in this country if war should come? When people are asked; "Do you believe that if war comes these bases will save one person in this country?" their answer is a definite "No." The whole of this country, we are told, will be destroyed. Those who speak of the defence of the civilian population and the defence of Britain in a nuclear war are either criminals or fools who should be in asylums. It is fantastically ridiculous that mere should be in this House a mentality that believes and puts into a White Paper the suggestion that we can have both civil defence and a nuclear war. Talk about criminal negligence—it is more than that to reason that this should be permitted. I shall not go into details, but my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) spoke of how we were squandering millions of pounds. The right hon. Member for Hall Green told us that we are a wee small nation, that we should recognise that we are not a big nation but that we can still do a great deal of good work. My hon. Friend the Member for Dudley told us about maladministration in many aspects of the Air Ministry and the War Office. We have spent over £700 million in endeavouring to provide various missiles of destruction, but before they are on the production lines they are out of date.
A few months ago I spoke about the Polaris base and said that there was a possibility of Russia trying to devise a new technique, which would destroy the Polaris base and the Polaris submarine even as it went into operation. It was quite within the bounds of possibility that the ingenuity of mankind could devise a method whereby missiles which 122 we might seek to send could be redirected back to us. That is not without possibility.
The simple fact is that we are grappling with problems to which we do not know the answer. I am amazed and astonished that hon. Members can stand up in this House and tell us, with a great deal of seeming conviction, how the next war is to be fought and what type of Army we shall require, when the scientists tell us conclusively that if there is another war the human race will be destroyed. I say to the Government that if they do not face up to their responsibilities in these matters they are doing a great injustice not only to our people but to the people of all the world. Great Britain could be a great wee Power. We should take no part in these great weapons of destruction. We should send the Polaris base, the Polaris submarine and the Thor base back from whence they came. Let Britain lead the world in the ways of peace and not in the ways of war.
The Defence White Paper is a misstatement of fact. It is a White Paper for the preparation and the destruction of the human race. Before it is too late, let us direct our attention towards matters of peace and goodwill in which the greatness of this small nation of Great Britain can play a noble and wonderful part in the future. The Government have a great opportunity not of destruction but of construction throughout the world—an opportunity to lead mankind not to the grave but to the higher pinnacle of civilisation. Let the Government give it a trial. Let them be resolute. I say to them: "Do not shillyshally and mess about, as we have seen various Governments do in the last twenty years; be resolute and strong. Believe in the Christian faith. Believe in the peace and security of mankind, and you will do a service not only to yourselves but to prosperity."
§ 7.51 p.m.
§ Mr. Brian Harrison (Maldon)
I think the whole House has been extremely impressed by the sincerity of the hon. Member for West Stirlingshire (Mr. W. Baxter). He put forward a case with considerable vehemence and one which we must respect, because obviously the views that he expressed are deeply and intensely held.
123 I wish, however, that he would accept the fact that some people who express opposite views hold them equally intensely and are not charlatans as he rather implied. I wish he would accept that some of us believe sincerely that a Polaris base in Scotland can help to deter other people from taking the risks of war. Though, as the hon. Gentleman said, it might not save a single person after a war had started, it might well contribute to a war not starting at all, and as such it is a very useful contribution to the prevention of war, which is the first objective.
§ Mr. Harrison
No, I would not say that, for this reason. I do not think that it is necessary for the Russians to have a deterrent against the West because I do not believe that the West is going to use any of its weapons in an aggressive manner. Consequently, I think that the flaunting of this series of explosions—and here again the hon. Gentleman seems to have things rather upside down—which broke a truce which had been carried on for a number of years whilst negotiations proceeded in order to get agreement on a test ban and ultimately nuclear disarmament—
§ Mr. W. Baxter
I am aware that the truce was broken by Russia, but I referred to the whole sequence of tests since the bomb was invented. We cannot look at this question against the background of just a few years. We should consider it from the time when the first bomb was invented.
§ Mr. Harrison
I take the hon. Gentleman's point, but it does not alter the contention that it was a breach of a truce which was one of the most hopeful occasions we have had of getting a nuclear agreement.
To turn to the Defence White Paper which we are debating today, I think it is useful, as when one is reviewing a novel, to read the last chapter first.
§ Mr. Harrison
In some ways I think it is quite novel. In paragraph 51 I see the words: 124A long-term plan is essential if the best use is to be made of man-power and resources.With this sentence I am in complete and absolute agreement. I only wish that I could say that I was in agreement with some other parts of the White Paper. My right hon. Friend, in introducing the White Paper, said that it contained the plans for the 1960s and, in fact, for the 1970s, and that many of these plans related to a long time ahead. That is most encouraging. I wish that I felt confident that this programming that he mentioned and the essential nature of a long-term plan which is referred to at the conclusion of this document had been carried through to a logical conclusion.
I think it was my right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Hall Green (Mr. Aubrey Jones) who pointed out the geometric progression, as it were, of the cost of developing these mobile fleet trains or mobile strike forces. He also pointed out how essential it is to decide which bases we should have and where they should be. I have studied this White Paper with a great deal of care to try to get some indication of what the policy is. It is possible that this White Paper is much cleverer than is apparent on first reading.
§ Mr. Harrison
It covers up this big change from the policy of my right hon. Friend who is now Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations to the present and more practical plan. It is the sort of White Paper that may well cover up our withdrawal from many of our bases and responsibilities, and at a date not too far ahead.
When I was reading about the bases I was reminded of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Air who spent so long and was responsible for such brilliant negotiations in Cyprus to enable us to maintain forces on that island which was a vital area for our defence. It started off as a counterpart to the Suez Canal base. I now see thatCyprus remains, primarily, an air base …That is approximately all that we have left of the base in Cyprus which once was regarded as so very essential, for which we had to fight and which then was the subject of one of these long and involved negotiations in which my right hon. Friend took part so skilfully.
125 There are other areas in which we have an interest. We have an interest in various theatres—in Europe, the Near East, the Middle East and the Far East. But the trouble at the moment is that if we are going to use our forces in connection with the responsibilities that we have in those areas, we shall need forces considerably in excess of those which are planned in this White Paper. It may be that the cleverness of the White Paper—by the scaling down and its mentioning of the various bases which will be required—is just a part of a larger cover-up. Perhaps, therefore, we are pulling in our horns and limiting ourselves to two basic responsibilities; something based probably in the Indian Ocean and something based on this country.
We must realise the implications of this. If, for example, we are to base our European contribution on this country let us not forget that the biggest and strongest European Power will be Germany. It will not be long before Germany will be of such a strength that she will be very heavily upsetting the balance within N.A.T.O. and will be having an influence far in excess of anything that was originally considered when it was decided that Germany should be admitted as an active member of N.A.T.O.
On the other side, in the Indian Ocean area, I suppose that it will be possible to maintain a base for some time in Singapore. The economics may weigh with the Government of greater Malaysia, but experience has shown that economics do not count where sovereignty is concerned with Governments of newly-emergent countries. We have seen that in many areas of the world and we are seeing it now in Kenya, in Kahawa which, when I returned from there two years ago, I regarded as most depressing because it looked obvious, at that time, that we intended to withdraw from Kenya. After all, we were spending so much money there. That has happened with so many of our bases. We have developed them, spent large sums of money on them and, no sooner have we built them up than we have left.
Thus, it seems that if there is to be self-government in Kenya we shall not be allowed to retain a base there. That leads me to Singapore and Hong Kong. 126 Hong Kong is a fine gesture and one which is probably very necessary. But it may be necessary to replace the army troops with one of the other services and to increase, if possible—and this is only possible to a certain extent—the civil or colonial police.
Then there is the other big base at Aden, which is of tremendous importance to us. I find it depressing, when we are spending so much money trying to develop our bases, that it looks as though we may be intending to pull out of this area as well.
§ Mr. Harrison
Because it has happened with other bases. We have spent a lot of money on them, such as the Suez Canal base and Cyprus, and as soon as the money has been spent we pull out. Aden, which is a most useful base now, is dependent entirely on a successful political settlement with the West Aden Protectorate. The people there are very pro-British at the present time, and we have been extremely well served by successive Governors and by the political officers who have been there. It has been entirely due to their skill that we are still in the area.
But it is dependent also on people who are just as skilful being there in the future. I hope that if there is a unification between the Colony of Aden and the West Aden Protectorate, which is a possibility, and they combine their legislatures, it is made clear that, if we are to continue to exert a useful influence in the area, we shall be up to date in our attitude.
§ Mr. Harrison
There is a certain amount of truth in that, because Britain has been extremely successful in bringing peace to a number of these areas.
§ Mr. Harrison
And it has often been to our own disadvantage. Considering the Far East and such influence as we may wish to exert in the Indian 127 Ocean, we must look towards Australia or Australasia with two objects in mind; firstly, to establishing some form of agreement with those countries and, in turn, some form of base, and, secondly, to implicate them as much as possible in the defence of those areas. In saying that, I should remind my right hon. Friend that Australia has taken a line which is completely different to anything that has happened before, for this is the first time that Australian troops have been outside Australian territory in peace time.
While Australia's proportion of her national income being spent on defence is extremely small, they have made a step forward in realising that they have some other responsibilities. This highlights something that happened the other day. I have no doubt that my right hon. Friend had the closest consultations with the Australian Government about the amalgamation in Singapore. But what went wrong? It was simply that my right hon. Friend did not appear to have had those sort of consultations. It was a great pity that the representative from his Department, General Festing, did not have a round-the-world ticket. Instead of calling in on Australia to advise about what he was doing, he came back.
This is a small but important point, because it gave the Australian Press, and some of the newspapers here, a chance to be critical and to say that Australia was not consulted. If we are to depend more and more on Australia or on Australasia in this area it is important that we get them, as it were, on our side.
I said earlier that I did not believe that the statement on defence which we are discussing was a very good one because I did not see how the objectives in it could be carried out with the forces available. For brevity, I will merely say that I wholeheartedly support what was stated by my right hon. Friend the Member for Hall Green about our nuclear deterrent and military forces. It is unnecessary and ineffective for us to have an independent nuclear deterrent today. If we are going to undertake our responsibilities and appear to be undertaking them—because most of this deterrent business is appearance—we shall have to look again very carefully at our manpower problems and, possibly, reintroduce some form of selective service.
128 I find this Statement on Defence depressing, unless it is a cover up for a big reorganisation. If it is, my right hon. Friend may have my full support—Which, I am sure, will be a surprise to him—but I shall have to wait until I hear the winding-up speeches before deciding whether I am able to support the Government on this White Paper.
§ 8.10 p.m.
§ Mr. James Boyden (Bishop Auckland)
I am sorry that the hon. Member for Maldon (Mr. B. Harrison) did not spell out the cost of the defence and foreign policy blunders of the Government in Cyprus, Kenya and other places. I propose to limit my sights to a fairly narrow range of the White Paper, partly because it is exceptionally difficult for a back bencher to deal with some of the high flights of policy, and partly because the section I wish to consider, the research and development paragraphs, indicates a striking turn of Government policy if it is linked with the Report of the Committee on the Management and Control of Research and Development.
The Committee on the Management and Control of Research and Development is an expert Committee which, like expert committees, uses moderate language but implies devastating criticism. I disagree very much with the hon. Member for the Isle of Ely (Sir H. Legge-Bourke) when he suggests that it is a virtue in the Minister of Defence that he is now including the recommendations of the Zuckerman Committee in the White Paper. What it really means is that for many years under a Tory Government faults have multiplied but Ministers have done nothing about them.
Government by committee is bad enough anyhow, and the present Government are notoriously good at postponing decisions and causing delay in social policy by proliferating committees. It is their recognised technique in education. In secondary education, for instance, they are waiting for Robbins. In defence, it seems that they are waiting for Zuckerman. In defence matters, this is all the more serious, because the vested interests and conservatism of the Chiefs of Staff go rolling on—
§ Mr. Watkinson
I take it that the hon. Gentleman realises that the man he is talking about is my Chief Scientific Adviser?
§ Mr. Boyden
Yes, and I should have thought that the Minister's Chief Scientific Adviser would have given him some tips about these matters and the way they were going as the committee was sitting, and that the right hon. Gentleman would have consulted him and his predecessor long before this. Be that as it may, the situation, on the figures alone, should have warranted a much more active consideration of these questions from the Minister's own point of view. It is noticeable that, in the very year in which Six Claude Gibb was asked to take the chair of the Committee, the costs of research and development began to rise. They have gone on rising remarkably ever since, and it is only now, at the peak of the cost, that the right hon. Gentleman reports to the House that he is accepting seventeen of the Committee's suggestions.
I know very well that it is said in the Report that some of the things suggested were current practice in the Department while the Report was being prepared, but the fact remains that, in answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg), the Minister published in HANSARD of 1st March this year, at columns 181–82, a table showing that, whereas the pay of Service and Reserve personnel in each year from 1958 until the Estimates for 1962–63 remained substantially the same, at about £350 million—we have just had the announcement that this is to go up by another £14 million—in the same five years production and research expenditure was as follows: in 1958, £526 million, and in 1959, £557 million. The provisional expenditure for 1960–61 was £624 million, and the estimated expenditure for 1961–62 was £682 million. The estimate for 1962–63 is £705 million.
If these mounting figures have not been enough to alert the right hon. Gentleman and his advisers to this problem a long time ago, they ought to have been because, in addition, there have been the debates in the House and the facts which have emerged from the Reports of the Public Accounts Committee. In the debate which took place in the Chamber only last year, all manner of criticisms were made, as they have been made today by my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley, about what this; expenditure has been for. It 130 appears that not only the actual articles delivered from the research projects have been faulty, but the methods themselves have been faulty, too.
It would have been very much better if the right hon. Gentleman had asked Sir Claude Gibb—to whom we on Tyne-side pay great tribute for his drive and knowledge of industry—to consult individual specialists and report direct to him or, after Sir Claude Gibb's death, ask Sir Solly Zuckerman to do this. Government by committee brings forth the lowest common multiple of opinion. The average expert is a very modest man. When he sits round a table, he is inclined to agree with his colleagues about a little more or a little less, so that the collective opinion is nothing like as valid as the direct opinion of one man with responsibility on his shoulders who has consulted other experts and who passes the responsibility to the man on whom it should lie, namely, the Minister of Defence. Government by committee is bad enough in the social sciences, but it is shocking in executive action on defence. The mounting figures for research and development and the resultant deliveries are a great condemnation of the Government's methods in this respect.
Before taking up several of the criticisms which the Zuckerman Committee has made and relating them to some of the criticisms brought out by the Estimates Committee or the Public Accounts Committee, I wish to refer to what seems to me to be one of the major difficulties which the party opposite has in coming to radical conclusions about these matters. Hon. and right hon. Members opposite are very hesitant to come to the sort of conclusion which, say, the Plowden Committee reached, although they come to it finally under the pressure of economic stringency. Where the Services are concerned, they are very tender indeed about the vested interests of the Services.
I have in mind a matter about which I have had no satisfaction from the Secretary of State for Air, namely, the Royal Air Force Ceremonial Unit, now the Queen's Colour Squadron, to give it the more respectable title it has had since I began to ask questions about it. This unit with its 135 men and its 131 annual cost of £70,000, has a higher priority in our present state of affairs than schools in Sheldon in my constituency or, if it comes to that, the remodelling of schools in Middlesbrough. This should not be so. If we wish to impress dignitaries who come to this country, it is better to impress them with our industry, our education service and valuable things of that kind than by a lot of flag waving. I know that the Squadron's functions are a little wider than that, but those are the priorities, and any suggestions of mine about economies are of no avail because the basic fact is that right hon. and hon. Members opposite regard such things as of greater importance than schools for the ordinary working-class child.
The criticisms of method contained in the Zuckerman Report run right through the Services. In paragraph 193, for example, there is a criticism of the short tour of general duties officers at headquarters. The Estimates Committee commented on this at Admiralty headquarters some time ago. Only now a statement appears that something has been done. It must have been obvious to anyone that this was a common weakness in the Service contribution to the planning of research, of expenditure and allied matters. The Report says that it is obvious that general duties officers are not on the whole suitable without special training or special experience—there are certain exceptions; I know some myself—for this kind of complicated economic planning. It is only now, when this suggestion is put forward, that the right hon. Gentleman accepts it.
The Plowden Committee recommends—this must have been on the stocks for some years—that it is highly desirable that the people in the spending Departments who spend money should be associated with the controlling of the money rather than rely on checks from the Treasury. Indeed, I myself have several times heard evidence given to the Estimates Committee saying that the proper method of financial control is to get officers in spending Departments associated with the processes.
Two years ago, an Estimates Committee report suggested that this should apply to military, scientific and engineering 132 experts in relation to their expenditure. I remember that it was stated that the Director of Naval Construction at the Admiralty had never himself been to any discussions with the Treasury about Admiralty shipbuilding. Some of his junior staff had been and he himself said in evidence that this had proved very beneficial to them. But he himself had never been. This, I understand, is to be changed.
The Director is in the same position as the Admiralty letters patent, which permit the Admiralty not to be submitted to Treasury control in many matters relating to shipbuilding. The letters patent date from the reign of James II. A lot of things have happened to the Constitution since then. Is the proposed streamlining to affect the letters patent in relation to Treasury control? I would like to read the section of the Estimates Committee's Report which dealt with this matter:The attention of the Sub-Committee was drawn to the existence of Letters Patent issued to the Board of Admiralty, the terms of which have remained the same since the reign of James II, which restrict the requirement of Treasury consent to 'all cases where such consent has heretofore been required'. A Treasury witness informed them that 'this leaves a very wide field of expenditure completely free from Treasury control' and that while 'it is very difficult for the Treasury to attack', the question of this apparent privilege 'is being actively pursued at the moment'.The Estimates Committee somewhat mildly hoped that the letters patent would not be used to obstruct the Treasury in its efforts to have control over the reserve fleet. That was written in 1957. I am sure that there are other dark recesses in the Admiralty like that. When I was at the Admiralty it was said that if Nelson could come back to the Stores Department at Portsmouth he would find his bag just where he had left it. There may be some libel in that statement, but there is an element of truth in it.
In the streamlining of research and development, it would be a good thing if the Defence Minister and the three Service Ministers were to probe into some of these dark recesses. Indeed, in another report of the Estimates Committee there is a recommendation that the Admiralty headquarters is too complicated. The Admiralty very dutifully has said that it would look into the 133 matter and do something to uncomplicate it. The organisation of the Admiralty has been too complicated for a very long time. In these days of difficulties and restrictions, and in view of the proposed streamlining, it behoves all the Defence Departments to probe into their dark corners.
A parallel criticism concerns lack of co-operation between technical departments. The Zuckerman Committee said it had been informed that lack of coordination had lead to delays and difficulties, and it also drew attention to the inadequate co-operation between the Services, adding that it did not consider that the Minister of Defence had been using the powers he possessed to co-ordinate adequately.
My hon. Friend the Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) made reference to the cloud before us getting a little bigger with regard to uniformity in the Armed Forces and the sharing of common services. But we do not seem to have got much further. The Zuckerman Committee refers to the duty of the Minister to co-ordinate. It says:The Minister of Defence is 'in charge of the formulation and general application of a unified policy relating to the Armed Forces of the Crown as a whole and their requirements'. In the discharge of that reponsibility the Minister of Defence has authority to decide (subject to the responsibilities of the Cabinet and its Defence Committee) all major matters of defence policy affecting, among other things, defence research and development. He also has the duty to take, after consultation with the Service Ministers concerned 'all practical steps to secure the most efficient and economical performance of functions common to two or more of the Services.'This has been part of his duties for a long time, but the Committee again comments on the lack of co-ordination between Departmental technical heads and between the Services. It also says that there is a lack of a sense of economy. The Report says baldly—In meeting the ever-changing operational needs, the best is too often the enemy of the good.That comes out many times in the Report. I have not the time to go into details, but it suggests that there is far too finicky a discussion of operational need and fax too little responsibility taken by the Minister of Defence to see that these things are dealt with.
The Zuckerman Report is not something which the Minister can be pleased 134 about. It reveals, instead, a scandalous situation. Scientists are not apt to express themselves in the language used by hon. Members, and when they express criticisms in such language as this, then those criticisms are scathing. The right hon. Gentleman may say that some of these faults go back fifteen years to the Labour Government. Even so, however, in apportioning responsibility we can give one-third to the Labour Government and two-thirds to the present Government. But the fact remains that these criticisms are there.
Two particular criticisms are made not by an expert committee but by the Estimates Committee. The right hon. Gentleman will remember the row in the House when the Army Reserve Bill turned up without an adequate Financial and Explanatory Memorandum. The matter was taken up by the Estimates Committee and it made a fairly strong recommendation about the failure of the Treasury and the War Office adequately to consider the Bill's financial implications.
It may have been a mistake. It may have been that the Treasury on that occasion slipped up. But it is remarkable that, despite this experience, the latest report of the Estimates Committee, dealing with the Spring Supplementary Estimates, still contains severe criticisms of the War Office estimates in relation to barracks and other things, and to its failure adequately to fulfil its building programme. There are a series of criticisms of the methods used by the War Office in relation to estimating.
Finally, there is similar criticism of the Ministry of Aviation in relation to the estimating for and delivery of new air frames. In 1959–60 its Estimates were overspent by 11 per cent., totalling £4.6 million. In 1960–61 the overspending was 19 per cent., at £7.5 million. In 1961–62 the Ministry at least had the merit of maintaining the same percentage. It overspent by 19 per cent. again, a total this time of £8.3 million. The Estimates Committee says that the whole system of procurement should be reviewed immediately.
None of these things proposed in isolation may be so very serious—although it is very serious when a Ministry cannot estimate accurately and when a Minister 135 of Defence just slaps a £28 million Supplementary Estimate on the table in passing—but they reveal an indifference to accounting and financing which the Zuckerman Committee is driving home, and which As too common in the Service Departments. If there is justification for an energetic Minister of Defence, it is to be found in this aspect alone, as is shown by the Estimates Committee on the one hand and the Zuckerman Committee of experts on the other.
I conclude with another quotation from the Zuckerman Committee:… a common fault in the past has been to allow projects to drift from one stage to another without strict control at critical points.Although I had not intended to widen my argument to include this, I would say that the whole policy of the Ministry of Defence has been to drift in strategy, tactics and methods.
§ 8.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Neil Marten (Banbury)
Like my hon. Friend the Member for Maldon (Mr. B. Harrison), I should like to start at the back of the White Paper by referring to civil defence, a subject which so far has been mentioned only once, by the hon. Member for West Stirlingshire (Mr. W. Baxter). Paragraph 49 of the White Paper tells us that recruiting is rising. It rose last year by 15,000. We must, however, look into the deep shelter where the figures are kept to see whether they are realistic.
The numbers involved do not include enough of the people who will be really on the job at the vital time. I refer to the wardens. To take an example from the county the northern part of which I represent, Oxfordshire has a war establishment of 3,743 civil defence personnel and it has recruited 1,538. It might be said that to have reached this figure at this stage is not bad. When, however, we examine the position concerning wardens, which I believe to be an important aspect of civil defence, we find that although their war establishment is 1,021, only 191 have been recruited, of whom 81 are non-active. The wardens, therefore, have fulfilled their war establishment by only 11 per cent. This is a serious situation.
In the nuclear age, one must surely believe in survival, and survival is essential if we are to hit back. The Campaign 136 for Nuclear Disarmament is doing its very best to discourage recruiting for civil defence, but I believe that an efficent civil defence is essential for our deterrent. The ability to survive hangs, in a way, on civil defence as does our ability to strike back. This is all part of our whole deterrent. As we know, it strengthens the hand of the Foreign Secretary when he goes into negotiations when those with whom he negotiates realise that we can survive a nuclear attack.
It is often said that civil defence would be useful in a national emergency or calamity, such as, for example, a nuclear power station blowing up. I, therefore, ask the Government to treat this matter with a greater sense of urgency and to build up our civil defence forces. I make the suggestion that the Government might consider some form of compulsory training system for school leavers, making them serve a certain number of hours—not many—a year and being paid for doing so. They might also encourage the schools to give more instruction, or to give instruction where none is given, in civil defence.
There is scope for modernising our recruiting methods. I do not mean that the Government should engage firms who specialise in glossy public relations documents. I have, however, received from my local borough council the latest recruiting pamphlet, which brings back memories of the last war. The people whose photographs appear in it are getting on past middle age and are wearing the same shape of steel helmet as we wore during the last war. I believe that it could be modernised more in the style of the space helmet. In the pictures in the pamphlet, people can be seen dancing—the waltz. My suggestion is that they should be dancing the twist.
I turn now to the question of overseas bases. As has been said frequently in this debate, the White Paper indicates that there is to be a reshuffle of the strength at our various bases in the light of the changing strategy which inevitably takes place in defence. This country, with its great traditions, should not in any way regard this as a policy of scuttle, because that is not what it is. What it means is that in the light of modern developments we can afford to reshuffle the pack and to have fewer 137 people at a certain place; but that does not mean that we are any the less effective there.
It is essential to realise that if a base is to be effective, we must not rely upon the good will of the local Government. Therefore, I am inclined to query the confidence shown by the Government in the White Paper concerning the base at Singapore, which inevitably, whatever happens, whether or not the creation of Malaysia comes about, will come under some form of local political pressure. Like my hon. Friend the Member for Maldon, I believe that we should look towards Australasia for a new full-scale base, which would, however, require some sort of advance landing field, of the Gan type, in a position forward from the Australian coast. I say this not because of any disrespect for the politicians in the area, whether in Singapore or in Malaysia, but because, having been there, I always have a great fear of the pressures which China might exert on the area, either directly as a major Power or through the overseas Chinese who are in those countries.
When a country achieves independence, the first thing that it wants to do is to assert its independence. It does not want to be subservient to either the Eastern or the Western bloc. We must realise, too, that a newly-independent country does not want to become involved in a major wax of one of the major Power blocs. If, however, we as the former colonial Power retain our bases in newly independent countries in which we have been the colonial Power, we will give the impression of retaining our colonial status in a different disguise. It would be awkward for a newly-independent country as, inevitably, it tried to join up with other blocs—an East African bloc, for example, or something similiar—to have a base of the former colonial Power in its newly-independent territory.
If we were to withdraw on our own initiative without being forced out, I believe that we should maintain the good will of the countries concerned. The pendulum would swing against us to begin with, but ultimately, if we maintained the good will, it would swing back towards us. We can, of course, negotiate for transit facilities and staging posts there and perhaps even a base once 138 we have granted them their independence and once they have asserted it and the pendulum has swung back.
I believe that this not only applies to Singapore and to Kenya but that it might well apply to Aden under the pressure of Arab nationalism. We have to realise that and we have to cast our minds about all the time for alternatives On this point there is nothing to be gained by leaving these bases prematurely. Using the example of British Guiana, it has to be remembered that Dr. Jagan in December told the United Nations that only Britain's armed might prevented him from proclaiming freedom, but after our withdrawal he had to call back British troops to restore that very order and freedom. I am not criticising Dr. Jagan. I am saying this in the hope that, by saying it here, it may be heard by countries who are at the moment saying much the same sort of thing about us—that "it is Britain's armed might that is preventing their gaining their independence."
Finally, and at rather greater length, I should like to deal with the Opposition's charge that our policy is weakening N.A.T.O. As I understand it, the charge is that if we station some of our N.A.T.O.-committed troops in the United Kingdom to save foreign currency we damage N.A.T.O. What could be worse for N.A.T.O. than an economically weak Britain? This would lead, as we have seen in the past, to chopping and changing our forces and our disposition and, worst of all, our policy.
We have, therefore, two options in this matter. One is to bring back some troops to the United Kingdom and have, as a result, a stronger balance of payments position. The other is to put all the troops that perhaps we should put into N.A.T.O. and risk having a weaker balance of payments position. I believe that the stationing of these troops in the United Kingdom is not contrary to the whole conception of N.A.T.O. After all, they would be only half an hour's flying distance away from Europe.
§ Mr. Paget
Surely this balance of payments problem applies to all troops abroad, whether in Germany or not. Since they have to be fed and housed and served anyway and they make the same call upon the Services, the defence 139 of the West ought not to depend on which column we put the expenses into.
§ Mr. Marten
I was about to come to the first part of the hon. and learned Member's question, but I do not agree with his point about expenditure in Germany. I was saying that the stationing of troops in the United Kingdom was not absolutely fatal because they were only half an hour's flying distance away. I believe that is a perfectly fair point.
I say with respect to hon. Members opposite that they must try to get away from the philosophy or perhaps the memories of the troop train, the baggage master, the Harwich to Hook train and N.A.A.F.I. tea every ten miles. Now we have our jet aircraft, let us use them and have our troops back here where assuredly it would be better for our balance of payments. I admit the point that any troops overseas affect the balance of payments, but the major part of our troops are involved in N.A.T.O. and stationing some of them here would be a great saving to the balance of payments, particularly in D-marks.
Any defence policy involves a risk, but I believe that having the troops in the United Kingdom is an acceptable risk because the economic strength of the country is vital to world peace. After all, this is not a debate about N.A.T.O. and its limited area. It is a debate about world peace.
§ Mr. Marten
The Defence White Paper is about keeping world peace, in my view, though the right hon. Member may not agree.
We can have a strong foreign policy only if we have a strong economy. Aid to newly-developed countries can be given only if we have a strong economy, and our aid to those countries is just as much a contribution to N.A.T.O. as having more forces stationed in Germany would be. I would say, therefore, that if the stationing of some of our troops in Britain equals a strong economy then I am for taking that slight risk.
I felt that in making their case the Opposition did not attach sufficient importance to our world-wide commitments. We have these commitments, and 140 the N.A.T.O. area is not our only vital area. We have Commonwealth defence obligations. We have our obligations in the Far East, and above all, a great strategic area in the Middle East. I want to dwell on this area for a few moments, because it is here that we have our oil, and our Commonwealth communications run through the area. None of the other N.A.T.O. countries in Europe have these commitments. We have them, and we must honour them, and in honouring them I believe that we will make a great contribution to world peace, and therefore a great contribution to N.A.T.O.
Some people advocate handing over the independent British nuclear deterrent to N.A.T.O. I should like to consider our position in the Middle East if we did so. I am thinking particularly of those who think far too much of Europe and of N.A.T.O. Our interests in the Middle East are in oil and communications. Our policy is clearly to maintain stability there, and with it, of course, to raise the standard of living there. The policy of our enemies must be to deny us that oil in the Middle East, and to drive through it to cut our communications with the Commonwealth, and ultimately to drive on to Africa to deny us the raw materials from that country.
What stops an aggressor from going through this vital British area? I stress those words "vital British area". It is not, surely, our small conventional forces which deter a potential enemy? Even if we doubled our trebled our forces there they would not deter an enemy from driving through. It is the fear that any involvement with British conventional forces in our vital area might develop into a nuclear war, and it is the knowledge that an attack could bring an instant nuclear retaliation from Britain that keeps the peace. If an enemy once doubted that we would counter-attack immediately, I believe that he might risk a conventional attack on us.
§ Mr. P. Noel-Baker
Will the hon. Gentleman be more explicit and say how the counter-attack would come? Would it be directed at places and territories in the Middle East, or behind an enemy's frontier?
§ Mr. Marten
That, I think, is a matter for the aggressor to judge. I do not 141 know how it would come. I could hazard a guess, and so could the right hon. Gentleman, but I do not know how it would come. I assume, however, that it would come, and come very quickly and very hard. I believe that the fact that we are able to say this stops an aggressor coming down on us.
§ Mr. Rankin
If the hon. Gentleman is not sure how the attack would come from this potential enemy, how does he propose to prepare his defences?
§ Mr. Marten
I am saying that I am not sure. It is for the Government and the Services to prepare their defences. I was asked how I saw the attack coming. I leave that to those in control at the time.
§ Mr. Rankin
Is the hon. Gentleman convinced that the Minister of Defence knows of any source of attack?
§ Mr. Marten
I was saying that I would not leave an enemy in any doubt that we would counter-attack instantly. But this doubt would surely arise if we handed over our deterrent to N.A.T.O. What guarantee have we that N.A.T.O. would back us if the attack was in an area vital only to Britain? If the nuclear deterrent were handed over to N.A.T.O., the decision to use it would have to come from a number of countries, many of which have no experience in the Middle East; many of which have little interest in the Middle East; and some of which might indeed wish to see a local defeat inflicted on our British interests there.
Therefore, in certain circumstances the aggressor would be in considerable doubt whether we would be backed up by N.A.T.O. He might be tempted to bully us, calculating that the risk was worth while, and that we might not be sure of having the backing of N.A.T.O. to the extent of using the deterrent. In that case we would surely have to yield, simply because we had surrendered out independent deterrent to N.A.T.O.
§ Mr. Marten
Yes—it is what we are engaged in. If that happened, with it 142 would go vital British communications and oil supplies. But as long as we have our independent deterrent that is unlikely to happen.
Professor Blackett wrote a letter to The Times on 26th January advocating sharing our deterrent with the United States of America, on the "double safety catch" basis, as he called it. An exactly similar situation might arise there as in the case of N.A.T.O. According to Professor Blackett we should share our nuclear deterrent with America, but if something happened to make us want to use it and the Americans did not agree that it should be used, we should be in the same position as with N.A.T.O. There would not, in fact, be an independent British deterrent.
Our relations with America are good, and I hope that they will remain good, but there is no guarantee that they will. The Americans would like us to give up our deterrent to N.A.T.O. and come under the American shield. America might think it much better if we were no longer a great nuclear Power. It would be neater and tidier for N.A.T.O., too, if we were no longer an independent nuclear Power, but came within the N.A.T.O. command. But this would be a policy of complete surrender. Britain is still the second greatest military Power in the Western world. I know that defence changes from year to year, and it may be inevitable that some such arrangement will have to be made ultimately, but that time is not yet here for a considerable time.
Many of the suggestions that we should give up or share our independent nuclear deterrent are put forward in the hope that others will give up the idea of possessing their own deterrents. There is little hope of this happening, in the long run. I believe that in future those countries which can afford to have an independent nuclear deterrent may well have it. For example, if we hand over our independent deterrent to N.A.T.O., is it to be thought that China will give up all attempts to possess her own deterrent? Again, if we share control of our deterrent with America, does anybody think that China will share hers with Russia, on a "double safety catch" basis? I do not think for one moment that that will happen, and I believe that people who think on those lines are out of touch with reality.
143 Let us suppose that we follow the advice of the Opposition and share our deterrent with N.A.T.O. and, as a result, are able to increase our conventional forces in the Middle East. If a limited war broke out there, and, with our trebled conventional forces, we were able to push the Russians back to their border, is it to be thought that they would accept defeat from our conventional forces? Of course not. Since we had no independent nuclear deterrent they would threaten us with the use of theirs and they would win the war either by using it or threatening to do so. We should be forced to surrender.
If our major strategic interest was limited to Britain's helping to back just the limited N.A.T.O. area there might be some point in straining to keep all our forces in Europe, but the major interest of Britain goes wider than N.A.T.O. It is to keep world peace, by all means. We are a world Power. The Government are correct in their policy of keeping an independent nuclear deterrent, because to give it up would be to encourage potential aggressors. In my opinion, it would not serve the cause of world peace at all. It would lose for us our influence in the world and it would place us in dependency on the United States.
Lastly, it would put us, I believe, in the very position in which Russia wants us to be. If, for example, we followed the advice of the campaigners for nuclear disarmament—there are many hon. Members opposite who seem to be supporting them—and the advice contained in Motions put down on the Order Paper in this House by hon. Members opposite, we should be doing exactly what the Russians want and that I, for one, would deplore. Therefore, I congratulate the Government on their White Paper and their determination to stick with an independent nuclear deterrent.
§ 8.56 p.m.
§ Mr. R. T. Paget (Northampton)
I do not know whether the hon. Member for Banbury (Mr. Marten) really believes that, with or without our independent nuclear deterrent, we are capable of fighting Russia in the Middle East, or anywhere else, without American assistance. If he does, I hope it is not the 144 opinion of the Government, because it would be very worrying if it were. To come to a more serious point which was made by the hon. Gentleman; whether, if the nuclear power were confined to two Powers, it could remain so confined. I do not propose to go into that at length, but I believe that the Russians and Americans could still come together and say, "In the leadership of the world we are going to confine the nuclear power to ourselves" and I think that the whole future of the world may depend upon their doing it. However, that is a different question, and I do not propose to go further into it.
The Minister of Defence seemed to make two claims with pride about the achievements of the Government. The first related to recruiting. I found it a little unfortunate that the right hon. Gentleman should proclaim this achievement at the same time as he announced his intention to default on the terms on which he obtained those recruits. Every one of the men who within the last four years engaged or re-engaged did so upon the basis of a promise of biennial pay reviews on a stated basis. They are entitled to an increase of between 7 per cent. and 8 per cent. The right hon. Gentleman says that the Services would not wish to be exempt from any cuts. I invite him to ask them.
I invite him to ask the men whom he defrauded whether they are prepared to sacrifice half of a year's rise, which is what he is asking them to do. If they agree, well and good. If not, let the right hon. Gentleman pay to them what is due to them upon their contract and upon the basis on which they were engaged. If he is not going to do this, since the terms on which their recruitment or re-engagement are being unilaterally repudiated, may we take it that any volunteer unwilling to accept these new terms will be offered a free discharge? He is plainly entitled to it. I hope that we may have an answer from the Government on this matter. If we obtain recruits upon the basis of a solid offer and then repudiate it unilaterally, in honour we are morally obliged to extend to those who accept the offer the right to withdraw from it.
The second point upon which the right hon. Gentleman prided himself seemed oddly selected. It was our achievement 145 in weapons and equipment. We remember the cancelled Blue Streak. My hon. Friend the Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) dealt faithfully with our aeroplane programme. I do not know if the right hon. Gentleman read yesterday's Sunday Times, a newspaper which does not usually support us. It said:After 15 years of research and development and the expenditure of the prodigious sum of of more than £700 million. Britain has four missiles of her own …She hadto adopt six American weapons, two French and one Australian … Generally, the history is one of continuous muddle, waste, crass thinking and internal and industrial jealousies.The four missiles in service include Sea-slug, which is our senior missile for which much has been claimed. Together with the destroyers which are to carry it, it has cost us round about £140 million, which is the cost of nearly three Polaris submarines. It is a perfectly splendid weapon, if only someone had not invented a stand-off bomb; but, as unfortunately its range is considerably less than that of a stand-off bomb, it is not likely to be very useful.
As one goes on this seems to be equally the record of our other weapons. For instance,' apart from developing weapons against high-flying bombers with a direct-drop bomb, which we are unlikely to see very much of in future, we have just cancelled development of the PR 428, which is designed to deal with the low-flying bomber and the Pandora, the contour-hugging air-launched missile planned for TSR 2, the R.A.F. low-level attack plane. These are abandoned. Then Blue Water, probably the best surface-to-surface weapon, as the American sales power behind Sergeant has become available, has been pushed out and we are probably having to stop that too. The general record is summed up, again in the Sunday Times of yesterday. After dealing with this, it says:The list could be extended. No one in the industry any longer has faith in Government policy. No one in the Services has enough faith in the results of the Government policy. No lay observer has any faith at all".That is the Government's weapon policy which they have chosen to select as one of the two features within their defence policy on which they could take pride. It has been the story of staggering waste.
146 The last time I spoke in a general defence debate—it has not been for lack of trying and I have spoken in many Estimates debates—was many years ago when I was on the other side of the House. It was in the pre-Korean debate. On that occasion, after reviewing my Government's performance I used these words:Never in the whole history of armaments has so much money purchased so little defence.That was a phrase which obtained a certain infamous notoriety by being included in the Conservative Party's convenient quotes.
Nonetheless, it is interesting to compare the Estimates about which I was then speaking with the Estimates which we are considering now. In 1950 the total cost was £780 million, rather less than half the total of the Estimates now being passed. The Navy had six major units, 16 cruisers and 94 destroyers and frigates. Today there are three major units, four cruisers and two commando carriers and 54 destroyers and frigates—about half.
§ Mr. Paget
The Air Force had nearly four times the present number of frontline planes. No doubt we shall be told that they are all modern and that it is much more expensive today. I agree. The Navy at Jutland was much more expensive than the Navy at Trafalgar. But it was not relatively more powerful nor was it relatively more expensive in terms of the national income. In effect, for twice the money we have half the available power. That is the record of eleven years of Tory Government.
It is not as though this were a universal feature and we were considering an un-co-ordinated general disarmament. This is an achievement by the Government in unilateral disarmament, because during the period in which our strength has effectively diminished by half, everybody else has been increasing in strength. Let us look at our allies. Starting from nothing, Germany has 147 created a force greatly superior to our own. France is considerably more powerful than she was in 1950. At least in terms of men-at-arms, Italy is way in front of us, again starting from nothing. In Europe, we are scarcely up to the Benelux standard. Of all our allies, the Government can perhaps look for comfort to Portugal. Perhaps Portugal has done no better than we have done.
But let us look where it is perhaps more relevant—at our enemies. While our power under a Tory Government has been halved, armies have been created in Poland, Czechoslovakia, Rumania and East Germany. The first three—in fact, all of them—are considerably greater than that which we are contributing to Europe. If we can still beat the Rumanians, that is only because they are Rumanians.
It is a terrible story. During these years no other nation has had such a terrible decline. I repeat,Never in the whole history of armaments has so much money purchased so little defence.But I doubt whether this time the phrase will be included in the Conservative Party notes. What is the cause of this sorry story? I put as the first of the causes over-reliance on nuclear weapons. The right hon. Gentleman referred to the effectiveness of the deterrent as proved in the Middle and Far East. I do not know what on earth he is refering to. Does he really think that the nuclear deterrent deterred people in Kuwait? Does anybody in the Middle East think for one moment that we are going to use our nuclear weapons there? I do not, and I hope that the Government do not.
I hear the Minister of Defence murmuring, "Europe". Does he really think that Europe is deterred by our independent nuclear power? I have never heard such nonsense. We have imagined that hydrogen and atomic bombs were a substitute for conventional power on the spot. They have not been, and they are not.
My objection to our independent nuclear deterrent is not moral. It is not even that nuclear weapons are uniquely destructive. I do not believe that. Nuclear weapons may make destruction faster, but I do not believe that today 148 we have any greater capacity for destroying cities, men and civilisations than that possessed by Palmaniser or Genghis Khan.
If I do not sometimes share a total enthusiasm for disarmament as a cure-all, it is because I believe that of the engines of war infinitely the most terrible is the mind of man. However crude his weapons, the only real limit to man's capacity to slay, maim and destroy is the limit he sets by his own mind. We may indeed be fortunate in this generation that God has placed before us a mushroom-shaped cloud as a warning of man's capacity for destruction and evil. If this deterrent had not been there, in the last fifteen years I can think of at least six incidents which in other circumstances would have led to war.
Therefore, when I consider our nuclear weapon it is with a mind which is not clouded by emotional considerations. I look at this question absolutely straight. What contribution does our independent deterrent make to our power, to our influence and to our safety? I think it is little and diminishing. I agree with the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Hall Green (Mr. Aubrey Jones) that it is a decaying asset. The right hon. Gentleman says this in paragraph 13 of the White Paper:… our contribution to the Western strategic deterrent remains significant. It is by itself enough to make a potential aggressor fear that our retaliation would inflict destruction beyond any level which he would be prepared to tolerate.Our independent atomic capacity, our proportion of the Western capacity, I have heard put at 2½ or 3 per cent. I will double it and call it 5 per cent. Nobody will suggest that it is more than that.
§ Mr. Watkinson
I am listening to the hon. and learned Gentleman with great attention and I do not wish to interrupt him, but he is not accepting the fact, which is very well known—and I am not giving away anything here—that Bomber Command, as an integral part 149 of the striking force of the Strategic Air Command, is of very much greater importance than anything the hon. and learned Gentleman has indicated to the House.
§ Mr. Paget
I shall suggest that it is very much less, but, for the moment, I am dealing with totals. The totals are certainly less than 5 per cent., but let us assume that they are 10 per cent. If 10 per cent. is enough, is not 90 per cent. enough? When one sees the manifest weaknesses of the West, is it really the best use of our potentiality to add to that part on which we are so over-insured?
That seems to be the first argument, but when one talks even of a 5 per cent. share, that is a share of a first-strike potential. When we come to the second-strike potential—that is, the hit back—I believe that our share is very much less than that, and rapidly disappearing—
§ Mr. Paget
No, I am sorry. I have not the time.
At this point, Thors are out; they would certainly be struck out by the first Russian strike, if the Russians have the initiative. Our bomber airfields are out; they, again, are perfectly well known, perfectly well pinpointed, and available to the first strike. We are left with that proportion of our force that is airborne, either because it is kept continuously in the air or because is has got off the ground—
§ Mr. Kershaw rose—
§ Mr. Paget
No, I am sorry.
Even dealing with that, how long will that section last if we have satellite surveillance coming? We shall have satellite direction coming—and probably coming before Skybolt emerges. Once that has happened, when the aggressor can choose his own time, he can see our aeroplanes in the air from his satellites, and he has the means of directing his missiles to them. I believe that air dispersal as a means of security and of saving one's second strike has a very short life before it.
If we are going in for an independent deterrent at all, surely it should be 150 Polaris, but it seems to me that the circumstances in which we would require an atomic deterrent independently of the Americans are so remote, and our other needs so present and so patently obvious that, as I am at present informed, even Polaris—which seems to me to be the only rational deterrent from our point of view—would not rate an adequate priority within our defence scheme.
If we abandon the deterrent, however, what of the Royal Air Force? I shall return to this in a moment, but here, again, I do not think that we can get a rational defence policy planned as a whole while we have three independent Services, each with a vested interest in particular aspects of our plan.
The second major cause of our defence disaster seems to me to be the delusion that we are still a world Power. We have spread round the world in garrisons some 40,000 troops. Those 40,000 troops are missing from our Treaty commitments to Germany—in Europe, where we live, and where we ought to be. They are troops abroad, in any case, so do not let us talk about balance of payments problems. That is accountancy, and should be adjusted. The safety of the West and of the world cannot be committed to the question of where, in which book or column, an entry is made. If we devote the troops, if we devote the proportion of our national income and effort, the particular currency in which it is paid can be adjusted, and I am sure that it will be adjusted.
I believe that these garrisons spread about the world are really protecting interests that we no longer possess with the shadow of a military presence which we can no longer really provide. I am convinced that we have to reconsider our bases policy and concentrate in Europe, where we live, as quickly as we decently can. I emphasise the word "decently" because, of course, we cannot simply scuttle. That word is less popular with hon. Members opposite than it used to be.
§ Mr. Paget
Yes, welch. I do not mind how hon. Members describe their efforts. We should recognise that our object is to get back here where our force and power are of real importance and where 151 we ought to be. Obviously, this is a difficult operation. Retreat always is and that is what we are faced with. The fatal error is to compromise our vital positions in Europe by hanging on to our outposts too long. I believe that at the moment and as a first stage the general responsibility for these outposts should be transferred from the Army which is immediately required in Europe to the Navy and the Royal Air Force. At Hong Kong we shall require forces for internal security. These, I believe, could be provided just as well by blue jackets as by brown jobs. If we had some of our cruisers and destroyers in the harbour of Hong Kong, I believe that they would probably be as useful there as anywhere else and contain the men who could come to the assistance of the civil power and learn the job very well. I served with them, and British sailors in support of the civil power are highly effective. So far as we are concerned, I believe that N.A.T.O. is our priority and that is an obligation which we ought to fulfil.
The last cause of our troubles is, I believe, inter-Service competition, which precludes a rational use of our resources. The Royal Air Force has a vested interest in the deterrent. The Navy has a vested interest in the world seaways and in bases. I believe that one has to bring them effectively under control. The Ministry of Defence, from all that we have heard today, is grossly inadequate. It cannot settle policy. At most it can arbitrate between contending Service interests. The Minister of Defence should become Secretary of State for Defence and assume full responsibility to Parliament for defence and supply. The Chief of Staff of the Forces should be head of a staff which comprises, subordinate to him, the Chiefs of Staff of the independent forces. A Defence Council should replace the separate Service Councils, and I think probably, too, that above general and flag rank officers should come on to a common list as suggested by General Jacobs.
As to finance, we had a most valuable speech from my hon. Friend the Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Boyden). Expenditure is controlled by an Act of 1866. The draft estimates are in theory the financial proposals of the Services. In fact, they are a bid for as large a share 152 as possible of the lump sum that will later be arbitrarily settled by the Cabinet. The final estimate represents a statement by the Services of the manner in which they propose to spend that part of the lump sum allocated to them in theory by the Minister of Defence but in practice by agreement among themselves. The principal objections to this method are, first, that there is a lack of any rational distinction between capital and current expenditure. Only in married quarters is loan finance available. Planning on a rational basis is difficult and there is no means of spreading capital cost over the life of the article. Defence should have a capital expenditure programme. It imposes a delay in proposals for new expenditure, and it takes at least two years for anything to get into the Estimates, with the result that most of the things which we order are obsolete before they arrive. Also it encourages a backlog and a hand-to-mouth attitude in the Services.
I believe that the Chief of Staff of the Forces should be responsible to the Secretary of State and that the Chiefs of Staff should be responsible to him. We should have a Defence Council. One accounting officer should be responsible for defence expenditure. Defence expenditure is, in fact, settled arbitrarily by the Cabinet on the basis of a lump sum and, therefore, the case for Treasury control is really non-existent. There should be a grant-in-aid and the Minister of Defence should have the right to allocate that expenditure amongst the Services. We require an expert committee which should be drawn from the Services and from industry to review the methods of financial control and particularly to provide for a capital programme. If we did this, I believe that we could begin to build where we left off in about 1950. Our power would begin to increase instead of, as in the last ten years, retract.
I do not agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley. I believe that a volunteer force is that which is required and suits us, but it involves at least being honest with our troops and standing by the contract which we make with them, and I believe it also involves widening our scope of enlistment. After all, we have Commonwealth associates available to us. Even Rommel's best divisions in Africa had 40 per cent. of 153 foreigners, many of whom could not speak German. In the Army today one man in perhaps eighteen fights. It is not necessary to have drawn from our own people the whole of the men we require.
If we look to our real needs, if we get down to creating a single force properly directed to our real interests, the interests of our alliance in Europe and of our influence on affairs here in Europe where we live, then instead of pretending to past glories I believe we may achieve a future destiny for our country.
§ Mr. Kershaw
May I know whether that programme which the hon. and learned Gentleman read out so quickly just now is official Labour Party policy or was made up on the spur of the moment?
§ 9.28 p.m.
§ Sir Arthur Vere Harvey (Macclesfield)
I am sure that the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) said exactly what he thinks. I must say that I agree more with the latter part of his remarks than the earlier part.
The hon. and learned Gentleman referred to the United States' sales power, and there I am in complete agreement with him. If the Americans did not exert their sales power in demanding orders for equipment, and if war came to this country, we might be in a better position to play our part, as has been suggested by the hon. and learned Gentleman.
I shall refer shortly to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Smethwick (Mr. Gordon Walker), but I must first remark on the comments made by the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Northampton about the V-bombers. When his remarks are read tomorrow by the aircrews throughout Bomber Command—the cream of the British forces with a very high morale and on a par with anything in the United States—imagine their feelings, after years of having taken many risks, to know that if the Labour Party gets into power their equipment will be gradually faded out.
The hon. and learned Member for Northampton talked about vessels in numbers, balancing the numbers ten years ago with those that exist now. Surely the hon. and learned Gentleman knows better than that. Considering the 154 modern equipment put into aircraft and naval vessels—costing probably four or five times more than the expenditure ten years ago—one cannot make comparisons in numbers.
I realise that, when we were debating the Army Reserve Bill, the hon. and learned Gentleman pointed out that there was not one soldier, sailor or airman in conflict today. That is the whole point. That is why we have spent millions of pounds—to keep the peace—and we are delighted to know that they are not in conflict.
The hon. and learned Gentleman said earlier that he thought that the United States and the Soviet Union should be the only two Powers which should possess the nuclear deterrent and that it should be confined to them. Really, frankly, I do not want to see nuclear power confined to anyone. I want to see America and Russia get rid of it—and ourselves. We should not confine it to them or to ourselves—
§ Sir A. V. Harvey
That might come at a later date. I have said before that I like the Americans individually very much indeed. But they are a very young nation and it was only about a year ago, when the troubles were boiling up in Laos, that the Prime Minister and this Government sorted out the problem which led the Americans towards a settlement.
§ Sir A. V. Harvey
The Americans on their own would have messed it up.
The right hon. Member for Smethwick, who opened for the Opposition, made a constructive speech, although he gathered quite a lot from the weekend Press. I imagine that there were some leaks at Transport House, but I do not know how that came about. He talked about a division at Salisbury not being as good as one on the Elbe, but the point is that our forces must be mobile. With modern transport—ships and aircraft—men can be moved quickly, and it is far better to have these men based at home so that they can be moved quickly. Anyway, they are happier at home than they are living abroad, in Germany, for example, and it is more economical. The right hon. Gentleman 155 said that we should cease to attempt to remain an independent Power.
§ Sir A. V. Harvey
I understood him to say simply "Power". He said that not to do so would be too expensive. He said that we should discard the V-bombers each year as they wore out. I do not know how much the right hon. Gentleman knows about this, but the initial V-bombers were ordered in the days of the Labour Government, as I understand it. I do not think I am giving any secrets away in saying that the Mark II V-bombers have yet to be delivered. The right hon. Gentleman is now suggesting that we should scrap this programme before we are half-way through it. It does not make very good sense.
The right hon. Gentleman said that it was the Labour Party's policy to scrap the V-bombers in four years' time. It would be far more honest to scrap them today, if that is the party's policy. I can only think that the right hon. Gentleman is beginning to trim his sails for the next General Election whereby the party opposite may get the "coalition" more together by saying "We shall not have a nuclear deterrent in three or four years' time." That is how it sounded to me.
The right hon. Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Bellenger) made a very worth while contribution to the debate, if I may say so. He said that there must be a diminution of our forces in Germany unless we are compensated, that is, unless we are paid for them. There have been many references to what Sir Anthony Eden, as he then was, said a few years ago about the four divisions in Germany. I have not the statement before me, but I am sure that it was based on certain conditions for compensation. Times have changed, of course. Hon. and right hon. Members on both sides have spoken today about the 1957 White Paper. It was, I imagine, the most difficult White Paper of all time to write. Inevitably, in the years which followed, changes would have to take place. The same applies to our commitments in Germany. They must be adjusted, but, of course, in agreement with our allies. As the right hon. Member for Bassetlaw reminded us, we are responsible financially for 104,000 people in Germany, 156 British and German. That is not a bad contribution for this island to make.
As I see it, there are two essentials for freedom: the ability to deter a warlike assault, and the ability to decide our own foreign policy and to pursue our own commercial enterprises in any part of the world. I recently had the privilege of going to Singapore and Hong Kong, in company with the hon. Member for Sheffield, Park (Mr. Mulley). It is encouraging to see what British people are still doing there in trade and the orders which they send back to this country. We must encourage and not belittle the trading which is being done in the Far East.
We must have an adequate deterrent, and we should not depend too much on somebody else for it. Recently, the Leader of the Opposition was in the United States. He had a very cordial reception at the White House. I do not query what his relationship is with Mr. Kennedy, but I wonder whether he would have had quite such a cordial reception if Britain had not had the deterrent. He might have been treated as a member of the Opposition in France, going there cap in hand, and he probably would not have had the same reception. I put that consideration to the House.
The airborne deterrent, the V-bomber as we know it, is the cheapest form of deterrent there is today. It is the best in economy, speed and mobility. It has many rôles apart from carrying the nuclear weapon, photography, high explosives, and so forth. The V-bomber was ordered by the Labour Government. It is very interesting that, although in the last three or four defence debates when the right hon. Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown) has been here we have heard at length that we shall never see Skybolt, we heard very little about Skybolt today from the party opposite. In fact, we understand that it is on schedule and making real progress in the United States. It will add to the value of the V-bomber.
The White Paper is very reassuring. My right hon. Friend did not overstate his case. There is no point in writing a White Paper which appeals to all right hon. and hon. Members. The White Paper is reassuring also for many of the things which it does not say. We shall 157 look after our interests abroad where trading conditions are vital for Britain. We still have commitments in Aden, Singapore and Hong Kong. I read recently in the British Press that Mr. Dean Rusk has said in terms that only Britain can carry the commitments in those places. It is very important that she should. The Americans cannot do it there. If that is so and the Americans expect this island, which bore the brunt of two world wars long before they came in, to carry those commitments on the scale expected, we should tell the world what we are doing abroad. It is a very creditable record indeed.
My right hon. Friend said that recruiting is improving. I know that some of my hon. Friends think that eventually we shall have to have some form of selective service. Certainly, however, if the present recruiting figures continue we should achieve the numbers and probably more as well. I hope that if we get the targets aimed at my right hon. Friend will not be afraid to go over the targets for additional men. But, even so, the obligations which have to be carried out will strain our manpower to the hilt. It is only by having full mobility that we shall be able to carry out these commitments.
When I speak about mobility, I do not mean only aircraft, but ships and vessels as well—commando and assault ships, other vessels, and Transport Command. Steps have been taken to order new aircraft for Transport Command, and we have been told—but here I must criticise my right hon. Friend—what we shall have in three or four years hence. Frankly, I am not interested in what we are to get in three years' time but in what we are to get next year and the year after. Unless we can move not only our men but our equipment quickly, we shall fail in the task that lies ahead. Transport Command at the present time is admirably operated. It is every bit as good as B.O.A.C.—certainly a better timekeeper. If one is not there on time, the door is closed and the plane is off. It is very well run indeed.
What is worrying me is the question of the strategic freighter, the Belfast. Only ten have been ordered. My right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Hall Green (Mr. Aubrey Jones) was Minister of Supply when these aircraft 158 were ordered. He ordered them himself as Minister. At the time, he said that there were very reassuring viewpoints that the Belfast would sell commercially. I interrupted his speech then and asked why he thought that and where he got his information. I did not get much change from him then, but I am able to tell him today that not one has been sold commercially and it is unlikely that one ever will be. Good as the aircraft may be, by the time we get it the Belfast will probably be one of the most expensive aircraft Britain has ever made. Only ten of that one type will be made. My right hon. Friend the Member for Hall Green carries very great responsibility for that and many other things as Minister of Supply. Now he seeks to reverse what he was doing as a Minister two years ago, when he was spending the taxpayers' money to the tune of tens of millions of £s—a policy he is now repudiating.
§ Sir A. V. Harvey
If my right hon. Friend did not agree with this policy he should have resigned. That was one way out.
Unless we can move heavy equipment to these various theatres, it is very little good having the men there. I am not satisfied that we can wait perhaps another three years for the Belfast. I suggested last year, and I do so again now, that my right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence should look at this matter again to see whether we could not hire or charter some heavy aircraft for two years. I am thinking of the Globemaster, which has been proven in service. There are many spare Globe-masters, and if we are helping our American friends in some respects, then they should help us. Globemasters could perhaps be rented on a nominal basis. Our aircraft industry would not like it, but I see no other alternative if we are to move heavy equipment.
The decision made recently on the Avro 748—and the Minister of Aviation had very good reason for making it—should have been made a year ago. This equipment is desperately required out in Malaya and elsewhere, and either it or the Herald should have been ordered at least a year ago.
159 Again, there is the Hawker P37 vertical take-off aircraft. Here, Britain has a three-year lead with a revolutionary aircraft. I have not seen it yet, but I have seen a movie about it by the Hawker Company. It is the most remarkable piece of engineering in recent years. Two have been ordered. Unfortunately one crashed, but luckily the pilot was saved. Four have been built and another nine are being built under the tripartite evaluation programme. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Aviation referred to this matter at Question Time today. I asked him whether, by selling two or three of these aircraft to the United States and Germany, he would not be handing over the "know-how" of this remarkable piece of equipment. The Minister said that he could not agree. It seems to me, however, that we do not want to go it alone. If this aircraft is wanted, rather more of it should be ordered, otherwise it will be copied by the Americans or the Germans. I go one step further and suggest to my right hon. Friend the Minister of Aviation that, with a revolutionary piece of equipment like this, he ought to order at least two squadrons to get service experience and to ascertain what it is capable of doing. Put them into the Air Force and work them hard, not less than one or two squadrons, and get operational experience.
That is not the final answer. The Hawker Group has the 1154 vertical take-off aircraft on the stocks. It is designed to fly at something like 1,400 m.p.h. We are now in N.A.T.O. competition together with France and the Americans. I should like to see the Government order this aeroplane—after all, the P.1127 was a private venture—and take a risk. If they were to get something working, we should sell great numbers to N.A.T.O. and to the other countries.
I should like to refer to the hints which have been given in the White Paper about aircraft carriers. While the Government are thinking about this matter, which is what the scientists will do for the next two years, not much money will be spent. I hope, however, that they are not considering building aircraft carriers on the lines of the latest American carriers. I hope that what we will 160 have will be a carrier to deal with vertical take-off aircraft, with a relatively small deck and the necessary supplies, equipment, machinery, and so on, to enable it to operate.
The autogyro of 30 years ago is the helicopter today. Generally speaking, it has been slow and disappointing progress. Within ten years, however, the vertical take-off machine, which only four or five years ago was flying at Nottingham with Rolls-Royce as a "bedstead", may well be a large passenger aircraft. I strongly urge the Government, if they can find a few million to spare, to put it into research and development on vertical take-off. That is the sort of thing that Briain must do to earn its keep in the armaments field.
It must be realised that the Navy and the Royal Air Force have a joint operational rôle to support the Army. I agree with the hon. and learned Member for Northampton when he referred to integration. The Navy and the Royal Air Force should have common types of aircraft. The days are long gone when the operational requirements for the Navy could be different from those of the Air Force. There is no reason why they should not combine or even why the pilots should not interchange. In the old days, a Royal Air Force pilot was not acceptable on a carrier because, it was said, he could not pick out a cruiser or a destroyer. Today, flying at the speed that modern aircraft do, frequently over land, that argument does not apply. There could be much more integration between the two Services.
Could we not go even further? Somehow, it seems that the Chiefs of Staff resist integration. Why not make a start by merging the medical officers and the parsons of the two Services and putting them into the same type of uniform—and the cooks? Gradually, we could bring about integration of the two Services in a common form to start with.
Much has been said today about our overseas bases. For nationalist reasons, we have been ousted from a number of bases, for which we cannot directly blame the Communists. Our existing bases need to be consolidated. El Adem, in North Africa, is an extremely useful base, and vigorous efforts are being made to make it agreeable to the people who 161 live there. Tremendous improvements have been made at Aden. It is remarkable what has been done in the last two years for the other ranks. I had not been to Aden since 1935. Today, it is quite another place. There is air conditioning for all ranks' quarters, whereas the officers' mess was built eighty years ago for the Indian Army with no air conditioning. That is quite a differential.
Perhaps the best investment of all was that at Gan, which is a small atoll 800 miles south of Ceylon six feet above sea level and three miles long. It is the most remarkable air base one has yet seen. It cost between £3 million and £4 million and is manned by 400 to 500 men. The whole place is very efficiently run and the extraordinary thing is that all the officers and men there are extremely contented with the job away from the night clubs and the bars of Singapore. There is one lady on the island, a W.V.S. lady, and they are all very happy. Then there is the base at Singapore. If the greater Malaysia plan goes through, and the people out there are optimistic, it will be a great thing for South-East Asia.
The morale of all ranks in South-East Asia could not be higher. A great deal needs to be done there. There should be an order of priorities to ensure that equipment is given a much higher priority than it is given at present. The emphasis has been on N.A.T.O. and Europe, but we cannot expect the human frame to carry the burden too long. The men out there have managed and will manage. They work hard in difficult conditions, but they must be given new equipment and given it fairly quickly.
Various things have been said in the course of the debate about outer space and I am sure that the House, as it has done already, would extend its congratulations to Colonel Glenn, a very brave and modest officer of the United States. We have all welcomed the Soviet and United States agreement to explore the possibilities of co-operation in space. When one thinks what the exploitation of space entails, V-bombers and the like are toys compared with what may happen in space before long. In all forms of research and "know-how" Britain in the last 200 years or so has been somewhere in the lead. What are we doing now in space research? How 162 much danger is there that we may be left out altogether?
Here I am not thinking only in terms of war machines. If we are left behind it will be very difficult to catch up. Young scientists and other workers in the aircraft and allied industries are looking for opportunities to employ their energies and talents in this direction. If they cannot find opportunities in Britain they will go to North America and use their talents there. We cannot attempt anything like what the Americans are now doing, but we have a way in this country sometimes of doing things for rather modest sums even better than other countries when we apply our technology and skill to them. I believe that something could be done in this direction. The Minister of Aviation has done a great deal with Bluestreak in conjunction with European countries. This could be a start and we could have satellites for communication and navigation in co-operation with France and other European countries as well as with the United States.
I am told that the United States spends on space research about £1,700 million a year, which is exactly what we spend on the whole of the British defence programme. I am told that American skill and use of manpower is strained to the absolute limit to do what the Americans are doing today. If this country could come to some arrangement with the Americans in this connection, I am sure that it would be welcomed on the other side of the Atlantic.
One cannot separate research programmes on aircraft from research on ballistic weapons. The two go hand-in-hand. One thinks, for example, of the X15 aircraft taken up by the B52 to 40,000 feet and then released to fly at over 4,000 miles an hour. This is a type of research in which Britain should be taking some part, because it may have important implications. If, after getting the maximum out of a rocket, one can add the human element its versatility is increased. If a human being is in either a rocket or an aeroplane its versatility is very much greater. We can offer the Americans brains and technology, and the country which eventually wins the race will dominate the world.
Before I conclude I should like to say a word about pensions. There is a 163 Motion on this subject on the Order Paper, signed by forty or fifty hon. Members. It is clear that we are not asking for increases in pensions to retired officers and other ranks at the present time. They must take their turn in the queue with others of the nation until we have straightened out our economy, but there is a strong case for the widows.
Before referring to this, I should like to mention that I have heard it suggested that the Treasury, which is always looking for something new, is considering cutting out the commutation of pensions. It has been very attractive to retired officers on leaving the Service, who wish either to buy a house or a small business, to have half or two-thirds of their pension in a lump sum. I hope that this will not be discontinued.
Widows with children who lost their fathers before 4th November, 1958, have their pensions reduced when the children reach the age of 16. I have a list of the names and addresses of about thirty widows who are drawing National Assistance. Some of them are 90 years old; others are 84. One is the widow of a major, drawing a Service pension of £161 a year, and National Assistance of £1 15s. a week. Another is the widow of a commander in the Royal Navy, drawing a Service pension of £127 a year, and National Assistance of £2 1s. 6d. a week. I am told that to put this question right would cost the Government over £300,000 per annum. This is a quarter of the cost of one V-bomber, and I ask my right hon. Friend to give this matter his attention. It is a small item, but an important one.
I congratulate my right hon. Friend. In spite of what has been said by hon. Gentlemen opposite, in my travels I have noticed that the equipment of the Services has improved out of all recognition. I could not have been more impressed by the morale of officers and other ranks, and their morale would not be good if the equipment was not good. We have something to show, provided we get our priorities right and stick to our guns. Possession of the deterrent is the one thing that enables us to bargain with the Russians and the Americans, and I beg the Government to stick to their policy and see it through.
§ 9.58 p.m.
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes (South Ayrshire)
I want to deal with a paragraph in the White Paper which has been referred to by only one hon. Member, the hon. Member for West Stirlingshire (Mr. W. Baxter). It seems odd indeed that there should be a lengthy paragraph on civil defence in the White Paper and yet neither the Minister nor my right hon. Friend the Member for Smethwick (Mr. Gordon Walker) said a word about it. I am addressing the Minister of Defence and I should be glad of his attention.
If this defence expenditure is for the purpose of defending the civil population, why was nothing said about civil defence in the Minister's speech today, and why has no Minister with responsibility for civil defence been on the Government Front Bench throughout our debate? The justification for spending this immense sum of money is to defend the people of Great Britain, but what do we find? There are discussions and divergencies on points of high strategy, ranging from the stratosphere to the curious concept of the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget), and about the task of—
§ It being Ten o'clock, the debate stood adjourned.
§ Debate to be resumed Tomorrow.