Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a number of Officers, Airmen and Airwomen, not exceeding 140,000, all ranks, be maintained for Air Force Service, during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1965.
§ 3.52 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for Air (Mr. Hugh Fraser)
The Estimates which I introduce today follow the pattern described in the White Paper on the Central Organisation for Defence. I hope that the right hon. Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell) will find no fault with the layout. Yesterday, he found some fault with the layout of the Navy Estimates.
I also hope that no hon. Member will be inhibited in his remarks this afternoon by the new and surprising statement which has been made by the Leader of the Opposition about our forces overseas. It is very remarkable that yesterday we debated the Navy. I see rumours in this morning's newspapers that the Navy is to be given away, like the deterrent. Doubtless this will be cleared up, as these things have always been cleared up by hon. Members opposite. All I want to make clear, to satisfy the right hon. Member for Easington, is that what I am putting forward is within the Defence White Paper as laid down.
Although the form of presentation and the title are new, the Vote headings remain unchanged. The net total of the Defence (Air) Estimate for 1964–65 is £504 million and this is very close to the figure in the original Estimate for 1963–64. The great bulk of this expenditure falls under two main headings— 1141 just over half goes on material, of aircraft, weapons and equipment of all kinds, and most of the remainder on manpower costs.
In the defence debate last week we considered the broad pattern of defence. Although I am always happy to resume this debate, I do not think that the Committee will want to go over the same ground this afternoon. Instead, I would like to treat these Estimates under five main headings: manpower, the rôle of the Royal Air Force and how this rôle has been fulfilled this year, the equipment of the force, the question of management, and, finally, the future of the Royal Air Force as seen by the twentieth and presumptively the last Secretary of State for Air, unless certain gallant hearts and heads of oak in another place hold up the launching of the new "Leviathan," but this they are unlikely to do.
First, manpower. The condition of this, without any words from me, reflects the spirit of the Air Force. What is more, men are the key to any system, machine or capital investment. Here I can report that the Royal Air Force is in good shape. The sum of£175 million for their pay and other emoluments takes account of the third biennial pay reviews and the actual increases will take effect from 1st April. I believe that this highly satisfactory situation as regards the manpower of the force reflects the belief of the young citizen of this country of the future of the Royal Air Force.
To take aircrew first, last year we recruited all we required, except for one air electronics officer. The entry to Cranwell was the highest for several years and we continued to have a satisfactory flow of candidates from the universities to the general duties branch, many of whom had already flown in university air squadrons. The 18 university air squadrons provided 56 entrants, and we look to those and to the new university cadetship scheme, which was introduced last year, to provide a steady flow of graduates to the general duties and technical branches and supplement the provision of permanent commissions from the cadet colleges. In the future the Royal Air Force must aim to obtain its fair share of the increasing output of university graduates. We are cer- 1142 tainly under pressure from the universities to increase our number of squadrons, and this is a pressure I find agreeable.
The encouraging aircrew recruiting picture has produced a better standard of entrant. This, taken together with the introduction of basic training on jet aircraft from the outset, has resulted in a market falling off in the number of failures during training. This is good news and gives us a better return for considerably less cost.
The technical branch is fully manned, but there is some shortage of suitably qualified officers in their late twenties and early thirties. We are now making special efforts to attract qualified engineers from civil life and have introduced a new internal recruiting scheme, which offers commissioned service in the technical branch to ex-apprentices with good Ordinary National Certificates, plus practical skill, in lieu of the minimum requirement of two G.C.E. A levels which applied previously.
I turn now to airmen. Hon. Members may have observed from the table at Annex C to the Air Force section of the White Paper that roughly 90 per cent. of airmen are on regular engagements of nine years or more. This is a very satisfactory figure. Although there are minor shortages in certain administrative trades, these are due not so much to any failure in recruitment, but to a temporary lack of balance between trades, which is unavoidable in a period of change. These shortages are offset by small surpluses elsewhere.
Because the overall manning position is so encouraging, we needed to recruit relatively few men directly during the past year. Later this year, however, we expect to be able to offer an increased number of vacancies for civil applicants and I have, therefore, kept the recruiting machine in being. Last year we recruited all the apprentices and boys required. Here I am again glad to say that the standard of applicants was high and competition for vacancies from very keen.
Finally, recruitment to the Women's Royal Air Force has been good. My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary will deal with other detailed points of this nature because, as I have said, it is the 1143 key to any Service that one should attract the best possible type and that there should be competition for the vacancies which occur. This, today, is true of the Royal Air Force.
I turn to the rôle and tasks of the Royal Air Force. Details of the work of the various operational commands were set out in the Statement on Defence, and I do not wish to weary the Committee with unnecessary repetition. As I said in the defence debate last week, the rôle of this country is neither that of the two giant Powers nor that of a purely European country. Geography, as Dr. Barnes Wallis has pointed out, places us in as naturally an advantageous a position in this century of air power as did our oceanic position in previous days. Our commitments overseas also dictate that rapid movement gives air power for us a central importance.
Everyone who listened to last week's debate was struck by the speech of the hon. Member for Lincoln (Mr. Taverne) and hon. Members will have noted the stress on flight refuelling in the White Paper and the need for ever longer ranges for our aircraft.
I would now like to say a few words about the various commands. First, as to Bomber Command. I dealt at some length last week with the assignment of the V-bomber force to N.A.T.O. and its deterrent capability, particularly in the low-level rôle. This afternoon I should like to repeat that we have now met the greater part of the capital expenditure involved in building up this force; expenditure on aircraft and weapons, on airfields, technical buildings and a great variety of ancillary services.
From now until the end of the decade the cost of the V-force will average out at less than 2 per cent. of the defence budget. And I would remind the Committee that for this sum we are getting not only a deterrent, but also a very large conventional capability indeed.
§ Mr. Frederick Mulley (Sheffield, Park)
Since the right hon. Gentleman is dealing with the cost involved, can he tell us what the total cost has been up to date?
§ Mr. Fraser
The total cost has been given in terms of the general figure. 1144 That figure has been quoted at about £1,000 million, including pay, equipment, and so on, over the period during which this has been building up.
§ Mr. Fraser
The figure I have given is a general one. It is a large sum and is based over the 10-year period. The hon. Gentleman can work out what the cost will be in the future comparatively easily. Although he will arrive at a somewhat round figure, this is a very large sum and I am sure that he can make the calculation.
There are three points I should like to mention in connection with the low level rôle of the V-force. In the defence debate last week the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown) asked what would happen to the black boxes when they were being buffeted at low level. Severe turbulence can be, and is, experienced at high level. For this reason all the black boxes incorporate anti-vibration mountings and we do not expect in the low level mode any particular difficulty.
As regards navigation at low level, we have been gratified at the high degree of accuracy that has been obtained in trials and training using existing equipment in the aircraft. This is at once a tribute to the equipment in the aircraft and the very high standard of the aircrews, for low-level navigation requires different techniques, including a different method of route analysis before each flight.
My third point about the V-force concerns fatigue life. This has been gone into thoroughly with the help of the experts, including R.A.E. Farnborough. A great deal of theoretical and practical study has been done and in this area the state of the art has advanced greatly in the last few years. We are confident that there is plenty of life in the aircraft to cover comfortably the period with which we are concerned. The future programme has been planned on the basis of giving the aircrews sufficient training at all levels to exercise the maximum number of options.
During the past year the B.M.E.W.S. station at Fylingdales, which provides the essential early warning for the 1145 deterrent force, became operational within a very short time of the date originally forecast. This represents a considerable engineering and constructional feat, to which I should like to pay tribute. The B.M.E.W.S. station is administered by Fighter Command, which will be receiving the first of its Lightning Mk. IIIs equipped with Red Top later this year.
A major task of the command is the reinforcement of overseas theatres, and this has been regularly practised. I draw particular attention to the participation of a Javelin squadron in air defence exercises in India in the autumn and the fact that this detachment subsequently practised reinforcement of the Far East. This is a very good example of the flexibility of air power allied to the techniques on in-flight refuelling. We are increasing the size of the tanker force and re-equipping it with Victors.
Turning to Coastal Command, for operational duties the Shackleton continues to give excellent service and the introduction of a new homing torpedo will increase its operational capability. I am sure that the Committee would wish to join with me in paying tribute to the many skilful rescue operations carried out, often in conditions of great hazard, by helicopters and other aircraft and by mountain rescue teams and marine craft.
For the air forces in overseas theatres the past year has been one of great activity, both in training and operations. In the Far East we have continued to support internal security operations in Northern Malaya—with transport, air supply and reconnaissance. Operations in Borneo have required a very large airlift of men and equipment from Singapore to the main forward bases, and this has been carried out by the theatre transport forces supplemented by Transport Command.
In this extremely difficult country, troops operating in the forward areas can in many cases be supported only by air, and the medium and short-range transport aircraft and helicopters have done a first-class job. Further, Whirlwinds and Belvederes were sent to the Far East during the year for this task. The Far East Air Force has also provided aircraft for reconnaissance as well 1146 as fighters to deter aircraft from intruding over Malaysian territory.
In the Middle East the medium range transports from Aden have supported Army detachments in Swaziland and also flew in troops to East Africa at short notice in January. Some details of the worldwide activity of Transport Command are given in the White Paper.
During the two months since Christmas, to meet the emergencies in East Africa and Cyprus, Transport Command has flown more than 6,500 men and 700,000 lb. of freight, including 10 helicopters and over 500 vehicles. During this period, moreover, the Command has maintained its scheduled services. I am sure that the Commie tee will agree that this reflects great credit on the Command and illustrates the efficiency of the liaison between the Army and the Royal Air Force.
Before leaving the subject of the operational commands, I should like to pay tribute to the work that the R.A.F. Regiment is doing, particularly in the Far East and in Cyprus. A squadron of the regiment was engaged in the peace-keeping operations in Cyprus from the beginning and was subsequently reinforced. These units have done a magnificent job in most difficult circumstances,.
To sum up, the V-bombers will provide the strategic deterrent until Polaris is fully operational. We shall continue to support our allies in N.A.T.O. CENTO and S.E.A.T.O. and to give help to our friends and protect our interests overseas by the provision of striking power, of air defence with fighters and missiles, of maritime air power and of long, medium and short-range transport to carry troops and equipment wherever they are needed throughout the world.
In selecting new equipment we must preserve a balance between the demands of these various rôles. Hon. Members opposite have pressed us to provide more transport aircraft and I agree with them that we must have more. These we plan to provide. But there is no point in carrying soldiers and their equipment half way across the world if one has no air defence to protect ones transports and no ground attack and strike aircraft to support or deter attack on them when they have arrived at their destination.
1147 I must remind the Committee that many countries in the Far East and Middle East have been supplied with modern combat aircraft in very considerable numbers and that this process is likely to continue. Past experience, sometimes bitter experience, has shown that without air superiority there can be no successful operations on the ground. Unless we have combat aircraft which can deter or, in the last resort, repel air attack, our ground forces and those of our allies will be in jeopardy and all our investment in transport aircraft will have gone for nothing.
With this principle in mind, I would like briefly to survey our future equipment. In paragraph 169 of the Statement on Defence we have tried to indicate the main aircraft and weapons which will be purchased out of Vote 7 in the coming year. The lack of this information was something to which members of the Committee drew my attention last year and we have tried to go some way to meet this point. I should also refer to my right hon. Friend's statement in the defence debate last week about new equipment for the R.A.F.
For short-range work on the transport side, the build-up of the Wessex helicopter force will be complete this year, and we shall then start acquiring the military freight and passenger version of the HS748. A little later, we shall get deliveries of the Belfasts and VC1Os we have ordered to augment our already substantial strategic transport fleet of Comets and Britannias. Then, later in the time scale, we shall be replacing our medium-range Hastings and Beverleys—and, eventually, the Argosies, too—with the revolutionary new HS681 tactical transport.
This will be a really large STOL transport aircraft, big enough to carry the helicopters of our short-range transport force, and able to drop paratroops and heavy loads from the air as well as to land on short rough strips. Full development of the HS681 has now been authorised, and I look forward to the day when this one new type will replace the existing three types of tactical transport, for it will be a major milestone on the road to the rationalisation of our aircraft equipment.
§ Mr. Mulley
Can the right hon. Gentleman tell us when he expects the first HS681 aircraft to be in squadron service? Further, the right hon. Gentleman says that this aircraft is to replace the existing three types of tactical transport, but does that include the HS748, which is not yet in service?
§ Mr. Fraser
No. That will be in service, I hope, certainly by the end of the decade—six years from now—and it will replace the Hastings and Beverleys and, to some extent, the Argosies. And there is a variety of miscellaneous aircraft that we are still using for transport—
§ Mr. Fraser
For the V-bombers, low-level supersonic Blue Steel missiles will be delivered this year; more powerful and more varied electronic counter-measures have been introduced; and the new weapon to which I referred in last year's debate will be coming in due course.
As the Committee knows, a production order is being negotiated for 30 TSR2s, which will be taking over from Canberras in a few years' time. We expect the TSR2 to make its first flight shortly; its engines are ready, and the aircraft that will make the first flight is being moved by road tomorrow from the B.A.C. works at Weybridge to Boscombe Down for this purpose. As the TSR2 is coming along, we are improving the performance of the Canberras by arming them with the AS30 air-to-surface guided missile. This is designed for use against fixed targets, such as bridges, parked aircraft and airfield installations, and also against heavilyarmoured vehicles, such as tanks.
Full development has now also been authorised of the P1154. As the Committee is aware, strenuous attempts were made last summer to produce a common replacement for the Hunter, and the Royal Navy's Sea Vixen, based on the P1154. This proved impracticable—the difference between the rôles of these aircraft was too great—but the attempts were worth while, for much was at stake. The aircraft that will now be developed for the Royal Air Force will be a simple, more rugged version of the supersonic VSTOL, P1154.
1149 In the meantime, the joint evaluation programme for the P1127, which we are undertaking with the Americans and the Germans, will enable us to get the practical experience of VTOL techniques which will, I am confident, have a revolutionary effect on the methods and tactics of air warfare, especially in support of ground troops.
In the interceptor rôle, the Mark III version of the Lightning all-weather fighter will be coming into service this year. This fighter is a great advance on the Mark I and Mark II from the point of view of both speed and range. It is equipped with a highly complex radar system which, in conjunction with Red Top, will give it a far better attack and interception capability. Red Top is a very advanced air-to-air missile that has been developed to match the per, formance of the Mark III Lightning, and to provide it with an integrated weapon system capable of dealing with supersonic targets on a collision course.
We shall also be reinforcing our air defences abroad later this year with the air-transportable Bloodhound 2 surface-to-air missile system. Compared with the Bloodhound 1, there is a considerable advance in the capacity of this weapon both on range and general performance. For use with both the Lightnings and Bloodhounds we shall this year be buying four Sperry AN/TPS34 air-defence radars which will be used in conjunction with British display equipment. We shall be able to move these new radars, too, in our medium-range transport aircraft quickly to any trouble spot that might flare up abroad.
There remains the maritime rôle. The modernisation of the Shackleton force continues, and we shall be equipping the Mark Ills with Viper auxiliary jet engines to improve their take-off performance. As I have frequently told the House, intensive studies have been going on to decide how best we can replace the Shackletons; whether by some interdependence venture or by the adaptation of a type already in existence or planned. The Ministry of Aviation is now evaluating studies that the industry has undertaken into these problems, and it should not be too long before we are able to come to a decision.
1150 These are some of the equipments we shall be obtaining for the Royal Air Force. With them, we shall have air power that will provide the means of swift reaction, rapid reinforcement and flexibility of response—all characteristics essential to our defence strategy.
I should like now to refer to the management of our resources. I am sure that everyone will agree that this is one of the great problems of any armed force, where the costs of development and equipment are so very high. Our aim is to provide the most effective front-line that we can get from the money available, but it must be based on a solid foundation of effective machinery for training, supply, communications, and so on.
We often concentrate too much on the front-line, and on questions of new aircraft and weapons, and there is a tendency to forget that the front-line is as it were, no more than the visible part of the iceberg. For the visible part to be effective, one has to see that the rest of the iceberg is, if I may mix the metaphor, properly managed. If operational squadrons are to be able to perform their rôle effectively, they must be properly backed by the essential minimum of support facilities. I say "essential minimum" advisedly, because it must be the aim to provide these extremely costly supporting facilities in sufficient, but no more than sufficient, quantities to support the operational task.
§ Mr. E. Shinwell (Easington)
Perhaps the Minister will be good enough to tell the Committee what is available for support. Is it not true that he has nearly 5,000 civilians on the staff at headquarters? Is it not true that, with the out-stations and the industrial staff, those personnel are far in excess of the 103,000 officers and men that the right hon. Gentleman has in the Royal Air Force? He has plenty of support—in fact, I think that he has too much.
§ Mr. Fraser
We always look forward to what the right hon. Gentleman will say. I had intended to touch lightly on some of those points—
§ Mr. Shinwell
I have no intention of making a speech. I am enjoying the right hon. Gentleman's speech and following it very carefully. He talked about 1151 support, and I merely asked a question that he should be able to answer at once. He has the facts before him, and must know how many there are at headquarters —there is a large body of civilians available at headquarters—and how many at the out-stations. He must be able to tell us something about this vast army of civilians.
§ Mr. Fraser
The details are in the Estimates in front of us, but one of the processes to effect economy has been that of civilianisation which, I am sure the right hon. Gentleman will agree, has been one of the objects of both parties since he was in office. But there is a limit to civilianisation, because people backing the R.A.F. may, at an appropriate moment, or at the moment, have to be engaged in combat. I therefore think that we may almost have reached the limit of civilianisation in the Royal Air Force. My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State will deal more fully with this question when he winds up the debate.
The main problem, that of management, entails a constant endeavour to allocate our resources to the best advantage by scrutiny of establishments—and here my hon. Friend can give figures which will be of interest to the right hon. Member for Easington—by the reduction of overheads, by the application of techniques of management and work study, by economic deployment, by taking advantage of the speed of air transport for the delivery of equipment to reduce stocks, and by insisting, wherever possible, on simplicity and reliability. Only by the constant application of these and similar techniques can we get the most effective return for our money.
I know that hon. Members have taken a great interest in Mr. McNamara's statement before the House Armed Services Committee of the United States Congress on 20th January. References were made to it in the defence debate. I, too, have been studying these matters. Mr. McNamara gave a few examples of what he calls value engineering savings—the elimination of what he graphically summarised as gold plating. Direct comparison with our own procurement is possible only in one case. The United States, by lowering the specifications for tweezers for first-aid kits, reduced unit costs from 50 cents 1152 to 15 cents. I am happy to inform the Committee that tweezers to the R.A.F.'s specifications cost only about 8d. a pair. Perhaps our economy drive started rather earlier than some people imagine.
Across the whole field of management we continue to take stringent measures to secure economy. We have overhauled arrangements for providing the Royal Air Force with communications aircraft, at a saving of £300,000. We have increased the length of overseas tours and so saved a further £300,000 in travelling costs. We are concentrating units on the minimum number of stations and are so saving overheads. We have pressed on with manpower establishment reviews and work study. My hon. Friend will give more details of these later which, I hope, will be of some assistance to the right hon. Member for Easington, who asked this extremely interesting and intelligent question.
I turn to the future. On 1st April the Air Ministry will cease to be a separate Department. The office of the Secretary of State for Air will disappear and a new appointment of Minister of Defence for the Royal Air Force will come into being. The history of the Air Ministry as a separate Department has not been a long one in comparison with that of many of the other Departments of State. Nevertheless, it has been eventful. Looking back on its short history, it is extraordinary to think that the Air Ministry has frequently had to battle for the maintenance of the air arm. It is an almost incredible thought, but historically it is true, and it sometimes makes one ask whether it was safe to leave war in the hands of politicians.
§ Mr. Fraser
But we have come through all this, and I am now happy that my right hon. Friend has succeeded in pushing forward the reform, which springs not so much from development in aviation but from the fact that in present circumstances there must be a single unified authority to determine both the policy and the financial arrangements for all three of the fighting Services. The identity of the Royal Air Force and its sister services will be firmly maintained, as will the high standard and tradition which the Royal 1153 Air Force has so gloriously built up in its short history.
In matters of administration and discipline the Air Force Board, under the new organisation, will stand in much the same relationship to the Service as the Air Council does today. I welcome this new organisation, which will have great opportunities. This new Department, if I may say so with respect to my right hon. Friend, will perhaps have something to learn from the junior of military Ministries where the happy combination of civil servants and airmen, who have grown up together in the task, has made the Department instinct with efficiency and, I believe, amongst the most competent of all Government Departments.
This unification is also, I believe, an opportunity for concentrating still further the management of air power. Today, it is only sixty years since man effectively broke into the air. We are only on the verge of the full use of this element. Huge new vistas arise in technology, laminar flow and variable geometry. New forms of propulsion, new metals, new techniques, new possibilities of speed and movement, make it essential that this country should remain in the van. This can be achieved only by a proper and concentrated use of our resources.
Today, the Royal Air Force has the men and, I believe, will continue to attract them. Over the next years we shall be giving them machines worthy of them—the Lightning Mk.III, the P1127, the HS748, the Belfast, the VC10, the TSR2, the HS681 and the P1154. But, beyond this, the future of this Air Force stretches out as unlimited, I believe, as man's own determination to master and explore the firmament.
§ 4.27 p.m.
§ Mr. Frederick Mulley (Sheffield, Park)
This, in a sense, is a historic occasion, because we are probably participating in the last Air Estimates debate in its traditional form. We have certainly heard the last speech from a Secretary of State for Air. I am sure that it will have been noted with pleasure by all hon. Members that the right hon. Gentleman for this occasion returned more to his normal style from the synthetic passion which he managed to produce last Thursday. It is not unfair perhaps to 1154 say that it is characteristic of the right hon. Gentleman—as it was of many of his predecessors—that he tends, particularly in his peroration, to talk about aeroplanes which do not exist and which may or not be in existence in the next five or six years.
We do not know exactly what form the new Estimates will take, or the new debates which will arise from the decision to amalgamate the Services under one Minister. There is a great deal in what the Minister of Defence has said —that we ought to try to have more informative debates on defence, perhaps taking in fields of controversy rather than going Service-wise as we have done hitherto.
Our argument is that the amalgamation or the new structure, which the Opposition have supported, will not solve the basic problems of our defence system. We see that it is an improvement, but until we have a policy and the right priorities we shall not in substance have any great improvement. As Members we want much more information than we have had hitherto. Our complaint is not about the shape of the Defence White Paper and the Estimates, but about their content, or lack of content.
I heard many years ago a story about a Minister who got lost in the fog. I think that it is apocryphal, but it might well apply to the present Minister of Defence. The Minister lowered the window of his car and asked a passer-by where he was. The local man simply said, "You are in a fog" and himself disappeared into the fog. The Minister, in a burst of un-parliamentary language, remarked to his private secretary how unhelpful it was. The civil servant replied, "I am bound to say, Minister, that the answer was completely within the rules which we have in the Department for answering Parliamentary Questions. It was accurate, it was concise and it told no one anything that he did not know before." I am not sure how far the right hon. Gentleman fulfilled the first and second requirements, but we certainly have the impression that his object is to tell no one anything that he does not know already.
I hope that the Secretary of State and the other members of the new Defence Ministry will study the speeches of the 1155 United States Secretary of Defence, not only for their admirable content but also to see how far not only Members but the public at large could be informed about the problems of defence without any breach of security. The constant answer that it is not in, the public interest to answer our questions is, by implication, a criticism of the U.S. Secretary of Defence, that he is letting down the alliance by giving away all this valuable information. If the United States Congress can be told in public, why cannot we? I appreciate that American Senators and Congressmen also receive a great deal of off-the-record information which, with our existing procedure, would not be possible here, put in public documentation we have a long way to go to catch up with other Parliaments.
Talking of Mr. McNamara, I hope that the Minister will at some time take the opportunity to correct the serious error he made in his speech last week when he gave the wrong number of Minuteman missiles which the United States has now and will have in 1966. I know that the Minister is more concerned in these debates with local applause here than with informing the public outside, but there are people who read and take as accurate the Minister's statements, and I ask him, therefore, to take an opportunity to correct what was a very misleading statement about the size of the United States missile force.
I come now to the question of the efficiency of the Royal Air Force. On this, there is nothing between the two sides of the Committee. We are immensely impressed by the high standard of efficiency which all sections of the Royal Air Force have achieved, and in the visits which many of us have been able to pay to various stations at home and abroad we have been much struck by the high quality of attainment. When we differ on policy with the right hon. Gentleman, this is an expression of view about the political responsibility and direction and in no sense implies a criticism of the officers and other ranks of the Service. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will be good enough to convey to all units which have received visiting Members of Parliament at home and abroad during the year our appreciation of the very great trouble they have 1156 taken and of their generosity in time and hospitality in making sure that our visits are as pleasant and as useful as possible.
It will be the wish of the Committee, also, to pay tribute to the errands of mercy and rescue work of Coastal Command, recorded in paragraph 188 of the White Paper. During the year, 206 people were rescued by the R.A.F. and two members of the Service received medals in recognition of their gallantry on these occasions.
I endorse what the Secretary of State said about the efficient and ready manner in which the Royal Air Force has supported our operations all over the world, in Malaysia, Borneo, Swaziland, British Guiana and East Africa. We endorse what he said about the R.A.F. Regiment, too. I hope that the Under-Secretary of State will tell us something about the plans for the R.A.F. Regiment. It is, in a sense, a different part of the Royal Air Force. Are there plans to increase its strength? It would be useful to know the actual strength now apart from the general strengths given in the document.
It is commendable that it is an airman, Air Chief Marshall Sir Denis Barnett, who has had the very heavy responsibility of taking charge of our peace-keeping mission in Cyprus. I am sure that he deserves the appreciation of the whole Committee.
I commend R.A.F. Germany on its success in two competitions in AIRCENT. When one bears in mind the considerable disadvantage under which it competes very often in the speed of the aeroplanes under its command compared with those of its competitors, one realises that it was a particularly worthy performance. I ask the Secretary of State to convey our congratulations to the people concerned.
Now, manpower. My hon. Friend the Member for Barnsley (Mr. Mason) will he developing some aspects of this subject in more detail later. The significant fact about manpower is that there is a steady decline in the total strength of the Service. Does the right hon. Gentleman expect the decline to continue or have we, in his expectation, reached the end of the run-down? Although, clearly, it makes recruitment easier—I do not wish in any way to denigrate the very satisfactory 1157 recruitment which the right hon. Gentleman has announced to the Committee—the run-down probably does create problems of adjustment within the Service, problems of promotion, and so on. I hope that the Under-Secretary of State will tell us whether there are any bottlenecks in promotion for officers and other ranks as a result of the adjustments which have been made after the end of the Thor programme and the fairly sizeable general reduction in the strength of the Service over the past four or five years.
We are told in paragraph 223 that there is to be a new trade structure for the ground trades coming into force on 1st April. May we have a little more information about how it is proposed to change the career structure for these other ranks? One has the impression that there is a certain sense of frustration and uncertainty among other ranks about whether their expectations of promotion will be fulfilled. Corporals who have been corporals for nine or 10 years wonder whether, if it had not been for the cutback, they might already have been sergeants, and they are wondering whether they will ever get the promotion they felt entitled to expect.
Generally speaking, man management in the Royal Air Force is outstandingly good. It will be subject to greater strain at this time, and I hope that the new scheme will be fully explained to all the people affected. This rather brief phrase that there aresurpluses in some trades and deficiencies in othersought to be amplified. We attach great importance to the men in the aircraft having adequate and efficient technical support on the ground, and this is an increasingly important matter now in Royal Air Force affairs.
I come now to several small points regarding manpower and welfare, most of which I have made before but without getting very far. First, the thorny question of the local overseas allowance. Will the Government give us an assurance that they are reconsidering this, and, in particular, whether it can be given to the personnel in Berlin? I have in my possession a circular from the N.A.A F.I. which explains why everything in Berlin costs much more than it does in Britain. This is understandable, of course, because of transport 1158 and the rest, but when the Air Ministry is asked to give the local overseas allowance in Berlin the reply is that, of course, prices in Berlin are just the same as they are in Britain and it cannot be given. This is a serious injustice to people who are discharging a very difficult job in the Berlin garrison.
The education allowances paid to Service men abroad still give rise to difficulties. The right hon. Gentleman will have noted the paragraphs in the Plowden Report which make proposals for improvements both in the number of visits by children on holiday to see their parents and in the amount of allowance for boarding school education. There has for long been a feeling in the Service that Service men ought to have the same standards in this respect as members of the Foreign and Commonwealth diplomatic service. In any case, if the Plowden proposals for the Foreign Office and the Commonwealth service are accepted by the Government, I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will ensure that comparable improvements are made for Service men serving abroad, particularly in respect of the two holiday passages a year for children. This separation of children from the family is one of the most difficult burdens of service in the Armed Services abroad.
I wish to make a point about housing. It was brought to my attention recently that it is extremely difficult for an ex-Service man to obtain a mortgage to buy a house. I had a case recently of a young mail who was one of the reorganisation surplus and who had saved up enough money for a deposit, but he could find neither a building society nor a City housing scheme which would accept him because he had not a sufficent record of civilian employment. It seems very hard when a young man coming out of the Services cannot get a council house because he has not been on the waiting list for sufficient time, and cannot buy a house, although he can put down as much deposit as the next man, because he has not the record of civilian employment which is wanted. This is a point which the Ministry of Defence or the Service Ministries should take up. A man's record in the Services should be sufficient guarantee, with his money and he should be given a loan.
§ Mr. H. Fraser
If the hon. Member will give me a note of that, I will take the matter up with the companies.
§ Mr. Mulley
I have written to the Secretary of State for War and I will also write to the Secretary of State for Air. It seems extremely hard that a man who has saved up enough money should not be able to get a mortgage to buy a civilian home for his family.
What is the Secretary of State's view about the arrangement under which the works services were transferred to the Ministry of Public Building and Works? I felt at the time that this was a mistake and that this was clearly the sort of service which should have been amalgamated in the new single Ministry. Many of these people were ex-Royal Air Force personnel and specialists in the kind of works which the R.A.F. carries out. It was a pity that they should be put into another service outside the defence field. Will the right hon. Gentleman say whether there has been difficulty as a result of this decision or whether everything is satisfactory? Is this the right arrangement? If there are difficulties which impede our defence preparations, I hope that this decision will be reconsidered.
I want to say a few words about aircraft. I wish particularly to refer to the Answer which the Secretary of State gave me in column 603 of the OFFICIAL REPORT for Thursday last, concerning the money spent on new airframes, engines and major weapons over the last five years. He told me that from 1959 to 1964 the expenditure was£510 million—43 per cent., or £200 million, for Bomber Command; 28 per cent., or £140 mililon for Fighter Command; and only 13 per cent., or £65 million, for Transport Command. In each figure there is a balance not accounted for, in the current year it is 43 per cent., of the total of these items which does not go to Bomber, Fighter or Transport Command. It would be useful if we could be told what that consists of in terms of new planes and equipment.
§ Mr. H. Fraser
These figures are always complicated. The hon. Gentleman has asked for them in a different form from that which he adopted last year. This is new equipment. The figure he asked for was in respect of equipment 1160 generally, and it came to nearly double this. The gap of 43 per cent.—those elements not covered by Bomber, Fighter and Transport Command—is in respect of Training Command and various commands overseas not covered by these central commands. It affects large areas of the world and a great deal of equipment, especially training equipment. It depends whether one has been re-equipping, as we have been with the Gnat fighter.
§ Mr. Mulley
It seems extraordinary that there should be as much spent on Training Command and commands overseas as on Bomber, Fighter and Transport Commands combined, particularly when one has the impression that most of the equipment sent to the Far East was first introduced into the Commands here.
§ Mr. Mulley
This is the kind of difficulty we get into when we try to obtain hard facts about how our money is spent. This is one of our complaints. This information should be readily available.
Another extremely surprising thing in the figures is that, whereas over 20 per cent. of the total Votes from 1959 to 1964 seems to have gone on new airframes, engines and major weapons, it is proposed to spend only 13 per cent. in this way next year, despite the grandiose flourish with which the Minister of Defence produced the White Paper.
§ Mr. H. Fraser
I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Member again, but these are very important points. The great bulk of this will come on the Ministry of Aviation Vote until such time as I take over the aircraft.
§ Mr. Mulley
I had made a note to mention that point.
How is the allocation of the cost of aircraft divided between the Ministry of Aviation and the Air Estimates? The whole system seems to be designed to confuse anyone who wishes to get at the truth about where all this money has gone. Is it put on the Ministry of Aviation Vote one year and on the Air Vote the next? It is pointless to put a 1161 big chart in the Statement on Defence showing how much is spent on aircraft and how much on personnel if this kind of juggling is going on and if, as the right hon. Gentleman says, it is impossible to say how much comes on one Vote and how much on another.
There was a very illuminating Written Answer given yesterday to my hon. Friend the Member for Barnsley. The right hon. Gentleman said that last year —and this is the measure of fact against fantasy—we had only one Argosy and a squadron of Wessex helicopters as an addition to our transport capability and that next year we shall get some unspecified number of Argosies. This gives us a different impression from that which we had from all the grand talk about planes coming along. According to the Air Estimates for this year, we are to spend only £3¼ million on Transport Command. In view of all the grand talk about VC10s, the 748s, the 681s Is, the Belfasts, the Beagles, and so on, we wonder who will pay for all this.
Is not the truth of the matter that there has been all this talk with a view to gaining some political capital out of it and that the bill has been saved up for a future Government? It is no good the right hon. Gentleman commending my hon. Friend the Member for Lincoln (Mr. Taverne) on his speech if, out of a bill for over £500 million this year, there is an additional sum in respect of mobility of only £3¼ million.
The Secretary of State said today that he was pleased that the development of the 681 had been authorised. Last year, he was pleased to tell us that it had been approved and would be going ahead. It has taken 12 months to approve the engine from the date of approving the airframe. I hope that it will not be another six years before we get this welcome addition to our transport capability.
When we look at the future demands of the R.A.F. for aircraft, we get a most frightening financial picture. The cost of all the things which I have mentioned for Transport Command will come to a sizeable bill. Then there is the TSR2, the Shackleton replacement, the Hunter replacement and the question of whether it will be the P1154, and so on. What will be the size of 1162 the aircraft bill in future years? The orders have been placed, but we have been given no indication of the financial commitments involved. It is pointless having a debate about the cost of the Air Force and being asked to approve Estimates unless we get this kind of information.
The P1154 is the classic case of a significant technical advance in this country being frittered away by Government incompetence and procrastination. We had the lead both in the P1127 type of vertical take-off and in the engines developed by Rolls-Royce, but the probability is that the first VTOL aircraft in service will not he British, although it may use British engines. It seems much more likely that either the German Dornier or the French Mirage IIIK will be in service a long time before we have this system, even though we pioneered it ourselves.
Over and above that, there is a serious consequence for our aircraft industry from what has been said in this debate and from the decision—no doubt, on financial grounds, the right one—to buy the Phantom II. If, however, we look at these aircraft requirements for the Service, in no case can we produce them economically ourselves if the size of the order has to be limited to the requirement of our own Service.
It was a great pity, as the hon. Member for Macclesfield (Sir A. V. Harvey) said last week, that before arranging to buy United States aircraft we did not make arrangements of a bilateral character whereby America would buy, or at least contribute to the development of, aircraft here. I hope very much that the right hon. Gentleman will give attention to this. It is a scandal that nothing has been done to develop, either in N.A.T.O. or bilaterally, arrangements whereby we develop aircraft or provide licences for their manufacture in other countries and, in return, we acquire weapons from them. As the Committee will know, there is great concern in the aircraft industry that the hard financial facts that prompted the Phantom decision will be applied in other directions as time goes on.
I want, finally, to say, as is inevitable, some words about the deterrent. Before dealing briefly with the V-bombers, I should like to ask some further questions 1163 concerning the cost of the deterrent, about which the Secretary of State said something this afternoon. This is the paradox about the kind of information we get. When it suits the Government, they give us the most precise figures showing that the cost of the deterrent this year—we have no means of checking it, so we must accept it—will be 8.4 per cent. of the total, next year 7.6 per cent., 8 per cent in the late 1960s and 5 per cent. in the 1970s. What we would like to know, and I ask that we be told today, is the total figures on which the percentages are based.
Is the cost of the deterrent thought to be going down in this way because the total projected cost of the defence bill is rising, or what is the explanation? To give the precise figures that the Minister of Defence has given, the Government must have worked out the future shape of defence. What component of this will be for new aircraft, whether on one Vote or another? Can we get the figures that the Secretary of State anticipates will be spent on new aircraft next year, and subsequently, so that we get an idea of the cost of the programme that he has put before us?
Secondly, I have asked this question concerning the cost of the deterrent on other occasions, but I have not been given an answer. In these calculations are the TSR2 and the Canberra included?
§ Mr. H. Fraser
It has already been stated that the cost of the V-force will be about 2 per cent. of the defence budget between now and 1970. The figure of the deterrent in general—that is to say, the figure given by my right hon. Friend as he explained the other day—does not include the TSR2, because the TSR2 is not part of the deterrent, although it has a deterrent bonus. Its main object, as I have always said from the Dispatch Box, is that of a tactical strike reconnaissance aircraft, which will have a nuclear bonus thrown in, in the same way as during the last war the Mosquito had a strategic bonus in being able to attack Berlin.
§ Mr. Mulley
If we wanted any further evidence of how the whole of the defence figures and debates are being twisted for party political ends, this is con- 1164 clusive. When it suits the argument, the TSR2 is included with the nuclear weapons. I hope that in the light of the Secretary of State's courageous statement in saying that the TSR2 is not included, we shall have no more silly speeches from his right hon. Friend the Minister of Aviation on this theme.
§ Mr. Mulley
It is being a little bit illiterate simply to use the phrase "deterrent", because this begs the whole question. At least, we have cleared the point about the TSR2.
§ Sir Harry Legge-Bourke (Isle of Ely)
Perhaps the hon. Member has overlooked, in connection with expenditure on aircraft, that if he examines the Estimates for the Ministry of Aviation he will find that it is there separated into expenditure on research and development in Ministry establishments, on the one hand, and under Vote 8 in the Ministry of Aviation purchasing repayments services, which comes under the bulk settlement for Service Departments. It is essential to realise that in the bulk settlement arrangement there has to be a forecast, which may or may not prove accurate in the event, and that that is altogether a separate item from research and development.
§ Mr. George Wigg (Dudley)
When my hon. Friend takes note of that, will he also go back and look at HANSARD—
§ Mr. Wigg
—for the debates in November, when we were told specifically by the Minister of Aviation and by his henchman the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Sir G. Nabarro), whom we have not seen since our contretemps about drinks during the Prime Minister's by-election, although the hon. Member writes regularly every day to the Press, that we on this side were throwing away the deterrent in not accepting TSR2?
§ Mr. Mulley
That seemed to be the purport of the Secretary of State's synthetically passionate speech last week.
§ Sir H. Legge-Bourke
On a point of order. In view of the observation by the hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) about my hon. Friend the Member for Kidderminster (Sir G. Nabarro), it is only fair to say that my hon. Friend should not be attacked for his absence when he is ill. He may be fit to write letters to the newspapers, but he is not fit to turn up at the House of Commons, and the hon. Member for Dudley knows it.
§ Mr. Mulley
I take note of the point made by the hon. Member for the Isle of Ely (Sir H. Legge-Bourke) about the difficulty of tracing the figures through the Ministry of Aviation Estimates. I have already said that one cannot form a picture without including the two lots of Estimates. The point which I desire to underline, however, is that it is about time that the House of Commons was given figures in an intelligible way so that in a given year we could know what money had been spent on aircraft and on other aspects of defence.
Furthermore, I see no reason why we should not be told the number of aircraft that have been bought and how much they cost. Until we get this kind of information, it will be impossible to have an informed public opinion outside Parliament about defence. I am sure that the Government do not give the information because they do not want such an informed public opinion outside, as such an opinion would not swallow the tommy-rot put out by the Government in the guise of Defence Statements.
§ Mr. Eric Lubbock (Orpington)
May I remind the hon. Member of the reason given by the Minister? He said that it had never been done before and that that was why we could not be given these facts and figures.
§ Mr. Mulley
That is quite contrary to the facts. In the past, a great deal of information has been given from time to time. As I have pointed out. when it suits the Minister's argument he can be informative and precise.
The Under-Secretary of State muttered something about security. Obviously, he was asleep when I referred to the kind of information that Mr. McNamara has given. I take it that he is making the implied criticism that Mr. McNamara has let down the security of the alliance.
§ The Under-Secretary of State for Air (Mr. Julian Ridsdale)
What I was saying was that it is much easier for Mr. McNamara to give more information with a 50 billion dollar budget than it is for us with a much smaller budget.
§ Mr. Anthony Kershaw (Stroud)
Will the hon. Gentleman say how much information Mr. McNamara gave Congress about the All?
§ Mr. Mulley
I am not prepared to answer off-the-cuff questions for Mr. McNamara, but I can give the hon. Gentleman, if he has not seen it already, a most detailed presentation of the defence requirements of the United States, which, among other things, includes the cost of the modification of the B52s for low-level flight. That is a figure I have twice asked the right hon. Gentleman to give me, but he has refused on grounds of security. That illustrates my point admirably. The right hon. Gentleman said that it would be contrary to the public interest to disclose the figure. That being so, has the information given by Mr. McNamara let down the security arrangements of the alliance?
The truth of the matter is that all these security arrangements are a guise to keep from us the incompetence of the Government and prevent us from probing the political propaganda which they conceive defence to be. They do not really want the House to approach defence in the proper way. It seems to me that unless we are given a much more plausible and documented case for the lox-level rôle of the V-bombers, we shall have to conclude that this is a gimmick to try to restore their fading credibility—
§ Mr. H. Fraser
This is a very rash thing for the hon. Gentleman to say. Of course I should like to give him these figures, but there is a security element in this. Of course, there is a security aspect in an interpretation of what we have done to the aircraft. If any hon. Members have any doubts about the feasibility of this rôle, I would cordially invite them to come to Bomber Command to talk to the people on the ground and see for themselves.
§ Mr. Wigg
If it is desired to refer to the standard of security covered in the Royal Air Force, we had an example last week. I tabled a Question about documents which were circulated as "restricted". One concerned the anniversary conference of the Royal Air Force. So the standard of evaluation of the right hon. Gentleman is suspect in a major particular.
§ Mr. Mulley
I recall that my hon. Friend raised that point, and also that the Secretary of State was going to look—so far as he has authority these days to do such things—at the security classification within the Service with a view to making it a little easier for information to be given to the public. I hope that he will look at the question of the costs and the arrangements for low-level testing of V-bombers. In the meantime, I am sure that hon. Members will be glad to know of the invitation to visit Bomber Command, an opportunity of which I myself should certainly like to take advantage.
But over and above the function of the V-bombers in the low-level rôle, we must look at the tactical rôle which we understand they are now called upon to perform. It is not much use assessing the V-bombers unless we know what they are going to do. In paragraph 174 of the Statement on Defence, we are told:In May the V-bomber force was assigned to N.A.T.O. in accordance with the intentions expressed in the Nassau Agreement (Cmnd. 1915). The Supreme Allied Commander Europe described this as 'an important and powerful addition to the air capability of Allied Command Europe'. The V-bomber force is now fully integrated into SACEUR's war organisation and covers a substantial proportion of the co-ordinated targetting plan.I take this to mean that the targetting plans for the V-bomber force have been 1168 completely changed as a result of this decision to assign them to SACEUR. Hitherto, we were always told that they were closely tied in with S.A.C.—the American bomber command. Therefore, as I understand it, putting the V-bomber rôle in the tactical rather than the strategic field must be a complete change of plan. I have heard successive SACEURs say that they wanted tactical aircraft and that the plans that they had to discharge were tactical in character. We ought to draw some conclusions from this.
§ Mr. H. Fraser
It would be very rash for the hon. Gentleman to draw conclusions from that. Of course, the question of targetting—all targetting—is fundamentally conditioned by the thinking of S.A.C. on these matters—that targets must be concentrated at one point. So far as the V-bombers are concerned, there has not been much change in targets, and the areas covered are much the same as before
§ Mr. Mulley
In other words, we can conclude from what the right hon. Gentleman says that the V-bombers have not really been assigned to the tactical rôle. He must begin to understand that there is a limit to how many times one can have the same thing both ways. One cannot transfer it and get all the credit, as the Government have sought to do, for being good boys in the alliance—they do not talk about it here because it does not fit the independent rôle of the V-bomber, which, as the right hon. Gentleman says, is our "deterrent" until the 1970s; but in N.A.T.O. circles the Government want to get medals for being good members of the alliance—and they say that everything is just as it was before.
We know that the so-called independence of this force hangs on the very thin thread of the power to withdraw it by national rather than international decision. I would ask the right hon. Gentleman—I will not ask him what plans have been prepared—whether plans, targets and so on have been prepared for the use of the V-bomber force in an independent non-alliance rôle. Unless there are such plans, it makes nonsense to talk about the independent deterrent. Has he explained to the United States and the other allies that the Government have these contingency plans, which are 1169 presumably different from the ones that they had in a combined operation with S.A.C., and different, indeed, from the ones that have been decided in conjunction with the Supreme Allied Command, Europe. Have the Government got this separate set of plans and targets for independent use? We ought to be told this.
§ Mr. Mulley
I think that the hon. Gentleman is in no position to answer this question. Either the Minister must answer it or we must conclude that there are no such plans.
§ Mr. Mulley
Does the right hon. Gentleman want to answer? [Interruption.] The right hon. Gentleman says that he is satisfied. I take it from that that there are no such plans for independent use. If he would care to get up and deny the statement, I will give way willingly. Will he deny it?
§ Mr. Mulley
I was saying that I must conclude from the interpretation of this paragraph that there are no plans, no targets, no co-ordination of strategy, no contingency planning for the use of the V-bomber force in an independent rôle, independent of S.A.C. or of the European Command. If the right hon. Gentleman will not deny that, with the implications that it has for our allies, I must conclude that there are no such plans and that all this talk about the independent deterrent is mere propaganda and political talk.
§ Mr. H. Fraser
I was not paying very close attention to what the hon. Member was saying, but all this is carefully set out in the Statement on Defence. It is stated that N.A.T.O. naturally welcomes the fact that we have assigned the aircraft to its command. This is eminently satisfactory. Of course, as I was explaining, overall all these plans are, naturally and properly, co-ordinated through S.A.C. in the United States. In addition to this, we believe that if need be, in an extreme national emergency, we shall be able to withdraw the force and use it independently, and it is quite clear that if we 1170 propose to use it independently, we shall use it independently if the target exists.
§ Mr. Mulley
I did not ask whether the targets existed. Targets exist all over the world. I asked whether the organisation of an independent use of the force is as well prepared as the other use. That is what we want to know. The main issue over defence is about the use of the V-bomber force in an independent rôle. We are merely asking for confirmation that all the planning and preparation have been done in case the Government wished to give substance to their propaganda. Will the right hon. Gentleman confirm that these plans do exist?
§ Mr. Mulley
I think that the truth is that the target of the V-bomber force as an "independent British deterrent" is the British electorate and that the so-called deterrent has no factual basis. It is quite clear from the arrangement to assign the force to the Supreme Allied Command that the bombers are to be used in a tactical rôle and this raises the other and more fundamental problem about the future not only of the V-bombers but of all our tactical Air Forces in Europe. This is a part of N.A.T.O. strategy which has not been worked out.
The question is: how will these bombers be used if there is conventional fighting? Will they be brought in to indulge in what is called "nuclear interdiction"? If so, then, clearly, this would bring about nuclear war and all talk of political control would go by the board. Obviously, they could not be used for nuclear interdiction without the risk of a global nuclear war. On the other hand, if they are used to give conventional support to our ground troops then they will probably be shot down before the question of using them in a nuclear rôle arises.
This is the great dilemma for the Supreme Allied Command in deciding what to do with the Tactical Air Forces in Germany It looks, therefore, possible that, before the Government could bring them out of N.A.T.O. because they were not satisfied with what was going on, these bombers may have been used in a conventional rôle and subjected to very severe casualties, for we know the 1171 strength of the Soviet fighter force and other air defences.
Indeed, we know that there is no aircraft in the Air Force really suitable for ground attack except for the aged Hunter. We have not given thought to the rôle that the Tactical Air Force should play. It seems that the only way in which it could be used independently for nuclear purposes would be by way of a first strike. If the right hon. Gentleman thinks that I am wrong, I hope he will say so.
The probability is that our V-bombers would be used up in conventional hostilities before they could be used independently for a nuclear rôle and that if they survived the conventional rôle the only credible way in which they could have a nuclear rôle would be by way of a first strike. Since targets do exist, who would the right hon. Gentleman strike, for it is not credible that we, as a nation, would be singled out for surprise nuclear attack above all other countries and that, if such a thing did happen, our bomber force could survive sufficiently to be a credible retaliatory force?
I will not develop further the nuclear heresies held by the Government, because I have already taken up considerable time and other hon. Members wish to speak. But, of course, it is in this nuclear obsession that we see the Government's false air power priorities, and our case against the Government is that, despite the expenditure of enormous sums of money—over £20,000 million in the last 12 years and another £2,000 million proposed for next year—we have neither the defence policy nor the defence forces that the nation needs.
The Government's incompetence, procrastination and prevarication, directed at party political rather than military needs, have done and are doing great disservice to the fine body of officers and other ranks in the Royal Air Force and have prevented them from making their maximum contribution to the defence of the nation.
§ 5.15 p.m.
§ Sir John Eden (Bournemouth, West)
I agree with the opening remarks of the hon. Member for Sheffield, Park (Mr. Mulley) and share with him the sense of historic occasion in that we are 1172 probably witnessing the last occasion on which the Secretary of State for Air will present his Estimates for the Royal Air Force.
I congratulate my right hon. Friend on the way he presented the Estimates. Though he made a somewhat valedictory address, he will not take it amiss if I remind the Committee that, whilst we may be witnessing the imminent departure of the Secretary of State, nonetheless the Air Force will go on for very much longer and that we are not foreshadowing in our changes in defence administration the end or the imminent departure of the Air Force as such. Indeed, the Air Force has a very significant rôle to play, and these Estimates indicate the importance of the tasks it faces now and will face in the future.
I approve of the form of the Estimates, although I think one may have further studies of this. In trying to consider the general presentation of the costs of defence as a whole further improvements no doubt can be made. This is, however, already a step forward. We have been given these Estimates in a more clearly presented form.
I agree with much of what the hon. Member for Sheffield, Park, said about the amount of information given, although I do not agree with many of his reasons. The time has come when we have to be given a lot more information than we have recently been vouchsafed in Estimates. I rather suspect that my right hon. Friend feels the same.
We must remember that we are living in a period of reduced international tension and that, in such a period, it is none the less vital to maintain an effective defence. We must ensure that we keep up our guard and do not lessen the effectiveness or preparedness of our forces. It is important that we emphasise this to the taxpayers and to the electorate and that we carry them with us in fulfilling these obligations.
But, in order to do that, we must have much more information than we are given at present. I do not know whether my view is shared by other hon. Members on this side of the Committee but I feel that, in times of relaxed international tension, we must carry the electorate with us by giving it a great deal 1173 more information than we have been doing.
In the Statement on Defence, the first paragraph of the section devoted to the Royal Air Force is extremely significant. It saysSpeed and flexibility are the essence of our defence requirements.This has been shown to us most clearly in recent weeks by the calls made upon our forces and by the extraordinary ability with which the Air Force has assisted in meeting them. Speed and flexibility are of vital significance to British forces in the sort of rôle they are likely to be called upon to play for many years ahead—limited obligations in territories overseas, helping to maintain law and order and supporting our allies and friends. The most significant feature of this kind of operation is the speed with which they can be mounted and the effectiveness with which they can be supported. In this, Transport Command plays a vitally significant rôle. I was most interested, as I am sure were other hon. Members, in the figures my right hon. Friend gave to the Committee in demonstrating the extent to which Transport Command services had been employed in recent operations in East Africa. I am sure that we shall see a continuing significance in this rôle of Transport Command, and that is why, like other hon. Members, I attach a great deal of importance to the type of aircraft with which Transport Command is equipped. I look forward to the early introduction of the VC10, for example, into full service.
I want to touch briefly on other aspects of the Statement on Defence and the various Commands of the Royal Air Force. On Fighter Command, I have one comment with particular reference to paragraph 185, in which we are given some information about the P1127 evaluation unit. Can my right hon. Friend say a little more about the actual experience which has been gained as a result of this work? Can he also say whether, apart from the officers and airmen employed in the tripartite evaluation unit, we are training men outside it, in other branches of the Royal Air Force, to prepare for the introduction of the VTOL aircraft. We have for some time now had knowledge of VTOL but we have not been very speedy in making a 1174 decision to give practical experience to men of the Royal Air Force in this work.
Now that we know that the P1154 is to come the way of the Royal Air Force before long, although be it in a "simple and rugged" form, it will still be an extremely complex weapons system, and the earlier the opportunity that we can get in training our airmen and pilots to use this new aircraft system, the better will our interests be served. I hope that we shall not just wait for progress to be achieved in the evaluation unit, but that we shall go ahead with some training steps in our own Royal Air Force.
I noticed that in paragraph 187 on Coastal Command there is reference to the Shackleton Mark 3. Can my right hon. Friend give a time scale associated with this aircraft and some indication of how far into the future he sees the Shackleton remaining in service, even in developed form, with Coastal Command; or is he now already taking active steps to prepare for its ultimate replacement with a still more advanced type of aircraft for this work? Can my right hon. Friend also say a little about the experience that the R.A.F. have had through operations in Coastal Command in co-operating with the Navy?
I turn to the Near East Air Force which is referred to in paragraphs 195–6. I notice that particular attention has been paid to the valuable work being done by the Canberra strike squadron. In a recent visit to certain parts of the Middle East, as I usually call it—although I recognise that we are becoming increasingly Americanised, and therefore have to call it the Near East these days—it was borne in on me how very important is the rôle of the R.A.F. in that part of the world, and how highly it is regarded.
This is not just because they are decent chaps—which they certainly are —and get on with the people of the country, wherever it happens to be, but it is primarily because the citizens and Governments of these countries recognise the very efficient striking power which is in the hands of our Royal Air Force, based on Cyprus. They also recognise that we are in a position to defend our interests if they are threatened anywhere in the Arabian Peninsula and the Persian Gulf. This is taking on special significance these 1175 days with the activities of Egypt and the aggressive moves that it is making in the Yemen, supported as Egypt is by Russian technicians with Russian equipment, assisted with Russian personnel, and Russian aircraft. It is of very great significance indeed that we have in the area an alert and efficient fighting force in the R.A.F., which can be deployed swiftly to any trouble spot in that area where its presence might be required. I have learned—I am sure other hon. Members who have been to these areas will bear me out—that it is universally understood that the presence of R.A.F. units is synonymous with stability, and it is this which, above all, is necessary in that part of the world. Even though they are not perhaps engaged in any particularly dramatic rôle, these men, with their equipment, are playing a most vital part in supporting our alliances and friendships and protecting our interests in that part of the world, and by doing so they are contributing very substantially to the general interests of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation countries by protecting their perimeters.
This leads me logically to turn to the rôle of the Far East Air Force. Like other hon. Members, in years gone by I had the privilege of visiting some of its stations in Singapore, and I would endorse most heartily what the hon. Gentleman said about the manner in which members of this Committee are received in visits overseas, and the amount of attention paid to details both in providing information and comfort which the R.A.F. attend to whenever we go to its units abroad.
What has been the experience of the R.A.F. in close support work and general co-operation with the Army, particularly in recent operations in Borneo? I notice that paragraph 198 of the Statement on Defence refers to the STOL/VTOL airlift for forward ground forces. This appears to have been supplied by helicopters. Were these R.A.F. helicopters, or did they include helicopters from the Royal Navy? It would be interesting to have some examples of the degree of integration of the three Services operationally, for we are all talking against the background of the new central organisation for defence, and the extent which the Services 1176 already work together may not be fully appreciated. The operations of the three Services in the Far East recently are a good illustration of what I have in mind, but more information on the subject would be welcome.
I should like to comment on some of the things which the hon. Member for Sheffield, Park said about Bomber Command. I should have thought that the rôle of Bomber Command was made perfectly clear in the Statement on Defence. [HON. MEMBERS: "Where?"] In those paragraphs dealing with the independent British deterrent and nuclear co-operation in N.A.T.O.—on pages 6 and 7 of Cmnd. 2270.
I do not understand what is the difficulty in the minds of hon. Members opposite. They seem to be most anxious to belittle the strategic and strike capacity of Bomber Command. They always pooh-pooh that suggestion and say, "No, no" and that they never said anything of the kind; but time after time, whenever they have the opportunity, they question every figure and every detail of performance, in order to achieve what? In order to get a more efficient fighting service? [HON. MEMBERS: "Yes."] If so, let them say so. If they want a more efficient fighting force, let them say so. If they want the V-bomber force to be far more effective in its deterrent rôle than it already is, let them say so. But this is not what they have made clear. If that is what they want, let them say to what extent they are prepared to pay for it, because everyone in the country will be interested to hear. Certainly that view has not been supported by what was said by the hon. Member for Sheffield, Park. Hon. Members opposite have been going out of their way to ridicule the capacity of the V-bomber force to meet its commitments in the deterrent rÔle.
§ Mr. Shinwell
What are the commitments of the V-bomber force? Did not the hon. Gentleman listen to the defence debate last week? Was it not made abundantly clear by the Secretary of State and his superior, the Minister of Defence, that the V-bomber force was not intended to be used, but was a deterrent and that if it ever were used, the hon. Member could depend upon it that he would not be here any more than I would?
§ Sir J. Eden
—but he makes me be rude. He makes an extraordinarily childish remark, rather in keeping with the sort of things which we are used to getting from the hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg). Comments of this sort are becoming increasingly boring. The fact is quite simple and the right hon. Gentleman, if not hon. Members opposite, ought to understand it. Of course the whole purpose of the deterrent is that it shall not be used, but for this deterrent to be effective in its rôle of deterrence it must be the latest that technological knowledge and development can produce and must be a match for every defence of which our Intelligence is informed. In the V-bomber force—the B2 bombers—we have aircraft which can out-perform any other known bomber in the world today.
§ Sir J. Eden
That is known to be the fact by the United States of America and is recognised as such and known to be the case by the Soviet Union.
§ Sir J. Eden
I always give the Liberal Party a chance, even if it is the only one it will get.
As defences against the V-bomber force are improving, so must its penetration capacity be changed. That is why it has been given the low flying capacity, because it is calculated that the defences of the Soviet Union against a high altitude approach will be so effective as to render the deterrent rôle in that position less credible. This must be known to hon. Members opposite. It is the point of the deterrent that it must be credible in the mind of the potential enemy. It is not what matters to us but what matters to that potential enemy which is of significance. That is why in the fulfilment of our deterrent rôle we have to have a variety of options available to ensure that we can penetrate the 1178 defences of the Soviet Union. I maintain that we already possess this capacity in the V-bomber force, but what we are planning to do is to ensure that we continue to possess that capacity and we are now preparing to take account of likely developments in Soviet defences in years to come. I now give way to the Liberal Party.
§ Mr. Lubbock
My intervention does not fit this part of the hon. Gentleman's speech. However, he seemed to be carried away by his own eloquence when he said that the V-bombers had a performance better than that of any nuclear carrier in the world. Has he not heard of the B58 Hustler, now in service with Strategic Air Command and able to travel at twice the speed of sound?
§ Sir J. Eden
I am not aware that the Hustler has the same capacity as the V-bomber at high altitude. The V-bomber can fly higher than any bomber at the moment and before long, when the new developments have taken place, it will have additional capacity in that it will be able to fly at a very low level as well. It was designed to fly at altitudes of greater than 50,000 feet, but it is now to be designed also to fly at altitudes of 500 feet and below. This is a significant feature which hon. Members opposite should welcome. But they never do. They never give credit for these achievements. This is extraordinary. I do not know what it is in them which causes this. Generally speaking, they are not small-minded people. On the whole, they are reasonably generous—certainly the right hon. Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell) in his more expansive moods. Why should they not give sc me credit to some of the products of British industry and to the achievements of a British military service as more than evidenced by Bomber Command?
I attach a great deal of importance to the support given to Bomber Command by the men responsible for manning the aircraft, the men of the Royal Air Force whose duty it is to fulfil the rÔle with which they are charged. I am always loth to bring in Service men, but the other day I saw a remark by the A.O.C.-in-C. Bomber Command, Air Marshal Sir John Grandy. He said:Penetration by aircraft of Bomber Command of areas covered by the most modern 1179 and sophisticated air defence systems could not be successfully prevented.That is another way of saying that we shall get through should the need arise.
The hon. Member for Sheffield Park made great play with the argument that this force was a first and not a second strike weapon. From the number of debates which we have had on this subject it is about time that they knew that the purpose of the V-Bomber force in the strategic rôle is not to attack anybody—as the right hon. Member for Easington has just said. I wish that he would remind his hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Park of it. This is not a first strike weapon, in the sense that we shall take off and bomb cities as we did in the last war. This is a totally different project.
§ Sir J. Eden
It is a second-strike weapon, and the degree of credibility depends upon the amount of assurance that we have—and, more important, the amount that a potential enemy has—of our capacity to get aircraft off the ground in the event of our being attacked by nuclear bombs from outside.
I should have thought that hon. Members opposite could take a great deal of comfort from the fact that we now have the most effective early warning system in being at Fylingdales, linked with the most efficient Command communications system, which hon. Members opposite would see if they went to Bomber Command. I hope that they, especially the hon. Member for Dudley, will take up my right hon. Friend's invitation. The state of readiness and alertness of our bomber crews is extraordinarily efficient. Within one-and-a-half minutes they can get off the ground.
I know that all this is known to hon. Members opposite, but this point needs emphasising again and again. We should not be concerned with narrow points of criticism, made for party political purposes; the point we should be emphasising is the fine state of readiness of our Bomber Command crews now. That we are able to sit here and conduct this sort of debate is entirely due to the fact that at this moment our 1180 V-bombers are lying alongside their take-off runways, with the Blue Steel weapon at the ready, and their crews, with all their clothes on, living in caravans alongside them.
That is what is meant by a state of readiness, and the deterrent rôle. This is now at the disposal of the British Government, in an independent capacity. It is in our hands now, and under our command. That is our effective independent deterrent. Let that fact sink in.
At the same time, we have assigned a substantial number of these bombers to SACEUR. There is no difficulty here. There is no split. This rôle is spelt out quite simply on pages 6 and 7 of the Defence White Paper. Perhaps the hon. Member for Dudley will follow me as I read from it. It says:we have fulfilled our part of this undertakingthat is, the undertaking arising from the Nassau Agreement—by assigning the V-bombers to N.A.T.O. The Government have reserved the right to order the use of these forces at discretion if they decide that supreme national interests are at stake.That, again, is quite clear. Any British Government, whatever its political views, must reserve that right. If the Labour Government—should they ever come to power—are not going to reserve that right to themselves, let them say so now. If the Labour Party has as part of its policy this very significant departure from our present Government's view that it is essential to reserve the right of independent action with our V-bomber force, let that party say so now, and let the electorate know that it is going to be the decision of the next Labour Government not to use the V-bombers at their discretion in circumstances of supreme national interest.
If that is what they are going to say they will make very big inroads into the limited votes that they might secure at the next election in any case.
§ Mr. Shinwell
In what circumstances does the hon. Member consider that the V-bomber force—which he describes as part of our independent nuclear deterrent—would be used?
§ Sir J. Eden
I concede at the outset that the circumstances in which this requirement is likely to be called upon 1181 are remote. But no one can foresee what will be the future trends in international politics. If the right hon. Gentleman knows what is likely to take place in terms of the power conflict between East and West, I certainly do not. If he can say what is likely to happen in relation to the organisation of our various defensive alliances, on both sides of the Atlantic, I cannot. It is incumbent upon the Government—in fact, it is their prime duty—to ensure that if British national interests so dictate they shall have at their disposal the most effective means to protect them. This is the most important factor. It may very well be that independent control over a nuclear deterrent force is the best way of protecting British national interests in the future.
It is important that this ultimate weapon, power or capacity to protect British national interests should be left securely in the hands of a British Government, of whichever political party it may be formed.
§ Mr. R. T. Paget (Northampton)
Does not the hon. Gentleman realise that the withdrawal of a force like the V-bomber force is not something that one does, just like that, at a moment's notice. One has to have an alternative command system in being, and an alternative contingency plan. When it is admitted by the Minister that no alternative command system or alternative contingency plan is in existence or contemplated, it is clear that the argument for retaining a right to withdraw this force in the event of a great national requirement is a complete phoney; it is directed to bluff the British electorate, and not a potential enemy.
§ Sir J. Eden
I am sorry to disagree with the point made by the hon. and learned Gentleman in his speech. I do not share his view about withdrawal in the context in which he used it—as though it involved uplifting a military force from a position overseas, bringing it back here, and putting different personnel in it. That is not the case, as I understand it. I may be completely wrong, and if I am I am sure that my hon. Friend will correct me.
But in reply to the point made by the hon. and learned Gentleman, perhaps I may put the position as I see 1182 it, which is that the assignment of the V-bombers to N.A.T.O. is a targeting arrangement—an arrangement to give SACEUR control over the disposition of the strategic force in planning for the defences of Europe, but that if this force were to be uplifted from its assignment and used in an independent rôle it would be a mere matter of switching targets. It would merely be a case of turning from target group A to target group B.
§ Sir J. Eden
No. In this context it is infinitely simpler than bows and arrows, because it is clear that the V-bombers have specific targets assigned to them, and that in certain contingencies they would be operated under the direct command of SACEUR, whereas in other contingencies they would be operated under British military command, and against different targets. This is not a question of uplifting and transferring forces from one part of the world to another to fulfil an independent rôle after those forces have been assigned to European command.
§ Mr. Paget
The position that the hon. Member is adopting is very similar to that which General Doolittle adopted when he first brought the American bombers to Europe—the conception that one can switch targets at a moment's notice, and that it is a simple thing. Even twenty years ago that was shown to be out of step with the situation. Today it is literally fantastic.
§ Sir J. Eden
I am sure that he has already visited Bomber Command headquarters, bui I urge the hon. and learned Gentleman to pay another visit and discuss these points with the men who are actually concerned. I am certain that he will find the answers he is given very reassuring. I do not believe for a moment that these things are anything like so complex or involved as the hon. and learned Gentleman would have us believe.
Owing to one or two interventions I have gone on for longer than I intended. So may I cut out the intervening paragraphs and conclude with a reference to the central organisation? I hope that this new step which is being taken to 1183 reorganise our defensive system from the centre will result, in time, in some reduction in the personnel employed at the centre. If it does not, it would seem to me to defeat part of the objective. I hope that before very long—although I know it is a difficult thing to do in the initial stages—we shall see progress being made in that direction.
In his peroration my right hon. Friend referred to the huge new technological possibilities, and to some extent probed into the future of the Royal Air Force. I hope that we are not excluding the possibility of finding a manned rôle in space. We have to take that into account, although I am horrified at the cost prospect of it. We have to bear in mind the fact that undoubtedly there is in the future a rôle for man in space. I hope that the Royal Air Force will be closely associated with developments in that direction.
Can my hon. Friend say to what extent there is a relationship between the Royal Air Force and the British aviation industry? The Royal Air Force is currently being re-equipped with a number of exciting new aircraft and new weapon systems. I am sure that this indicates the existence of a close relationship between the serving personnel and the scientists and technicians who develop our new aircraft projects in industry. This is of outstanding significance for the future, particularly if in the years to come we are to concentrate—as my right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence indicated during the defence debate—on keeping our operational requirements as simple as possible and not trying to find too many complicated solutions to too many problems by the provision of one type of aircraft or one weapon system. I should like to hear from my hon. Friend on this matter.
I conclude with the thought, which I know was shared by my right hon. Friend today, that there is a tremendous future for the Royal Air Force during the coming decades. As the deterrent rôle of the V-bomber force gives way to the deterrent rôle of the Polaris missile, the other weapon systems such as the TSR2 will have added significance. I am sure that this will contribute greatly to guaranteeing and 1184 maintaining a strong and effective Royal Air Force which is so vital for the security and defence of this country.
§ 5.52 p.m.
§ Mr. George Wigg (Dudley)
Experience has told me that in these debates an essential ingredient in any speech must be the spelling out of the same thing again and again. One must keep on saying the same thing in defence matters in the hope that, little by little, in the end, someone will take notice. At the moment my remarks are addressed to the hon. Member for Stroud (Mr. Kershaw). The reason why we press for more information is that experience has shown that in a democracy the only possible way for an Executive—even though it be composed of all the Fellows of All Souls, or of commuters with souls—to be kept on their toes is for them to be questioned and brought to account on the basis of established facts. An intelligent Minister would welcome questions being posed as providing an opportunity to give more information and as providing an opportunity for him to find out what is happening in his Department. And when we extol the virtues of Mr. McNamara, it is not because we imagine he is a candidate for a stained-glass window, but because he has worked out a system of control technique and cost effectiveness which has enabled him to get as much defence result out of a dollar as is humanly possible. In our country there is not even an attempt made to do that.
The hon. Member for Stroud imagines that he played the joker when, like some yapping child, he says, "What about the A.11?". We do not for a moment anticipate that Mr. McNamara in America or any Minister here is going to tell anybody—perhaps not even his own colleagues—about vital matters affecting security. What we do expect him to do, in the interest of his own Service Department, is to make known —so that the maximum amount of interest may be created—all that he possibly can compatible with security. Because by so doing—and accepting that it is the view of hon. Members on both sides of the Committee that there should be effective defence—a Minister builds 1185 up an informed public opinion which gives him greater freedom to act.
This seems to me so obvious that I should have thought that a child—even a retarded child—would be able to see it. But clearly I am wrong, because an hon. Gentleman who has been in this House for years comes along and asks, "What did McNamara tell Congress about the A.11?", as if by so doing he is answering my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Park (Mr. Mulley). He is not. He is demonstrating a lack of intelligence and the fact that he has been hanging round here for years for some purpose which no one understands.
When I come to talk to the hon. Member for Bournemouth, West (Sir J. Eden) I have to talk as if I were telling the story of The Three Bears, and I will try to do so. Once upon a time, seven years ago, when the Suez war was on, and he was engaged in a sordid intrigue to get a better man out of Bournemouth, East in order to satisfy a primitive impulse—
§ Sir J. Eden
I do not mind about any reference which the hon. Member cares to make about me personally. But to indicate Mat I was engaged in an operation like that is really shameful.
§ Commander Anthony Courtney (Harrow, East)
On a point of order, Sir William. Is the expression "sordid intrigue" in order when applied to an hon. Member?
Sir William, my instinctive good manners made me give way to the hon. Member for Bournemouth, West, although, when I came into the Chamber, I had resolved that if there was one hon. Member opposite to whom I would never give way it was the hon. Member for Bournemouth, West. Last week the hon. Member refused to give way to me, and what hon. Members opposite will not get from me is any courtesy which they do not extend to me or to my hon. Friends.
§ Sir J. Eden
The hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) said that I had been engaged in a sordid intrigue to get rid of one of my hon. Friends from a neighbouring constituency in Bournemouth. That has no bearing whatsoever on the facts or on the history of this affair at all. I think that a direct accusation of that kind should not be allowed to pass, Sir William, and I ask you to call on the hon. Gentleman to withdraw.
§ The Chairman (Sir William Anstruther-Gray)
Order. I think it much better that the debate should go on without imputations of any sort being made by hon. Members. I should prefer that the debate went on and that the matter be left. Mr. Wigg.
§ Sir J. Eden
Further to that point of order. I seek some form of protection from the Chair on this occasion, for I think that the hon. Member for Dudley has really gone too far. I am prepared to take a lot from him—or any other hon. Member—and he can say what he likes about me or what he thinks about me personally; but to insinuate, as he did, that I engaged in the operation of getting rid of a former hon. Member for Bournemouth, East is a monstrous distortion of the facts, and is in fact a total lie, and I think that it should be withdrawn.
§ The Chairman
Order. We shall get into difficulties if we go on like this. I did not read so much into the comment of the hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) as the hon. Member for Bournemouth, West (Sir J. Eden) read into it. Maybe if I had done so, I should probably be correct in deprecating the term which was used; but having done that, I think we should continue the debate.
§ Mr. Wigg
May I pay compliments and respects to the Chair in its impartiality. It is always impartial, but sometimes more impartial than at others. In my view the job of the Chairman is to interpret the rules of the Committee, not to deprecate or indeed approve anything an hon. Member says. I never seek the protection of the Chair. If you, Sir William, feel that you have discharged your duty on the one hand in deprecating something I said and on the other in allowing an 1187 hon. Member opposite to characterise it as a lie, I must congratulate you on this occasion on your impartiality. I trust that I shall never rise to such levels myself. [HON. MEMBERS: "Withdraw."] If hon. Members want me to give way, they should stand up.
§ Mr. Victor Goodhew (St. Albans)
I am delighted to stand up if the hon. Member wishes me to do so, to suggest that he has a duty to withdraw the very unpleasant imputations he made against my hon. Friend the Member for Bournemouth, West (Sir J. Eden). If he were a man, he would do so.
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes (South Ayrshire)
May I ask my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) to go on with the fascinating story he began about "The Three Bears"?
§ Mr. Wigg
I shall go on with the story of "The Three Bears" but, Sir William, on the Question of what we call each other it is apparently perfectly proper in a speech on defence for the Secretary of State for Air to charge us with lack of patriotism and being unilateralists—this is good clean fun and the Conservative Party can say what they like about anyone—
§ Mr. Wigg
Yes, the Prime Minister last night. This comes from an inverted and ingrowing form of obsolescent aristocracy which came out so well in the Kinross by-election. He imagines that it is no breach of the electoral law to buy shepherds a drink of beer while his lordship drinks whisky. When one hears the—
§ The Chairman
I am sure the Committee appreciates that we are debating the Air Estimates. It would be better if we did so in an orderly fashion. I hope the hon. Member will make his speech bearing that in mind.
§ The Chairman
Order. It is essential in the interests of the conduct of business that I invite the hon. Member to continue his speech, please. Criticising the Chair does not fit in with that invitation.
§ Mr. Wigg
I shall continue the story of The Three Bears. In 1956 or 1957 when the hon. Member, so he says, was not engaging in a sordid intrigue, there was a war in Suez. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for Air, who has just returned to the Chamber, wrote a famous article under the heading "Smash Nasser Now". "Smash Nasser now" he said, and then, after waiting for three months, he found that owing to the imprudence of various Ministers of Defence we had no air cover—and like whipped curs with their tails between their legs, they crawled out. They had no air cover although there had been six years of Tory rule and the Tory Government, in order to placate their supporters, got rid of their Prime Minister and after a sordid intrigue—I am sure the Foreign Secretary will agree—they got another Prime Minister. Why anyone should worry about a sordid intrigue after what happened in connection with the selection of the present Prime Minister is beyond me. I thought that in Tory circles the expression "sordid intrigue" was a compliment and that the hon. Member was on the way to a Cabinet post—[Interruption.] If an hon. Member wants to interrupt he must stand up.
§ Mr. Goodhew
I am delighted to intervene again to comment that the performance of the hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) is rather reminiscent of "Sunday Night at the Palladium".
§ The Chairman
Order. The hon. Member is allowed to make reference to historical things, but this is not a debate on foreign affairs. We are considering the Air Estimates in Committee and I 1189 should be obliged if he would direct his remarks to that subject.
§ Mr. Wigg
That is precisely what I am doing. At Suez, because of the improvidence of the Government at that time, there was too little air cover and the whole thing had to be dropped. Hon. Members should read the dispatches of the Commander in Chief, Sir Charles Keightley, in November 1957. The point I want to make in connection with my fairy story is that I wanted to get those dispatches debated, but they were never debated in this House. One thing the Government wanted to do was to cover up against any hon. Member who opposed Suez. This is what I thought happened at Bournemouth.
The hon. Member for Bournemouth, West this afternoon talked to us and preached to us. He imagines that he is playing with another juvenile with a ball on the floor. He thinks it is a crime for us to cast doubt on the V-bomber force, but who was the first to cast doubts on the continuation of the V-bomber force? It was the Government in the 1957 White Paper. They said that the V-bomber force was obsolescent, that it had no future and that they would not provide a successor. According to the 1957 White Paper, the V-bomber force had finished.
On this point I must again apologise to my hon. Friends for reading something which I must have read 66 times before but the penny does not drop. We have heard from the right hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends the regard in which the V-bomber force is held overseas. In his speech last Thursday the right hon. Gentleman referred to the Boys at Omaha. And he made the point so often made, that the deterrent to deter must be credible, and it must be credible on the basis of not only what we think about it, but of what our enemies think of it. Here is a document which I did not write, neither did it come from Transport House. It was a Staff Study prepared for use by the Committee on Foreign Relations of the United States Senate. It is dated 14th September, 1962, almost two years ago. It says:The British strike force is already approaching obsolescence. Its credibility as an instrument of British policy is steadily 1190 declining. Its future, if it has one, may be as a contribution to an integral part of a multinational European force.Either those words are wrong and are completely misleading, or they are right. If they are wrong, I should have thought that some right hon. Gentleman at some time would have given the lie to them.
§ Mr. H. Fraser
I do not know what this report is, but may I point out to the hon. Gentleman that, important though this document is, it must be remembered that the Americans are very divided on this issue? Mr. McNamara has decided to retain the B52 bombers in the low level rôle until 1969. I think that this fact clinches the argument.
§ Mr. Wigg
The right hon. Gentleman is making my point for me, but we have not quite got there yet. He tells me that he does not know what this document is. [HON. MEMBERS: "Shame."] It is not shame. It is a matter of sorrow. The right hon. Gentleman does not know what it is, any more than the Minister of Defence knows what is inside Mr. McNamara's report to Congress. I have quoted from it before. It was a document presented to the United States Senate. I should have thought that somewhere in the vast staffs in the Air Ministry and the Ministry of Defence somebody would be doing a comparative study of the defence forces of the world, so that Ministers would know what others are doing. It is such remarks as those made by the right hon. Gentleman that convince me how right I am when I assert that Ministers are ignorant. I said yesterday that the Polaris should be charged to the Conservative Central Office. I think that the V-bomber force should be, too. It is tied up with presenting a picture to the British electorate. My point is that it does not deceive our allies.
There is something else. My hon. Friends have read McNamara, as I have. The principal test that Mr. McNamara applies to the credibility of the deterrent is neither the number of missiles nor the capacity of the B52 nor the Hustler. Does the right hon. Gentleman know what it is? Mr. McNamara spelled it out in great detail. What is the one test which the Russians will apply to the credibility of the deterrent? I will gladly give way to the right hon. Gentleman, if he wants to supply the answer. Does he 1191 accept my invitation? Apparently not. The test is the efficiency of the civil defence of a country. The thing that makes the Americans worry about Soviet policy is the efficacy and efficiency of the Russian civil defence system. In the speech made on 27th January, Mr. McNamara said that they already have places for 70 million Americans and the number of places is increasing all the time. This statement refers to the provisions which would enable large numbers of Americans to survive a nuclear attack.
Despite the earnest, well-meaning efforts of hundreds and perhaps thousands of our fellow countrymen, we all know that not much has been done about civil defence in this country. It has not been done because right hon. and hon. Members opposite regard civil defence as a waste of money and a waste of time. The absence of civil defence in this country on a sufficiently wide basis is the basic fact which gives the lie to the whole of their deterrent policy.
In the 1957 White Paper—at any stage I will give way to the right hon. Gentleman if he wishes to interrupt—there was no pretence whatever at carrying on with the V-bombers. Then it was to be Blue Streak. It was to be a nuclear streamlined atomic force. That was the trick. Right up to 13th April, 1960, the V-bomber force was not a starter. As soon as Blue Streak went, they found a new prince to worship—Skybolt added to the V-bomber force.
Here again let me say with all sincerity that it was not that hon. Members opposite are wicked. They just do not understand. The Americans spell it all out for us. The job of Skybolt was as a defence suppressant. The B52 is a much heavier weapon than the V-bomber. In terms of performance this or that advantage can be argued out, but the plain truth is that Skybolt was to go in and knock the enemy defences and then go on and deliver its bombs. The V-bomber force plus Blue Steel is not a substitute.
But we are now told that Blue Steel is a weapon of great striking power. If this were so, one would have thought that the Government would go on with it; but what did they do way back in the days of Skybolt? At the time the 1192 Minister of Aviation said to Mr. Kennedy, "We must have Skybolt. Our nuclear striking power depends on it". They cancelled Blue Steel Mark II. They then complain that I do not now believe what they say about the virtues of Blue Steel. They cancelled Blue Steel Mark II and left themselves with Blue Steel Mark I. They then found that they were vulnerable at high level. Their propaganda department always has one gimmick left. We were then told that, if they could not go in high, they would go in low, and thus Blue Steel was the weapon of perfection.
The Government talked this afternoon as if the 180 V-bombers will be redesigned. Something that already physically exists cannot be re-designed. What can be done with it is implicit in the existing design. The hon. Member for Bournemouth, West asked us what we would do with the V-bomber force. We have told him. I can only suggest that we make gramophone records of it and send them round. We have told him over and over again. It is not a deterrent. It breaks on the issue of a deterrent because of the lack of civil defence. It breaks as a deterrent on lack of performance. But it has a nuclear capability. As my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Park pointed out this afternoon with great ability and pertinacity, it is capability fitted into the bombing programme of SACEUR.
We were told the other day that it is not ownership but control that matters. If the test is control, I must point out that as to the V-bombers which are consigned to the Second Tactical Air Force, namely, the Valiants, and the atomic weapons of the Rhine Army, the control is exclusively in the hands of the Americans. They are, of course, obsolete weapons. The Corporal, Honest John and the atomic howitzer are manufactured in America but they are obsolescent. The keys are under American control. The A-bombs in the Second Tactical Air Force are American as well. What then in the name of goodness is the use of the Minister of Defence arguing in the House that control is the test, as if he was scoring a point against us? Even though it is established beyond any doubt that the control in Europe is American, they still talk about the "independent" British deterrent in relation to N.A.T.O.
1193 If the Government earnestly believe in the deterrent policy, if they earnestly believe that the possibility exists of a situation arising in which this country has to fight alone, they should acquire missiles, or something of the sort, and keep them on British territory. But keep them as far away from the British Isles as possible, because, in the absence of civil defence, a country which possesses a second-strike weapon will be obliterated if it engages in nuclear war.
I will now carry on with my "Three Bears" concept. This is what hon. Members opposite cannot see, but it is implicit in paragraph 1 of the 1958 White Paper. Again I describe it as the biggest piece of nonsense that was ever written. I must always attach that qualification to it. We were told thatThe world today is poised between the hope of total peace and the fear of total war.If the deterrent is associated with total war, if it comes to be used, life for us in any form, if anybody happened to survive, would not be worth living. Life as we know it in these islands if total war comes is absolute, complete and total obliteration.
By possessing a second-strike weapon all the Government are able to do is to be sure that after we are all dead, after these islands have been wiped out, a number of missiles fired by Polaris-carrying submarines, or even by such V-bombers as could get off the ground, would blast the Russians to hell. That would not do us any good. This is where hon. Members opposite should go to the electorate and say, "We are wanting, and spending sums of money on, a weapon that will never be used while you are alive. If the worst happens, through a mistake or whatever the cause, this may blast Russia and revenge your death, but it cannot save your lives".
I move to the total peace concept. Looking round the world now, is there total peace in the sense used by the then Minister of Defence, that saintly character the present Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations and for the Colonies—is it the Kingdom of Heaven? I do not think that the world is a Kingdom of Heaven, nor is it likely to be.
Therefore, it is a British interest to maintain the rule of law. For this reason, conventional forces are needed which are capable of sustaining the law 1194 and asserting British authority in those areas which are essential to our wellbeing. This seems to me to be such a sensible proposition that it establishes that what we should then do is join an alliance in which the power of revenge is infinitely greater than that which we ourselves can exercise and at the same time put all the resources we have into trying to make the world a better place and being able to police it in the interests of world peace.
The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for Air was not present last night when I asked hon. Gentlemen opposite, the same question which I now ask him. I must inform him, however, that I did receive an answer from one of his honest hon. Friends, but only one. When, from the right hon. Gentleman's point of view, did he become convinced that Polaris was a runner? When did he become converted to the Polaris concept? I am willing to give way if he wants to reply. It appears that he does not. A hen I asked that question of his hon. Friends last night the only reply I received was from the hon. Lady the Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Miss Vickers). She said, "Nassau". That one answer from that one hon. Member opposite gave the lie to the whole of the Tory case. We see that their policy is one of expediency.
I do not wish to detain the Committee [HON. MEMBERS: "Shame."] I have felt it my duty to join in the debate and I wish today to refer particularly to the Secretary of State for Air. Last week he was the right hook, so to speak, in the conspiracy which he and his right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence engaged in denigrating my hon. Friends. I have no complaint about that, although the Minister of Defence and he both thought that they could embarrass, on political grounds, my hon. Friends and myself who accept that there must be adequate defence arrangements for this country and those of my hon. Friends who are pacifists. I hasten to add that we are proud to have as colleagues those of my hon. Friends who are pacifists We find them a great source of strength.
We begin with the right hon. Gentleman's speech last week, which I have done him the honour of studying with great care. He began by saying and 1195 complaining that when the Tory Government came into power 12 years ago they found a difficult situation. He described in some detail the terrible mess they found, with 249,000 soldiers in depôts. There was a terrible mess, he told us, but is he not aware that the Korean war was going on at the time? I recall sharing some of the anxieties that were expressed at the time. The happiest and proudest time of my membership of the House of Commons was my association with my right hon. Friend the Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell). He ordered and organised the Commonwealth Brigade which went into Korea. The lads in that brigade fought hard and well hut, according to hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite, that was not good enough. In the debate in February, 1951, they criticised us saying that we were not doing enough. On that occasion they forced a Division because they hoped to drive a wedge between my hon. Friends with pacifist leanings and others of my hon. Friends and myself, but they did not succeed.
If the party opposite found such an appalling state 12 years ago, at the very time when we were fighting a war which might easily have spread and which, it was feared, might lead to a third world war, let us test the sincerity of what they say by considering the actions they took. Will the Secretary of State for Air accept that test? If there was such an appalling neck-breaking situation one would have thought that they would have done something about it. They did. Considering that there were 249,000 soldiers in depots, they could have been expected to have surveyed the manpower position and have taken them out of the depots and sent another formation to Korea.
They did not do that, but they did something else. Do hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite recall the soul stirring action which was taken by the then Conservative Government—action which probably caused the death of Stalin? What is it they did? They reformed the Home Guard. That was—
§ Mr. Wigg
With respect, Sir William, the Minister's salary is borne on these Votes. I am challenging his competence.
1196 I am challenging his personal integrity. When he spoke last week, anything would do to attack us. He did not even stop to think. It was the aristocrat talking to what he regards as his social inferiors. [HON. MEMBERS: "Shame."] It is true. Anything he could say would do provided it damaged us. The right hon. Gentleman does not think that we have memories. We lived through that time and while the right hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends are intellectually incapable of remembering what happened five minutes ago, my hon. Friends and I readily recall the happenings of 12 years ago.
Twelve years ago those right hon. and patriotic Gentlemen opposite used the stick that we were not doing enough, and when they came into power they performed an act which savoured of a pantomime—although they did not even follow that through, because their plans on that occasion were cancelled a year later. They proceeded not to boost up but to cut down; and they cut down under financial pressure without regard to the consequences. The result has been that we have had chaos ever since. When we came to Suez they could not raise a brigade, air cover or—
§ The Chairman
Order. I am finding it very difficult to relate the hon. Member's remarks to the Air Estimates for 1964.
§ Mr. Wigg
It is a British habit, and one I have acquired, Sir William, in the House of Commons to approach most questions historically. That is what I am doing. With a little patience it will be seen that I am demonstrating that the right hon. Gentleman last week made great play with the fact that when they first took office 12 years ago they found that my hon. and right hon. Friends had left them in a mess. He stressed the inability, undesirability and unworthiness of my right hon. Friends to take responsibility because of what they found. I am exposing the right hon. Gentleman for what he is; a cheap skate and a "phoney"—[Interruption.]—because he came to Parliament with arguments which have no validity at all, although I do not wish to dwell overmuch on this point.
Let us examine the rest of the right hon. Gentleman's speech. This afternoon he discovered that the TSR2 was not part of the deterrent. He did not 1197 say that last week. I interpose that in an effort to recapture the thread of my argument, because what the right hon. Gentleman will always do, as will his hon. Friends, is to pick out any fact, irrespective of whether it is true or whether or not it fits the argument—any stick is good enough to beat the dog—for they are engaged in a political exercise, not in a search for truth. The only right hon. Gentleman opposite who is constant is the Prime Minister. He is doing it all the time. He is like a needle on a gramophone that has got stuck. It keeps on saying the same thing.
The Secretary of State interposed the point about the Americans and the Hound Dog. That was staggering, because from reading Mr. McNamara's comments both last year and this year we find that that gentleman has declared that he intends to have 1,700 missiles. We learn that at present he has 126 Atlas's, 108 Titans, that there will be 600 Minutemen by 30th June, nine squadrons of Polaris with 144 missiles in 1963—that is what he said last year—and 144 more missiles in 1964. That is what he has said this year. He has also said that the Hound Dog, which is superior to Blue Steel or anything like it, will give him extreme flexibility. He believes that that will give him the capacity to do the job over and above the job which his missiles will do.
The right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Defence argued that we could rely on British missiles. What British missiles? We do not have one. We do not possess a single missile and to get the picture right, to see it in its strategic concept, we must look at the broad pattern of missiles which can be deployed at the maximum distance from their targets. We must consider the problem in terms of missiles in hardened sites and the soft ones being phased out as fast as possible. The Americans have Hound Dogs, B52s, B70s and other aircraft coming along, including the Phantom 2. That is the American situation up to 1970; after that, they expect research to produce something else to follow on.
Mr. McNamara argues the respective merits of the missile against the bomber. There is an argument for both, but he has come down in favour of missiles in 1198 hardened sites, and also in favour of extreme flexibility, because he can afford that, too. We have abandoned the missile policy we adopted in 1957, because we could not, face the cost and then, facing that fact, we have—always post facto—invented overwhelming excuses, including attacks on the personal patriotism of those on this side of the Committee to justify the weapon that is the fashion at the moment. That is the significance of what I dragged out of the hon. Lady the Member for Devon-port last night; this honest hon. Member who said, "Polaris? Not until Nassau." And if tomorrow, for some reason, the V-bomber force or Polaris could not operate, thy; party opposite would find something else and would then justify the new weapon.
I want to turn to the right hon. Gentleman's own personal record in relation to the purchase of the Phantom aircraft —[HON. Mt MBERS: "He's gone away."] The right hon. Gentleman may have left the Chamber, but I can still say what I want to say. This man was appointed, above all, to safeguard the interests of the Royal Air Force, and he knows as well as I do the significance of the purchase of the Phantoms. I say quite frankly that I do not believe the reasons we have been given for that purchase, and we are not told the range, the cost and the numbers of the Phantom II because to do so is politically inconvenient to the Government. The figure spoken of is 50, there has been mention of 112, but the significant figure is 120 because I believe, and this is confirmed by what I heard in last night's debate, that the ultimate object of the predominant political group opposite— the naval group—is three aircraft carriers and 120 Phantoms as the first instalment.
After the First World War a controversy went on—controversy still goes on —between Lord Trenchard, on the one hand, and those in what is called the "blue water" school of the Navy, on the other hand. Whilst Lord Trenchard was alive he succeeded in maintaining the position of the Royal Air Force, and it is brought out that what he was after was an independent bombing force and the strategic Bomber Command of the last war. That is brought out by the four volumes on the Strategic Air Offen- 1199 sive, but the more I study that official history the more convinced I am that we paid a very heavy price, and did not get the return we should have had.
I think that the rôle of Royal Air Force is to support the Army, to carry the Army, to provide close support and carry out reconnaissance for the Army, and in those terms it can be seen that the R.A.F. has been sold down the river. Its independence was finally sunk by the decision, announced in last week's debate, to take the Phantom.
The Phantom 2 is an aircraft of great capability. I said last night—my eyes sometimes play me up—that the Americans had ordered 3,400 of them, but the number is 1,700, of which 500 have been delivered. I saw the first figure when I read my speech in HANSARD last night, and I thought the best course was to correct it here today. The Phantom takes off from 4,800 ft., which means it is not STOL. It can fly 500 nautical miles. It can then drop 4,500 lb. bombs, shoot a Bull Pup at a bridge and shoot another at a radar station. It can shoot two Sparrow 3's head on at an enemy Fishbed—the Russian MIG21. It can fly up to 2.5 mach when escaping, and can return with adequate reserves. It has a cruising speed of 2.2 mach. It is a wonderful aircraft but, essentially, it is an interim aircraft. It has the American GEJ79 engine.
The Government have said that they will take out the GEJ79 engine and put in the Spey 168, but whether or not they succeed in that does not matter. The reason for the change, I suspect, is to save sterling and get range. What matters is that the Royal Navy has been given an aircraft which, even if its speed is hotted up only slightly, is not only a bomber but it is also an interceptor of the first class. And what has the Royal Air Force got? It only has the ageing Hunter. It is perfectly obvious that for the next decade the Navy will be able to do for the Army the job that the Royal Air Force ought to be able to do. That is because the Royal Air Force has broken down in the discharge of its duty to the Army. It broke down at Suez; the Army did not get the air support at Suez that it should have had. And without up-to-date aircraft, it cannot do its job for the Army today.
1200 Again, we are told about the Cyprus airlift, but, once again, all we had there were the Britannias, one Comet 4. some Comet 2s, the ageing Beverleys and Hastings, and all we have coming on are ten Belfasts and the Argosies. So the R.A.F. is ripe for take-over by the Navy. The Air Staff know it but, much more important, the right hon. Gentleman, who has left the Chamber, knows it, too. Nobody in this Committee has a clearer view of the impropriety—I withdraw that word; of the consequence of the purchase of the Phantom to both the Army and the Air Force than the right hon. Gentleman. The Army has already paid the price—the AW681 has been delayed, Blue Water has been cancelled and the Army is without sufficient air transport. For air cover, the Army is left with the ageing Hunter, and nothing coming on after it.
But the Army's word does not count these days. It has been completely sold down the river. I was astonished to hear with what great passion the hon. Member for Bournemouth, West made his charges against us, but why does he think that I criticise the strength of our units in Cyprus? For fun? Because I particularly want to expose the weaknesses? No, it is because battalions should not he asked to undertake semi-active duties at such strengths, and I think that I am doing my duty in telling the facts about air strength or anything else when I believe the Government are concealing the facts.
Last night I read extracts from the speeches of a former Prime Minister, the then Mr. Baldwin. I looked up the record last Thursday night, and that made me read again the speeches made before the war by the right hon. Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill). I do not doubt that the things that the hon. Member has said about us today is the kind of thing that lot were saying about the right hon. Gentleman before the war. The consequences were that they won an election in 1935, but the bill had to be presented, and the bill was presented on the beaches of Dunkirk.
§ The Chairman
Order. It would be much better if the hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) would come back to the Air Estimates.
§ Mr. Wigg
With respect, Sir William, I have not wandered very far from them.
An Air Force does not exist in a vacuum. It exists to do a job. The test in course of debate is to see what that job is and whether the Air Force is doing it. My answer is that the Air Force does not know what the job is, and even if it did it could not do it. Then the hon. Member for Bournemouth, West, who seems to have perfect licence to move from place to place in this Chamber, and I must read the new version of Erskine May as applied to the hon. Member—
§ Mr. Wigg
That would be the last thought in my mind. I never criticise the Chair. All I ever do is to inform my poor imperfect self of the logic of what the Chair says. Occasionally if it appears to be criticism that is not my fault but my imperfect understanding. I thought that it was out of order to move from one place to another in the Chamber, but I appear to be wrong and I present my humble apologies to the Chair.
§ Mr. Wigg
I thought that the hon. Member for Bournemouth, West, had gone. I shall not go back to "The Three Bears".
The Secretary of State for Air has access to the Cabinet. He knows as well as any hon. Member, and far better than the overwhelming majority of us, what is the significance of the Phantom 2 purchase. The Committee ought to be informed of how this has been brought about, but we are given fobbing-off answers. It is one thing one month and something else in three months' time. When the White Paper is issued we look eagerly for the decision, but there is nothing there. We wait for the Minister to address the Committee, but we are told nothing, but inside the 1202 Cabinet there must have been discussion and there must have been understanding.
In my belief there was a battle and it has been decided in terms of the Navy. I believe that the essential battle was not about Phantom 2 but about aircraft carriers. Last night it became absolutely crystal clear in the debate that in the ultimate we are to have three or more aircraft carriers, and these interim aircraft are being purchased to be put on those aircraft carriers.
I say that there is the greatest possible significance in this for the Royal Air Force and for the aircraft industry, and that the strategy which is now to be worked out is once again to be post facto. When Lord Head had been a Member of the House of Commons, and had been not only Secretary of State for Air but for a brief period Minister of Defence, he told us in the few speeches he made after his resignation that we would not have a policy worked out in advance and decisions taken in relation to that policy. We would go on recruiting where we could and by whatever means we could find and ultimately our defence policy and our foreign policy would be dictated by the number of men we could recruit and the money that we could afford. In other words, we would be attacking the problem in reverse and it would be bound to be a piecemeal policy.
Every Defence White Paper looks a hotch-potch. It becomes well-nigh impossible to decipher what it is all about and to find a coherent plan. The only way at hon. Member can do this if he wants to understand, for instance, the V-bomber rôle is to remember that he has beet told that the V-bomber is the nearest thing to the B47 and to find out how the Americans are employing that aircraft. The same applies to Blue Streak. He is told that it is the nearest thing to Atlas and he has to study what the Americans are doing with Atlas before he gets a picture of what is going on. Yet here we are arguing, discussing and wrangling about obsolescent equipment which has no contact with reality but is a political mirage to be used in exactly the same way as the Conservative Party always uses these things to present a picture before a General Election in order to secure a political advantage.
1203 My prescription—and I said this last night and I repeat it—is that by some means the British people who are sovereign in these matters must be brought to an understanding of the facts. Here we are handicapped. One or two newspapers have excellent defence correspondents. The rest of the papers take no interest and the facts about defence are presented in a jangle. I.T.N. and "Panorama" are not much better. The information is presented for a few minutes only. In America, however, things are done differently. Detailed accounts of defence policy are presented to Congress. Experts give evidence to Congress Committees. High-ranking officers are brought in from Europe and are cross-examined in detail. They are even questioned on the radio for an hour on end so that nobody in the remotest part of the United States can possibly have any doubt about the objects of American defence policy in relation to the maintenance of a free world. The result is that the American people are prepared to make the sacrifices.
I am astonished that hon. Members do not stop and jerk back on their heels when they realise this fact. People in the United States carry on their politics much more vigorously than we do. They would not worry about remarks that the Prime Minister was elected as a result of a sordid intrigue. If that were so they would take it in their stride. Fighting as vigorously as they do, the question of selective service is never an issue at a Presidential election. Why? It is because the American people have come to understand that if they want the power of the United States to be sustained, not only in the North American Continent but as a world Power, there are obligations which a free people must accept. They therefore accept a bill which we would regard as catastrophic, an annual bill of 50,000 million dollars, and they accept curtailment of the liberty of their young men. But over here, try as we will on this side of the Committee without any help from hon. and right hon. Members opposite, we can never get beyond an argument which has been presented and twisted in preparation for the hustings.
It is a very sad day when we have Ministers like the Secretary of State for 1204 Air and like the Minister of Defence, both of whose careers I have watched because they both either represent or once represented North Staffordshire constituencies, who are both primarily in politics for one thing and that is the preservation of their class interests. As long as their is no conflict between their class interests and their patriotism they are patriotic, but as soon as there is a conflict they are Munichers. Let us never forget it. If my hon. Friends follow the Prime Minister and watch this rather stupid, waspish figure with his infantile habit of flicking his tongue out like a viper when he thinks that he is scoring a point, they will notice that he is perfectly true to form—a P.P.S. to Neville Chamberlain. I can imagine—
§ The Chairman
Order. I have asked the hon. Member again and again to address his remarks to what is being discussed and that is the Air Estimates for 1964.
§ Mr. Wigg
I am doing my best. At that point I was dealing with the Prime Minister and I will shortly resume my seat. I wanted to remind my hon. Friends of what is happening at this stage in British history. The British people are at the crossroads, certainly in defence policy, with a bill as high, perhaps, as a democracy can be expected to bear, unless the note of emergency is more urgently sounded. They have not been told the facts. They have not had spelt out to them what the consequences would be if N.A.T.O. was smashed. They have not had spelt out to them that fulfilment of our treaty obligations is an essential requirement of the security of these islands.
They have been taught by right hon. Members opposite that all one has to do is to make noises in support of N.A.T.O., that all one need do is say, "We support N.A.T.O. and we would do this and that", irrespective of the facts and the obligations involved. I am glad that the Secretary of State has come back to his place. I was, in his absence, charging him with disloyalty to the Royal Air Force and of being the architect of the death of the Royal Air Force. He knows as well as I do—and he knows that I know—that the decision to buy the Phantom 2, which is linked not to one aircraft 1205 carrier but to several, is a wrong decision. Looking him straight in the eye. I say to the right hon. Gentleman that, if he had any guts and any patriotism, he would have resigned to prevent that decision being carried out. In not resigning, he has been disloyal to the Royal Air Force and to everything for which it stands, because he has put the interests of his class and his party above the interests of the Service of which he is the Minister.
§ 6.52 p.m.
§ Mr. Anthony Kershaw (Stroud)
The hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) has made a certain amount of play with the word "patriotism", and I rather regret it. I am sure that no one would doubt the patriotism of the hon. Gentleman—I certainly do not—but I must remind him that patriotism is not enough. The hon. Gentleman has the worst Parliamentary manners in the House. He is so bursting with conceit that he considers that everything he has to say on defence matters he is entitled to say for 60 minutes and more. He has been making the same speech now for eight years and more. It is just as dull as is was when he started. He is so bursting with pride at having been for so long a big fish in a very small Opposition defence pool that it has become quite intolerable that he should continue.
I beg the hon. Gentleman not to give way to excitement as he does. I am sure that it is not good for him. One of these days, he will have a heart attack on the Floor of the Chamber and we shall be deprived of his company. In his own interest he ought to stop it.
As I have had occasion before to say to him, he is now the Cassandra of the British Forces. He takes obvious delight in notifying every shortcoming which he suspects to exist. He takes obvious pleasure in denigrating the equipment with which our forces are provided. He spends at least half of every speech in impugning the personal honour of one or other Member of the House. In a small way—because he is not very important—the hon. Gentleman is a national disaster and, so far as he has any influence in defence matters, that influence is wholly against the interests of his country. I am sure 1206 that he does not mean it, and I suggest, therefore, that he should stop.
Incidentally, I think that it would be quite a good idea—I hope that I shall not be out of order in mentioning it —if we could have television in the Chamber so that the public could see the cheap buffoonery with which the hon. Member for Dudley regales his followers end the childish idiotic laughter with which his remarks are received.
I wish that television could show this. Look at the benches opposite, and we are discussing the Air Estimates.
§ The Chairman
Order. I hope the Committee will remember that we have certain rules of order. I hope that I was not right in hearing the right hon. Member for Easington suggest that the hon. Member for Stroud was not an honourable Member but only a Member. That would be out of order.
§ Mr. Shinwell
That is something something which I shall not withdraw for the Chair or anyone else. I do not regard him as an honourable man. After all is ;aid and done, in the House of Commons Members are expected to yield to other Members if they indulge in anything in the nature of an attack, and that is what the so-called hon. Member for Stroud was doing. If that is what Parliamentary manners are, or if that is what Eton educates them up to, I shall not withdraw for the Chair or anyone else. He is not an honourable man.
§ The Chairman
I cannot help feeling that the Committee is getting very excited and that there should not really have been all that much excitement about it. The practice of the House is to address hon. Members or right hon. Members as honourable or right honourable. The right hon. Member for Easington has been in the House a very long time, and I have been in the House a very long time—
§ The Chairman
—and I am inviting the right hon. Member to assure me that he did not mean to impute the word "dishonourable" in what he said.
§ Mr. Shinwell
Out of my extensive vocabularly I could find some other word to use. For example, I think that the so-called hon. Member opposite was stupid and was dishonourable in the sense that when a right hon. Member seeks to ask another Member to yield that other Member ought to do so. He showed disrespect for Parliamentary manners and even for the traditions of the House. But, Sir William, since I have great respect for you—you are an old colleague of mine and I remember you as a very gallant soldier during the war and as a very honourable Member of the House—I will withdraw.
§ Mr. Kershaw
I did not know that the right hon. Gentleman was so fond of the hon. Member for Dudley.
§ Mr. Kershaw
I am afraid that the right hon. Gentleman is past learning anyway. It might be just as well if he did leave.
1208 The Royal Air Force, in the rôle set out for it in the Memorandum on Defence, clearly has an independent rôle, and I think it very odd that the Opposition should fly in the face of what are the present facts in suggesting that it has not. It is true that the equipment which it has today will wear out in due course, but this is not to say that today it is not an extremely important weapon with the attributes the Secretary of State said that it had.
When my hon. Friend the Member for Bournemouth, West (Sir J. Eden) invited the Opposition to say whether, or to what extent, they would retain control of the weapons which we have in the Royal Air Force and the V-bomber force, no answer was forthcoming. I think that we know the answer. The Leader of the Opposition has said that he would give our V-bombers, without right of withdrawal, to N.A.T.O. I always regard this as a very odd posture for the Labour Party to find itself in. After all, hon. and right hon. Members opposite have resolutely refused in the past and they still resolutely refuse to get closer to Europe on the ground that it would give to the Europeans power to influence our economic and foreign policy. Yet they are willing to hand over a decision much more fateful for the people of this country, that is, the decision to use our V-bomber force, irrevocably to those same people to whom they will not afford even the slightest influence on our foreign policy as a whole. It seems to me that this is a very odd posture which cannot be justified in logic.
Incidentally, if the V-bombers are to be nationally manned when they have been allocated to N.A.T.O., and I presume that that is the proposal—I mean manned by members of the Royal Air Force—how can one withdraw their control from this country and carry any conviction either to one's enemies or to one's friends? I am sure that no one would think, whatever the protestations, that they had been entirely withdrawn from our national control. That is why in the American proposal for the mixed-manned force mixed manning is suggested.
The hon. Member for Sheffield, Park (Mr. Mulley) envisaged the possibility that the R.A.F. would have been either destroyed or so diminished in strength 1209 as a consequence of conventional operations that it would not be open to us to resume, if necessary, a nuclear rôle. That is arguable in theory, but I find it a very remote possibility because I cannot understand how it is possible to imagine large-scale conventional operations being undertaken in Europe without the immediate danger of an escalation into the use of nuclear weapons. Therefore, a conventional war on this very large scale could hardly ever take place.
The idea that it could take place is founded upon what I conceive to be an error in the way in which our nuclear forces should be looked at. Our V-bomber force, while it must be deployed in a military manner with military targets and military control, is not primarily a military weapon. Its job is not to fight a nuclear war but to deter one. It seems to me that in that regard this country has a rather special and slightly different position from any position which the United States or Russia can adopt. In the United States, reasonable and genuine studies have been made into how one can fight a nuclear war. That makes a certain amount of sense to them because in the United States, as in Russia, there are very large areas which are comparatively empty. Therefore, it is possible to imagine nuclear weapons being used by an enemy on purpose in such a way as to give warning rather than actually to engage in full-scale, all-out nuclear war.
In these islands, which are very crowded and full of buildings and population, such a strategy carries no conviction and makes no sense. Therefore, while I respect the opinions and possibilities open to the American and Russian strategists, they do not make sense to us and any plan which envisages fighting a full-scale conventional or nuclear war is impossible for us.
§ Mr. Kershaw
That is the nub of the question. But clearly if we are to deter we must carry to the mind of our opponent the faint possibility that we may use the weapon. If it is certain 1210 that our weapon is no good—and I have tried to deal with that point—or that we will never use it, it is a complete loss and there is no point in having it. There must be this doubt—[Interruption.] I am arguing that it is wrong.
The policy of the Labour Party in running down the V-bomber force and denigrating its possibilities achieves the worst of every possible world. It is no good incurring the expense of a nuclear force and then saying it is no good because a potential opponent can say, "We can forget entirely about them. We may not be able to forget entirely about them if they think that their force is good, anal if they say that they may use it. But if they think that their force is bad and say that in no circumstances will they ever use it, it can be completely written off and there is no sense in their having it".
§ Mr. Paget
The hon. Member must not confuse the two things. We have never said hat the force was bad and we have never said that it was incapable of causing appalling damage in Russia. Of course it can. What we have said is the other leg, which I think is quite plain and which the hon. Member pointed out himself, namely, that if we live in an island which is plainly indefensible and if the consequence of our action would be to render us a cinder, it is incredible that we will use it. It is unreal because nobody can believe in It. To distort all our other forces into making a threat which nobody except the British electorate is expected to believe is not a serious way of conducting a defence policy.
§ Mr. Kershaw
I think that the hon. and learned Member is assuming that we would threaten to use our weapons as first-strike weapons. If we have a second-strike weapon—and I should say that the V bomber force is, to some extent, a second-strike weapon, and, of course, Polaris will be a second-strike weapon—the fact that it is impossible for an enemy to wipe out this country without suffering irreparable damage himself is a factor in his planning. Therefore, a second-strike weapon ideally but a bomber force at the moment most certainly deters and is of use to this country in its diplomacy.
We have gone over these matters a great deal in the defence debate and 1211 today. I think that the position of the parties and different speakers is very well known and therefore I will not pursue it. I turn to discuss one or two details of the White Paper and the Vote which we are discussing. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Air, as he observed, will probably be the last Secretary of State to bring these matters before us in their present form. As a man who saw some service in the Army, I should like to take the opportunity of saying that I have always found the bearing and discipline of the Royal Air Force to be a singularly happy combination of the modern and traditional. The efficiency of the Service is very great because of the way in which it approaches its task, and I am sure that the change in organisation will not be allowed to alter the spirit in which the Royal Air Force has so honourably discharged its duties.
If the form of our debate is to be altered in future, we might with advantage bear in mind the suggestion of my right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence. The attendance during part of today's debate has been very small. It would perhaps be more interesting to discuss matters in relation to areas of the world and all the forces concerned in it rather than to discuss them merely Service by Service. There is a certain difficulty in doing that. I think that the criticisms which have been made this afternoon about the amount of information which we have are fairly well founded. It is very difficult for an amateur and back benchers to go through the Votes as we have them and to know what is happening, and it is very difficult to make meaningful speeches. That perhaps accounts for the sparse attendance and for the fact that more or less the same old hands speak in these debates year after year. I hope that it will be possible to make a slight alteration.
My intervention in the speech of the hon. Member for Sheffield, Park concerning the A.11 in the United States was designed to show that, although they may show very well in their accounts or by the way that they present their reports to Congress what is going on, they still retain the interesting possibility of keeping the expenditure of millions of dollars absolutely secret from committees of 1212 Congress and, apparently, the public. This extraordinary appearance at one bound of an enormously complicated and expensive machine like the A.11 is an example of the strange way in which the United States manage their affairs. Probably it has resulted in a great asset to that country and, therefore, I do not grudge the Americans their methods.
I notice that over the next two or three years, there is to be a sharp fall in the numbers of women enlisted in the Royal Air Force. I wonder what is the reason for this. I am sorry that it is so. It seems to me that there are many jobs in the Royal Air Force which the girls can do very well—for example, the technical signals and radar jobs at which they are very good. It is surprising to see how drastically it is proposed to cut down the number of women in the W.R.A.F. I should like to know the reason for this.
My next question concerns the R.A.F. Regiment. I have looked carefully through the documents, but I cannot find the number of men. I do not suppose that this is particularly secret, but I wonder why it is not made clear. How many squadrons are there? How are they trained? Is there any difficulty in recruiting? Are they up to strength? If so, and if recruitment is easy, why are not more men recruited, because it appears that they fulfil a useful rôle. I share the tribute paid by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State in his speech today to the R.A.F. Regiment.
I understand that the situation concerning married quarters is usually much easier in the Air Force than in the Army, because R.A.F. bases tend to be longer established than Army bases, which, obviously, are moved rather more often. There appears, however, to be a shortage in the number of married quarter buildings. How great is the shortage and what proposals are there for ensuring that everybody who needs a married quarter has one?
I should like to ask, finally, for a little more information about cooperation between the Royal Air Force and the Army in Borneo, of which I have read in the newspapers and elsewhere. I understand that in that part of the world it is impossible for one Service to function without the co-operation of the others. I should like to know how 1213 this co-operation has been going, whether the equipment used by the Royal Air Force is satisfactory for the purposes and whether in that difficult country the co-operation has been all that the House of Commons will expect. Those are the detailed points on which I should very much like to be given an answer.
§ 7.12 p.m.
§ Mr. Cyril Bence (Dunbartonshire, East)
I am pleased in a way to follow the hon. Member for Stroud (Mr. Kershaw), because it gives me an opportunity to come to the defence of my right hon. Friend the Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell). I was shocked that the hon. Member did not give way to my right hon. Friend. In the 12½ years that I have been a Member of the House of Commons, both my right hon. Friend and my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) have consistently invited hon. Members to interrupt them and have always given way to anyone wishing to pose a question to them or to take up a point which they have made.
It is an essential quality of the House of Commons, whether in Committee or otherwise, that we have this practice of giving way to each other, seeking information and taking up points made by hon. Members. This quality of debating has enabled us to preserve our great Parliamentary democracy and enabled us to conduct our affairs in a manner which is admired by everyone who visits this country and examines our procedures. I am sorry that the hon. Member did not give way. I hope that I shall never again witness such a scene, because it was committed against one of my right hon. Friends who is always most generous in his attitude to other hon. Members.
I certainly agree with the hon. Member for Stroud—and this has been the burden of my complaint on many occasions—concerning the difficulty that we experience in examining Estimates as they are presented to Committees of the House. I am a member of the Estimates Committee and I have never concealed the fact that because of the complexity and structure of the wide base between the Ministry of Aviation and the Royal Air Force, it is difficult to sort out all the different branches and the developments which take place in industry with the support given by the Government to the 1214 Ministry of Aviation through the Royal Air Force and through the Secretary of State for Air and the support which is given to industrial research and development. It is all complex and it is difficult to find whether we are getting value for money.
Already, one slip up has been revealed in the Public Accounts Committee. I do not blame anybody for the crazy structure which has evolved. I understand the difficulties in the technological development of the industry to support, on the civil side, two State airlines and, on the military and naval side, this tremendous striking power which we call the Royal Air Force. Anyone who treats this a; an easy matter has not got down to examining the whole problem.
I resent the attitude taken by politicians, whichever side they happen to represent—and I certainly charge the Government and hon. Members opposite with this—in trying to convey to the people that they are obtaining, the acme of defence and the greatest security which they have ever had or are likely to have in the figure quoted in the Defence Estimates, and in the Air Estimates in particular.
If we look at the Air Estimates and then at the Civil Estimates, we find in the latter vast expenditure for the Ministry of Aviation upon research and development in the aircraft industry, much of which, no doubt, can be accounted for by research and development to be used for developing aircraft of all kinds for the Royal Air Force, the Navy and the Army.
Anybody with experience of applying research and development in any industrial activity in the modern age knows that no matter who is in power or whatever the ccuntry—it happens in the United States and in Russia, and it happens here, perhaps, to a higher degree than elsewhere, for a number of reasons—we are always in the process of taking off the drawing board and putting into production something of which we know very well that when we have produced, say, one-quarter of what we want in that form, that one-quarter will be out of date. It will be outmoded by further research and development.
That is going on all the time. It is the easiest thing in the world to show that one's latest scientific development in 1215 almost any field is being outmoded by further research and development in the same sector in one's own country or elsewhere. This is the price that the British people must pay if the party opposite seek to convince the people that they must always be armed and prepared to act militarily as an independent, sovereign Power. It is our duty to tell the people that the price which they must pay for that is very heavy. The Air Estimates by no means reveal the real cost that will be charged upon the people if they wish to preserve what the party opposite pretends to call real independence.
I was looking at some quotations from the speech made recently by the Prime Minister in Glasgow, in which he said that no one has a right to take out of the community more than he puts into it. I do not want to condemn any individuals, whether scientists, technicians, managers, administrators or anybody else, but in this huge complex of the air industry, with its three great units that were brought together by the shotgun marriage, I wonder how much is being taken out of the taxpayer's purse. How much of the taxpayer's money is passing through this complex of the air industry, with all its subsidiaries and feeders? How much is passing through for which the taxpayer is getting nothing at all? I have no doubt that millions are being frittered away, because it is impossible to obtain control of expenditure in this vast complex. I believe that in the structure of our aircraft industry we have the worst of all possible worlds.
The hon. Gentleman said that one of the great problems was the management of our resources, the best way to use our manpower and physical resources. This is always a terrific problem. But this should be told to the country. I agree that this is one of the Minister's problems. Of course it is. It is one of the problems of all the Service Departments. It is also the problem of the management of every company—how to manage one's resources; and "manage" means control. But what is the good of saying that in the House of Commons when the Prime Minister in Newcastle suggests that everybody should do as he likes and that we should stop control from White- 1216 hall? It is the amateur talking again. We shall get the worst of all worlds if we mix amateurism with professionalism and fail to achieve proper management of our resources.
The right hon. Gentleman gave the analogy of the iceberg with a mixed metaphor. What we have to worry about is not only what is showing above the surface but what is underneath. The difficulty is that there is no single-mindedness of purpose in many of the units which make up the British aircraft industry. I wish that the industry behind our national airline service and our air forces in general was as single-minded in its objective as my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley has always been. I am not condemning those who run the industry. They have loyalties in various directions. It is, however, difficult for any Department to obtain control of the facilities and regulate them and ensure that those which exist are used at the proper time for the proper purpose—to support the forces of defence.
It we are economically and successfully to create defence forces we must have as big a team as possible engaged on research and development to keep us ahead of or level with other forces in technology. But what is important in keeping us strong is not only the quantity of our output but the technical quality of a few units. This is a very expensive and difficult business. People generally have the impression that defence is not expensive and that it is a simple and easy matter, and it is thrown around that the Socialist are not interested in defence and that only right hon. and hon. Gentleman opposite are. That is nonsense. I am as keen as anybody else on defending my country. I give way to no one on that. Most of my hon. Friends are keen on it. Even my hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) is keen that the country should be defended from attack by any foreign Power. But he does not believe that any foreign Power would bother to attack us.
§ Mr. Bence
My hon. Friend will explain his position later on. I am certain that our people are being deluded by 1217 the Conservative Central Office but I hope that they are not being completely deluded into believing that we can out of our industrial base create the power to be a purely independent Power capable of taking action on our own and sustaining it from our own resources, because that is nonsense.
The hon. Member for Bournemouth, West (Sir J. Eden) said that we should support British facilities and equip our troops with British materials. I agree with him; of course we should. But there has been an admission by the Secretary of State for Air and the Minister of Defence that our industrial base is not sufficiently technologically developed to give us the best equipment in the world. So we have to buy American equipment. Immediately we have to go outs 'de our industrial base and rely on that of another country we are no longer completely independent in our attitudes and policies and the military action that we can take.
It does not worry me from the point of view of taking military action against the Soviet Union of any other great Power whether the Tory Party is in power or whether we are. What worries me about the Tories remaining in power is the domestic state of the country. I am convinced, however, that whether we have the Conservative Party, the Labour Party or the Liberal Party in power, they will never declare war against the Soviet Union, France or the United States. I cannot see Britain ever again taking a unilateral decision to go to war. That seems to be right out. I do not see that we are serving the purposes of N.A.T.O. or any other alliance if, while subscribing to the alliance and seconding our V-bomber forces to it, we tell our allies that we are always liable at any time to take action if we consider unilaterally that British interests are threatened. That is sheer nonsense.
After all, I am a supporter of the N.A.T.O. Alliance and a great believer in Western civilisation. I believe that basically we have probably evolved some of the best philosophical ideas in world history, and I am determined to play my part in defending Western civilisation. see world problems as being not purely British or purely American 1218 problems, but the problems of Western civilisation. I do not believe that France, Western Germany, Belgium, Holland, Norway, Sweden, the United Kingdom or the United States would take action which would lead to a world conflagration. Furthermore, I do not believe that the Soviet Union would, either.
This is often said in the House. Ministers have aid that they do not believe that these things will happen. It has been said that if it happens we shall be a cinch r. I overheard one of my hon. Friends mutter that the V-bomber as a second-strike weapon is nothing more than a post mortem spasm, because if it is a second strike it will be in response to a first strike, and if one thinks in terms of nuclear war, the result of a first strike on this country would be shocking and civilisation here would be completely destroyed.
We have had a long argument about the V-bomber force and its secondment to N.A.T.O. I would like to see our forces committed more and more to N.A.T.O. With the modern instruments of war, national capacity to take unilateral action becomes more and more remote. Nations are becoming in creasingly inter-dependent. Paragraph 8 of the Statement on Defence says:At Nassau the Government of the U.S.A agreed to make Polaris missiles available 'on a continuing 3asis'.As I understand it, that means, using an industrial interpretation, that this will be supply not on the basis of stocking but of renewing that which is expended.
§ The Temporary Chairman (Sir James Duncan)
Order. I remind the hon. Gentleman that we are now debating the Air Estimates. Polaris missiles are referred to in the Navy Estimates.
§ The Temporary Chairman
I was not here earlier. My impression is that the Polaris missile is on the Navy Estimates and not on the Air Estimates.
§ Mr. Mulley
While Polaris is on the Navy Estimates, Sir James, surely it is permissible to make brief reference to it because vie are here concerned with the nuclear deterrent, of which the V-bombers are part.
§ The Temporary Chairman
While Polaris does come under the Navy Estimates I agree that a passing reference to it would be in order. But the hon. Member for Dunbartonshire, East (Mr. Bence) was beginning to develop the subject of Polaris rather too much.
§ Mr. Bence
I am sorry if I gave the impression that I wanted to develop this into a full-scale debate on Polaris. I was using it as an instance of our depending upon supply from a foreign industrial base. The same applies to the Phantom.
We are told that the idea of having an independent deterrent is that we might have to take unsupported action as an individual nation in defence of a fundamental British interest, whatever that might be. I think that I would be asking the impossible if I inquired what a fundamental British interest might be, in the context of modern conditions, which would not also affect other nations.
But, if that is so, would it not be possible that, in such a case the United States, if it did not wish to become involved, would refrain from continuing the supply of Polaris? The agreement is for supply on a continuing basis. We are not to manufacture the missile here, even under licence. Nor indeed will we be making the Phantom here. We shall be maintaining our air squadrons from an industrial base in another country.
§ The Temporary Chairman
Order. The hon. Gentleman is referring to an aircraft which is to be bought for the Navy. He must keep to the Air Estimates.
§ Mr. Bence
The Phantom is for aircraft carrier use, but I was using it as an instance for the case that our industrial base is inadequate to support the concept of our being an independent military power at this level.
We are mainly concerned here with aircraft of very high power. The whole debate has centred around not the conventional Air Force but of the supply to our defence forces of first and second strike strategic weapons—the deterrent. My point is that our industrial base is quite inadequate for the purpose.
1220 The hon. Member for Bournemouth, West hoped that our forces could be equipped with the products of British industry. As a member of the Estimates Committee, I have encountered the great difficulties of questioning and examining under our complex system of estimating. Some amazing things are said in this House. These sums are called "Estimates", and I suppose there is an historic reason for doing so. But the public—and perhaps some hon. Members —do not know that the Estimates are really records of money already spent and that the Estimates Committee can only question how the money has been spent. Supplementary Estimates are drawn on the Consolidated Fund. These, too, are not Estimates of money to be called for in future.
Our task on the Estimates Committee is to summon witnesses and question them on how and why the money was spent. That is a difficult task and very wearing. Here today we are being presented with two sets of Estimates, one from the Ministry of Aviation and the other from the Air Ministry. There is a figure in the Air Estimates of over £190 million for research and development but that does not tell the whole story. There is also an allocation for research and development of transport aircraft and aero-engines in the Civil Aviation Estimates, but no one would imagine that this has anything to do with defence. The aircraft industry thus gets money both from the Defence Departments and from the Ministry of Aviation.
It has been argued that the Americans have always been more successful in building airframes than we have, but I am not competent to assess the truth of that. Nevertheless, it seems extraordinary that, whereas the wage level in the American aircraft industry is much higher than here, American airframes are cheaper than ours.
The United Kingdom to the American industrial business community is a low wages area. It sometimes amuses me to hear politicians talking about keeping wages down, the wages board and all the rest of it, as if Great Britain were one of the high wage areas of the world—it is not. The wage economy of the United States, Sweden, Australia, New Zealand and Canada is far higher 1221 than ours. With American wages far higher than they are in British industry, why is it that the American aircraft industry can produce cheaper airframes than we can? Raw aluminium is cheaper in this country and all the semifinished material that go into airframe construction can be bought more cheaply in the United Kingdom by our aircraft manufacturers than it can be bought by the aircraft manufacturers in the United States. Yet we go to them to buy airframes.
Not only have we the Secretary of State for Air and the Minister of Defence looking to the United States, but we have our air services doing the same thing. I believe that there is something wrong. There is some leakage. I think that my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley was quite right when he said yesterday that we would not nationalise the aircraft industry; we would investigate it. There should be a Royal Commission to investigate the structure of the British aircraft industry to find out what is wrong.
It has been said in this debate and it was said yesterday that £20,000 million had been spent on the defence of this country since 1951. Yet we still seem to be in a very weak position. Our resources seem to be inadequate. But with all the expenditure of this money, the British public learn that we have to go to the United States to purchase aircraft.
It has been said that this is a better form of presenting the Estimates. When this Bill goes through the Ministers for the Services will be under the Minister of Defence, and I presume that the Estimates will be brought more and more together and we shall get less and less information out of them.
The control of the public purse is becoming more difficult. The Executive seem to be able to get away with spending public money more freely than ever before, and as a Member of Parliament I find it more difficult on behalf of my constituents in the job that I try to do as best I can on the Estimates Committee to find out where this money is going. I pay particular attention to the Supplementary Estimate on the Navy Estimates, but I cannot quote an example from that today because I should be out of order. I am however, 1222 absolutely certain that the same thing applies to the Air Estimates as to the Navy Estimates. We have this tremendous channelling of money from the Departments of State into private industry, and although I have thought a great deal about this, I cannot honestly say that I have found an answer to the problem.
The time has come, whatever Government is in power—I hope we shall be in power this time next year—to inquire into the structure of the aircraft industry and into how research and development is financed within the industry. I am satisfied that, although one cannot perhaps accuse anyone of particular neglect, the general organisation and structure of the industry and the methods we employ—and historically some of it has grown up, like Topsy—is not effective in the modern age.
Many of us in this House are laymen. This is an amateurish institution where we employ, professionals to carry out the function of Government, and when we are presented with documents like this I challenge anyone in Great Britain to get any understanding of how our industry is organised to defend our country. There is no information in the Defence White Paper. One reads the Estimates and goes through the Estimates Committee's Reports and all the sub-committees—and it is hard work going through them—trying to find out where the money goes. Sometimes we have a lucky strike and we do find out where some of the money goes, and that mistakes and errors have been made, but I have no doubt that there are thousands of other mistakes which we have not been able to detect. This is not like running I.C.I. or Unilever, and they are big enough organisations. We are dealing with probably the biggest industrial organisatior in Great Britain—a huge complex organisation—but I am afraid that it is sometimes represented as a very simple organisation to the people of this country who get that idea from the publications of the Establishment. Huge resources are being devoted to maintaining the complete illusion of Great Britain being a great naval military power in teams of the nineteenth century. That is the illusion which we are trying to create, and to pay £2,000 million a year to maintain this illusion seems to me to be a waste of our resources and the 1223 practising of a frightful deception on the people of this country.
§ 7.50 p.m.
§ Mr. Frank Taylor (Manchester, Moss Side)
Now that the steam generated in the debate over the last two hours has largely subsided, I ought not to refer to the outburst of verbal assaults and accusations earlier, nor to the arguments about which aircraft is the fastest and will fly the highest, or which deterrent is really a deterrent. Having listened to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Air and my hon. Friend the Member for Bournemouth, West (Sir J. Eden), I have become more and more appreciative of the range of defence in general and of the responsibilities of the Royal Air Force in particular. One appreciates the intricacies into which the R.A.F. has to delve and the many places abroad in which it must be actively interested and the enormous task of any Minister responsible for these affairs and trying to produce the lowest cost compatible with the highest degree of efficiency.
I readily concede that the debate has concentrated on the items costing most, the expensive aircraft costing hundreds of millions of £s and other items whose cost totals thousands of millions of £s. But we ought not completely to ignore the smaller items which, small in themselves, are nevertheless important in their own environment. I want to spent some time discussing married quarters for Service men abroad and to refer to the way in which the existing system is administered and to the advantages and disadvantages which emerge from families following their Service men husbands to overseas postings.
There are two overriding requirements. The first is that the efficiency of the Service man is paramount and that everything should be done to make the Service man serving abroad effective and efficient. At the same time, everything should be done to produce the maximum comfort for his wife and family when they are away from their own country. That is the second consideration.
Thousands of Service men live in married quarters throughout the world. Many distinct advantages emerge from this arrangement, the biggest being that 1224 family life continues in much the same way as civilian life at home. I am sure that hon. Members will accept that the efficiency of any workman depends largely on the degree of contentment in his home environment, and this applies to the Service man as to the civilian. If it were not for the possibility of securing married quarters abroad, great reluctance would be encountered among possible volunteers to go abroad, and all three Services would suffer accordingly. The prospect of married quarters abroad for the whole family is a great attraction to the Service man and helps to keep the family together in circumstances in which there might otherwise be separation, possibly permanent separation. There are many other important factors, such as the beneficial educational value to the wife and family of going abroad and meeting other people and seeing other lands and getting to know what goes on in other parts of the world where there are other people of other colours speaking other languages.
On the other hand, the present system has a number of disadvantages. Service men volunteering to leave England are given unduly optimistic promises about how quickly married quarters will be available to them. When the promises are not kept, or appear not to have been kept, there is resentment. There is also sometimes unfair allocation of married quarters which, whether justified or not, leads to resentment and an unfortunate atmosphere. In some cases, especially when a change of plan involves hurried arrangements, married quarters are not available, or not of a reasonable standard. Another consideration is that when Service men and civilians live together in a mixed community such as Malta, Gibraltar or Aden, it is often difficult to devise a completely fair system of allocation of quarters between the two, and Service men often feel that they are unfairly treated and have only what the civilians leave after having had their pick.
Other complaints which could be avoided include the complaint that even when married quarters abroad are allocated, it is often many weeks before the wife and family at home receive the necessary papers and permits to allow them to proceed abroad. This is an administrative matter which could 1225 be improved enormously. Any such delay is important and everything possible should be done to cut it out.
Let us consider the financial implications of married quarters abroad. They are expensive and I understand that the cost is 150 per cent. higher than for a single man. This means that a married man and his wife cost more in accommodation than two single men. This differs from the view of the Inland Revenue which regards double harness as being cheaper than single harness. Accommodation abroad can be much more expensive than in England. Hiring is always expensive and building may be even more expensive. Estimates of the number of years for which the accommodation is needed have to be made and are often proved wrong. Money can be lost in this way. There are other financial factors hitting the country's financial resources.
Moreover, the Service man is hit in many ways and an additional financial burden ails on the man who has children at home in England. There has been mention of the possibility of further allowances for children or further free tickets to allow them to see their parents, but I understand that the present situation is that they are allowed a free pass to visit their parents once a year, but that if the parents want to see their children more often, they have to pay the cost themselves. We all know how expensive air fares are for one or more children—it can be many hundreds of £s.
Married quarters often lack essential amenities. Some which I visited in Aden as a member of a Parliamentary delegation were excellent, but we discovered that some were wholly dependent on air conditioning so that the windows were not made to open and when the air conditioning went wrong, the buildings were much worse than if air conditioning had not been installed. We found others in which there was air conditioning in only one room—no doubt in the interests of economy—and this led to the family living in one room of the flat and even sleeping there. One finds other disadvantages, although I admit that expenditure cannot be unlimited.
1226 What can be done about this problem? I have spoken to many Service men and found that the consensus of opinion seems to be that a far happier state of affairs would exist if tours of duty overseas were made for one year and were unaccompanied. This is a radical change, but it seems to be acceptable to many Service men. Many of the disadvantages of the present system would be ended and the Government and the Service men would have money. Such a scheme would have to be coupled with a major extension of the construction of married quarters at home, so that the Service man's family could live in its own house in England, Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland until the Service man returned from his tour abroad.
I agree that this principle would lead to some difficulty in that there would have to be a careful calculation of the number of Service man-hours needed abroad against the number needed at home, but there are already many single men in the Air Force who would provide the elasticity needed for the scheme. It should not be overlooked that building married quarters at home would make them a national asset, which cannot be said about much of this expenditure in other parts of the world in these unsettled days. Millions of pounds have been sunk in countries which, at almost any moment, we may be politely, or not so politely, asked to leave, thereby losing vast assets.
I venture to put forward these thoughts as specific suggestions which would be acceptable equally to married Service men and to the Government, and which would certainly be beneficial in many respects and could not fail to lead to better relations and greater efficiency.
§ 8.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes (South Ayrshire)
I have been criticising Defence Estimates, and particularly the Air Estimates, for many years. I began criticising them when they were much smaller than they are today, when there was a Labour Government. I have continued to adopt this attitude year after year, and this year I am very pleased to find so much support for my views, especially in the terms of the Motion placed upon the Order Paper by the Opposition, stating that £20,000 million has been spent with 1227 very little result in respect of the improvement of our defences.
I have seen some strange changes during the years in which I have made these criticisms. In the last 12 years we have had a Conservative Government, and each year there has been a tendency for these Estimates to increase. There was a time when I thought that my little efforts were beginning to have some effect on the Government. For example, I remember the very interesting speech made by the present Minister of Defence when he left the Government and spoke from the third bench below the Gangway. He then put the argument which I have been using in these debates—usually to tiny audiences—namely, that we' could not afford this large expenditure upon armaments.
That was the keynote of his speech. I remember saying to myself, after listening to it, "Good heavens; I have converted the Chancellor of the Exchequer." I did not expect to be able to say that. Now, however, the former Chancellor of the Exchequer is in the position of gamekeeper turned poacher. After some time in the political wilderness he has arrived back, rehabilitated, as the Minister of Defence, and he now presents us with a bill which looks as if it will grow year after year. This time next year, Sir James, you will unfortunately not be with us, but I have no doubt that you will read the reports of our debates in HANSARD with meticulous attention. Then we may see another great change. Still from below the Gangway, I may be criticising the expenditure of a Labour Government. I criticise whichever Government are in power. Then I may once more have the support of the present Minister of Defence. He may well say, "The Labour Government are spending too much on defence." I shall be glad if he provides me with some good arguments.
I have listened with a great deal of interest to the right hon. Gentleman speaking in these debates, and I have come to the conclusion that he has a split personality. He does not seem happy in his present position. He was much happier when he was Chancellor of the Exchequer. Hon. Members will remember the Scottish story of the split personality of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. We 1228 now have a Minister of Defence who has a split personality, and who has in the back of his mind a great question mark about defence expenditure. We have Dr. Jekyll Thorneycroft and Mr. Peter Hyde.
I am sorry that the right hon. Gentleman is not here, because I believe that sooner or later the economic arguments that he posed at the time of the political crisis when he resigned will again become valid. Any Government—Socialist or Conservative—will have to curb their defence expenditure, purely on the assumption that we cannot afford this gigantic sum if we are to maintain the British economy and standard of life.
§ The Temporary Chairman
The hon. Member keeps on referring to defence. This debate is only on the Air Estimates.
§ Mr. Hughes
That was my general preamble, Sir James—just like the Preamble to a Bill. I am now going to direct my arguments to the Air Estimates with devastating and damaging effect.
We are being asked to agree to an expenditure of £500 million for the Royal Air Force, and the word that has gone through all these Estimate debates is the word "deterrent". We have heard it over and over again in the last two days, and we shall hear it again on Thursday, when we debate the Army Estimates. It has dominated our debates. It is the basic word, because it is the basic principle of Government policy. But is the basic assumption correct? Are we justified in voting £500 million on the assumption that we need an Air Force to deter Russia from attacking us?
That is the fundamental assumption that I want to challenge, because I do not believe that the Soviet Union wants to attack us; I do not believe that the Soviet Union can possibly have any material self-interest in attacking the Western world. I believe that when the Soviet Government have to defend their own Air Estimates they adopt the same principle, namely, that they need the deterrent to deter the West.
We must realise that the cost of the Air Estimates and of the deterrent to ourselves and to the people of the Soviet Union is very heavy, and that it acts as a brake on both economies. If we must have a deterrent in order to avoid war, why should not we pool it, so that 1229 neither the Soviet Union nor ourselves would spend so much, but we would all be deterred from embarking upon this adventure, which might mean the end of civilisation?
I have studied Soviet policy and the Soviet Press for many years, and I have discovered that what the Soviet Government are interested in at present is the building up of a large chemical industry, which they are doing with the support of this country. I cannot see that it is very likely that the Soviet Air Force will attack this country with the object of destroying our chemical and other factories, the products of which Russia is hoping to use in the development of her economy.
I cannot understand a policy which says that we must trade with the Soviet Union; that we must send our cattle and the products of our factories and all kinds of things to the Soviet Union, and at the same time says that we have to deter each other from blowing each other to bits. I challenge the basic assumption that if tomorrow we abolish the Royal Air Force, the immediate result would be that the Soviet Union would want to occupy this country. I do not believe a word of it. I believe that both on our side and on the Russian side we have to break through all these fundamental delusions.
I had hoped that this year we should have a reduction in the Air Estimates, and I will tell the Minister why. I carefully studied the speeches made by the Prime Minister and two that I found most interesting were those which the right hon. Gentleman delivered in Moscow on the occasion of the signing of the Test Ban Treaty last August. He made two speeches, one at the formal ceremony and the other in the form of a television talk to the people of the Soviet Union. It must have been very interesting for the people of the Soviet Union to be able to hear and to see on television our then Foreign Secretary. They do not often have the sight of a real live English lord on their television screens.
I read those two speeches and I could not find in them a word with which I disagreed. What surprises me about both the present Prime Minister and our previous one is that when they go to Moscow they make wonderful 1230 speeches with which I can cordially agree. I was with our former Prime Minister when he was in Moscow and there he was inspired, and so was the present Prime Minister. He delivered speeches which are quite incompatible with any rise in the arms Estimates. If the speeches which the right hon. Gentleman made on T.V. and at the Test Ban Treaty ceremony were an honest and accurate presentation of British policy, there is absolutely no reason why we should be increasing the Estimates. We have to keep these things in mind when understanding the policy of this country. At the signing of the Treaty he said:Although this Treaty in itself is not in itself an act of disarmament, the Treaty does put a brake on the arms race in the nuclear field, the next round of which would have involved a fantastic waste in material resources and human talent.That sounds something like a peroration to the sort of speech which I used to deliver to this House ten or twelve years ago. The Prime Minister referred to "a brake on the arms race". People in this country said, "Ah, we are going to have a change. We are not to have these fantastic defence Estimates year after year. We are not to have increases in the Estimates for the Navy, the Army, the Air Force." But what is the result? When the Estimates are presented this year—six months after we were told there was to be a brake put on the arms race —we find ourselves presented with the highest peace-time arms Estimates in the history of this country. I cannot understand it. If the Prime Minister was right in holding out the possibility of a new era in international relationships, it should have been reflected in this year's Estimates.
The Minister may argue that it is too soon. But there is no sign that in the future the arms Estimates will grow less as time goes on. We heard the right hon. Gentleman talk about what the Air Estimates and policy was likely to be in the 1970s aid so we have to come to the conclusion that we are not saving any money as a result of the expenditure on Polaris.
I am not going to wander into the Holy Loch. I mention Polaris only in passing. But one of the ideas which has entered into the heads of innocent people was that when we transferred from Skybolt 1231 to Polaris there would be a bigger expenditure on the Navy and a smaller expenditure on the Air Force. There does not seem to be any sign of this at all. The expenditure on the Navy Estimates is going up, and so is the expenditure on the Air Estimates. I see not a brake on the Estimates but the adaptation of a policy involving an independent nuclear deterrent which will mean an acceleration of the arms race.
I cannot reconcile these huge Estimates with the sentiments expressed by the Prime Minister in Moscow. He said that if our Governments and peoples set their minds on it, the Treaty would mark a break through for which the world had been longing. It would be a conscious start in demolishing the walls of suspicion and mistrust which had baulked our peacemaking; a start in building new relations of confidence and goodwill. Is there any sign at all in the policy of the Services that there has been a break through, or is there any sign that the good will sentiments of the Prime Minister will be expressed in a reduction in the sums of money which we are spending on aircraft, on submarines and on the Army?
The T.V. speech of the Prime Minister must have been an interesing one, because it seems that he went to Moscow and spoke on the television in order to rehearse a speech to be made during the British General Election. He said that the Treaty would help the arms race. He got more enthusiastic as he went along. First he referred to a brake on the arms race and then he talked about a halt in the arms race. If he had stayed in Moscow another fortnight he might have been talking about the abolition of the arms race altogether. He said it put a brake on the arms race. But these Estimates are a spur and not a brake. He said that there was a brake on the arms race at a time when it was very dangerous and very expensive. We all agree that the arms race is very dangerous and very expensive.
I want to finish this statement of the Prime Minister's policy with a final quotation:When there is so much to be done in the organisation of peace, what results could we not obtain if the money which we spend on 1232 even half our weapons could be devoted to housing, education, medicine, food production and the like. If we could only achieve that then all of us would have life more abundantly.Excellent principles; excellent sentiments. If they had been applied to the Estimates we would have saved £250 million this year on the Air Estimates. Goodness knows, we need at least £250 million to be spent on these other objectives housing, education, science and other things.
I listened to my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) making a very interesting speech in which he attacked the aircraft industry. He said in scorn, "Nationalise it? We don't want to nationalise the aircraft industry but to investigate it." I disagree with my hon. Friend on this point. I want to investigate it, of course, and I believe that if we investigated it we should come to the conclusion that we should have to nationalise it. I do not see that this nation is entitled to spend the very large sums which we have been spending year after year and which come before Estimates Committee after Estimates Committee and to be inconsistent with our ideas of what a sane national economy should be.
Even if a Conservative Government were to be returned at the next election they would have to investigate the relationship between the aircraft industry and the Air Ministry because it has become very near to a national scandal. We should nationalise the industry. After all, the R.A.F. is a nationalised Service. That being so, I do not see why we should not nationalise the industry which supplies it.
§ The Temporary Chairman
Order. I hope the hon. Member will not pursue this matter too much. These Estimates are rather difficult to understand, but expenditure on research, development and production of aircraft for the Service is under Civil Aviation and other Votes.
§ Mr. Hughes
You will realise, Sir James, that no one wishes more to work in harmony with the Chair—especially with you—than myself. I suggest that there is locked up in the products of this industry an enormous amount of labour, of organisation, of scientific brains, raw material and a great deal 1233 of other things which could be more profitably devoted to our national life in other ways.
Take, for instance, the number of men employed in the Royal Air Force. I believe about 143,000 men and women are directly affected by the Votes in these Estimates. They are very intelligent men and women who have to devote a large amount of training to scientific and technical education. Those men and women would be far better employed in other spheres of national life than in the Royal Air Force. Many of them are mathematicians. As you know, Sir James, we are short of mathematics teachers and science teachers. In the whole of our educational system in Scotland we are short of the intellectual brainpower of young men and women whom we need to educate the people. They are taken away and immobilised in what I consider a superfluous and useless industry.
In our local secondary academy we have regular visits from the R.A.F. security people. Their object is to attract into the young students who otherwise might go into the teaching profession. I object to that because I believe in first things first. If we are to develop all these plans for university education. technical and secondary education and all the other activities which go on in a university, college or technical school, we shall have to keep our education brains rather than to allow them to be attracted to the R.A.F. To use a phrase of the Prime Minister, industry in this country needs to be modernised.
§ Mr. Hughes
My hon. Friend, who knows factories and industry better than I do, says "Hear, hear" to that. We need a complete revolution in our industrial life as a result of the steps we are taking towards automation and technological development of industry. In the R.A.F. there are men working on aeroplane engines and on extremely difficult mechanisms which go to put an aeroplane into the air. Those people would be better employed devoting their lives and activities to building up industry in this country than by wasting their time hanging around airfields and hangars of the Air Force for an operation which is not likely to come off.
§ Mr. Hughes
I know that you, Sir James, are looking angry about the idea that I might wander into Japan. I note the point made by my hon. Friend, but I shall not wander off to the other side of the world. "One step enough for me".
We have been told that the V-bombers are wonderfully effective weapons which can go very quickly across the oceans and the land to bomb cities of the Soviet Union. I do not know if the Civil Lord has been in the Soviet Union or not, but I warn him that in the Soviet Union there is a new generation of people who are at least as much abreast of technical developments in aircraft in this country as anyone who lives in this country. I have seen a lot of the Soviet Union in the last 30 years. I have seen its young people develop from peasants who did not understand wheels or bicycles into first-class scientists and technicians. I have been very impressed with them.
§ Mr. Hughes
I believe I was the first in this country to welcome Valentina Tereshkova here as she came off the Russian plane. I have had the opportunity of talking to Major Gagarin and Major Titov. They are extremely intelligent, not only in space science but also in pclitics—which is more than I can say for the Secretary of State for Air.
I mention these young space people because somebody mentioned space in this debate. They are not just individuals. They represent a generation. If it comes to an arms race and if we are to have the independent deterrent based on the assumption that alone we must gear our manpower or womanpower and our industry to compete with this new Russian generation, we are labouring under a great illusion.
The Minister never finishes the story about these bombers and how they get into the air. He seems to finish with them when they get into the air. What happens to them afterwards? Do they 1235 return? As soon as the bomber goes into the air, inevitably a bomb can be expected, probably coming from a rocket. So we are at the stage where both sides have reached what I will call the saturation suicide point. I do not believe that with our industry, with its technical background, and even with all the young people we have in the R.A.F., it is sensible to think in terms of a nuclear deterrent and competing with the Russians in that way.
When the Minister says that it gives us security, I am reminded of the argument of Captain Liddell Hart that the danger of accident in the nuclear field is greater than the danger and the possibility of a Russian attack on this country. I do not know whether the Minister has seen a film which is being shown at one of the London cinemas at the moment—Dr. somebody.
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes
The Minister has obviously seen the film. It is a film in which we are shown all the apparatus of the deterrent working. We see the Chiefs of Staff. We see the aeroplanes being ordered to go and bomb Russia. We even see the results of a nuclear cloud of dust. Inevitably a couple of them go mad. There may be a streak of humour running through it, but I came away terrified that this might be a possibility. Even if there is only one chance in a hundred of it not happening in this way, it is something to be avoided. I want to see the Estimates cut ruthlessly and deliberately as a matter of policy, because I believe that they mean not security to this country but greater danger.
My hon. Friend the Member for Dudley said that Britain, with all this talk of an attack upon the Soviet Union, had no civil defence. I cannot discuss civil defence on the Air Estimates. What has appalled me in all these defence debates is that defence of the civil population has been regarded as something very incidental indeed. I do not believe that this country is safer as a result of this vast expenditure.
The Minister knows a little about Ireland. He has very good connections with Ireland. I believe that, in the event of a nuclear explosion, Ireland would be perhaps a little safer than 1236 this country, because it is not a target. Indeed, I have been told that very wealthy and successful business people in West Germany have been buying up a good deal of land on the west coast of Ireland, because they believe that it would be safer there than in this country or in Germany. That is very likely to be so, because the most dangerous parts of the world at present are the centres which have nuclear weapons. I am as near danger as any part of the world, because I live near the Holy Loch. I put this point of view to a Russian. He said, "I am in more danger than you. I am in Moscow". The dangerous areas are the target areas. I have no doubt that the Holy Loch is a target area for a rocket. I have no doubt that targets exist all over the Soviet Union. The most dangerous parts of the world at present are in the territory of the people who have been spending so much on armaments.
I welcome the statement the Foreign Secretary has made in Geneva. I do not know whether he was acting unilaterally. He suggested that we should burn the bombers. I wonder if that will last until after the General Election. I noticed that just before the last General Election the previous Prime Minister went to Moscow. The country was then asked to vote for the man of peace. Now we have seen the same pilgrimage to Moscow, and the present Prime Minister is also being held up as the man of peace.
These figures contradict that. They show that we are devoting an enormous amount of our national wealth, labour power, brains, and scientific and technical achievement to doing something which is barren from the point of view of raising the standard of life in this country. Therefore, I am against this huge expenditure. I do not believe that it can be rationally defended. I do not believe that it is sound national policy.
What about areas outside this country? We have a base in Cyprus from which the R.A.F. operates. The other day I asked the Minister of Defence how much we had spent on Cyprus since we took it over as a base. He gave the figure as £200 million. We could have had a dozen universities for £200 million. What is the purpose of the base in Cyprus? The answer is 1237 that it is part of the so-called nuclear deterrent policy.
I recall discussing the Cyprus base in the House. The day we decided to go from Suez to Cyprus the right hon. Gentle- man the Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill) said that we had to go away from Suez because that base was in hostile territory. He was right. Had we stayed there we would have been forced to retire ultimately because of the insurgence of Egyptian nationalism.
I remember Captain Waterhouse, who was then the spokesman for the Suez Group on the benches opposite—I am not sure whether the present Secretary of State for Air was a member of that group—saying that we were moving nearer to a possible danger spot, that we were going into Cyprus and thus going nearer to the potential enemy, that we were living in the nuclear age and that one hydrogen bomb on Cyprus would be the end.
Despite that, we went to Cyprus. That was calamity for the people of Cyprus and that move is partly responsible for our being in trouble in Cyprus now. We are there, apparently, because it is a naval base or a potential base for dealing with trouble in the Middle East. We are there because it is part of our target policy, which in turn is based on the assumption that we will have war with the Soviet Union.
Randolph Churchill lets the cat out of the bag when he goes about the world. He often lets many cats out of the bag, although he certainly is a man of courage. I recall that after visiting Cyprus on one occasion Mr. Churchill wrote an article in the Evening Standard in which he said that the only reason the base was there was that we needed airfields there to enable us to bomb oil-fields at Baku. Do the Government really believe that the Soviet Union is not aware of this? Do they believe that the Russians do not have any rockets trained on Cyprus?
We are in this terrible mess in Cyprus today simply because we persist in keeping our base there and because our bombers and R.A.F. garrison are there. It was a bad day for Cyprus when we went there, when the Turkish police were used against the Greek population and when we made the young generation of Cypriots used to the gun and violence. 1238 These are probably the last Navy Estimates to be introduced by a Conservative Government.
§ Mr. Hughes
I should have said Air Estimates, but these arguments would apply to the Navy Estimates, and I regret that I was not fortunate enough to be called to speak in the debate on them.
I suggest that when the time comes, as I hope it will, for a Labour Government to be in office, that Government will have the determination, vision and decision to say that this enormous expenditure on armaments must be curbed. I hope that the then Minister of Aviation, in presenting his Estimates, will not disappoint me.
§ 8.43 p.m.
§ Mr. Roy Mason (Barnsley)
I should like to begin by expressing a personal point of view. I am not sorry that the debate on the Air Estimates is being wound up unusually early on this occasion. I me an no disrespect to my hon. friends or hon. Gentlemen opposite when I say that every minute has seemed like an hour. Had we gone on until midnight the debate would have seemed to have lasted for another week. I hope that my voice lasts out during the period I wish to speak.
In opening the debate, the Secretary of State may have been making what was termed an historic speech in that it was the last speech that a Secretary of State for Air, as such entitled, will make. I suggest that it was historic for another reason; that he took such a long time to say so little. Throughout the debate one hon. Member after another has complained bitterly about the lack of information in the Air Estimates as well as about tare lack of information imparted from the Dispatch Box in that opening speech.
The Secretary of State referred to the rescue missions undertaken by the R.A.F., and with the value and safety of Transport Command, to which I shall refer later. He also spoke of future additions to the Air Force, particularly Transport Command. He said that in future years —not necessarily in the next 1239 twelve months—we shall have coming the HS748, the VC10, the HS618, and so on, but made no mention—indeed, I do not see how he could—of the additions in the last year. During the whole of the last 12 months we have introduced into Transport Command one Argosy and one squadron of Wessex helicopters —a disgraceful and pitifully small contribution. It would have been most embarrassing for the Secretary of State just to have mentioned that.
I am sorry that the right hon. Gentleman is not present at the moment, but because of what was said from the Treasury Bench this afternoon I should like to ask the Under-Secretary of State: is there or is there not a plan to use the V-bomber force independently? I hope that the hon. Gentleman will be able to reply—I will give way to him now if he will do so. Is there or is there not a plan to use the V-bomber force independently?
§ Mr. Mason
I am much obliged to the hon. Gentleman for that reply. Perhaps he will now tell the Committee what alternative plans exist. If the V-bomber force is now committed to SACEUR, is targeted within the N.A.T.O. Alliance, will the hon. Gentleman explain what alternative plans exist to use the V-bomber force independently of SACEUR—to pull it out of the N.A.T.O. Alliance—and to whm it is to be directed against? This makes nonsense of the independent British nuclear deterrent.
In any case, our V-bomber force cannot get off the ground until it has been alerted by the B.M.E.W.S.—the Ballistic Missile Early Warning System, recently linked up by Fylingdales and sponsored mainly by the Americans. Our V-bomber force could not get off on its strategic rôle until first alerted by a mainly American alert system.
It is not my intention, however, to go into the grand nuclear strategy—my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Park (Mr. Mulley) deployed that argument at great length. I have always considered that the Air Estimates should be used for a discussion far wider than that solely of the use of the V-bombers 1240 or the nuclear force, and many people who serve in many theatres of operation in the Royal Air Force would be disappointed if, occasionally, we did not give them praise when it was due, or air their grievances when that was necessary.
I first referred to mercy flights two years ago. I urged the Secretary of State for Air to devote a little more space in the Explanatory Memorandum to the Air Estimates to errands of mercy and air-sea operations. Last year, that was done—there were ten paragraphs, covering more than a full page —but in this year's Statement on Defence there is no mention at all of errands of mercy, and only one paragraph—paragraph 188—deals with search and rescue operations.
I deplore this tendency to underwrite the activities and value of mercy and rescue organisation. In 1962, 250 lives were saved, 100 patients were flown to hospital, and 60 climbers were rescued by Royal Air Force mountain rescue teams. Last year, according to paragraph 188, 206 people were rescued and, in all, there were 405 search and rescue operations. This is no mean achievement, and some recognition of it has been granted by way of a George Medal and an Air Force Medal to two helicopter winch operators, and I noticed that last September the Guild of Air Pilots and Air Navigators awarded the Brackley Memorial Trophy to No. 22 Squadron.
I mention all this because, as all who are interested in Royal Air Force matters know, the R.A.F. search and rescue organisation is equipped, manned and deployed for one purpose only and that is to give assistance to British military aircraft in distress. All the rest, the rescue of swimmers and yachtsmen and the help to mariners and mountaineers, is a secondary function of the organisation. These activities, however, are important and we have come to depend on the organisation in its mercy rôle to a much greater degree. Incidentally, these activities give the aircrews and the organisation a great deal of practical experience.
I sense a danger here, however. When there is a transfer of functions and a gradual re-equipment and redeployment of the search and rescue organisation, 1241 the secondary rôle may be gradually disregarded. I should like an assurance from the Under-Secretary that this will not be the case. This is an aspect which should be more importantly recognised. There is an urgent need in the country for an emergency rescue service with a nationally recognised telephone number and a sea and air rescue unit operating on a coast-to-coast link-up. The Royal Air Force has been playing an increasingly dominant part in this type of service, as the figures show. I hope that this will be borne in mind and that this secondary rôle of search and rescue will not be disregarded or reduced in importance in future.
I should like to draw the Committee's attention to paragraph 179 of the Statement on Defence which refers to surveys carried out by the photographic reconnaissance force of Bomber Command. Valiants and Canberras have conducted air surveys of British Honduras, the Solomon Islands, Santa Cruz and the New Hebrides. They have also surveyed parts of New Guinea, Papua, Uganda and Rhodesia. For what purpose? Was this a joint operation with the countries involved, and how was the Royal Air Force called in for this purpose? Bearing in mind the photographic surveys by the R.A.F. in various theatres, particularly in their military rôle, and that the Force has been called in to such a large number of countries for what might be termed a peaceful rôle, it would appear that most of the world by now has been photographed by the R.A.F.
Aerial survey photography is the most rapid and effective means of providing data for map-making. These maps are essential for military and air navigation purposes, but they are also essential for civil purposes. Are the photographs taken by the R.A.F. in aerial survey, after the conclusion of the photographic missions, especially in the type of country mentioned in paragraph 179, made available to the countries concerned? This kind of survey, producing detailed photographs, can be of great assistance to under-developed countries in planning their communications, their towns and their irrigation schemes and in helping them to exploit agriculture, forestry and other natural resources. I hope that the Under-Secretary will agree 1242 to inform hon. Members of the occasions when the R.A.F. has offered a special service to developing countries and of the extent to which the results of missions are made freely available for peaceful purposes.
I notice that there is no mention of the rôle of the Observer Corps, apart from the fact that the Royal Air Force is employing 78 observers, which is exactly the, same as the number employed last year according to the Estimates. I also notice that the Explanatory Memorandum to the 1962–63 Estimates stated thatThe programme of new building to provide protected accommodation for the Royal Observer Corps posts and Group Headquarters is making good progress.No mention of this was made last year, nor is it mentioned in this year's Statement on Defence. Why? The Minister might say that his Department has not been responsible for buildings since 1st April, 1963, but there was no mention of these projects even in last year's Estimates when it was still responsible.
What is important is that the Air Ministry has been building 1,500 radiation detection posts which were to be manned by the Royal Observer Corps. Are they completed? If so, why is there no report in the Air Estimates? Are the Group headquarters finished? If so, why is there no mention of this? Perhaps the Under-Secretary of State will inform us whether we have now managed to get sufficient Royal Observer Corp personnel to man the 1,500 detection posts on a round-the-clock watch. There seems to be a curious unexplained silence about all this. Will he tell us whether all the underground detection posts have been completed, and, if so, whether we now have sufficient trained part-time Royal Observer Corps men to man them.
Thinking about Transport Command, we have all been rather shocked during the past three or four days at the three major air disasters in civil aviation. These accidents prompted me to look into the safety of Transport Command. A cursory glance is sufficient to reveal how safe Royal Air Force Transport Command really is. I have made a comparison with civil flying. On nonscheduled flights, 400 people were killed in 1962. This was a quite disastrous 1243 year, and the number fell to 150 in 1963, a notable improvement. On scheduled services in civil flying, 765 people were killed in 28 accidents in 1962, and 678 were killed in 27 accidents in 1963. This is not a fair comparison because, as all who are interested in air matters know, the comparison should be based on the millions of passenger-miles per accident. This approach shows that the scheduled services, which, of course, operate many millions of passenger-miles more than the non-scheduled services, are much safer than the non-scheduled services.
It is not easy to find out the Royal Air Force accident figures, but the Minister told us yesterday, in reply to a Question from me, that, in the past ten years, in all transport squadron operations there has been only one accident and this involved the loss of three crew and 12 passengers. This proves the safety of Transport Command. There are the regular services to El-Adem, Cyprus, Aden, Gan and Singapore, regular trips to the Middle East and the Far East transporting Service personnel, their wives and families, the 113 Service operations during the past 12 months and, indeed, the operations in Cyprus and in East Africa during which, the Secretary of State told us, 6,500 men were transported all without loss. It is a very praiseworthy achievement indeed.
Now, recruitment. In the 1963 Memorandum on the Estimates, we were told thatRecruitment of pilots and air electronics officers was slightly below the desired rate…there is a continuing need for professionally qualified engineers…In the Education branch it is not easy to recruit scientists and technologists…there is a need for more full career entrants who are graduates or have professional qualifications…There is a temporary deficiency in certain trades, notably wireless and teleprinter operators, nursing attendants, police and some unskilled assistant trades.In last year's Estimates debate, great play was made of all this and it was said that there must be some inefficiency in the Service somewhere if all these various technical people were lacking in recruitment. In this year's Statement on Defence, we are told once more that there isa small deficiency of air electronic officers"—1244 contrary to what the Secretary of State said in his opening remarks, it is "officers" in the plural—Ground branches which require professional qualifications still have recruiting difficulty…Requirements for adults in ground trades will rise substantially later in 1964 when entrants of high quality will again be needed.In my opinion, this suggests that it is still proving very difficult to recruit skilled manpower for the sophisticated grades in the Royal Air Force—that is, the tradesmen, the scientists and the technologists—and that these are basic and long-standing deficiencies which are bound adversely to affect operational efficiency.
In paragraph 218 of the Statement on Defence mention is made of the Royal Air Force College at Cranwell. There has been some well informed criticism of the college, and I was so impressed with the points made that I thought the Minister should be confronted with the argument. This is not delivered in a nasty vein or one of sarcasm. It is designed to help. As everyone recognises, Cranwell has been of great value and assistance to the Royal Air Force which has depended a great deal on it in the past. The job which it is performing at the moment—that is, providing the R.A.F. with a new professional basis on which the new Regular Service is being built—is also being recognised.
However, one questions whether Cranwell is training the right young men, at the right time in their careers, and in the right way. They pass an entrance examination and enter Cranwell at 17 years of age. They are now selected officer material. The first question which is posed is: can we be satisfied that at this age of 17 we have chosen officer material of the right calibre, that these 17-year-old students are alive to their future responsibilities, that they are capable of advanced technical training in addition to receiving all their flying training, and that they will settle down to Service life?
Secondly, the course lasts three years. They are taught leadership, the rudiments of man management and parade ground routine—what we used to call "square bashing". They receive an academic Service education. They are encouraged to enter sport. Incidental to all this, they are taught to fly. This is 1245 the questionable part. The critics of Cranwell are saying that this is not sufficient because on graduating and joining a squadron a man finds that on the flying side he lags behind the young officer who failed Cranwell but who has had a more concentrated flying programme and is better prepared for the operational units. Strong criticisms, therefore, are being made not of the quality of teaching of Cranwell but of the low concentration of flying achieved.
To sum up, men appear to be entering too young to know whether Royal Air Force life will be satisfying to them, especially as they lead a sheltered life at Cranwell for three years before entering operational units, and it is questionable whether one can judge officer material at that age. Also, because of the syllabus, there is too little flying and, hence, they are at a disadvantage when faced with an intensive flying effort encountered in the operational units.
It is suggested that this system should be reversed—that is, only after three years, during which these potential officers will have lived in the force and will have gone through intensive flying courses, should they then take the Cranwell entrance examination. They will then know the force better. They will know whether they are likely to make it a career and their calibre will be better judged at 20 or 21 years of age. Instead of being a college training potential officers, Cranwell would in fact be a regular officers college and would turn out fully professional flying officers.
It appears to me that this is what the R.A.F. requires—P.F.O.s, professional flying officers, ready for the transition from flying V-bombers to flying TSR2s, men who are exceptionally fit, highly intelligent and who require the finest training possible.
It is essential to notice the trend. During World War II, it cost the Royal Air Force £9,000 to produce a bomber pilot. In 1954 this had increased to £25,000 and in 1957 to £45,000. In 1961, the figure for a trainee to wing standard was £60,000. Today, to train a pilot for a V-bomber cost £100,000 and it costs nearly £¼ million to train a Vulcan crew.
Flying training has, therefore, never been more vital and costly. One shudders 1246 to think of the cost of the TSR2 and of training the crew and the type of superhuman being who is expected to fly these manned missiles. Few will come up to the required standards and much money will be lost on partial training before the flaws in their make-up reveal themselves. At present, only 15 per cent. of those who volunteer for aircrew are able to satisfy the stringent standards selection and up to 50 per cent. of those accepted are expected to fail en route to their wings. In other words, out of 1,000 applicants, only 75 usually reach an operational unit.
That is another reason for looking at Cranwell and, indeed, the reason why there may be a case for reappraisal of aircrew training, because it will prove increasingly difficult for us to produce fully professional flying crews. The humans—that is, the pilots—required with brains, skill and training will indeed be difficult to produce to match and control at Mach 2 and 3 speeds the sophisticated electronic power packs in aircraft of the future.
The hon Member for Bournemouth, West (Sir J. Eden) said that he would like to find out from the Under-Secretary of State for Air whether we intend to find a rôle in space. To go back to the 1962 Memorandum accompanying the Air Estimates, it was stated in paragraph 18 thatThe Royal Air Force is also giving careful study to the military use of space.Again, as with the Royal Observer Corps, there has been no further mention of this in the 1963 or 1964 Estimates. "The military use of space" could mean anything. In 1962, the Memorandum went on to say:Study is being concentrated in the first place on possible applications in the field of communication is and reconnaissance.Two years have elapsed and nothing seems to have been done.
Eighteen months ago, the Minister of Aviation, who had just left the office of Secretary of State for Air, addressed the Society of British Aircraft Constructors on 5th September, 1962. During the course of his address, he said:When I was at the Air Ministry, I expressed the belief that the future was more likely to lie in the longer run with some kind of manned craft which could take off from the ground, pass through the atmosphere into space, manoeuvre in space, return and be used 1247 again. The Ministry of Aviation are already studying the feasibility and implications of such a vehicle or craft. I cannot forecast what the conclusions of this study will be or what judgment the Government as a whole may pass upon them, but industry should bear this possibility in mind.It was not a question of crews or reconnaissance, but more specifically, said the Minister, spacecraft.
Again in 1961, on 19th July, there was a statement in the House by the Secretary of State for Air, now Minister of Aviation, when he stated that we were to join the United States Air Force and develop jointly a MIDAS satellite system—a Missile Defence Alarm System —and that a ground receiving station was to be built at Kirkbride, in Cumberland. Why has there been no mention of this in last year's or this year's Air Estimates? Have we not a right to know whether this receiving station for the MIDAS satellites has been completed? Have we not a right to know whether it is operated in conjunction with recent launchings of the MIDAS satellite? We were committed to spend about £3 million on the project for the station at Kirkbride. Have we been financially involved to a greater extent than this?
I ask because of what was said by the then Secretary of State on 12th March, 1962. He said:We are co-operating in the MIDAS project, we have a few R.A.F. officers working with the United States Air Force on space matters and we have a small staff in the Air Ministry who are working whole-time on these matters."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 12th March, 1962; Vol. 655, c. 927.]The reason why I question this is that if one has followed the MIDAS project and taken note of what has been revealed to the United States Congress, one knows that in 1962 the American Congress was informed that half of the 450 million dollars spent on the project was wasted—and we were partially involved. Therefore, it is only right to ask the Under-Secretary what our intentions are regarding the use of space, what projects are being jointly sponsored now by the Royal Air Force and the United States Air Force, how much these projects are costing us, and to what extent we have been involved in the initial waste of money on the MIDAS 1248 project announced to the American Congress in 1962.
The Air Estimates Memorandum reveals little that we did not previously know, and in his speech the Secretary of State followed the example of the Estimates and revealed very little to the Committee. It was a very shallow, hollow speech, a shadow compared with what his predecessor used to glorify in when opening the Air Estimates debate.
I am now leaving the Under-Secretary two and three quarter hours in which to wind up the debate, and I hope that he will use some of that time to give the Committee some information and some replies to the questions posed to him today.
§ 9.12 p.m.
§ The Under-Secretary of State for Air (Mr. Julian Ridsdale)
The hon. Member for Barnsley (Mr. Mason) has very kindly paid some sincere and well deserved compliments to Transport Command. I wonder whether he wishes that on the flight which I believe he will be making next week he was travelling by Transport Command and not by civil airlines.
§ Mr. Ridsdale
Before dealing with the more interesting points raised by hon. Members on both sides of the Committee—and if I have not time tonight, perhaps I may write to them—
§ Mr. Ridsdale
I am sure that the Committee will wish me to acknowledge the magnificent service given last year by the personnel of the Royal Air Force from Cyprus through East Africa, Malaysia and many other parts of the world as well, a service which has transported our troops speedily—as was emphasised by my hon. Friend the Member for Bournemouth, West (Sir J. Eden)—efficiently and safely on many operational rôles, but a service which still plays a vital rôle for our country as a guardian of the peace.
Since last year I have had the advantage of having visited nearly all our Royal Air Force bases overseas. During these tours I found how much the 1249 visits made by hon. Members from both sides to the Royal Air Force during last year were appreciated. I know that in a busy life organisation is necessary to take time off to visit our Royal Air Force stations at home and abroad and to keep up to date with modern practices and conditions. I should like to thank all those who have taken the trouble and pains to visit the Royal Air Force and whose speeches have reflected their up-to-date information. I hope that the hon. Member for Sheffield, Park (Mr. Mulley) will pay another visit to Bomber Command soon, and perhaps he will take his hon. Friend the Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) with him.
The total size of the Air Estimates is £504 million. Allowing for the change in the value of money, this is one-third less than the Estimates for 1939–40, when the establishment of personnel numbered 150,000. However, we should not forget those years when we failed to deter Hitler—1934–35, for example, when establishment of personnel totalled 30,000 and the size of the Estimates just over £17½ million—or, at present values, about £50 million.
The total number of Air Force personnel is expected to amount to 136,100, including women and boys, on 1st April this year. This represents a considerable fall in numbers since last year, when the strength, excluding the local enlisted forces, stood at 143,800. This trend will continue, so that by April, 1965, we expect the strength to be about 132,400. The reduction is due to various changes in our needs, notably the disbanding of the Thor squadrons as well as to work study and man management.
I referred to this in the Air Estimates last year, and in my visits to Air Force stations at home and abroad I invariably hear of economies which have been made by some new work study or new idea in the use of manpower. For example, at Akrotiri the complexity and volume of aircraft servicing gave rise to large bids for additional technical manpower to enable the station to meet its flying tasks. The problem was, however, solved by setting up a special centre with flying and technical wing representatives to co-ordinate and control the work of both wings. In this way, the station was able to increase the amount of flying 1250 and to reduce the number of additional servicing personnel. I was very impressed with the organisation of that station.
The introduction of direct supply of equipment from the United Kingdom to Air Force units in the Mediterranean has led to the closure of a maintenance unit at Nicosia and the saving of 300 posts, while, neater at home, at Valley, which I visited last Friday, I learned how good organisation had made considerable savings in technical servicing of the new Gnat trainer.
The pressure of finance and the necessity to keep the front line intact have necessitated the most efficient and ruthless use of available resources. In the last year alone, 5,000 Service posts have been pruned and 14 stations closed down. Nevertheless, with personnel costs of all kinds, including civilians, in the coming financial year amounting to no less than 48 per cent. of the Air Estimates it will be realised that there must be constant pressure to see that organisation is right.
Pay has increased three to four times since 1939. Technical costs are up even more and are still rising. For example, the cost of a Lightning, a modern fighter, is about £500,000 as compared with £15,000 for a Spitfire—over 30 times as much. A Vulcan bomber costs £1 million compared with £40,000 for a Lancaster— over 25 times as much. These high costs both of men and machines exert a constant pressure to see that value for money is obtained at all levels.
However, both in manpower and machines, our aim is surely to get quality and not quantity. Indeed, it was this principle more than any other which laid the foundation of victory over the Luftwaffe in 1939. The Luftwaffe then out-numbered the Royal Air Force by at least 4 to 1. But quality is vital not only in machines but in men as well. Ever since Lord Trenchard was Chief of the Air staff the Air Force has been proud of its apprentices. I announced a new scheme last October to put technical apprentices on a new basis. We have found that the existing standard of entrants attracted to the Air Force training colleges has brought us to the point where we can up-grade the courses and train the boys to the necessary standard 1251 in a shorter time. Technical advance and the development of equipment of ever increasing complexity has created the need for more highly trained youth entrants than we now have, and we hope that the new scheme will ensure this.
The hon. Member for Barnsley talked about a shortage of technicians. The trades mainly affected include nursing attendants, drivers, stewards, safety equipment workers and unskilled assistants. The numbers short in any one trade are not serious and are spread over many stations. The trades I have mentioned do not have any direct effect on the fighting capacity of the Service. It should be borne in mind that these deficiencies are not in any way due to a fall in recruitment but reflect an imbalance within the total force, made up of surpluses in some trades and deficiencies in others.
The hon. Member also referred to cadets. I was much impressed by the quality of the cadets when I went to Cranwell to take the passing out parade last summer. The hon. Gentleman has made the same point about the Cranwell training and on this we have decided that the present syllabus too demanding.
§ Mr. A. Woodburn (Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire)
This refinement of getting "Rolls-Royce" pilots, men of super quality, could be carried too far. Professor Appleton pointed out that we could reduce the number of scientists available by making the hoop so small that nobody could get through it. Is the hon. Gentleman sure that this refinement has not been carried too far? During the war, we produced a small number of very highly efficient guns, but we were taking them to the point of efficiency at which we were reducing the possibility of getting enough.
§ Mr. Ridsdale
I assure the right hon. Gentleman that we are getting the pilots we want and that we have no need to lower quality. When one appreciates the complexity of modern aircraft, one realises that the pilots we are getting in the Royal Air Force today are the cream of some of the youth of the country.
I was saying that we have decided that the present syllabus at Cranwell is too demanding and we are recasting it. The new syllabus will contain more 1252 flying and generally concentrate more on professional subjects. Hon. Members will be interested to learn that advanced flying training will be done at Cranwell. We shall find room for this within the present three-year course by reducing the academic content and by cutting down drill. I must say that when I took the passing-out parade at Cranwell this year, the drill was as good as when I was at Sandhurst.
We shall take cadets at the same ages as now. If we made the selection later, we would miss the recruiting market. The age of 21, say, is late to try to find the best quality entrants. Moreover, to delay selection for Cranwell until after operational service would be wasteful of flying training. The practice of other countries in cadet selection varies, but it is not easy to decide what to do. We think that with the new syllabus Cranwell will be able to attract and train the high-grade officers we need. It may interest the Committee to know that half our technical officers started their careers as airmen and so did 16 per cent. of the officers in the general duties branch and 30 per cent. of all officers in the Royal Air Force. Every airman has an air marshal's aiguillette in his tool kit.
I should now like to reply to the interesting speech about housing by my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester. Moss Side (Mr. F. Taylor). I have been talking about the quality of cadets and the value of quality in machines, but morale is important as well and there is no item in morale more important to the Service man, as to the civilian, than his home. It is our policy that wherever possible married personnel should be accompanied by their families. We think that it is better for the welfare of families that wives should be with their husbands. It is certainly better for Service morale. Moreover, unaccompanied tours mean shorter tours and this is detrimental to the efficiency of the Service.
However, at certain stations, such as Gan, it is not possible to have families, and personnel there serve one-year unaccompanied tours. Some personnel at Bahrain also serve one-year unaccompanied tours because medical and educational facilities there are insufficient to support all the families of married entitled personnel. Men who do have 1253 their families with them in Bahrain serve a two-year term.
We have now decided to introduce a similar scheme in Aden where the increasing population is badly taxing the school and hospital facilities. Personnel in posts where continuity is essential will serve two-year tours as at present and will, if married, be eligible to have their families with them. All other married men will serve one-year unaccompanied tours. This scheme will he introduced shortly.
I refer my hon. Friend to the statement by the Secretary of State for War during the defence debate on accommodation in this country for families of personnel on unaccompanied tours. He said that hirings would be obtained for families of men separated as a result of compulsory unaccompanied service in Aden and Bahrein for a year or more. This scheme will also apply to the Royal Air Force. Single personnel will serve two-year tours as at present.
I should now like to deal with some of the other issues which have been raised in the debate. We have had some heated discussions and at one moment I thought that we would need the Search and Rescue Organisation of the R.A.F. about which the hon. Member for Barnsley has spoken. I thought that the hon. Member for Dudley would need it at one time. I will deal with his speech shortly. I am grateful to the hon. Member for Barnsley and the hon. Member for Sheffield, Park for their generous tribute to the Royal Air Force Search and Rescue Organisation. As was said, the courage and skill shown by the members of this organisation can be paralleled throughout the Royal Air Force in work which does not so immediately come to the public's attention.
The Royal Air Force search and rescue organisation is closely linked with other rescue and life saving organisations and other Services, as well as the Royal National Life-Boat Institution, the various police forces and fire brigades, and the rescue co-ordinating centres of neighbouring countries. To the work of all these organisations we should like to pay tribute in our turn. The hon. Member also drew attention to the very high percentage—80 per cent. —of all the work of the search and 1254 rescue organisation which is devoted to assistance to members of the general public and others in danger and difficulty, compared with the much smaller percentage in pursuit of the primary rôle of the organisation, which is the assistance of British military aircraft.
As things are at present, there is enough co-relation between the needs of the rescue organisation for military aircraft and the needs of a more general rescue organisation for both to be met from the resources provided for the one. Many authorities, both official and voluntary, have responsibilities in this matter. It would be quite wrong for the Royal Air Force to attempt any kind of take-over bid. Equally, we accept the importance of the Royal Air Force contribution, and there is no danger of its being suddenly withdrawn.
Reference has been made to the charges which the Air Ministry has raised following rescue work by the Royal Air Force search and fescue organisation. There is no question of any charge for saving human life in some unforeseen emergency. Many of the rescues which we have been discussing come into this category. But certain help given by the search and rescue organisation cannot properly be given at the expense of the Air Votes. This is particularly the case when the need for help might have been foreseen and arrangements made through commercial channels.
My hon. Friend the Member for Bournemouth, West expressed the hope that there would be a close relationship between serving officers and the scientists and technicians in charge of new aircraft developments in industry. We have a large number of serving officers in the headquarters of the outstations of the Ministry of Aviation, who are fulfilling this rôle. In all aircraft projects of any size Royal Air Force officers are established in project teams on the spot. They work closely with their civilian colleagues as a team on these new developments.
The hon. Member for Sheffield, Park raised the question of Service educational allowances. It is fair to make the point that remuneration and conditions in the Services are not truly comparable with those in the Foreign Service. Secondly, the Services provide educational facilities for children overseas as well as 1255 educational allowances, but in most places suitable facilities are not available for Foreign Service officers, and the regulations governing their education are therefore more restricted. But the repercussions of the generous increases recommended by Plowden must be seriously considered by the Service Departments.
The hon. Member for Sheffield, Park also raised the question of a local overseas allowance, particularly in relation to personnel serving in Berlin. The Committee will be pleased to know that as a result of a recent review it has been decided that personnel serving in Berlin will in future be entitled to a local overseas allowance.
§ Mr. Mulley
Can the hon. Gentleman say at what rate—or is that still to be determined? Will it be the same rate as in other parts of Europe?
§ Mr. Ridsdale
That is not decided, but as soon as we know what the rates are we shall see that they are communicated to the House.
I now turn to the question of the deterrent, which in these Air Estimates debates always has a slightly explosive effect. The hon. Member for Sheffield, Park asked several questions about it. The total expenditure on the V-force has been about £1,100 million since the V-bombers first went into development in about 1950. This figure covers not only research, development and production of the aircraft and their weapons and the related airfields and installations, but also the running costs, including pay, allowances, fuel, spares and so on, since the first squadron was introduced about eight or nine years ago. The position as at now is that the vast bulk of the capital expenditure on the V-bombers has been completed and virtually the only cost which will have to be met from now on will be the running costs of the force and this will be fairly constant until the V-bombers are eventually replaced by the Polaris submarine.
§ Mr. Ridsdale
if the hon. Gentleman had not been talking to his hon. Friend, he would have heard when in my speech I gave the cost of a Vulcan as approximately £1 million.
1256 The point I was making was that the cost of the V-bombers following it out now, or the cost of the maintenance of the force, will average less than 2 per cent. of the total defence budget over this period.
§ Mr. Wigg
Would the hon. Gentleman be good enough to reconcile what he is now saying—which, if I understand him aright, is that the V-bomber force will cost nothing except its ordinary running expenses—with what we have been told from the benches opposite only today, that the V-bomber force is to be redesigned and reconstructed in order to carry out its new rôle? Which is the truth, that propaganda story or this one?
§ Mr. Ridsdale
The average is over ten years and the cost of using a V-bomber in its low-flying rôle is not a high conversion cost. The hon. Member for Dudley should not take that point.
§ Mr. Wigg
Again let us go back to McNamara. He said that the B52 would cost £l.6 million to enable an extension of the aircraft life to give convertibility to carry Hound Dog. Now we are told by some act of God, or some alchemy which suits the Conservative Central Office, we are to do the same, if not better, for nothing. I do not believe it.
§ Mr. Ridsdale
I should like to assure the hon. Gentleman that the V-bomber is a much superior plane for conversion than the American plane and it does not cost nearly so much.
§ Mr. Ridsdale
I have not figures of the cost. The hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well that it is difficult to give some of these costs to the public.
§ Mr. Ridsdale
The hon. Member for Dudley spent a large part of his speech belittling the effectiveness of the V-bomber force. Perhaps the most telling rejoinder that I can make is to quote the Supreme Allied Commander Europe speaking recently of the assignment of the V-bomber force. He said:I am very pleased and gratified to have this very important and very powerful addition to the capabilities of the Allied Command Europe. They fulfil a most important rôle in the deterrence of Allied Command Europe and 1257 I am sure that they would perform brilliantly in the event that they were required to perform their war-time mission.
§ Mr. Ridsdale
If the hon. Member for Dudley still has doubts, I suggest that he visit Bomber Command—
§ Mr. Ridsdale
I wish to make one other remark before I give way to the hon. Gentleman. I think it a shame for him to bring the language of the hustings to a serious debate, and particularly the disgraceful way in which he attacked my right hon. Friend this afternoon.
§ Mr. Wigg
If there was ever a case of the pot calling the kettle black, this is it. Why did I not go to Bomber Command? I will tell the hon. Gentleman. I was invited to go to Bomber Command and my hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) wanted to go, but as soon as the invitation was made and it was known that it included him the invitation was withdrawn by the Ministry of Aviation. My hon. Friend is a Member of this House and is entitled to the same privileges as other hon. Members. If he is not entitled to go, I do not want to go.
§ Mr. Hughes
I had completely forgotten this, but I think it would have added to the morale of the Royal Air Force if my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley and I had gone on a mission. Why was I not allowed to go?
§ Mr. Ridsdale
That was a matter for the Ministry of Aviation—not whether he should go to Bomber Command, but to a Ministry of Aviation establishment at the time when the hon. Member wanted to be accompanied by the hon. Member for South Ayrshire.
§ Mr. Ridsdale
The hon. Member for Barnsley mentioned the photo survey. All R.A.F. photo reconnaissance 1258 squadrons are equipped to carry out aerial surveys and this work forms an important part of their training in high level reconnaissance work. Because of operational commitments overseas, the bulk of these tasks tends to fall on United Kingdom based squadrons under the command of Bomber Command reconnaissance squadrons. These squadrons have a permanent Royal Engineer Survey Liaison staff with them to maintain close contact with the staff of the Director of Military Survey.
During the last four years the Director of Military Survey has been provided with over 800,000 square miles of photography for map-making. The cover flown is made available to the governments concerned and the undertaking of these tasks depends of course on getting permission to overfly and photograph Details for making maps are extracted by complicated photogrammetric equipment. Although the process is slow, the map is produced much more quickly than by ground survey. Efforts are made to improve the techniques of the squadrons and later this year a newly-developed survey camera will be coming into service. Thus the aerial survey capability of the Royal Air Force is being used for civil as well as for military purposes and is making a very worthwhile contribution to the progress of developing countries.
The hon. Member for Barnsley raised a question about the Royal Observer Corps. It has continued to build up its strength during the past year and the total membership of the corps has increased by nearly 400 to 16,700. All but two of the protected group headquarters ale complete and in use. The remainder should be finished by the end of the year. The construction of underground po3ts is in its closing stages. With the transfer of responsibility for works functions to the Ministry of Public Building and Works last year, that Department in future will build and maintain tie protected accommodation.
In his opening speech the Secretary of State referred to the operations in overseas theatres. My hon. Friend the Member for Stroud (Mr. Kershaw) asked me some questions about operations in Borneo. Before I deal with those, I feel I must underline to the Committee the total cost of these operations, the cost 1259 of the R.A.F. overseas for the layman who does not inform himself often and does not assess the cost correctly. What are they?
§ Mr. Mulley
I wonder if any layman, or even any expert, looking at the form of the Defence Estimates, can possibly form an opinion. That kind of remark is a gratuitous insult both to the Committee and to public opinion outside?
§ Mr. Ridsdale
This is very hard. The hon. Gentleman has asked me for more information. I give him more information, and he then accuses me of insulting the Committee and the public.
§ Mr. Mulley
The Under-Secretary was answering his hon. Friend the Member for Stroud (Mr. Kershaw). I shall judge whether he is discharging his duty by whether he has answered all the questions I have asked when he completes his speech.
§ Mr. Ridsdale
The hon. Member for Sheffield, Park, in his usual way in the debate on the Air Estimates, poses me 21 questions. He does his best to throw them before the Committee. I have done my best to work them into my speech to make it possibly more interesting for the Committee than if I just reeled of answer after answer to the hon. Gentleman.
I was trying to give more information about our operations overseas. Before doing so, I feel I must underline to the Committee the total cost of these operations. An analysis of the cost of running the Royal Air Force shows that £190 million, or not far off 40 per cent., is spent each year on the overseas commands and on the Transport Command effort needed to support them. Part of the costs include the recent operations in Malaysia, the successful moves in Kenya, Uganda and Tanganyika, the reinforcement of Cyprus, the deployment in Zanzibar and Swaziland, as well as the operations in the Persian Gulf and the Aden Protectorate.
To answer the question asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Stroud about—Borneo—[HON. MEMBERS: "Where is he?"I—my hon. Friend wrote to me and apologised for not coming, as did the hon. Member for Dudley, though I am glad that he has 1260 returned. It is important that we say a few words about those of our airmen who are in Borneo, a tropical country where operations put great strain on the airmen fighting in such conditions. From the start of operations in Malaysia in December, 1962, the Far Eastern Air Force has provided a regular supply service between Singapore, Labuan and Brunei using Hastings and Beverleys. The total airlift between Singapore and Borneo from December, 1962, up to 23rd February, 1964, was 24,387 passengers and 1,866 tons of freight. A tactical transport force of Belvedere and Whirlwind helicopters and Pioneer aircraft is deployed in Borneo to give air support to the troops operating there.
We are providing air support to meet the Army's needs. We now have Javelins as well as Hunters in Kuching and Labuan, which are there to protect Malaysia's air space and deal with intruders. Fortunately, the Royal Air Force gained experience in the problems of jungle warfare during the Malayan emergency. This experience was quickly exploited in the Borneo operations. Airfields of entry were established at Kuching and Labuan, and Valettas and Pioneers and Belvedere and Whirlwind helicopters were sent into the jungle to give air support to the troops. Jungle strips existed in some parts of the country but many required re-equipping and the R.A.F. Airfield Construction Branch undertook this task, along with the building of new strips and the constructing of dropping zones for helicopter and supply dropping aircraft.
Aircraft drop food and ammunition at low altitude using the "free-fall" technique. Other more bulky and fragile stores are dropped by supply parachute. Helicopters carry combat equipped soldiers in the main from one zone of operations to another at the request of the brigade commander who has a brigade air support organisation commanded by an R.A.F. officer. The Belvederes carry heavy loads of ammunition and fuel in under-slung nets to the forward dropping zones and air strips. The Belvedere can also carry up to 19 fully equipped troops over short distances or up to 10 troops over much longer distances.
1261 Were it not for the support provided by the R.A.F's short-range transport forces, operations of this sort would be almost useless and irregular forces could penetrate the border at will. With common communications channels, short-range transport aircraft and troops on the ground are in contact with each other and with base. A fine spirit of mutual confidence has grown up between the air and ground officers and men. Thus, in reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Stroud, I am glad to say that the R.A.F. has been able to meet in Borneo all the Army's requests for mobility and forward supply.
These operations, plus air operations along the Thai-Malayan border, in the Middle East, on the border between the Aden Federation and the Yemen, in East Africa, Kenya, Uganda and Tanganyika, in the Persian Gulf, Cyprus and in training exercises such as Triplex West, when 5,000 men were moved to and from Libya, all add up to make the £190 million being spent by the R.A.F. in support of our interests overseas.
The hon. Member for Sheffield, Park accused me in the defence debate of complacency in praising the work of the Services in economising and because I praised the contribution of British Forces. From the visits which I have made I am sure that we are getting considerable value for money, not only on what is spent on the R.A.F. at home but overseas as well. Indeed, the Service has done all we have asked of it and often a great deal more.
In addition to these conventional operations, the R.A.F. has its rôle in support of our treaty obligations in S.E.A.T.O., C.E.N.T.O., and N.A.T.O. and, through Bomber Command, provides us with a formidable strike force for several years to come. Air power over the last year has given us flexibility and the means of making the most economical use of our resources, not only in N.A.T.O. but also in Africa and Asia. Considering the increasing costs not only of manpower but also of equipment, I am convinced that the R.A.F. in the last year has given us security and insurance at a most reasonable premium.
§ 9.55 p.m.
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes
Some of the facts brought out by the Under-Secretary of 1262 State require underlining in some respects and a good deal of elucidation in others. A number of my Scottish hon. Friends now in the Committee had an uncanny instinct that the Under-Secretary was going to say the things he said. I have been making a rough calculation as a result of the figures he gave of the cost of the V-bombers, and I gather that each is equivalent to the cost of building 400 houses. If a V-bomber cots as much as 400 houses, the Royal Air Force is mis-applying national resources. The life of a V-bomber is only four or five years—it has been said that the usefulness of this aircraft will expire in 1970—but had the same amount been invested in houses we would have had an asset lasting for at least 40 years.
The sum of £190 million would have built a very considerable town, and I do not know how many universities. It is the appalling capital cost and the very quick rate of wastage that the Committee should think about. This £190 million means less for civil aviation, something essential for the development of our economy. These V-bombers will be obsolete by 1970, but had the £190 million been invested in civil aviation we would have had a prosperous civil aviation industry, able to export aircraft to all parts of the world. I hope that process will be soon be started.
We all agree that the helicopters on the West Coast of Scotland provide a very useful national service we approve of it, and think that it could be developed. For instance, my hon. Friend the Member for Central Ayrshire (Mr. Manuel) knows that such helicopter service on the Isle of Arran, or on Rhum, would add to our tourist industry, but this vast sum is at present being misspent. Were it devoted to the expansion of our civil aviation it would absorb exactly the kind of labour that now largely goes, into the Royal Air Force.
In my area, we are greatly concerned about the development of civil aviation and the development of Prestwick. When we wanted a tunnel under the road at Prestwick, the former Minister of Defence, now a managing director of Schweppes—he is defending us on another front—came to Scotland and an inquiry was held. We believe that a very great mistake was made when Prestwick Airport wa; not developed in the same 1263 way, or given the same facilities for a tunnel, as was London Airport. We see enormous sums of money wasted—
§ Mr. John Rankin (Glasgow, Govan)
Does my hon. Friend realise that London Airport was given not just one tunnel, but eight tunnels—
§ The Deputy-Chairman (Sir Robert Grimston)
Order. We cannot go into details about civil airports. The hon. Gentleman is entitled to say that he wishes to reduce the Vote, and that that money should go to civil aviation, but he cannot go into details.
§ Mr. Rankin
I apologise, Sir Robert. I was merely seeking to correct my hon. Friend who, most unusually, had made a mistake.
§ Mr. Hughes
I am more concerned about offending you, Sir Robert, than about offending my hon. Friends. I want hon. Members who represent Scottish constituencies to realise the importance of the point I am making. I am referring now to the fact that the Royal Air Force—
§ It being Ten o'clock, The CHAIRMAN left the Chair to report Progress and ask leave to sit again.
§ Committee report progress.
That this day the Business of Supply may be taken after Ten o'clock and may be entered upon and proceeded with at this day's Sitting at any hour during a period of Two hours after Ten o'clock, though opposed.—[Mr. Hughes-Young.]
§ Supply again considered in Committee.
§ Mr. Hughes
A vista of opportunity opens out, because I can say that by voting this sum of money we are diverting from civil aviation aircraft needed for the development of the tourist trade in Scotland. We could have for this sum of money aircraft going from Prestwick to Edinburgh, to Aberdeen, to Perth and the far north of Scotland. I believe that when the citizens of Scotland realise the opportunities which are being lost in Scotland as a result of the wasting of this money on aircraft which are likely to be obsolete in a few years' time there will be a great revulsion of public opinion which will make people say that the hon. Member for South Ayrshire was not so wrong after all.
§ 10.2 p.m.
§ Mr. Wigg
I rise briefly only to draw attention to two points. We are about to pass Vote A on which depends the numbers of the Royal Air Force and subsequently the spending of £250 million. To decide this matter there have never been during the course of the debate more than ten hon. Members sitting opposite on an issue which they say they regard as vital. I hope that the Under-Secretary who very agreeably replied to the debate in a mood much more in keeping with the great Service in which he has the honour to be a Minister, will recommend that mood to his right hon. Friend in the next defence debate when he speaks from this side of the Committee.
I ask the hon. Gentleman to go back to what he quoted earlier from SACEUR and to what I quoted from the staff study of the Senate Committee in 1962 and will tell us what the difference SACEUR said that he was glad to have the V-bomber force. It was a force of great power. We do not deny that, but it is part of the multi-national force. It draws its power and its added power in association with part of the Strategic Air Command. We asked what power it has for independent action and we never had an answer from that side of the Committee or from the Minister and his right hon. Friend because there is no answer.
This is a multi-national force now in an advanced stage of obsolescence. It has a nuclear capability. It is not a nuclear deterrent, except to the extent that it serves the purposes of the Conservative Central Office. This is the objective fact, this is what the debate is about and what we have established tonight, with the same certainty that we established last night that the Government's enthusiasm for Polaris started on the day that the Nassau Agreement was signed. We therefore have the deterrent brought into focus.
I would say to the Secretary of State for Air that there is much joy about the return of a penitent sinner. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will not again, during the short time of his service as a Minister, make the same mistake. If he is lucky, he will be returned to the House, though I rather doubt it. I think that Stafford and Stone will have their revenge. However, if, by some 1265 chance, after half a dozen recounts, he gets a majority of two and comes back to this side of the Committee, he will have to work his passage. He should never again listen to political incompetents like the Prime Minister who beguiled or riled him into making the absurd speech he made last Thursday.
I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will get his Vote A. I hope also that he will get his "cap". At the same time, I hope that he will have learned a lesson in good manners.
§ 10.5 p.m.
§ Mr. Mulley
I do not wish to detain the Committee much longer, but, since this is the first Air Estimates debate since the amalgamation of the Services was put in train, we ought to comment on the fact that the Minister of Defence has not seen fit to spend very much time in the Chamber listening to the debate. As from 1st April he will be taking full responsibility for all the Services, it would have been more courteous to the Committee if he had been able to spend at least a little more time at the beginnng and at the end of the debate to listen to the speeches.
Although I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) that we had an agreeable reply from the Under-Secretary of State, I must point out that I have had no replies to many questions which I asked, particularly regarding the cost of aircraft. All I got was an invitation, for which I am much obliged, to visit Bomber Command. I shall be happy to do so.
Since further Estimates are to be discussed next week, I hope that we shall be given more hard information than we have had hitherto about the cost of the proposed new aircraft, airframes, engines and so on this year and what the total commitment is. We have had many references in the Estimates, the White Paper and speeches to development plans for this and that. What is the total commitment and what are the various sums involved in respect of aircraft?
As my hon. Friend has said already, we are totally dissatisfied with the answers about the planning and targeting procedures for the independent, non N.A.T.O., use of the V-bomber force, not in co-operation with S.A.C. Presumably, there are no such plans. The Under-Secretary of State made a brief 1266 intervention, at one point and said that, of course, there were plans. This is an important matter because relationships with our allies may well turn on this kind of statement.
Are we, despite having assigned our force to N A.T.O., telling all our allies that, our course, we are spending most of our time training, because it is no use just deciding to send off a squadron of aeroplanes without their being given all the necessary preliminary training, briefing and working over the routes which is necessary? Are we going through the process of continuously planning and training for an independent rôle? If we are not, as I understand we are not, then all the talk about the independent deterrent is just political baloney designed to delude the electorate. [Interruption.] The sooner the Government stop it and concern. themselves with the real defence of the nation, the sooner will the Under-Secretary of State's peroration be a little more accurate.
§ Mr. Wigg
A few moments ago, we had one of the muttered interjections which constantly come from hon. Members opposite. They imagine that, by sitting on their bottoms on the benches and muttering, they will escape. The hon. Member for Worcester (Mr. Walker) muttered the word "pathetic". We should have it on the record that he has been present in the debate for exactly one minute.
§ Question put and agreed to.
That a number of Officers, Airmen and Airwomen, not exceeding 140,000, all ranks, be maintained for Air Force Service, during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1965.
§ Resolution to be reported.
§ Report to be received Tomorrow; Committee to sit again Tomorrow.