§ Question again proposed.
§ 6.20 p.m.
§ Mr. Watkinson
I resume my remarks, Mr. Speaker, in a rather quieter atmosphere than I remember on the last occasion when I was interrupted by this ancient and honourable ceremony.
I differ entirely from the contention of the hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) that the White Paper sets out, as I understood him to say, some rather hastily considered, quite new plan with no particular logic and development from previous policy in it. I do not understand that contention at all. For 504 example, over the past years a great number of things have been done by successive Ministers and their advisers which have led, with complete logic, to this development. I do not say that in my view everything in the White Paper is exactly right—it could not hope to be so.
I hope that the hon. Gentleman opposite does not place too much reliance on the new Defence and Overseas Policy Committee because that, to me, does not look very different from the Defence Committee in which I served for quite a number of years. However, that is a detail—
§ Mr. Watkinson
It is a detail in this respect. If some of the institutions, perhaps, are somewhat the same, there is no harm in this, because my point is that it is essential that if these defence and Service matters are to carry the support—and, more than that, the enthusiasm—of those who have to work them, they must be seen to be a logical process of growth and development.
We can look back then, first, to the creation of all-Regular forces which, in itself, implied, in the end, a new control of those forces. We can then consider the development of the control of operations in the Ministry of Defence which was built up during the Kuwait operation, and which rightly remained there. We can then consider the creation, not without some controversy, of unified command in all major overseas commands, and the development of the three-base concept, meaning Britain, the Middle East and the Far East—incidentally, one laid out in the White Paper of 1962, which goes some way to answer the hon. Gentleman's point that we were not thinking of getting out of the Kahawa base a long time ago. We can look at the increased control of research and development built up in the Ministry of Defence, and the concept of the mobile assault force.
I mention these things only to show that these are all processes that have grown quite logically into this new plan for centralised control—because every one of these developments implies centralised control. I therefore look on the White Paper as the logical next step. 505 Its details will no doubt be examined when we deal with the Bill that implements it next Session, but, as a general principle, I think that it is right and sensible, and I hope that it will carry the Services, the House and the country with it.
Being no longer a Minister, I am not inhibited from occasionally mentioning Service advisers, something that a Minister is rightly always inhibited from doing. I should like to mention three men whom I always used to think of as the Ministry of Defence "Troika," and who played an important part in all these developments. They are the Chief of the Defence Staff, Lord Mountbatten, the Chief Scientific Adviser, Sir Solly Zuckerman, and the Permanent Secretary, Sir Robert Scott. I name then here, and say that in my estimation, and as I saw them, they gave the greatest and most devoted service to their country. I should like to put that on the record, as I now can. Nor do I think that one can absolve some of the credit from the chairman of the Defence Committee, who is, of course, the Prime Minister, and who provided the essential continuity and support for all these developments.
What about the future? I agree with the hon. Gentleman that, whatever plan we make, it is not the plan but how we use it that matters. Here, I shall differ from the hon. Gentleman, because in my view the essential part of the plan has grown, as I have tried to show, out of past acts of Government. This plan clearly means that the British Government—at least as long as it is formed by the Conservative Party—is determined to fulfil our rôle as a world Power with world responsibilities.
This is something that should be far above the narrower form, at any rate, of party politics. It is something which, as the centre of the Commonwealth, we are bound to do if we are to play our part in the Commonwealth—and, again, it is not to wage war that we do this, but to try to keep the peace; and no one is better fitted to do that than is this nation, which has seen too much of war in its history. But it is an immense task, and it is nonsense, if I may say so, for the Opposition to imply and claim that immense sums of money have been wasted on defence, or that we can have future defence on the cheap.
506 To fulfil this rôle will not be a cheap job, and if my right hon. Friend, with any assistance he can get, can manage to contain it within 7½ per cent. or 8 per cent. of our gross national product, he will do as much as anyone can ask him to do. That would mean about £2,000 million on the defence budget—and money well spent if it will do the essential job that no one else can do—
§ Mr. Watkinson
Mine was a double-barrelled remark. First, I said that it cannot be claimed that immense sums have been wasted on defence. Equally, nobody would be more delighted than I—and in this I am with the hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg)—if the right hon. Gentleman who winds up the debate for the Opposition tonight will say quite firmly that the Labour Party would spend 7½ per cent. or 8 per cent. of the gross national product on defence. That is the right approach—the bipartisan approach, at least on defence—
§ Sir H. Legge-Bourke
My right hon. Friend has mentioned 7½ per cent. or 8 per cent.—or 6 per cent. or 7 per cent.—of the gross national product as being the desirable figure for defence expenditure. I welcome the opportunity of asking him whether he can tell us how this figure was ever arrived at, and what the magic in it is. To me, it is much too low.
§ Mr. Watkinson
There is no magic in it. It is probably the best bargain a Minister of Defence can drive with the Chancellor of the Exchequer—but I must not get into these matters now.
If we accept the concept that we have this world job to do and also accept the concept—and I believe that N.A.T.O. accepts it, General Norstad certainly did, that it is just as important to defend the flanks of N.A.T.O. as it is to defend N.A.T.O. itself, in which we play no mean part ourselves—that we have to cover the vast void of the Indian Ocean when no one else can do it, and keep the peace round Malaysia, which will be very necessary as this great and new concept comes into being, we must accept that this task can only be carried out by 507 this sort of firm central control. I have no shadow of doubt about that.
Although there may be differences and difficulties to be worked out, this is, after all—and I do not say this in any criticism of my right hon. Friend—to perpetuate, in a very good plan on which I congratulate him, the powers mentioned in the 1958 White Paper which successive Ministers, with success or lack of success, have attempted to carry out. These are now formalised and set out, and I believe that, at the right time, they will receive general acceptance by the country and by the Services themselves.
There is one particular point that I want to make about research and development. I agree that the Chief Scientific Adviser has an immensely difficult task to carry out and an immensely heavy burden to bear. Declaring an interest which the House knows already, I can say that it has been a considerable discipline to me, having left industry and spent some years in the Government and having returned to industry, to find how strongly British industry feels that it has not a close and satisfactory contact with the Ministry of Defence.
I am as much or a good deal more to blame for that than the present Minister, but it is so. It is not because industry is necessarily seeking to make larger profits, but merely because it feels that it could do its job better and more efficiently if somehow, within proper measures of Parliamentary control, there could be this closer and more sensible contact. I agree with the hon. Member for Leeds, East in saying that perhaps we should bring in more outside people. This might help. This must be done because it is my belief that this will o' the wisp of interdependence, which we have all honestly chased and must continue to chase, is not practicable until in N.A.T.O., for example, we have an agreed N.A.T.O. Chief of Staff project from the beginning, for instance for a tank or for V.T.O.L. aircraft.
Until that happens there is nothing wrong with British defence policy in seeking to work together with British industry. We might actually be as wicked as occasionally to seek British 508 interests first and not be obsessed always with being a good customer for other people's projects and then finding that they do not buy ours. If this were done, relations with British industry would be closer and we might help to spark off new developments, for instance, in solid state physics, as my right hon. Friend mentioned, which would be immensely valuable for us in the civil export field.
I hope, then, that in building new machinery for research and development a careful look is taken at closer and better working relations with industry. I want this to be done in such a public way that there cannot be the slightest attack or charge that this in some way is giving British industry an unfair advantage. I am sure that we could do this, and that only in this way could the thing be done in a proper constitutional form. It is worth study, and in the long term it would be of great value to our export trade.
I hope that I have said enough to try to show that, first, what is right about the plan is that it is a logical development of long-term Conservative defence policy. I hope that I have shown that what is right about it, in my view, is that it is a very firm and clear indication of the way in which we intend to fulfil our proper rôle in the world as only we can. The commissioning of another Fleet carrier, which cannot have been an easy decision, is a sign in that direction. The fact that the carrier is to have light blue and dark blue aircraft is very much welcomed by me, and, I am certain, by the Services as well. Good luck to them, and to my right hon. Friend, who has solved what could not have been an easy problem.
I hope that the House will try to give the new plan the consideration and the help it needs in the form of constructive criticism and will try to build on an all-party basis a sensible defence structure which can bear the great strains which will be placed upon it. The strain on the Minister, in my view, will not be unbearable, though it is very nearly so, but this is how the Minister must work. He is only formalising in this White Paper the duties originally placed upon him by the Defence White Paper.
There is a last point which worries me. My right hon. Friend the Minister 509 of Defence, with the disappearance of the old Secretaries of State, is now the heir to the hundreds of years of tradition of bravery and devotion which the Armed Forces have built up. This is a difficult pinnacle, and whether or not it would have been wiser to retain Ministers for the Army, Navy and Air Force is, perhaps, still worth thinking about. Whatever we may argue, and whether a man's loyalty is to his platoon, his ship or his aircraft, there is a kind of corporate loyalty which these regular forces corning into being again will be able to build up to the idea of serving their Monarch in this old and honourable way.
Somehow, in this new structure, I hope that this will be borne in mind and that it may be possible for a man to have a kind of chain of loyalty starting with his immediate command and going up to the Service head of his Service and, at the same time, to a Minister and, through him, to the Minister of Defence. On the whole, these men do a first-class job. They are defending the peace in a way no other country can do in many areas of the world. The last time I spoke for the first time as a back-bencher I said that they were fully entitled to all the support that the House can give them.
§ 6.37 p.m.
§ Mr. E. Shinwell (Easington)
There is little doubt that during the first twelve years under nine Conservative Ministers of Defence an attempt has been made to formulate a rational defence organisation. During that period those Ministers have met with only moderate success. In my judgment, that is attributable to vested interests in the Service Departments and largely to tradition. I agree with what has been said by previous speakers about the evolutionary process which has led to the production of the White Paper.
My hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) devoted a considerable part of his speech to foreign policy. I do not deny that one cannot dissociate foreign policy from defence. The relationship is obvious, but what happens in practice? The Cabinet is responsible for the determination of policy. It considers all the factors, the potentialities, the probabilities and the obstacles, relations with other nations, our alliances, and the like. Then policy is adumbrated by the Cabinet and is carried out and administered by the Defence Committee of the Cabinet.
510 The Defence Committee consists of a number of Cabinet Ministers and is chaired by the Prime Minister, who is the head of our defence organisation—among them the Foreign Secretary, the Minister of Defence, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations, and other Ministers who are called in from time to time. Ordinarily, the policy and the administration work efficiently. The question which we are debating today is whether the policy already in existence requires to be made more efficient, if that is possible, and, if so, what should be the nature of the new defence organisation.
As far as I am concerned, in this debate I dismiss what might be described as partisan considerations. I do it for this reason. Of course, there are ideological differences in this Assembly. We do not always agree on foreign affairs and matters pertaining to defence. The question which we have to consider—and it requires an assured and definite reply—is whether we need a measure of defence. If the answer is in the negative, obviously from the point of view of some hon. Members the White Paper is of no value whatever. But I proceed on the assumption that some measure of defence is essential. In the presence of international tension, despite efforts which are made to reduce it, obviously it is desirable to proceed as expeditiously as possible in the direction of rationalisation of our defence organisation. That is the purpose of this debate.
The right hon. Gentleman is not introducing legislation. He has produced a White Paper and is seeking to collect the voices. I presume that we shall have an answer at the end of the debate that his mind is not finally made up on every item in the White Paper. If, however, his mind is quite definitely made up, there is not much need for debate, but I presume that there are items in the White Paper which are capable of modification, and I propose to make various suggestions to the right hon. Gentleman along those lines.
When I first saw the White Paper I remarked that the theme met my complete approval. Why was that? Because when I was Minister of Defence we were ourselves considering a more efficient and rational organisation. We were 511 conscious of the defects, but we overcame them only because of complete cooperation between the Ministry of Defence and the respective Service Departments. Let me give an example. I hope that hon. Members opposite will not take offence when I say that the only successful military operation which we have undertaken since the end of the last war was Korea. That occurred in the time of the Labour Government.
§ Mr. Shinwell
Surely no one would go so far as to suggest—leaving aside the political implications—that Suez or Kuwait could be regarded as successful military operations. But I do not want to enter into that. If the hon. Member for Weston-super-Mare (Mr. Webster) believes that Kuwait was a successful adventure, I leave him to cherish that notion.
Korea was a successful operation. How did it come about? There was a decision by the United States, subsequently endorsed by the United Nations—but before that decision had been endorsed by the United Nations we had already taken action to provide a headquarters brigade in Hong Kong in preparation for eventualities. When the United Nations endorsed the action of the United States, although there were many murmurs on this side of the House at the time and, presumably, in the country and elsewhere, we proceeded to build up our brigade.
It was despatched to Korea certainly more expeditiously than in the case of the despatch of troops to Suez. Naval vessels were sent out. Hon. Members will recall the "Theseus", which was responsible for many achievements in both defensive and aggressive operations in Korea. They will recall the gallant stand by the Gloucesters and other units of the Army. All these facts are familiar to hon. Members and are recorded in the pages of HANSARD.
But that successful operation was undertaken only as a result of effective co-operation. There was no legalised basis for our activities. The Service Ministers were brought into contact with the Minister of Defence and Chiefs of Staff, and all the paraphernalia associated 512 with the Ministry of Defence at that time.
My case against the White Paper is not on the ground that it is proposed to create a centralised and unified defence organisation. I think that that is essential, and I will state the reasons briefly. The concentration of the military personnel and Permanent Under-Secretaries with the financial elements, and in particular with research and intelligence, is essential. I heard what was said about bringing a number of barrow boys together only to find that they quarrelled with each other. No doubt there will be some controversy in the Ministry of Defence under the unified scheme, but it is far better to have the quarrel under one roof than scattered all over the place, where it is impossible to control it.
That is one of the advantages of the White Paper, but there are certain defects to which I direct attention. I should like the right hon. Gentleman to satisfy me that my criticism is unfounded. It appears to me that the military personnel are likely to subordinate the political personnel, and to that I take very strong objection. When I read in the White Paper that it is proposed that the Chiefs of Staff should have access to the Prime Minister, I accepted that. It is the existing situation. It was the position in my time and always has been the position. They had ready access to the Prime Minister and to the Cabinet as and when required.
But that the Ministers of State, as they are now defined, should not be included in that category and should not have access to the Cabinet, I do not understand. It was unnecessary to state in the White Paper that the Chiefs of Staff would have access to the Cabinet unless it was intended to pin-point the fact that Ministers of State would not have that privilege.
I come to the designation of the three Service Ministers. Why Ministers of State? Why not Secretary of the Navy, Secretary of the Army and Secretary of the Air Force? The reason I make that suggestion is that in the White Paper the right hon. Gentleman has made it abundantly clear that we cannot isolate policy from administration. Let us suppose that we have to carry out a policy. A decision is reached with the Cabinet 513 and is referred to the Defence Council. In this instance, under the White Paper proposals, it would be referred to the Defence and Overseas Policy Committee. Policy has to be carried out. What do we mean by that? Administration alone? Of course not. Decisions have to be taken for the deployment of weapons and the terrain to be occupied. All the factors have to be considered by those responsible for administering policy, for policy cannot be dissociated from administration.
In those circumstances, I claim that the three Service Ministers should not be demoted and certainly should not be subordinated to the military personnel. After all, the three Service Ministers have got to operate along with the Chiefs of Staff, and the right hon. Gentleman himself pointed out that the Chiefs of Staff would be associated with the Ministry of Defence and also with their respective Ministries. If that is to be the situation, I cannot understand why the Service Ministers should not have an appropriate r—le to play instead of being completely subordinated to the Secretary of State for Defence and, what is even worse, being subordinated to the Chiefs of Staff. These are my objections.
I come now to the nature of the organisation. Of course, it is proper that the Chief Scientific Adviser, with his research staff, should be closely integrated with the Ministry of Defence. I recall that, when I was Minister of Defence I had close consultation with Sir Henry Tizard, who was then the Chief Scientific Adviser, on precisely this question. At that time, research was concentrated in the old Ministry of Supply. As hon. Members know, that Ministry was abandoned a few years ago, and I supported its abandonment because I no longer regarded it as an essential Department. But now, if research is to be closely integrated with the Ministry of Defence, I believe that to be a most desirable arrangement and one which is bound to be of inestimable value to the whole of our defence organisation.
I do not enter into the controversy about the position of the Ministry of Aviation. I think that, in the course of evolution, this problem will resolve itself. The question of research may give rise to some difficulty. It is not easy to decide about space research, whether it 514 should be concentrated in the Ministry of Defence or left to the Ministry of Aviation. I cannot say. But a sensible Ministry of Defence is, it seems to me, capable of dealing with a problem of that sort without raising too much controversy. So I do not worry about that.
On the question of policy, I say just this. My hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, East was right to criticise the Government because of what has happened in previous years. He spoke of waste. He referred to the fact that many projects had to be abandoned. This is perfectly true, but I do not think that it was possible to avoid it for the simple reason—my hon. Friend stated it himself, and I think that it is generally accepted—that policy is very closely associated with administration, and, unless the policy happens to be right—and policy must be adapted to the international situation as it exists from time to time—obviously, some projects which are begun have to be abandoned.
I suppose that that was the reason for the abandonment of Blue Streak. What was the reason for the abandonment of Skybolt? I do not believe that we had all the power vested in the Ministry of Defence or the Government to decide whether we should proceed with Skybolt or not. These are matters which require international discussion and agreement before we can proceed.
Having listened to the debate so far, and having given some thought to this question of the rational organisation of the defence of the United Kingdom, I come to the conclusion that the central theme in the White Paper is agreeable and acceptable. How it will work out is another matter. Much will depend upon the kind of Secretary of State for Defence who is appointed. I presume that there is a likelihood that it may be a Labour Secretary ofState. I presume, also, that it certainly will not be me, so it creates no embarrassment in my mind. But I confess that I am exceedingly anxious about the person who is likely to be appointed.
This will be a task requiring tremendous ability and—some people may not like the term—ruthlessness. If the policy is to be carried out, with all the paraphernalia of committees, the duplication of effort, the concentration and the 515 evolutionary processes which may lead to further concentration, particularly having in mind the time when we may, perhaps, face a military adventure, not speaking in terms of nuclear war, but in conventional military terms, we shall require a Secretary of State for Defence who, in my judgment, must be equal in rank, or, rather, equal in ability, to the Prime Minister himself. He will occupy a very important place in the Government.
I doubt that the right hon. Gentleman will occupy that place. I regret this. He has done very well so far, but the time will come when, electorally speaking, he will be no longer in a position to deploy the defence policy and administrative organisation. We shall bear that with our customary fortitude. From my own experience, I am convinced that, even in spite of the legalistic basis contained in the White Paper, co-operation is essential, co-operation with the Chiefs of Staff and co-operation with the Chief Military Adviser. We may have a very powerful person appointed to this latter position, someone who regards himself as superior to the Minister himself because he possesses the military knowledge. But let it not be forgotten that it is not the Chief Adviser who is responsible to the House of Commons and the country; it is the Minister of Defence. The Minister of Defence must be prepared to stand up to him.
I speak with some experience. I was at the War Office for some time. I had also experience at the War Office way back in 1929. I assure the right hon. Gentleman that, no matter how he concentrates the Service Departments, integrates them, rationalises them and all the rest, he will discover, very often, that there are two generals, one of the R.A.S.C. and one of the Ordnance, who do not like each other, who will hardly speak to each other, because they have vested interests. On the boards which he is setting up he may find that the First Sea Lord does not agree with the Third Sea Lord or the Fourth Sea Lord. He will, therefore, require to be firm, even defiant, in the face of the vested interests if the organisation its to be effective.
Here, I add a final word about the boards. There is a French proverb—I cannot pronounce it in French very well, though I have tried several times—"The 516 more things change, the more they remain the same". When I read in the White Paper that the Board of Admiralty, the Army Council and the Air Council were to be abandoned, a thought ran through my mind. By the way, there was a time when I recommended in this House that the Board of Admiralty should be abolished, but the Prime Minister would not have it.
Now, the Minister of Defence believes that he is abolishing the Board of Admiralty. Of course, he is doing nothing of the sort. He has got the First Sea Lord, the Second Sea Lord, the Third Sea Lord and the Fourth Sea Lord, all with their special functions. The Army Council is to be abolished, but we have still got the Chief of the General Staff. Incidentally, this is one innovation for which I am very grateful. I have advocated it in the past. We used to speak of the Chief of the Imperial General Staff. The "Imperial" has gone and we are left with the Chief of the General Staff. There will be the Chief of the General Staff and his deputy, the Vice-Chief of Staff. There will be the Master General of the Ordinance, the Adjutant General and the Quartermaster General. Does the right hon. Gentleman think that he is providing something original? Of course he is not, and he is very wise.
The right hon. Gentleman is probably a little mistaken in appearing to demote these bodies—the Board of Admiralty, the Army Council and the Air Council—but he is very wise in retaining the same personnel, for the simple reason that unless he does he will find that the organisation at the Ministry of Defence is top heavy. My hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, East spoke about it being too bureaucratic. Unless the right hon. Gentleman is careful he will not be able to handle the organisation. Before he knows where he is either the three Service Ministers will give him trouble, or, what is much more likely, the Chief Military Adviser will give him trouble, and the Chiefs of Staff will lend a hand.
I suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that he makes the best of this job and that when he brings forward his legislation he takes into account some of the criticisms. Let him proceed with the concentration and we shall help him all we can. Rationalisation is better than 517 this confusion, this disintegration. As I say, let him consider some of the criticisms. There will be more criticisms. When the legislation comes forward let him provide this rational scheme of defence reorganisation and let him take into account the feelings and sentiments of the respective Services and of their Departments and staffs so that we avoid anything in the nature of acute controversy.
§ 7.2 p.m.
§ Sir Arthur Vere Harvey (Macclesfield)
The House has listened with great interest to the right hon. Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell), who always makes a very practical speech. When he was Minister of Defence, I think that although we sat on opposite sides of the House he impressed a great many of us with his ability and the way that he ran his affairs under great difficulties. I am sorry if he has lost his political ambitions. He said that he did not think he was likely to be Minister of Defence in the unlikely event of hon. Members opposite coming to power. All that I can say is that I should much prefer to see him in charge than the hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey), who made a speech for 60 minutes—and it was a long 60 minutes. It was only in the last 15 minutes that the hon. Member got on to the matter which is important to this debate, namely, the White Paper, although I recognise that he is versed in foreign affairs.
We arc discussing the setting up of a central organisation. The hon. Member for Leeds, East made one remark which I tried to question. He would not give way to me the second time—I do not blame him for that—but, if I recall correctly, he said that the TSR2 had fallen behind schedule. I do not know how the hon. Member can substantiate that remark. There are wide differences on both sides of the House about this aircraft, which is a very complicated machine. Hon. Members on both sides have had the privilege of going to Vickers to see it. Having been cleared, we were given a fairly broad picture of its progress and capabilities.
I think that it is beyond any of us, however many years we may have been connected with aviation, to look at an aeroplane today and to say that it is 518 good or bad, All that we can say about the TSR2 is that progress is being made and that it will be only a very short time before it makes its first flight. I do not think there is any harm in saying that. We hear that representatives of the Australian Government have been over to evaluate this aeroplane. There is a reasonable prospect—I put it no higher than that—that they will purchase it if a substantial order is given to Vickers by the British Government. I do not think that the remarks made by the hon. Member for Leeds, East, are helpful.
We talk about the gross national product being 7 or 8 per cent. The money which the Services, even the central organisation, need, will be obtained only by our exporting. Every one of us should bear that in mind throughout this debate. If we want to defend this country as we think it should be defended, the money must be found by exporting and hard work on the part of the people of this country.
In evaluating a piece of complicated equipment like the TSR2, I should like to see my right hon. Friend have at his disposal a body of men drawn from all sections of the country—the universities, engineering, the scientists—capable of advising him, whether it be on the TSR2, the Belfast in Northern Ireland or on any other piece of equipment, even radar. He must draw on the very best advice obtainable. One thing which disturbed me in my right hon. Friend's speech was that he, with vast responsibilities, is relying on one or two people who, with all respect, have not very much experience in these matters. This requires consideration.
I am in favour of the TSR2. I think that it will be a great weapon for the defence of this country. It will be revolutionary. It is certainly at least three years ahead of anything the Americans are trying to do.
§ Mr. Wigg indicated dissent.
§ Sir A. V. Harvey
The hon. Member disagrees with me. May I say without boasting that I think that I know as much about this matter as he does.
§ Sir A. V. Harvey
The hon. Member talks about a white elephant, but is this aircraft a white elephant? I suggested to him privately the other day that he should go and see it. I do not think he will mind my saying that on the Floor of the House. He might at least get better information if he talked to the scientists and engineers who are building it rather than read about it in the magazines.
§ Mr. Wigg
The hon. Gentleman has said that ordinary people cannot evaluate these matters. I am not so presumptuous as to look at this horse and say that it is a Derby winner. I am judging it on form. I was right about the Belfast and about a few other things. I was confident that they would be cancelled, but I am a thousand times more confident that this aircraft will be cancelled in due course.
§ Sir A. V. Harvey
One is not capable of evaluating these matters, but at least one would have a better idea about the aircraft if out of courtesy to the British workers who are putting in a tremendous effort on it one went to see it rather than read about it in magazines and listened to gossip.
All of us are somewhat inhibited in these debates. The Minister is well armed by his advisers who advise him and give him briefs. The rest of us have to look round and get our information from wherever we can and to make the best contribution we can within the limits of secrecy. It is a difficulty in which every back bench Member is placed. It has always been the same in debating defence matters.
I wish that something could be devised so that hon. Members on both sides—I know that my right hon. Friend does not agree with me—could be better advised on the state of affairs in defence. The American Government have a system for doing this, but here we are, the elected representatives of the people, trying to speak on these complicated matters. From where are we to get our information? Must we take an old friend, say an Air Marshal or an Admiral, to lunch and get something out of him? One can only get bits of information, like Lobby 520 correspondents try to do from the 1922 Committee. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] That is a fact. That is what has happened in recent months. We have seen it. As I say, we are faced with a difficulty in making our contributions to defence debates.
Personally, I welcome the measures contained in the White Paper. It is certainly revolutionary in peace time for such a move in the three Services. However, very great administrative changes are involved. There is a very large administrative task ahead and certainly a tremendous job for the Secretary of State for Defence. I often wonder what would happen if we had an indifferent Secretary of State for Defence.
§ Sir A. V. Harvey
I am not being personal. My right hon. Friend has had the initiative to introduce these measures. It could happen, however, that we had a bad or indifferent Minister responsible for defence. As the right hon. Member for Easington said, the Secretary of State for Defence will have three Ministers of State under him without the right of access to the Prime Minister. Suppose he is ill or is on holiday. What happens? I do not think that this is too good.
I should like these three Ministers to be not Secretaries of State but Secretaries. It is like a holding company in industry which has three companies under it. The managing directors are the men to whom the workers look. They must have someone to look to as their master and boss. It is essential that the Army, Navy and Air Force should have a Minister who is not less than a Secretary, but not a Secretary of State. Are we to demote these three men and knock £2,000 a year off their salary? It is all very well to disregard these things, but it will happen to someone next April. I do not think it can be done like that.
The term "Under-Secretary of State" is bad. I would rather see it go and have the lowest rank as Minister of State so that the political heads have a better standing with the Civil Service. One result of the White Paper is that we shall get rid of an anomaly that exists today. The Civil Lord of the Admiralty who answers for the Navy in this House sits at the bottom of the conference table below all the Sea Lords. He is the 521 junior one. Why that has never been altered I do not know. At any rate, that anomaly disappears, and I imagine that he will sit at the top of the table or somewhere near the top.
The ordering of equipment is a big problem. We can think up all the committees and plans we like, but it will still be a very difficult problem. I should like to see something very similar to the organisation in the United States. It is easy for the hon. Gentleman to talk about the saving made by Mr. McNamara in the last two or three years, but look at what they are spending. It is a colossal sum. In my opinion he should save far more.
Today we have three surface-to-air guided weapons. The Navy has the Sea-slug, the Army the Thunderbird and the R.A.F. the Bloodhound—all doing the same job. Since the war when these projects were started they have become more and more difficult and complicated. No one is available to say which one is to be scrubbed out. I believe that today, with the complexity of military weapons, only one in five or six or even ten will eventually see life in the Services. It is recognised by all the great Powers today manufacturing this equipment that there must be failures. We have to have a policy, but the answer if we see that a project will fail is to scrap it as soon as possible, save the money and get on with something else in which the know-how that we have gained can be passed on to the Services.
I would say to my right hon. Friend that there is a need for rationalisation in the three Services. The Army today has an air force of a kind, the Navy has an army and the R.A.F. has the R.A.F. Regiment. This is a crazy situation. The Army has these vessels which we see in the Solent. They are not very well kept and they are not a credit to the Army or to anyone else. Surely the Navy's job is to look after the ships. The R.A.F. Regiment did a good job during the war in guarding our airfields, when the Home Guard had no weapons and had to use pikes and so on. It was a necessity then, but it is not so today. This should be a military rôle carried out by the Army. My right hon. Friend will save money if he tackles these things which ought to have been tackled long 522 ago. If a body of man is required for these extraneous duties let him enlarge the Royal Marines. Let them carry out these various rô1es.
I do not think that there will be contraction in the staff organisation when this all gets going, but I think that my right hon. Friend has to be very tough indeed. He has to do what big concerns in Britain are doing today. Shell, I.C.I. and all the big firms are putting a fine comb through their organisations. Everyone is doing it in the United States. They are doing it to eliminate waste and duplication of jobs. My right hon. Friend would do well to consider taking on some expert consultants like McKinseys who have been advising these great corporations on this aspect.
§ Mr. Shinwell
Might I fortify what the hon. Member is saying? If the right hon. Gentleman decides whenever it is practicable—it is not always practicable—to adopt a system of common service, for example, common depôts, common storage and the like, he will effect a vast saving in manpower.
§ Sir A. V. Harvey
I agree, but it cannot be done overnight. If we try to do it too quickly we shall upset people and probably get worse results. I suggest to my right hon. Friend that he must start as he means to go on. He must not stand any nonsense. I remember the right hon. Member for Easington saying when he was Secretary of State for War that, when he had trouble with a couple of generals, he knocked their heads together, and he probably did so very effectively. My right hon. Friend has to show that he is master and is not going to stand any nonsense from vested interests. The Departments may in the early stages resist this organisation and not like it. Nobody likes change but it must be done. Surely many economies could be made, one of them being centralised buying for clothing, equipment and small arms. This has been done already to some extent but we could go much beyond that. As I suggested earlier, my right hon. Friend should take expert advice from outside on these complicated matters.
I should like to address myself briefly to the question of the Minister of Aviation. I have a feeling that he is not 523 being absorbed into the Ministry of Defence because that Department knows quite well that it is not capable of absorbing him or his Ministry at the present time. Therefore, he has been left out of it. The Government, however, have gone as far as they can and have brought him in on the upper floor and given him an office for 50 or 60 of his staff. As I said when asking a question earlier this week, that is the thin end of the wedge. My right hon. Friend will be a Minister who is not in the Cabinet. There will be three Ministers of State all of them, I imagine, with bells in their offices and with a terminal bell for the Secretary of State. Had I been Minister of Aviation I should have resisted this to the hilt. I will try briefly to explain why I consider that my right hon. Friend should be entirely separate.
The Minister of Aviation controls thousands of technicians and scientists. He is probably the largest employer in the world as one head of so many highly-trained men. If he takes 50 or 60 of his senior staff into the Ministry of Defence those very men will be separated from their Departments. Those Departments will be without leaders. One thing that they must have is leadership. I know, of course, that arguments can be made both ways. If the Minister comes into the Ministry of Defence he will be there and close liaison is possible; they all get round the table together and iron everything out. I do not however accept that. It can be said also that enormous sums are spent on military research and only a small sum in comparison on civil research. As I have said earlier, however, the country lives by exports and the aircraft and aviation industry is a leader industry. Nobody can put a value upon what goes into that industry or the fallout of know-how and technology that goes into the whole of the engineering industry.
One firm which makes undercarriages for aeroplanes has now developed a hydraulic pit prop. This is only one small example but it can be repeated throughout the whole of industry. I am told that Soviet Russia do not work in any other way. They regard their space and aviation industries as leader industries and constantly give to them orders that will help the technology of their industries.
524 What is required is that the Ministry of Aviation should be the Ministry of Technology and Science, or Science and Technology. It should be built up to cover automation and it should look into these wider aspects of modernising Britain. Much, I believe, could be done in that direction. I do not accept that liaison would not take place; it could. We have got to have research. It must be shared and there must be mutual understanding of the problems.
Together with France Britain is building a supersonic airliner another order for which has been reported only this morning. Real progress is being made in spite of the language problem and the English Channel between us. If two countries can do this two Ministries under the same Government should be able to do it—although they might do it better if they had the Channel between them; I do not know.
To give one example about exports which are tied closely to the matter of defence and making of equipment, the Vickers 111 is being sold almost daily throughout the world. We are told by Sir George Edwards who has been responsible for its development that there is a market for 1,000 of these aircraft and he may well sell 500 or 600 of them at nearly £1 million each. That would have a tremendous impact on our whole engineering industry and defence requirements. It would bring down the price and we should then be able to afford the 8 per cent. of the gross national product of which hon. Members have been speaking today.
I beg the Government before the new legislation as introduced in the autumn to look at all these matters and to weigh them up carefully in the intervening period to see whether some at least of them cannot be incorporated. Operational research must be more closely co-ordinated and the chief scientific officer staff strengthened with suitable qualified scientists and engineers.
I should like to see more done about space in this whole set-up. Britain is lagging behind badly in space. Surely, out of the £2,000 million a year, £20 million a year could be allocated to space in our defence system, because in the years to come all of us will be criticised for having said or done so little about it.
525 A centralised Ministry is the right thing. It is only the beginning. Tremendous effort will be required on the part of my right hon. Friend the Minister to gain the good will of the people concerned. It is a system which must be made to work. My right hon. Friend must see that it works, the staffs must be allowed to get on with their task and I hope that we, as Members of Parliament, will do what we can to help, because it is a tremendous task, which can improve our defence system only if it is made to work.
§ 7.21 p.m.
§ Mr. Arthur Henderson (Rowley Regis and Tipton)
I hope that the hon. Member for Macclesfield (Sir A. V. Harvey) will forgive me if I do not follow him into his reference to the working of the Ministry of Aviation. I hope, however, that as one who served on the Army Council for four years during the war and on the Air Council for four post-war years I may be allowed to make a number of comments upon the plan which the House is tonight discussing.
Speaking for myself, I warmly welcome the basis of the White Paper. In the nuclear era on which we have entered, it is inevitable that our defence system moves towards a central basis. There may be some who are disappointed that the White Paper has not gone a step further and provided for the complete integration of the three Armed Services. I consider that that would have been quite impractical and, indeed, unnecessary, because I see nothing inconsistent with the main theme of the defence plan and the retention for the time being of the separate identities of the three Services.
It may well be that during the next 20 years we shall completely enter the rocket and missile era, in which case it will be a normal evolution to move from three separate Armed Services into one unified defence Service. For the time being, however, we must accept the inevitability of retaining the three separate Services.
Having said that, however, I share some of the criticisms which have been levelled both by my right hon. Friend the Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell) and by the right hon. Member for 526 Woking (Mr. Watkinson), the former Minister of Defence. I believe that the structure that is proposed in the White Paper is top heavy. It is almost monolithic, and I am anxious about the effect upon civilian control. It seems to me that the principle of civilian or political control is in danger of being undermined by the proposals set out in the White Paper.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Easington referred to the position of the Chiefs of Staff. I have had sufficient experience to know how difficult it will be for a Minister who does not have sufficient status to deal with a Chief of Staff who retains his existing status. I cannot help thinking that the Minister of Defence is undertaking a greater responsibility than he can bear.
It is true that the Minister of Defence proposes to appoint three Ministers of State, who, in a sense, will take the place of three Secretaries of State. Each Chief of Staff is not only to retain his right of direct access to the Prime Minister but has also to remain the responsible head of his Service. On the other hand, each Minister of State will be only a subordinate Minister of the Ministry of Defence, while each Service Minister was the head of his Department. He will not even be the chairman of the departmental board. I cannot understand why it is proposed that each Minister of State should only be the vice-chairman of his departmental board. The Minister of Defence is undertaking responsibilities which he will find he is incapable of bearing.
There are only 24 hours to each day and not even a superman would be able to accept the responsibility of day-to day administration of three great Service Departments, because however much the control may be altered at the top, it does not alter the fact that these three great Departments of State will remain. I hope that the Minister of Defence and the Government will reconsider their proposals in this respect.
I should like the Minister of Defence to consider again the system which operates in the United States. In that country there is a Secretary for Defence with three Departments, with a secretary each, for the Navy, the Air Force and the Army under him, responsible to him and subject to his authority, his 527 control and his direction. At the same time, they are on more or less level terms with the Chief of Staff of their own Service.
According to the White Paper, that will not be the case here. The demotion of the three Service Ministries is dangerous. It undermines the principle of civilian control and it is not necessary for the purpose which the Minister has in mind. I believe that the work, responsibilities, activities and co-operation of the three Ministers of State is essential to the successful working of the plan which is put forward in the White Paper, but I do not believe that those three Ministers will be able to carry out their responsibilities if they are to be subordinated to the status of Ministers of State and if they are to be only vice-chairmen of the departmental boards.
I see no reason to regret the passing of the Army Council, the Air Council or the Board of Admiralty except for historic or, perhaps, sentimental reasons. Apart from certain statutory functions, the work that they have carried out can be equally well performed by the departmental boards. Neither the Army Council nor the Air Council—I cannot speak for the Board of Admiralty—was ever concerned with operations and planning. They were, in effect, what I understand the new boards are to be, merely boards of management responsible for the day-to-day administration of their Service.
I believe, therefore, that just as it was necessary to have the political head of the Department as chairman of the Air Council or the Army Council, it is equally important to have a Minister as chairman of the new departmental boards. I was not sure whether the Minister of Defence was suggesting that the Ministers of State might be changed around. That would be most undesirable. In my opinion, he would be compelled to designate each of his three Ministers of State, as is suggested in the plan, to be fully responsible to him for a particular Service. If that Minister of State is going to carry out his responsibilities effectively and properly, in my view he will have to be designated as chairman of the departmental board. I hope, therefore, that the Minister of Defence will realise that many of us 528 who wish him well in this great experiment which he has brought to the House are very concerned that it may be in danger of falling apart unless he can institute the changes to which I have referred.
Finally, I want to say a word about financial control. For the first time we are going to have this great Department of State responsible for the expenditure of £2,000 million a year. I must say that I find myself attracted to the proposal of my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) that Parliament will have to be much more a watchdog here after than, possibly, it has been in the past and wil have to scrutinise very care fully this vast expenditure. I believe there is a great deal to be said for the proposal that a committee of some kind—I am not sure whether my hon. Friend has given it a name yet—
§ Mr. Henderson
The committee on defence expenditure. I hope that the Government will give it serious consideration, because it seems to me to be complementary to the great changes which are adumbrated in this White Paper.
§ Mr. Harold Davies (Leek)
This watchdog principle is one that must be of concern to hon. Members on both sides of the House for we are all concerned, or should be, to preserve the right of the watchdog principle and the right to watch taxation. It must be maintained. Here the Estimates Committee is only going by grace and favour to investigate overseas expenditure. It is absolutely necessary that on the Floor of the House of Commons we should preserve the established right of watching expenditure as the taxpayers' representatives.
§ Mr. Henderson
My hon. Friend, I am glad to say, is endorsing what I have just said, and said in agreement with my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley.
§ Mr. Wigg
I am very glad to have support, but at least it must be on the right grounds. The constitutional principle of whether a Select Committee can operate outside the Kingdom is one thing; a defence committee on expenditure which would take over the job of 529 the Estimates Committee and look at policy as well as economy is quite another.
§ Mr. Henderson
I am sure my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley will agree to leave it where I stated, that it is well worth the consideration of the Government, and I very much hope that it will receive that consideration.
I notice in the White Paper that the proposals are to be regarded as being flexible and therefore capable of modification in the light of experience. That is something which we welcome, but I finish by earnestly repeating and emphasising to the Minister of Defence that I hope that in the interregnum, before the new concept really gets into operation, he will realise the weaknesses and remedy them, and certainly seek to strengthen the plan by safeguarding the status and position of the Ministers of State, who, I am sure, are an essential part of his team and without whom this plan, in my view, is doomed to failure.
§ 7.34 p.m.
§ Mr. James Allason (Hemel Hempstead)
I think the real problem, as my right hon. Friend said, is the allocation of resources in circumstances of inter-Service rivalry. At times when there is no rivalry we do not have the difficulty, but once there are two Services or three Services bidding for limited resources the situation becomes extremely difficult for the Minister of Defence to look after. During the war the Joint Staff system was working pretty well, but we all know that it had to contain many compromises, that if the Air Force wanted some particular resource the Navy took that as a chance to get in a bid as well for something on its own account and constantly the total bill which the Joint Planning Staff put up to the Chiefs of Staff contained a lot of padding, and it then required a very firm hand at the top, which was usually administered by my right hon. Friend the Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill), to cut that padding out, but, unfortunately, under the Joint Staff system it still crept in. So we saw the introduction of the Chief of the Defence Staff, who was put in 530 over the Chiefs of Staff to try to bang their heads together and cut out this little bit of padding. But still we have this problem of the pyramid going up to the top and a very firm man at the top who has to be able to decide circumstances of inter-Service rivalry.
All the lessons of Government in the past have been that where we centralise we must also learn to decentralise. As the right hon. and learned Member for Rowley Regis and Tipton (Mr. A. Henderson) was saying, the Minister will tend to clutter himself up with every sort of problem unless he decentralises, and yet in this system the first thing he does is to take over the chairmanship of the three Services boards. I know he says he does not intend to go to preside over those boards regularly, but nevertheless the mere fact that he is chairman of the boards means that he must be the ultimate man to give a decision. The deputy-chairman sitting in there must always feel, "I cannot give the ultimate decision on this", and the members of the board will also feel that. They will say, "All right, we have had that decision, but let us go round behind the deputy-chairman's back, and let us go to the chairman and see if we cannot get that decision changed." Therefore, we have complete duplication of effort in this system by allowing the Minister of State, of a Service Department, to be only the deputy-chairman. I can see no reason at all why he should not become the Chairman.
The Minister of Defence under this system has still got complete control: he is the boss, because these are boards within the Ministry of Defence. But for him to be chairman means that he will constantly have disputes referred to him, and not only disputes but complaints and petitions. He will find that all the detailed work which at present falls on the Secretaries of State will fall triply upon him. All the commissions which have to be signed by the Secretary of State before being submitted to Her Majesty, and all of the appeals and petitions and the like, will have to go to the Minister of Defence, and he is going to clutter himself up—and he is doing it deliberately—with a tremendous amount of detailed work which I do not regard as in any way necessary.
I should like to know about the position of science in this pyramid. I can 531 understand military advice and civil advice being submitted to the Minister of Defence—politicians are taught to judge between those two systems of advice coming up to them—but here we have a third tier, scientific advice. I cannot understand how a simple politician, if he is not scientifically trained, can judge the advice of a scientific adviser given to him alongside military or political advice, because the scientific adviser's position in having direct access to the Minister must imply this. I accept that he would undoubtedly plough his advice in at various levels.
Nevertheless, the military or civil advice which comes to the Minister surely should have that scientific advice already grafted in. Otherwise it seems to me that the Minister is put in the position of saying, "I have received some military advice. I will call in the chief scientific adviser and we will have a look at it." He will then say to the Chief Scientific Adviser, "What do you think about it?", and the Chief Scientific Adviser may say, "Tear it up", and the Minister then has to make up his mind whether to tear it up or not. Surely the advice should come up properly integrated from either the military side or the civil side.
I intend no disrespect to the present Chief Scientific Adviser, but it seems to me that because of his very eminence, his position has become exaggerated in this strange pyramid which now appears in the Ministry of Defence.
§ Mr. Tam Dalyell (West Lothian)
The hon. Gentleman says that it is not a question of personalities, but is it not rather strange that the two people concerned are both very eminent biologists?
§ Mr. Allason
Perhaps they are biologists with a keen interest in zoology as well. However, I think that the hon. Gentleman is tempting me away from my point.
I very much welcome the White Paper because I believe that it is necessary to put my right hon. Friend in a position where he can really decide to cut out the additional and unnecessary demands which may be made upon him by the 532 Service Ministries. Nevertheless, I should like to be satisfied whether or not the criticisms which I have made are justified.
§ 7.43 p.m.
§ Mr. George Wigg (Dudley)
I want to ask the right hon. Gentleman a question about the legislative programme and the manner in which it will be carried out. One assumes that when we come back in the autumn, the Government—if still in office—will introduce a Bill. I want an assurance that the Bill will be taken on the Floor of the House.
I should also like an assurance that the Government, when considering the content of the legislation, will take into account the findings of the Select Committee on the Army and Air Force Act, which now finds a part in our procedure in the Army and Air Force continuation Act. When the Government do this, perhaps they will be good enough to look at the timing. There was some controversy at the last quinquennial review whether the continuation Act should come in the autumn or at another time of the year.
It is perfectly clear that the nature of our debates is extremely unsatisfactory. We have a kind of defence season which starts in the last days of February; we then have the Army Estimates, the Navy Estimates and the Air Estimates and then the Committee stage, and then off it goes and we have no further opportunity unless, by a bit of private enterprise, one raises the subject on the Consolidated Fund Bill. This is wholly unsatisfactory. I wonder whether, when they are framing their proposals, the Government will have a serious look at this to see what can be done to give the House an opportunity to keep itself abreast with events through periodical debates because we form a very important link between the Government, on the one hand, and public opinion on the other and this link must be kept in constant use if it is to be fully effective.
I am one of those who believe that we cannot get our defence policies right unless we can do it against the background of an informed public opinion. The Americans have been able to do what they have done and to carry through very drastic measures because in almost every university there now is a 533 group studying the impact of strategy and working out its consequences. There are all sorts of institutions, like the Rand Corporation engaged in the task of formulating policy and informing public opinion. Also, they have a dynamic President and Secretary of Defence who themselves understand and realise that the background against which they can act is and must be an informed public opinion.
It seems to me, therefore, that when they consider their legislation the Government should perhaps take American experience and practice into account. Certainly, as one who laboured for 2½ years, even through Recesses, in respect of the Army and the Air Force Act—and it taught me the tremendous lesson that difficult problems in relation to defence can be defined and solved with good will and unpopular decisions on defence matters can be brought to the House and put into operation. I think that if the Government look at the defence problems which face them with this purpose clearly in mind they will find solutions much easier to find.
Before I come back to the White Paper, I want to say one or two things about the general nature of the debate that we have had today. It has produced a clue to what is wrong. Let me say at once that I do not impugn anyone's honesty or integrity if I say some hard things—I would point out by way of exchange that hard things are often said to me. When one listens to what has been said from the Government benches, it is clear that hon. Gentlemen opposite believe, and the former Minister of Defence certainly believes, that it is merely a matter of detail, that the Committee of Defence and Overseas Policy is a continuation of what the former Minister of Defence knew when he was at the Ministry of Defence.
Such an opinion indicates what is fundamentally wrong with our defence policy. Surely it is that firm decisions on world strategy which lasted more than a year have never been taken. Thus the situation into which the Chiefs of Staff are supposed to fit their Services policy is constantly fluctuating and changing. The one reason why I advocate reverting to the old Committee of Imperial Defence—I give it the name which upsets my right hon. Friend 534 the Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell); perhaps he can find a new name for it—is that the advantages of a committee of that kind, advisory in character, which contained not only the Leader of the Opposition but in these days, I would have thought, the Shadow Foreign Secretary and the Shadow Minister of Defence, are so obvious that the proposition has only to be examined objectively for something to be done about it.
It is perfectly clear, it seems to me, that the late Lord Haldane could never have carried through his Army Bill before the First World War and never have laid the foundation of the best force that ever left these shores—the old Contemptibles—had it not been for the support of the then Mr. Balfour against that Left Wing hamperer of the Services, the present right hon. Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill), who, in his radical days, was against expenditure on the Armed Forces. It was the support of Mr. Balfour against the Left Wing of the Liberal Party in those days that enabled that Measure to be carried through.
From a reading of Lord Haldane's experiences on the one hand, from my attendances at this House over the last eighteen years and from my service on the Army Select Committee for two and a half years, I have become convinced that one should endeavour to elevate defence above the level of party controversy.
There is another reason. I believe that the die has been cast and that before many months my right hon. and hon. Friends will be sitting on the other side of the House. But I should be a charlatan and humbug if I assumed that merely by that translation our problems will be solved. Of course not. Defence policy now is so complicated and defence systems take so long to plan and evolve that nothing that can be done in the life of a single Parliament can ever put it right. We are talking here in terms of a decade. We are now reaping the rewards of 12 years of Conservative administration.
I make no party point about it. I say it in the interests of both parties. It is in the interest of the country that we should endeavour not only to elevate the 535 policy above Party but also the organisational approach and the problem arising there from. Having said that, I will not be mealy-mouthed. I am a member of the Labour Party, and proud of it, and I am quite prepared to argue from the Party point of view.
If it is a weakness that I advance the Labour Party's point of view, and if I am a humbug in doing so, then I am a little less of a humbug than hon. Members opposite who advance the Conservative point of view, because I am slightly more intelligent and at least I know what I am doing. One cannot be a successful humbug unless one believes one's own humbug, and I quite believe that hon. Members opposite—including the right hon. Member for Woking (Mr. Watkinson)—are really and honestly convinced that the Conservative Party's defence policy enables us to maintain our position as a world power—strong and powerful.Come the four corners of the world…and we will do our stuff.
I am quite sure that the Prime Minister honestly believes that it is because we have a V-bomber force that we got to Moscow. I want to examine that proposition. I will have to do it against the background of the charge, made by the hon. Member for Macclesfield (Sir A. V. Harvey), that if one says anything about any subject at all one is attacking the workers or exports or if one says anything about our manpower one is attacking the Forces.
Yesterday, the Minister of Defence raised full-troated roars of approval from the benches opposite when he announced that the Government had taken the decision to build another aircraft carrier. Unfortunately for them—and it is an esential attribute if one backs horses that one remembers form—my memory has been well-trained. I turned to paragraph 41 of the Report on the Navy in the Statement on Defence, published six months ago. There it was stated:The design of a new aircraft carrier to replace H.M.S. Victorious is making good progress.So yesterday's announcement, made to keep the 1922 Committee quiet, is a repetition of a decision already six months old.
§ Mr. Wigg
That is what the Defence Statement said. We are to have three aircraft carriers on the Navy's strength, and that was announced last February. It was also said then that we were to get the P.1154 and today a lovely picture was conjured up. They will be painted light blue and dark blue. But here was supposed to be a new vista introduced yesterday with the announcement about the P.1154. But paragraph 14 of the Memorandum on the Air Estimates six months ago said that the Government had decided…that the replacement for the Hunter should be based on the Hawker P.1154.If the Government have not convinced me—and perhaps I am so insignificant that they have not tried to—they have, by covering themselves with this succession of confidence tricks, convinced their own back benchers and the Press throughout the country. One can read all today's papers and find that they all write about the two major decisions the Government have taken, although those decisions are six months old.
Let us turn to the question of manpower. I have taken a stand on this question for 12 years. I have often found myself at variance with my right hon. and hon. Friends. But, as with so many other subjects, the more I went into it the more I nurtured myself with the thought that tomorrow was another day and that I could wait to prove simple arithmetic. The test of manpower is not the number of men enlisted but the number of years for which they enlist. For years I attacked the three-year engagement and then, in 1957, seven years too late, the Government abandoned it. We were told in the last Statement on Defence that the manpower problem was solved, and that I was wrong again. I then engaged in correspondence in The Times, a battle which I did not lose. I can quote two Written Answers in my support.
In January, I asked about the teeth arms in the Army and received the following reply:In all arms the position will improve substantially in the next few months."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 31st January, 1963; Vol. 670, c. 234.]I put the same Question down for Written Answer today, and the situation is either about the same, or overall slightly worse than it was.
537 In February I put a similar Question about the Services in the Army and was told:Most of these deficiencies will be made good in the next few months."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 11th February, 1963; Vol. 671, c. 144.]The Written Answer I got today to a similar Question is that the shortages are still there and have not been made up.
Let us turn now to the V-bomber force. This is great fun, if such a subject can be fun at all. We have 180 V-bombers. During the recent Foreign Affairs debate the Minister of Defence said that our bombers were faster than any comparable aircraft in the world. I tried to interrupt him, but, as usual, he did not give way because he knew that it was an awkward point. However, I could afford to wait.
What about the Hustler? Our V-bombers cannot beat the speed of sound and fly at Mach. I. The B-58—the Hustler—has a speed of Mach. II. for a 300 mile dash. Who are the Government trying to kid? At weekend garden parties at Woking and Macclesfield hon. Members opposite get away with it. They tell the story of our strong, powerful Forces deployed all over the world. They say, "Here we are going to Moscow because of our strength". Do they deceive anyone in the United States Air Force, Mr. McNamara or Mr. Khrushchev? Of course not. They know the speeds of the V-bombers and the Hustler. We are told that we are a nuclear power. We are told of our V-bombers armed with Blue Steel—we have no Skybolt now. But Blue Steel has a range of only 100 miles and our V-bombers only have the capacity to drop a free-falling bomb over the target. That is the limit of the V-bombers.
In Germany we have not one single Army atomic missile on which the Americans have not got the lock and key. Two regiments in Dortmund have Corporals with a range of 70 miles. I would sell the Corporal to the ironmongers as soon as I could find a Steptoe & Son to buy it. We have three regiments at Senelaagger armed with Honest Johns and atomic artillery. We have no medium artillery of our own in Germany but all the missiles we do have with their American warhead are simply scattered where our barracks happen to be, with 538 little relation to any operational plan. Again, who do the Government think they are kidding?
Let us turn, for good measure, to what I have read before. Experience shows me that one has to raise a thing 47 times in this House before it produces any result and I have read this only 45 times. It is from a report presented to the United States Senate Committee on the European Economic Community and the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation. The Report was made on 14th September, 1962. I hope that hon. Members opposite, when they talk at their garden parties and make the bosoms of Tory ladies rise with passion above the singing of "Land of Hope and Glory", will also read this to them. This is what the Americans think about our V-bomber force:The British strike force is already approaching obsolescence. Its credibility as an instrument of British policy is steadily declining.Yet we have debate after debate and the same old, sorry, weary tale about our strength. If an hon. Member says anything about manpower, he feels that he ought to go and blow his brains out because he is a Quisling, and if he tells the truth about the TSR2, he is stabbing our export trade in the back.
These words are directed to the hon. Member for Macclesfield: I believe that a viable, thrusting and up-to-date aircraft industry is a. prerequisite for this country to keep in the forefront of the industrial race. I believe that we could do a lot better with much less manpower than we now have. But I look round and see that never at any time has a ballistic missile of British manufacture been launched from the territory of our Sovereign Lady the Queen. The air-to-ground missiles which we have are either American or French. I think that we ought to do much better than this.
I have served my apprenticeship in opposing the Government's defence policies. I opposed the three-year engagement and I opposed Blue Streak. I remember with some bitterness—not bitterness now remember, because my right hon. Friend the Member for Easington always removes the bitterness from my heart—that as recently as March, 1960, I ventured the opinion that Blue Streak was a dead duck. Within six weeks it 539 was. I followed this up by opposing Skybolt. As usual, I had to go through a period of denigration and then I had the ultimate satisfaction of knowing, "George, you are right again". I was 100 per cent. certain in the cases of Blue Streak and Skybolt; now I am 10,000 per cent. certain in the case of the TSR2.
The TSR2 is a dead duck, and it is a dead duck despite the fact that it is a triumph for British industry, just as Blue Streak was. The fault with Blue Streak was not that industry failed or that the manufacturers and the technicians had slipped up. The fault rested with the Government Front Bench. They were too late with the basic policy decisions and the result is that, with the F4H, on the one hand, and the F110 on the other, the Americans will make certain that we do not sell the TSR2 abroad and the cost will ultimately be of the order of £500 million. At the moment the Belfast is leading the field as the most expensive aircraft in the world, but close behind it follows the TSR2.
I have reached the conclusion that the TSR2 will be cancelled purely on grounds of overall cost. Nobody in this game can blame somebody else for making a mistaken decision. If he does, he is a charlatan or a fool, and the odds are that he is both. I took no part in the anger of my hon. Friends when Blue Streak was cancelled, although I had opposed Blue Streak. The crime was not to have been wrong about Blue Streak. The charge against the present Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations is that although Blue Streak was adead duck in 1959, under the patronage of the Prime Minister, the right hon. Gentleman put his party interest before the interests of his country for one year. That is also the charge about Skybolt. Anyone who studied the Skybolt complex knew very well that it was running into grave difficulties in the early part of 1962, but the Prime Minister did not have the guts to come here and face not the country—because he could manipulate the Press—but the 1922 Committee.
We keep going through the same process and we have arrived at it again. The Prime Minister dare not go to the 1922 Committee—he is already hanging on by the tips of his fingers and the 540 skin of his teeth—and tell his own back benchers the truth about the TSR2. That is my charge against the Government Front Bench and that is why I use the words I did this afternoon. It is not a crime to be wrong. There was nothing dishonourable in the Prime Minister and the party opposite, mistaken as I believed they were at the time, backing the 1957 White Paper. What is wrong, evil, cowardly and disgraceful is to persist long after one knows the truth because one does not have the political guts to tell the people the truth.
Let us now turn to the White Paper.
§ Mr. Wigg
Why not? Why should I not ram down the throats of hon. Members the lies which they have told themselves and the country? Whether they like it or not, I am going to do it again, and I hasten to add that I enjoy doing it.
The White Paper is a fascinating document. The first thing I did when I had read it was to read it again, and then I went to listen to the Minister of Defence on the radio. My memory took me back to what was said in 1957. I will not mention his name, but a right hon. Gentleman opposite and I had a talk about about this White Paper. I was willing to have a little bet, and I wish that I could have found someone to take me on. I said that the Government would describe this organisation as streamlining. This is the sort of word which they cannot avoid. It sounds wonderful and it gives Tory back benchers a cosy feeling of modernity. I knew that it would be described as the British Pentagon and that, as in the 1957 White Paper, it would be said to save money. The Pentagon, save money, streamline forces—this is exactly what was said in the 1957 White Paper. Here we are again, absolutely true to form. If any hon. Member doubts what I am saying, I will lend him a copy of the transcript of the broadcast free of charge.
There is a fundamental difference between the Pentagon and the Government's new approach. As soon as President Kennedy was elected, he decided that he did not know about the aviation position and so he told Mr. Hallaby to come forward with proposals in 90 days 541 and to lay down the frontiers of the aircraft industry for the next decade. He appointed Mr. McNamara, a man of tremendous ability and terrific understanding of the workings of industry, and told him not as the Minister of Defence in 1957 was told, "There is the 1957 White Paper; it is politically inconvenient to maintain conscription; here is the policy; you go and carry it out". The President said, "Make an appreciation of the facts and come back with a plan". Mr. McNamara came back with the plan and brought in the "Whizz Kids" and the computers and tested the plan. They got the President's approval and then they started to carry it out from there.
What do we do? After Suez, living up to his famous motto. "First in, first out", the Prime Minister decided that his position was very grave. He had to take a trick. The Prime Minister is a politician and a politician only, albeit a superb and very great politician. He produced the 1957 White Paper to save money and to get rid of the bomber and to get rid of the fighter and to have atomic streamlined forces, and he appointed the present Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations to carry out that policy. All the time it was clear that the cock did not fight. Later Blue Streak was out and so the Prime Minister sacked the chap to whom he had given the job and gave it to the right hon. Member for Woking. The money on Blue Streak having gone, the bet was now on Skybolt. As soon as Skybolt was done, the Prime Minister did not cut his own political throat but sacked the right hon. Member for Woking. We now have the present Minister of Defence. He will be saved by the gong, because the Prime Minister will be "done" before he "does" the right hon. Gentleman.
To suggest that the new organisation is the British Pentagon is nonsense. This afternoon we heard the right hon. Gentleman's humorous explanation of how the new proposals were the logical outcome of the policies of the right hon. Member for Woking. What does he take us for? Does he think that we cannot read? From the 1958 White Paper on the Central Organisation of Defence and, above all, from the 1961 Defence White Paper we find a very 542 important quotation. I will not weary the House by reading it. Hon. Members, if they wish, can see how the claim is made. Only two years ago it was said that the Minister of Defence had all the power that he wanted; that he could do what he liked; that he could impose his will. The only difference is that it has been demonstrated beyond any shadow of doubt that if he had powers he has not used them.
The Government have now got into a tremendous muddle, and they have to carry out a major diversion. The Prime Minister relies very successfully on the stupidity of hon. Gentlemen opposite. That stupidity can always be counted on not to fail him. Coupled with that there is the fact that people go away for their summer holidays in early August. We had this operation put across us a year ago. The Minister, under the shadow of the previous year's White Paper, said that everything in the garden was lovely. But then the PT428 was cancelled and the Army was left with the L70 and no Bofors replacements.
And what happened last year? Again there was a crisis. It always comes up at this time of the year, because it is at this time of the year that they start to look at the defence Estimates for the following year. What happened when they looked at it last July? These honourable, straightforward, caricatures of English gentlemen wait until the House has risen and no questions can be asked, and they rely on nothing being done about it when we come back. On 10th August there was a handout from the Ministry of Defence saying that Blue Water was cancelled. No medium artillery were provided to take its place. This was a catastrophic blow to the whole concept on which the planning of the army was based. It was Blue Water last year, and they are running into the same sort of difficulties this year.
That is why we had questions on Defence yesterday. That is why the Minister of Defence came down to the House and spoke as though he was saying something original in announcing the successor to the "Victorious". That is why he said what he did about the P1154. He wanted to get the Government supporters off to their summer holidays without them asking any awkward questions. So he came along and told the House 543 something which in fact he announced six months ago.
We are up against the fact that there is a rising level of costs. Both parties bear their share of responsibility for this defence problem. The Prime Minister spelt this out in 1957. Why did he go for the nuclear concept? The answer is that he wanted at all costs to get rid of conscription. But once somebody tries to get rid of conscription by putting up rates of pay, by improving barracks, and by raising the general standard of amenities, there is little money left for the cost of equipment. The cost of manpower is rising all the time, and therefore if we go in for this policy, as other countries have done, we get the men in—though not necessarily the right kind of chaps—but then the Forces get out of balance and remain so because we cannot afford to buy equipment to enable them to fight.
And then of course there is a limit on the amount that can be spent on pay and allowances. As I have tried to tell my hon. Friends, this is a different game from debating the Budget or foreign policy. There one can juggle with Motions, Amendments, colons and commas, but in this game there is a logic all of its own. If we do not have the right kind of fire power in the right place at the right time when the chips are down, the occupying forces will march up Whitehall. I am reminded of Corelli Barnett's book "The Desert Generals". He says that defeat in battle is no accident; that it does not come like a thief in the night, but after a prolonged period of national decadence.
Look what happened in France. They hid behind the illusion of the Maginot Line. We hide behind another illusion, and the Minister of Defence bears a great responsibility for this. We hide behind the illusion of a non-existent deterrent which, when the chips are down, is worth nothing.
I have said this before and I do not apologise for saying it again. The Government refuse to tell the British people the facts. The only way they can put this matter right is to tell the British people the truth, but to do that they must recognise the truth themselves. To do so would, of course, be fatal to hon. Gentleman opposite because, being 544 honourable, they would blow their brains out if they were brought face to face with the facts.
This White Paper is being carried through under pressure from one source, and one source only. This bears the imprint of one hand, and one hand only, that of the Prime Minister. I happen to be an ex-Regular soldier, though a humble one, having served as a military clerk, and spent some of my time amending regulations. I happen to know what this White Paper means. I invite the House to look at paragraph 68 which deals with the organisation of the Principal Personnel and Administrative Officers Committees. A Committee of Principal Personnel Officers is to sit down and work out the manpower policy for 375,000 or 400,000 men. What tommy rot this all is, and yet we have not heard a single bleat from the Benches opposite.
Do not hon. Gentlemen opposite realise that to do this, and to make the system effective it will be necessary to carry out a major internal reorganisation of the three Services In the Army, the Adjutant-General is responsible for the soldier as a man. In the Navy, the Second Sea Lord is responsible for the sailor as a whole person, including his training. In the Army this responsibility is split. The Director of Military Training is responsible for a soldier's training. I am not suggesting which method is best, but if somebody writes this stuff and presents it to the House of Commons in the hope that it will be accepted, he must think that we are a lot of mugs, because quite clearly this is merely putting dummies in the shop window in the hope that they will get away with it.
I know that this is the genius of our race and that if the White Paper is accepted we shall start working on it and deal with the difficulties as they arise. Somebody will say to the First Sea Lord, "What about this?". He will say, "I shall have to talk to the Adjutant General". The Adjutant General will reply, "This is nothing to do with me. This is a matter for the General Staff". They will go away, there will be a flurry and a hurry, and the matter will be put right.
I hope that the right hon. Member for Woking will not tell me that this doctrine will work out because we have able staff 545 officers. Nobody has begun to think about this problem. This will unquestionably increase the demand for staff officers, and one of the major problems in the Army at the moment is the lack of regimental officers even in a crack regiment like the Green Jackets. All the time the pressure for the best staff officers becomes even greater, and this is the very point at which the position needs to be strengthened.
I share the views, and some of the joys and happiness, of my right hon. Friend the Member for Easington. I am certain that this is a step in the right direction. I am sure that this White Paper, like the announcements from the Government Front Bench yesterday, is borne of political expediency. Rising costs have forced the right hon. Gentleman into a corner, but I hope that when we get to power we shall do better than this.
The essential requirement is honesty in our thinking and presentation. If I bore hon. Members by saying once again the thing that I have said in every defence debate in which I have spoken, I cannot help it. We cannot get over defence problems by conducting them on the basis of a sham fight, because the one characteristic of a sham fight is that nobody can win. The only way to get this right is to have honesty in thinking and honesty in presentation. We must trust the British people. We must tell them the truth.
If, when we get back, we find that, awkward as it may be from an economic point of view, that the TSR2 is in difficulties, the honest and straightforward thing to do will be to come clean and cancel it. In the meantime I invite the Government to do what they have never done so far, namely, to produce a defence policy which will serve the interests of the Armed Forces and this country.
§ 8.21 p.m.
§ Captain John Litchfield (Chelsea)
I am glad that I am speaking after the hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg), because when I spoke before him in the Select Committee on Parliamentary Elections the other day he began by referring to me as a reactionary and ended by calling me a Liberal. Neither term is one that I like to have applied to me in this House.
§ Captain Litchfield
I will not enter into a dispute with the right hon. Gentleman about that. I do not disagree.
I have a great respect for the knowledge and industry of the hon. Member for Dudley in Service matters, but I was sad to hear him say that he honestly believed his own humbug. He does not always talk humbug. He did not even talk a great deal about the subject under debate this evening. Only towards the end of his speech did he make one or two references to the White Paper, but I want to concentrate on that subject.
My first reaction to it was one of relief. If I do not give an absolutely unqualified welcome to it I hope that my right hon. Friend will not think that I do not appreciate the magnitude of his achievement and the immense difficulties and resistances that he and his professional advisers—and, indeed, the whole Government—had to overcome in reaching the agreed proposals on reorganisation which we now have. My right hon. Friend is to be congratulated, as, also, are his senior professional advisers and the senior officers and officials in Whitehall. They deserve great credit for having reached these agreed proposals, which will undoubtedly involve the surrender of many cherished positions in Whitehall.
Although there are potential dangers in some of the proposals, I have no doubt—and I have had a certain amount of experience at the working end of these matters—that, on the whole, they represent a great advance. I was glad that at the end of his speech the hon. Member for Dudley agreed that the White Paper is an advance.
There has been conflict, whatever the hon. Member for Dudley may say, about the decision on the aircraft carrier having been taken six months ago—there has been a conflict in Whitehall in recent weeks, or even in recent days—and it may be that this conflict would not have been so bitter or prolonged if we had had in force today an organisation such as that which we are to see under the new proposals.
I suspect that these proposals are something of a compromise between what one might call the Germanic concept of a defence organisation and the traditionally more flexible British 547 system. I am thankful that my right hon. Friend resisted pressures to go for anything like the German O.K.W. system, although in some cases it may be that even in these proposals he has gone a little further than I would be altogether happy about. There are attractions in tidy diagrams and highly centralised control and chains of responsibility, but there are also perils in concentrating too much absolute power and responsibility in too few hands—or even in one pair of hands.
Military strategy is always an easy thing for the amateur who is not in close touch with the realities of life and logistics, and has no responsibility for execution. In much the same way, politics always seem a much simpler problem for the political commentators and even back benchers, and certainly for members of the Opposition, than they are for those with responsibility for taking decisions, who have to take account of the hard facts and capabilities of political life. Perhaps in a future decade right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite will appreciate the force of this—although I doubt whether that will be as soon as they expect.
I am thankful that some of the essential checks in the existing defence organisation—especially the Chiefs of Staff organisation—have been retained in this more centralised organisation. I am glad to see that the Chiefs of Staff Committee will be preserved in its present form, and that the First Sea Lord, the Chief of the Imperial General Staff, and the Chief of Air Staff will continue as professional heads of their Services, with undiminished status, and will retain the right of personal access to the Prime Minister. Above all, I am thankful that the Services will retain their identities and their individual loyalities. This was a matter in respect of which I had some fear. I believe that these proposals go as far as they can to meet this problem satisfactorily.
One other marked advantage which has not been mentioned this afternoon is that under these proposals defence will at last speak with one voice on matters of finance. The ability of the Treasury to play off one Service against another will be very much diminished. From the point of view of the Services, that is important and good.
548 Nevertheless, before I go on to make one or two little criticisms I must refer to one thing that I am sad about, namely, the passing of the Board of Admiralty—the Commissioners for Executing the Office of Lord High Admiral. I have no doubt that this is inevitable in any scheme of this nature, but it is fitting for the House to remember with gratitude a body which, through the centuries, has not only honourably discharged the highest responsibility for the security of these islands but has consistently maintained the highest standards of duty and public service in Whitehall.
I now turn for a moment to one or two points about which I am a little less happy. In a debate of this kind on proposals which will affect the future life and loyalties of the three Services we must be careful to say nothing which would be likely to weaken the confidence in and loyalty of the Services to this new organisation when it comes about. What I propose to say is not intended as specific criticism, but is designed to focus the attention of the House on points which I regard as important and which I hope that my right hon. Friend will take into account when preparing, in the autumn and maybe early next year, the detailed legislation which will be brought before the House.
First—this was mentioned by the hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey)—there is the question of the political control of this gigantic accumulation of power and responsibility, unparalleled in peace time. It is a responsibility, in round figures, for 400,000 men and women in the Services and 400,000 men and women in various grades of the Civil Service, with a budget of about £2,000 million. These powers are being exercised in peace time, and in some ways I think that they exceed the power which my right hon. Friend the Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill) assumed in time of war. I am not criticising, I am drawing attention to them, because these are things which, in future, must be watched by hon. Members op both sides of the House.
To me, it seems almost inconceivable—I think that my right hon. Friend will admit this—that any one man could possibly handle a task of this magnitude in any personal sense. There must be—and rightly so—a wide measure of 549 decentralisation, and with the de-grading of the Service Ministers to Minister of State level, is not there a risk that political control will be seriously weakened? That is a point which we must watch in the future. We must recognise that there is a price to be paid for a reorganisation of this kind. I think that hon. Members on both sides of the House are in favour of some reorganisation and centralisation. But we must recognise that there is a price to be paid for it, and probably rightly paid, in an accretion of power in Whitehall and a corresponding loss of authority in this House through Ministers.
In effect, this power will be exercised, in practice, by the triumvirate of permanent officials, under my right hon. Friend, the Chief of the Defence Staff, the Permanent Under-Secretary and the Chief Scientific Adviser. The point which I wish to leave in the mind of my right hon. Friend on that aspect is that this danger might, I believe, be somewhat reduced by up-grading the Ministers of State to Cabinet rank—not as members of the Cabinet, but with Cabinet rank. I am not an authority on this sort of problem. But I consider it one which we should think about. We must be careful not to surrender more political control than is absolutely essential—and by political control I mean direct political control in this reorganisation.
The second point I wish to mention is the position of the scientists in this organisation. Here again, there is an immense increase of power and influence. It will be seen that the Chief Scientific Adviser is a member of the Defence Council and Chairman of the Defence Scientific Staff. His subordinate chief Service scientists are now raised to board level. In effect, this means that the authority of the Chief Scientific Adviser will stretch down through every level of this organisation, and he is thus raised to a position of very great influence on both the policy-making and the management sides.
I have no wish to belittle the importance of scientists. Far from it. I think it right that their status should be raised and that the Chief Scientific Adviser should be one of the triumvirate at the top. But my point is that the scientists, by profession, training and experience, are not managers. I think that 550 the proposed inclusion of the chief scientists of the Service at board level should be reconsidered.
I do not express a very definite view on this, but I do not see the argument for including them at board level. They are at present, and perhaps might be in future, departmental heads working immediately underneath the board, but to put them on the boards puts them into management. If too little importance has been attached to scientists in the past, I am not sure that a little too much is not being given to them now.
It is important that the new Committee on Defence and Overseas Policy should not be a head without a body, and I entirely support the arguments from the other side that this Committee, which fills a very definite gap in the integration of defence policy with foreign and colonial policy, should be served by a very select, competent and permanent staff.
I am glad that my right hon. Friend the Minister of Aviation is present to hear my remarks on the difficult question of the position of his Ministry. I appreciate from the remarks of my right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence that there are strong arguments both for and against including this Ministry in the new organisation. But, although knowing far less than does my right hon. Friend about the problem, I think that I would come down in favour of including it within the Ministry of Defence. I believe that it should have been possible to separate what might be called the "Farnborough" side of the Ministry from the "London Airport" side; to include the Farnborough side, which is very wide and big and, of course, goes far beyond Farnborough itself—I use that only as a descriptive word—and to hive off the commercial or London Airport side to the Ministry of Transport.
Whatever reasons of convenience there may be in favour of treating my right hon. Friend the Minister of Aviation within the Ministry of Defence, I think that this is a serious mistake in principle and in organisation. After all, if he holds his present office and the Minister of Defence still holds his when this reorganisation bikes place, the Minister of Aviation will be the second senior Minister in the building—he will be well 551 above the Service Ministers of State—yet, outside his own Ministry, he will have no responsibility for defence policy. To put it mildly, I can see all kinds of difficulties arising from that. At any rate, it is an untidy arrangement and a thoroughly bad principle, and I hope that it will be looked at again.
There are many points to discuss in these proposals, but I will mention only one about which I am a little unhappy, though it is comparatively minor. I refer to the proposal to appoint a Defence Secretary in place of the Naval, Military and Air Secretaries we now have. This new officer will be drawn from one of the existing Services, and will be responsible for advising over a very wide range of patronage. There are dangers in the appointment, and I should prefer to leave the three Secretaries as they are.
Having offered certain rather critical but, I hope, not entirely unconstructive criticisms, I will end as I began, by congratulating my right hon. Friends—and, indeed, the Government and the Services as a whole—on their initiative and courage in bringing forward these agreed proposals. There will be many details to be looked into by the House when my right hon. Friend brings forward specific legislation to implement the proposals next Session, or perhaps in the next Parliament. I wish him well in putting through this mammoth reorganisation, modified as I hope it may be in one or two respects.
There is much in our traditional British system which, I hope, will guide him in future. There is much in past German experience which, I hope, will warn my right hon. Friend. And there is something in the words of the defence correspondent of The Times this morning which, I hope, will give my right hon. Friend cause for thought—the description of the Pentagon in Washington as combiningthe activity of an ant hill with the apathy of a penitentiary.
§ 8.41 p.m.
§ Mr. Tam Dalyell (West Lothian)
As a member of the Public Accounts Committee I am concerned solely with a number of points which are raised in paragraphs 64 and 65 of the White Paper. Are these four Second Permanent Undersecretaries of State to come before the Public Accounts Committee altogether or 552 separately? If separately, I would have thought that this was in antagonism to the whole object behind the White Paper, because if they come separately there will be a compartmentalised conception of thought and the whole concept of the White Paper may be destroyed.
I am worried that if the Public Accounts Committee is to operate at all efficiently we cannot go on as at present discussing the trivialities of the Services. What, after all, did the Committee discuss this year? We had the Permanent Secretary of the War Office before us and we discussed the accommodation at Alanbrooke Hall, the question of hired transport in the United Kingdom, and whether it was right that 24 per cent. of the vehicles at Catterick Camp should be off the road. We discussed in detail and at some length the question of surplus land at the Woolwich Arsenal and, finally—and this was our main discussion—we talked about the loss of stores involving cast-iron cases for 3-in. mortars.
Having said that, can we then accept at the beginning of paragraph 64 of the White Paper thatAll the Defence Votes will be accounted for to Parliament by the new Ministry of Defence."?If it is to be accounted for to Parliament at all, it is presumably through the Public Accounts Committee. I know of no other way. If it is through that Committee, let us not deceive ourselves, because this is a purely illusory control. I therefore ask for some sort of mechanism which will allow both sides of the House to have a much clearer idea than we have at present of how the astronomical sum of £2,000 million is being spent. I assure the House, from my brief experience of the Public Accounts Committee, that that Committee is not the vehicle for that purpose.
§ 8.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Anthony Kershaw (Stroud)
The hon. Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell) put his finger on a most important point. One of the difficulties about the vast new Ministry which we are discussing is how it will attend to the details he has mentioned. We shall be better able to judge how this is to be done when we see the Bill before us, and perhaps after the first year or two, when we see how, in practice, this 553 gigantic Ministry is working. Nevertheless, the danger is clearly there.
I will deal with only a few items in a field which has been adequately covered in the discussion, because there is at least one other hon. Member who wishes to speak, and I will try to give him time to do so. I congratulate my right hon. and hon. Friends. I firmly believe that the principle of the reorganisation is right. It is, after all, the case that our Armed Forces operate together, and it is, therefore, surely logical that they should be organised basically in a way to reflect this co-operation which takes place in the field. There can be no doubt that the principle of the reorganisation is good.
In contrast to my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Chelsea (Captain Litchfield), I welcome the way in which the scientific officers are being brought into the machine at different levels—far more than is the case at the moment. It is particularly important in these days when weapons are so expensive and it is so easy to make an error—and we have had many errors, through nobody's fault—that the scientist should be brought into the picture as early as possible, not to advise after a project has got off the ground but to give advice before the project is even begun. I do not see why the scientist should be, as my hon. Friend suggested he was, a worse manager than anybody else. I believe that some of the most successful firms in the country, such as I.C.I., consistently promote scientists and have found no harmful effects from doing so.
Combined with the extra scientific emphasis in the White Paper, I wish there had been more room for academic or perhaps strategic thought in the Ministry than appears to be available. Scientific officers must extend their activities far beyond the technical evaluation of weapons or weapon systems, because with modern weapons it is clear that the political consequences which flow from their use are so formidable that they are part and parcel of the evaluation of the weapons system. I have no doubt that a mind so far ranging as that of the present Chief Scientific Officer takes fully into consideration all aspects of weapons systems, not only technical, but it is a pity that there seems not to be in the central organisation a place for academic study 554 of the problems of the defence Ministry. I hope that a place will be found for it.
As I have said before in the House, the Americans do this rather better than we do. They may do a little too much academic thinking and advice, but I am certain that we do too little, and it would be a sound idea if there were in the organisation, not dependent on individuals who were holding a post from time to time, an opportunity for this type of academic advice and reflection.
There are two points on which 1 am not happy. The first is the continued existence of the Chief of Defence Staff after the reorganisation is complete. I fully accept that at the moment he is a very necessary person, but it seems to me that after the reorganisation is complete the value of his post diminishes. What will he do? He will be filtering to the Secretary of State for Defence the advice which comes from the heads of the Services. He will be choosing which of the three sets of advice he should pass on.
In my right hon. Friend's words, he will be polishing the advice and hiding the flaws in the advice in order to present a finished product and not to allow the Minister to see how the advice was built up from the start. He will have great but rather indefinite power, and, if we were so unfortunate as to have a weak or inexperienced; Secretary of State for Defence, the Chief of Defence Staff would become a very important person indeed, and, of course, he would not be answerable to the House.
It is not to be expected that we can be sure that the Chief of the Defence Staff will be the best man available for the job. In the words of my right hon. Friend the Member for Flint, West (Mr. Birch), he will be chosen on the principle of "Buggins's turn" from each Service. If anyone doubts this, it can be tested by guessing now who the Chief of the Defence Staff will be under the new reorganisation. There is no doubt who the first one will be, and I am prepared to say who the second and the third will be, too, by which time it will be the turn of the Navy again. It really will be Buggins's turn. While, of course, they are all admirable gentlemen—there are no personalities involved in what I say—it is the fact 555 that turns will be taken between the Services and, therefore, we shall not necessarily get the best man.
It is said that we need the Chief of Defence Staff during operations. Why? Will he be running the war? I am not sure that this is sound. Even Bismarck, who was a very military gentleman, said that war was too important a matter to be left to the generals. The generals should do the tactics, but the strategy should be under civilian control, of course, with military advice.
In my view, therefore, the Secretary of State for Defence should deal direct with his heads of Services, see their conflict of advice and see their difficulties. I believe that, although one cannot be categorical about it, this would be better than the proposal before us. It would be necessary to have a secretary of the defence staff on a sort of Is may model, and I wonder whether that might be better.
The second matter which gives me some misgivings has been raised already. I refer to the status of the Ministers of State. On one aspect of this, it seems extraordinary that each Service should not have a sort of political head to whom it can normally look. The Secretary of State for Defence will not be the head of the Army or of the other Services particularly, and it is odd that there should not be civilian Ministers to whom the Services can look.
I believe that we are right to keep the Ministry of Aviation separate. The civil responsibilities of the Ministry of Aviation are very great and very important for the future; they alternate and impinge upon military responsibilities in a way one cannot easily foresee. What starts as a military project ends as a civilian project, and vice versa, and one cannot be certain which way a project will go. Therefore, I think that it is right to keep the Minister of Aviation out, though I think it odd to write into the White Paper that the Secretary of State for Defence must have the right to send for the Minister of Aviation's officials and ask their advice.
Of course, on a casual, "old boy" basis there could be no difficulty about the Secretary of State discussing technical matters with whomever he pleases and with whomever is qualified to give 556 him advice, but it is odd formally to write into the White Paper that he must have this right to send for the officials of another Ministry and inform the Minister that he is doing so. If he were on such distant personal terms with the Minister of Aviation, I think that it would be unfortunate.
Now, two rather detailed points. It is said in paragraph 23 that there will be reorganisation of the Army and Air Force Acts, and I wonder whether it is proposed, under the new organisation, to have a Navy Act. We have not got one at present, and it is not necessary to renew the mandate of the Navy as it is to renew the mandate of the Army and the Air Force every year. This has certain practical consequences because Treasury control over naval expenditure is much less strict than over the detailed expenditure of the other Services. I wonder whether this situation will persist in the future or whether it is proposed to make the Navy go exactly pari passu with the other Services.
Finally, a small and, perhaps, even more academic point relating the office of Lord High Admiral. Under the new arrangements, the Sovereign will be the Commander-in-Chief of the Navy. The Sovereign is not Commander-in-Chief of the Army or of the Air Force. Why should the Sovereign command the Navy? It may be thought that this is not of great importance, but it is not entirely academic. I recall that the King of the Belgians was Commander-in-Chief of the Belgian Army in 1914 and in 1940 and that this had, although with opposite effect, the most extraordinary consequences in international politics. It is possible to imagine that the Sovereign, who commands the Navy, may find himself in a different position with regard to that Service, while not being able to issue legal orders to the Army or Royal Air Force. I hope that the constitutional lawyers will consider this point before we get the Bill.
§ 8.55 p.m.
§ Mr. Harold Davies (Leek)
I am grateful to the hon. Member for Stroud (Mr. Kershaw) who obviously cut out very many interesting things that he wished to say about the White Paper in order to give me the opportunity to speak for five or six minutes. I, too, will try to keep to the White Paper instead of discussing, 557 as has been discussed, the broad points of strategy. I am sure that the House is grateful for this opportunity to discuss the White Paper. We know full well that this is a preliminary discussion and that before what is proposed can be enacted there will be ample opportunity for us to discuss it in the form of a Bill.
The elementary purpose of the White Paper is to set up a unified Ministry of Defence and to vest in a single Secretary of State the authority and responsibility for defence. As has been said, unparalleled powers in the history of the British Parliament and in peace time are being given to a Minister. According to the Statement on Defence, 1963, Cmnd. 1936, it was estimated that £1,838 million would be spent on defence. It is now more. We were told that that was equal to about 13s. 1d. per head. The figure per head in 1949–50 was 5s. 8d. Whatever party were in power, I am sure that it would be faced, if it was honest with itself, with this problem of increasing defence costs.
What is the purpose of giving these powers and what opportunity will the House of Commons, whatever party is in power, have of acting as the watchdog of the people and as the protector of the people's rights? It was very apt that my hon. Friend the Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell) should quote paragraph 64 of the White Paper. His experience on the Public Accounts Committee enabled him to quote it with authority. That paragraph states:All the Defence Votes will be accounted for to Parliament by the new Ministry of Defence.Paragraph 61 says:As in the past, the Secretary of State for Defence will present to Parliament an annual White Paper giving information about the Defence Budget as a whole.To come to the nub of my argument, I have had the privilege of serving on the Estimates Committee for a long time. We have been investigating military expenditure overseas—and the report on our investigations came out yesterday; my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) referred to it. We went overseas and saw the real expenditure. We did not merely deal with chairs or buses. We had a real opportunity to 558 examine how the taxpayers' money is being spent in Africa, the Mediterranean and the Middle East. We were unable to publish some of the details, but one thing which should be made clear is that, because of the difficulty which seems to have cropped up in the last few years, before we could go abroad as an Estimates Committee we had to be invited by the Ministry of Defence, and we went by the grace and favour of the Minister.
Whether a Liberal, Labour or Tory Government are in power, the rights of a House of Commons Committee should extend wherever the writ of Parliament extends. I argue that whenever the taxpayers money is being spent, whether by the Minister of Defence, the Minister of Health or any other Minister, on a group of people overseas doing a job of work for us in looking after people's welfare that enables the Committee to examine those accounts.
Let me be fair to the Minister of Defence and to the commanding officers of the forces that we met. We met with honesty and courtesy and were given all the documentation that we needed. I want the Minister of Defence to understand that I am not making any personal criticism of the commanding officers or the forces overseas. This is a constitutional position. We were given all the material that could be required by the Estimates Committee of this House.
With these new powers which are proposed I am wondering whether the power of the House of Commons will dwindle and whether all kinds of answers will be given to the Estimates Committee so that it may no longer be able to apply the Standing Orders of the House of Commons, particularly in connection with Standing Order No. 90A, in which I am interested. I give a précis of Standing Order 90A which is for the protection of the taxpayers' money and the rights of the House of Commons. It says:There shall be a select committee, to be designated the Estimates Committee, to examine such of the estimates presented to this House as may seem fit to the committee and report how, if at all, the policy implied in those estimate may be carried out more economically and, if the Committee thinks fit, to consider the principal variations between the estimates and those relating to the previous year….559 It goes on—I hope that the House will mark this—The committee shall have power to send for persons, papers, and records, to sit not withstanding any adjournment of the House, to adjourn from place to place, and to report from time to time.We should be quite clear with regard to this White Paper—and this is no criticism of the Minister—that we retain on the Floor of the House the right to delve into figures on the various aircraft and nuclear weapons which are being produced, not so much for criticism as for the need for co-ordination and examination.
My hon. Friend the Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) has ingeniously introduced on to the Notice Paper an Amendment to Standing Order 90A. He wants to set up a Select Committee to deal with expenditure on defence. He considers that it should'….consist of fifteen members, who shall be nominated at the commencement of every Session, and of whom five shall be a quorum…andIt should be at the discretion of the Committee to require every parson not being a member of the Committee to withdraw.In other words my hon. Friend, though he said that he did not want support unless it was for the right reason, must recognise that this is a much more important reason than the one that he gave and that the entire House must have the right of investigating this expenditure. This may be the formula.
I hope, however, that the Minister of Defence will realise that on both sides of the House we are still the watchdogs of the taxpayer, whichever party we represent. We want to ensure that when the White Paper is implemented, the Estimates Committee and the Public Accounts Committee are by no means by-passed with any new set-up in this uncontrolled power that will lie with the Minister. Time does not allow me to develop this theme. I am grateful to the hon. Member for Stroud for concluding his speech when he did to give me the opportunity of getting this on the record.
§ 9.6 p.m.
§ Mr. Gordon Walker (Smethwick)
I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Leek (Mr. Harold Davies) for 560 curtailing his interesting remarks, to which we have listened with great attention. I wish that he could have gone on longer, and I am grateful to him.
This has been a debate about very serious matters which has been conducted seriously. Running through all the speeches, divergent as they have been, has been the consciousness of the great difficulties involved in trying to get a unified or more centralised form of defence. When one tries to get a single defence system or policy, one cannot move men around as if they were chessmen. We are dealing with human beings, loyalties and morale, and this must not be forgotten. On the other hand, one cannot go too far this way. We must state clearly that we cannot organise the country's defence policy or its organisation for the custom, the convenience or the continuity of the Services. The Services are services. They must serve the nation and serve the policies of the nation as interpreted by politically responsible people.
As my right hon. Friend the Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell) said, it is essential that, we should maintain political and Ministerial control over our defence policies. This is not only important because it is part of our democracy. It is also important to maintain vigour and movement inside the profession. If it managed to get shot of or to loosen political control, it would suffer and ossify.
My main criticism of the White Paper is that one of its great defects is to weaken Ministerial control. Although it looks as if it will create a great dictator it will, I think, weaken effective political control over our defence services. One reason for this is that one of the major conclusions of the White Paper rests on a fallacy. A great deal turns upon paragraph 10 of the White Paper, which makes the case for the preservation of distinct and autonomous, or nearly so, Services. It rests on this sentence, which has been quoted by several hon. Members, including the Minister'…the fighting spirit of the individual man in battle derives largely from his loyalty to his ship, his unit, or his squadron.That is largely true and there is no question about it, but it does not support the major conclusion, which it is made to support, thatThe Services must preserve their separate identities.561 These two things come in the same paragraph, as if one leads automatically to the other, but it does not follow from the truth that a man's loyalty to his unit is an extremely important factor in the Services. It does not follow there from that his loyalty to his unit must go on all the way up into the innermost interstices of the Services in Whitehall. This is just a simple fallacy. It is just assumed. It is not even argued in the White Paper. It is just assumed, and it is an assumption which does not hold.
Loyalty to one's unit is not affected by whether there is a greater merging between the Services or not. I wish that there had been in the White Paper a remark like that which the right hon. Gentleman made in his speech, when he said that a fighting man did not give a damn whether it was the War Office or the Admiralty and so on. That is perfectly true, but this—does the right hon. Gentleman not see?—destroys the apparent logic of paragraph 10, because if that is so, it men do not mind whether it is the War Office or the Admiralty and so on, it does not follow, because the loyalty of a man to his unit is important, that we must therefore keep the separate identity of the Services. This is just stated; there is no argument; there is no link between these things; and all this I find is a great defect in the White Paper from which many other things flow.
It means that the White Paper evades what I regard as the basic issue—how to get the Services thinking, and, indeed, acting, as one. I find, having read the White Paper extremely closely, that on the whole we are going backwards in this respect. I think that the three separate Services are going to be stronger now than in the past, and this arises out of the fundamental concept of the White Paper. Because this is really what is done. The previous Secretaries of State are down-graded. They become Ministers of State. The Chiefs of Staff remain exactly the same. This is the only point in which the two White Papers, with the same title, "Central Organisation of Defence," the White Paper of 1958 and our present one, are the same, and that is where they talk about the rôle of the Chiefs of Staff. There it is, almost word for word the same, the description of the position of the Chiefs of Staff in 1958 562 and today. But if the first thing we do is to demote the Secretaries of State, if we down-grade them and leave the Chiefs of Staff the same, we are in fact upgrading the Chiefs of Staff, and this I think is what has been done in this White Paper.
In these changed circumstances of down-graded Secretaries of State, many of the old traditions, which the hon. and gallant Member for Chelsea (Captain Litchfield), for instance, was speaking about, the traditions which were suited to the openly, frankly, tripartite system which we had, if now maintained in the new circumstances where the Secretaries of State are being down-graded, increase the powers of the Chiefs of Staff, and, therefore, of each Service. I think this is true of the right of access of the Chiefs of Staff to the Prime Minister. I think it also true of the right of any Chief of Staff to have divergent views reported to the Chief of the Defence Staff. These were appropriate to the old, openly tripartite system. I am not at all sure that they are appropriate to this new system under a single Secretary of State, with three intermediate Ministers, who were superior or at least equal to the Chiefs of Staff, being down-graded below them.
There seem to me other essential instruments for maintaining political, Ministerial control over the Forces and Services which have been weakened in this White Paper as a consequence of the sort of arguments I have put forward already. It seems to me that if Ministers are going to have real control over the Forces they must have effective control over the career structure. This is a very large part of effective political control. I think that what is going to happen is this. The Ministers of State are not going to have the same control over the career structure as they used to have. They are down-graded; they are not going to have that sort of control, and it does not seem to me that the new Secretary of State for Defence is really going to acquire instead the proper, appropriate control over the career structure.
Paragraph 69 is important here. I do not think it has been mentioned in the debate. This says, in effect—I am paraphrasing—that the proposals for the promotion of senior officers above a certain rank, two-star rank, shall be "referred" to the Secretary of State. This has been 563 a carefully written White Paper. This word has been carefully chosen. The paragraph is deliberately not saying "decided" by the Secretary of State but "referred" to him. These are words we must take very carefully. This White Paper has been carefully gone over again and again and reflects different views, and this careful phrase means that this matter is not going to be decided by him. This again seems to me to give too much power to the Chiefs of Staff.
Another great and vital part of Ministerial control is financial control—and financial control right down to a fairly low level in the Service Ministries and the Services. This seems to have emerged out of the White Paper as a control which is less effective than it is today. There is the question of the four accounting officers. I hope that the very important question by my horn. Friend the Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell) will be answered by the Minister—whether or not the three or four accounting officers will go severally or together to the Public Accounts Committee. That is a very significant and important question.
What does the right hon. Gentleman think about the following point? The budgetary control inside the new unified Ministry of Defence will be exercised by a relatively junior man when one thinks of the high level about which one is talking—by a Deputy Under-Secretary of State who is—I can never work out these wretched graphs and charts and never understand what the dotted lines mean—three, if not four, rungs below the new Secretary of State. This is the point from which the attempt to get budgetary control throughout the new Ministry will be exercised. This, again, will be a man who is too low down in the heirarchy to make effective financial control possible.
I am afraid that we shall get an even worse form of the old problem of the Services cutting up between themselves, on agreed principles, the cake which they are able to get out of the Treasury. I am afraid that this will all be dressed up in the end, but instead of having three slices of the cake presented to us in the old way, the cake will be presented to us still already cut up but with the 564 slices wrapped together in cellophane. The old process will still have been going on.
The basic defect of the White Paper is that the Secretary of State will be in lonely eminence, divorced from proper Ministerial support. He will be very high. His nearest Ministers will be Ministers of State—very low down. He will have professional heads of Departments between himself and his Ministers, in effect. He is the sole means of enforcing the vital principle of political and Ministerial control over the Forces and other Services, each of which will retain its top structure intact. I think he will lack the power to do it; I mean not the right hon. Gentleman personally, but the holder of the office.
The right hon. Gentleman rightly said this afternoon that civil servants, if they are not properly under political control, tend to present polished, finished articles, with all the flaws covered up or filled in. Military men do this even more than civil servants, and for a good reason. Military men are trained to prepare agreed and settled policies and put them forward. This is what they are trained to do from very young in the Services; it is a very great military virtue. They tend to put forward agreed and worked out policies, working out their compromises between themselves. In this set-up where the Secretary of State is in this lonely eminence—this is the very problem which he foresaw and told us about this afternoon—this problem will present itself in an almost insoluble way.
The Chiefs of Staff, we are told, will remain the professional heads of the Services. I think they are simply going to become the heads of the Services. This worries me. I want them to be the professional heads of their Services and that implies that there must be some other heads of the Services. But the Ministers of State are not to be the heads. The Chiefs of Staff are to be the heads and will be less subject to political control than ever before, I think, in our history. This I find very disturbing.
I do not want it to be thought that any of us want to stop divergencies of opinion. Indeed, we do not want to stamp them out. It is extremely important, in vital matters of defence, that there should be divergencies of opinion all the way up to the Cabinet. But it 565 does not follow that such divergencies must always be between the Services. That is not necessary.
I noticed that the right hon. Gentleman took it for granted that the only way to decentralise was through the Services. But equally it has been taken for granted that, if the Chiefs of Staff are to be the heads, divergencies will tend to go on as between the Services. As I have said, we want differences of opinion but in the main these should be about strategy and should cut across the Services and should not all the time arise between them. Although the situation is not as bad as it has been sometimes in the past, it seems to me that the White Paper will entrench the Services too much.
These are grave defects in the White Paper and the right hon. Gentleman can fairly ask what we think should be done, pointing out that it is hard to get these things right and that we have to compromise. This is a fair question, but an Opposition cannot give a detailed answer. We have not had access to all the advice and discussion which has been going on for many months. But it is right to state, as my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) did, the broad lines along which we think these things could be improved.
First, we think it right that the present offices of the Secretaries of State and First Lord of the Admiralty should be downgraded, but there are consequential changes from that which have not been taken. We have to tackle more fundamentally the question of the dual responsibility of the Chiefs of Staff in the new political circumstances to their own Services and to the new, integrated Defence Department. If the political heads of the Services are down-graded, then the Chiefs of Staff should be downgraded somewhat, otherwise political control will be out of balance and out of proportion. This is a matter of very great difficulty.
I think that the new Defence Secretary's own political authority should be strengthened. As my hon. Friend said, we think that he should have two new Ministers, of full rank but probably not in the Cabinet. Each of them should be responsible for a particular aspect of defence, cutting across the Services. We must stress more the functional division 566 as opposed to the straight division between the Services. For instance, one of these Ministers might be in charge, among other things, of the Defence Budget, as was suggested by my hon. Friend.
I do not mind getting rid of the Parliamentary Secretaries, if the right hon. Gentleman wants that. I am quite prepared to get rid of some Ministers but if we down-grade the present political heads of the Services we must put someone alongside the new Defence Secretary so that he can exercise proper Ministerial control. He must control the appointment and promotion of senior officers above certain rank on a single list, cutting across the Services.
We think that the White Paper can be regarded only as an interim measure. It has great defects, but it is a step in the right direction. We are worried that these defects will make the next step harder to achieve than it should be. We believe that built into the chain of command are obstacles and difficulties which will stand in the way of taking the next step of progress, just as we had to take one after the 1958 White Paper.
The right hon. Gentleman quite rightly said that the essence, in the end, was the policy of the Government and how it was exercised and made to work and how conclusions about it were reached. There are very difficult problems which have not been mentioned in the White Paper, perhaps rightly. Somehow we have to get the Foreign Office and the Ministry of Defence geared together on armament and alliance policies. This is very difficult with our kind of ministerial and Civil Service set-up, but it has to be done.
In the last resort, what counts is the policy of the Government and world events can have a very great effect on the structure of one's defence organisation and on policy, such things as the conclusion of this limited nuclear test ban agreement about which I should like to say a few words.
I am very sorry that the Prime Minister chose to take so early an opportunity to make political advantage out of a political success, which we all welcome, regardless of party, and which, to some extent, was achieved by both parties and for which we were and 567 still are prepared to give the Prime Minister his due. However, for political reasons his rôle has been stupidly over-played. The Leader of the House went so far as to say in a speech that this test ban agreement was due to the Prime Minister more than anyone else in the whole world. To play up things like that is to make not only the Prime Minister but the whole country look a little silly. It looks as though we are so uncertain of ourselves that we have to boast like this, and it makes us laughable.
Valuable as our rôle was in this, the essential fact is that the United States and Russia came to the conclusion that it paid them and was in their common interest to come to this agreement. The Prime Minister also made the clear implication in the first speech he made outside the House after the test ban agreement was reached that our rôle in the discussions was due only to the right and authority of our nuclear power and he suggested quite clearly, as the right hon. Gentleman is now suggesting, that the Labour Party would throw it all away.
It is perfectly true that so long as our V-Bomber force lasts, we have a nuclear weapon and we are a nuclear Power, not of enormous importance, but of importance. The Labour Party would not throw away the V-bombers if we came in tomorrow, which is the implication which the Prime Minister and the right hon. Gentleman always make. We would certainly not replace them if we could get agreement with the Americans which would give us a proper share in the control with them of nuclear strategy and weapons. If the Prime Minister is now claiming that Britain can buy its way into the world conferences and councils simply with the Polaris missile which we are getting by the grace and favour of the United States and simply by describing it as an independent nuclear weapon after the V-bombers have gone, he is deceiving himself and deceiving all of those who cheer him.
When the Prime Minister says that the United Kingdom's place in Moscow was due to the right and authority of our own nuclear power, he is directly inviting France to copy us and to refuse to accede to the treaty and sabotaging the most 568 important clause in the very treaty in which he claims to have played so large a part.
Britain will keep its place in the councils of the world by the rôle it plays, by its vigour. It will do so because Britain is a very great Power, alongside super Powers, which has many unique advantages in the world and it will do it by the command of weapons which are indispensable to the Western Alliance.
By these means we shall keep ourselves in the councils of the world. By these means, and not by illusory independent deterrents after the V-bomber has gone, which will deceive nobody in the world, not even right hon. Gentlemen opposite when they are on this side of the House though it deceives them while they are on the benches opposite, the Labour Government will keep Britain in her due place in the councils of the world.
§ 9.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Thorneycroft
We have had a valuable debate, and I give this assurance. I have listened to nearly all the speeches, and I shall have them all closely studied. The right hon. Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell) specifically asked me whether my mind was made up. The object of this debate is to get the opinion of the House on this matter. It is helpful to hear the points of view that have been put forward.
As always in these debates, one tends to be criticised from two flanks. One argument is that this is far too monolithic, that I have taken too much power into my hands, and that I am over-burdened. I am grateful for the consideration that hon. Members have shown for my future health. The other argument is that I have made no effective change, and sometimes these opposing comments are made in the same speech. The hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) said one thing at the beginning of his speech, and the other at the end, but I think that towards the end of his speech he had rather forgotten what he said at the beginning.
I shall seek to persuade the House that I have done neither of those things; that what I have sought to do is to outline a central organisation which, on any count, is the largest administrative change that has taken place, or is proposed to take place, in Whitehall for many a year, and which provides a single, 569 unified Ministry of Defence, but, at the same time, has built into it opportunities for change, and wide opportunities which I regard, as, I think, everyone does, as necessary for decentralisation, because without it my task would be impossible.
The right hon. Member for Smethwick (Mr. Gordon Walker) was anxious to strengthen my position, and I thank him for that. It is good to have a friend. But whether I or any other Secretary of State really would be strengthened by the presence of eight Ministers round me, I beg some leave to doubt, and I think that hon. Members who have held office and had this responsibility know that it is possible to have a superfluity of assistance of this character.
One does not really strengthen a Minister by putting other Ministers of Cabinet rank beside him, but I agreed with one thing which the right hon. Gentleman said, and I should like to make it plain that any Secretary of State in charge of this Department must have, as one might say, patronage in his hands. He must be responsible for honours, awards, and promotions at least of two star rank and above. This is intended and will, in effect, be achieved.
§ Mr. Thorneycroft
If one refers something to the Secretary of State, one runs the risk that he may make up his mind about it. This will certainly take place. I give the right hon. Gentleman that undertaking.
The hon. Member for Leeds, East and other hon. Members made the point that the 1958 White Paper gave all the necessary powers, and asked what this White Paper does to help, Of course, the 1958 White Paper gave great powers to the Minister of Defence, but there is a marked difference between four Ministers with four Permanent Secretaries all seeking to arrive at one policy, and one Secretary of State and one Department trying to arrive at that policy. These differences may be subtle. They may be difficult for people outside the House to understand, but I think that everybody in the House understands them all right. The difference is very marked between these two positions. I am sure that we are right to advance from one to the other.
570 The hon. Member also gave a series of alleged examples of failure to co-ordinate, but these were really arguments in favour of a new organisation and for better means of co-ordination—although I do not accept the hon. Member's factual background. He said, in passing, that we should abandon the British independent deterrent, on the rather curious ground that unless we put ourselves in exactly the same position as Germany, Germany would break her treaty obligations I thought this was rather disrespectful to the Germans, and a curious basis on which to found a British defence policy.
I was asked by the hon. Member and others whether the Defence and Overseas Policy Committee would have official support. It certainly will. It will be supported not simply by the new Ministry of Defence, but the Cabinet Secretariat, which is drawn from the Foreign Office, the C.R.O. and the rest. It is absolutely vital for a proper integrated defence and overseas policy.
The hon. Member attacked alleged inadequacies in British equipment. This is the House of Commons, in which fair comment can be made on all sides, but these attacks on British equipment are increasingly resented by our forces in the field, and they provide a substantial encouragement to our opponents. The hon. Member also asked about the TSR2. I had hoped that he would ask me for a reassurance. He advanced a great deal of criticism of a very fine aircraft. I admit that any Opposition can attack any Government on any subject. That is the way we live, and quite rightly. But attacks on the TSR2 and the Buccaneer are doing untold harm to the aircraft industry. It may be that it is necessary and right to make these criticisms, but I ask the hon. Gentleman to weigh carefully the question whether there is any political advantage whatever which he can get from this which is comparable to the damage which he is doing to the country.
The hon. Member then turned to the White Paper—and it was with a slight sense of relief to hon. Members on both sides when he did so—and asked whether we could save the same amount of money as was saved by the United States. We shall do our best. We must be a little careful about these figures. The United States has had a 571 sharp increase in defence spending. It has risen by £3,000 million, or 10,000 million dollars, in the past five years. It is true that its very able Secretary for Defence has said that he would have spent £400 million more if he had not had economies. I have tried that argument on the Chancellor of the Exchequer here, but it does not go with quite the swing that might be imagined. Nevertheless, I applaud the economies which the United States has made. I would only say that those economies are made possible only if one has an organisation such as this, and real central control of finance.
In some respects we go further in these proposals than the Pentagon. Their proposals have built-in arrangements whereby not much more can be amalgamated between the various Services. Our scheme proposes built-in arrangements specially designed to enable us to go on in that process wherever possible. The hon. Member said, and I believe that the right hon. Member for Smethwick took the same line, that the morale argument has nothing to do with the question whether we have a single Service. I rather think that it has. I do not believe that people would feel quite the same about the Fifth Battalion, Corps of Infantry, as they would about the Lovat Scouts, the Grenadier Guards, or the Rifle Brigade. These things matter.
The right hon. Gentleman for Smethwick said that integration would all happen at a higher level. The prospect of seeing admirals, air-marshals and generals all in a mud-coloured uniform does not appeal to me. Although it may be modelled on the old German General Staff I doubt whether it would serve the interests of United Kingdom defence.
The right hon. Gentleman talked, as others did, about numbers. The numbers will, I admit, be about 25,000 in the future if we take all the Service Departments together. We shall have to study whether we can reduce staff but the number will start at about the same. I attach importance to reductions of staff where they can be achieved. But the savings there are nothing like as big as the savings which could be secured if we get the operational requirements right and get real control over cost effective- 572 ness studies, estimates and the rest. I did not see much sign of economising in Ministers. There, the right hon. Gentleman was a little more lavish.
I have been criticised about absence of control and about concentration of power. I do not think that we can have it both ways. If we are to have a stronger central control, we must allow for the fact that someone is to have rather less power than the Secretary of State. There is no other way of organising the thing. I am sorry about it, but I am afraid that is the way it must be in an organisation which gives more power at the centre.
The right hon. Gentleman said, and other hon. Members have said it, that the three Ministers of State would become mere public relations officers for the Services. It is my intention that they should not. But if they are not to become mere public relations officers for the Services it is very important to give them a rôle which is wider than that relating to a single Service. This is the whole point, that we entrust these Ministers of State with responsibilities analogous to those carried out by the Secretary of State himself.
In other words they should, on occasions, be asked to answer, and at all times be required to participate in decisions which are not solely concerned with the Royal Navy, the Army or the Royal Air Force, but are concerned with the interests of the defence of this country as a whole. I think that that is better secured if we allow them to be directly responsible to the Secretary of State and do not interpose between them and him two other Ministers, however senior or well-intentioned.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Woking (Mr. Watkinson), who speaks with great knowledge said—I quite agree—that this was a logical growth in our policy. I think that he is absolutely right, and that he was also drawing the right conclusion when he said that it indicates that our rôle is played on a world stage. Of course, we cannot play that rôle cheaply. Of course it is costly. But I am sure that it is right that all of us, I hope, hon. Members on both sides of the House, should make it plain that we intend to continue playing our rôle upon that world stage.
My right hon. Friend also mentioned a subject upon which he is peculiarly 573 fitted to speak, and that is the relation between industry and the Ministry of Defence. I wish to see more outside advice brought in and I am particularly anxious that we should secure this. One of the principal rôles of the Chief Scientific Adviser is to ensure that it should be so. I realise that we can bring in not only scientific advice, but, increasingly, technological advice into the Ministry from outside. It does not end there. I think that we may learn a great deal about matters like purchasing techniques, for example.
In the Ministry of Defence we certainly do not have closed minds about what we can learn from the experience of people outside as well as in Whitehall. If we can do anything to advance that relationship we shall certainly try to do so. The right hon. Member for Easington went to the root of the matter. He asked: did we require a measure of defence? His answer was "Yes", and I devoutly hope that he carried with him the majority of hon. Members. Most of us, I think, feel that we do require a measure of defence.
As I have already told him, I am seeking to collect views, not only about the legislation that may be introduced to implement this organisation, but, perhaps even more important, the way that machine should be used once it has been established. We are talking only about a machine—what matters is the way we use it, and it is on that aspect that the advice of right hon. and hon. Gentlemen is just as useful as the technical advice on the administrative set-up itself.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Easington supported—and I am glad that he did, because he speaks with great experience—a centralised Ministry of Defence. I agree that that will not end our quarrels, and it would be a great pity if it did. It would be a very dull Ministry if nobody argued inside it, and I do not imagine, nor does anyone else, that when it is set up there will not be the most violent disputes. At the same time, those disputes will go on under one roof but, more important, I hope that they will go on with more knowledge, as everyone concerned ought under this arrangement to know rather more of what they are arguing about than, perhaps, they do at the moment in four separate and embattled fortresses.
574 The right hon. Gentleman then wondered whether military power would overshadow the ministerial power and, as I understood him, even went so far as to say that the Ministers of State should not be subordinated to the Secretary of State. I do not think that the military power will for one moment overshadow the political power. The Chiefs of Staff have access to the Prime Minister, it is true, but, let us be frank, nearly everybody has. What is far more important is that they remain the chiefs and heads of their Services. That is the really vital matter.
I attach great importance to this. It would be possible to have three men, devoted advisers with long experience, but out of all contact with everyday life in their own particular Service. I do not believe that their advice would be worth half as much as that of the man who was head of a Service, who might argue to the point of distressing me from time to time, but who, nevertheless, had a solid view with some Service support behind it. I think that that is right.
I am not concerned here with titles, and still less with salaries, though anybody who proposes an advance for any Minister will receive at least a quiet hearing from me—I will go no further than that. But the two things are quite different. It is perfectly clear that whatever arrangements we make about these Ministers and by whatever name we call them—we could take the American example and call them Secretaries—they still have to be subordinate to the Secretary of State, and it is quite clear that unless we are to leave the thing exactly as it is today, we cannot have them as political heads of equal Departments, all arguing together, as can happen at present. These things are not possible if, at the same time, we wish to say that we have made a real advance.
The right hon. Gentleman said, with great truth, that we cannot do this on a legalistic basis, and I am sure that that is true. A reorganisation of this kind does not consist of lines upon a chart; it is a human problem, it is a problem of power and, as the right hon. Member for Easington said, it is a very difficult problem of organisation and administration. He had a French 575 proverb—"The more things change, the more they stay the same". I think it right to keep these titles. Perhaps I may give him another French proverb—"Paris is worth a Mass". To try to achieve our administrative reforms by smashing all the old titles, loyalties and traditions is not a good way of proceeding, and we do not even get the administrative reforms. I believe that, on the whole, we will gain more than we lose by keeping some of these great titles.
My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Macclesfield (Sir A. V. Harvey) referred to the TSR2, which is right in the front of development in this field. He asked me to draw on advice as widely as possible. I agree with that. Arrangements are made and built into this organisation to see that we can take advice. The advice we shall have will not be united. If I have any experience of it, it will be very diverse in its character, and all the better for that.
As one or two hon. Members have mentioned, the Americans have carried this system of getting outside advice very wide indeed. One can get as much of it as one likes, but one has to test that outside advice against the professional advice also available to one. We need both, and it is often in the clash of opinion which then follows that we have a better chance of arriving at the truth.
My hon. Friend also urged me that we should press on with rationalisation. I am sure that that is right. It is certainly our intention to do so. It would be quite impossible to do so, however, unless we had centralised power, at least to the point we have in these proposals. I should not like anyone to think that the working out of these proposals has been all a pathway of roses without any controversy whatsoever.
Twelve months ago I do not think that anybody would have said that these were all the right answers, by any manner of means. But if we are to get through rationalisation proposals, many of which touch important and respectable vested interests at many points, we must have the power to do it. I hope that whatever else we decide we will not decide on proposals which will whittle away the power which is concentrated at the centre.
576 My hon. Friend the Member for Macclesfield also said that the Ministry of Aviation should be separate. I agree. He held out possibilities for the future of a Ministry of Science and Technology. There is much to be said for that, but I have to deal with the situation as it is today. My Ministry is by far the largest customer of the aircraft industry. It really is in the industry's interest, as well as that of everybody else, to study the interests of customers, and there is a difference between having two Ministries in battle positions on either side of the road and having people living in the same corridor in constant touch with one another and able to interchange ideas as easily as Members of the House of Commons can do. This is quite different, and I am sure that it is the minimum advance that we must make if we are to improve in a field which is central to the control of defence spending.
The right hon. and learned Member for Rowley Regis and Tipton (Mr. A. Henderson) also suggested that the new organisation would be monolithic. I think that I have dealt with that in some degree already, but he touched also and importantly on the financial control. One or two other hon. Members, including the hon. Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell) touched on this and on the Estimates Committee. I value the work of the Estimates Committee and I think that its members would agree that I have not been backward in giving them all the facilities for which I have been asked for visits, not only in this country but outside. I value the reports that the Committee has sent me, because even if they are critical they help me.
It is not in my interest to waste defence money. I have so much on which to spend the money. I am grateful to the Estimates Committee for the work it does and the help it gives. Even in these proposals I have been following, perhaps a little tardily, some of the advice which the Committee has given. I shall certainly continue in that way.
I am doubtful whether we ought to rush into some of the proposals put forward on various sides for an all-party committee.
I can see the arguments for and against this, but it is a very big departure in the proceedings of the House and it is a 577 proposal which goes much wider than defence. It was raised the other day. The hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) asked me to do it, and I wrote to the hon. Member for Leeds, East and we both thought that this would not be a very good arrangement. I offered to meet a party Committee and—I am not complaining—he thought that even that was probably not right. These things need to be thought out rather deeply before we apply them in one field in our deliberations in the House. Some typical questions are, "Should it be in private?"—in which case it will certainly leak; or, "Should it be in public?"—in which case we are taking over one of the major functions of the House itself. These are wider matters.
My hon. Friend the Member for Hemel Hempstead (Mr. Allason) asked me particularly about the position of the scientists. To all hon. Members who asked whether they should be on the boards, I would say: this is 1963, and we are in an age when the advice of scientists is year by year becoming more crucial and more important. I am particularly anxious to ensure that the three main supporters of my Ministry—the military, civil servants in administration and scientists—should be on the same level. I think that it is essential that I should build into this machinery from every point of view the facilities which will ensure that there is a meeting of minds between those three at every level. I am sure that this is right. It means some rather new and sometimes controversial arrangements, and I do not say that everybody agrees with them, but unless we do this we shall not get the right advice. This is true today, and it will become increasingly true in the years that lie ahead.
The hon. Member for Dudley asked me some questions about legislation. It is our intention to introduce a Bill in the autumn to bring this organisation into effect, but I am not proposing to reform the whole of the Army and Air Force Acts. That is a much wider question, and if he is interested in it I should be happy to discuss it with him.
My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Chelsea (Captain Litchfield) asked 578 whether a Permanent Secretariat would be supplied for the Committee on Defence and Overseas Policy. The answer is, "Yes, it will". He was anxious about the position of the scientific advisers. I have dealt with that point to some extent, and I am glad that my hon. Friend the Member for Stroud (Mr. Kershaw) lent me his support in the matter. My hon. Friend the Member for Stroud also mentioned the question of outside advice which was available in the United States system. I agree with that, and I think that we should make it available here, too.
In conclusion, I promise that we shall give full consideration to all the points which have been raised in the debate. This is a massive and important reform. While I will study these things, I want to do nothing which will weaken the system set up here and make me less able to do the many things which I am urged on all sides of the House that it is necessary to do. I accept the general view of the House that this is only a machine and that it is what we do with it that will matter. But let us not weaken it before we start, otherwise we may find it difficult to carry out some of the objectives which are urged upon me.
This is an important moment in our defence policy. Magnificent equipment is coming in. We have just announced a new carrier. We have just announced a new common aircraft, which is important not only in itself but because it marks that spirit of co-operation which is necessary for all of us. We now have a new organisation for defence which I hope in general principle will be supported.
§ Mr. Healey
May I ask the right hon. Gentleman to take this opportunity to tell the House whether he will be able to make a statement on the Yemen incident before the House rises for the Recess?
§ Question put and agreed to.
That this House takes note of the White Paper on the Central Organisation for Defence (Command Paper No. 2097).