HC Deb 11 March 1963 vol 673 cc964-1137

Motion made, and Question proposed, That 100,000 Officers, Ratings and Royal Marines be maintained for Naval Service, for the year ending on the 31st day of March 1964.

3.35 p.m.

The Civil Lord of the Admiralty (Mr. C. Ian Orr-Ewing)

The Committee will have noticed that this year the printed Estimates of all three Services are a good deal slimmer than their predecessors. The Navy Estimates have been compressed into 75 pages this year compared with 291 pages last. Moreover, they have also been reorganised—Votes have been renumbered and changes have been made in the traditional pattern of the subheads—so that to the greatest possible extent all the Services' Estimates now use the same Vote number or the same subhead for the same kind of expenditure. Thus the aim has been to make the Estimates more convenient to those who study defence matters.

For the current financial year we asked Parliament to vote just over £438 million for the Navy. This includes a Supplementary Estimate of £5 million in July, for pay increases not included in the original Navy Estimates, and a further Supplementary Estimate of £11 million which we had to present, reluctantly, last month. I say "reluctantly" because in each of the three preceding years the Navy had lived within its means—no Supplementary Estimates and no Excess Votes. We were, naturally, keen to preserve this record. However, it became clear by the end of December that there would be an over-spending before the financial year was out—due mainly to pay and price increases; faster progress than expected with Navy contracts, particularly shipbuilding; and a falling-off in receipts.

For 1963–64 we are asking for nearly £441 million—an apparent increase of little more than £2½ million. However, as our Votes have been reduced to allow for the transfer of Works Services to the Ministry of Public Building and Works, the real increase in Navy Votes comes out as just on £21 million. We need this extra £21 million on three main accounts.

First, we shall be spending substantially more on the shipbuilding programme—an increase of £5½ million to £63½ million. The Committee is already aware that we have been able to accelerate this programme to some extent in order to help relieve unemployment in the shipbuilding industry. But I want to emphasise that the ships concerned were already included in our long-term construction programme and are important elements in our mobile strategy. We are very glad, therefore, that we shall be getting them earlier than we had expected.

Secondly, our modern ships with their more sophisticated equipment understandably cost more to equip, run and maintain.

Thirdly, we have to provide for the start of the Polaris submarine programme. This provision is necessarily rather speculative, although we have made it as realistic as we can. It amounts to a few million pounds which we shall spend this coming year on design effort, the ordering of certain long-lead items and other preparatory measures.

In the Estimates before the Committee the Navy is getting exactly a quarter of the defence budget—25 per cent. As the cost of the nuclear deterrent makes itself increasingly felt on the Navy Vote, there may have to be adjustments in the Navy's allocation in order to ensure that it can continue to fulfil its other and older rôles.

Four years ago, the hon. Member for Dunbartonshire, West (Mr. Steele), speaking from the Opposition Front Bench in the Navy Estimates debate, welcomed me to the job. I have just been looking at that debate. He was rash enough to forecast that in view of the approaching 1959 General Election it would be my first and last appearance. How wrong his forecast was. Having piloted the last four Estimates through this House, I find now that I am introducing my fifth that I have inadvertently set up a record—at least, for the last fifty years. I hope that the Committee will, therefore, excuse me if I draw their attention to a development during these last five years; a development which must have u profound effect on naval thinking and planning.

With her vast land masses Russia's military strategy has for generations been that of an essentially land animal. But events of recent years leave no doubt that Soviet Russia has at last appreciated the implications and importance of sea power as the flow of ocean traffic expands each year. There is no doubt that the Soviet Union, with its growing economic strength, is developing a maritime strategy as part of her overall policy to extend Communist influence throughout the world. For some years now Russia has striven unceasingly, and with tremendous energy, to compete with the West in all spheres of maritime activity.

Russia's overseas trade, particularly with Cuba, Indonesia and West Africa, has expanded rapidly, and, at the same time, the Soviet merchant fleet has grown at an increasing pace. During the last three years alone it has expanded by 50 per cent., and it is a declared aim of the Soviet Union to attain a merchant tonnage by 1980 of 20 million tons, that is to say, to reach parity with the British merchant fleet—at present, the largest in the world.

Already, the Soviet Union possesses the world's largest fishing fleet, which operates over wide areas of the world's fishing grounds. It is now well known that these fishing trawlers are widely used for the gathering of intelligence.

The Soviet effort in oceanographic survey is both massive and worldwide—its fleet consists of over 80 ships. Apart from the obvious returns from such efforts, the data obtained on oceanographic conditions must be of great benefit to submarine and antisubmarine techniques.

Concurrently with all these activities, the Soviet Union is giving loans and technical assistance to new countries for the construction of harbours and the development of existing port facilities. A supply of Soviet equipment and technicians to these ports, many of which are located in areas of particular strategic importance, has obvious implications. In the Yemen, for example, the U.S.S.R. must have spent over £4 million on the port of Hodeida, the development of which has had a significant effect on the war in that country.

So we have a pattern of a vastly increased mercantile marine, an unusually versatile fishing fleet, a massive oceanographic effort and construction in some dozens of ports all over the world. In parallel, there has been a great expansion and modernisation of the Soviet fleet. The Russian Navy itself now includes a submarine fleet of 400 boats, including 20 or more with nuclear power and many fitted with surface-to-surface missiles.

Another development which has gained increasing momentum is the supply of warships and submarines to new countries—something like a complete navy, in fact, in the case of Egypt and Indonesia. The Russians now supply types of ships which, only a few years ago, could be regarded as of first rank. By this means, the Soviets are gaining operational experience under tropical conditions, and are provided with a chance of applying pressure on the West, as it were, by proxy. Of particular significance are the missile-firing fast patrol boats which the Soviets have already supplied to Cuba and are about to supply to the Indonesian Navy. These boats have a surface-to-surface guided missile which gives them a striking power and weapon range far beyond that of a conventional craft of this type. Using conventional warheads, they will pose a considerable threat to our shipping unless we provide naval forces adequate to deal with them.

Lest, with all this evidence, anyone should still doubt the earnest of Soviet maritime aspirations, let me quote the Chief of the Soviet Naval Staff who, in his 1962 Navy Day speech, said: The creation of our Fleet, which fully responds to contemporary requirements for the waging of war, brings to an end that sole dominion over the seas boasted of by the great maritime capitalist States in the not so distant past. Now there is not a single area of the world's oceans where the aggressor's ships could operate in wartime without exposing themselves to destruction. There could be no plainer indication of an intention to develop a worldwide naval capacity.

Let us not forget that since the war British forces have been involved in no less than 43 limited war conflicts, varying from major wars such as Korea to the current threat from subversion in Brunei and adjacent territories.

Commander Harry Pursey (Kingston upon Hull, East)

And Suez.

Mr. Orr-Ewing

Such threats and dangers will no doubt arise again, almost anywhere in the world, for there is hardly an ocean where we have not some commitment or allies. We can and must be ready to counter them wherever they occur. Let it never be said that, at this important moment in our history we have forgotten the lesson we have so effectively taught to others—that is, the importance of sea power as a means of sustaining our influence and the security of our interests all over the world.

What are we doing to meet this situation? The most important change in the deployment of the Fleet in the coming year is that we intend to have two carriers as well as a commando ship east of Suez at all times. This will greatly increase our capacity to deal effectively with any emergency which might arise anywhere in that vast area. The second commando ship, H.M.S. "Albion" is now in commission on the Far East Station and is able to carry an embarked military force of 800 men. The first commando ship, H.M.S. "Bulwark", is now refitting at Devonport, and we plan, by certain changes, to give her capacity for yet larger forces.

While I am on this point, I might mention that during the past year we decided to include some detachments of Royal Marines in the complements of a number of frigates. These men replace naval ratings on general ship duties as well as on such tasks as manning guns, but, of course, they provide a very valuable military force for landing in case of need. We shall be looking for further opportunities to deploy Royal Marines in this way, and I know that this policy will please a number of "Royals" who are active Members of this House.

Our modern conventional submarines have many years of useful life ahead of them in the anti-submarine and anti-surface ship rôles. By the end of the year 10 "Oberon" class submarines will be in service. Three more—the "Opossum, "Opportune" and "Onyx"—have been laid down. It is generally conceded that in the "Oberon" class Britain has the finest conventional submarine in the world, and I shall be referring to this again later in my speech.

Now for ways in which we are equipping ourselves to give greater protection to our forces from air and surface attack. The first of our 6,000-tan "County" class destroyers, H.M.S. "Devonshire", was commissioned last November. She is equipped with the ship-to-air guided missile Seaslug, and with two Seacat launchers for defence against close-range air attack. She is doing extensive trials which so far have gone very well indeed.

We expect three more of this class—H.M. ships "Hampshire", "Kent", and "London"—to join the Fleet this year, and two more, the "Fife" and "Glamorgan", are coming along well. I visited H.M.S. "Devonshire" at Portsmouth ten days ago and I came away tremendously impressed with her clean lines and operational capability. The lay-out showed that a great deal of thought had paid ample dividends in the use of space and in the resulting efficiency.

No less than nine new "Leander" and "Tribal" class frigates will join the Fleet this year. Thus, we are making great progress in re-equipping the Fleet with modern frigates. Out of 36 which will be with the Operational Fleet by the end of this year, no less than 28 have joined during the last six years—and nine more are under construction or on order. An important part of the weapon system for these frigates will be the Wasp helicopter. These anti-submarine helicopters will be armed with homing torpedoes and will be directed to the most favourable spot far launching them, not just by the mother-ship but by any ship so equipped in the area of operations. Following successful rolling platform trials at the Royal Aircraft Establishment, Bedford, recently, follow-up trials as at sea on board the "Tribal" class frigate H.M.S. "Nubian" were successfully completed a fortnight ago.

Mr. George Wigg (Dudley)

Will the hon. Gentleman say something about the cost? Is it not a fact that these six "County" class vessels will cost a total of about £90 million, at £15 million each, and that the Seaslug, a rather antiquated weapon—it is years out of date—costs over £200 million?

Mr. Orr-Ewing

The hon. Gentleman is very good at doing his homework. If he will look at the Estimates he will see that the cost of these ships is given. I recommend him to read the Navy Estimates as assiduously as he reads the Army Estimates.

I know that Seaslug has cost money, but it is one of the most effective surface-to-air guided missiles in the world. The Americans agree that it is extremely good. If we are to have proper defence of our Fleet it is essential to have Seaslug ships. They will pay an ample dividend.

I was talking about the Wasp helicopter. We have been conducting trials with this aircraft. More than 200 landings were achieved in all degrees of wind and sea, both by night and by day, and they were all successful. The first deliveries of Wasps to the Fleet are expected this summer.

I want now to say a word about aircraft carriers. Last year, I announced that design work had been put in hand for a ship to replace H.M.S. "Victorious". The ship comes to the end of her normal life by 1971: this design work is continuing. My right hon. Friend, in opening the defence debate last week, explained the position broadly when he made it clear that Her Majesty's Government have not yet decided whether to order a replacement for H.M.S. "Victorious", but he emphasised that this decision and others affecting the Navy in the conventional rôle would be taken on their merits and not according to which particular Service was charged with carrying the deterrent.

I now turn to same naval activities during the past year, which contained in full measure all those traditional naval tasks whose importance is so often underestimated. There was the usual heavy programme of Fleet exercises, conducted on a world-wide basis. We attach particular importance to these exercises, since they provide a visible demonstration of our ability to work closely with our allies.

Then we have the flag-showing visits. Some were notable occasions, such as when H.M.S. "Bermuda", accompanied by six other ships, visited Stockholm in June at the time of the trade fair. Many were small and of purely local significance, but, taken together, they build and renew invaluable associations with the countries concerned and with the naval forces of these countries.

During the year we have continued to afford help to countries, both of the Commonwealth and elsewhere, over the supply of ships and equipment. In this connection, I should particularly like to mention the Australian Government's decision to buy "Oberon" class submarines. It is expected that two will begin building in 1963. This decision is especially welcome, not only because of its value to the British shipbuilding industry—"Oberons", with their equipment, cost more than £3 million each—but also because it provides reaffirmation of the traditional links between the Royal Navy and the Royal Australian Navy. It also serves to confirm our belief in the "Oberon" class submarine as the finest conventional submarine in the world today.

Mr. Patrick Wall (Haltemprice)

Would my hon. Friend care to say why the Australians have ordered new destroyers from the United States, which is a new departure?

Mr. Orr-Ewing

The Australians have ordered two or three destroyers in the United States. I am not responsible for their policy. I am glad that we have their Minister in this country at the moment. We are having with him discussions on various issues, particularly on this matter of building submarines.

Mr. F. A. Burden (Gillingham)

Can my hon. Friend say whether it is intended to place any of the orders for "Oberon" submarines for the Australian Government with Chatham Dockyard?

Mr. Orr-Ewing

Those are matters which we are discussing. The Australians are keen to get a firm and competitive price for these submarines, and it would not be right at this stage, while negotiations are going on, for me to make an announcement.

Mr. E. Shinwell (Easington)

This is a matter of fundamental importance. One of the Commonwealth nations is to purchase naval vessels from the United States rather than from this country. Were its intentions known? Was the Admiralty advised? Was any effort made to influence the Australians to purchase their ships in this country at a reasonably competitive price?

Mr. Orr-Ewing

We do our best to point out the advantages of British ships and British shipbuilding and we certainly provide all the data and try to encourage our Commonwealth friends to buy here. In this instance, the decision went against us. I hope that in future it will be with us.

I was explaining that this help to Commonwealth and other countries is of tremendous importance to this country and to the Royal Navy. I was explaining that this rôle in rendering assistance—

Viscount Lambton (Berwick-upon-Tweed)

My hon. Friend has just made a statement of which I have never before heard mention in Government circles. He said that a Minister from the United States—

Mr. Orr-Ewing

No; a Minister of the Australian Government who is in this country.

Our rôle in rendering assistance is an important one in which we receive the greatest co-operation from the shipbuilding industry and do our best to afford it to the industry. In addition to the Australian order, we have been able to give technical advice and help with, for example, two corvettes currently being built for Ghana and fast patrol boats for Malaya, now nearing completion. We aim to give all the advice and aid possible, either directly or indirectly, with the many inquiries we continue to receive, not only from the countries I have mentioned, but from others all over the world. During the past ten years the total value of such naval orders placed through the Admiralty with British industry is more than £100 million. Many naval orders are placed direct with commercial concerns, of course. The value in goodwill and friendship may be immeasurably greater.

Before dealing with nuclear submarines and the Polaris programme, I come to naval manpower. Our Vote A strength will not exceed 100,000 during 1963–64. We are doing better in recruiting; in 1960–61 we entered 5,384 ratings, last year we entered 6,257 and in the year just finishing we shall probably enter 6,800. Our provisional target for next year is 7,000.

The competition to enter the Royal Navy is very great and we are taking only approximately one man for every three who apply. The number of applicants for the highly skilled branches is also most encouraging, particularly when one remembers the competition we face from both the other Services and also from industry.

For example, we had 1,430 applicants for entry as artificer apprentices this year for a total of 510 places, nearly three-to-one, and we have short waiting lists for electrical and engineering mechanics. There is no problem in recruiting Royal Marines. Now that we are able to offer many men a career of 32 years' service, I am convinced that a career in the Royal Navy will appeal even more than it has in the immediate past.

Recruiting is still below requirements in some of the less technical branches—seaman, communications, naval airman, stewards and sick berth attendants. We are taking steps to remedy this situation as soon as possible.

The W.R.N.S., too, have had a very good recruiting year. The final figure will probably be over 1,000, and it will be the largest annual entry since 1954. We expect the W.R.N.S. to be at full strength before the end of the coming financial year.

Dame Irene Ward (Tynemouth)

Hear, hear.

Mr. Orr-Ewing

I am glad to have my hon. Friend's vocal support.

I come now to officer entry, and, here again, our experience is varied. To take the General List first, the Admiralty Interview Board saw between 900 and 1,000 candidates last year. Nearly 700 of them were competing for 72 Royal naval scholarships, awarded to boys between the age of 15 and 17½; and the balance were seeking direct entry as cadets last September. In addition to the scholarships, we awarded 120 reserved cadetships.

I am told that the number of scholarship candidates will be even higher this year—a reflection in part of the age bulge, but also, I am convinced, of the continuing attractions of a naval career. One hundred and seventy-one General List candidates, compared with 146 in 1961, entered Dartmouth last September; 95 of them had three or more A-level passes and 31 at least one pass at Scholarship level.

We do everything we can to ensure that those who just miss the educational qualifications for the General List are not lost to the Service, and 34 of the 81 who were in this position last year were awarded immediate commissions on either the Seaman or the Aircrew Supplementary Lists.

The Seaman Supplementary List, which is now in its third year, continues to be a success; but things are going less well on the aircrew side. We get plenty of aircrew candidates—nearly 800, for example, in 1962—but not enough of them have the aptitude and other qualities required to become successful naval officers and pilots. The result is that too many of them are failing under training.

There are also difficulties affecting the Electrical Supplementary List, and I hope to say something about our plans for solving them at the end of the debate, but would Like now to mention the Medical Branch, for which new incentives and entry arrangements were also introduced last year. These have produced reasonable results, but we are anxious to do better still. The R.N. Medical Service offers a variety of opportunity at sea and in hospitals and establishments ashore. I am convinced that a period afloat in, say, one of our ships in a Far East station or in an aircraft carrier operating frontline aircraft will offer valuable experience to any young doctor, whether he goes out to a career in the National Health service or remains on a permanent commission in the Navy; and, if he remains, he will have the chance of specialising not only in the standard medical specialities, but also in such new and important fields as nuclear, aviation, and underwater medicine.

The Committee will, I am sure, expect me to say something about our civilian numbers, and, in particular, the headquarters numbers which used to be Vote 12, but is now Vote 3. In recent years the streamlining of the shore support of the Fleet has enabled us to make very large reductions in civilian numbers as a result of the closure of many naval establishments at home and abroad. This has resulted in the reduction of the number of civilians provided for in the Navy Estimates from 181,400 at 1st April, 1957, to 127,800 on 1st April this year. Staff transferred to the Ministry of Public Building and Works accounts for 14,600 of this number, but the balance of the reduction which is nearly 40,000. remains a considerable achievement.

Apart from the run-down in Malta, the process of reduction is now nearing completion. Nevertheless, we have been continuing to look for economies in civilian manpower, largely by means of improved management techniques and the introduction of mechanised methods of storekeeping and accounting.

Within this general reduction we have succeeded up to the end of the current financial year in keeping to our aim of reducing Vote 3 numbers by 100 a year over the three-year period starting on 1st April, 1960. The Committee will remember that this was an assurance that I gave. The size and pace of the Polaris building programme will, however, without doubt involve increases mainly in professional, scientific and technical staffs and particularly at headquarters. We shall, naturally, do our best to compensate for extra staff by continuing with our drive for economies, but it will be wrong of me to pretend that Admiralty headquarters numbers will not from now on begin to show increases.

Our total civilian numbers are, as I said, reduced by almost 15,000 by the transfer of the Works Department. I should like to take this opportunity to place on record the high appreciation which the Board of Admiralty has of the services which the Navy Works Department and its predecessors have rendered to the Navy in war and peace for over 150 years.

The Committee will wish to know more about the new engineering service which the Admiralty announced in its reply to the Select Committee's Report on the Dockyards. At present, the Admiralty draws upon three sources for its professional ship design and dockyard management—the Royal Corps of Naval Constructors, who are all civilians, naval engineering officers, who are at present almost entirely responsible for marine engineering design and repair, and naval and civilian electrical engineers.

Electrical and mechanical engineers are concerned with the propulsion machinery and the fighting equipment of the ships—what I might describe as the operating parts. It is in this field that we find a need to employ a blend of civilian and naval officers. But we have at present no civilian mechanical engineers to match the civilian electrical engineers.

We have decided, therefore, to enlarge the existing body of civilian electrical engineers by adding to it civilian mechanical engineers of the same high academic and professional standards. Members of this enlarged body will be employed both on design tasks and in management, and will serve in the Ship Department, the Dockyard Organisation and to some extent in the Weapons. Department.

On the mechanical side, we intend to build up the civilian element to about 70 for comparison, the civilian electrical engineers will be about 90 strong. We shall require high-class men for the new service, recruiting from university graduates of the right standard and others of equivalent quality and from dockyard apprentices who show promise during their dockyard training. I would particularly mention the opportunities which young engine-fitter apprentices in the dockyards will have for advancement to professional status, which they have lacked up to now.

The composite civilian body I have described will be called the Admiralty Engineering Service. It will work side by side with the naval engineering and electrical officers in what we consider to be the correct proportions. I have no doubt that the advent of the civilian mechanical engineers will be a source of strength to our professional shore organisation, both in dockyard management and in design. They will be eligible for advancement to a whole range of high professional posts, and every new entrant should have an opportunity for a first-class career in the service of the Royal Navy.

I now turn to the subject of nuclear submarines. The decision was taken in 1955 to build a pressurised water reactor of British design. The first was to be used as a shore-based prototype and installed at Dounreay. It was then intended that the second should be fitted in the British submarine "Dreadnought". The Committee will remember that in 1957 the U.S.A. generously offered assistance and sold us a complete Skipjack type of nuclear reactor. This was installed in "Dreadnought" and has enabled us to get "Dreadnought" to sea probably at least a year earlier. In the "Valiant" we shall install a British nuclear plant based on the Dounreay prototype, but profiting by "Dreadnought" experience to the maximum extent.

These moves were the foundation for our plans to build a fleet of nuclear hunter/killer submarines. In the light of the enormous operational advantages of these submarines we announced last year a gradual switch over from conventional to nuclear submarines.

A fortnight ago I paid my third visit to Barrow and was delighted to see that about three-quarters of the hull steelwork for the second nuclear submarine. H.M.S. "Valiant", is now assembled on the berth there. The launch is scheduled for this autumn. A contract for the third hunter/killer has been placed with Vickers. This boat is a repeat of the "Valiant" and we hope that as a result of familiarisation with the various components and processes the building time may be quicker than for "Valiant".

We are now faced with the heavy and urgent task of building, equipping and manning a Polaris submarine fleet, in a very short space of time. As hon. Members know, the first of these submarines has to be in service by the middle of 1968, and all from the beginning of 1970.

Commander Pursey

How many?

Mr. Orr-Ewing

Four initially.

We do not start quite from scratch but none the less it is a very formidable task. In planning for it and carrying it out we shall be immensely helped by the advice and information that have been made available to us by our American friends. We have had liaison officers with the Polaris project ever since 1958, and the information which has been given to them is proving most valuable now.

We are confident that we shall continue to have an abundant flow of help and advice from America, but I want to emphasise again that the British Polaris submarine will be a British design. We shall buy Polaris equipment from America, including the weapons, but excluding their warheads, and, possibly, their re-entry bodies. Approximately three-quarters of the cost of the submarine—excluding its missiles—will be spent in this country.

Dr. J. Dickson Mabon (Greenock)

Do I take it that the actual nuclear propulsion machinery will be British?

Mr. Orr-Ewing


Dr. Mabon

Will it come from the so-called Dounreay design? What is the arrangement between the Atomic Energy Authority and Vickers Armstrong, Rolls-Royce, and so on, who are scheduled in the list as being the main machinery builders? Are they working under licence?

Mr. Orr-Ewing

The second question is rather complicated. The simple answer to the first question is "Yes". It will be of the Dounreay type, and it will, therefore, be of British design and British built.

On the second point, we have entered into a series of contracts and sub-contracts in which Rolls-Royce and Vickers Armstrong are co-partners. If the hon. Gentleman wants to elicit further information, perhaps he will put down a Question and I will write to him about it.

Mr. Paul Williams (Sunderland, South)

The key to the whole operation is the control mechanism. Is this to be American-built and sold to us? Will we manufacture under licence, or what will be the arrangement?

Mr. On-Ewing

I can assure my hon. Friend on that point. I want to make it clear that the missiles, the launching tubes and the control equipment for those missiles, which is an intricate part of them, as those of my hon. Friends who have visited the American Polaris submarine know, will be bought from the United States. The missile heads and possibly the re-entry bodies will be British.

Mr. Farey-Jones (Watford)

Does what my hon. Friend has just said mean that no future American Administration could "do a Skybolt" on the Admiralty, in the matter of Polaris? In other words, will the Board of Admiralty from the beginning be completely independent, and able to go ahead whatever happens?

Mr. Orr-Ewing

The difference between Skybolt and Polaris is that Sky-bolt was a weapon which was being developed, whereas Polaris is a fully developed weapon, in respect of which the United States is very fully committed. We have no reason to suppose that there will be any hitch. As my hon. Friend pointed out, it seems strange that the Opposition are willing to trust the Americans to defend us in the case of a nuclear war, but they are still doubtful whether America will honour this contract for Polaris.

Mr. Wigg

I do not want to deprive the hon. Member of his opportunity to score a party point, whatever the cost may be, but if the matter is quite firm he ought to be able to tell the House what the ceiling is in cost.

Mr. Orr-Ewing

If the hon. Member will have the patience to wait for my winding-up speech I shall be delighted to let him know, but if we start doing this sort of thing now we shall be dealing with too many questions.

Viscount Lambton

Will my right hon. Friend make this quite clear? The whole question of the independent deterrent depends upon it. Are we to buy from America the vital parts of the Polaris submarine? If we are, have we an absolute assurance that we shall be able to use them without any sort of machinery impedimenta of any kind? When I asked my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister a Question on this point earlier he said that we had no assurance on this point because there was no need for one, because the machinery was British-made. Since then we have had—

The Deputy-Chairman (Sir William Anstruther-Gray)

The hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Viscount Lamb-ton) must bear in mind that he is intervening in the middle of the Minister's speech.

Mr. Orr-Ewing

I know that my hon. Friend has anxieties on this point, and other hon. Members have also asked for assurances with regard to the equipment for nuclear submarines. If there is a national emergency there is no doubt about our having control over this equipment. I am sure that that will set my hon. Friend's mind at rest.

We have now to decide by which firms these submarines are to be built. The shipbuilding industry in this country is, unfortunately, and as the House well knows, in a very depressed condition at present, and many firms are eager to show what they can do. We are well aware of what they have achieved in the past and their potential for the future, but in deciding which firms to approach we have had to have in mind not only the magnitude of the task but also the pressure of the very limited time available.

Let no one underestimate the size and complexity of the task. These are large vessels, crammed full of elaborate machinery and electrical equipment. The design effort required will be immense. The Admiralty will be responsible for the main ship design, but the ship designs must be translated into working designs. Many thousands of drawings will be wanted, and wanted quickly.

There is another very important point. Submarine building calls for special techniques and skills that can be acquired only with time and experience. For example, submarine hulls for conventional submarines, as well as for nuclears, are made of special high-tensile steels, to resist the immense pressures to which they are subject when submerged. To fabricate these special steels to the very high degree of accuracy required calls for training and experience. Indeed, nearly all submarine work calls for experience, even when the tasks to be carried out are in themselves normal ones, because of the unusual conditions of working and the special standards which we set.

What all this amounts to is that, because the time available is so short and the task so large, we must turn to firms with experience of modern submarine building. It is not that these firms know all the tricks of Polaris submarines—they do not. Nor is it that other firms could not learn the tricks of submarine building—they could, in time. But the experienced submarine builders start with a great advantage. This could make a difference of up to a year in the time taken to get a Polaris submarine into service, and we cannot afford a year's delay. Even the experienced submarine builders will be very hard put to it to complete the work in time.

Our initial programme is for four Polaris submarines, and we have decided that the best and most efficient way to get them built is by having two builders, each building two boats. This will make possible the necessary concentration of skills and of capital investment. This does not mean that each builder will complete one boat before starting on the second. That would mean an intolerable delay. The building of these submarines, like the building of any large ship, proceeds by stages, and is carefully phased. When the workers on the first stage of the first submarine have finished their task they can move at once to the first stage of the second.

We have, therefore, to select two builders from among the only three firms in the United Kingdom with experience of modern submarine building—that is to say, Vickers, at Barrow, Cammell Laird, at Birkenhead and Scotts, at Greenock. We took this decision, only after considering the case for other commercial yards and Her Majesty's dockyards, and, in particular, the representatives from the Government of Northern Ireland. These firms have been asked to discuss with us what our requirements are, what resources they can bring to bear on the task, and what assurances they can give us that if orders are placed with them they will be completed in time. We shall also discuss financial matters, including financial control and prices.

It will not be possible, with such novel work as this, to settle in advance a fixed price for the whole contract, but we are determined to come to firm prices over as wide a field as possible, as early as possible. In the case of Vickers, we have already had experience of the price fix- ing for the hunter/killer submarines which will serve as a useful basis for further discussions. We could have widened these discussions to include all the major shipbuilders, but, for the reasons I have already explained, and, in particular, the time-table for the programme, to do so would have wasted valuable time and brought them no advantage.

Final decisions must await the outcome of the discussions with the firms, but it is only fair that I should tell the Committee that, provided it can give us the necessary assurances, and come to acceptable terms, Vickers would be one of the two selected and, moreover, should be the lead firm. There are at Barrow already many of the special facilities required for building nuclear submarines. The experience that Vickers has gained in the field of nuclear submarine building will be invaluable for the building of Polaris submarines—not only for itself, but also for the second builder, to whom it would be required to give guidance and help.

Mr. Stanley R. McMaster (Belfast, East)

Will my right hon. Friend ensure that if there are to be supply boats, or other boats connected with these submarines, the orders will go to a wider range of yards than the three that he has mentioned?

Mr. Orr-Ewing

I well understand my hon. Friend's interest, on behalf of Northern Ireland. In reply to a supplementary question about two weeks ago I said that at present we had no plans for a support boat, but we shall bear in mind the claims of other yards for the ordinary conventional warships.

Mr. Jeremy Thorpe (Devon, North)

I accept the fact that the high degree of specialisation required greatly restricts the number of boat builders who can put in train these submarines, but is it not possible for there to be a degree of sub-contracting for some of the components of these vessels, so that employment on this work can be spread? For example, could not sub-contracting be done in the case of electrical equipment?

Mr. Orr-Ewing

In this case, as always, there will be a considerable degree of sub-contracting for auxiliary machinery.

Mr. Thorpe

Will the hon. Gentleman see that this is done rapidly, so that this work can be spread out?

Mr. Orr-Ewing

I cannot give the Committee any assurance that we will spread this contracting geographically. The time factor has to be considered. We might have wanted a different arrangement if we were not controlled by time. The supply of this equipment must go to those firms upon whom we can rely.

Sir Harry Legge-Bourke (Isle of Ely) rose

Mr. Orr-Ewing

I should like to get on with my speech—

Sir H. Legge-Bourke

May I put in this context the same question which I put to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Air in another context? Can my hon. Friend give an assurance that while this programme is being completed no change will be made in the naval officers responsible from the point of view of the Navy?

Mr. On-Ewing

I could not commit one officer to staying all the time. This programme starts in 1963 and will end in 1970. It would be a little hard if I promised that those officers who started the programme should finish in the same job. Their careers would be wrecked.

During the debate on the Nassau Agreement, and at Question Time, I have been repeatedly asked that we should press the firms to negotiate for shift working. We have asked the firms concerned to discuss this with their trade unions, bearing in mind the need for the greatest practicable labour load on these submarines consistent with the high quality of work required and reasonably economic construction. We feel that this is a matter which should be left for negotiation betwen the managements and the trade unions.

In submarine construction, where space is confined, demarcation disputes can be particularly troublesome. U.S.A. yards are much less rigid in their approach. We shall, therefore, be asking the firms, in consultation with their trade unions, to ensure that their difficulties do not delay the Polaris programme. The discussions with the firms will be pressed on with urgency. Meanwhile, design work is going ahead and preparations are being made for ordering long-lead items.

Within a few years we shall have at sea a number of nuclear-powered submarines. H.M.S. "Dreadnought" has already begun her sea trials; H.M.S. "Valiant" is under construction; a third nuclear submarine has been ordered; and the urgent new programme for Polaris-type submarines is being undertaken. Provision must now be made for the refitting and refuelling of these vessels; on present plans the "Dreadnought" is due for her first refit in 1966. The submarines are being built in commercial shipyards, but for refitting and refuelling we must have dockyard facilities under our own control to ensure operational availability.

A study of the Royal yards has recently been undertaken with the object of selecting the most suitable for nuclear work. Rosyth best fills the bill. It already possesses dry docks with sufficient depth of water to accommodate these relatively deep draught vessels. It has deep water access and suitable berths which could be used by nuclear boats at all states of the tide. Already, a certain amount of submarine refitting is undertaken there, and thus there is familiarity with this specialised work. Its nuclear safety rating is the best of 12 shipyards and dockyards whose suitability under this head has recently been assessed.

Its labour force and facilities will need some expansion in order to cope with the task of nuclear submarine refitting. This expansion will, incidentally, help the level of employment in Scotland, and I imagine that this announcement will be welcomed by every hon. Member who represents a Scottish constituency. The aim must be to have Rosyth ready for emergency work for nuclear submarines from 1965, and for full refits as soon as possible thereafter. To compete with this programme we must now make a start on detailed yard planning and the commencement of works projects. This will also provide work in the dockyards.

My noble Friend the First Lord and I, he in his Memorandum and I in my speech, have sought to tell that 1962 has been, and 1963 will be, two years of great naval achievement. In last year's debate the Opposition's main criticism was that it was all naval promise without performance. Now we have Seaslug and Seacat fitted and working; our first guided missile destroyer at sea; three more County class vessels to be commissioned shortly; the "Wessex" at sea; the "Buccaneer" at sea; the "Dreadnought" at sea and nine new "Tribal" or "Leander" frigates commissioning in 1963. These are two years of tremendous performance and tremendous promise.

4.25 p.m.

Mr. E. G. Willis (Edinburgh, East)

The Civil Lord of the Admiralty has placed these Estimates before the Committee in his usual competent manner. He should, of course, because by now he has had a lot of experience. I do not know whether I should sympathise with him or congratulate him. Politically, I might sympathise with him. But from the Service point of view I should congratulate him on establishing a record by having opened these debates on five occasions.

This year, the hon. Gentleman's speech was devoted not so much to what is in the pipeline, but to what is actually in the Fleet; although he did refer at length to what is being done in respect of the Polaris programme. I am sure that some of the information which the hon. Gentleman has given us will cause a fair amount of comment during the debate. As a Scots Member, I am pleased that Rosyth is to be used properly. For many years I have maintained that Rosyth should be used more, so I think that the decision is a good one.

We on this side will do our best to try to give a little more of the truth about the Service than was given by the hon. Gentleman in the picture which he put before the Committee. But, first, I wish to say that the criticisms which we shall offer will not in any way be directed at the officers and men of the Royal Navy—

Sir Arthur Vere Harvey (Macclesfield)

The same thing was said by the Opposition in the debate on the Air Estimates last week.

Mr. Willis

The hon. Gentleman is wrong. I did not say this at all last week.

Sir A. V. Harvey

I did not say that.

Mr. Willis

I thought that the hon. Gentleman did say it.

On the contrary, we wish to express our appreciation of the manner in which the officers and men have met the demands made on the Service, and also the generous and ready manner in which they have responded to the many calls for assistance from various places in the world.

This afternoon, we are discussing a Vote for 100,000 men and women entailing an expenditure of approximately £480 million. This is an increase over last year's expenditure of about £21 million. These are vast figures and I think that in these debates we tend to lose sight of that fact. The Navy has spent over £500,000 while the hon. Gentleman was speaking and it will spend another £500,000 while I am speaking. If we could get an equal sum to spend on housing in Scotland, or upon some of our social services, what a different picture could be presented to the country. I think it well that we should remember these things.

As the hon. Gentleman said, this year the Estimates are presented in their new form which has its advantages. But I found one disadvantage. The Admiralty now manages to create more of a smoke screen around itself, and it is difficult to dig out what is happening there. I consider that unfortunate. So far as I can judge there is a reduction in expenditure and the number of men at the Admiralty. But I assume that both these things result from the transfer of the Admiralty Works Department to the Ministry of Works. I think that the hon. Gentleman said that the Admiralty had carried out its promise to cut the staff by 100 this year, but I am not sure—

Mr. Orr-Ewing

I said in each of the last three years, including the year we are just about to finish. But I warned that this might not be possible next year.

Mr. Willis

I was about to suggest that I do not think the hon. Gentleman will be able to keep this promise next year, or the year after. I notice, also, that there has been a big jump in the number of medical officers, from nine to 19, which is substantial. Could the Civil Lord tell us what is the target and by how much more the number is to be increased?

Turning to the Vote itself, I suggest that the Admiralty will not have 100,000 men and women; it will have 95,500. I assume that that is its target for 1st April this year, and for next year its target is 96,400. This year, it seems to be lower than the target that was set for it last year. So far as I read these Estimates I do not take the optimistic view of them taken by the hon. Gentleman. It seems that we have not recruited sufficiently.

Nor has there been a sufficiently high rate of re-engagement. If, as the hon. Gentleman says, we are getting men so easily, why have we this shortage as compared with the estimate made last year for April, 1963? If we are getting these men, why has the Admiralty had to lay up H.M.S. "Blake"? We are told that it is to be laid up, a £15 million cruiser barely two years old, because of shortages in various categories of ratings. I saw another report that the same might happen to H.M.S. "Tiger".

Mr. Orr-Ewing

Before the hon. Member develops that, I should say that the newspaper report was incorrect. "Tiger" will remain in operational service.

Mr. Willis

The report also said that, whilst it might remain in service, it would not carry its full complement, and that much of its equipment would not be available for use. Would the hon. Gentleman comment on that?

Mr. Orr-Ewing

We shall do everything possible—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] I am sorry, but if the hon. Member suspects that answer I should say that we will make sure that all essential parts of the ship are sufficiently and adequately manned. [Hot. MEMBERS: "Oh.] I say, "all essential parts". In several ships there is a certain amount of machinery which is not in use at the same time. The main object of this operation is presumably to keep "Tiger" in operational service as a useful ship in the Fleet. This we will do.

Mr. Willis

The hon. Gentleman's answer was rather qualified. If I understood him aright, there are shortages. I am not surprised at this, because there have been shortages in a number of branches for quite a time. There has been a shortage in the electrical branches for a time and I have drawn attention to this for a number of years.

Last August, the hon. Gentleman told me that there were nine ships without a full complement of chief electrical artificers and electrical artificers. He went on to say that there were 46 ships in which electrical artificers and electrical mechanicians were doing the job of chief electrical artificers and chief electrical mechanicians. That is a large number. When asked what the Admiralty was doing about it, he told me that the artificer branch's entry would have to be increased and there would have to be a cross-training of artificer branches.

The first remedy cannot be effective for another four or five years, because it takes four or five years to train them. As for cross-training, this was considered by the Admiralty six or seven years ago. What has happened about that? When are we to get some action about that? Surely six or seven years is long enough for the Admiralty to have decided to do something about this matter. It is quite clear, and has been clear for a great number of years, that with the increase in electrical equipment carried on board ships and with the tremendous increase in expenditure on electrical and electronic equipment—this year the increase is £8 million under this subheading alone—we require these ratings. Surely there must be some degree of culpability for failing to provide these men for set-vice with the Royal Navy.

Turning to the question of H.M.S. "Blake", I am sorry that the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food is not on the Government Front Bench. I remember that when we discussed these cruisers we on this side of the Committee suggested that they should not be completed. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bedford (Mr. Soames) who is now Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, said that they were a much better craft than aircraft carriers because, apparently, they had the great advantage that they did not have to put to sea. As I pointed out at the time, that seemed a rather curious qualification for a battleship. I am sorry that the right hon. Gentleman is not here today, because I am sure he would feel that it was the height of "efficiency" to put one of them into"moth ball"and place another in a position in which it is unlikely to be able to fulfil its duties properly.

It has been suggested to me that one of these ships. "Blake", could be used for training because it could carry a certain percentage of trainees. In previous debates I have raised this question. There is an acute shortage of modern sea-going accommodation for apprentices and other ratings to receive sea-going training with modern equipment. One of the constant grumbles has been that they are put aboard repair ships and things of that kind and cannot get the training which they require. It has been suggested that a certain percentage of accommodation could be devoted to trainees. They would not be acting so much as supernumeraries, as they would be trainees performing a necessary job. That would enable the ship to be used—not in a fully operational sense, no one suggests that, but for duties which are not particularly difficult or onerous—and, at the same time, it would meet the very urgent need for sea-going training facilities.

One thing which struck me about the manpower Vote was that this year the hon. Gentleman expects to have 300 fewer ratings in the Royal Navy and 150 more officers. I could be rather humorous about this, but I do not wish to be too critical, because this tendency seems inevitable. One thing which struck me in our visit to the Polaris submarine—and I express appreciation for the hospitality and kindness of the officers and men of the Polaris during our visit—was the fact that out of a crew of approximately 110 only 11 were ordinary seamen. The remainder were petty officers, chief petty officers and officers. This demonstrates clearly the type of navy which is developing and the type of manpower we shall require in future. It also raises the question of the manpower for our own Polaris programme.

If, at present, we cannot recruit a sufficient number of men in the electrical and certain other branches for the technical requirements of the Navy, how do we expect to recruit an additional 2,000? There would be four nuclear submarines with two crews of 120 each and then the shore establishment, for logistical support, of 1,200, so we would require about 2,000 men. The hon. Gentleman gave no indication at all of what the Admiralty's plans were in this respect, but surely it is an important matter. If we are laying up ships at present because we have not got the men for them and, at the same time, are embarking on a programme which will require increased numbers of the same type of men, it is no wonder that a great many people are worried about the Polaris programme and its effect on our conventional forces.

Turning to the strength of the Fleet itself, last year, on this side of the Committee, we expressed a certain amount of appreciation of the fact that at last the Government were producing a rôle for the Navy which appeared to be relevant to the world of today and which was also within our capacity. That rôle was spelt out very clearly in paragraph 2 of the Memorandum last year. It was, in the main the rôle, of supplying the necessary naval forces for an amphibious task force or forces. When we look at the Fleet today we are bound to measure its strength against that conception.

Last year, one of my hon. Friends thought that we did not have enough ships. It is very difficult to see whether we have sufficient ships for two such forces. We might have them for one but ships have to go in for refit and, therefore, we have to have more than one kind of ship to fulfil any particular rôle. During the course of the defence debate, my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) gave a quotation from defence correspondent of The Times concerning the recent American exercise "Fallex", in which he pointed out that as a result of the exercise—I have the quotation here, but I do not want to read it all— The great cost of the concept in men and money"— that is, the exercise which was to land 2,000 Americans on the coast of Greece— has caused more than one senior British officer here to express doubts about the ability of Britain to maintain effective naval task forces in the Indian Ocean, as planned in the 1962 Defence White Paper."—[OFFICIAL REPORT. 5th March, 1963; Vol. 673, c. 261]. That quotation is very relevant to consideration of the strength of our Fleet. When one examines the strength of our Fleet and balances it against the requirements for an effective task force, one is bound to realise the very great limitations that there are today upon our ability to "go it alone" and our dependence upon effective alliances. That seems to me to be the important lesson. I stress that because the hon. Gentleman once again spoke of our naval rôle in terms of worldwide commitments in keeping the sea lanes open.

Surely, it is time that we realised that this cannot be done by us alone; this can be done only in co-operation with our allies throughout the world and that the quicker we learn this lesson the quicker we are likely to get a more satisfactory position in relation to our naval forces.

Commander Anthony Courtney (Harrow, East)

The hon. Gentleman said that we could not possibly cover our worldwide commitments alone. Will he confirm that he believes that it is quite impossible that we should have to face a threat to our sea communications and our seaborne trade at points throughout the world where we shall not have the support of allies?

Mr. Willis

I am saying that it is rather foolish for us to imagine that we can meet such threats around the world today without allies. That was the point I made. [An HON. MEMBER: "What allies?"] We are members of defence organisations—N.A.T.O., S.E.A.T.O., and all the rest—and one hopes that the purpose of this is to give us allies. The point that I make is that it is time that we realise the truth of this, because there is far too much yearning for the days when we could do this alone. Those days are gone.

In considering the strength of the Fleet we have also to consider the question of age, about which a good deal has been said this year. Sir Eric Yarrow claims that no fewer than 72 of the 120 destroyers and frigates are sixteen years old or more and would be about twenty years old before they could be replaced.

Mr. Blackman, of Janes' naval ships, claims that there are 54 frigates and destroyers between eleven and twenty-one years old. I think that probably neither of these figures takes into account fully the amount of modernisation that has been carried out. But even when we make allowances for that modernisation, it is true that there is still quite a number of old ships in our fleet. In fact, one of the interesting things about the list of operational ships given in the Memorandum is that quite a number of them do not come into commission until the end of this year. This applies to two missile destroyers. It also applies to certain of the "Tribal" class frigates. Others are quite old, but I do not think that it is quite so many as indicated by the figures I have mentioned.

While I would not for a moment advocate naval shipbuilding to keep people working, I feel that there should be a case, under the present Treasury system of estimating three years ahead and then a forward look for another two years, for a certain amount of flexibility to enable spare capacity to be used in a way to meet the requirements of the Navy. I assume that the Admiralty itself must plan ahead in a similar fashion, otherwise the Treasury could not estimate in that way. I think that there should be enough flexibility to enable us to use some of this capacity at a time when a number of the shipyards have very little to do.

The ageing of our ships leads to the consideration of the replacement of the aircraft carrier fleet. Four years ago we were told that we could not afford it by the then Minister of Defence. Then there was a great silence—no one mentioned aircraft carriers until a year ago or so, and we were then told that we must have a new generation of carriers to be designed primarily for the !Ole of support of amphibian operations. We do not quarrel with that conception, but what we did quarrel with was that apparently at that time, and much more clearly now, that the Government seemed to be thinking in much larger terms than this. Last year the hon. Gentleman told us that we would have carriers of 50,000 tons displacement.

Three weeks ago the hon. Gentleman told me, in answer to a supplementary question, that they were to be of 55,000 tons displacement. This is reaching the "Forrestal" class of aircraft carrier. If the hon. Gentleman is thinking in these terms, we must put it on record that we do not accept that. We have not accepted it in the past—we did not accept it last year—but we do, of course, agree about the need for aircraft carriers to support amphibious forces.

When we ask ourselves what they are intended for, and look into the question of their vulnerability and whether we can afford them, then it seems that the answers lead us to think that we should not do this. When we consider what they are required for we come into the realm where it seems to me that the Navy and the Royal Air Force are both planning for the same thing. I listened to the Secretary of State for Air on Thursday. He was talking about the Hunter replacement by the P1154. He said that … the TSR2 and the Hunter replacement —will enable us to maintain a contribution to the N.A.T.O. tactical air forces of a quality second to none and will form the backbone of our world-wide tactical striking power for the support of ground forces in limited war."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 7th March, 1963; Vol. 673, c. 663.] If, instead of TSR2, we say Bulwark II, and if we take the Hunter replacement and instead of that put P1154, that speech could have been made quite well by the hon. Gentleman, because he was saying exactly the same last year. He was preparing for exactly what the Air Force is preparing for now. Surely it is time that the Minister of Defence awakened to the fact that he has two Ministries doing exactly the same thing. Surely there is a case for some better co-operation than we have bad in the past.

While the Minister of Defence might be able to deal with this under his new proposals for reorganisation, he ought not to be waiting for that, but ought to be getting on with the job at present. If the Government are to build aircraft carriers of this kind, then, clearly, there ought to be substantial reductions in the Air Force Vote. I should have thought that the Minister of Defence would be looking into that.

On the question of the vulnerability of these large aircraft carriers, I noticed, according to the various reports published on the exercises, that the "Clemenceau" was sunk and that the "Hermes" was sunk. Indeed, both of them were sunk before their aircraft were airborne. I notice, too, that the "Forrestal" was reported sunk, but nobody dare report the sinking of a United States aircraft carrier, because if he did it would raise a great furore in the United States. It would become a burning political question, because the United States has spent so much on aircraft carriers. In other words, the whole question of vulnerability seems to be clouded at the moment. We have very little in the way of clear information about the very large aircraft carriers.

One of these aircraft carriers of the type of which the hon. Gentleman seems to be thinking—about 55,000 tons—will cost about £60 million. A great deal has been said in the House during the past few weeks about the cost of the Polaris submarine, but this is almost double the cost of the Polaris submarine, and, of course, it does not include the aircraft. The hon. Member gave us a picture last year of the type of aircraft we were to use. I do not know what the cost will be, but it will run into many millions of pounds.

When we look at all these things, surely we ought to confine ourselves to the smaller support aircraft carriers, unless the Government are remoulding their defence policy in a way which will affect both the Air Force and the Service —that is, the Royal Navy. I apologise for calling it the "Service", but in the Navy one grows accustomed to that. That seems to me to be the only possible justification for such a policy.

For a long time the Minister has waxed eloquent about the virtues of the sub- marine and, in particular, of nuclear submarines. What is happening to our nuclear submarine programme? The hon. Member has spent three or four of the five years during which he has opened these debates in trying to impress upon the House the importance of the submarine as an anti-submarine weapon and, above all, the importance of the nuclear submarine as an anti-submarine weapon.

We started a nuclear submarine building programme. The "Dreadnought" is undergoing its trials and the "Valiant" has three-quarters of its hull complete. Another submarine has been agreed. But after that there seems to be nothing. What are the Government's plans in this respect? Is it true that the adoption of the Polaris programme will bring this submarine programme to a halt?

Once again, it seems to be a case of manpower problems and the ability to acquire the necessary "know-how" and technical knowledge if we are to build them. Once again, the Polaris will make us call a halt to what the Government told us was one of the most important weapons we could have. Perhaps the hon. Member will tell us something about that and will tell us what we are doing about the nuclear submarines, bearing in mind that we have to consider the position of the Polaris.

During the defence debate and the debate on the Nassau Agreement my hon. Friends and I made our position about Polaris clear. But apart from the views which are held on this side of the House about the undesirability of proceeding with this programme, there are a great number of other people who are also concerned about this programme and who, equally, think it to be undesirable. In 1959, the Admiralty told us that the undertaking of a Polaris programme was quite beyond our capacity without a radical recasting of the whole of our defence expenditure. This is what we were told then. This is why a great many people are worrying about the position in the Navy today.

Certainly, there can be no doubt about the vast sums involved in this programme. If we turn to the Estimates —and the hon. Member would say nothing about this—we find that the ships which the Government intend to start this year are to cost £241 million to complete. That appears on page 65. Let me repeat—the ships begun this year will cost £241 million to complete. The cost of the completion of the ships started last year was given as £73 million. This year we have a jump of £168 million. I wish that the hon. Member had given us some information on this subject.

What are these ships? Two Polaris submarines and an aircraft carrier? Is this what the Admiralty visualise?

Mr. Orr-Ewing

Where is this?

Mr. Willis

On page 65, Appendix VIII—Vessels to be commenced during the year, estimated cost to complete £241 million.

Mr. Orr-Ewing

The explanation is that the cost of defence in a single year and the cost of an injection into the programme are totally different. This is the total cost of the ships which are under construction, and some of it—certainly in the case of the Polarise submarines—would be spread over four and even five years.

Mr. Willis

That is exactly what I said. Last year we started ships which would cost, we were told, £73 million to complete. This year we are to start ships which, we are told, will cost £241 million to complete. It is a jump of £168 million.

The Committee is entitled to know something about this. What is it for? I work it out on the basis that two Polaris submarines and one aircraft carrier may be started, but I do not know. I quote the figures to give an idea of the enormous sums involved in this programme. That is why so many people are worrying about the likely effects of this programme upon conventional ships and weapons. It is difficult enough to keep ships and weapons up to date. The sudden imposition of an increased programme of this size must inevitably lead to further delays.

What we are up against all the time is illustrated when we consider the "County" class missile destroyers. The Civil Lord said that three more are coming into commission this year. I thought that two of them would have been in commission by 31st March of this year, in which case we are already behind, but that is not the point I want to make. The fact is that these ships are fitted with Sea-slug I which is obsolescent inasmuch as the range for which it is made has now been out-distanced. Seaslug II will not be fitted on the first four, but will be fitted on the two that follow. These "County" class missile destroyers will not be fitted with Seaslug II until about 1966 or 1967.

There is the rather scandalous position of the "Tribal" class frigates. The Civil Lord said rather happily that these were to be equipped with Wasp helicopters. The fact is that the "Ashanti" and the "Nubian" are due in Middle East waters on service this spring, but they will not have any Wasp helicopters. As I understand, the first of the operational trials of the Wasp will not take place until June, so these frigates, along with the others of their class, will not be fitted with the Wasp helicopters for many months yet. Last year, the Memorandum said that an initial order had been placed, but according to the Glasgow Herald of 6th March the production order for them was not placed by the Admiralty till last September.

I could go on with the weapons and the ships to show how always we seem to be behind. For instance, I understand that our Buccaneers, Scimitars and Sea Vixens are fitted with Bullpup A, but that is already out of date. They are not fitted with Bullpup B, which is fitted now to a considerable number of American carrier-borne aircraft. If we embark on this very large programme, which seems to be indicated and on which the Civil Lord spent a great deal of his speech, many of these delays will be increased. This is much more likely if the Government happen to be engaged upon an economy campaign, as they are every two or three years.

Mr. James H. Hoy (Edinburgh, Leith)

Not in armaments.

Mr. Willis

Another consideration on which I want to touch in connection with obsolescence, which is characteristic of all these Estimates and the weapons involved, is the possibility of speeding up the process of getting new ships and weapons into service. The Gibb-Zuckermann Committee made proposals for rationalising and speeding up the necessary scientific research and development.

I do not know what has been done about the Report of the Gibb-Zuckermann Committee. I should have liked to have heard something about it from the Civil Lord. Equally important is the speeding up of the making of ships and the manufacture and fitting of the weapons. In the last Supplementary Estimate—we have had two this year—the largest single item was £5 million for increased wages and more rapid rate of completions. Will the hon. Gentleman say something about that, because I should like to know to what extent the sum is made up of moneys for more rapid completions?

In view of the present Treasury policy, which demands this forward estimating, there ought to be flexibility for speeding up. It would answer the complaint that we so often hear, and also the fears which are frequently expressed, that the rigidity of the annual estimates tends to hinder the speed of building, of completing, and of modernisations. The Admiralty ought also to look into every other possible method of speeding this business up. The Civil Lord said something about what is being done on Polaris. Surely it is time the Admiralty did something in relation to other ships and weapons. If the taxpayer is to get any value for the money he is spending, it can only be on the basis that these things are in operational use for as long as possible. To get them into use for as long as possible we must do something along these lines.

Sir H. Legge-Bourke

I had the Gibb-Zuckermann Report in mind when I interrupted my hon. Friend the Civil Lord in the middle of his speech. I think that my hon. Friend misunderstood my question. Would the hon. Gentleman agree with me that it is important that the recommendation of the Gibb-Zuckerman Committee that senior officers in charge of research and development should be allowed to remain long enough in the Department to see the job through should be followed up?

Mr. Willis

I think that the recommendation of the Gibb-Zuckermann Committee on that point was that such officers should not be shifted at the end of two years, but that the period should be three, four or five years. With that recommendation I personally would agree. It was a good recommendation.

I should have liked to have heard from the Civil Lord rather more about the recommendations of the Gibb-Zuckermann Committee, because this is an important matter. This is one of the reasons why we always find ourselves with obsolescent weapons in ships that are becoming out-of-date. If we are to avoid that and get any value for our money, we ought to do something about it.

I should have liked to have touched on a number of other topics—for instance, dockyards, and Greenwich. I should have liked to have mentioned the "Caledonia" again in detail and suggested to the hon. Gentleman that he ought to rebuild it much quicker, seeing that he has delayed the start. I have no doubt, however, that a number of my hon. Friends will touch on some of these points.

I will sum up. Last year, the rôle of our naval forces appeared both realistic and within our means. This year, as a result of the collapse of the Government's defence policy, this is no longer true. We are once again entering a period in which, in our view, we shall be making it much more difficult, if not impossible, to maintain adequate, efficient and up-to-date conventional and balanced naval forces, because of the vast expenditure on Polaris and the large nuclear strike aircraft carriers.

This cannot be rectified until the Government—not the Admiralty, but the Government—decide upon a realistic, overall defence policy based upon a proper assessment of our means, our position in the world today, our commitments, and the real significance of our alliances. Only in this way can the serious misgivings about our present position and the future of the Royal Navy be allayed.

5.8 p.m.

Sir John Maitland (Horncastle)

The hon. Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Willis) made a very interesting speech. He rightly covered a great many points. I shall be following him in many of the things he said, but perhaps I may be allowed to put them in my own order.

I should like to talk first about what is the great interesting new thing about sea power. That is the possibility or the probability of our having Polaris submarines. I am going to be slightly critical about them, so I want to start by saying that I entirely and sincerely agree with the Government's policy with regard to the independent deterrent. I also think that the Polaris missile in a submarine is the best way of putting that policy into effect.

Having said that, I must say that I think that there is a good deal of misconception abroad about this situation, which affects the Navy, because it must be understood that, if Polaris submarines join the Navy, that is no accession of strength to the Navy in the rôle that it ought to play. In fact, it is rather the opposite. It will place an immense strain on the Navy to provide the necessary training and the very highest quality officers, both technically and in every other way—I think the numbers are 250 officers and 1,000 men; at least, they are the numbers which I have heard—who will be locked up, as it were, in this vital and important project.

This part of the Navy's job will be to see that war does not come. It will have failed if it ever has to use its weapons. It performs the most important rôle, to see that war does not come. But the weapons cannot be used for any other service which the Navy has to offer and through which it can forward the foreign policy of this country. They can be likened, I suppose, in our defence programme to what the gold in Fort Knox is to the American economy. They are very important, but comparatively inactive. But, as the hon. Gentleman pointed out, they are very expensive weapons.

I am very glad to have had, both from the Minister of Defence and now from the Civil Lord, an assurance that this will not be made to militate against the money available to enable the Navy to carry out its important duties in furthering our foreign policy. But the Minister must forgive me for saying that there is still great anxiety among many people —not simply from the point of view of the Navy—that we shall take the wrong turning and fail to use our great asset of seapower, by reducing the amount which ought to be spent on the conventional Navy.

This is particularly a moment of anxiety because, as the hon. Gentleman said and as the Minister has said, it is a moment when we are considering the replacement of the aircraft carrier programme or the provision of some other form of teeth with which the Navy can be provided, some other main striking power. It must be realised that the whole of the modern Navy is built around the striking power of the aircraft carrier. The Seacats and Seaslugs are only defence weapons against aircraft—they are not themselves offensive —and if we look through the list of ships which compose the active force of the Navy today we see that there are no real offensive weapons except the submarines and the aircraft carriers.

What is an aircraft carrier? It is simply a mobile landing strip and air base capable of the maintenance, supply and the looking after of the aeroplanes which it carries about. Incidentally, our aircraft carriers are the only effective force which we have at all in the Far East. In one of his more masochistic moments, the hon. Member for Edinburgh, East—and he followed the lead of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition in the defence debate—said that we must forget that we have all these duties abroad, and so forth.

Mr. Willis

I did not say that.

Sir J. Maitland

Of course, they are diminishing, but they are diminishing very largely because there is a tremendous move among previous colonies and dependencies all over the world towards having their own freedom and nationalism. One of the great dangers in front of the world is the extremely difficult problem of knowing when any nation should achieve its independence. With the best will in the world, as we saw in the Congo, we can do a great deal of harm by giving a nation independence before it is ready for it. The moment before the dawn is always the time when there will be difficulties and problems_ We shall need power and strength to be able to control the people for whom in the past we have been largely responsible, and that is why in this critical moment in our history—although I agree that our responsibilities are running down—we need great strength and power to be able to cope.

I said that we would have to choose in the very near future whether we are going to have aircraft carriers or some other means of providing teeth. I am no longer a technologist, and far too many of us in the House of Commons try to teach the technologists what only they really know. Therefore, I do not for a moment say that aircraft carriers are necessarily the right things to have, but if we do not have them, then we shall have to get the research and development men busy at the very earliest possible moment on what we are going to have. Since, as we all know, research and development are among the most expensive luxuries in which we can indulge, particularly when we do not know what we want, such a programme might well cost more and I should have thought that the aircraft carrier will be the answer.

I have never heard suggested anything with which to replace them. If that is the case, then I really can see absolutely no justification in delaying the decision one way or the other. We were told by the Minister of Defence that in the next 18 months a decision should be made. I cannot see why there should be this delay.

Commander Pursey

Where is the money?

Sir J. Maitland

If we are to have some other form of offensive weapons then we need all the time we can possibly have for the research and development people to get on with the business of designing them. If we intend to keep the aircraft carrier then, for heaven's sake, let us say so and not affect the morale of the men who have so very gallantly served in them for so long. I think that this curious delay on the part of the Government in making up their minds is almost the most worrying thing about their attitude towards defence, particularly in its application to the Royal Navy.

I do not believe that in this jet age, this atomic age, the virtues of sea power are any less important than they have been in the past. Rather the contrary, because at the moment the ring is held by what amounts to nuclear stalemate, and it is that great value of sea power which is perhaps the strongest weapon that a Government have with which to try to further their foreign policy, to give leadership, to police where they have to police and to carry out their obligations.

If we look at the history of the things that have been happening since the war we, see that every single one of them has been dependent, either for its success or failure, on sea power. Let us think of them. There was Korea. We did a great deal from aircraft carriers in Korea. Then there was Suez. How much better it would have been and how much more efficient we should have been if the Navy had been better equipped with ships at that moment. There was Kuwait and Brunei. Then perhaps the best example of all to illustrate my point is what happened at Cuba, from the American point of view, where we saw the balance held by a nuclear stalemate. It was by sea power and, by that only that the Americans were able to enforce their demands.

We must also remember that the Navy has many other duties to perform, particularly in times of disaster, earthquakes and so on. We have seen what the Navy can do in time of flooding and disaster, especially in Africa. All these are important matters and all of them come under the heading of "sea power". I say with the greatest regret that I cannot detect in any of our political leaders on either side any sign that they really even begin to understand the importance of sea power. This causes many of my hon. Friends and myself the greatest anxiety and goes far beyond the bounds of ordinary party loyalty.

There are two other matters which I must bring to the attention of the Committee and, in doing so, I hope that I will not be so heated.

Mr. Burden

Why not?

Sir J. Maitland

Because they are not the sort of things one needs to get hot about. I do not understand exactly what Mr. Livingstone Merchant's proposals are. It is time we had an official statement about them from the Government, because I read in the newspapers that some of the most ludicrous things are being proposed. I want to know just what the position is. I should like an assurance from the Government that they will give us a clear statement as soon as possible and that Parliament will be consulted before any of these curious ideas are seriously considered. I read in The Times today of a scheme concerning a "multilateral force" which, I understand, means the production of ships to be manned by men of various nations. I cannot imagine anything more ludicrous. If that is being considered in 1963 it seems fantastic. [An HON. MEMBER: "French cooks?"]

I remember that when I was a serving officer we had a saying to the effect that if one had a crew of whom 7 per cent. were Irish, one had a wonderful ship, as fine a ship as one could possibly have. Many of our best leaders came from that 7 per cent. However, if one had more than 7 per cent., one had a floating hell. They were the leaven, but if one had too much leaven the bread became too indigestible. To have crews comprised of Irish and heaven knows who else—fine fellows all of them but each thinking along different lines—I do not know what would happen. The idea seems so ludicrous that I cannot understand why it was ever put forward.

I must refer to some important remarks made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Flint, West (Mr. Birch) in the defence debate. He spoke about the need for a military secretariat for the Minister of Defence in the new defence set-up. For a number of years I have been urging my right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence—in various ways, by letter and privately—to realise the tremendous need for him to know exactly what is going on in the Services and that, to do this, he should have personal assistants drawn from the Services. Frankly, I cannot imagine anything the Services would dislike more. I admit that quite freely. However, I am certain that unless the Minister of Defence has highly intelligent officers drawn from the Services at his immediate and private disposal he will not understand exactly what is happening in the three Services.

Like my right hon. Friend the Member for Flint, West, I urge hon. Members to cast their minds back to the days of the old Committee of Imperial Defence. At that time, serving officers from the Services provided invaluable assistance to members of that Committee and, therefore, to the country. I am speaking of some of the most important people in the last war and I do not think that we could have got along without them. Similar people are still available, just as they were in the Services then, for the Services contain a great number of men of the highest intelligence, fully able to appreciate and understand these problems. They can appreciate them probably far better than we politicians. I used to think that anyway when I was in the Services.

If we had a really good naval P.A. with the Minister of Defence the Government might learn something about the virtues of the power of the Navy in peace time and what a vitally important weapon of policy it can be.

5.26 p.m.

Mr. John Dugdale (West Bromwich)

I agree profoundly with much of what the hon. Member for Horncastle (Sir J. Maitland) had to say. All hon. Members should realise the importance of sea power and should not say that everything must be done by either the Air Force or the Army, for on sea power may depend the future of this country.

The hon. Member for Horncastle used an admirable expression when he likened Polaris to the gold at Fort Knox. Let us not forget that that gold is kept at Fort Knox, which is in America, and that we must think very carefully about spending vast sums on Polaris; money which might be spent on other things, including necessities for the Navy. I should like to see much of it being spent to secure a greater diversification.

I recall that when I was at the Admiralty I spent a good deal of time trying to persuade the Sea Lords to preserve our small ships—frigates, for example—so that they could go to various parts of the world. Fortunately they have been preserved, and I believe that we should concentrate more on those kinds of vessels rather than on large ships such as Polaris and aircraft carriers.

The Civil Lord mentioned in his speech that the Australians had recently ordered a number of ships from America. Surely it is the duty of the Civil Lord to see that this sort of thing does not happen. I do not represent a dockyard town but I appreciate the feelings of my hon. Friends who do, and it is a serious thing that the Civil Lord should allow this sort of purchase to go on without his protesting to the Australians about it.

Mr. Burden

I agree with the right hon. Member's views to a certain extent, but how can he possibly expect the Civil Lord or anyone in the Government —or, indeed, in the country—to be able to tell the Australians that they must not purchase destroyers or any other commodity wherever they desire'? This is one of the problems of commerce that the independent Commonwealth countries are purchasing where they think they get the best value for the article that suits them.

Mr. Dugdale

Of course we cannot tell them, but surely the Government are able to make representations? I make this point because the Civil Lord did not give the impression that such representations had been made.

Mr. Orr-Ewing

I thought that I devoted a whole portion of my speech to pointing out how helpful we try to be to everyone who approaches this country on these matters. I explained that we have liaison officers in the Commonwealth countries, on the spot and available to discuss any issue, arms or other commodity that country might want.

Mr. Dugdale

I am very glad that the Civil Lord is making those representations. It is very important that he should do so.

I want to refer in the main to the organisation of the Admiralty. On 4th March, the Minister of Defence, in column 38 of the OFFICIAL REPORT, said—

5.30 p.m.

Mr. F. A. Burden (Gillingham)

I am sure that every hon. Member will deeply regret that the right hon. Member for West Bromwich (Mr. Dugdale) has become unwell. We express our hope that he will very soon recover.

Referring to one remark of the hon. Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Willis), I would say that since I have been in a naval town I, too, have come to think of the Navy as the Service, but, having myself served in the Royal Air Force, I have found it very difficult to think of the Navy as "the" Service, though that is growing on me the longer I remain in the Medway towns.

I must say that I did not get any great satisfaction in the speech of my hon. Friend the Civil Lord from what is proposed for Chatham Dockyard. I hope that he will have more to say about that, and will be considerably more forthcoming about it when he winds up the debate.

Nor was I very greatly impressed by the programme proposals for the Royal Navy for the future. During recent days we have heard quite a lot about the new presentation of the Service Estimates, but whatever the systems of control, of integration or presentation may be, and however they may be used in connection with proposals for integrating with the other Services, the fundamental and essential rôle of the Royal Navy remains the same. That rôle is to safeguard our own merchant fleet, to contribute to worldwide trade by deterring and frustrating interference with the peaceful movement of mercantile shipping, to ensure our ability to move our ships, troops and supplies wherever it is necessary and expedient, and to deny to any enemy the free movement of merchant or naval shipping. I do not think that any one would quarrel with those points, and they should be stated quite frequently, and kept well in mind.

Whatever may be the merits of the second and third points, if, in time of war, we cannot ensure that our supply of materials and food is maintained, these islands must succumb. In the last two wars, we had to make a tremendous effort to fight off the threat of German submarines, and we only just managed to do so. Let us be realistic—at times the threat was very grave indeed, and on occasion, defeat was almost imminent had we not been able suddenly to turn the scales against the submarine threat.

Now, the potential enemy is an infinitely powerful Russia, which no longer relies on the great juggernaut of its land forces as in the past. Russia is today equipped with, and is constantly improving, enormously powerful sea and air and ballistic missile forces. Indeed, I think that the yardstick of her progress was given when my hon. Friend pointed out that in the last three years she had increased her mercantile fleet by no less than 50 per cent.

Today, we are dealing with our Navy Estimates, and it would be quite wrong for me to get into a discussion of Russia's land or air forces, or the power of her ballistic missiles, but we cannot, of course, contemplate having to fight Russia alone if, indeed, the terrible catastrophe arose. Nevertheless, it is still absolutely necessary for us to go as far as possible in building up strength that will preserve the traditional rôle of the Navy—the maintenance for our forces of the freedom of the seas.

The terrible threat of the nuclear weapon is inclined today to overshadow the importance of what might be termed the traditional and conventional weapons, and it is undoubtedly the hope of every sane man and woman in the world that, ultimately, an agreement will be reached whereby the most dreadful of those weapons will be banned. Until then, it is wise for us to have the Polaris—I am in complete agreement with the Government's attitude to that—but even if that threat is removed there still exists an enormous threat to our naval and merchant shipping from the tremendous fleet that Russia has built up.

As my hon. Friend has said, Russia now possesses over 400 submarines, without taking into consideration the, I think, 111 submarines she took over from the Germans. She is reported to have 30 guided-missile submarines—

The Temporary Chairman (Mr. H. Hynd)

Order. The Sitting will be suspended for a few moments. I would ask hon. Members to remain in their places.

Mr. Burden

As I was saying, Mr. Hynd, it is reported that Russia now has 30 guided-missile submarines, and more that a dozen nuclear-propelled submarines on station—some in the Pacific, some in the Atlantic, and others in the White Sea. This, apart from her large fleet of conventional submarines, imposes a terrible threat to the safety of our own sea power. Those vessels are able to deliver a nuclear weapon, but they also impose a tremendous threat to the shipping of the Western world.

Against this threat, our own submarine fleet comprises 54 submarines-18 of which are in reserve, and one of which is engaged in trials-53 being of the conventional type that, against over 400 Russian submarines. There is one killer, "Dreadnought", which has completed its trials, and "Valiant," the hull of which has been three parts completed. I believe that we can expect the construction of another of these vessels to start soon. We are now told that Polaris is to proceed but, as my hon. Friend has stated, Polaris will have no effect whatsoever on improving our safety against the threat of Russian naval weapons.

If one is perfectly honest about this, it is not a very impressive catalogue if it is compared with what the Russians have. It is now perfectly clear to almost everyone interested in these matters that the future of naval and, indeed, marine propulsion lies in the nuclear field. It is time that the Admiralty made up its mind to go in for it in a big way, to the limit of its financial and technical ability. This is vital not only in the interests of defence but also if we are to retain our position as a great commercial shipbuilding nation.

The apparent reluctance to move from oil to nuclear propulsion is nothing new in the Admiralty. It is the same old Admiralty pattern. It was equally slow in moving from sail to steam and also extremely lethargic in shaking itself into moving from steam to oil. In the past the Mercantile Marine has always led the way. But it is interesting to see how the Admiralty has lagged behind in converting from sail to steam. Indeed, I think the chart I have in my hand illustrates that it really must get out of this habit and that it must get ahead in nuclear field.

The first successful demonstration of steam propulsion was in 1802. The Admiralty first undertook steam propulsion in 1821 when it purchased a 212-ton ship to tow ships of the line in and out of harbour. The introduction of the cross-Channel service between Britain and Le Havre took place in 1816. In 1836 F. P. Smith patented the screw propeller in England. In 1852 H.M.S. "Agamemnon" was the first screw battleship launched. It was not until the Crimean War, in 1855, that the Admiralty started to introduce engines into all naval ships.

Mr. Shinwell

Is it not a fact that we had a succession of Tory and Liberal Governments during that period?

Mr. Burden

I am equally sure that if the right hon. Gentleman had been First Lord of the Admiralty, we should still have been in sail.

In the past there may have been some valid explanation of the Admiralty's reluctance to progress. The size of the fleet had to be kept large after the Napoleonic wars in order to maintain a dependent Empire; and, because of the reluctance and inability of other nations to move from sail to steam, there was certainly not the threat to this country, not the urgency that exists today for moving to nuclear power. Despite the slow transition, we were able to maintain our position as the greatest sea Power. But these considerations no longer apply, and we really must move with the times.

We are now at the beginning of another new era in marine propulsion, and I hope that my hon. Friend the Civil Lord will do all within his power to ensure that the Admiralty adopts this new form of propulsion in a big way and as quickly as possible. It must do so to the absolute limit of its financial and technical resources. The size and importance of our shipbuilding industry, built as it was upon the fact that we led the way in steam, can no longer be retained unless it can be shown that we are as up to date and modern in this new means of propulsion. Unless we do so, much of the mercantile shipbuilding that has been coming to this country, and for which there is a great need, will undoubtedly go to foreign shipyards which are prepared to grasp the opportunities of nuclear propulsion.

Mr. Harold Davies (Leek)

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that not only the Mercantile Marine but technologists in the Admiralty as well are fully alive to the need for nuclear propulsion; but is he also aware that there is much more to it than that? We are not yet sure of the safety of this kind of propulsion, in what harbours our ships could dock if they were nuclear-powered, because of the possibility of radioactivity in the event of accidents, and effluent.

Mr. Burden

I am sure that the hon. Member for Leek (Mr. H. Davies) or the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) will be stating their views. It is interesting to note the reluctance of some hon. Members opposite to accept the challenge.

Mr. Harold Davies

That has nothing to do with it.

Mr. Burden

I say this to the hon. Gentleman. If in the past difficulties had always meant that opportunities should not be grasped, we would not have done very much technologically.

To continue the point that I was making, if, no matter what the Government may do, we are to have a continuation or a resurgence of shipbuilding prosperity in the yards on the Clyde, the Mersey, the Tyne and in Belfast, it will come from opportunities in the nuclear sphere rather than from a reliance on what have become known as conventional means of propulsion. Time is certainly not on our side, and I hope that this fact will be borne well in mind.

Of course, there is considerable disappointment on this side of the House that so much stress has been laid on the future building of Polaris and that nothing has been said about a comprehensive programme for building hunter/ killer submarines. It is absolutely essential that these shall be built in line with anything that is built in connection with Polaris, for they are imperative if we are to keep open the sea lanes. I am not suggesting that my hon. Friend is not right in stating that the orders for these Polaris submarines will be placed in private yards, but I believe that it is absolutely essential that the Admiralty yards should be brought into the nuclear programme as quickly as possible.

Commander Courtney

My hon. Friend has raised a very interesting point. Would he not agree that in the private yards the long delay in building nuclear submarines has been due to demarcation and other difficulties, owing to lack of security in the shipbuilding trade, and, as this does not apply to the Royal Dockyards, is there not an opportunity to show how quickly and cheaply a Polaris submarine can be built?

Mr. Burden

I am grateful to my hon. and gallant Friend for his intervention. He has illustrated the point that I was going to make, but it loses nothing by the emphasis that my hon. and gallant Friend has given to it. I hope that the Civil Lord will take that fact very much to heart because it is very important. Indeed, he made the point himself, and he cannot complain if hon. Members on this side of the Committee stress the importance of taking these matters into consideration when contracts are placed. He has said that there will be a gradual switch from conventional to nuclear propulsion. If there is to be this switch, what is to be the position of the Royal Naval Dockyards? If my hon. Friend tells the Committee and the country that the Royal Naval Dockyards are not to be allowed to build nuclear-propelled ships, what is to be the rôle of these yards? We want a forthright statement about it.

I think that my hon. Friend is quite wrong in the decision he has announced that the Royal Naval Dockyards are not to be used for this purpose. He himself shows how wrong that decision is when he says that the "Oberon" class submarine built at Chatham Dockyard is the finest conventional submarine in the whole world today. If the yard can build what is admitted by the Civil Lord to be the best conventional submarine in the world, is it not plain that the submarine building technique available there can be just as important in the building of nuclear submarines, and this is one more good reason for giving Chatham its share of the work? The Royal Naval Dockyards have the skill and the experience. They have used that skill and experience in building sub- marines in the past, and they can do it again.

My hon. Friend says that the Australians want four "Oberon" class submarines. Will he send them to the yard which has shown that it can build better than anyone else, a yard where there is no question of difficulty caused by demarcation disputes or three-shift working?

Mr. Percy Collick (Birkenhead) rose

Mr. Burden

I am sorry. I ask the hon. Gentleman to forgive me, but I have given way three times. I know that many of my hon. Friends are waiting for me to finish so that they may take part in the debate.

If what the Civil Lord has told us is true, neither Chatham nor any of the Royal Naval Dockyards, except Rosyth, is to be used for the refitting or repair of nuclear vessels. This seems to be a scandalous waste of the Royal Naval Dockyards, particularly Chatham Dockyard.

My hon. Friend may have in mind the question of the channels to and from the dockyards. I cannot say for certain what the position is at Chatham, but I can tell my hon. Friend that at this very time tankers of 50,000 tons dead weight are going in and out of the Isle of Grain almost daily, and I am told that there is plenty of water there. I will not give the figures relating to what might be needed for the approach of nuclear submarines.

The Admiralty must make up its mind. It is quite clear that, if the Royal Naval Dockyards are to be used for the repair and refit or the building of nuclear-propelled vessels, a major machinery programme must be undertaken. This applies to Rosyth just as much as to anywhere else. It will take about three years, I understand, to tool up for the job.

Dr. Alan Thompson (Dunfermline Burghs) rose

Mr. Burden

I am very sorry. I have already given way three times. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will be able to make his speech in his own way.

Mr. Shinwell

It depends how long the hon. Gentleman is with his speech.

Mr. Burden

If hon. Gentlemen are so impatient, they must remember that I shall finish that much more quickly if I am not interrupted.

The resources and the skill are available in the Royal Naval Dockyards. I hope that, in any efforts they make to alleviate unemployment in the northeast of England and elsewhere, the Admiralty and the Government generally will make sure that a situation does not arise in which the skill and ability of the Royal Naval Dockyards are not used to the full.

Another point of first importance arises out of what the Minister has said. He has told us that we are to use private yards to build nuclear-propelled vessels. The Admiralty is to put more work into the private yards. I wonder whether my hon. Friend is aware that craftsmen in the private yards are paid considerably more money for doing the same job than are workers in the naval dockyards. The Admiralty must consider the pay and conditions of men working in the Royal Naval Dockyards. This cannot be fobbed off any longer. The Royal Naval Dockyards have an expensive, and very useful and satisfactory system of apprenticeship, but, of course, unless the men in the dockyards are paid wages which compare with what they can get in private industry, particularly in the private yards, the Admiralty will train them and the private civil employers will have the benefit of their technology and "know-how" and employ them. I hope that my hon. Friend will say something about this.

The Admiralty and the Government must realise that Russia is now a great and powerful sea monster with a vast submarine fleet capable of blockading not only these islands but the whole of Europe. It is the Admiralty's responsibility to produce a programme that will comfort the people of these islands, impress our friends and deter any potential enemy.

5.57 p.m.

Mr. J. P. W. Mallalieu (Huddersfield, East)

I understand that, while the Civil Lord was addressing the Committee, the Navy had spent about £500,000. I hesitate to calculate how much the Navy must have spent during the speech of the hon. Member for Gillingham (Mr. Burden).

One part of the hon. Gentleman's speech I found very interesting. He criticised the Admiralty for its failure through the years to adapt itself to new ideas, reminding us of the catalogue of their Lordships' efforts to move from sail to steam, from wood to iron, and the rest. He hoped that this dilatoriness would not become a habit. Bless my soul —it has been going on for 160 years. When does something become a habit? It is still going on now. I can tell the hon. Gentleman of various out-of-date things to which the Admiralty clings with a passionate delight, among them the Royal Naval barracks. I know that one has gone, but there are still two more.

I see from the Memorandum that 53 per cent. of general service ratings are at sea today. That is very good. However, that leaves 47 per cent. of general service ratings who are still on shore, and I bet that most of them are in Royal Naval barracks and doing nothing useful.

I have been pressing on this matter for about sixteen years—it is becoming a habit with me—and I was delighted some time ago to receive very powerful and effective support from the hon. and gallant Member for Croydon, North-East (Vice-Admiral Hughes Hallett), who is Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport. He agreed that barracks were hopelessly out of date. He wondered whether their Lordships at the Admiralty had ever heard of the invention of the telegram, which could summon ratings back from their homes at any moment. We still have telegrams. Ratings have homes where they can be more usefully, or, at any rate, more happily employed. In addition, in spite of Dr. Beeching, we still have railways by which to bring them back. It is high time that the Admiralty seriously considered the possibility of scrapping the remaining naval barracks.

I know that it is necessary to keep an emergency reserve, and I was interested in the suggestion of my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Willis) that ships in mothballs might be more effectively used for training. They could also be used for housing the emergency reserve which has to be held somewhere near the ports. If, instead of being in barracks, these men could be put in ships, they would have to keep the ships in reasonable trim. Furthermore, they would do themselves a bit of good, because the proper study of seamen is the sea. Even if the ships were merely swinging round a buoy, or tied up to a wall, they would be afloat, although, perhaps, they would have nothing more aggressive than the Gosport Ferry coming at them.

I therefore hope that the Civil Lord will bear in mind the suggestion of my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, East to use these ships for training purposes. I hope also that he will bear in mind my suggestion for housing the essential reserves of men in these ships rather than in the Royal Naval barracks.

Sir A. V. Harvey

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that what he is suggesting would prove to be very expensive? In fact, it was done in the case of the "Vanguard" at Portsmouth for a number of years, and it was completely uneconomical.

Mr. Mallalieu

It would be uneconomical, but the barracks are uneconomical.

I am most grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his intervention, because it has reminded me of something that I forgot to say. The barracks could be made most economical. They are a very valuable real estate. If they were handed over to Mr. Clore, or to the hon. and gallant Member for Portsmouth, West (Brigadier Clarke), we would make millions out of them, and use those millions for something useful.

I turn to a wider matter. The hon. Member for Horncastle (Sir J. Maitland) wondered whether it was a good thing to have aircraft carriers. He said that politicians could not tell the technical "boys" the right armaments to have. I agree with him. That is not part of our job. But it is part of our job to vote the money for these things. We as laymen vote the money, and before we can do that with good conscience we must know a little more from the technical "boys" about the prospects for the survival of carriers and, indeed, cruisers. They are extremely expensive. I also suspect that they are extremely vulnerable.

Mr. C. Ian Orr-Ewing indicated dissent.

Mr. Mallalieu

The Civil Lord shakes his head. He certainly knows a great deal more about this than I do, but if he has information about this sort of thing he should give it to the Committee before we embark on expenditure of this kind.

What are the prospects of a carrier or cruiser getting through a concentrated attack in these days of homing missiles? Has it a 90 per cent. chance of getting through? If so, perhaps the theoretical case becomes a practical one for having aircraft carriers and cruisers. If the chances are less than 50 per cent., it seems to me that these vessels are a waste of time and money. Not knowing how the age-old fight between offensive and defensive weapons is going, I should have thought, as a layman, that our only hope is to have much smaller surface ships with very great speed and a high degree of manœuvrability. Even that may be nonsense in the era of guided missiles. If so, all surface ships are nonsense and we must think in terms of a Navy which operates wholly from under the water.

I turn to a point which emerges from the Estimates and from the Memorandum, and, indeed, from the Civil Lord's speech. I was extremely interested to learn that the Royal Marines are now becoming part of the complement of frigates and comparatively small ships. This is excellent. It is yet another step—a small but important one—in achieving the ideal at which we must aim of having one Service. I cannot see now, and have not heard for many years, any justification which I could accept for maintaining three separate Services.

I believe that now and in future the case for a single combined Service is and will be unanswerable. It is equally unanswerable that the basis for that combined Service must be the Navy. The Navy does all the jobs which the other three Services do. It fights in the air, on the surface, on the land and under the sea. I therefore very much welcome this further small sign of a move towards making the Navy the nucleus of a combined Service.

However, completely to unite the Services is a major decision which no Government have the right to make at the fag end of their time. It is a decision which a Government should make only at the beginning of a new Parliament when they are fairly certain that they will have the power to carry it through.

If that applies to the question of a combined Service, it applies to an almost equally great decision, the decision to go over to the Polaris submarine. This is a major decision in terms of the Navy. It will entail an almost complete reorganisation of the training system of the Navy and a great deal of change in the type of supplies of the Navy.

The Navy knows perfectly well, however, that in the event of my party winning the next election this programme will be scrapped. This was made perfectly clear in the defence debate. It was made perfectly by my right hon. Friend the Member for Huyton (Mr. H. Wilson) the other day. Therefore, if this Government intend to go ahead with their programme and to persist in remaining in office until the fag end of their time, the Navy will be faced with a substantial expenditure and a substantial upset which will be completely wasted.

I beg the Civil Lord to pass a message to his right hon. Friend the Prime Minister. I get tired from time to time at the rather silly shouts of "Resign" which go across the Floor when the Government are beaten on a cheese Order, or something like that. Here, however, is an issue which to the Royal Navy is immensely important. It is something which must be decided one way or the other, and quickly. The only people who can help the Navy to know where its future will lie are the Government, and they can do that by resigning.

6.10 p.m.

Mr. Patrick Wall (Haltemprice)

I find myself in agreement with some points, but not of course with the last part, of the speech of the hon. Member for Huddersfield, East (Mr. J. P. W. Mallaiieu). I do not think that the hon. Member's forebodings will come true, because it is obvious that the Government will be returned to complete their plan for the Polaris submarines. I agree with the hon. Member, however, when he says that the future of the Navy lies in underwater operations. We must give careful consideration to completing a proper programme of Polaris submarines—by which I mean not four submarines but at least double that number—and an adequate programme of hunter/killer submarines.

The hon. Member mentioned the aircraft carrier, to which I shall return later in my speech. If, however, the hon. Member for Huddersfield, East examines the problem, I believe he will find that there is an important part for the aircraft carrier to play in limited, conventional war—that is, other than a major nuclear war—particularly in support of amphibious operations. I know that the hon. Member and I are at one on the importance of this form of operation.

The hon. Member suggested that eventually we will need only one Service, and again I fully agree with him. He hoped that it would be built upon the Royal Marines. Naturally, being an ex-Royal Marine, I share that view. As an aside, I should like to ask my hon. Friend the Civil Lord why, when Royal Marines recruiting is going so well, a ceiling is placed upon it. At a time when there is difficulty in getting people for certain categories in all three Services it is surely extraordinary that a ceiling should be placed upon a corps which is so versatile that it can serve almost in three dimensions.

Starting with the premise that eventually we will have one Service, we have obviously come a long way this year, when my right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence announced the setting up of a new Department of Defence. I should like to know from my hon. Friend the Civil Lord what this Department really means. It could mean a great deal or nothing. It could mean that the Minister of Defence intends to chop off the senior members of the Board of Admiralty and the War and Air staffs and to house them in a separate building and that the new arrangement will end there. That would not make much difference, however, because that kind of situation already exists in the Chiefs of Staff Organisation and we already have integrated operations plans and intelligence teams with the three Services fully co-operating and indeed integrated.

There are two fundamental matters of importance. One is the question of centralised financial control, which is the basic tool of policy-making. Will the Minister of Defence control this aspect himself, and will he, therefore, control programmes of research and development for all three Services? Secondly, what will happen to the rump of the Service Ministries? For example, when the Board of Admiralty transfers itself to the Ministry of Defence, will the rest of the Admiralty be run as it is today, or will the three Service Ministries be reorganised functionally so that one operates, say, personnel, another operates hardware, and so on? This is a fundamental question which has not been answered in any of our debates so far.

On the question of moving towards the aim of having fully integrated Services, a programme which obviously will take many years to fulfil, I should like to make one or two suggestions. The first concerns the joint training of senior officers. The other day, in answer to a Question, I was given the numbers of personnel trained by the Imperial Defence College. The figure was about 30 senior officers a year. The Joint Services Staff College had the highest entry last year with 117 officers, but the Royal Navy did not show up quite as well as the other two Services. The percentage of senior officers—that is, flag officers now serving—who went to the Imperial Defence College was given as 32 per cent. for the Navy as compared with 60 per cent. for the Army and 50 per cent. of equivalent officers serving with the Royal Air Force. In the Joint Services Staff College, the Navy was a little better, the figures representing 12 per cent. of flag officers and their equivalent compared with 40 per cent. for the Army and 10 per cent. for the Royal Air Force.

I suggest that there is a case for a common list of the senior officers of all three Services—that is, at least at the Flag, General and Air levels—with common promotion prospects and a common system of promotion. If we start at the top—and also, as I shall now suggest, at the bottom—we shall be moving towards the ideal outlined by the hon. Member for Huddersfield, East.

It is at the bottom that we learn our Service esprit de corps. We also get ingrained with Service jealousies when we first go to cadet college. One of the biggest moves towards the unification of the three Services would be the establishment of a joint cadet college. I should like to see Dartmouth, Cranwell and Sandhurst operating in three wings of the same college. If that is too big a jump, let us have Dartmouth and Cranwell operating together, because all Navy officers should know how to fly and it would be a good thing if Air officers learned a little more about the sea, because it is on the Navy and the Royal Air Force that the country's maritime defence mainly depends.

There is also at the lower level the suggestion of a common medical and education service and a larger degree of civilianisation, because the modern sailor or airman does not like carrying out many of the "barrack stanchion" tasks. If a fully trained man is not utilising the capacity for which he has been trained, his training is being wasted. In addition, there is the possibility of centralised engineering training, and so on. These are matters concerning the three Services, and it is therefore fair to mention them in a debate about one of them. I hope that my hon. Friend the Civil Lord will bring some of these suggestions to the notice of his right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence.

I turn now to the question of the deterrent. There is no need to labour the reason why it is necessary for this country to have an independent nuclear deterrent. It has been argued ad nauseam in our two defence debates this year. It is sufficient to say that in the years between the wars we were always told, and truthfully told, that it was essential to have a capital ship, the capital ship of those days being the battleship and, in the Second World War, the aircraft carrier, because it was under the protection of the capital ship that our other vessels operated and our maritime strategy was carried out. I merely add that the independent nuclear deterrent is the capital ship of the future and that unless we have an independent nuclear deterrent we can have no independent foreign policy.

If we accept that we must have a nuclear deterrent, the next question is, what is the best type for this country? Obviously, one looks first at progress in America, because it must be admitted that the Americans are far ahead of ourselves in the development of missiles. First, we had the free-falling bomb, which was used at the end of the last war. Then, we had cruise missiles, which were developed by the American Air Force—the Snark, for instance—and the American Navy's Regulus. Then we had air-to-surface missiles—Hound Dog, our own Blue Steel and Skybolt.

I pause at this stage, because recently most Members of the Committee have received a communication from the Air League concerning Skybolt and Blue Steel. The Air League advocates the building of a British nuclear air-carried missile. The League states in paragraph 5: We know that the long-term nuclear capability of Bomber Command can be guaranteed by the production of a satisfactory long-range, air-launched missile which is, wholly, within the technical capability of British industry. Such a weapon can be produced, within six years, from United Kingdom resources at a lower cost than Skybolt. What the Air League is asking for is air-carried missiles which can fly at supersonic speeds and follow contour lines at a low altitude.

When this country, at the moment, has only one such aircraft in the Buccaneer and will have another far more advanced aircraft in the TSR2, it seems to me that it is asking a very great deal within six years to produce a type of weapon which would be unique in the world. If it could be done, it would be magnificent. I suggest, however, that the risk of failure would be immense. It is far hotter to put our money on to the alternative.

What is the alternative? The Americans have certainly given up the whole idea of air-to-surface missiles. They are building no more heavy bombers. As the main delivery vehicle of the deterrent, air-to-surface missiles are "out". They are replaced by long range missiles, first by intermediate range ballistic missiles such as Thor and Jupiter, with 1,500 miles range, and more recently by the Atlas and Titan II, with 9,000 miles range. The trouble with these weapons is their size, cost and lack of mobility. Titan II weighs 220,000 lb. and is 98 ft. high, and is clearly immobile. The Americans have realised this and have now brought out a new generation of missiles. There are two of these. Minuteman is a quarter of the size of the missiles I have mentioned, and it is mobile. That would form a possible alternative for our defence.

The Temporary Chairman (Mr. H. Hynd)

I hope that the hon. Gentleman will no: go into too much detail about air missiles generally. He must relate his remarks to the Royal Navy.

Mr. Wall

Thank you for that warning, Mr. Hynd. I think you will see in a second that this is relevant to the argument and to what the Committee should be discussing.

Minuteman is, therefore, one possible deterrent carrier for us, but when one is dealing with a very small island mobility is perhaps not very important. I think it would be far better to take the other alternative and to put our missiles in a vehicle such as the Polaris submarine, which can be mobile throughout the oceans of the world. Therefore, studying the programme of American missile development from the Hiroshima bomb to the Minuteman and the Polaris submarine, I would say that it is obvious that Polaris is the best bet for us.

One or two points should be raised about the Polaris submarines. First, there is the speed of construction. My hon. Friend said today that the first submarine should become operational in 1968, five years from now. I wonder whether it is not possible to cut the time down. We have surely in the Commonwealth a great deal of "know-how", and we are getting magnificent cooperation from the Americans. I was told the other day that Canadian Vickers is already prefabricating parts for American Polaris submarines. From this point of view, it might be possible to cut down the time. I hope that my hon. Friend will make every endeavour to produce the first submarine before 1968.

There are certain snags about Polaris, and we should argue them out. They are referred to, and summed up rather well, in the Air League memorandum to which I have already referred. It states that the United States Government can at any time stop the production or development of Polaris. I suggest that this is an argument that does not have very much value, bearing in mind that the Americans are planning a fleet of 41 Polaris submarines, ten of which are already in commission. I do not think we need worry much about that.

The second snag referred to in the memorandum is that there are clear indications that the Polaris weapon will have strings attached to its independent use by the United Kingdom. Now, the Prime Minister went into the matter on 21st February, and an exchange on it took place earlier in this debate, which has cleared my mind of any doubts on this important matter. As I understand it, we shall not only have control of the vessel but also control of its communications system, its navigational system and the guidance system of the missile itself. Provided that we have all the gadgets in our hands, it seems to me that in the event of a supreme emergency or of the supply being cut off, we should be in a position to maintain these ourselves.

Mr. P. Williams

I think my hon. Friend has just said something terribly important. Did he say that we should be in a position to manufacture this whole system ourselves?

Mr. Wall

The implication that I drew from the exchange earlier on is that we were buying the necessary "black boxes" which go with the missile, particularly the guidance system and the navigational system, which are vital, and if we have those, then in the event of an emergency I see no reason why, with our own technological development, we could not manufacture our own. Obviously, it would be uneconomical to do it in the first instance, and one would not want to duplicate another's effort unless one had to do so, but, as I understand it, in the event of dire emergency this would be possible. If I am wrong, perhaps the Civil Lord will correct me when he speaks later. I agree that this is a vitally important matter.

The final and third alleged difficulty about the Polaris submarine is one about which we have heard a great deal. It is said to be the ease of detection and the jamming of communications. It seems to me that this is a complete misconception. The Polaris submarine will be in operation in the seven oceans of the world. The suggestion is made that it would be possible to jam the communications systems, but this seems to me to be utterly impossible when one considers the vast expanse of ocean over which jamming apparatus would be required. In a small area it might well be possible, but over a large area it seems to me quite out of the question.

As to the detection and destruction of the submarines I think it is accepted now that the only real counter is a hunter/killer submarine such as the "Dreadnought". We are producing four Polaris submarines and a number of hunter/killers. The number of hunter/killers required to find and to destroy the 41 American Polaris submarines plus our own four or more would be enormous. Any form of vessel, aircraft or land-based missile is vulnerable, and I suggest that the Polaris submarine is the most invulnerable of all possible forms.

I turn briefly to a matter which was raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Horncastle (Sir J. Maitland), about the N.A.T.O. surface missile fleet. There was an article about this in the Daily Express today by Mr. Chapman Pincher, who wrote: …N.A.T.O. is to get 25 cargo ships which would be disguised as roving merchantmen, but would each carry about eight Polaris missiles fitted with H-bombs … each of these ships could be operated by a mixed crew speaking five languages and be radio-controlled by a committee in Paris. This is the most "Harry Tate" suggestion I have ever heard. I hope the Civil Lord will tell us something about that idea, and I hope that he will say that we are going to have nothing to do with it.

I want now to refer briefly to the limited or conventional war. As far as I know, all hon. Members and indeed every sane person in the country hopes that we shall never be engaged in a nuclear war. However, limited or conventional war is possible, and perhaps more than possible. A map was printed in The Observer on Sunday entitled "Guide to Little Wars", showing the area of the Indian Ocean, where there are, according to The Observer, some eleven little wars going on at the moment. The conventional type of limited war is a matter that we have to take more seriously.

Both the Navy and the Royal Air Force have responsibility for the nuclear deterrent, and on those two Services also falls the responsibility for the conventional deterrent, but, basically, I suggest that the first effort will come from the Royal Navy. Although Transport Command can convey troops to a certain point very rapidly, it requires airfields at which to land, and very often the sea power will be more flexible and will be able to get to the scene of operations first, and so secure air bases which will enable Transport Command to bring in the troops of the strategic reserve.

The threatened area for limited war is obviously that between Suez and Singapore, and there we have the Amphibious Warfare Squadron. Two commando carriers exist and two assault ships are planned. I suggest that this is totally inadequate to our requirements. If we are to have a conventional deterrent, and that is what the Amphibious Warfare Squadron is, it must be a credible one, one which nations will realise is powerful enough to be really effective. I suggest that the very minimum requirements are two amphibious task forces, one based on either side of the Indian Ocean, each consisting of one commando carrier, one support carrier, one helicopter carrier, a headquarters ship, support vessels and escort and other logistic craft. This could he achieved. We now have two commando carriers. We would need three. It would be easy to adapt the "Centaur", which is coming to the end of its life as an operational carrier. This would give us the number of commando carriers we need. Two assault ships are building, and I hope that next year we shall see a third assault ship laid down.

I want to spend a moment developing the case for the support carrier. When we are discussing this type of warfare, we are often inclined to neglect the fact that if we are to land forces on hostile shores they must have air support. If we hold adjacent anrfields, then, with the growing range of our fighters, that is well and good. But, in many parts of the world, we will not have these airfields and will thus have to cover the operations from conventional carriers. We have only six of them, and it is extremely important to have at least one ordinary support carrier attached to each of the amphibious task forces I have suggested.

Captain Walter Elliot (Carshalton)

Will my hon. Friend also agree that the support carrier must be of sufficient size to carry aircraft which have, perhaps, supersonic performance and are capable of dealing with shore-based aircraft?

Mr. Wall

I agree with my hon. and gallant Friend, and I should like to return to that later on. I first want to say something about the helicopter carrier. The hon. Member for Hudders- field, East doubted the advantage of very large carriers in amphibious operations. It would surely be possible to have two or three small carriers, like the French "La Resolue", of 10,000 or 12,000 tons, which would carry helicopters and which might also be fitted with bombardment weapons for use in an assault. Such a vessel would not cost so much and would not be so vulnerable as larger carriers of 50,000 tons, which my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Carshalton (Capt. Elliot) believes to be the answer but in another context.

In considering amphibious warfare, I also ask my hon. Friend the Civil Lord whether Seaslug II can be used as a surface to surface weapon. I am thinking not of ship to ship but of ship to shore as a bombardment support weapon. I understand that it has nuclear capacity. It could be extremely useful in supporting an amphibious task force, mounted either in the "Devonshire" class destroyers or in helicopter carriers. Can he also tell us about hovercraft and hydrofoils for amphibious forces? Are these developments going ahead? Is the Royal Navy taking a real interest in these new types of fast moving vessels, which will become increasingly important in the missile age?

I now want to discuss the question of large carriers. Not only is the conventional carrier needed for the two amphibious forces I have suggested, but it is also required to add to our contribution to N.A.T.O., to operate with the Home and Mediterranean Fleets, and for general trade protection throughout the world. This means that the minimum number we need is six, which is the number at present available.

The carrier is the most economical way of deploying aircraft throughout the world. Generally, the vessel will outlive two to three generations of aircraft. Its capacity is governed by hangar facilities, not necessarily by deck size. I am told that a 50,000 ton carrier will accommodate nearly twice as many aircraft as a 40,000 ton carrier and will cost only 25 per cent. more. That is a good argument for the larger type.

Vertical take-off aircraft may not be much advantage to future carriers because these aircraft have to sacrifice both range and load, and in any case British carriers, with their catapults, can always operate short take-off aircraft. It is therefore no good postponing development of a new carrier until a vertical take-off aircraft is available, because such an aircraft will not affect the problem in a major manner.

I hope that we shall start on a new carrier replacement programme in next year's Estimates at the latest and that my hon. Friend the Civil Lord will use all his powers of persuasion to achieve this. Indeed, I hope that he will refuse, if necessary, to present next year's Estimates unless this programme has been started. I know that he has referred to the replacement for the "Victorious", but I suggest that it is also necessary to replace "Centaur", which could still have many years' useful life as a commando carrier.

As our amphibious task forces develop, our bases overseas will become less important. But a certain number of them are vital to this country and the Commonwealth. Two of these are Aden and Singapore. I shall not waste time developing this theme, but I should like to say something about Malta. Malta has had a long and close connection with the Royal Navy, and most naval officers, particularly the senior ones serving at the moment, have a very soft spot in their hearts for the island.

The Service run-down planned for Malta—of which the Royal Navy contributes a fairly large share—will, if it is carried out on the present planned programme, reduce Malta to a near-slum. We all know the work going on in the island in order to industrialise, to increase tourism and to convert the dockyard to civil use. Will my hon. Friend the Civil Lord do his best, in consultation with the other Service Departments, to rephase the run-down so that it fits in with the increased industrial development? By one keeping pace with the other, we should not be left with a very large number of unemployed men in the island. If the present plan were implemented it would mean that the present loyalty and friendship of Malta towards this country would be largely destroyed.

In fact, the situation might turn out to be so serious that the defence facilities which the Services will still require from the George Cross Island would just not be available. I hope that my hon. Friend will be sympathetic to the suggestion of setting up a Committee on which the Admiralty and the other Service Departments, the Colonial Office, the Board of Trade and the Maltese Government should be represented. This Committee could then phase the run-down to coincide with increased industrialisation and development. This is a matter of great importance to Malta and to the Royal Navy.

Mr. G. W. Reynolds (Islington, North)

The hon. Gentleman wants Polaris, two task forces, six new carriers, two commando carriers, two assault ships and helicopter carriers, and wants to keep Aden and Singapore and build up Malta. Will he explain how this can be done within the limits of 100,000 men and also how much it would cost?

Mr. Wall

It will cost a lot of money, but a great deal less than a war. Our Services are well worth the money we spend on them and are the country's insurance policy against war.

Mr. Emrys Hughes (South Ayrshire)

Is the hon. Gentleman in favour of extending the Holy Loch base as well?

Mr. Wall

The Holy Loch base serves an extremely good purpose and has shown the value of the Polaris submarines, despite what the hon. Gentleman has said against it.

History shows that Britain has seesawed between periods when we have concentrated on maritime strategy and others when we have produced vast continental armies. It is clear that in wartime we must sometimes do both, but it is equally clear that in peacetime we cannot afford to do both. I would therefore like to see our Army contribution in Germany cut down and additional money spent on the weapon which takes full advantage of maritime strategy.

I do not suggest abolishing the Army and doing everything with the Royal Navy and the Marines. But I do suggest that we should base our strategic reserve of the Army at home, build it up from B.A.O.R. and use transport command and the amphibious task forces dispersed in a way which will allow these weapons to be rapidly reinforced and to be used to support British interests in any part of the world. I accept that there are political reasons why that would be extremely difficult, but was the promise to keep 55,000 men in Germany meant to last for ever? I do not know, but perhaps it would be wrong to continue on that line in what is basically a Navy debate.

It has been said by hon. Members opposite that we have allies and can rely on them, but I wonder whether the old-fashioned idea of an alliance is as sound a concept as it was years ago. Our historic policy has always been to have European alliances, or later to rely on the Empire, but in modern days Europe is split in two, between East and West, and the Commonwealth is decentralised and can no longer be regarded from a defence point of view as could the old Empire. I therefore wonder whether the old concept of alliances is still valid.

There seem to be two alternatives. The United Kingdom plus Western Europe plus the Commonwealth seems for the time being to have failed. There is another, the United Kingdom plus the old Commonwealth plus the United States of America? Such integration of the English-speaking world could make us part of a single whole and yet in no way a satellite and would end all rivalries and friction between the countries which sprang from Britain and which would have become one.

To sum up, I believe that we need a nuclear deterrent and that it should be shared between the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force. I believe that we also need a conventional deterrent in the amphibious task force, which basically is also shared between the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force. I therefore believe that there is a reasonably strong case, a case which is growing stronger, for the integration of the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force. I believe that on the international stage there may well be a strong case for integration with suitable partners which may prove a much stronger shield than the old-fashioned system of alliances.

6.42 p.m.

Commander Harry Pursey (Kingston upon Hull, East)

These Navy Estimates of £440 million must he considered against the background of the vast and incredible total expenditure of £1,838 million for defence in only one year, 1963–64, an increase of £32 million, to which figure must be added £21 million for works transferred to that Ministry, giving a total increase of £53 million. There was a time when we ran the Navy on that figure of £53 million.

One thing is definitely certain—we shall never be able to increase our exports and our annual national production sufficiently to provide a better life for all our citizens while this vast defence expenditure of £1,838 million is spent largely on unproductive work. As the right hon. and gallant Member for Norwood (Sir J. Smyth) said in the defence debate: …we may lose the cold war on the economic front."—[OFFICIAL RLPORT, 4th March, 1963; Vol. 673, c. 67.] I argue that the Defence Estimates should be cut by about 25 per cent., about £400 million on the whole and about £100 million on the Navy Estimates, by large-scale economies in some of the major unnecessary expenditure. Moreover, this naval reduction could be achieved without paying off one single warship necessary for service.

I will give only three examples—training establishments, air stations, and the fleet appendages, or the tail. Naval training establishments have grown up all over the country, some many miles from the sea and among the cows and the cabbages. The object is to find a large country house and an estate, develop them, and then argue that the station cannot be closed down because it provides a social service. We are suffering from over-expenditure on establishments which were produced in preparation for war and which have never been closed.

Several R.A.F. and naval air stations are used for flying purposes only part of the time and, I believe, for very little of the time. Why not combine the two Services in some and close the others? Would there be any fear of an R.A.F. crew jumping into a naval aircraft to do their job, or a naval crew jumping into an R.A.F. aircraft to do their job? There are far too many ships in the Fleet auxiliaries owned and run by the Admiralty but largely in harbour, when charter ships could be used. I will deal with that later.

Why should this vast expenditure for defence be incurred, the highest ever in peacetime? No one in authority—and I include all hon. Members opposite as being in authority—

Mr. Brian Harrison (Maldon)

Hear, hear.

Commander Pursey

Wait for what is coming.

No one in authority seriously believes that under the present conditions of the nuclear deterrent a war will ever take place. If the Government really believed that a war were even probable, would the numerous skyscraper buildings, like the Admiralty, at Earl's Court, be built to be knocked down by the first bomb? Of course not. We would be tunnelling underground and building more "Lenin's Tombs" in Hyde Park for Ministers Would our fuel policy be based on oil, which we could not maintain in any conditions for any number of, not weeks, but days, and which should be based on coal? Would we not be fitting defence armaments into merchant ships and making other similar preparations?

Everyone is agreed that there will be no nuclear war, because that would be the end. The argument is that there may be a conventional war and that we must he prepared for that. To listen to some hon. Members opposite, one would imagine that a conventional war would be great fun. How long would it be before a conventional war became nuclear? So, no nuclear war, and no conventional war.

Mr. Wall

Would the hon. and gallant Member give way?

Commander Pursey

No. The hon. Member has had a go. I have a public war with the Civil Lord of the Admiralty to save public expenditure, and while I am prepared to have a private war with anyone who has not spoken, if he will give his time to me, I will not be put down by someone who has already spoken.

The main reason why there will be no nuclear war, or even a conventional war, is not the deterrent, but the fact that American forces are on the Continent of Europe and committed to the contest before the first gong sounds. Had such forces been there in 1914 or 1939, there would have been no war. Those who think that a war could be confined to conventional weapons must be basing their ideas on the old Chinese civil wars, when, if it were raining, the opposing sides put up their umbrellas and there was no fighting that day.

What is the international situation today? Listening to hon. Members opposite, one would think that we had not "a cat's chance in hell", and that we had better "hand in our cards", because we could not possibly compete with all that is threatened—but which is largely nonsense. For the first time in history there is only one possible enemy—Russia. Practically all the other countries on this side of the Iron Curtain are allied in defence. Britain has never experienced that situation in the history of maritime war.

This year, Britain's naval contribution is 273 ships available and 263 ships in reserve, a total of no fewer than 536 vessels, with commitments that are considerably reduced. There are, in addition, numerous naval aircraft. Reference has been made to the age of ships, but that is not the criterion. The liner "Oceanic" ran regular runs for twenty years and was just as efficient at the end. The age of present-day naval vessels might almost be doubled because they do not spend half the time at sea. In other words, it is question of counting the number of times the "whizzers" go round—by which I mean the propellers.

On our side we have the United States Navy, the largest in the world. Hon. Members opposite scoff at the United States Navy as if it were likely to "rat" on us. The point about allies of the future is that if one is in, all will be in, and so we shall all be in the same boat. In addition, there are a number of ships in the Commonwealth navies. These, also, are scoffed at. But they could look after the extremities of the trade routes. There is no reason for British ships to be in those places at all. There are more Commonwealth than British warships east of Suez and they are looking after their own affairs and not interfering in everybody else's affairs.

Practically all the European navies—France, Norway, the Netherlands, Denmark, Portugal, Belgium, Western Germany, I may have left out one—all the nations with navies, are allies or friends. Never has there been such a situation before. The vast current naval expenditure by Britain on a large number of warships of multifarious types—we have everything because when we see someone with something, like a child we want one, too—means that we have a multifarious collection of ships which will not go together and will not go very far alone.

This large number of warships is not a defence requirement alone, let us make no mistake about that. It is a Foreign Office requirement for high-powered political prestige purposes so that we may butt in when there is a private war on every occasion when it is possible to do.

Fortunately for the nation, 1962 was an unlucky year for the Government and for the Tory Party's armaments lobbies from the point of view of justifying this vast, unnecessary expenditure. There was no Tory-produced Suez fiasco and no Kuwait fandango. There was only the minor Borneo affair of which the most was made by a demonstration more for the exercise of the forces, no matter what the expenditure, than the small objective to be achieved. In the old days of the Cornish "wreckers"—I think that we have one among our colleagues today —the prayer of the children was,"God bless daddy; God bless mummy; God send a ship ashore before breakfast". Today, the armaments lobby prayer is, "God send a Kuwait crisis before breakfast to justify our defence expenditure".

A problem arises today, because eighteen years after the war our economy is still built too largely on an armaments basis instead of a peace-time production basis. The result is that we have too great an armaments potential which should be cut down. We have two large and influential Tory Party lobbies, one for Royal Air Force and Navy aircraft and the other for warships. In fact, the real object is to provide a social service for these industries, because they have not turned their swords into ploughshares. Even with a defence budget of £1,838 million, and a Polaris submarine programme which may cost another £200 million, the Tory Party is not satisfied.

There is a Motion on the Order Paper relating to the vital importance to our defence trade and interests of a British space communications satellite system. It is signed by 68 hon. Members who are members of the increased armaments lobby—some have vested interests—and who are demanding a communications satellite for defence and trade interests—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] That is marvellous. I am obtaining support from hon. Members opposite. The Motion urges the placing of relevant study contracts immediately. The hon. Member for the Isle of Ely (Sir H. Legge- Bourke) has stated that this satellite would cost another £200 million, which would make a total defence budget of £2,200 million. We are not talking in terms of millions for defence, or hundreds of millions, but of thousands of millions. Suppose that gave us another Skybolt.

Incidentally, the hon. Member made a song and dance about the small number of hon. Members in the Chamber last Thursday to hear his speech on the Army Estimates at 6.20 when business was going on elsewhere.

Sir Richard Glyn (Dorset, North): rose

Commander Pursey

I cannot give way. [HON. MEMBERS: "It was not the Army Estimates."] All right, I will accept the correction. It was the Air Estimates. I was talking about the time. The hon. Member was present earlier today, but I do not see him in the Chamber now, and this is about the same time. It would appear that he changes from an attender to a non-attender as the spirit moves him.

The Tory shipbuilding lobby is not even satisfied with the present vast expenditure on defence in the Navy. It advocates even more vast, almost unlimited, expenditure. One hon. Member opposite wrote to The Times advocating further unnecessary naval expenditure. He argued that if the money were not available there should be a special naval defence Act to mortgage the cost. The real reason would be to provide a social service for the shipbuilding industry, but he would not advocate that policy—a social service—for the railways and for the advantage of the nation as a whole.

There is also a Motion on the Order Paper signed by 10 Tory M.P.s. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] We can pin down 10 of the shipbuilding lobby. I am getting "Hear, hears" from hon. Members opposite. This Motion, No. 86, is headed BRITISH NAVAL CONTRIBUTION TO NORTH ATLANTIC TREATY ORGANISATION". It is long, confused and misleading, so I had better quote it. It says: That this House, conscious of the worldwide responsibilities"— "Worldwide responsibilities." I ask you! I shall deal with that later. They are the responsibilities of everyone except ourselves. of the United Kingdom and apprehensive of the effects on our security of the continuing weakness of the naval forces of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation,"— I do not want to repeat what I said, but is the American Navy opting out? takes note of the reluctance of Continental allies to fulfil their military obligations and calls upon Her Majesty's Government to readjust the balance of our forces by increasing the British contribution to the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation maritime forces, we can count them in hundreds— while reorganising the United Kingdom Strategic Reserve, … I need not take on the remainder. What nonsense concerning maritime forces.

These hon. Members, some of whom have had naval and others dockyard, experience, are apparently living in cloud-cuckoo-land. They have no idea of the large number of our naval ships and those of our allies, nor that we alone are already committed to a naval building programme of no less than £347 million. I do not believe that that figure has been mentioned before, but I shall total it up in a moment.

The present naval shipbuilding programme includes 13 ships to be completed this month and 28 other ships which will be under construction or on order by 31st March. Those contracts are spread over 10 private yards for hulls with two for Chatham Dockyard and eight other firms for main machinery. Some firms have more than one contract. The cost of this new construction programme is, (a), under construction, in dockyards £9 million and in private firms £65 million, and (b) to be commenced, in dockyards £9 million—that is the same figure because it is a nationalised industry—and, in private firms, £241 million, nearly four times as much as last year.

That £241 million is, I believe, the same figure as my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Willis) used when there seemed to be some doubt in the mind of the Civil Lord about this matter. It is all a dutch auction in which one has to find the right figures to suit one's argument. The totals are: under construction £75 million and to be commenced £252 million. That is a different figure, because there is some miscel- laneous data, but it comes to a grand total of estimated cost to complete of £347 million. Yet almost every hon. Member opposite is putting in for a couple of hundred more million.

We heard of the Clyde contracts in a statement by the Secretary of State for Scotland at Clydebank. He thought that few people realised the amount of naval work going on in the Clyde area. Certainly, few Tory M.P.s are aware of it. They must think that those yards are manufacturing only bicycles and prams. The right hon. Gentleman said that the Clyde shipyards might share in the order for Polaris submarines. We have had that explanation this afternoon. He said that already 11 warships were under construction there, making £50 million worth of work out of a total of £160 million. Much the same is going on on the Tyne and at Barrow Vickers-Armstrong is engaged on the "Dreadnought" and "Valiant".

That is not the end of this business. We have to start a year's questioning to find what is going on in some of these yards. This vast sum of £347 million for new construction is equal to the whole amount of the Navy Estimates of only a few years ago. How can it possibly make sense to argue that further hundreds of millions of public money should be provided by the Government for warships which are not required, but which are simply to provide a social service for the shipyards and engineering firms which have failed to obtain contracts elsewhere?

Why should private shipyards be in distress with empty building slips when so many warships are already being built? The answer is a shortage of new contracts in merchant shipbuilding, but why is that? For many years these firms have had full order books for commercial ships. They made large profits, but did not plough a sufficient amount back into the business for modernisation. These firms have priced themselves out of the market and British shipowners are ordering ships elsewhere. Even the Australian Government are ordering destroyers from America. Everyone knows that the ratio in the value of money is three to one in America, so they will be paying something like three times the price in America. There is something there which the Government ought to investigate.

Only last week the Athel Line, with a fine, patriotic gesture at a time of much unemployment in British yards, announced that it had ordered two tankers from Sweden at a cost of £4½ million, thus saving £800,000. Why do the Government not stop British orders going to foreign yards? The argument that foreign ships are built here is not the complete answer. Is it the philosophy of the Tory shipbuilding lobby that every time British shipbuilders fail to get orders for two merchant ships of £5 million which British owners place abroad, the Admiralty should make good their failure by ordering unnecessary naval vessels with £5 million of public money?

I would argue that if millions of pounds of public money have to be spent for social service for the shipyards, it should be as part subsidies, to be repaid over a period, for productive commercial ships —liners, tankers, cargo and even school ships—rather than unnecessary warships, and the Government should receive their share of the profits.

What is required is a new "breakthrough" by British shipbuilders to design liners and cargo ships, which, in peacetime, would have the fittings and perhaps carry some weapons, particularly helicopters, and which, in war, would immediately become warships. But there is no time for me to develop that. That is the way to get our ships, to get them all over the world—and ships at sea.

Seventy years ago—admittedly, before I joined the Navy—we had the first mercantile armed cruisers, the White Star liners "Majestic" and "Teutonic" fitted with 12 guns. That is the sort of job for the hon. Member for Belfast, East (Mr. McMaster) to take an interest in, because they were built by Harland & Wolff. The object was—and I quote—"even more than self-protecting". I do not have to explain here what that means. Eventually, 18 big ships were available to the Admiralty with a subvention and 30 without.

This is the way to make use of 48 high-speed sea-going ships all over the world. Then, why not cargo ships built to be suitable for naval support and store ships? Why does the Admiralty not charter tankers, instead of building and then using them only part-time? It is all this question of everyone building up his own little empire—Parkinson's law.

Mr. George Goschen, when First Lord, laid down a policy for "the Fleet's appendages". The Admiralty should not buy or construct submarine telegraph ships but use cable ships. Using private colliers would be better than building Government colliers and they were chartered for a year. Two distilling ships were engaged for six weeks only, for the manoeuvres. In these days, if the Admiralty wanted two distilling ships it would build them and keep them in commission all the year round, not simply using them for six weeks.

The Admiralty managed its affairs much better then, and at much less cost. Today, we have the fantastic position of merchant ships in large numbers and also naval vessels doing nothing in harbour for long periods of time when the Admiralty should charter ships and not build unnecessary ones. Large sums of money could then be saved both in not building and also in running and maintenance and contribute to an appreciable reduction in the cost of the Navy.

I want to say a word about aircraft carriers. I shall deal with this briefly, because it is as easy as falling off a log. What is their object? It is certainly not a naval one for war against Russia. There is nowhere to use them. There is nowhere else to use them except in either fighting or bluffing coloured nations which are either fighting for their independence or fighting their own private wars. One hon. Member opposite talked about the Congo in terms of the Navy and I wondered whether he was going to send ships to subdue the Congo. Are these carriers to play a part in power politics in private wars and their aircraft to be used mainly against coloured nations? Yet, whenever there is a Brunei the R.A.F. claim to get there first, so we duplicate our errands of mercy with the two Services.

Last year, the argument was: Polaris or monster carrier. This year, it is both. Money is no objection. If war came, the monster carrier would be Russia's first naval target, and pop goes the weasel. It would join all the other long list in Davy Jones' locker. As she can carry twice the number of aircraft that a smaller one can, she takes twice the number of aircraft down with her. Already, Soviet planes are reconnoitering United States carriers in mid-Atlantic off the Azores. It would be quite easy to find this one in the Pacific. Incidentally, where would this monster carrier dock?

Mr. Emrys Hughes

The Holy Loch.

Commander Pursey

Tell me where she would dock.

Mr. G. R. Howard (St. Ives)

The hon. Gentleman should tell us.

Commander Pursey

It is for me to put the questions and hon. Members opposite to provide the answers. You cannot tell me, because you do not find docks of that kind hanging like cherries from a tree! Even for barber's shop repairs on her bottom, to say nothing of any damage, with a list and excessive draught, with docks thousands of miles away, the ship could not be docked or operated.

May I say a word or two about modernisation? If one is selective in one's figures one can find that new construction totals £51 million and one can find that repairs and alterations, etc., are £51 million. During the last ten or twelve years of this Government, hundreds of millions of pounds have been spent on renovations—putting new wine into old bottles, which is the most expensive and least fruitful way of spending money. It can be argued that there was an improvement in the ships but it cannot be argued that it gave them a longer life, because I have already dealt with that subject.

The challenge which I throw down to the Admiralty is that I doubt very much whether any of these renovated ships have been able to do their Service jobs in peacetime—and we are not preparing for war—any better for the expenditure of all these hundreds of millions of pounds. If these hundreds of millions of pounds had been spent on new construction we should be in a far better position.

May I say a quick word about scrapping? Why does not the Admiralty do its own scrapping? There is a limited number of firms and they do not pay good prices. There was a time when some, if not all, the scrap could have gone to Canada for dollars, but the Admiralty would not send the schedules over there. The Admiralty is getting nothing like a good value for these ships as scrap, and it is certainly not getting good value for the things which are inside the ship. Even after fifteen or twenty years, are there not some of the things inside a ship which could be used again?

Some of the things fixed on the bulkhead have a life of a hundred years. If ships were scrapped in the dockyard that would provide more money. The Admiralty should get better results. The schedules—the catalogues—should go out to more firms and there should be more competition, because at the moment large profits are being made out of scrapping—large profits which the Admiralty should get.

Finally, may I say a word about the worldwide responsibilities mentioned in the Motion which I have quoted—that is, our commitments. That is the place to put them—at the end of the story. Anybody else would put them at the beginning. These are diminishing every year as Commonwealth countries achieve their independence and run their own merchant fleets, so that our responsibilities are diminishing under two heads.

A top-level, major policy decision was made on commitments 40 years ago after the First World War. After the Armistice, largely at the behest of the right hon. Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill), our Army and Navy were engaged in the Russian civil war—to no advantage, but at great expense. I suppose that that is the sort of war which the Tory armaments lobby is looking for. Later, Mr. Lloyd George, as Prime Minister, wished to commit this country to war against the Turks to prevent them from throwing the Greeks out of their own country at Chanak. I should know, because I had been engaged in operations against both the Russians and the Turks.

We were supposed to be at peace. Mr. Bonar Law, who was to be the best Prime Minister the Tory Party had at that time—but let present contenders please note that it was only after a Carlton Club meeting—wrote a letter to The Times which caused the downfall of Mr. Lloyd George. What did that letter say? It said, "We cannot police the world alone."

7.22 p.m.

Dr. Reginald Bennett (Gosport and Fareham)

I am sure we can all say that we have had the most enjoyable hour or hour-and-a-half which has come our way for a long time. Many is the year that I have followed the hon. and gallant Member for Kingston upon Hull, East (Commander Pursey) in debates on the Navy Estimates. It has always been very good fun, but I sensed a slight omission on this occasion in that there was no word about the Tory Press. Is this some new delicacy which the hon. and gallant Member has in connection with the Navy Estimates specifically? Or was there some slip up and had he not remembered to mention it?

I am greatly relieved that this year we see the Admiralty brought under the Ministry of Defence. For many years I have had misgivings about the way in which the Admiralty has conducted its policies. Of course, it must run its own service and administer its own men, but I have had many misgivings about the calls which it has made on the public purse. I do not think that what the Admiralty has done through the years has necessarily, or perhaps often, been the best value for defence, and here I am at one with the hon. and gallant Member for Kingston upon Hull, East because too, for many years have had a gave suspicion about Admiralty ambitions in the real estate world, in properties miles inland and far from the water.

I have also noticed that if a ship becomes obsolete and out of date she is justified as being an "excellent ship for showing the flag". It seems that any large white elephant is regarded as an excellent ship for showing the flag when it is good for nothing else and when it is there only because of its size. I become very worried about the pursuit of old ideas by the Admiralty when they have long been outmoded—which is shown when they retain such ships as the old "Vanguard". I rather wonder whether all these gunnery cruisers which are now in trouble are not another example of clinging on to something which is basically out of date. I refer to the "Blake" and other ships. They have had a great deal of trouble in the development of their turrets and their operation, although it has been claimed that they can send out a stream of 6-in. bricks like nothing which has ever happened before. They are ingenious, highly automated and brilliantly clever, although not particularly successful.

But surely gun battles between ships in sight of each other went out in the 1940s. There was only one great, final justification for gun battles by big guns, long after the last of the other gun battles was over, and that was the sinking of the "Scharnhorst" off North Cape years after I, for one, had thought that gunnery battles would never be seen again as sea.

However brilliantly designed and perfected, I do not think that it is much good keeping a weapon if its basic idea is obsolete. I submit that a super electronic cross-bow would still not be justified any more than would an out-of-date gunnery ship. This is why I say that I am delighted that the judgment in these matters is to come from outside the Admiralty and must be balanced, together with the other Services, by one central authority rather than having the Admiralty running its own affairs and indulging in expenditure which I should not find justifiable.

Mr. R. T. Paget (Northampton)

How does the hon. Member come to that conclusion? Have we had any statement anywhere that Supply is to be centralised under the Ministry of Defence? I hope that the hon. Member is right, but I see no sign of it.

Dr. Bennett

We have had the statement that accounting would be centralised.

Mr. Paget

The Minister of Defence was asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) the all-important question of how many accounting officers there would be, and he said that he did not know.

Dr. Bennett

I think that he got as far as one, but there was some question about three or four in that exchange, which I think I heard. But it seems to me that the accounting would be centralised, and that seems to mean centralising the money side, which should include procurement. I know that the lot of the Minister of Aviation has yet to be decided and is uncertain, but his position is relatively complicated. I assume—and I hope that I am right in assuming, although I may be wrong —that the procurement for the three Services would come under a central scrutiny and a central allocation, as must happen as we approach an integrated service.

Now, here we come to the subject of the aircraft carrier on which. once again, I seem to be in agreement with the hon. and gallant Member for Kingston upon Hull, East and one or two of my hon. Friends, although I think that there are more of my hon. Friends who think differently. Last year I spoke on the Navy Estimates and greeted the prospect of a new carrier with a certain amount of enthusiasm. I think I was under a misapprehension. I was assuming that this new carrier was to be a versatile ship which would do the job which many carriers are doing nowadays of a commando ship but would also have the capability, as the Americans call it—I see that we are beginning to call it that too—of having high performance deck-landing gear installed. I understand that this new carrier is not, in fact, one which is intended to be useful as a commando ship, but is, indeed, to be what might be called a pure carrier in the way, that we understand the term.

Surely we must think carefully about this. What are we chasing after? The rôle of the aircraft carrier has long since been accepted as excluding the strategic nuclear rôle, so we understand that the aircraft carrier is to be used in lesser engagements, in local wars.

Commander Pursey


Dr. Bennett

Anywhere. If it is to he used in local wars or lesser engagements, what is it to deploy? Surely it is to deploy either fighters, and ground attack machines, or bombers; because, as far as I can make out, it is also accepted in the Admiralty that the antisubmarine rôle is now in the hands of helicopters and other such devices, apart from certain long-range patrol work. Now I am thinking of a carrier yet to be built which would become operational early in the 1970s. Surely by that time the Services will be so far integrated that it will be quite clear that the bombers will be basically under the R.A.F. and be shore-based. Nobody can doubt nowadays that the ranges of bombers are long enough to enable them to operate in thousands of miles where only a few years ago it used to be barely hundreds. The V-bombers, the TSR2 and other such machines would surely be expected to be used in an assault rôle in future minor war campaigns.

That leaves the fighters. Everybody whom I have heard intervene from this side of the Committee today has said that the rôle of the carrier is close support for an opposed landing, and especially the deployment of fighter aircraft. Surely this takes no account of what has already been mentioned, although perhaps it was not strictly related to this, and that is the arrival of the vertical take-off fighter, the P1154. This machine spells the death knell of the big aircraft carrier. I do not see how it can be interpreted in any other way. Such a machine, taking off and landing vertically, can be operated from the decks of a tanker, or a depot ship, or a fleet auxiliary, or a passenger ship, or a cargo ship. Therefore, we do not need big aircraft carriers. Surely it must be accepted that in less time than it will take to build an aircraft carrier fighters will be jumping off vertically, and it must also be accepted that bombers are shore-based; and surely the ground attack and close support aircraft will usually be last year's fighters? Perhaps if sufficient time has passed since the P1154 became operational, the P1154 itself will in due course become the ground attack machine and do light bombing or rocketeering or whatever is required.

I know that OR351 has been solved and decided at last. We have a heavy machine—4the Armstrong Whitworth 681, I believe—which is said to be going to develop short take-off and landing characteristics and later vertical takeoff and landing characteristics. If that machine is going to jump tanks into the air and is also an aeroplane which is being ordered now, even with the worst record of our industry nothing is likely to prevent it being delivered later than the carrier would be delivered. Therefore, aircraft of all sizes and sorts would be jumping vertically, although I believe that the particular heavy transport of OR351 has been calculated to need forty engines to make it jump vertically. At any rate, before the carrier can be built, even tanks will be enjoying vertical take-off, so what is the paint of having an old-fashioned carrier?

Mr. P. Williams

When my hon. Friend speaks of forty engines, he does not mean engines of traditional size?

He is surely speaking of the great power packs which can be fitted into the wings with masses of rockets and things?

Dr. Bennett

Even then, I am expressing some scepticism about the vertical take-off, and particularly the vertical landing, of these machines with tanks on board. My principal argument is that these things are almost certain to have been developed long before a new replacement aircraft carrier can be built. Therefore, there is not a shadow of justification any longer for a new first-line aircraft carrier. If I have overlooked something, I shall be only too glad to be told and I will think again. It is the only conclusion I can come to. My instincts are all with the Fleet Air Arm, but I do not envy them this new commitment, because I think it is out of date.

Mr. C. Ian Orr-Ewing

Perhaps my hon. Friend will tell me what be believes the complement of a squadron of P1154 aircraft is likely to be. Would it be 300 or 400 men, with all the sophisticated paraphernalia and target-finding equipment they would need to have? Further, how would my hon. Friend do all the servicing and controlling which would be necessary to bring the aircraft back on to the carrier without personnel? If he is to have another 500 personnel, perhaps, to carry out all these functions, is it not conceivable that they might be accommodated in a ship, or sometimes in a ship—sometimes from a fixed base, sometimes from a mobile base?

Dr. Bennett

Certainly, but it does not require a sophisticated 50,000 ton carrier with all the latest landing and taking-off devices. That can be done in a commando ship, although I hasten to add that I do not despise commando ships and I do not intend to denigrate them. Today's aircraft carriers can look forward to many years' useful life with the low utilisation postulated a few minutes ago by the hon. and gallant Member for Kingston upon Hull, East.

Further, there are headquarters landing ships. There are other landing ships. Surely the stowage of the maintenance men is the least of the problems connected with future assault work. Surely the radar work, the fighter direction and other matters are likely to be operated from some central headquarters ship anyway and the men involved there will not be cast with the fighter squadrons. I cannot see any future for this aircraft carrier, although I would like to think that there was a future for it. I think that the carrier has had its day. The present generation of carriers will go on being useful as long as they survive, but I cannot see any justification for a new carrier.

Commander Courtney

I am sorry, but I was not here to hear the beginning of my hon. Friend's argument. As I understand it, he takes the view that vertical take-off aircraft operated from a small area of deck space will in future eventualities be up to the type of high performance aircraft which can be expected to be used from shore bases and amphibious sources. Am I right about that? I believe it to be a complete fallacy.

Dr. Bennett

It is obvious that the carrier-borne aircraft has always been inferior to the land-based aircraft designed for the same purpose. It has had to carry extra equipment—homing gear, hooks, etc. I think that the Admiralty likes it to carry even a brass bell! We are now getting to the time when all aircraft, including vertical takeoff aircraft, are to be supersonic, but I do not think that we shall see supersonic fighters playing "chase me Charlie" all round the landing beaches. The old Battle of Britain days, when a pilot saw his enemy but did not shoot until he saw the whites of his eyes, are past. Some of these modern missiles will be let loose at a considerable range and will supply the additional velocity needed to catch up the hostile fighter. All these things can be solved individually without having to build, and incidentally put a lot of money into, a huge new aircraft carrier. I am sorry to have to say this, but this is what I believe.

I will not say that I now propose to descend from the sublime to the "gorblimey", but I want to mention one or two minor or domestic matters for the interest of the naval service.

I do not wish to give offence to any Commanders-in-Chief, past, present or future, at Portsmouth, but I must draw the attention of the Civil Lord to Admiralty House in Portsmouth. It is a desperately miserable old place. I am the last chap to justify extravagance at the expense of the taxpayer, but here is a building which is a sort of show place, and not a private house in the true sense, about which something should be done. The flag is shown there probably more than in any other way, with admirals of many foreign fleets visiting it for one reason or another.

I hope that past, present and future Commanders-in-Chief will forgive me if I describe Admiralty House, Portsmouth, as a dingy, tatty house which is very run down and which contains some fantastic accommodation. I believe that all the guest accommodation on the first floor is served by one small bathroom which is tucked away at the back of a narrow staircase and which would not even be to the credit of a Bloomsbury boarding house.

Commander Pursey

Is it not a fact that this house has been included in Portsmouth's slum clearance programme?

Dr. Bennett

It might be thought that I was advocating that. I was thinking that perhaps the miracles to be performed as the result of the centralisation of the works departments might have some good effect. I am urging that not only the building itself but also its general layout and décor should receive some attention. And, while on the subject, the furniture in it is not all that creditable. Someone described it to me a couple of years or so ago as "a tidal wave from the Tottenham Court Road." This is an important and unique building and, after all, some better furniture would not cost all that amount. Furthermore, might not we have the use of some of the stacks of famous naval paintings—some of which are at present in the cellars of the National Maritime Museum—out on loan, just as pictures are loaned to embassies abroad? I urge the Civil Lord to direct his attention to this matter because I do not think that it has been raised before in the House. Perhaps, incidentally, that is why the house is in its present rundown state. Might I use a good old naval expression and ask my hon. Friend, with great respect, to "pull his finger out."

I wish to raise what might be also described as a rather minor matter. Is it not about time that our sail training boats, the "Marabu" and "Merlin", were fitted with auxiliary engines? They are fairly big boats—100 square metres—and when the wind drops they must either stay put or go backwards. I once had to pick up the old "Merlin" in a fog out in the Channel. I was in an old hooker with a put-put engine and I managed to tow the "Merlin" through the Needles Channel and into the Solent. If the wind drops in the Channel it is not too bad for the sailing vessels because they can drop their hooks, but when they are coming into the entrance to Portsmouth Harbour it is a different matter, particularly if the tide happens to be going out and the wind cuts off in the lee of Blockhouse, if it is the usual westerly wind. On such occasions one finds these old ships lolloping about in the entrance among all the faster traffic and losing time and getting in the way. It would not be a bad investment, apart from the safety aspect, to equip such boats with small engines so that they could be more self-reliant and possibly even be able to do one of two more training cruises a year.

I should now like to refer to the nomenclature used by the Navy. Some of my hon. Friends have mentioned this, though not yet in this debate. We know that the Navy is fond of its nomenclature. On this occasion I am thinking particularly of these new ships like the "Devonshire", which are called "guided missile destroyers". The destroyer started as a "torpedo boat destroyer", but nobody would claim that these ships are designed for destroying guided missiles in that way. They certainly do not look like the present generation of destroyer either. Their tonnage is about 6,000 while the old C or D class cruisers, the "Champion" and the like, were only about 3,000 to 4,000 tons. It would make things much clearer and wipe out some confusion if the new vessels were called cruisers in future and not destroyers.

Mr. C. Ian On-Ewing

They were called destroyers, to get them past the Treasury at the time.

Hon. Members


Dr. Bennett

I congratulate my hon. Friend on his manoeuvre worthy of a former right hon. Member of the House —and I hope that he will now come clean, do the right thing and call these ships by their proper name.

We are all fond of our Navy and the men who run it. If I have recommended some savings I have not done so in any derogation of these people. If I have suggested some expenditure I have not done so in any way meaning to indulge in luxury. The Navy has some great tasks to do and it has good chaps in it to handle those tasks. I feel sure that the House will give them all the support we possibly can by giving them weapons and services worthy of them.

7.45 p.m.

Mr. James H. Hoy (Edinburgh, Leith)

I do not know whether the Civil Lord will want to take back that interruption he just made when his hon. Friend the Member for Gosport and Fareham (Dr. Bennett) was speaking. I am bound to say that, as a member of the Public Accounts Committee, when the Admiralty accounts are next before us I shall want some very careful explanations from the Permanent Secretary and some satisfaction that he has not been using the sort of nomenclature described by the hon. Member for Gosport and Fareham to deceive the House and the Public Accounts Committee about certain lines of expenditure.

Mr. Emrys Hughes

He has done it before.

Mr. Hoy

He may have, but there is one thing to be gathered from the speech of the hon. Member for Gosport and Fareham. It proves how difficult it is for those of us who have not been in the Navy to describe adequately what ships are to be used and what are to be their strategic purposes. After all, within one minute of the hon. Member for Gosport and Fareham speaking we had three of his hon. and gallant Friends on their feet contradicting each other. One can readily understand how difficult it is for the layman to understand what is taking place.

I was somewhat disturbed by the speech of the hon. Member for Haltemprice (Mr. Wall) because he made demands on the Admiralty for expenditure of hundreds of millions of pounds in addition to the Estimates already presented. I thought that he based his argument on a most dangerous premise, because he expressed the view that we could have less and less faith in agreements that were made with other people. In fact, he got to the point where he became a Tory unilateral- ist and then he went on to speak about public expenditure.

I was also interested in the speech of the hon. Member for Gillingham (Mr. Burden), who appeared to be having some argument with the Civil Lord about the placing of new orders. One tribute that hon. Member paid was very significant, for he said that if new submarines had to be built they should be built in the nationalised shipyards. The tribute was taken a stage further when his hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Harrow, East (Commander Courtney) intervened to say that he had such great faith in the nationalised shipyards that he would like the orders to be placed there so that those yards could show private enterprise how quickly, cheaply and efficiently they could build.

Commander Courtney

I would like to correct the hon. Member. I simply suggested that a Royal Dockyard, by its nature of service, having security of service for its workpeople, might be able to use the three-shift working system and do away with some of the demarcation disputes that slow down building in other shipyards.

Mr. Hoy

The hon. and gallant Member has not detracted from anything he said earlier. He said that if the Government wanted an example of efficiency, economy and speed the orders should go to the nationalised shipyards, where an example would be set for private enterprise. We are grateful for his tribute to this nationalised industry. I expect that that will be one of the answers to a Tory pamphlet which has been posing this question.

I was interested to hear the Civil Lord describe what we had to compete with. In fact, he contrasted our position with that of the Russians. He went to great lengths not only to give the numbers of warships they had built—battleships and submarines—

Mr. I. Ian Orr-Ewing

I just mentioned submarines. I was not comparing their strengths. I was at pains to say that their ships were now being provided to other and smaller nations, and that this gave cause for concern.

Mr. Hoy

That is precisely the point I want to deal with. The hon. Gentleman did not deal only with submarines. If I remember correctly, he also spoke about the size of the Russian fishing fleet and how it had been built, and went on to describe the assistance given by Russia in the modernisation and expansion of ports in other countries.

That is the length to which the Civil Lord went. I can only say that as I listened to him I was a little jealous, because after three years and three months, backed by all the recommendations of every committee I can think of, including the Rochdale Committee, we have not yet succeeded in getting the Government to carry out the work in my constituency of Leith. If the Government are in earnest about this, and say that we must have docks, ports and harbours that are at least equal to those of any other country, they have the power to do the job.

The Civil Lord said that one reason why the Admiralty had been speeding up its building programme was that it thought it should bring work to certain areas. That may be a good reason. I do not object to the Admiralty acting in that way, but inasmuch as my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Willis) proved—and I do not think that the hon. Gentleman took any exception to it—that the Admiralty has increased the building programme by no less than £240 million, the Committee would like to know just where all that money is to be spent. If one of the reasons for stepping up the building programme is that it will help to reduce unemployment in some parts of the country while making its contribution to the build-up of the Royal Navy, we expect to know just where the money is being spent.

I have been in communication with the hon. Gentleman for a considerable time about something that is of interest to me, and my constituency. We have a shipyard. It does not go in for very large ships, but it has built a considerable number of ships for the Admiralty, and has at present tendered for some vessels. As with many other British shipyards, the numbers employed have fallen and fallen. Only on Friday another 100 men were paid off, and the chances are that more will follow.

We have now come to such a pitch that only 400 men are employed in a shipyard that normally employs three times as many. This is a serious problem, and I should like the Civil Lord to say what chances have such yards as that, which are not interested in building Polaris submarines, or battleships or aircraft carriers, but a much smaller and useful type of vessel; yards that provide many services for the Admiralty and the Armed Forces in general. What steps is the Admiralty taking to provide such work for these smaller shipyards?

The hon. Gentleman told us that countries overseas had placed orders through the Admiralty, and he mentioned Ghana and Malaya. He said that that type of order had amounted to about £100 million in ten years, so there is a fair amount of orders providing a fair amount of work. There may be a considerable amount of shipbuilding work that could be done for these Commonwealth countries, for whom we could be rendering a service.

Together with some of my hon. Friends I met the Chancellor of the Exchequer. We suggested to him that where in certain areas people were under-employed—and I do not necessarily refer to naval ships, though the work might well come from the naval programme—the Government might well utilise that spare labour for supplying these countries with the ships they require. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman might ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer—because it was he who first threw out the suggestion, which we took up immediately—whether there is an answer here.

I believe that in this way we could help these countries and bind them to us. In view of what has been said about Russia supplying other nations, here is one way in which Her Majesty's Government might not only give these countries what they require, but provide work for our own unemployed. I suggest that if the Civil Lord is really interested in making a contribution of that kind, this is one way in which he might best do it.

We were interested in the hon. Gentleman's statement about the future of Rosyth. This subject has been raised by my hon. Friends on many occasions, and I am certain that the hon. Member who represents Rosyth will want to speak on it tonight. As I understood the Civil Lord, he said that after these submarines and other modern ships had been built in private yards, Rosyth will eventually be the base from which they will be repaired. Therefore, this is not a programme of bringing immediate employment to Rosyth. I do not object to that—I believe in a little long-term planning for the future of the wards—but we would be grateful to hear what the expectation is.

To disperse the work in this way might be a little more expensive, but the Minister might work on the same lines as even the Army did. Two years ago, the Army got work into ordnance factories, just as the hon. and gallant Member for Harrow, East wants to get it into naval dockyards. The Army said, and the Public Accounts Committee agreed, that price should not be the only test. The Public Accounts Committee sympathised to the extent of saying that where the Army had a preferred source of employment, as it had in the ordnance factories, it might be a very wise and valuable use of space, men and material. When orders are being placed, and if the price difference is not too wide, the Admiralty might adopt the policy of preferred source so as to direct employment where it is required.

The Civil Lord made a very serious statement when he introduced the Estimates, and was immediately interrupted by my right hon. Friend the Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell). It was a little disturbing, I do not say alarming, to hear the hon. Gentleman announce that Australia had placed orders for destroyers with America—

Mr. C. Ian Orr-Ewing

It came from behind me.

Mr. Hoy

It was an interruption by the hon. Member for Haltemprice, but no matter where it came from the statement was confirmed by the Minister, so let us not play with words. The position is that Australia, a Commonwealth country, has placed an order for these destroyers with the United States of America. I find that very difficult to understand. I know that the Minister cannot say to Australia, "You have to order from this country," but if I were in his position I would want to find out—in view of our own unemployment and the sort of competition there is from America—why Australia placed these orders in the United States of America.

It is only fair to British shipyards and to British workmen. Did we not have the right tenders? Was the price too high?

Where did we fall down? There is a lesson to be learned here. The Minister's job should be to find out why this should have taken place, and I am sure that the Committee will be grateful if, before the debate concludes, the Civil Lord will tell us the reasons for this order going to America.

I now want to say a word on the orders for the Polaris submarines. I am not an expert in this matter. I cannot claim to know the intricacies, and I am certain there are very few in the Committee who do. But what we do know is that considerable sums of money, running perhaps into £200 million or £300 million, will be spent in providing the first of these submarines. I was more than interested to hear the Minister say that three firms had been selected in Britain with whom orders would be placed—Vickers, of Barrow, Cammell Laird, of Birkenhead, and Scotts, of Greenock.

The Minister made it clear that Vickers has already had one order and will get the next one. I am not grumbling at the fact that that firm will have two of these orders, but it is a little difficult to understand why a conference is to be held to decide where the other orders should go.

The Secretary of State for Scotland was on the Clyde last week, and some remarks that he made were reported in the Scotsman of 9th March. I can hardly believe that he said what he is reported to have said without having been in consultation with the Admiralty. According to the Scotsman, he said: Polaris submarine contracts—'We can get one of the Polaris submarines, if we are lucky'. I do not think that is much of a comment. Contracts of this kind are not awarded by good luck. One is either competent or incompetent. I should have thought that when the Secretary of State went to the length of making this public statement, he had some sound assurances from the Admiralty. Otherwise, he had no right to make that statement and to put this matter in the same category if the arrangements should fall down, as the Prime Minister did at the last Election in connection with the building of two new "Queen Elizabeths". It is much better that people should know what the Government intend. For goodness' sake do not mislead them.

The Secretary of State went on to say: Nuclear-powered merchant ship—'We have got possibilties'. I do not know where the Secretary of State got his information from. At least we, as Members of the House of Commons, are entitled to know if there is any foundation for these statements.

I hope that the Minister will be able to answer at least my own constituency question, because the problem presents great difficulties. We should like to know what expectations there are of similar yards, like Henry Robb, having orders placed with them. We should like to know what the Government intend to do at Rosyth, and we should like a sound assurance that the Secretary of State made his statement to which I have referred after consultation with the Admiralty, because, if he did not do so, there is very little to be said for that statement.

8.5 p.m.

Mr. Anthony Kershaw (Stroud)

I hope that the hon. Member for Edinburgh, Leith (Mr. Hoy) will forgive me if I do not follow him precisely in his speech. I want to talk about Polaris, but rather from the general than the particular.

The first question I should like to consider is whether, in general, we want a strategic nuclear weapon of this character. Personally—and we discussed this question in the defence debate recently—I might be prepared to leave the strategic deterrent to the United States if Europe were the only theatre of war in which we ever envisaged the use of such a weapon. But I feel that in other parts of the world where our interests are not exactly the same as those of the United States we might possibly find it necessary in the future to have our own deterrent.

We must also bear in mind that if we were relying, in any part of the world, but particularly in other parts of the world than Europe, upon getting the backing of the United States for any steps which we might consider necessary to take, the very fact that the United States stood behind us would enlarge the diplomatic difficulty in which we were then involved into a major international crisis, and it would be impossible to avoid the confrontation of massive forces and would make virtually impossible the conduct of what might otherwise be quite small operations.

Also, one cannot exclude the possibility that some nations might be equipped in future with weapons which at the moment are quite beyond their purse or ingenuity to manufacture. Therefore, if we are not to subject our conventional forces to blackmail we must have this weapon ourselves. I also think that, in spite of what is sometimes said, it would give us influence in the councils of our friends if we were to have this weapon. [Laughter.] The hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) is moved to amusement. I remember in one debate he asked what use was the atomic bomb in the Brussels negotiation.

Mr. Emrys Hughes

What is the answer?

Mr. Kershaw

The answer is that there are some things which cannot be done with weapons, and one is to terrorise one's allies at an economic conference. It is suggested that at the time of Cuba we were not sufficiently consulted, in spite of the fact that we had the atomic weapon. There again, among the things that one cannot do with weapons is to overcome one's allies.

Mr. Emrys Hughes

How far were we consulted over Cuba? How did the atomic weapon help us in the negotiations over Cuba?

Mr. Kershaw

The possession of atomic or any other weapons in the Cuban talks would not have helped us. To intervene against one's ally, the United States, on the subject of Cuba is one of the things that we could not do.

Another important consideration is the technological fall-out so important to an industrial country such as ours. In general, I do not suppose that there ever was a time, and the time has not arrived yet, when we could have efficient forces without the essential capital weapon. Cuba is not proof to the contrary. Cuba was concerned with conventional weapons, I know, but the whole question was transacted under the umbrella of nuclear power on both sides, and certainly in the United States. It was not an example of nuclear weapons being irrelevant.

I have never understood or believed the criticisms that the United Kingdom nuclear deterrent is of little importance because it is so small compared to the United States nuclear deterrent. This is a wrong comparison. The comparison is not between our deterrent and the United States deterrent. It is between our deterrent and the U.S.S.R. deterrent. The argument about our not being independent because the Americans have some control in supply and over targetting is quite irrelevant, also. Once we have a weapon, we can use it. The fact that grave international repercussions may follow makes no difference, for it is no different from the case in which conventional weapons may be used. In the world today, one cannot go banging about as used to be done in the last century. If one resorts to arms anywhere in the world, one will have repercussions, whether they be nuclear or conventional arms.

I turn now to the question whether the Polaris submarine itself is the right weapon. Alternatives have been put about recently in the newspapers, and it is suggested that there should be surface vessels carrying the same missile as the submarine carries. It is said that the cost would be very much smaller. My hon. Friend the Civil Lord has been kind enough to tell me that he considers that the cost of a surface vessel would not be so much less than the cost of a Polaris submarine, as has sometimes been suggested, indicating that calculations to show that the cost of a surface vessel would be about one-twentieth of the cost of the submarine are unsound. I hope that we shall have these calculations clarified at some time. I have information in my possession—I cannot vouch for the accuracy of it, because I do not know enough—which shows that the surface vessels would be very much cheaper than the Polaris submarine.

However this may be, one of the advantages of surface vessels, in American eyes anyway, is that they could be built very much more quickly and easily and, therefore, they would be ready before the French force de frappe. This, I suppose, is something which the Americans hope will tempt the Germans, at least, to accept the surface vessels, and apparently the Germans have nibbled considerably at the idea.

Secondly, the surface vessels can be much better than the submarines in being internationally manned. My hon. Friend the Member for Horncastle (Sir J. Maitland) had some queries about the usefulness of internationally manned ships, but I take it that the object is to make it impossible for any one nation to withdraw the ship for its own particular purposes. I suppose that this is another reason why the Americans are advocating the adoption of the surface vessel.

The surface vessel has one defect in that it is more vulnerable than the Polaris submarine. To that extent, it is a first-strike weapon, or nearly so, and, so far as it is a first-strike weapon, it certainly adds to tension without increasing security.

The surface vessels, too, will be very expensive. I gather that the fleet of 80 will cost about £1,800 million. Who is to take part in the operation of surface vessels? Germany has already said that she will. Italy has said that she might like to consider it, but there are elections pending in Italy, so we cannot expect a decision soon. Also, I suppose, the United Kingdom would take part. This would certainly mean adding about 5 to 10 per cent. to our defence costs each year. I wonder whether it is possible to do it. In any event, one conclusion I came to most firmly is that, if we take up the surface vessel project, it will knock out the Polaris submarine for us. We cannot possibly afford both. Again, this may be one of the reasons why the Americans would like us to adopt it.

If we want to improve N.A.T.O., we should do better to look at the system of planning and command, which will have to be done anyway, because planning with two different heads in two different continents is really not a very sensible operation.

I am quite prepared to believe that the Polaris weapon itself is the best weapon available. Without the necessary technical knowledge, it is impossible to be sure about that, but one certainty is that it is frightfully expensive. Important parts of it are not manufactured in this country, and I regard this as a very significant factor. I understand that, in due course, it may be, but, to begin with, it will not be manufactured in this country. It is a very inflexible weapon, because it has only one purpose and cannot be diverted to other purposes as an aircraft can.

It is undetectable at present, but the weapon is not unstoppable, as I understand. There are two points of assault, one against the submarine and the other against the missile it fires, and the missile is not at the moment unstoppable, although technically it would be very difficult to stop. It comes on a fixed trajectory which gives the defence an opportunity to destroy it.

Lastly, it is not ready. Perhaps for perfectly good technical reasons or for perfectly good political reasons, the United States may decide that it does not wish to deliver Polaris. It may become unnecessary for the Americans, and, therefore, we could not expect them to manufacture it for us alone. Something similar happened with the Skybolt.

I believe that our possession of the Polaris submarine is a preparation for the war we are least likely to fight, namely, the war alone against Russia. It would be ridiculous to be too dogmatic about what is the best nuclear weapon. The whole of this science is so extraordinary and so far in the future that almost no one—certainly not myself—can be sure, but I cannot rid myself of the feeling that we have ordered a Rolls-Royce when a "Mini" would do quite well.

It would certainly be very much better if we made it all ourselves. If we are forced into difficulties with expense, I believe that, excellent though this weapon is and desirable though its possession may be, Polaris will be the first point of sacrifice, and we should be able to continue with efficient forces with much smaller tactical atomic weapons. These weapons, though smaller, are very powerful indeed, and with them we could carry out our military tasks both in Europe and elsewhere fairly adequately.

Our conventional forces, not least the Navy, which we are discussing tonight, are absolutely essential if we are to have a defence policy at all. Although we need a nuclear umbrella, I believe that, without these adequate conventional forces, we can do nothing. For this reason, I applaud the increase we see in the Estimates before us.

8.15 p.m.

Mr. E. L. Mallalieu (Brigg)

I have been much struck by the contrast between the polished, meticulous irrelevance of the Civil Lord and the turgid anxieties which hon. Members opposite have been expressing about the whole nature of the Government's defence policy and, in particular, their preparations from a naval point of view. I speak of the irrelevance of the Civil Lord not because he is not extremely skilled in knowing his subject and expounding it in the House and elsewhere, but because, as we know, all the Government's efforts towards defence are quite irrelevant to the bringing of security to our nation. Until we have some kind of world Government, in the peace-keeping sphere, to maintain peace, these Estimates, necessary though they may be as subjects for discussion and preparation, are really irrelevancies from the standpoint of bringing us lasting security.

I have been very interested to notice the great anxiety expressed on the benches opposite about the whole subject of the Polaris weapon. Many hon. Members opposite have now shown that they share my feeling and the feeling of almost all my hon. Friends that this country should never have embarked upon the Polaris business. If we are to have a nuclear deterrent of our own in this country, I should be prepared to accept Polaris as probably the best, but the idea of having the weapon, having regard to our means, strikes me as being completely wide of the mark.

The Civil Lord gave us a hair-raising account of the naval preparations of the U.S.S.R., a terrifying account, if one takes it seriously. What chance have we in a war against the U.S.S.R.? Obviously, if there were such a war—I do not myself believe that there will be—we should have to rely almost to the extent of 95 per cent. upon the United States of America for our defence. As for the deterrent itself, we have to rely to the extent of 95 per cent., I imagine, though here we cannot know the exact facts, on the United States.

Every time the subject is discussed in the House or in the Press, we hear the argument that we must keep our nuclear deterrent because we shall have no influence in foreign policy if we do not. This is a direct invitation to de Gaulle, to Nasser and to everyone else to have his own nuclear deterrent. It is not seeing the wood for the trees if we snatch at that sort of alleged security and influence in foreign affairs white, at the same time, creating thereby an infinitely greater risk than the one we run at present from the obvious potential enemy. Therefore, it seems to me that to pat this nuclear deterrent in our hands is to deprive us of something which we should have in much great degree in order to give us some king of security against the Russian naval menace.

If the Civil Lord had not been so eloquent in his description, I might not have been tempted to dwell on this point. But he has given this picture of the great preponderance of Russian naval strength over our own. Yet he says that, although we shall ultimately turn over to nuclear propulsion for our submarines, we are to waste millions in the meantime on Polaris which will be irrelevant when nuclear war with the U.S.S.R has started, and the work of which can be done by the United States deterrent before that catastrophe arrives. These millions should, of course, be spent on nuclear propelled hunter-killer submarines which would redress the balance as against the vast Russian submarine fleet. It seems to me that that is the major catastrophe into which the Government are leading us.

I wish to deal with only one other aspect of this matter, and that is the aspect of the large carrier, which has been dealt with by many hon. Members. What do the Government think this large carrier will do for us? They say that it will be useful in a conventional war. It certainly would not be useful in any other sort of war I think that the Government would admit that. In what sort of conventional war would it be useful? Are we to have a conventional war which will be so big as to need aircraft carriers, but which will not lead to a nuclear war? Of course not. No one can prophesy with certainty and we have to go on probabilities, but I submit that the probability is that if there were any war of a kind which could not be dealt with by smaller carriers of the brush fire variety and which had to be dealt with by the larger carrier then it would almost inevitably lead to nuclear war.

Captain W. Elliot

The hon. Gentleman is throwing doubt on the need for a carrier of about 50,000 tons. Surely if that carrier, as a support carrier, is to form the nucleus of the mobile force for the brush fire war, then I think that he will agree that it must be able to carry aircraft which can compete against shore-based aircraft. Surely the type of aircraft which it has to carry dictates its size to the extent of practically 99 per cent. Is the hon. Gentleman advocating a second-class carrier with second-class aircraft to compete with first-class aircraft based on shore?

Mr. Mallalieu

I am saying that in the kind of war about which we are talking, the brush fire sort of war, we will not have against us the sort of aircraft about which the hon. and gallant Gentleman is speaking. We shall have only the kind which can be dealt with by a very much smaller carrier and vertical take-off aircraft.

Captain W. Elliot

We have heard from my hon. Friend the Civil Lord that the Russians are giving to various countries in the world almost complete armaments, including very good aircraft. I do not wish to make a party point, but it is not possible today to fly first-class modern aircraft from a very small carrier.

Mr. Mallalieu

That may or may not be the case. The hon. and gallant Gentleman can assert it as much as he likes, but I do not accept that. In the absence of a defence committee which can give us real information, we cannot say "Yes" or "No" with certainty. I would not dream of accepting what the hon. and gallant Gentleman has said. If we engage in a war which is bigger than the brush fire type of war and, therefore, in which the bigger type of carrier is needed—I cannot imagine why it would be needed, but I assume for the moment that the hon. and gallant Gentleman is right in saying that it might be needed—then that war will lead to nuclear war. In a very short time—certainly before the new carrier of 50,000 tons, or whatever it will be, is ready—it is at least probable that we shall have vertical take-off or short takeoff aircraft which will be capable of operating from very much smaller vessels.

I asked a Question of the Civil Lord about this not long ago, and he rode off—I am sure that he did not mean to do so—by saying that what determined the size of a carrier was the size and number of planes and, presumably, the number of the men which it carries. That is perfectly true, and I would not attempt to dispute it. We have five aircraft carriers and two commandos. A very high proportion of the strike of the Navy is in these five baskets and, considering the vulnerability of them—

Mr. C. Ian Orr-Ewing

indicated dissent.

Mr. Mallalieu

The hon. Gentleman shakes his head, but he has not cared to be very specific about the suggestions made concerning recent exercises. If he had been specific, he might have given us some assurance. Until he is specific, I shall claim that these are extremely vulnerable vessels. We have only five of them, from the "Eagle" of 44,000 tons down to the "Centaur" of 22,000 tons, or something like that, and an amazingly high proportion of the Navy's strike power is in them, which seems to me to be quite ridiculous. Now the Civil Lord is suggesting building a carrier of 50,000 tons. It is fantastic to concentrate the very scarce fire power of the Navy in much too small a number of baskets.

The French are not usually regarded as mere children in naval architecture, engineering or strategy from a military or naval point of view. Their carrier "La Resolue" represents a totally different idea from ours. This vessel will be capable of carrying a commando of 700 men and 12 large helicopters or, instead of the commando, vertical take-off aircraft. It would be possible to have very much smaller vessels than that. The Civil Lord told me the other day, in answer to a Question, that this would be expensive. I appreciate that, but it seems to me that we must see what we are getting at the end of the expenditure. If, at the end of it, we have a force which is highly vulnerable, though less expensive, we have failed in our task. We must be prepared to weigh this business of expense or cut down the size of the fire power. It would be more satisfactory to have less fire power but better distributed than to have a large amount of fire power concentrated in far too small a number of large vessels.

The Government have completely failed to give the sort of assurances which would satisfy me on this question of the carrier. They are embarking on the construction of this enormous vessel—

Mr. C. Ian Orr-Ewing


Mr. Mallalieu

They are thinking of it. They may not build it. I hope that they will not do so. Perhaps after my speech they will not. On the other hand, it may make them embark on building it out of pique. But they are definitely contemplating it. It will have to be still useful about the year 2,000, if it has the normal life of twenty years with possibly nine or ten years added for refits and alteration. Should they do that in view of our present knowledge? In my submission, they should not.

This is one of the smaller instances—I have referred to the large instance—of the Government not knowing where they are going. Before they set out on a policy of building these Polaris submarines and this enormous carrier, with, perhaps, others to follow, they should take stock more carefully and should give the country a chance to decide which way it wants to go.

8.30 p.m.

Brigadier Terence Clarke (Portsmouth, West)

I am pleased to have been called at this early hour of the debate. Sometimes I have spoken at two or three o'clock in the morning, when I find it much more difficult. I am sure that the hon. and learned Member for Brigg (Mr. E. L. Mallalieu) will not expect me to follow him in all his arguments. I have had many liaisons with the hon. and learned Member from time to time and we agree on many things, but I do not agree with all that he has said on this subject today.

I should like, first, to ask my hon. Friend the Civil Lord why he has decided upon the building of the nuclear Polaris submarines by civilian firms and why he states that only those civilian firms have the knowledge to build such submarines quickly. In view of the security precautions of Her Majesty's Dockyard, Portsmouth, and with all the labour that is available in that city, which is entirely dependent on the Navy for its work, I should have thought that my hon. Friend could expect to get his submarines built far more quickly, with more security and, possibly, even more cheaply.

Looking at the Navy Estimates, I see that Chatham Dockyard, which, I would say, is probably half as efficient as Portsmouth—but that is merely a point of view—built a submarine, the"Onslaught ", which cost £2,535,000. Cammell Laird built one for £2,760,000 and another for £2,735,000, and Scott's Shipbuilding and Engineering Company built one at a cost of £2,600,000. Therefore, the Royal Dockyards can at least build submarines more cheaply and, I should have thought, more quickly. With a little bit of overtime, which we always want in these dockyards, we might get a submarine in even quicker time than ever before.

There are many other reasons why these submarines should be built in one of Her Majesty's Dockyards. First, we cannot rely upon the submarines breaking down in the vicinity of Rosyth, where my hon. Friend the Civil Lord is reported in the newspapers as saying they will be repaired. What he probably said was that that was where they would be refuelled. Whether it is refuelling or repair, however, Her Majesty's Dockyards must have experience of how to look after and repair these ships.

I have a certain amount of support from my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Harrow, East (Commander Courtney) and my hon. Friend the Member for Gillingham (Mr. Burden) in believing that the dockyards are a good place to build nuclear submarines. If we are worried, as many of us are, about being without an independent weapon for the next five or six years, that is all the more reason for building these submarines where they can be built speedily, under naval guidance on the spot, rather than half the Admiralty having to travel to Barrow and back. That would mean that there were more people on the trains than at sea while these vessels were being built.

There is one other important aspect. Half the best marine engineers, and even nuclear marine engineers, have served their apprenticeships in Portsmouth Dockyard. We have difficulty in keeping these apprentices after we have spent a lot of money in training them. The building of a nuclear submarine, with all the knowledge that these apprentices could get while the vessels were being built, would be a valuable adjunct to the Navy and to the dockyards. It is no wonder that these apprentices leave us and go to Vickers and other shipbuilding yards after they have concluded their training. It is a pity that we do not allow them to build decent ships in the dockyard instead of concentrating only on repairs.

Rosyth seems an extremely long way off for the refuelling of these submarines. I know that they take about four years to run out of fuel, but it may well be found that it is necessary to train a completely new set of people on the repair and refuelling of these ships in the North when we have perfectly good dockyards in the South which could do the job equally well, and, in my view, a great deal better.

Last year, I raised with my hon. Friend the Civil Lord the question of dockyard pay. He told me that piece-work rates were being introduced which would make everybody happy. Quite a lot of people are a great deal happier than they were, but there is a large element of unskilled labour which still gets only 180s. a week and with little or no chance of overtime. This keeps the wages of the City of Portsmouth down to rock bottom.

Even a farm labourer gets more than that, as well as all the "perks" that go with being on a farm, such as free milk, eggs and everything else. When living in a city, one is up against it with a wage of 180s. My hon. Friend compared that figure with workers in civilian yards, where, he said, they get 179s. 1½d. I read last week that a night watchman had decided to draw the dole because, with a family, he could get £14 and he would not work for £10 as a night watchman Men in the dockyard are being given virtually less pay than a retired old night watchman who sits round a brazier gets for doing very little.

Mr. Emrys Hughes

How could he get £14 a week?

Brigadier Clarke

The hon. Member, will, no doubt, have an opportunity of making a speech. He generally follows me in these debates.

I should like my hon. Friend the Civil Lord to tell us what is being done about storekeepers, who have for long been grumbling that they are being treated as industrial workers and who wish to have their status raised and become classified as clerical. There seems to be no reason why they should not sooner or later come to the top of my hon. Friend's list of people to have something done for them. For years, I have raised this subject. Both the Army and the Air Force treat these people as being clerical, but the Navy insists that they are industrial, which definitely gives them a much lower status and a great deal lower rate of pay.

There is a new problem which has been brought to my notice many times during the last few months and about which I have written to my hon. Friend. I refer to the new idea of putting trained sailors as caretakers on ships while they are in dockyard for repair, instead of using civilians who have been doing the job for years. If my hon. Friend could explain the reason for this, especially when we know him to be so short of sailors that some of the ships have to be in "mothballs", he could give a great deal of relief to the people of Portsmouth who do not understand this problem.

We heard a certain amount in the defence debate about the integration of the three Services. It is the land and buildings occupied by the three Services which should be integrated. There is the most appalling nonsense at the moment. If a piece of land is not wanted by the Navy, it has to be put to the Army, and if the Army does not want it, the Royal Air Force has a go, and it takes a year for the three Services to decide whether the land is wanted by any of them or can be given up. I should have thought that with the integration of the three Services we could have got far more quickly to the bottom of the problem of unwanted land.

In addition, the Civil Lord—perhaps the Treasury will have to do this—might consider whether land is always released as soon as it is found to be unnecessary. There is a considerable fear in all three Services—I knew this when I was in the Army—that if one gives up a bit of land one is giving something back, and the money goes to the Treasury and the Service gets little or nothing in return for it, and if, next year, one requires to put up another W.R.N.S. barracks or marine storehouse one has to go all over again through the rigmarole of asking for money to buy land and put up the building. If the Service could have a certain amount of the credit for the land which it sold, I reckon that the Navy would sell up half of Portsmouth and thus be able to build some ships.

Would the Civil Lord consider suggesting to the Treasury that when the Navy disposes of some land a credit should be given to it so that it can use it for some purpose which happens to be very useful at that time? I know that the Treasury will not agree, but in view of my hon. Friend's very forceful nature I think he might suggest to the Treasury that land could be better used for the benefit of the country if it were not held merely because a Service was frightened of losing it.

While on the subject of land and buildings, there is considerable feeling—I have had a number of letters on the subject this week—that the Admiralty does not pay its share of the rates. Tonight, the Evening Standard states that the rates of the House of Commons have gone up to £900,000 from about £600,000 last year. The paper suggests that, as a taxpayer, no Member of Parliament will really be worried about it. All I can say is that Portsmouth is a very poor city and we should be much happier if the rates charged to the Admiralty were raised so that the country could help to pay for the excellent dockyards which are now at the disposal of the Civil Lord and the Admiralty. If those yards were in the hands of Cammell Laird or Cunard, at Southampton, a considerable sum of money in rates could be charged and that would help to reduce the rates in Portsmouth, which has up to now lived rather poorly because of the low wages at the dockyard.

Perhaps the Civil Lord might consider not waiting until the general shipbuilding industry decides to raise the wages of different categories of trades, because the dockyards are quite different from the average shipbuilding firm that one finds in Barrow and elsewhere. Admittedly, the men have small pensions in many cases, but there seems to be no reason why the Civil Lord should cash in on that and let these people get a very low rate of pay and no overtime. If the men of Barrow were asked to work in the Portsmouth Dockyard they would be on strike in a week because they had not enough to take home. It is time something was done to ensure that dockyard wages are raised to a reasonable living standard in respect of the unskilled labour. The Civil Lord has always been very good in the way he has looked after us in the past, and I hope that he will give consideration to the points which I have raised.

8.43 p.m.

Mr. James Boyden (Bishop Auckland)

I am sure that the hon. and gallant Member for Portsmouth, West (Brigadier Clarke) would not expect me to follow him in the selling up and a rerating of Portsmouth. If all the seahorses ridden by hon. Members opposite this evening—I refer particularly to the hon. Members for Haltemprice (Mr. Wall) and Gillingham (Mr. Burden)—had got into the Estimates, the country would certainly be ruined. Even the Civil Lord's more sober Estimates are preparing the way for such ruin, although quietly and without quite the same fuss.

I was astonished and appalled at the way in which the Civil Lord spoke of the Estimates in respect of Polaris being out perhaps by "a few million pounds", saying that later on "some adjustments" might be necessary. I thought of the days when I was taught quadratic equations and that perhaps in nuclear military expenditure if one multiplied a few million pounds by one adjustment one would probably get £25 million in the 1963–64 Estimates and £100 million by the time one made the second adjustment. These Polaris plus aircraft carrier Estimates plus adjustments are very serious and very threatening.

The debate is very much about rising costs, and I think that the Civil Lord's explanations were very muted and unconvincing. After a fair period of stability, the Navy Estimates have gone up by £21 million. In the current year, there have been Supplementary Estimates, for the first time for some years, totalling £11 million. Thus, altogether over the twelve-month period we are discussing there is a rise of about £30 million, with a few million one way or the other—and naturally they will be only one way—plus adjustments.

The figure for the Navy in coming years is likely to be very formidable indeed. In these circumstances, we might have had a very much better explanation of finance and policy and of the implications of the Polaris programme than we have had so far. Indeed, in the Defence Estimates and now today there has been very little proper explanation of the impact of Polaris.

I thought that the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond) made a fundamental point in the defence debate when he asked whether this country stood by the Hague Convention on the bombardment of towns from the sea. Are we to take it that Polaris is not to be used for bombardment of towns or land? Is it to be limited in this way? Or are the Government quietly going to abandon this aspect of international law? I quote to the Civil Lord the advice which Sir William Petty gave to Samuel Pepys in 1687. It is as relevant today as it was then. Sir William said: The matters pretend good to all the King's subjects"— I am not so sure of that, but let it pass— and the means propounded are of a high extraordinary nature"— with that we can all agree— and should be exposed to public view. If you cannot understand them yourself, they are not fit"— that is, not in suitable form— for the public and must he made plainer. I admit that the language is archaic, but one can find the modern counterpart in clear, modern, Civil Service language on page 11 of the Plowden Report, which says: … the Government's decisions are affected by the attitude of the public, and it is desirable that the various official published documents should expound the facts of public expenditure as lucidly as possible. Both in the public documents—the Defence White Paper and the Naval Estimates—and in the urbane and disarming speech of the Civil Lord, we have had nothing like the lucid and full explanation to carry the public forward with the Government in their naval policy. Indeed, nearly every hon. Member opposite who has spoken has added to the doubt about the general direction of naval policy.

As I look at both the naval policy in particular and the defence policy in general, I think that the Government fall into the error that they have created for themselves among the general public. This is an age of "gimmick". The public long for a break-through. Even from high scientific committees, and in scientific reports, one gets from time to time the impression, "If only we had a break-through".

The biggest villain of the piece in this connection, the biggest "gimmicker" of the lot, is the Prime Minister himself. What the nation needs is the sort of leadership which the right hon. Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill) and Earl Attlee gave the nation for a period of ten or eleven years. Both in the war and in the period of reconstruction, the people were offered a hard path, because blood and toil were necessary. They were offered nothing but hard slogging in our military effort during the war, and scientific workers were deployed to the maximum extent. But there was no "gimmick" under either Administration. Possibly there was a certain amount of "gimmick" at the Ministry of Supply in the hectic days of the Spitfires and the Battle of Britain but this appeared to succeed. In retrospect one wonders whether even the "gimmickry" of that time was in the best interests of the country. However, let that pass now.

All through the war and the long period of reconstruction the nation was told what it had to aim at, and the scientific effort and the long hard slog were backed by democratic confidence. In the last few years, we have seen an erosion of that. The bingo idea has come even into military matters and Polaris is now used as a "gimmick" instead of for defence. I am certain that the costs of Polaris will rocket. If I should be a Member in two or three years and we are discussing the Navy Estimates and hon. Members opposite are still in power, I am sure there will still be a series of reports from the Public Accounts Committee and the Estimates Committee about the amount of money being spent and strictures on that expenditure.

So far as I can see, some of the programmes for reform of the Admiralty and its reorganisation will be set back. The Civil Lord himself this afternoon has already warned us that the steady progress in cutting down the Admiralty headquarters staff, which has been commended by the Estimates Committee, is to be checked. There is a great danger that the reorganisation of the dockyards may also be affected.

In its Report for 1959–60 the Estimates Committee said: The Admiralty headquarter's organisation is too large, and above all, too complicated; the distance which separates the two component parts"— that is, Bath and Whitehall— aggravates these defects; and these weaknesses detract from the overall efficiency of the Royal Navy. If it is true of the commuting from Bath to Whitehall and back, how much more true is it likely to be when discussions and conferences are rushed from Washington and Newport Mews to London and other parts of Britain? If the expenses and frustration caused by the Bath-Whitehall difficulties are there still—and I understand that they have not been overcome and are nothing to do with numbers—surely the problems connected with the manufacture and deployment of Polaris submarines will cause frustration and waste militarily, administratively and technically. I have not yet heard it stated whether the problem concerned with the front and back ends of the submarine being made in England and the middle part somewhere else have yet been resolved.

Mr. C. Ian Orr-Ewing

I cannot remember whether I included it in the final edition of my speech, but it was certainly in the draft both the fore part and the stern will be made in Britain and the middle part will be fabricated in Britain but will house equipment made in America.

Mr. Boyden

I still see the greatest difficulty about getting the whole thing co-ordinated. I understand from my hon. Friend the Member for Middlesbrough, West (Dr. Bray) that about 11,000 contracts are necessary, 11,000 different tasks, as it were, for each of these monsters. However, I wish the Civil Lord and whoever may succeed him well in the matter.

My scepticism about the development of this nuclear device is largely based on the sort of evidence which the Public Accounts Committee and the Estimates Committee have had before them about nuclear weapons generally in the last few years. The weapon Seaslug is mentioned in the Defence White Paper under the heading, "Fulfilment of the Promise".

Paragraph 6 of the Report on the Navy says: We must keep pace with all the latest technological advances and lead the way with some, but without making each ship so expensive that the numbers we can afford are inadequate. Paragraph 8 says that Seaslug is being put into a number of ships and is coming forward for a number of others. It was Seaslug which in 1948 started as a modest El+ million weapon and which, according to the last Report of the Estimates Committee, has now grown to £70 million, in that delightful phrase, "all up cost".

We had my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) saying a little earlier that he thought the estimate of the total bill might he £200 million. If this is so on this type of weapon, how much confidence can we have that Polaris, even at bargain rates, will not run us into the same sort of situation? I am sure that the Admiralty will have learned the lesson of the Public Accounts Committee's comments on this kind of weapon. But I am bound to quote what the Committee said about Seaslug which the Civil Lord praised so highly: Your Committee doubt whether effective financial control was exercised over this project at any stage. They feel bound to draw particular attention to the long delay before the Ministry took remedial action. It is not. his Ministry, but when the Civil Lord says that the estimates for Polaris may perhaps be a few million out and will need adjustment, I am inclined to think that the same story will be told as was told about Seaslug. Perhaps again I may give the Civil Lord a little seventeenth century advice. In "Halifax the Trimmer" there is this sentence: In power, as in most other things, the way for princes to keep it, is not to grasp more than their arms can well hold. I am sure that that is appropriate to this weapon.

I wish to point to one or two matters which seem to suggest that the development of the orthodox, the normal, rôle of the Navy is being neglected. Perhaps I may refer to the estimate far external naval training which I see is planned to drop from £2.6 million to £1.9 million. I should have thought that training naval pilots and merchant navy personnel to support the Navy should be developing, and that wherever possible we should be developing this reserve of seamen and of naval pilots. In the same way I should have hoped that in the general conventional development—my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, East (Commander Pursey) has pointed out the alarming number of ships which are lying around—more attention would be paid to, and an explanation given by the Civil Lord about, how these ships could be deployed quickly in an emergency to bring the full power of conventional weapons into effect, if necessary.

I wish to turn for a moment to the reorganisation of the dockyards. The expenditure on the dockyards is well over £50 million a year, with 14,000 men employed and a wages bill of about £40 million. Therefore, the dockyards are an important industrial asset to this country. In the Ninth Report of the Select Committee on Estimates it is stated: Upon the efficiency of the Dockyards depends the efficiency of the Navy. I am quite sure that that is true whether in the days of Pepys or Nelson, or today. There are criticisms of the organisation of the dockyards which I would have expected the Civil Lord to have gone into in some detail, because they are fundamental criticisms. One was To put the careers of individual naval officers before the efficiency of the dockyards is wrong". Yet today when the Civil Lord was questioned by one of his hon. Friends about leaving people to develop Polaris on the site as it were, the hon. Gentleman said that such a development would ruin the careers of the naval officers concerned. I think we need some strong statement to correct that. If the Estimates Committee has complained in the past of a suspicion that the careers of some naval officers have been put before the efficiency of the dockyards, that needs to be corrected.

A second criticism was of too much departmentalism. The Estimated Committee stated of Departments: each tended to concentrate on getting its own share of the work done without sufficient regard for the problems of others, there was overlapping of responsibilities and officers were confined to an unnecessarily narrow range of work". I am well aware that the Admiralty has now introduced the Admiralty Engineering Service, a functional organisation with a general manager in charge of it, but there is also a background to this of shortage of staff, of inability to get the proper managers, and, I understand, the thorny problem of the naval-civil relationship of the Admiral Superintendent and the civilian general manager. I hope that the Civil Lord will say something about this problem and also about the slowness of the reorganisation of the dockyards.

In the blueprint for the future reorganisation, the reorganisation of Portsmouth is to start only in the autumn of 1963, and so far as I know nothing has been said about Devonport. It would seem from the little snippet we heard about Rosyth that reorganisation at Rosyth is satisfactory and the future there is very much more optimistic, but since Portsmouth and Devonport are the main dockyards one would expect a great deal more illumination on this theme. I cannot understand why there is difficulty in recruiting civilians to the Royal dockyards. I should have thought that with the private yards in the state in which they are today it would have been possible to get the very best people from the private yards to go to the Royal Dockyards where necessary.

The Estimates Committee criticised a number of administrative changes which the Admiralty was making because of the slowness. For example, in the matter of staff shortages, the Committee said that it was Not satisfied that negotiations between the Treasury and the Admiralty are being conducted with sufficient urgency. In discussions with the staff associations and the trade unions with regard to incentive schemes, the Committee drew attention to the situation at Chatham and said that the individual witnesses at Chatham thought there was not adequate local consultation.

We have already had reference tonight to the question of demarcation. The Estimates Committee some time ago suggested to the Admiralty that it should carry out a detailed survey of the problems of demarcation in preparation for the negotiations with the unions concerned. I hope very much that the Civil Lord will have time to say something about that. I hope he will be able to say how far this has progressed and what the prospects are for the sort of schemes which several hon. Members opposite have discussed tonight.

One thing which strikes me particularly is that if "forward looks", planning and better industrial relations are to operate fully in the dockyards very much greater attention must be paid to these modern techniques of financing and financial control and the training of professional and managerial staff. The Plowden Committee said a couple of years ago that in the Civil Service as a whole it generally approved of the training and quality of work as it was being done, but added: we were less certain that a large enough proportion of the abler Assistant Secretaries and equivalents in professional, scientific and other classes was likely in the course of their careers … to get the benefit of the training provided and to develop the attitude of mind which actively seeks efficiency and economy. Strangely enough, I am very fond of the Admiralty and of the Navy. Perhaps the Civil Lord does not appreciate that because of the criticisms I make. More or less they are criticisms of love, but, be that as it may, I should have thought that in all departments of the Admiralty there is very considerable need for this application of training professional management in all the grades which one might call the middle responsible grades. I hope very much that the Civil Lord will have something to say about that.

Finally, I ask the Civil Lord about the problem of the wastage of apprentices. This again arises from what one knows through experience, but also from the Estimates Committee. The cost of training each apprentice is round about £1,700, but between 1951 and 1955 just over 6,000 were admitted and more than half the apprentices had left the Admiralty service by the end of 1961. I wonder whether perhaps the best way of tackling this problem would be for the Admiralty to turn its apprenticeship schools into ordinary technical colleges in collaboration with the local education authorities in the areas concerned. Perhaps this is one thing for which my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Kingston-upon-Hull, East would give the Admiralty credit in that it is providing a social service for the North Country in this respect.

I am not suggesting that this is a waste. It may be that it is an extravagant way of producing apprentices, but I hope that this training can be integrated into the general technical educational system. The problem requires more serious attention than the Admiralty has so far given it. If in fact this were carried out, there would be full integration into the ordinary educational system, probably to the advantage of both, and, as a result of this, the book-keeping, as it were, would be correct and the whole country would benefit from it.

I would have been much happier today if the Navy Estimates had been not more than they were last year and we could have had an assurance that in the next two or three years they would decrease rather than increase. I have a horrible feeling that unless there is a change of Government we shall be saying exactly the same sort of thing in the next few years in even stronger language.

9.6 p.m.

Viscount Lambton (Berwick-upon-Tweed)

I should like to begin with a very brief word of praise to my hon. Friend the Civil Lord for the way in which he presented his case today. We have had in the last week excellent presentations of both the Air and the Navy Estimates. That is something to be very grateful for as showing the inherent strength that lies within the Conservative Party.

As the main subject of my remarks, I want to say a word or two about what seems to me to be the 64,000-dollar question.

Mr. P. Williams

The £64,000-question.

Viscount Lambton

Dollars or pounds, whichever side it is, the question is about defence policy. We have had the extraordinary performance of nothing at all in the White Paper, and then suddenly, a week or two later, the whole of the reorganisation of the defence aspect, without apparently any correlation between the two. This seems to me such interesting tactics that it is going into what is the actual basis of our defence policy and what it rests upon.

I do not know how many right hon. and hon. Gentlemen have had anything to do with children. Looking round the House, I think that nearly all of them have. I am sure that at one stage or another every hon. Member has been asked one of those fatuous questions which so delight children—"When is a hippopotamus not a hippopotamus?"; or "When is a giraffe not a giraffe?"; or "When is a rabbit not a rabbit?". There is always some trick answer. I am not sure that we cannot introduce a little sense of gaiety into the Committee by asking this sort of question, "When is an independent defence policy not an independent defence policy?". And when the Front Bench look puzzled and try to discover the quick answer, could we not reply, "When it is a British one"? For that seems to be the position at present.

There are two stages of our defence. One is what happened before Nassau and one is what happened after Nassau. Before Nassau we were going along in a very merry way with our independent Skybolt deterrent. Again and again we were told how splendid it was. And it seemed to me singular that exactly the same Ministers who had praised it earlier suddenly damn it. It upsets me and makes me wonder what sort of values exist. For I was always satisfied by what the Front Bench had said about the value of the Skybolt deterrent. But suddenly there was Nassau. What happened at Nassau? To my mind the most interesting point—

The Temporary Chairman (Mr. Grant-Ferris)

Order. I must remind the noble Viscount that he must relate his remarks to the Navy Estimates and not to any general agreement about Nassau or anything else.

Mr. Emrys Hughes

On a point of order. Is not the whole Polaris question in the Nassau Agreement?

The Temporary Chairman

Yes. Reference to Polaris would be in order, but to go beyond Polaris, which I presume the noble Viscount seeks to do, would be out of order.

Viscount Lambton

With all respect to the Chair, that is what I intended to do. With all respect to you, Mr. Grant-Ferris, if you will give me a little rein I will come round exactly to the circumstances which you describe.

What happened at Nassau was that there were no Chiefs of Staff present. That was singular. We all remember the last war, but can we remember any conference between by right hon. Friend the Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill) and the President of the United States at which there were no Chiefs of Staff? The First Lord or other representatives of the Admiralty were not at Nassau. Was not this rather singular? For we had at Nassau the biggest basic change of policy which had ever been made. Suddenly it was decided that the Air Force was finished. Suddenly the Polaris missile had succeeded the manned aircraft. What a curiously short history the manned bomber had had. Suddenly it was succeeded, without consultation with the Chiefs of Staff, by the Polaris submarine.

Let us look at the reference in paragraph 8 of the agreement made at the Bahamas, which deals specifically with Polaris. Half-way through the paragraph we read: The United Kingdom Government will construct the submarines in which the weapons will be placed and they will also provide the nuclear warheads for the Polaris missiles. British forces developed under this plan will be assigned and targeted in the same way as the forces described in paragraph 6. Paragraph 6 deals with the relations which we were to have with N.A.T.O.

So suddenly, out of the blue and without consultation with the Chiefs of Staff, we had the consignment of the Air Force to the rubbish heap and the establishment of a new independent nuclear weapon. What is the value of that independent nuclear weapon? I know that there are many right hon. and hon. Gentlemen on this side of the Committee who hold that there is a great and an inherent value in that independent nuclear weapon, but are there any hon. or right hon. Gentlemen who would hold that there is any value and strength in this weapon were it not independent? The question which arises, therefore, is: "Is it independent? Can we be quite sure that we have the Polaris submarine untrammelled by any sort of control? Can we be sure that this vast expenditure on which we are to embark will not end in waste and frustration?" This seems to me to be the point, the purpose and the question on which the Committee has every right to be informed.

In order to ascertain this most interesting fact, I tabled a series of Questions. The first was to my right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence, who I greatly regret to hear is ill at present. I very much hope that he will get better. He gave me a monosyllabic answer or two designed, reading into the words, to give assurances that this was to be an independent weapon. As everything is dependent upon this weapon, and also as I was not quite satisfied by those Answers and perhaps not satisfied by monosyllables, because I believe that if there is an answer it is possible to express it in a certain number of words, I tabled a similar Question to the Prime Minister. I asked him, in effect, whether this submarine would be untampered with in any way by directions from America. The Prime Minister replied to me with what was perhaps the most singular and certainly the most neglected sentence that has ever been spoken by a Prime Minister who has just concluded a great military pact. He said: No such undertaking was necessary."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 21st February, 1963; Vol. 672, c. 634] This is the most extraordinary statement that I have ever heard. He goes to the Bahamas. He throws the Air Force on to the scrap heap. He says, "Out of the future we will pull up four submarines to take the place of this gigantic Air Force". When he is asked if he has an absolute assurance that he will get every single one of these weapons, completely independent to take the place of that Air Force, he says that no such undertaking was necessary. How is that explicable? How is my right hon. Friend going to explain that? How is it actually an explicable sentence?

What happened was this. The Chiefs of Staff were not at Nassau, so no details were settled. There was just a general agreement between—I was going to say "old friends", but I would rather say between an old friend and a young friend. These two decided suddenly on something which really remained completely and absolutely vague. Then both sides went back to the Chiefs of Staff. The Chiefs of Staff said to each, "What did this mean?" Then nobody was really quite certain. Nobody quite knew.

What we have done at the moment is to do away with the Skybolt deterrent and to have accepted in its place a deterrent which—I can only repeat it—when I asked for an assurance that it was completely independent I was told "No such undertaking is necessary". Is not this the most extraordinary state of affairs?

But let us consider for a few moments the American point of view in order to decide whether we are going to be allowed to use these machines in complete and absolute freedom. When our four submarines are completed it is difficult to know how many American submarines of the same type and the same make, identical in practically every respect, will be ready.

Captain W. Elliot

As I understand it, my hon. Friend asked the Prime Minister if he had had an assurance that we can use the Polaris submarines independently. Is that right?

Viscount Lambton


Captain Elliot

Will my hon. Friend repeat it, then?

Viscount Lambton

My Question appears in column 634 of the OFFICIAL REPORT for 21st February. The Question I asked is very long, very singular and very involved, and one which I cannot give to the Committee at this time of night, especially in view of the number of hon. Members who want to speak after me. It is a very long and detailed Question.

Captain Elliot

I understood that my hon. Friend wanted an assurance from the Prime Minister that the Americans would not interfere with our use of the submarines, but subsequently my hon. Friend moved on to refer to the supply of the Polaris to the submarines. That is an altogether different question.

Viscount Lambton

The awful thing is that my hon. and gallant Friend moves me to be boring, perhaps in imitation of himself. My Question read: VISCOUNT LAMBTON asked the Prime Minister whether he received at Nassau an undertaking that, if the British Polaris submarine force was assigned to the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, no permissive link or mechanism of any kind would be attached to its warheads which would necessitate United Kingdom dependence upon any United States methods of communication if the Polaris submarines were returned to individual British command from North Atlantic Treaty Organisation command and the British command decided independently to use its nuclear warheads.—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 21st February, 1963; Vol. 672, c. 634.] It would be difficult to find a more embracing question, and what I have been emphasising—what I want to emphasise time and again—is that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister could only reply by saying that so such undertaking was necessary. This I found surprising for it seemed to me to warrant one of the most necessary undertakings that has ever been given.

Let us consider the matter from the other side and look at the American point of view. Let us imagine that in certain circumstances these vessels of ours, perhaps in the middle of the Atlantic—and their movement is one of the inexplicables—were ordered near Russia and we suddenly decided to use them independently of America and against American interests. How in the world would Russia be able to tell that these were not weapons from American nuclear submarines? How could they possibly tell the difference between British nuclear submarines firing a weapon like this and American submarines firing the same sort of weapon?

Why, against this background, should we not think of the Pentagon? Why should not thinkers in the White House perhaps ask, Are we really seriously going to give this means of attack to four British submarines which are going to be perfectly useless to us against the whole might of Russia? Why should we give them weapons which might bring forth retaliation against us, weapons which might give Russia, or whoever the enemy may be, an excuse for saying that we have attacked them?" This is the most terrifying argument, an answer to which I have not yet seen.

In variance to the views of hon. Members on the Front Bench opposite, what we really want is an independent nuclear deterrent. The strength of that independence should be the power to initiate. I do not think that there is any question of that coming about, so the sooner we associate ourselves effectively with N.A.T.O. the better. But to have a nuclear deterrent which we are not really sure is a nuclear deterrent, to have no absolute assurance that we will get it and to be told that no such assurance or undertaking is necessary is indeed surprising.

Where do we go from here? Are we to embark on more vast expense? Are we to go on building these submarines without having an assurance that these will not be absolute dependent? Things have changed very much lately, for after I put the original Question which I quoted to the Minister of Defence I received a further reply from the Prime Minister in which he told me that there was no reason to worry and that there would be British warheads entirely under British safety mechanism. However, we have learned that certain parts of the machine, the fore and aft bits, will be made in Britain, but the rest of it, the core of the submarine, will not be made in Britain but will be produced in the United States and that we shall have to buy the parts produced there. What happens if the guardians of the United States argue, as I have said, that "We cannot entrust the United Kingdom with an independent deterrent like this which is confusable with our own"? The value of our deterrent, if we are to have it, is that it is an independent deterrent, not one that is confusable with America's, and which America will probably, as a result, not give us.

All I should like is an elucidation of these points: an absolute assurance that we have from the United States at the present moment a declaration that they are perfectly willing to take this vast risk I have pointed out; that they are perfectly willing to give us at the present moment, and will give us—and if they will not give it to us there is no need to talk about it, because it will be Skybolt all over again—all plans and blueprints of the mechanism, every single secret that will enable us to be independent of American production. Otherwise all we are now doing is to embark on a vast expenditure in the name of independence which is nothing of the kind.

Mr. Paget

Before the noble Lord sits down, does he feel that on an issue of this size any form of assurance would be of any value? Does he really believe that a mere assurance would be enough to satisfy him that the Americans would put into our hands the power to launch nuclear war on them?

Viscount Lambton

The assurance must be factual, and it must be the presentation to us of exactly the plans and the mechanisms that will enable us to make this machinery completely independently of the United States. If we get that, let us go ahead with it; if not, for goodness' sake do not let us spend more money on production that may mean nothing.

9.27 p.m.

Dr. J. Dickson Mabon (Greenock)

I have listened to the noble Lord the Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Viscount Lambton) with great interest, and I can assure him that he certainly disturbed his hon. Friends. He did not have the privilege, as we had, of seeing the faces of his hon. Friends, but it was a joy and a delight to see those faces as he spoke. If the noble Lord is prepared to accept the terror of his own logic, he must listen carefully to what the Civil Lord tells us in reply. If the Civil Lord, with his great talent, is able, in clever language, to avoid giving these assurances, the noble Lord must accept, as many of us on this side believe, that this is not an independent British nuclear deterrent.

I can see the difference between the view of the noble Lord and that of my own Front Bench on this issue, though it is not very great, because my own Front Bench is not against an independent nuclear deterrent—[HON, MEMBERS: "Oh."] That is perfectly true. Perhaps I might be allowed to develop my argument. This is a matter of reflection, and is something about which we have all argued from time to time. I remember a most difficult debate over Polaris when it was not at all popular, and a few hon. Members opposite visited it. We had an angry debate in 1960 about it.

Nevertheless, while the Liberal Party may have contracted out of the idea of an independent nuclear deterrent because it believed it to be wrong strategically—that was its good reason—and while some of my hon. Friends thought it a moral crime to have an independent British nuclear deterrent, the Parliamentary Labour Party officially was in favour of sticking by the independent nuclear deterrent as long as it was credible—as land as it was credible. In our opinion, we are out of this race, not for moral or for tactical reasons but for technical reasons. This is the simple point, and the noble Lord must look at the terror of his own logic, and realise that if we cannot get these assurances that he avidly seeks he must inevitably conclude that this is not an independent British nuclear deterrent.

That being the case, the noble Lord is with us, and I am only sorry that he is not more affected by his criticisms than he is, because, despite all the grumblings of his hon. Friends—and the hon. Member for Macclesfield (Sir A. V. Harvey) is one who does a lot of grumbling—the defence policy of the Government is not moved a bit. If, when we get into power, I find that our own back-bench criticisms are as ineffective as the criticisms from the back benches opposite now are, I shall be an extremely sad man.

Sir A. V. Harvey

I find it difficult to understand the hon. Gentleman's reasoning, having listened to his right hon. Friend last week. If I put a Motion on the Order Paper proposing the construction of a ballistic weapon for the V-bomber force, will he and his party sign it?

Dr. Mahon

The hon. Gentleman is too expert in defence ever to think that we would subscribe to that sort of proposal. The weapon is obsolescent before we begin. As Mr. Tom Lehrer, the American entertainer, says in his song about the anti-missile-missile-missile-missile-missile, the weapon is obsolescent as soon as it is perfected. The Labour Party's policy changed the night that the Government said that Blue Streak had failed. For that matter, the Tory Party ought to have changed its policy that night as well, but it did not.

I do not wish to be dragged away from my main argument in my polite endeavours to reply to the noble Lord—

Viscount Lambton

I have been making perfectly plain that I am a believer in the independent deterrent as long as it is independent, but to have a deterrent which is dependent and to spend vast sums of money on it is a waste of money. Therefore, it is essential that we should ascertain whether or not it is independent.

Dr. Mabon

The noble Lord's family have for long been known on the borders of Scotland as "reivers", which is a polite word for "thieves". If he wants to pinch our argument, he is perfectly entitled to do so. We give it to him with no blame at all. If the noble Lord agrees that it is not an independent deterrent, he is with us absolutely.

Now I come to an argument that I want to impress upon the Civil Lord with respect to this matter of expenditure in the Navy Estimates. I think that everyone will agree that this is a waste of money—perhaps a necessary waste of money, if it is possible to use that contradiction. Some may sit back and talk about world government, the need for disarmament and the wonderful things which may flow from it, but, whether one regards it as a necessary or unnecessary waste of money, it is simply a waste of money. it is a terrible thing that in the world today we should have to become involved in all this, but there is one happy consequence of war—perhaps the only happy consequence of war as we have understood it until now—and that is that for some peculiar reason, because of some perverse characteristic of man, we seem to discover more about life, science and man himself through wars than we do during the placid periods of peace. I can think of no argument in favour of war, and that is not even one of them, but at least it is one consequence of war, and perhaps one consequence of preparing for war.

It seems very sad that we should be spending all this money and that we have launched one nuclear submarine, while, at the same time, we have argued for years about building a nuclear-propelled merchant ship and are still arguing about what kind of nuclear machinery to put into such a merchant vessel yet there is no argument about the machinery to be put into the nuclear submarine. We have heard today that we shall have H.M.S. "Valiant" built with the cooperation of the Atomic Energy Authority and that the two firms concerned are Rolls-Royce and Vickers-Armstrong, at Barrow.

Would it not be far better if we were to think along the lines of trying to design different methods of nuclear propulsion in these submarines which are to be constructed? The only argument about the different methods of nuclear propulsion is not their technical competency so much as their expense. The argument against the selection of a certain method of nuclear propulsion is based on economics, not on technical inefficiencies, in spite of Captain Atkins and the rest.

This is the point I put to the Civil Lord. Why are we not finding out how we can use different nuclear reactors?

The hon. Gentleman referred to the debate we had in February or March, 1959. One of the sad things about the result of the last General Election was that shipbuilding was then transferred from his Department. That was a great error. We said so at the time, and I firmly believe it still. If shipbuilding had remained with the Admiralty, we should, in my opinion, have had a closer connection on the subject of nuclear propulsion than we have today. Really, the story is too sad to go into.

Mr. Burden

Will the hon. Gentleman say whether it is Labour Party policy to nationalise shipbuilding if it is returned to power?

Dr. Mabon

No. The policy of the Labour Party on that matter—if it be in order to say so—is to energise shipbuilding by attracting to it all the research facilities of the Admiralty and everything else we can build up through private enterprise and the National Research and Development Corporation. I shall not develop the lecture now. That argument of the hon. Gentleman will not work.

There has already been a change. We have now moved from the Skipjack type of pressurised water reactor used in the "Dreadnought" to one of our own variety. This is not a subject I can discuss deeply, of course, but, if it is true that we are now moving towards the third nuclear submarine, it might be useful to consider adopting one of the other reactor systems for propelling this vessel. We waste so much money on these things, anyway. It would do the merchant navy a good service if we tried out the possibilities of different nuclear reactors in these nuclear killer submarines. It would be quite within the context of my party's defence assessment that, while we believe that Polaris is an enormous waste of money and a delusion in terms of national policy, we should support the building of nuclear submarines. At least until a sufficiently effective system of disarmament is secured throughout the world, nuclear submarines will have a rôle to play, and, through the use of different reactors, we could help the merchant navy to further its development.

My hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Willis) made a very important point about the shortage of staff. We have the scandal—one can call it no less—of H.M.S. "Blake", yet we know that this is a scandal of nothing other than the shortage of properly trained men. At present, the Civil Lord is making no effort to build up a pool of skilled men, not necessarily men in the Navy only but men ashore in the yards which will have to build ships of this kind, Polaris ships, ships involving electronics, automated devices and all the technical developments of today. We have a crisis in technology, and it is to this that the Civil Lord should be turning his mind.

The Civil Lord told us that we shall build two pairs of Polaris submarines. In the Barrow yard one nuclear submarine has already been built and another is being built. To this yard, also, the Civil Lord will direct—that is the word we should use in relation to Government contracts—the work of building one pair of Polaris submarines. I am not against building up the skilled labour force, with all the technical efficiency which is bound to be created from time to time in Barrow-in-Furness, but he should look also to the other yards. This has been the policy of all British Governments throughout the years, to use the versatility of British shipbuilding as far as they could do so that, in any crisis, the whole industry could be developed in order to sustain the Navy. This is the policy behind the use of private enterprise. The Labour Government used private enterprise for the same reason; they were obliged and not ashamed to do so.

Surely in the new age of nuclear propulsion, Navy or Merchant Navy wise, we must have a spread of the yards involved. That is why I believe that if a pair of Polaris submarines are to be built in Barrow-in-Furness and in my constituency or in Cammell Laird and Co.'s yard at Birkenhead, the Civil Lord will be well advised to consider whether some of the new nuclear killer submarines should be built in one of the other yards in order to build up technological skill and knowledge so that when swords are beaten into ploughshares—and, goodness knows, I wish this as much as any other person—men building these submarines will be able to turn their skills to building merchant ships and ships of commerce and peace which will help this island to go forward in the new industrial revolution.

I believe most fervently that the Civil Lord, within the context of the Government's policy, must look at this shortage of technical staff and ensure that we have enough technical staff to cope with the spread in the building of these new modern vessels.

We must build up the supply of technical and well versed men and women. I include women because there is in the scientific and technological colleges a number of skilled women who will work in this field. I believe that we have much to do in conjunction with the technical education programme to try to bring the towns which depend on ships to the state of being able to service not only the Navy's ships but, I hope, the Merchant Navy ships. There is in the Good Book the phrase that … out of the strong came forth sweetness. I hope that out of these preparations there will come some extraordinary advances towards building a merchant navy which will he amongst the best in the world and that we will never have to use any of these weapons or vessels in defence of our country or in an attack on another.

9.43 p.m.

Mr. G. R. Howard (St. Ives)

The hon. Member for Greenock (Dr. Dickson Mabon) will forgive me if I do not follow his remarks. However, I thought that a good deal of what he said was well worth listening to, especially what he said about forward planning.

Before I begin on the main part of my speech, which I shall keep as short as possible, since many hon. Members wish to speak, I wish to join my hon. Friends in saying how sad we are about the unfortunate illness of the right hon. Member for West Bromwich (Mr. Dugdale). I understand that he is very gravely ill. I am sure that we would all wish to extend our sympathy to him and to his relatives. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."]

What is Polaris? The Polaris submarine is not a submarine in the true sense of the word. It is merely a movable tube on the bottom of the sea. It has nothing at all to do with the Navy as such. If it ever has to operate, it will have failed in its rôle. It cannot do anything else. I stress this for reasons to which I will come. The Polaris submarine runs away from other vessels. It has no other rôle. It has not an offensive rôle. Therefore, as it hides away, it will be very much harder to find. For this reason, I think that it is a most useful deterrent, as long as it remains a deterrent.

I cannot agree with my noble Friend the Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Viscount Lambton), who wondered whether the Russians would know whether it was one of ours, one of the Americans' or somebody else's. The fact is that it is a deterrent, and we must be quite sure about what it can do.

The next point about it which we must realise is that it will be a very big drain on some of the best manpower in the Navy, officers and men. I believe that it must have two crews. Then there is the vast backing programme behind it. There must be an enormous organisation for it which even the Americans, with their vast resources, find expensive. We must be assured that we are able under the Defence Vote to deal with this enormous organisation. How long will these vessels take to build? I hope that by reason of three-shift working and by co-operation with the trade unions we shall be able to build them almost as quickly as in America, where, I believe, they can be built in from eighteen months to two years.

The most important factor of all, however, is how will Polaris affect our programme for other submarines, the hunter killers. Training for submarine crews is a long and difficult job. The work on the Polaris vessels must not interfere with our legitimate naval programme. Polaris must be taken as a Defence Vote and must not be on the Navy Vote.

When we asked my right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence about this on 4th March, he did not give us a very satisfactory answer. He said: The defence budget has to be considered as a whole, and other naval decisions, including carriers, have to be taken on their merits and not according to which particular Service is charged with carrying the deterrent."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 4th March, 1963; Vol. 673, c. 34.] I want a far more exact assurance than that as to Polaris being carried on the Defence Vote and that it will not interfere with the naval programme.

We have heard a lot from my right hon. Friends the Prime Minister and the Minister of Defence and from others about the non-nuclear sword; we were told that it was to be sharpened, and all the rest. Let us think of some of the jobs which that non-nuclear sword has to do. I am not interested in the rough and tumble of amusing debate. I am fortunate enough still to be in the Naval Reserve, which means that I go to sea in uniform and hear what people are saying in ships. I hear the views of serving officers in the Royal Navy.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Horncastle (Sir J. Maitland) said earlier, I do not want to tell the Navy what to do. That is why I rather regretted hearing various people deciding for the Navy what size of carrier it should have and what aircraft it should carry. One hon. Member said that V.T.O.L. aircraft could be carried in tankers. That is a ridiculous suggestion. Where are we to put the personnel, the armament and the men who service them and all the rest? It is such a ludicrous suggestion that we need not bother with it.

We have Aden, Kuwait and the Far East. We have the special sphere of responsibility, about which my right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence spoke the other day, between Africa and Singapore. This is the area where, I am sure, our American allies and friends wish us to take a special responsibility, and so we should. To do this, however, we must have balanced forces. As part of our balanced force, we must have a carrier to provide close air support.

I am not telling the Service what size of carrier it wants—it knows it already; but what it does want is a decision about whether this carrier will be built. It is no good my right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence saying that we can wait for 18 months, because we cannot. If the carrier is to be built, the decision must be taken within the next four months. It is all very well talking about design study, but there are many other things which must be got under way now if she is to be ready to take over from "Victorious".

When we contemplate the loss of bases throughout the world, which may naturally happen in any event, it surely must be that we must have balanced forces afloat, and the carrier is part of such forces. Hon. Members talk glibly about changing over from a commando carrier to an assault carrier or some other kind of carrier. They ought to go to sea a little more and find out how difficult such things are to do. I am all for Members of Parliament going to sea more to see what actually goes on and to see the difficulties and complexities of modern equipment.

To take helicopters as an example, people believe that because a helicopter can take off vertically and come down again it can one moment be hunting submarines and the next moment landing commandos. They do not realise the difference in rôle between those two jobs. It would take hours to change a helicopter from one rôle to the other. One has to take out a number of "black boxes" and put others in. This kind of thing makes the change extremely difficult to accomplish.

I want to emphasise a point made in the debate about the Russian threat. As we have been told, the Russians are helping people to build ports around the world. They are making gifts of ships to those nations. I want to put a thought to hon. Members. I am told that the Russian Navy has is nose very much out of joint because of what happened in Cuba and that there are people who have said, "Why did you not come to our aid?", and it might well be that the Russian Navy might be given a chance to redress that balance in the Far East. It would not take the Americans on, certainly not, but it might take us on. It might well be that an operation something like that which the Chinese mounted in that border dispute to humiliate the Indians might be carried out against us. That is the kind of fire brigade rôle that we have to be prepared to meet.

It is not for us to tell the Navy how many helicopters it can get in a vessel and what size a carrier has to be. The Navy knows that. It just wants a decision, and it wants to produce the forces. Without appearing to be too personal in this matter, perhaps I might tell the Committee that I spent the whole of the last war at sea, in very old ships. One was so old that the bridge had to be shored up with timber, otherwise it would have gone over the side. I know, because I was responsible for doing it. Why were we in that position? It was because of the sort of attitudes which are taken in these debates in peacetime—"Scrap the Navy, chuck it all out, and do not let us have any more ships. The onus is left to the poor chaps at the business end of it when war comes. Perhaps I shall be too old for the next one. It is for these reasons that the Navy must have new ships and that we must go ahead with our building programme.

Hon. Members have talked about the vulnerability of carriers. I agree with one of my hon. and gallant Friends who said that if people could get to know a little more about the sophistication of the anti-submarine forces of today they would realise that it will be a jolly sight more difficult to find and strike these carriers than some think. One should think of the problems that face even a modern nuclear submarine when it is about to attack. It has to come within a certain range to do so, and then one can find it—and I emphasise that one can, indeed, find it. It is different with the Polaris, which is hiding away under the sea. But these things are nothing like as difficult as some people would have one think.

We must build more ships now. I take the point made by an hon. Member just now that by this means we can provide employment. I would also point out that we can now get these ships at a cost which will never be the same again. We could give them to yards where there is capacity available. These points are most important, because the black boxes, the electronics and all these things that go into ships are easy to replace and therefore easier to maintain. They are not such a problem as it is to produce a ship in which to put these very sophisticated forms of equipment.

Anti-submarine warfare is nothing like so hopeless as people think. If there is one thing that modern submarines do not like it is the helicopter attack. We have a pretty good punch in our modern antisubmarine forces. I had the privilege of visiting one of the new "Tribals" the other day. I have been in several of our latest anti-submarine ships. These are very formidable weapons and must not be written down. We must do everything we can to see that the Navy has an adequate number of ships of this sort.

The helicopter fliers are amongst the finest of our young naval officers and air crews. It is an extremely difficult and complex job, and from the point of view of morale I hope that soon they will get more than single engined machines. We all recall how the hon. Member for Loughborough (Mr. Cronin), by great presence of mind, managed to get out of one of these machines. We should think of the effect of losing many highly trained men because we have not got adequate, twin-engined helicopters. That is unacceptable. We must press ahead to give the Navy modern twin engined helicopters.

The Navy needs an all-weather capability in these aircraft. I would like to see the Navy in future thinking of flotation helicopters. The United States has them already. There are other roles for them, such as fishery protection. The flotation helicopter would be very suitable for this, although not yet, since it has not got sufficiently sophisticated equipment. But the time will come.

My last point concerns the new defence set-up. Like my right hon. Friend the Member for Flint, West (Mr. Birch), I rather object that this was brought in during a defence debate. I should like to have seen it announced in a White Paper prior to a debate instead of being brought in as part of a debate without any preliminary notice or discussion of this very important departure from principle. I wonder how sufficient the safeguards are going to be.

For example, the present Chief of the Defence Staff is obviously a man at whom one could not level this possible criticism, but suppose a future holder of the office were very much against one service or another. What adequate safeguards would that service have to put its point of view in a dispute to the Prime Minister? What adequate steps will the equivalent of the First Lord of the Admiralty get?

For instance, Navy works are being transferred to the Ministry of Public Building and Works. This seems an extraordinary thing. I would not have quarrelled with the decision if the transfer had been made to the Ministry of Defence, but I thought that the Ministry of Public Building and Works was mainly concerned with parks and historic buildings—although, of course, some of our barracks are historic buildings. Navy works should come under the Ministry of Defence.

I have tried to be as brief as possible, because there are many other hon. Members who wish to speak. I hope that the Committee will appreciate how important it is that we should have a virile, first-class naval building programme. We want it for the conventional war. I do not disagree with Polaris—

It being Ten o'clock, The CHAIRMAN left the Chair to report Progress and ask leave to sit again.

Committee report Progress.

Ordered, That this day the Business of Supply may be taken after Ten o'clock and shall be exempted from the provisions of Standing Order No. 1 (Sittings of the House) for Two hours after Ten o'clock.—[Mr. C. Ian Orr-Ewing.]

Supply again considered in Committee.

Mr. Howard

I hope that the Committee will appreciate that we can leave it to the Royal Navy to decide what ships it wants and what size carriers and what its future will be. What it wants from us is the confidence and the backing to know that the Royal Navy can go forward to make the same kind of history which it always has. I believe that left to itself with our support it always will.

10.2 p.m.

Dr. Alan Thompson (Dunfermline, Burghs)

The hon. Member for St. Ives (Mr. G. R. Howard) will forgive me if I do not follow him into the wide-ranging strategy and history upon which he embarked. I want to come to more domestic matters and to deal with the dockyard in my constituency. I am emboldened to do so by the fact that several hon. Members have referred to the Rosyth Dockyard. It is a frustrating and anxiety-making business to listen to other hon. Members talking about one's own constituency, hoping that one will get a chance to reply, feeling relieved when one does. Remarks have ranged from the enthusiasm of the Civil Lord to the faint praise of hon. Members who, representing other dockyards, may have felt that Rosyth was unfairly selected.

In the debate on the Navy Estimates last year, I pointed out the benefits of Rosyth, benefits which had been tested by two wars, to serve the purposes of the Navy—the excellent dry dock, the deep water access, the comparative safety from enemy attack, and, over the last few years, the very extensive experience of submarine refitting and repair. Any task which the Admiralty wishes to impose upon Rosyth will be adequately undertaken and well done.

The Civil Lord said that the new plans which he had in store for Rosyth Dockyard would involve augmentation of the labour force and expansion of facilities. The labour force at Rosyth is drawn from a wide area, far beyond the confines of my constituency. There is scarcely a town or village in Fife which does not provide this great dockyard with trained personnel. Every day, 300 or 400 workers travel across the Forth from Edinburgh while others come from Kirkcaldy, Falkirk and western districts. Anything which adds to the employment facilities in Rosyth is good for the south-east of Scotland, which is now suffering such economic distress.

I wish to say this about the labour force, and echo what was said earlier by the hon. and gallant Member for Portsmouth West (Brigadier Clarke), about pay and conditions. One hon. Member referred to low wages of between £10 and £14 a week in the dockyards. I have workers in my constituency who earn as little as £8 a week. Until we can lift Admiralty workers above the sense of being among the poorest paid members of the community, and give them a sense of sharing in the expansion and usefulness of the work, I do not think that we shall make a striking difference to their morale.

We must look at the question of the housing of Admiralty workers as well as of pay conditions. One of the biggest public meetings in my constituency assembled to hear a speech which I made on the subject of housing. The hall was packed. People were sitting on the window sills. Admiralty employees who are tenants on housing estates crowded in to make their protests and I am sure that the civil Lord remembers the representations made at the time and the complaints which were voiced.

I wish to quote from the Ninth Report of the Estimates Committee and the evidence of Rear Admiral I. G. Aylen, the Admiral Superintendent. When asked about the dwellings in which Admiralty workers at Rosyth live and whether they were of an adequate standard, the admiral replied: Far from it. There is an estate called Doflytown, which are really concrete prefabs, very substandard, very small and anybody coming from the South who comes up here normally will have to sell his furniture and get smaller furniture to get into these houses. They are suitable for young married couples who are setting up house for the first time, but for anybody who has probably had a house in the South and has a family, coming up here, it really results in quite considerable hardship in many cases. Incidentally, it is a very interesting commentary on English and Scottish housing that it is thought that people from England suffer exceptional hardship in having to live in houses in Scotland and particularly in the houses in question.

There are two problems in connection with the housing of Admiralty workers at Rosyth. There is, first, the industrial staff from England who do not come voluntarily, but on a tour of duty. Probably, they have to sell their houses in England, and it is difficult for them to buy houses in that area. If they do, they run the risk of being unable to dispose of them because the turnover of houses is not so quick in Scotland as in England, for obvious economic reasons. It is, similarly, difficult to rent one. There is the other problem, that industrial workers have long, inconvenient journeys to get to the dockyard. Unlike other naval dockyards, Rosyth is situated in an area difficult of access and this is why we attach so much importance to the assisted travel scheme and wish to see it enlarged and expanded to meet the new labour staff which the Civil Lord says may be engaged as a result of his plans.

There are people who work at Rosyth who have to get up at half-past four and five o'clock in the morning to get to work at seven o'clock. There have been some improvements in the housing position, or I should say some promised improvements, the first being the dissolution of the old Scottish National Housing Company and its replacement by the Scottish Special Housing Association and the Scottish Office, bodies which, we presume, have more experi- ence of dealing with this problem than the moribund and rather haphazard mixture of private and public enterprise which worked for fifty years and was not highly successful.

The Fifth Report of the Estimates Committee states, on page 7: Since the Committee took evidence an opportunity has been taken to bid for an additional fifty houses in the Rosyth area to be provided next year by the Local Authorities. It is the intention of the Admiralty to pursue discussions with the Scottish Office in accordance with the Committee's suggestion in order to examine means of meeting further needs as they arise. The Civil Lord spoke of the need to enlarge facilities. I should like to know what he is doing at the moment, in consultation—as promised—with the Scottish Office, to see that decent housing is provided not only for the new workers, but in improvements for existing workers.

A point was made, I thought very succinctly, by my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, Leith (Mr. Hoy) that it is all very well to have these promises made to Rosyth, but it may be some time before they come into operation. I am anxious that Rosyth should continue to get its share of conventional repairs in the intermediate period. The trouble with these great dramatic announcements which fill the headlines is that they give an impression of a sudden great transformation and immediate opportunities for workers and management. Rosyth has had enough of these transformation problems in the past in more simple matters of reorganisation than what presumably will be involved in this. We want an undertaking that Rosyth will share quickly in this development. A point has been made by several hon. Members that with the switch to nuclear submarines there may be a falling off in and an eating into conventional contracts and conventional repair work.

That is why I am anxious that Rosyth should get its share, particularly as it does not undertake new construction as some of the other dockyards do and its emphasis is in the realm of refitting and repairs. It will be some time before the new submarines benefit Rosyth; they will need a great deal of conventional work in the meantime.

I would now like to refer to H.M.S. "Caledonia". I know that my hon.

Friend the Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Willis) is tireless in his pursuit of the question of improvements to H.M.S. "Caledonia". I underline what he has been saying. We want this programme to be speeded up. Ten years is far too long, particularly as we have already lost a year in procrastination and change of plans. We should like to see this job done in five years.

As I said I would, I have concentrated particularly on domestic issues because the statement by the Civil Lord today is of tremendous importance to my constituency and to its dockyard. Only last week I met the industrial Whitley Committee of Her Majesty's Dockyards and we had a long talk about the future prospects of Rosyth. The members of the committee have on this, and other occasions, raised a whole variety of problems of pay, conditions and housing, some of which I have referred to in this debate. I now wish to refer to two general points drawn from the Statement on Defence 1963. Cmnd. Paper 1936.

The first is about the future of the instructor branch. The instructor branch of the Navy has not always enjoyed the prestige or importance it deserves, particularly in view of the need for education and more particularly because the Navy is becoming a much more technologically orientated service. I am glad that there has been a recent change and that the number of officers in the instructor branch has risen from 25 in 1961–62 to 73 in 1962–63. We hope that this progress will continue. I am bound to tell the Civil Lord that from time to time, during the course of my activities, I meet members of the branch who feel something of a malaise and lack of opportunity in the branch. As it is such an important branch, I hope that that will be remedied.

The other point I wish to raise refers to the scheme which enables qualified ratings who otherwise would be lost to the Navy on completion of engagement to undergo training in civil colleges and to take up careers in the instructor branch. I hope that in the negotiations with the civil authorities the Civil Lord will ensure that there is some remission of the period of study for these people. It is a lot to ask a man who has served a number of years as a rating during his time in the Navy to serve perhaps three years at a civil college and do the same course as someone fresh from school. I know that the education authorities have to keep up their standards, but an older man who so often would make an excellent teacher and instructor, with some experience of life as well as of his subjects, should have some concessions from the civil authorities. I hope that the Civil Lord will bear that in mind.

10.15 p.m.

Mrs. Patricia McLaughlin (Belfast, West)

I hope that at this late hour the hon. Member for Dunfermline Burghs (Dr. A. Thompson) will forgive me if I do not follow him in some of his remarks and the points that he has put forward, as I know that a number of hon. Members wish to make a contribution before the debate ends.

We have discussed very fully many different aspects of the future of the Royal Navy and in the context of the Estimates what we feel should be done. Several points have been put forward suggesting what the Navy should do and several speeches suggesting that we have no right to ask the Navy to do anything in particular, but merely to make the situation possible so that decisions can be taken on its own suggestions. Nevertheless, we have a duty to see that what we put forward and discuss is relative to the Estimates and to the decisions which we are either pressing the Government to take or urging them not to take. In this aspect we have to be extremely careful that we are not mixing up Polaris entirely with the future of the Navy.

Having taken the decision that the Polaris deterrent is to be the independent nuclear deterrent—let me be quite clear that I support the independent nuclear deterrent—we have at the same time to realise that it is not a substitute for the conventional rôle of the Navy. The deterrent has been entrusted to the Navy but it is not in any way an alternative to anything that the Navy has already or will have in the way of conventional defence. We must see our defence from two aspects. First, there is the negative aspect of the deterrent, which we hope will never be used. Thus, we shall have a group of men to use something in an entirely negative way. The other aspect of the Navy should he entirely positive. We cannot have a satisfactory Navy unless it is positive and able to carry out the duties with which it is entrusted. To do this it must have sufficient equipment and be able to operate in areas where it can be used at very short notice.

A great deal has been said today—I am not an expert on this matter—on whether we should have replacement of aircraft carriers, whether we should think in terms of smaller aircraft carriers, or have perhaps some more hair-brained ideas of V.T.O. aircraft taking off from any type of ship. This does not appear to me to be the way in which we should be planning the responsible future rôle of the Navy. We have always been proud of it, but being proud of it is not enough; we have to be practical and see that what we suggest can be carried out and can be put forward as a practical proposition.

If we are to have conventional forces, which I believe that we must have in areas where needed and in sufficient numbers in the Navy to carry out our responsibilities, surely we have to be turning our minds, whether we are experts or not, to putting forward what we believe to be practical suggestions as to what these will be and how quickly they can be put into order so that they will be ready when we need them.

I congratulate the Civil Lord, who gave us an interesting and optimistic outline of the present situation. He has much on which to congratulate himself. When we hear comments such as a new engineering service "we feel that here is the Senior Service" doing its utmost, in conjunction with the Government, to have a forward look. But a forward look is not enough. We must have action, and I have an uneasy feeling that the action is not sufficient.

From listening to what has been said and studying the information available to us in the various reports, I have a feeling that our conventional weapons programme and our conventional shipping programme have got out of phase and that we are concentrating so much on the deterrent—what it should do, its aim and its cost—that we are failing to turn future achievements into definite orders and into the execution of definite orders. With the enormous cost of the Polaris submarines it is difficult not to let this weigh against what we should be doing in other ways, but we cannot afford to let the cost of Polaris appear to diminish what is necessary elsewhere to continue to keep the Royal Navy in a satisfactory state of preparedness for any emergency.

We have been talking about the aircraft carriers. Are we proceeding on the assumption that we shall not require them in the future? Or shall we find that the Navy needs these or some alternative type of ship which will carry aircraft and men where they are needed? Are we going into this question as urgently as possible—and I emphasise "urgently", because if we have to wait a very long time while we have responsibilities abroad we shall be in considerable difficulties. Whatever we are doing with our nuclear deterrent, it should not be allowed to interfere with the basic programme. We must not only be able but be seen to be able to carry out our responsibilities.

We must remember that while we are concentrating on the development of Polaris submarines and nuclear submarines, and thinking of the yards which can carry out the work, we must not permit the skilled men in these yards to be dispersed. As far as we can make out, two of the three yards mentioned will get the orders for the two Polaris submarines. We know the importance of the knowledge and experience in those yards. Are we bearing in mind—I put this to the Civil Lord—that it is not only in producing nuclear submarines that experience is necessary? "Know-how" and experience are very important in all quality shipbuilding. Our shipyards have had a very difficult time. Modernisation has been pressed on them and has been undertaken. In Nortthern Ireland, Harland & Wolff has modernised its yards completely. Where modernisation has taken place there has been a run-down in the labour employed, because a modernised shipyard would never employ the same number of men again, even if it were to fill its stocks as we hope it will in the future.

These yards still have a nucleus of skilled men. They are bringing on a certain number of apprentices, although not nearly enough. But we cannot continue to leave shipyards such as Harland & Wolff half-empty. I put in a particular plea for Harland & Wolff. If people are left too long without work, their skill and knowledge runs down in exactly the same way as that of a man who has been away from work for a number of years and who finds it difficult to start again. We should look at this in terms of Royal Navy contracts. This problem must be considered a long way ahead of the placing of the contract, because if firms are able to plan ahead they have a better opportunity of manipulating their labour force. In the context of this important debate, let us remember that we have to bear in mind the welfare of all the people in the shipyards as well as of the men in the Royal Navy and of our defence as a whole.

When we are considering this point, may I ask my hon. Friend to comment on the possibility of bringing forward any of these decisions which have to be taken? We must not dither as long as we dithered about the decision on the replacement of aircraft. We can go on and on arguing whether this aircraft or this ship is exactly what we want, until in the end we find ourselves a long way behind the programme. With our difficulties in the world, we cannot afford to do that all the time.

I turn to the question of the "know-how" and the work involved in the Polaris submarines. Has the Civil Lord any idea whether it will be possible to sub-contract this work, especially in connection with the auxiliary machinery for the steam turbines? Could this type of work be sub-contracted? There is a great temptation for this type of work to be given to the areas nearest to the companies undertaking the submarine building. Nevertheless, there are firms in outlying areas, such as firms in the North-East, and Harland and Wolff in Northern Ireland, which would be glad to have an opportunity to sub-contract for this work.

I had intended to make many other points, but they have been covered already by a number of other hon. Members. I shall not reiterate them. I have intervened in the debate because there has been a considerable diversity of opinion on both sides of the Committee as to what the future of the Royal Navy should be and as to the Government's future efforts in diverting the ideas into the right channels and agreeing to the ideas advanced by the experts. Today, we are in the position where, having taken up a stand on our nuclear deterrent, we have to take up an even firmer position, namely, that having a nuclear deterrent does not excuse us or enable us to relieve ourselves of the responsibility of maintaining throughout the world all those forces which we require to carry out our tasks and responsibilities.

This brings us back to the personal question of how we are to do this in the context of a really satisfactory set-to of work at home. One question is whether, by building the Navy into a force which is really strong, some people are not over-stressing the cost, including the cost of Polaris, and not concentrating enough on work to be provided in the shipyards which need it, especially those in areas of high unemployment. This would provide employment for the men who can carry out the work which they have been trained to do, which will carry us forward not just over this period but for many years to come, so that we shall be able to say that our nuclear deterrent will always remain a deterrent but our Navy will still be able to rule the waves.

10.27 p.m.

Mr. William Small (Glasgow, Scotstoun)

I recognise that the hon. Lady the Member for Belfast, West (Mrs. McLaughlin) is interested particularly in the redistribution of work to areas which are short of naval work and which have spare capacity in factories. Through the courtesy of the Civil Lord's Department, I was fortunate enough last year to put in some time at sea. I improved my geography and at the same time I learned much of the Navy lingo and many of their odd card games during my spare time.

I received a broad and comprehensive education during the time I spent at sea. I made friends in all walks during my short stay with the Navy. I very much appreciate the work done by these men and I have nothing but the highest praise for the loyalty with which they serve the nation. They brought me back home safely. On one very foggy night I must admit that I was not without my misgivings, and perhaps I had better make it clear to the Committee that I am not a great sailor. However, the Navy men were able to reassure me in these words, You will be all right, sir. We have a good captain and you are on a good ship".

I now want to try to make an appreciation of some of the Navy's requirements and same of the tasks it has to perform in defence of the nation. I must admit that I am relatively untutored in Naval matters, but I respectfully suggest that there are some points which should be examined and special consideration should be paid to the position in which the country has been put at present. I am not falling over myself with joy about the Polaris. If the question whether we should have Polaris had been subjected to a critical analysis in the light of the world situation and if it had been decided that this was the best weapon for Britain, that would have been one thing; but that was not the way in which it was done.

It could be argued that, as the First World War was fought on the land, we should therefore mobilise all the land and conventional farces. On the other hand, it could be argued that, as the Second World War was fought in the air, with towns and cities all over Europe being bombed, our strategy should be to build up a tremendous Air Force. From this it could be argued that, as it has apparently been decided that our defence in future is to be allied with the Polaris, we are accepting that the next world war should be fought at sea. One then more or less dismisses the other two Services.

If one arrives at that decision and, therefore, accepts Polaris as the answer, that is a different thing. But we do not arrive at that decision by that method, and it is for this reason that I am not altogether satisfied that we should duplicate what the Americans have already done. Looking at the problem from a cost point of view, there appears to be no method by which one can say that the building of these submarines in America or the building of them here can be done on a competitive basis.

Why, against that background, build them here? Why not buy or hire them from the Americans and let them do the building? After all, it is only a question of our building four or five of them. It is not like building up for a few dozen. Were we to make a couple of hundred Polaris submarines we could discuss this on a competitive basis, but we are not. The Americans, on the other hand, can talk in terms of hundreds—or, at least, dozens—and it is in such quantities that they usually talk business.

The case in favour of Polaris is, I understand, its invulnerability; its non-detection. Is that a good argument? To discover the answer we must consider some of the remarks in the Statement on Defence, paragraph 47 of which, dealing with equipment, states: Development of a new Dipping Sonar, for use from helicopters, and with a performance superior to … I have seen it in use. Paragraph 48 states: A new sonar set of advanced design has been developed for the nuclear submarines which will give them a greatly enhanced capability in the detection and attack of enemy targets. If I were spending vast sums of money—and if I believed that the nuclear submarine was the real threat—it is on the sort of equipment mentioned in those paragraphs that I would spend a good deal of it.

We have reached the stage, following the abandonment of Skybolt and the process of the anti-missile missile, when we must consider just on what the Americans have been spending their money. Apart from nuclear armaments, it should be remembered that the Americans now have a heavier budget for conventional arms than they have had in the past two years. However, let us return to the nuclear submarine argument and consider the ramifications involved in its detection. If one is to develop Sonar for this purpose, how does one differentiate between submarines? When a submarine has been detected, how does one know whether it is American, British or Russian? It is difficult to see exactly what would happen should hostilities break out, particularly with certain types of submarines at varying depths.

In any case, if the control of Polaris and its warhead is to be effective, one must have an effective command control system. Should British merchant vessels be threatened in a certain spot in the world—say, Cuba—it might be possible to move in with conventional weapons. If one moved in with Polaris, on the other hand, there would have to be some consultation on the strategy to be deployed.

I turn to the question of the security checking system employed in the building of Polaris submarines. Is the Civil Lord satisfied that the security checking arrangements at hand are satisfactory; that the Americans, for instance, have adopted sufficient security measures in this regard and have discovered who is "under the bed", so to speak? This is one of the reasons why it has been suggested by many people that by far the best thing would be to buy Polaris complete. After all, I cannot work up any great enthusiasm for duplicating what the Americans have already done, unless the argument is that, by building them in Britain, benefits will accrue through the money being spent here. When one conies to discuss such matters as the rôle of the Navy and building up this complement of technical weapons, one reads that the primary rôle of the Navy is to safeguard our own merchant fleet and to contribute to worldwide trade by frustrating interference. In view of the amount of money that is being spent in building up this fleet in foreign yards, I would suggest that some effort should be made to bring that work within the British ambit in order to safeguard the British taxpayer.

I must make a constituency point here. It has been suggested that yards on the Clyde should not apply for the Russian contract for refrigerated ships because of the security position and the lack of any compensatory agreement. By July, in Glasgow Fair week, about 50 per cent. of the force in one yard on the Clyde will not be there unless something comes from the Admiralty to till the gap. I suggest that we take a good look at the position before we spend too much money on Polaris. We should also consider well before we spent a lot of money on an aircraft carrier, for if we take on the maintenance of such a vessel, requiring a complement of 2,000 men, it will represent quite a proportion of any defence budget.

10.37 p.m.

Commander J. S. Kerans (The Hartle-pools)

The 11th March is a day that I shall never forget, because exactly 21 years ago at about this time I was sunk in the cruiser "Naiad" in the Mediterranean. The cycle has come round. A new frigate, the "Naiad", is to be launched at Jarrow this year, and I hope that I shall be there to see it.

As I see it, the basic rôle of the Royal Navy is trade protection, our commitments east of Suez, N.A.T.O. and general duties.

Much has been said tonight about the Polaris submarine, and I do not wish to add much more to the comments that have already been made on this topic. I was among those Members who went out to Holy Loch a few days ago. It was a well-worth-while visit. I am grateful to the United States Navy for allowing us to go there and to the Admiralty for organising the trip. I had never appreciated how large these vessels are, of some 7,000 tons and 410 ft. long. The equipment inside the vessels is highly complex and very difficult to understand at a glance. It offers a challenge to our industry, and especially to the unions.

There has been no reference so far in the debate to the great co-operation which will be required to phase this programme to completion by 1968–70. I wonder whether we can follow the American pattern in this. The Americans have a civilian at the head with high authority to cut out red tape from any quarter, the Services or anywhere else; in other words, he is a super-co-ordinator with complete authority to cut out causes of delay and, above all, reduce red tape.

I support those who have asked that, in the building of these submarines, we have the three-shift system. This is vital. While on the subject of the Polaris submarine, I make a plea for the North-East. For the reasons given by the Civil Lord, it is, I appreciate, impracticable to build a nuclear submarine in the North-East, but I ask that some of the thousand-and-one contracts for the equipment, for the steel and so on, shall go to firms in the North-East where we face heavy unemployment.

I hope that my hon. Friend the Civil Lord will do what he can to help a small yard, Graythorpe (Tees) Ltd., with small orders for barges, lighters or the like. Admiralty contracts could be given to tide this and other firms over the present difficult phase. We still have 12 per cent. total unemployment in The Hartlepools, and anything which would help to reduce the level would be more than welcome.

I plead also that when the next lot of Admiralty replenishment tankers is ordered consideration will be given to contracts going to Furness Withy of Haverton Hill. I know that, technically, this is not inside my constituency, but a good many of the employees there come from my constituency and the labour force has been much reduced in recent months. We should be very grateful for anything that could be done to help.

The Australians want submarines built in this country. Is it possible that at least one of these might go to a firm in the North-East? Again, I make the same plea in relation to auxiliary equipment and minor parts. There is the large firm of Richardson Westgarth in my constituency which used to have contracts for Admiralty boilers. Anything that the Admiralty can do to help that firm and others in my constituency and give us some hope for the months ahead would be much welcomed.

I have The Hartlepools Rope Factory in my constituency. Can the Admiralty help with orders for wire ropes and smaller gear of that kind? When I went round Durham Prison some years ago—voluntarily, be it said—I found that it was handling Admiralty orders for fenders, ropes and seine netting. I want help of this kind to come to my constituency.

I come now to the conventional Fleet. On paper, it looks remarkably small—four carriers, two commando vessels, three cruisers and 52 frigates. It seems that little more than 50 per cent. of these can fairly be described as designated for A.S. duties primarily. Modern improvements and highly complex equipment have been introduced since I left the Service, but it seems to me that we are a little weak on the antisubmarine side. We heard earlier today of the considerable Russian threat, but I question how efficient some of the Russian submarines are in fact. Nevertheless, we should not underestimate their submarine fleet, which may or may not have nuclear weapons, the Polaris or its equivalent. For many years, Russian submarines have been going to the Chinese Navy, and, again, we should not underestimate this threat. The same applies to Indonesia, with the possibility in both these cases that there may be Russian crews inside the hulls. All this considerably increases the threat to the Far East. Especially bearing in mind the shrinkage of our bases in the Far East, how are we to be certain that in the years ahead we have a secure base at Singapore? In all the negotiations before the forthcoming advent of Malaysia, what guarantee have we that the viability of the base will remain for ever?

In the N.A.T.O. rôle, everything is fairly satisfactory. With the large number of exercises that take place, co-ordination and the morale factor have been steadily improving year by year. Elsewhere, the Navy has taken part in operations following the British Guiana disturbances and at Brunei as well as performing, with little publicity, a continuous anti-piracy rôle off Borneo and the Philippines. The Navy continues to "show the flag" in such places as Aden, Jamaica and Trinidad, and I should like to see a little more of this, but do not let us forget the home ports. I should like to see something a little larger lying off the port of my constituency, for example. We need publicity in the right direction. We have had too much of it in reverse.

Mine is an area where sea cadets thrive and do extremely well. This can be said also of many areas on the North-East Coast. We have a great naval tradition. Many ex-naval officers and ratings reside in the area. The former Chaplain to the Fleet, who has just retired, was born and bred in The Hartlepools. We have a recruiting officer in the area and a visit by a major ship would be a great fillip to the area and to the recruiting authorities, who cover a large area of the north of England. I know that my hon. Friend the Civil Lord has recently been to my constituency, and how welcome he is. I should like to see him there again on a future occasion. All we have left of the Navy, apart from a recruiting officer, is a few ships left over from the Reserve Fleet whose future seems rather doubtful.

I should like briefly to refer to the new defence set-up, which I welcome, but I have one proposal to put to my hon. Friend the Civil Lord. What is to be the future of Naval Intelligence? In the new White Paper, the D.N.I. staff is carefully lumped together with the rest of the naval staff. As far as I can see, however, the staff numbers 136 naval and 141 civilian personnel, a total of 275, the same as last year. On paper, this seems to me to be a lot, and I have considerable experience from the time I spent in D.N.I. Is there not a duplication of effort here and will this lot be moved lock, stock and barrel into the new setup, or is there to be a further splitting-up or can we reduce these numbers?

While speaking of movements, I find it difficult to understand why the Admiralty have moved from Queen Anne's Gate to Earls Court, which, judging from the Fifth Report from the Estimates Committee, involves an increased cost of £353,000 which, presumably, is accounted for by the high rates in the area. We have had enough congestion already at Earls Court without adding this lot to it.

I am glad to see that the publicity of the Royal Navy is improving, but I am a little downhearted to find from the White Paper that the money to be devoted to this purpose in 1963–64 is down by some £4,000. I should have expected just the reverse, especially when we need considerable recruiting for our Polaris submarine crews and bearing in mind that we must have two crews for each Polaris submarine.

On the whole, I think the Navy has done well in its publicity and advertising, apart from a little adverse publicity over H.M.S. "Blake", which, to my mind, has been a little unfortunate. If only the whole story had been printed, it would have been put in quite a different aspect.

Visits to the Fleet, which the Admiralty welcomes Members of Parliament to make, are most important, and I welcome them. It is surprising how quickly one gets out of touch with what is going on. Briefly—I find little to comment on—the men feel happy, there is no question of pay differences, foreign visits are welcomed by young ratings and the food seems to be excellent—in fact, better than I can ever recall in my youth. Re-engagement figures also prove that there cannot be very much wrong with the Navy at the moment.

The Royal Navy, with the Polaris programme, faces a very formidable challenge. But let us not forget the conventional fleet vis- -vis the Russian conventional fleet. Our maritime rôle is still there, and always will be so. The Royal Navy can play a great part in our export drive by increased visits to ports as well as by showing the flag, and coupled with trade exhibitions. More showing of the flag in home ports will help recruiting, and especially visits by sea cadets when the ships get there.

I ask the Civil Lord to do all in his power to help my constituency in any way, large or small, by placing orders and work as early as practicable in order to reduce unemployment and hardship in The Hartlepools.

10.57 p.m.

Mr. F. H Hayman (Falmouth and Camborne)

I echo what the hon. and gallant Member for The Hartlepools (Commander Kerans) has said in regard to unemployment in his constituency and the shipyards there. In Falmouth we have yards where ship-repairing is carried out, and in the last four months we have had unemployment rates of 14, 13, 12 and 11 per cent. there. So we appeal to the Civil Lord that Falmouth shall have a share in whatever repair work it is capable of doing. I have referred in the past to smaller craft which might be built in the small yards in Falmouth. This should be looked into again. I would remind hon. Members that there is no available work within 200 miles for the unemployed men in our ship-repair yards.

Before I come to a rather critical note, one not expressed in the debate so far, I want to make it clear that in no way do I criticise the officers and men of the Fleets. I have the utmost respect and admiration for them; I always have done, and I hope I always shall. But when it comes to the Admiralty, to Whitehall, I am afraid that comes to a full-stop. The hon. and gallant Member hoped there would be enough men to man the Polaris submarines when they come into being—if they ever do—because each one requires two crews. I do not pretend to be a naval expert; I am just an ordinary Member of Parliament with no knowledge of all these statistics. But it seems to me that millions of pounds were spent on H.M.S. "Blake" recently and now it has to go into "mothballs" because the Admiralty cannot find a crew for it. I do not know whether the Admiralty has the same sort of prospect in view for us over the Polaris submarines; but there is a ray of hope for the country that there will be a change of Government within the next twelve months.

Let us recall the great changes made by the Prime Minister last July. Great changes? One-third of the Cabinet was dismissed but the Admiralty still has a man from Eton as First Lord and a man from Harrow as Civil Lord. The Minister of Defence is from Eton. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why not?"]. Because of the mess the Admiralty and the other Service Departments have made in recent years, along with other Departments of State.

I hope that the Civil Lord will say something about the Admiralty boat which foundered off Clovelly during a winter storm. In another incident, a naval vessel broke adrift off the North Cornwall coast. Violent gales had been predicted and yet these two ships were sent to sea around Land's End and up the Bristol Channel. Had it not been for the lifeboat men at Clovelly and the helicopter fliers these incidents would have been worse still. There was a third disaster off Land's End. I beg the Civil Lord to get in touch with the Minis- ter of Transport to arrange for the building of a harbour, probably at Clovelly, to cater for ship disasters of this kind.

I should like to have said something about the building of barracks for the Marines, but I understand that we cannot refer to that in this debate because it is a subject which is now part of the Ministry of Public Building and Works Estimates. I tried to get the Estimates of that Ministry last Thursday, but was told that they had not been printed—yet another example of the futility of the Government.

Here we are to spend £1,837 million in this next year on defence, £441 million on the Navy. Are we sure that we are really to get value for money? By contrast, the Education Estimates do not provide for a single new school in Cornwall. Yet I have two appalling schools in my constituency alone. A replacement for one was to have been started this year, and we are not now sure if it will be, while a replacement for the other was to have been started next year.

The Minister of Education will tell us, however, that we must cut our coat according to our cloth. Why not cut the £1,837 million for defence? I am sure that we could lop off £200 million without affecting the efficiency of the Navy. I hope that something of the kind will at least be taken into consideration.

I believe we are to spend £750,000 on rebuilding the Marine barracks at Devon-port and now the Admiralty wants to spend £400,000 on new barracks at Bickleigh which are not really wanted and should not be built there. I shall seek some other method of bringing that matter before the House. In the meantime I ask the Civil Lord and hon. Members to read a letter in the Daily Telegraph on 5th March from Lady Sayer who gave details of this project. In the B.B.C. programme "Tonight" last Friday an hon. Member criticised other hon. Members for not being present at the debate on the previous night. I do not see that hon. Member present tonight.

11.0 p.m.

Mr. G. W. Reynolds (Islington, North)

We have had a far-reaching debate which has covered the many aspects dealt with in these Estimates. They go from the comparative small amount of expenditure on the redecoration and renovation of Admiralty House at Portsmouth, which is probably correct expenditure, to the very large amount of expenditure on the Polaris submarines and possible aircraft carriers, which I think is hardly right in the present circumstances. The debate has been interesting and was marred only by the illness of my right hon. Friend the Member for West Bromwich (Mr. Dugdale). I wish to add my word of sympathy to those already voiced regarding my right hon. Friend who was to have addressed the Committee. I know that he spent a great deal of time on preparing the various points which he wished to raise. Unfortunately he collapsed and I understand he is now in hospital gravely ill. We all wish him well.

In the short time available to me, I wish to discuss some points which have already been made—but there is no harm in reiterating them—and to make one or two new points. First, however, I wish to join issue with the hon. Member for St. Ives (Mr. G. R. Howard), who took the line that it was not the business of this Committee to debate the type of equipment, the aircraft carriers and the submarines which should be provided for Her Majesty's Navy. The hon. Member thought that the Navy knew what ships it wanted and it was not for us to deal with the matter. I cannot, and nor, I think, can the Committee, accept that it is not the function of hon. Members to look at all aspects of the Navy.

If the Navy is thinking of spending £50 million on one ship, it is well within our responsibility, in fact, it is our responsibility, to take a close look at the type of ship to be built. I am not an expert in these matters, and the Civil Lord and the First Lord have a number of experts to advise them on what is considered necessary, but it is our job to question what is being asked for by the Government and perhaps to put forward alternative schemes, and it is for the Civil Lord to justify the spending of any sums of money. It is right that we should question the expenditure of large sums of money, and I cannot agree with the hon. Member for St. Ives that it is not our function to do so.

The hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Horncastle (Commander Maitland) put the case for carriers. But I was not sure to which type of carrier he was referring. He made out a general case for carriers. We could go in for an attack carrier or a support carrier to replace the vessels coming to the end of their allegedly useful life by the end of the 1960s. It depends very much on the type of carrier and the purpose for which it is to be provided, the purpose for which we are to spend £50 million.

If it is an attack carrier, my hon. Friends and I cannot see why we should be building it. We are told it is to be of 55,000 tons; it will probably be bigger than that by the time that it is finished, because these ships have a habit of growing as people bring forward new ideas about equipment. The figure may start at 50,000 tons and creep up to 55,000 tons, and I am sure that before it is finished the figure will be 60,000 tons. This would bring us close to the large attack carriers of 70,000 tons provided by the Forrestal class in the United States Navy. I cannot see what use an attack carrier would be for the Royal Navy. An attack carrier is no use on its own. It must be part of a task force. There would have to be two other aircraft carriers to look after it. There will need to be probably a dozen or so escort vessels to look after the aircraft carriers and to protect them from surface and submarine attack. There will need to be at least two or three killer submarines to go with the task force vessels.

As has been pointed out in this and other debates, carriers and other ships have to go in for refitting. Therefore, more would be needed to allow them to go for refit every two, three or four years. In the exercise "Riptide 3" there were four carriers and thirty-six other ships forming part of the task force to protect and supply them. So, if we are thinking in terms of a carrier to carry part of the nuclear deterrent—which is what some hon. Members opposite want to see—we are thinking in terms of committing a large proportion of our naval services and killer submarines to the carrying of what I think would be an insignificant part of the Western deterrent.

When we were talking in the debate the other day about the range of the TSR2 doubt was expressed whether the TSR2 would be able to go to Moscow and get back to the United Kingdom. I do not think we need worry unduly about the Buccaneer getting back to the carriers. What worries me is whether the carrier would be there to land on when the Buccaneer got back. One found from exercise "Riptide 3" that claims were made that several carriers in the task force were hit. A statement was made in the N.A.T.O. Journal—which I should have thought probably right—that the French aircraft carrier "Clemenceau" was attacked and the "Forrestal" reported seeing a green grenade fired, which would mean that there was an attack on her. Journalists talked of much more havoc being wrought on the carriers in that force.

I do not see that such a carrier would give us any particular advantage as an independent contribution to the Western nuclear deterrent. I see no particular advantage to us in attack carriers on the American pattern.

If, however, it is intended to provide an aircraft carrier to support the attack force that was graphically described in the Explanatory Memorandum to the Estimates last year, that is a different matter. Then we were told of task forces in the plural. When the hon. Member for Haltemprice (Mr. Wall) asked for a task force to the east and another to the west of India with carriers, assault craft and helicopter carriers in the Indian Ocean and everything else, he was committing a large part of our N.A.T.O. contribution and pretty well all the 100,000 men to that particular aspect of defence. He may be right, I do not know, and if he had stopped there I should not have taken issue with him, but when he went on to talk of Aden, Singapore, N.A.T.O., and Malta and so on I felt that I had to part company from him because I do not think that all that would be in the realms of possibility or of our economy at present.

If we are talking in terms of a support carrier to go with a task force, I could support that and vote in favour, but in that case I cannot see that it should be a carrier of 55,000 displacement. I visited the aircraft carrier "Hermes", which, I understand, had been completely refitted a few months ago. It was a very pleasant visit. I understand that "Hermes" has a displacement of about 28,000 tons, and I should have thought that an aircraft carrier of that size, or a little bigger, would have been able to give adequate air support for the type of engagement which one commando ship with two battalions of commandos will be expected to undertake.

I realise that it is not only the flight deck which determines the size of a carrier. There must be room to stow the aircraft, and room to stow all the other stores; and there must also be room for the flying personnel, the maintenance personnel and the men who run the ship. Nevertheless, with vertical-take-off aircraft coming along, and even though we can get only three, or possibly four, squadrons of aircraft on an aircraft carrier of 28,000 tons, surely if a landing force goes ashore we should be able to carry enough aircraft on a small carrier—a carrier of the size that I have indicated—to support the troops when they first go ashore.

If we are thinking in terms of using vertical-take-off aircraft in the future, surely it will be much easier than it is at present to provide landing facilities very quickly for aircraft ashore, after the troops have landed. With the use of vertical-take-off aircraft, it would not be necessary for the troops to capture a major airfield with concrete runways, as it is at present with the operation of highspeed supersonic fighters. With vertical-take-off aircraft, once the troops have landed and have pushed a mile or two inshore, it should be possible quickly to arrange facilities for the aircraft to land on shore.

I am not an expert, but it seems to me to be worth while considering the provision of a vessel to accompany a comparatively small carrier of the size of the "Hermes." We could have accompanying ships of one kind or another which would be able to carry additional aircraft and personnel. The aircraft could immediately be flown from the accompanying ship off a small platform. They could then operate in support of the troops ashore, once a bridgehead had been established—and presumably there would be enough aircraft on the smaller carrier to provide support for the capture of that bridgehead. This type of approach should be considered. It involves a very much smaller carrier than the 55,000-ton carrier which at present it seems the intention to build.

On my visit to that aircraft carrier I noticed that the vessel is crammed with radar and electrical equipment of all kinds. I wonder whether all this equipment is necessary for an aircraft carrier which is operating in support of a commando type of operation as a fire brigade force. I imagine that this fantastic amount of equipment would be necessary in a carrier if one contemplated a full-scale fleet action or a repetition of the Midway and other Pacific carrier battles of the last war. But I can hardly believe that the masses of equipment which I saw in that carrier would be necessary for the much simpler operation of backing up a commando force in a fire brigade operation. The amount of equipment provided and needed in this type of carrier is another question which should be considered.

A large amount of the radar equipment necessary for an operation of that type could be provided in another ship. After all, we have specialist craft of one kind or another to provide radar support and wireless, and there might be some advantage in certain cases in taking some of the radar equipment at present in an aircraft carrier which is to take part in this type of operation and seeing whether any of it can be put in smaller ships.

I turn to a question which has run right through the debate—the Polaris submarines. At least two hon. Members opposite took the opportunity of this debate to make the speeches which they were not called to make in the defence debate on the question of the Polaris-equipped submarines. I found myself in general agreement with a good deal of the speech of the noble Viscount the Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Viscount Lambton)—

Viscount Lambton

Will the hon. Member speak a little more slowly when he is dealing with this question?

Mr. Reynolds

I try to talk slowly when I address people who are not used to listening to speeches, and perhaps the noble Lord does not listen a great deal. But I make the assumption that hon. Members are capable of picking up my speeches, as, in some way, the HANSARD reporters in the Gallery seem able to pick them up.

I want to turn to the question of the Polaris-equipped submarine. We have been told by the Civil Lord that there will be anything up to four of them, and that it is hoped to have the first by 1970.

Presumably it will be about 1966 before any physical work starts on these craft. There is a great deal of design work to be done, which will take a couple of years, and that takes us to some years ahead. I understood the Civil Lord to say that it would be 1964. In any event, if the dates are between 1964 and 1970, it will presumably add between £30 million and £40 million—perhaps £30 million—to the annual cost of providing ships for the fleet.

Earlier in the debate my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Willis) drew attention to the great increase in the value of new ship construction which it is intended to start during the current year. I hope that the Civil Lord will be able when he winds up the debate tonight to tell us exactly what craft are included in this increase and whether we have to assume that the provision of the Polaris-equipped submarines must be added on top of the very large increase in the amount of money which is foreseen in the Estimates for this year and also whether the cost of any aircraft carrier which is being built has to be added. I noticed that the figure to which my hon. Friend referred is the final cost of equipment whose construction is starting this year, whereas we are assuming that construction of the aircraft carrier will not start this year. The Civil Lord told us that the four Polaris submarines he hopes to get going by 1964. I hope that he is able to give us some details of exactly what is included in the amount my hon. Friend mentioned.

Mr. C. Ian Orr-Ewing

Just to get the record straight, I said that some physical work would start in 1964, not that all four would get going.

Mr. Reynolds

Quite. One would expect that some physical work would start. I think I was probably nearer the mark in saying that in 1966 the actual construction of the submarines would commence. It is not only the provision of the Polaris-equipped submarines. Work must be started on facilities at Rosyth in order to be able to service them. In the very near future some facilities for the servicing of nuclear powered submarines would have been required, even without the Polaris fleet coming along, because if the Polaris fleet had not suddenly been thrust upon us we should have had a rather larger conventional type nuclear-powered submarine fleet than is now the intention. We shall obviously need facilities at Rosyth, whether the Polaris fleet comes along or not, for looking after the ordinary type submarines. Many of the facilities will have to be provided anyway, but extra facilities will now be required.

It is not only a case of building and providing the submarines. There is also the maintenance of them. Even then, will teat be all? One hears that in America they are at the moment thinking in terms of Polaris-equipped submarines being escorted in the 1970's. It is argued that by then detection apparatus will be such that it may even be necessary to provide an escort of a hunter killer submarine for each Polaris submarine. This may seem fantastic. When I first heard it, I thought that it was fantastic, but apparently American thinking is along the lines that there will come a time when a Polaris-equipped submarine, to be an effective deterrent, will have to be safeguarded from Russian hunter-killer submarines and that the only way to do that will be to provide an escort of another nuclear hunter-killer submarine.

I see that some hon. Members seem to be in doubt about this, but this is what I have heard is being discussed in America. As the years go by, the chances of the Russians detecting submarines will increase. Things have moved so fast in the last twenty years that I would hesitate to forecast what will happen in the next ten years. If Russian nuclear submarines—the Civil Lord said that there are twenty of them already—are able to find Polaris-equipped submarines, something will have to be provided to protect our Polaris-equipped submarines. We may be letting ourselves in for a bill far in excess of anything so far presented to the House of Commons.

This will add little to the Western deterrent. I cannot conceive that there will be any action of any kind where we will wish to use this weapon independently, if indeed it will be possible to use it independently. I know that a large number of Answers have been given by the Prime Minister, the Civil Lord and others, as to the way in which these submarines can be used independently, but I cannot imagine America providing us with a weapon which we can use independently and which would trigger off the whole of the American deterrent and, what is more important from the American point of view, the Russian nuclear deterrent as well. I remain very sceptical about the independent use which can be made of this weapon. I cannot imagine it being used for a Brunei- or Kuwait-type operation and I cannot envisage any other type of operation which we can conduct in separation from our Allies in N.A.T.O.

Nevertheless, we are to have these vehicles. I am opposed to them for the reasons I have stated—the cost; the fact that it will add very little to the total amount of the Western deterrent; and the fact that I do not believe that it is independent. I believe that the money to be spent on them would be far better spent in improving other Navy ships and other aspects of our defence forces.

We were told in the defence debate—it was mentioned today also—of the proposed merging of the Service Ministries, which, it is alleged—I hope that it is true and proves successful—will cut out a certain amount of wasteful competition, amongst other matters, within the Services. That may be useful and it may save some money and manpower. At the same time, however, there is a certain amount of wasteful competition taking place within the Services.

In this connection, a few months ago some of my hon. Friends and I were able to pay a visit to the Royal Naval College at Greenwich. We were extremely well looked after and entertained and we found the visit most instructive. I was rather surprised to learn when there that that College and the Royal Naval Engineering College at Manadon are both running similar courses. Both are running three-year London University courses for a degree in electrical engineering. On making inquiries I found that at Greenwich—where all the necessary facilities are available, physical, tutors and professors; everything one would need in a university department to provide this three-year course—there were about 20 pupils in their final year, 12 in their second year and three in their first year.

I believe that only three or four people are known as being able to take part in that course when it restarts next September. We cannot afford in this day and age to waste resources of this kind. Thus we have at Greenwich —and I have been in touch with the Civil Lord by correspondence and I have been asking Questions about this for the last six months—the equivalent to a university department in electrical engineering and it is not fully used at the moment. The Civil Lord has informed me that, following investigations he has made, the Greenwich College could take about another 12 students a year to fill up the course.

I have stressed in many Questions the need for him to allow civilians to take up these vacant places. It appears that the Civil Lord is somewhat worried about the security aspect of allowing this, but I am afraid that I cannot understand his fears. After all, at the College at Greenwich at present there are various foreign naval officers, not all of whom have come from N.A.T.O. countries. If they have come from N.A.T.O. Powers they have been cleared through the N.A.T.O. system. There are others, however, who have not been so cleared; some of them from South American and other countries. Some of them, I know, have taken courses at other naval colleges behind the Iron Curtain.

In any case, there are in force arrangements to cover the security aspect of this problem. Equipment which is secret is kept in special places and is not made generally available. If, for example, a particular lecture is being given certain officers are told in advance, "You can have the day off tomorrow." If this system is satisfactory for non-security cleared alien officers—and if they can float around Greenwich more or less at will—I cannot understand why a nineteen-year-old civilian British student should not be allowed to attend the College.

Surely any naval officer would be able to pick up any security information he wanted while at Greenwich? In comparison a university student in his first year in electrical engineering would be hardly any security risk at all. I understand that the Civil Lord is trying to make arrangements for civilian employees of other Service Ministries and the Ministry of Public Building and Works to take up some of the vacancies. I hope he is successful, but I cannot believe that he will fill 12 places in that way each year. He may get a few people after a lot of scratching around on this occasion for the coming course next September, but that is a once-and-for-all operation. He will not be able to go around the Ministries each year trying to fill the places at Greenwich. I hope that, whatever action he takes, he will ensure that all the places at Greenwich are filled every year, for we cannot afford to waste these facilities.

I have not made extensive inquiries about other departments at Greenwich, but I understand that there is a lack of people in certain other sections. As I said, the College at Manadon is running a very similar, if not identical course, so we must not waste these facilities. There is, in fact, a need for the Civil Lord to take a look at the facilities available at Greenwich as a whole. Senior officers are taking the Senior Officers' War Course there now and there is the Naval Staff Course. I suggest that they do not necessarily want the Royal Naval College. They want premises, four walls and living accommodation. They do not need all the equipment of the Royal College. There are empty ward rooms and barracks at Plymouth and Portsmouth where these courses could be housed.

I am thinking aloud at this point. I suggest that there is a case for looking at Greenwich which has wonderful residential accommodation and is fully equipped. Indeed, it has better equipment than any university, with the exception of Cambridge. I would not compare it with Oxford. Its equipment is at least as good as that at Cambridge. It has an atmosphere which cannot be re-created in a modern steel and concrete structure. There may be a case for considering the question of turning the college over to use as a normal university with special facilities for the assistance of naval students. I suggest that this is a suggestion which could be considered and perhaps put into operation in a few years time.

There is no time tonight, but I hope that in the debate which I understand we shall have on Monday next we shall get more information from the Civil Lord about the new mechanical engineering service that he mentioned earlier today, exactly what it means, where it is to be located and how it is going to work. If the hon. Gentleman has not time to say more about it tonight, perhaps we can press him on Monday next.

I hope also that the Civil Lord can give us more information about the larger Wessex helicopter which was stated to be coming along. According to the Explanatory Memorandum, it is to become available later in the year. What is meant by later in the year''? We would like more information, either tonight or next week, on whether there will be enough of them to re-equip completely the commando carriers "Albion" and "Bulwark".

I should like to consider the strength of the fleet which i3 mentioned in the Explanatory Memorandum. I do not think that the figures which are mentioned check very well. We are told in the Explanatory Memorandum on the strength of the Fleet that there are two commando ships; yet the Civil Lord today mentioned that "Bulwark" is being refitted at Devonport. Surely when the Memorandum was printed it was known that only one of them would be active throughout the year and that the other would be refitting. We understand that something went wrong during the Brunei operation, that one of the aircraft carriers was on the way home and another on the way out and that there were no commando carriers and no aircraft carriers in the area where they ought to be. There seems to have been a serious miscalculation, because this was the sort of area where the task force should have been. We had the task force, but we were in the middle of a swap-over when it was needed. Why the aircraft carrier could not have stayed out there a little longer, I do not know, but perhaps the Civil Lord can tell us about that.

We are told in the Memorandum that we have three cruisers. Yet "Blake" has been put into reserve. Why was this sudden decision taken, between the date of the printing of the Memorandum and this debate today, to put a new and expensive cruiser into reserve? Is it true —the Committee has a right to know—that the Navy was not in a position to man that cruiser with the technical ratings because those ratings are needed to man the new "County" class destroyers which are coming along later in the year? Are we in possession of so many ships of cruiser size that we have not got the men to man the lot?

We have a right to know, especially as a Sunday newspaper yesterday carried the story, which the Civil Lord has not completely denied, that the cruiser "Tiger" is going to be put to sea with some of its equipment in mothballs because there are not the technical ratings to use it. The Civil Lord gave a very naive answer in reply to a question on the point. Will he tell us what is the actual position? Is that cruiser going to sea fully manned with technical ratings with all of its equipment in operational condition? If not, apparently there is some truth in the story in the News of the World. In fact, we have not got three cruisers. We have got 1½.

When we consider the 16 destroyers that we are alleged to have, we find that three are not yet in service. The new "County" class destroyers will not be in service before the end of the year. Four of the C.A. class destroyers are of the "emergency war design", all completed before 1945. Four of the "Battle" class destroyers were laid down before 1945 and completed very shortly afterwards. In fact, they are not really destroyers now; they are radar pickets, though they are still classed as destroyers in the official descriptions.

Of the 36 frigates, four are not yet completed and six are of war-time construction. Of the 35 submarines, 20 were laid down before 1944, although a large number of them were rebuilt during the 1950s. We were told in the newspapers the other day that two fairly recent submarines, the "Explorer" and the "Excalibur", built in 1956 and 1958, are now to be taken out of service; indeed, one of them is to be scrapped. The Daily Mirror said that "Explorer", built in 1956 at a cost of £2 million, and "Excalibur", built in 1958 at a cost of £1.1 million, had an under-water speed of 25 knots and are alleged to have been built to assist in nuclear hunter-killer submarine training. One is to be scrapped, and the Admiralty is alleged to have said, according to the Daily Mirror, that they are too expensive to run.

Surely, there must have been some idea, four or five years ago, how much it would cost to run them. Here again, I hope that the Civil Lord will either completely deny the story or give us the true position about these two submarines. The Civil Lord started by telling us of the Russian threat. He said that ports were being constructed all about the world, and the Russians had 400 submarines, 20 with nuclear propulsion and many with nuclear ground-to-ground missiles fitted. At the same time—this is what some hon. Members opposite do not seem to have realised—the Royal Navy has, over the years, been closing ports, not opening them. I was in Bermuda recently, and I was depressed to see the large naval dockyard there which has been closed for eight or nine years now. We had a complete cruiser squadron there some years ago, when the Labour Government was in office and things were very different. Now, we have two frigates stationed in the area. In the papers tonight, we see reports of what is happening in Malta and discussions with regard to the virtual or complete closure of the naval facilities there in the near future.

There are two reasons for these facts. First, we are, of course, in alliances of one kind and another. We are no longer in a position where it is necessary for the Royal Navy to police all the sea routes of the world. This is something which some hon. Members opposite do not seem to appreciate. We have got to trust our N.A.T.O. allies. We have to trust the United States and work in our naval forces and our other defence forces with the Americans.

The other factor is that the economy of this country has been stagnating now for many years and we are not able, for that reason, to bear the cost of providing the forces which we should have been able to provide if the economy had expanded as well and as quickly as it should have done, but did not, under the Government of right hon. and hon. Members opposite. This means that, probably, the next general in Northern Command B.A.O.R. will be a German; and it means, according to the evening papers tonight, that the next admiral in command in Malta will be an American or an Italian admiral.

This is the position of the Navy today. Some of it arises from our treaty obligations, but some of it is due to the general attitude of the Government.

11.34 p.m.

The Civil Lord of the Admiralty (Mr. C. Ian Orr-Ewing)

I shall not speak quite so fast as the hon. Member for Islington, North (Mr. Reynolds), but 1 shall try to cover as many as possible of the points which have been raised. If I cannot reply to all, perhaps I may write to hon. Members. I have made a note, on average, of about ten points in every speech that has been made.

The outstanding point of the debate was the very good attendance throughout. There have been from 25 to 50 people in the Chamber all the time. They were people who have taken a close interest in defence matters. We even had one Liberal with us for one hour out of.the eight, so it must be quite a record. I should like to thank those hon. Members. I know that in a busy life, organisation is necessary to take time off to go to sea to.learn about our ships and to keep up to date with modern practice and conditions. I should like to thank all those who have taken the trouble and pains and whose speeches have clearly reflected their up-to-date information.

I should like to echo what has been said about how sorry we were that one of my predecessors, a previous Civil Lord, the right hon. Member for West Bromwich (Mr. Dugdale), should have been taken so suddenly and gravely ill. We hope that he will recover.

Three or four themes have run through most of the speeches in the debate. The first has been the question of aircraft carriers. With the exception of my hon. Friend the Member for Gosport and Fareham (Dr. Bennett), with whom I should like to have an argument some time and to whom I should like to point out some of the fallacies in his thesis, I think that every hon. Member, on both sides of the Committee, has generally supported the idea of aircraft carriers, provided that they would not be attack carriers, as the hon. Member for Islington, North said. I shall be able to give the hon. Member a good many assurances on several of the points he made, but I assure him now that we are not contemplating an attack carrier. These carriers are for the support of amphibious operations and also, of course, for the protection of our seaborne routes and shipping, both mercantile and naval. particularly east of Suez.

There is a difference of opinion about the size of carriers. To get it straight. I repeat, as I said last year, that 53,000 tons deep displacement is the design on which we are working. To put the matter in perspective, "Ark Royal" and "Eagle" are both 50,000 tons deep displacement. We always said that these ships would be about the same size as Ark Royal "and Eagle" and I stick to that figure. Also to put the matter into perspective, the "Forrestal" class of vessels are much bigger. Their deep displacement is about 76,000 tons, or 50 per cent. bigger than the - Ark Royal or Eagle"I mention this only because hon. Members tended to say that we were getting up into the size of the Forrestal" class. We are certainly not doing that.

Hon. Members then went on to say how vulnerable these carriers were. One hon. Member quoted the N.A.T.O. "Fallex" exercise and another quoted the "Riptide" exercise. In these N.A.T.O. exercises, the carriers operated in a supposed nuclear war. We hope that our carriers will not be involved in a nuclear war. In those two exercises, they were operating against probably the most sophisticated air attack that is operational in any part of the world, possibly the most up-to-date air attack that exists.

Mr. Willis

Surely, those carriers were reported to be sunk in the "Riptide" exercise by submarines and not aircraft.

Mr. Orr-Ewing

In some cases, in the "Fallex" and Riptide" exercises, there were different reasons. I concede that in some cases, however, it was done by submarines.

Hon. Members should not consider that carriers are all that vulnerable. In many ways, a big ship can have built-in invulnerability, in that its compartmentalisation is more effective than in a small ship. We have learnt a tremendous amount about damage control since the last war arid our ships are designed to withstand a hit. Including the whole range from the very light carrier right up to the big carriers, there were 198 United States and British carriers during the last war. Of these, 19 were sunk. This figure includes those sunk by the Kamikaze suicide fighter aircraft which carried bombs. We have learnt a lot since then. Therefore, it should not be assumed that a large ship is vulnerable. In many ways, it can withstand much more damage than a small ship.

There have been suggestions of sizes from 10,000 tons to 53,000 tons. Of course, we are considering the pros and cons, but I made the point earlier, and I remind the Committee of it, that for 25 per cent. additional cost as between a 40,000-ton and a 50,000-ton carrier, double the number of aircraft can be carried.

My hon. Friend the Member for Gosport and Fareham suggested that some of the V.T.O.L. aircraft might be put on light merchant ships. I remind him, however, that the all-up weight of the naval version of the 1154 is likely to be 40,000 lb., or approximately 20 tons. If three were to be put on a small ship, it would be necessary to supply also all the servicing personnel, the very sophisticated servicing equipment for all the radar, as well as the gadgetry which is essential if the aircraft are to be effective in their operational rôle.

I would mention, too, that we are designing our aircraft carriers so that they can carry on with the use of the Buccaneer in the early 1970s, and, of course, they will also have to launch the airborne early-warning attack. So they will probably retain the catapult, although it may not be essential in all cases for the 1154.

I was asked by the hon. Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Willis) whether the R.A.F. and ourselves were working in competition. This is not true. The R.A.F. is thinking in terms of air bases or airfields, probably of shorter length and lighter construction than the present concept, and we are thinking in terms of mobile air bases, and certainly in terms of cross-operation with an aircraft which is basically a common aircraft between the two Services. This is another theme on our interdependence. I am sure that these two Services will grow together, and if they can use each other's servicing personnel and landing grounds, whether on sea or land, so much the better for the safety of our interests.

I turn to the question of Polaris. Many figures have been bandied around.

The hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) earlier talked in terms of £400 million, and once £800 million crept in. The broad estimate is £300 million, to be spread over eight years—the 1963–70 period. About 98 or 99 per cent. of the Estimates we are discussing is for the conventional, traditional rôle of the Navy, and only a very small amount is for the Polaris project.

I should like to correct a point the hon. Member for Leeds, East made in the defence debate. He said that this can operate only in a few inland seas. I think he was thinking of the Round Pond and so on. But the Mediterranean is 1 million square miles in area, and these can operate well out into the Atlantic. We have the whole of the North Atlantic, the Norwegian Sea and round the north of Norway. It would be a total misconception to think that it is only in the Baltic, the Black Sea and the Mediterranean that they can operate. They can operate wider than that and still continue their rôle as a useful deterrent.

The hon. Member slipped into the error of saying What are four Polaris submarines?". I cannot do better than quote the right hon. Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown) when he said that they were equivalent to 2,500 Hiroshima bombs. Surely 2,500 Hiroshima bombs are a deterrent which will make anyone think most carefully before they challenge us or try to blackmail us? I feel that these are worthy considerations.

My hon. Friend the Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Viscount Lambton) started a line of thought on which I am afraid I could not agree with him. I know he is anxious about a "lock" mechanism which will somehow be retained in American hands. I can reassure him, as I tried to do in an intervention, that this is not true. They will be sold to us and operated by us, and no remote "lock" mechanism exists. It was suggested by him—it was the theme of many speeches by hon. Members opposite—that when we went from Skybolt to Polaris it was a total change in defence policy and that there was a total change in the kind of independence. I will go through the two weapons and ask where a change exists.

Skybolt was using a British bomber with British engines. Skybolt itself and its control equipment was American, and it was to have a British nuclear warhead. The Polaris submarine is a British boat with British engines. The Polaris body will be American, and its control equipment, but, again, it will have a British warhead. They are absolutely the same except that Skybolt was an airborne missile and Polaris is a seaborne missile. From the point of view of independence there is no change. I cannot see why people should say that our defence policy has totally changed overnight because we have changed from one weapon unproven to a second which is proven.

Viscount Lambton

May I ask my hon. Friend—this has nothing to do with any "lock"—whether we have had an absolute assurance from the United States Government that every single detail relevant to the production of the Polaris submarine would be given to us at the present time?

Mr. Orr-Ewing

I can only say that I cannot answer for every single detail but that we have the utmost faith in the United States promise and in co-operation with the Americans, and that we are getting all the help we possibly can in this connection.

There is yet another difference between these two weapons which I would have thought which have appealed to the Opposition. Skybolt, unless permanently airborne, would have been a first-strike weapon, whereas Polaris is a second strike weapon and therefore the more attractive in the long run.

Mr. Willis

indicated assent.

Mr. Orr-Ewing

There does not seem to be all that measure of disagreement between the two sides. There is only disagreement on the measure of independence, and I have sought to show that there is not much difference.

Mr. Willis

We have never quarrelled about the efficiency of Polaris but only about whether or not we should go in for it. That is a different point altogether.

Mr. Orr-Ewing

I think that it was not on moral grounds.



Mr. Orr-Ewing

Then that was the Liberal line. I think the Opposition's line was on the effective degree of independence. I will go through the speeches again but that is my impression.

Mr. Pagetrose

Mr. Orr-Ewing

I am afraid that I cannot give way again, for time is getting on.

Our hunter-killer programme has been mentioned and the pause in building criticised. I concede that there will be a pause, but it need not be all that long, because the 03 will probably finish building early in 1967. It is the third of the hunter-killers.

Dr. Mabon

Where will it be built?

Mr. Orr-Ewing

At Barrow.

Dr. Mabon


Mr. Orr-Ewing

Yes. The first three are "Dreadnought", "Valiant" and 03. The fourth could be laid down in 1967, because that is the year when the first Polaris nuclear submarine will go down the slipway. so that a slipway will be available for another hunter-killer. There will, therefore, be a continued, almost overlapping, programme. There is an interregnum. I admit, but not as large as has been suggested.

The hon. Member for Islington, North tried to make a point about the number of old ships. The average life of a ship is 20 years, so that by their very nature half of our fleet will be ten years old. I sought to show in my opening speech that of our 36 frigates 28 have been built in the last six years and that another six are on order or building. That is not a bad record.

We have really modern frigates of the "Leander" and "Tribal" classes. The United States concedes that the design of the "Leander" is one of the very best. The Dutch are copying it and the Australians are deeply interested. It is recognised generally as being an outstanding design.

The hon. Member also asked about "Excalibur". I do not blame the Labour Government for this. They also backed some bad horses in defence. They backed the "Brabazon" airliner and the "Princess" flying boat as well.

They backed "Excalibur" and "Explorer". At that time H.T.P.—high test peroxide—was the latest underwater high-speed submarine we would get. The principle and the design were taken from the Germans. The underwater speed was 25 knots and two were put into production. One of them now needs refitting, but because the cost would be more than £1 million the Government have come to the conclusion that this could not be justified at a time when the nuclear submarines, with very high underwater speeds and far greater effectiveness, are on the way. So we are letting "Explorer" go while "Excalibur" will be retained in the operational fleet. A lot of the figures which have been quoted about this are not correct.

My hon. Friend the Member for Gillingham (Mr. Burden), who represents the Chatham interest—

Mr. Burden

I do not. Certainly, 75 per cent. of the Chatham dockyard is in my constituency and I represent that interest.

Mr. Orr-Ewing

I was speaking in a flattering way about my hon. Friend. He represents many people who work in the dockyard, and he does so vigorously, as I know from my post-bag and telephone. The Admiralty have given careful consideration to the use of Chatham for refitting and also for the building of nuclear submarines. It recognised that the record of success of Chatham for building conventional submarines is outstanding. But it came to the conclusion that Chatham must take a relatively low place in the order of priority for nuclear work. Nuclear submarines, and particularly Polaris submarines, are extremely valuable vessels, and in every way we have to make certain that they are operated and repaired under the best possible conditions. Therefore any unnecessary risks should never be taken. I am sorry to say that a careful estimate has shown that the navigational risks of taking these vessels up the approaches to Chatham, which are winding and relatively lackina in depth, are greater than for the port which we have chosen. Nevertheless, and this will please my hon. Friend the Member for Gillingham, the special skills which Chatham has built up will continue to be required for the repairing of conventional submarines and the yard can count on its full share of dockyard work.

Mr. Burden

Does my hon. Friend really expect that anyone with any knowledge of the Chatham yard will believe what he has just said about it being unable to deal with these submarines with absolute safety and efficiency? It is just not true.

Mr. Off-Ewing

I was not casting aspersions against the dockyard but against geography. It is the entrance and the winding river to the dockyard on which I was casting aspersions. We have no axe to grind on this issue. We had objectively to assess the risk and decide from the start the best place, and we decided on Rosyth. I hope that the Committee will approve that decision.

I was asked by the hon. Members for Dunfermline Burghs (Dr. A. Thompson) and Gillingham and my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Portsmouth, West (Brigadier Clarke) about wages in the dockyards, especially with regard to unskilled labour. This matter is under active discussion by the Whitley Council at the present time and it would not be right for me to put one side of the question to the Committee, because understandably the trade unions would say that was a breach of confidence. But I hope that in due course there will be a satisfactory outcome. I fully concede that this is a matter which has required attention for some time. The question of housing at Rosyth was also mentioned. Perhaps I could take that matter up with the hon. Member by correspondence.

I was asked about "Blake," and several hon. Members teased us about this. I wish to give four reasons why this action had to be taken. First the Malta run-down had gone very much more slowly than we anticipated, when we thought that we could re-man "Blake" at the end of her refit. There were 400 to 500 men extra at Malta, and the Committee will know the reasons. Secondly, the "Albion" was in commission and new ships were coming forward for commissioning far more rapidly than was expected. It is rare to have three"County"class and nine "Tribals" and "Leanders"coming forward in the next six to nine months.

Mr. Willis

The Admiralty knew they were coming forward.

Mr. On-Ewing

But ships have a way of "slipping to the right," shall I say, for many years. Recently building has gone far more quickly because of the lack of work. The hon. Gentleman asked what the Supplementary Estimate was due to and £3½ million was due to the extra speed of construction. This was one of the repercussions. We had to find a complement for them. Fourthly, there was a short-fall in recruiting two or three years ago for electrical and electronic skills. I will write to hon. Members lather than bore the Committee with the ten measures that we have taken to overcome the shortage. But I can assure the hon. Gentleman that it will be overcome as soon as conceivably possible. The hon. Member wanted an assurance that "Tiger" was to stay. I give the assurance categorically that "Tiger" will remain with the operational Fleet, fully operational.

A good suggestion was made—a suggestion we are looking at carefully —that "Blake" could be used as a training ship. My noble Friend is very keen that this should be looked into most carefully to see if we can man it up as a training ship, because it is vitally important that we should get sea billets for these young men at the earliest stage.

Perhaps I may be allowed to leave the question of the electrical list and the new Admiralty Engineering Service until the Committee stage of the Estimates next Monday.

I should like to say a word about the recruiting organisation and naval publicity. I touched on this last year, and the Committee is aware from the progress report then that it has been kept under review. Like other Services, we are renaming recruiting officers and offices as careers officers and offices. I think this is a right approach. We have brand-new offices in provincial cities, for example, in Birmingham, Northampton and Aberdeen, and modernisation has been completed in a number of other cities, including Swansea, Truro and Leicester. The most radical reorganisation is taking place in London. We are opening a new headquarters in High Holborn towards the end of the year. Our plan is to close existing offices in the London region and to substitute for them new and better offices in the middle of some of the lively and growing communities twenty or thirty miles away—for instance, in Guildford, Chelmsford and Luton. We are far from complacent about our efforts in this sphere.

Naval publicity is a subject to which we are always giving close thought, very largely because of its impact on recruiting. There are many things which can be done. I attach special importance to visits of H.M. ships to our ports and coastal towns and the opportunities they provide for introducing people, especially the young, to the sailor and his job and equipment. One cannot take ships to Leeds or Birmingham, but we can take them to seaside towns where people from these inland towns take their holidays and there is no better way of seeing the ships, the Navy and the standard of the young men we have on the lower deck and as officers. I am sure that this is one of the useful steps we can take.

My hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, West (Mrs. McLaughlin) asked if I would try to see that some of the subcontracts for Polaris submarines could be steered in the direction of Harland & Wolff. I shall certainly look at that. I cannot be too hopeful, but I shall examine it most carefully because we understand the serious difficulties which exist in Ulster.

I think I have dealt with the main points which have arisen. I could deal with a whole host of others. I hope that now the Committee will pass these Estimates and approve them. As I have said, they deal 98 per cent. or 99 per cent. with the conventional rôles of the Navy, so we could have the whole-hearted support of the Opposition as well as that of this side of the Committee.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved, That 100,000 Officers, Ratings and Royal Marines be maintained for Naval Service, for the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1964.

Resolution to be reported.

Report to be received Tomorrow; Committee to sit again Tomorrow.

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