§ 3.37 p.m.
§ Mr. Speaker
Before I call the Secretary of State to open the debate, may I announce that I have not selected any of the three Amendments on the Order Paper.
§ The Secretary of State for Defence (Mr. Denis Healey)
I beg to move,That this House welcomes the fact that the Government is conducting its Defence Review as a continuing exercise in reducing the burden of British commitments, forces and expenditure overseas with due regard to the limits imposed by the national interest and security and approves the Statement on Defence (Command Paper No. 3203) as a further contribution to this end.Last year's defence White Paper described major changes in the equipment programme of our forces covering at minimum cost their most urgent needs up to the middle 1970s and beyond. It also described in broad terms how we planned to change the rôle of our forces and the military tasks flowing from that role so as to be able to reduce the overall size of our forces and to keep a large proportion of them at home, relying more on reinforcement in a crisis. By carrying out these plans on the size, equipment and deployment of our forces, we proposed to reduce the budget which we inherited for 1969–70 by at least £400 million, or 16 per cent., and thus to keep within £2,000 million, which is the 1964 estimate, at constant prices.
We were much criticised a year ago for setting a ceiling to defence expenditure at all, but we believed, and still believe, that it is vital to relate our defence spending to the economic as well as to the political needs of the nation. Of course, we must not spend less than is required to ensure our national survival, but provided that others will help us, provided that we have allies, then the bare minimum required for national survival is likely to be well under £2,000 million a year. The real question is how much, in addition, we spend to help other people, to help friends and allies, to enjoy peace and security as well as ourselves—in other words, how much we spend on force to support the broader aims of our foreign policy. That, I think, is the issue which the House will want mainly to debate during the next few days.
98 It took us 15 months of gruelling hard work, involving nearly every Department of the Government, to establish the broad pattern of our future rôle and the forces needed to support it in sufficient detail to take the decisions which we had to take last year. Since then, much of our time has been spent in launching the new programmes of re-equipment and beginning the redeployment of our forces. As I shall show, the need to seek agreement with our allies makes it impossible for some months yet to reach certain further decisions on the size and shape of our forces in the 1970s.
So far as the equipment programme is concerned, our greatest effort has been devoted to new aircraft. We hope shortly to conclude a fixed-price contract for an initial order of the P1127, now known as the Harrier, which will be the first V/STOL aircraft in service with any air force in the world. We have already ordered our full requirement for the Maritime Comet, the HS801, and it will be the first jet specialist maritime reconnaissance aircraft in service anywhere in the world.
Despite an anxious moment, our collaborative programme with France is now going well and smoothly. The Martel will be in service before the end of the decade, the Jaguar will be in service in the early 1970s, and the variable geometry aircraft in the middle 1970s. At my last meeting with M. Messmer we reached agreement on a new family of British helicopters to come into service in the two countries at various dates over the next 10 years.
Our aircraft industry, as a result, now has a firm base of military work on which to plan its future during the 1970s. I cannot do better than quote the words of the Director of the Society of British Aerospace Companies when he addressed its annual meeting on 31st January. He said that the decisions that we had taken were encouraging and that they hadgiven the industry a challenge which would engender a new spirit of confidence.He said:This, we hope, will, in turn, help to stem the brain drain.I should like to pay tribute to the help that my Department has had at all times from the Ministry of Aviation, and to express my confidence that we shall 99 have a partnership no less fruitful with the Ministry of Technology, which has now taken over those functions.
So much for the aircraft that we are producing ourselves and in co-operation with France.
I turn now to the American aircraft. These are coming in on time and at the price we fixed. The first three Hercules aircraft are already in this country. My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Defence for the Royal Air Force has just seen the first R.A.F. Phantom flying at St. Louis in the United States. I would remind the House that the Phantom is 40 per cent. British, and that deliveries to the United Kingdom will start next year. As to the F111K, I am now discussing the ceiling price for a further 40 aircraft, and hope to place that order by the end of next month.
Last year there was great anxiety in the House—and I understand it—about whether or not we should succeed in offsetting the dollar cost of the F111K, and a great deal of pessimism was expressed by some hon. Members on both sides of the House. But, as we are able to show in the Statement on the Defence Estimates, we have enormous progress to report on this front. In addition to covering 275 million dollars out of the 400 million dollars target for third party sales—that is, nearly 70 per cent. of the third party sales—we have now placed nearly 40 per cent. of direct sales contracts; in other words, 127 million dollars worth of contracts out of the 325 million dollars target for direct sales. All this has been achieved in the first of 12 years in which we are required to pay dollars for the F111K and before any major dollar expenditure has actually been made by the United Kingdom.
I now want to say a word about the equipment programme of the Royal Navy. The Type 82 ship has now been ordered, which means that in a few years' time we shall get three major new naval weapons systems to sea: the Sea Dart, a surface-to-air guided missile; the Ikara, an anti-submarine weapon; and the so-called Broomstick, the Anglo-Dutch radar. In addition, we shall get to sea in the Type 82 a new action data automation system, which will probably be the most advanced automatic data 100 processing system in service in any fleet anywhere in the world.
On the submarine side, we now have two nuclear submarines, Dreadnaught and Valiant, already at sea. Three more nuclear attack submarines are on order, and a sixth nuclear attack submarine will shortly be ordered. As the House will know, during the last 12 months we have launched the first two Polaris submarines of the four which the Royal Navy is now constructing, and we are in the final stages of deciding on the new ships required for the Royal Navy when the carriers phase out.
§ Mr. Hugh Jenkins (Putney)
Does not my right hon. Friend accept that the launching of two Polaris submarines was not in accordance with the policy of the Labour Party on this matter?
§ Mr. Healey
We always made clear that we would go ahead with four out of the five Polaris submarines ordered by the previous Government and that we would assign them to N.A.T.O. as Britain's contribution to the collective Western deterrent when the V-bombers phased out in a few years' time.
I should like to reassure the House on a problem concerning the phasing-out of the carriers. There is a great deal of concern in the House, very genuine concern, on both sides, I know, that the shock of cancellation of CVAO I would make it impossible to run on the existing carrier force as long as is required because recruiting and re-engagement to the Fleet Air Arm would fall. This has not been the case. At the moment, recruiting to the Fleet Air Arm is embarrassingly high, a little higher than our training establishments are able to cope with. So we are quite satisfied that, if necessary, we shall be able to run the carriers on, certainly until at least the mid-1970s.
§ Mr. Patrick Wall (Haltemprice)
The right hon. Gentleman seemed to accept last year that while the carrier was being phased out we should need a surface-to-surface guided weapon for the Royal Navy. It does not seem to appear in the White Paper. What has happened to it?
§ Mr. Healey
I suggest that that would be a question better discussed at length 101 when the Navy Estimates are debated next week. Although I shall be very ready to give way to right hon. and hon. Gentlemen during my speech since this is a two-day debate, I hope that interventions may be confined to major questions of policy and that hon. Members will be able to make their contributions in the normal way in speeches either during the next few days or during the four days on the Service Estimates which follow.
Thanks in part—I readily admit this—to decisions taken by the last Conservative Administration, the British Army is one of the best equipped in the world. Chieftain production is now rolling ahead, and we have now almost doubled the number of helicopters planned to be in service by 1970 compared with the number in service in 1964.
The reorganisation of our reserve forces is also going smoothly. All sections of the Territorial and Army Volunteer Reserve are building up well towards the requirements, and, if I may be permitted almost a constituency remark, I had the pleasure a few weeks ago of going with some of my hon. Friends to the annual celebration of the Leeds Rifles, the Territorial unit being converted into a T. & A.V.R. III unit, and we were all immensely impressed by the spirit and enthusiasm of the members of the unit, nearly all of whom are re-engaging to serve in the T. & A.V.R. III.
The decisions that I have mentioned account for about three-quarters of the saving that we planned in the Defence Review, and they involve no loss in our military capability in relation to necessary tasks. In fact, in some cases these decisions represent a big increase. We shall have an increase in airlift for the Army and in ground support for the Army three or four years earlier than would have been possible under the programme of the previous Government.
Turning now to the progress made during the last 12 months with the redeployment of our forces, we have made very much greater progress than we expected or indeed planned 12 months ago, although the problems involved in redeploying forces in many respect are very much more daunting than those involved even in launching equipment programmes. Many of the problems involved in redeploying forces are beyond the control 102 of Her Majesty's Government. They concern the actions and policies of other Governments. Above all—I ask hon. Gentlemen on both sides of the House to recognise this—when we are talking about the redeployment of forces we are talking about flesh and blood, about moving not inanimate objects or statistical abstracts, but troops and their families who are human beings and who require barracks or housing in their new location. We are also talking about those among whom they were previously working and fighting and spending money overseas. Those are human beings, too, deeply affected in many respects, politically, economically and sometimes militarily, by the withdrawal of our forces.
To redeploy our forces at all we involve ourselves in a tremendous task of organisation in the physical movement of forces, in their rehousing and in arranging their training in completely new circumstances. My hon. Friend the Minister of Defence (Administration) will be dealing with some of these problems when he speaks later tonight. Of course, we are also concerned in trying to ensure that the movement of our forces does not involve unacceptable consequences for the local peoples they leave behind. I will say no more in detail on that question in the light of the fact that the Prime Minister of Malta is at this moment meeting Her Majesty's Government to discuss some of those problems in London at the present time.
The urgency of redeploying our forces, as the House knows, enormously increased last July during the foreign exchange crisis. Confrontation in the Far East formally ended in August. Malaysia and Indonesia reached agreement to live together in peace in the future-and that, I would remind my hon. Friend the Member for Woolwich, East (Mr. Mayhew), in spite of the fact that there were still British troops in Singapore. I would not deny that the Government had good fortune in that there were changes developing in the internal political situation in Indonesia over the months before the Bangkok Agreement was reached; but I ask the House to recognise this—and I know that my hon. Friend the Member for Woolwich, East will appreciate the point that I am about to make: without the skill and patience shown by Commonwealth forces during this critical period, 103 and particularly the restraint shown by their commanders, these changes inside Indonesia might not have come about at all. Certainly, they would not have developed so rapidly, and almost certainly they could not have led to the end of confrontation. I will spend a moment or two developing that point later in my speech.
In any case, confrontation did end last August and, as a result, we have been able already to make firm plans, which are stated in the Defence White Paper, for the withdrawal of at least 10,000 men back from the Far East within a few months' time. I am glad to tell the House that this total of men covered by firm plans has already risen to 11,000. More than 5,000 were already home by the beginning of the new year. Nearly 10,000 will be home by Easter, and the remaining number will come home during the few months following.
In addition to this withdrawal, which is based on firm plans, we have already decided on a reduction of 5,000 in the number of Gurkhas in the British Army. As the House will recognise, the Gurkhas played an absolutely indispensable rôle in helping to bring confrontation to an end, and I think that hon. Members on both sides of the House would wish to express their gratitude for all that the Gurkhas have done not only in that campaign, but in many similar campaigns over the previous century. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] We felt it right, when confrontation came to an end, to carry out the plans made by the previous Conservative Government before confrontation developed and to reduce the Gurkha ceiling to 10,000 men. Of the 5,000 men thus leaving the Gurkha forces over the next three years, 2,000 will leave in the next 12 months; so that we have a reduction already of 13,000 men in the Far East over the next 12 months firmly planned. On top of that, we are now tackling the problem—a very much more complicated problem—of reductions in our base facilities in Singapore.
So far, I have been talking exclusively about reductions in teeth units, and almost entirely teeth units who were taken out to the Far East when confrontation developed. They are now being taken back. But we also envisage some reduction in the base facilities in Singapore 104 which will bring proportionately very much greater foreign exchange savings because they will involve not only the movement of British forces, but some redundancies among locally employed personnel. For that very reason they will raise very much bigger economic and political problems than those raised by the withdrawal of teeth arms which we have already planned. As a result of moves in all these directions, I hope by the end of next year to have reduced British forces in the Far East as a whole by a further 5,000 to 10,000 men on top of the 13,000 men to whom I have already referred, so that the total reduction should be something between 18,000 and 23,000.
In the Middle East redeployment is proceeding according to plan. Our families will all be out of Aden by the end of July. The removal of heavy equipment and other stores has begun, and redundancy payments to the locally employed personnel are proceeding satisfactorily. I should say that our troops in Aden and in South Arabia generally are displaying exceptional courage and efficiency in the discharge of their duties and are showing great frobearance under extreme provocation [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] They have not been helped or encouraged in this difficult task by charges of torture and massacre which have not stood up to investigation.
In this connection, I was sorry to see over the weekend that, according to Press reports, the founder of Amnesty International alleged that Aden censorship had prevented the British public from knowing of the killing of 50 Arabs by British soldiers in demonstrations a week ago. This was not true. From 10th February until noon on 12th February there were 53 terrorist attacks. The figures of those killed during the demonstration that accompanied the general strike called for llth–12th February were fully reported at the time.
They were not censored; and there were nine deaths altogether, including the deaths of two men who had been throwing grenades. There have been no other more recent demonstrations. There was no censorship of casualty figures, nor of news of the demonstrations. Hon. Members may remember the Shamshir allegations last month, to which Amnesty International also gave currency. After investigation by the High Commissioner 105 these proved to be totally unfounded, and this new allegation about 50 deaths is also completely unfounded.
As the House will recognise, our withdrawal from Aden involves us in many difficult problems indeed. We are giving the Federal authorities substantial additional aid to strengthen and expand their own armed forces. We are giving them up to £5½ million towards the capital cost of those forces, plus an additional grant of up to £10¼ million for recurrent expenditure for three years after independence, unless meanwhile there is a material change in the political situation. Civil aid will continue.
My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary will deal with some of the political aspects of our withdrawal from Southern Arabia. I will confine myself simply to saying that I am delighted to know—and I am sure that the House as a whole will be delighted—that the United Nations is now to play a rôle during our withdrawal from Southern Arabia. A special mission has been appointed, and we hope that it will soon start work. I believe that nothing could do more to stabilise the situation in Southern Arabia than a lively interest and concern in the acceptance of some responsibility by the United Nations for the way in which events develop over the coming months and years.
§ Mr. Neil Marten (Banbury)
Could the right hon. Gentleman not confirm that that mission is purely one to deal with the constitution and the elections which follow? There are not, in fact, any United Nations mission or observer posts on the frontier, or anything to do with that?
§ Mr. Healey
Yes, Sir. That is so. But, certainly on this side of the House, most of us hope that the United Nations will become involved in many aspects of the Aden problem. Even if this is only the first step, it is a very valuable step in the right direction.
As a result of the redeployment from Aden, we shall have about 10,000 additional men home from the Middle East by the end of the next financial year, after allowing for the small new build-up in the Gulf. Another 5,000 men will be coming home from Cyprus, Malta and elsewhere, including South Africa and the Caribbean. In all, as the White Paper makes clear, we now have firm plans for returning a 106 minimum of 25,000 men to Britain from outside Europe, excluding the base units in Singapore and the Gurkha rundown to which I have referred. These 25,000 men will bring with them 6,000 families. My hon. Friend the Minister of Defence (Administration) will be talking about some of the problems of housing these families when he speaks this evening.
It is no secret that we had hoped to make by this time similar progress on decisions concerning the British contribution to the defence of Western Europe in Germany. The Government recognise that it is important that any changes which we make should be made according to the procedures to which we are committed in W.E.U. and N.A.T.O. We also believe that any changes which we make should reflect not only our national economic needs, but also the new view, taken by the Alliance as a whole, of the changed nature of the threat in Europe and of the forces required to meet it.
I understand that my hon. Friend the Member for Woolwich, East shares this view. Indeed, he attacked us just over a week ago for spending a smaller proportion of our gross national product on the defence of Western Europe than any of the members of the Common Market except Luxembourg. He said that we were behaving rather like Alf Garnett in our approach to the Common Market in proposing to make reductions after further consultations with our allies. I hope that if he catches your eye, Mr. Speaker, he will explain how he has brought himself to sign an Amendment which calls for further cuts in our forces, below the present proportion of our gross national product, in Western Germany and which makes no mention of any consultation with our allies at all. What price Alf Garnett there?
§ Rear-Admiral Morgan Giles (Winchester)
There are so many of them that it is impossible to identify them all.
§ Mr. Healey
The hon. and gallant Member can have the opportunity of identifying Mr. Garnett, who lives in a London constituency, on Monday evening on television. I understand that his 107 last chance will be tonight. I hope that it will not distract the hon. and gallant Gentleman from the debate.
We had hoped to reach agreement on this problem at the last N.A.T.O. Council meeting in December, but it proved impossible, not unnaturally, in the light of the prolonged changes in the Government of the Federal Republic. We have agreed not to make any changes in the combat capability of our forces in Germany until after 30th June. To make up for any loss of foreign exchange which we might otherwise have suffered, the United States Government have agreed to make additional purchases from Britain during this calendar year to the value of 35 million dollars. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary will hope to say more on this aspect of the problem tomorrow.
Although some further important decisions, particularly in Europe, remain to be taken, we are able in the White Paper to report more progress made faster than we could have envisaged a year ago. The estimates for 1967–68 are already £73 million under the target which we set ourselves for 1969£70. By the end of the year, thanks to the redeployment of our forces and to various offsets from Hong Kong and from the United States which I have just mentioned, foreign exchange expenditure will be running at least £75 million below the rate envisaged a year ago.
These are minimum estimates, based on firm decisions already taken. If, as I believe, a substantially larger number of men are brought home in the coming year, there will be a further saving, not only in foreign exchange, but also in the running costs of the defence budget, because it is a good deal cheaper to keep a unit in Britain than abroad, quite apart from the saving of foreign exchange.
In fact, in our first three years in power we have cut £750 million off the Conservative estimates. This year the estimates, judging from the long-term costings which we inherited, would have amounted to £2,571 million, which would have been £366 million higher than the Defence Estimates presented by the present Government.
§ Mr. Healey
It is possible that I am about to answer my hon. Friend's question.
Some say that this is not a real saving, because the Conservative estimates were just abstract guesses, or they say that the estimates would have been cut even if the Conservatives had stayed in power. I must disagree. The House should recognise that these long-term costings are based on the most accurate estimates which the Ministry of Defence can make, in discussion with the Treasury, of how the cost of the Government's firm programme is likely to increase as, for example, development, expenditure on projects builds up or production gets under way.
We have avoided these increases only by cutting programmes back and by getting better value, for money. The Opposition cannot claim that they would have done the same, because they have opposed every single decision which we have taken to cut expenditure, whether on commitments—Aden, for example—or on forces—for example, the Territorial Army—or on equipment—for example, the TSR2 and the carrier. If they claim that they would have held expenditure as we have held it, it is their duty to tell us, if they would not have cut the things which we have cut, what they would have cut instead. [Interruption.]
§ Mr. Healey
No, Sir. It is not a fact, but I will try to answer the points of and the anxieties lying behind my hon. Friend's question in the remainder of my speech.
I now turn to the future. So far, I have been discussing what the Government have achieved, particularly in relation to the programme of their predecessors. But that, of course, is not the end of the story. As we said last year, the Defence Review is a continuing process. We must continue to revise and update our own long-term plans so as to 109 reflect developments not only in the international situation, but also in our economic position. In particular, as the White Paper says, the scale of our overseas expenditure on defence requires an unremitting watch. This not only adds urgency to the reappraisal of N.A.T.O.'s strategy, for which we have been pressing ever since we took office in 1964, but also compels the Government to reexamine the political, economic and military implications of our deployment outside Europe.
These are not all problems for my own Department alone, of course. The Foreign Office and the Commonwealth Office have major rôles in determining the future shape of our commitments, the commitments which our forces exist to fulfil, as the Treasury and the Department of Economic Affairs, among other Departments, are concerned to assess the economic implications of their proposals. But the major burden falls, alas, on the Ministry of Defence, and experience over the last two and a half years has shown the need for adjusting the machinery of the Ministry of Defence so that it is better able to take this type of decision.
In the past, there was only one Minister concerned with defence policy as a whole, including the impact of defence policy on our national life, while six Ministers dealt with the special problems of the individual Services. Now we have three senior Ministers concerned with defence policy as a whole, while three Under-Secretaries deal with the individual Services. I believe that this reflects a much better balance. We have adjusted the official machinery to serve the new Ministerial organisation. In particular, we have strengthened the central machinery of the Minstry to help the Secretary of State and the functional Ministers to determine the major policy issues.
What are these issues? The main policy problems on which we must decide in the immediate future are the size and shape of the Services in the 1970s. These decisions depend on greater precision in three main areas of policy. The size and shape of our combat forces—the teeth arms—depends, first, on the nature of Britain's contribution to a revised N.A.T.O. strategy for the defence of Western Europe and, secondly, on the type of military backing required for our Commonwealth and 110 foreign policy outside Europe. But if our defence resources are limited, as they are, the size of our combat forces will depend, thirdly and critically, on our success in reducing the size of our organisation for supporting them both at home and abroad.
If we are to reduce the overall size of our Armed Forces—and I must tell the House that the current manpower trends in British society as a whole suggest that this would be necessary even if there were no financial limitations—then we must reduce the tail no less than we reduce the teeth. This is a task which is particularly difficult in an era when the complexity of modern weapons continuously makes demands for more men and more money for maintenance and repair and for training in their use.
We have already achieved a great deal here—for example, in rationalising functions between the Services—but even more is needed. I believe that the reorganisation and simplification of the command structure in the United Kingdom on which my hon. Friend will speak this evening will make an important contribution.
I should like to say something about the two other areas where we are seeking more precision—on N.A.T.O. strategy and on Britain's military rôle outside Europe. We all know that Soviet policy towards Western Europe has changed fundamentally since N.A.T.O. was set up 18 years ago. There is now a political détente. It is recognised by every Government on both sides of the dividing line. The N.A.T.O. Council committed itself only last December to use every possible means of extending the detente which now exists. Mr. McNamara has rightly said on both sides of the Atlantic that while the Alliance remains necessary it is recognised that… it should not be an obstacle to bridging the present dividing line through Europe.There are solid reasons for this change in Soviet attitudes besides what N.A.T.O. itself has achieved in strengthening Western Europe. There have been profound political and economic changes in Soviet society itself. China has emerged as a formidable potential threat on Russia's eastern frontiers. But I do not think that there can be any doubt that one major reason why we need not fear 111 today that the Warsaw Powers now contemplate the use of force to change the status quo in Central Europe is that the use of force is likely to lead to general nuclear war and that this catastrophe would inflict damage out of all proportion to what any aggressor could hope to gain.
If Soviet policy is now rooted in hard facts like these—and I believe that it is—I find it difficult to conceive that overnight, in a flash, it could change so fundamentally as to allow Russia to contemplate a war in Europe. If it were to change, all sorts of political indications that a change was underway would reach the West long before military intelligence was received on the physical movements of forces which must precede aggression.
For this reason, the Government believe that N.A.T.O. can now contemplate holding some of the forces which might be required in Germany during a crisis outside that country in normal times. The increasing air portability of much military equipment and enormous improvements in the capacity of the new transport aircraft and in their numbers give further support to this view. Therefore, if foreign exchange remains a major problem, I believe that Britain and perhaps the United States could consider holding some of their N.A.T.O. ground forces at home in normal times providing they were still available to N.A.T.O. in a crisis. That is the first point I should like to make.
In the second place, the current balance of forces on the Continent and the fact that both sides now have nuclear weapons in abundance make it difficult to conceive of a prolonged war in Europe, whether conventional or nuclear As I have often told the House, N.A.T.O. would be compelled to resort to nuclear weapons within days of an attack; and within days of starting to use nuclear weapons organised warfare would become impossible. Academic persons can argue, if they like, that this is an undesirable state of affairs and that the N.A.T.O. countries should have accepted the enormous economic burden of increasing their conventional forces even beyond the level which SACEUR once demanded; but not one NA.T.O. Government is prepared to make this sacrifice, and it would be 112 futile for one to do so unless the others followed suit.
In any case, everything we know of Soviet military doctrine, both from books and from Soviet exercises, shows that if war did break out in Europe Russia herself would use nuclear weapons from the word "go". She has said so repeatedly; she has rejected every alternative. There is also much in the argument that, since our whole purpose is to prevent a war from breaking out, the deterrent value of our current posture gives us greater security than any attempt to raise the nuclear threshold which might tempt the other side to risk a conflict staying wholly conventional.
I point out to the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell), who, I know, has studied this problem very carefully and has come to a different conclusion, that there is no country on the Continent which does not believe that a prolonged conventional war would inflict damage on it quite as difficult to bear as the damage resulting from a strategic nuclear exchange. This is not an option which any of our European allies has the slightest intention of accepting.
If the duration of military operations in Europe is likely to be so limited, it may be possible to make substantial savings in the logistic support of our forces by reducing their stocks of ammunition and supplies to fit their actual combat capability. I use these figures purely for purposes of illustration, but there would be no point in keeping stocks for fighting for years if our forces were capable only of fighting for weeks. I believe—and I have often said this in the House—that the only serious danger of war in Europe is that fighting might break out somewhere on the frontier between East and West by accident or by miscalculation, and that the really difficult question is to decide at how high a level this might occur. Quite frankly, it is impossible to conceive of 30 Soviet divisions moving West by accident. An accidental conflict could scarcely involve much more than a battalion or two a side.
Large-scale war by miscalculation is no more likely. Perhaps it made sense 10 or 20 years ago to worry about Russia launching a rapid thrust towards Hamburg to create a fait accompli from which 113 she could then bargain with the West from strength. But Mr. McNamara has now told the world that there are 7,000 nuclear weapons available to N.A.T.O. in Western Europe. I ask the House whether it is possible to conceive of any rational Government risking miscalculating the chance that one of these weapons might be used by the West in resisting such a thrust if this seemed the only alternative to surrender or defeat? Large-scale war by miscalculation is, in my view, no more likely than a large-scale war by accident.
§ Mr. E. Shinwell (Easington)
What is the conclusion of all this analysis? Surely the conclusion is that we should take our troops out altogether irrespective of foreign exchange? Then Herr Josef Strauss is right. He says that foreign exchange has nothing to do with it, that it is a question whether we want troops there or not. On the analysis which my right hon. Friend has furnished to the House, we ought to take them out without any further ado.
§ Mr. Healey
With respect to my right hon. Friend, I do not think that conclusion follows at all, because the existing situation does depend on an integrated allied force. "Integrated" is an important point, because only some of the forces in N.A.T.O. themselves directly control nuclear weapons, being deployed in some strength in Western Europe. The question that military and political heads are trying to wrestle with is what level of force is required to retain the degree of security which we enjoy today. I will say a word on that question during the next few moments.
If a Western nuclear response to deliberate aggression in Europe is inevitable, the non-nuclear members of the Alliance must have some say on how and when the first use of nuclear weapons should be decided. I believe that we have made more progress in solving this problem in the Special Committee of Defence Ministers over its short twelve months' of life than in the preceding 17 years of the Alliance.
As the House knows, the Special Committee is now being replaced by a permanent consultative machinery inside N.A.T.O. itself, and I believe that this offers by far the best, if not the only sure 114 way, of coping with an issue that has in the past threatened not only to split the Alliance wide apart, but also to wreck the prospects of disarmament.
§ Mr. Eric S. Heffer (Liverpool, Walton)
On that last point, which I couple with the point that the right hon. Gentleman made earlier about 7,000 nuclear weapons being available for N.A.T.O. in Western Europe, could he say, if this is the intention of the Government, why we must now continue to go ahead with this enormous programme of Polaris submarines? Is it not a complete waste of time and money on the basis of what he has said?
§ Mr. Healey
With respect to my hon. Friend, I will try to answer him tomorrow night. I must proceed with my argument. I have given way very freely to interruptions, but I must now press on.
I do not want to drop this question of N.A.T.O. strategy without one word which may seem to come oddly from a Minister of Defence. Given the political détente which now exists in Europe, given the patent desire of both sides to avoid a war, can we not now get together and seek security in Europe by agreement to reduce the level on which the balance is maintained? I believe that this would not only relieve us of heavy and unnecessary expenditures, but would also give us far greater security than the present situation. It might also create a climate in which for the first time since the Second World War a real attempt to solve the political problems of a divided Europe might achieve success. Cooperation in the control of armaments is a far better way to security for both sides in Europe than continuing competition in an arms race.
I turn now to the most controversial area, the rôle, if any, of British forces outside Europe or, as is sometimes said, east of Suez. I tend to agree with at least one element in the view of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) that this is an issue where the facts are grossly distorted by myths and slogans. After all, very few of the Government's critics want us to have no military presence outside Europe. The Leader of the Liberal Party—I am sorry not to see him here today—wants us to use force in Rhodesia. My hon. Friend the Member 115 for Woolwich, East wants us to have a military presence in Australia, and to accept our obligations to defend Hong Kong and Fiji. Even the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wolver-hamton, South-West has recently been cautious not to say that we ought to abandon our position east of Suez. In fact, he attacks us when we do.
The right hon. Gentleman is content to say that he thinks that there will be no forces ashore east of Suez in 10 or 15 years' time. Perhaps he will tell us, when he follows me, whether his prediction is based on the assumption that there will be a Labour Government or a Conservative Government over the next 10 years, and, if Conservative, whether he or his right hon. Friend the Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Sir Alec Douglas-Home) will be the Minister of Defence.
Very few of those who attack the Government for having a presence east of Suez wish us to have no presence at all. Equally, nobody on the Government side, and certainly nobody in the Government, thinks that we can do everything. I have said many times that we cannot be the policemen of the world, and no one in the Government believes that we should go on doing all that we have been doing until now. We all agree that we must reduce our commitments and forces outside Europe; and, as I have already described, we have already done a great deal towards that.
The fact is that "east of Suez" is not a question of everything or nothing. It is a question of that very "in between" rôle about which my hon. Friend the Member for Woolwich, East attacked us bitterly in one part of his resignation speech last year and accepted in another part of the same speech.
Two sets of questions have to be answered before we decide what this "in between" rôle should be. The first is, what sort of things does it make sense economically and politically for us to do, for how long, under what conditions, and with what sort of forces? Secondly, how should we disengage from the positions that it does not make sense to keep? Over what period should we run down our forces? What political arrangements can we make for the security of 116 those who were previously dependent on us? And what economic arrangements can we make to cushion them against the loss of foreign exchange that we save by going?
Both sets of questions are very difficult to answer, and certainly I cannot give the final answer now. But on the first set of questions, we can learn a lot from our experience under confrontation. The lessons of confrontation can teach us a lot about our future rôle, even though we hope to avoid this scale of operation in future.
In South-East Asia during confrontation, as in East Africa on a much smaller scale during the Army mutinies of 1964, British forces helped to create a situation in which the local people were able to achieve a peaceful settlement of their own problems on their own. I believe that it was worth doing, and I would argue with anybody anywhere that it was. There would have been chaos in East Africa and in a large part of South-East Asia if we had not been willing and able to perform this rôle. There is no saying how far the repercussions would have spread outside the area. Perhaps there would have been intervention by other Powers anxious to fish in troubled waters.
This achievement—it was a real achievement, and one of which we should be proud—was only possible for certain reasons. First, we were operating from a secure base in Singapore and Malaysia, with support not only of the local government, but also of the local population. Secondly, we won and kept the support of the people in the battle area. I doubt whether there is any other case in history where civilians in the front line of the fighting were actually sorry to see the forces leave them, but that was the case in Borneo over the last six or nine months.
As a result of our success in winning the support of the local people, our forces were able to control 1,000 miles of jungle frontier against forces facing them across the frontier that were always superior in numbers. Those hon. Members who know anything about guerrilla warfare will recognise what an achievement this was.
Thirdly, the immense skill, courage, and patience of our fighting men, not 117 least the Gurkhas, enabled us to carry out this operation with a minimum of force. I remember from my old Army days the saying that sweat saves blood, and brains save sweat and blood. This principle was never better illustrated than during confrontation when, in three years' fighting, the total killed on both sides was so low.
Most important of all, we were operating continuously under the most stringent political and military control. Our forces resisted every temptation to raise the level of the conflict by escalation. This is what made a peaceful settlement possible once the political climate in Jakarta had changed. The House may not know that in Borneo, during three years of confrontation, we did not once use an aircraft to drop a bomb or fire a gun or rocket. It was possible for us to do this only because we had the power to deter the enemy from escalating on his side. Our strike and interceptor forces in Borneo fulfilled their role because they were not used, and this is a very good example of how a deterrent force at any level can and should be used.
Those conditions do not apply everywhere. They do not apply in Aden, for example, where it cannot be maintained that we have the support of the local population, and it is a very difficult question of judgment to determine where it is politically sensible to intervene and to decide whether the scale of the conflict can be thus controlled. This is why the Defence White Paper can say only that the purpose of our diplomacy is to foster developments which will enable the local peoples to live at peace without the presence of external forces, and that in the interim period, provided they are needed and welcome, the continuing presence of British forces can help to create an environment in which local Governments are able to establish the political and economic basis for peace and stability. There can also be no certainty, so long as threats to stability remain, that those forces will not be required to give help to friendly Governments or to play a part in a United Nations peace-keeping force, as they have done in recent years.
In my view, to renounce all capability for this type of action now would be not only to violate formal obligations, but also to abdicate a precious power which 118 we have to contribute to world peace and to prevent needless human suffering. At the same time, we must reduce the number and scale of our commitments, and this raises a host of political problems, to some of which I have already referred. We have to help the local people to adjust to the economic problems of our withdrawal, and this takes time.
At Brighton, my hon. Friend the Member for Woolwich, East said that we should be out of Singapore, Malaysia, and the Gulf altogether in two years' time, by 1969–70, which is just over two years from now; but on television 10 days ago he recognised that this would take four or five years. Now he has signed a Motion which says that we ought to be out in two years.
§ Mr. Christopher Mayhew (Woolwich, East)
Is not the position that some of us are recommending that by 1970 we should be clear of a number of places which are not immediately threatened? The Government have decided that by 1968 we should be clear of the South Arabian Federation and Aden. If we are accused of going too quickly, if that accusation is to be made, it is the Government who are in the dock, and not their critics.
§ Mr. Healey
What I fear from that intervention is that there is great confusion and possibly a difference of opinion among those who signed the Motion to which I referred.
The fact is that the problem of rehousing at home is an enormous one as well. We are to get 20,000 new married quarters over the next three years, but it cannot be done overnight. It will be accommodation of one sort and another, temporary and permanent—[An HON. MEMBER: "Tents."] With respect, not tents. I know that when my hon. Friend speaks later tonight he will give a full answer to questions raised by hon. Members on this area of the problem.
I understand the impatience of many people both inside and outside the House, but I hope that they will understand the full scale and complexity of the problems which the Government have to face. There is no other field of government so complex as defence. It is a point at which one sees the inter-action of economic, social, financial, industrial, and 119 commercial factors on diplomacy and strategy, and yet, ironically enough, there is no other field in which so many expect so much in so short a time.
I do not for a moment claim that the Government are satisfied with their achievements so far. I recognise that there is still a great deal to be done, but I believe that we have already achieved something which deserves credit. There is good, substantial, progress recorded in the Defence White Paper which is an impressive earnest of what more can and will be achieved in the future. The runaway train is now under control. At last, the Government are in a position to determine in what direction it shall travel and at what speed. We have proved our will and our ability to relate our military expenditure and our political commitments to our economic needs. We ask support from the House for finishing the job which we have begun.
§ 4.37 p.m.
§ Mr. J. Enoch Powell (Wolverhampton, South-West)
I shall have much to say in the course of my speech which will be critical, and even condemnatory, of the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues. Therefore I would like to begin at any rate on a pleasant note by congratulating the right hon. Gentleman both in his official, and if I may say so his personal, capacity upon the launching last Saturday of the latest addition to the British nuclear deterrent. Though there may be differences of view on that side of the House, there is none on this side about the importance of this addition to the strength of the Royal Navy.
Agreeing with the right hon. Gentleman as I do, and not with his right hon. Friend the Prime Minister who regards the British deterrent as having the ratio of a dried pea on the top of a mountain, I welcome this progress in the implementation of at any rate the greater part of the Polaris programme which was initiated by the preceding Administration.
There is little else, however, on which I can congratulate the Government in this White Paper, or in the Defence Review of last year which lies behind it. That review was based upon a view taken of the year 1969–70. The starting point was that this country's defence expenditure in that year should represent 6 per cent. 120 of the then national income. In accordance with the extrapolations and plans which were then still accepted, that 6 per cent, was worked out at £2,000 million.
But this whole basis of calculation of the Defence Review has utterly collapsed. Of those years in which there was to be an average annual growth of 3.8 per cent. in the national income, the first year saw a growth of 1 per cent., and we are now in the middle of the second, in which the norm is nil. The Government have now officially given up any hope of attaining anything like the envisaged rate of attaining anything like the envisaged rate of growth in subsequent years.It is clear",said the Ministry of Housing and Local Government recently in H.o.C. 252, paragraph 9,that over the two years ahead the rate of growth of the economy will fall short of that postulated in the National Plan.It will indeed!
I wonder whether the right hon. Gentleman realises that the figures and calculations which he put in the forefront of this year's Statement actually imply an expected decline in the national income next year, as compared with this year. He says that on his estimates the proportion of defence expenditure to the gross national product will fall from 6.6 per cent.—last year's estimate—to 6.5 percent, this year. Now, with a constant national income, at constant prices, a decline from 6.6 per cent, to 6.5 per cent.—a decline of one sixty-sixth—would represent only £30 million. The actual decline is £45 million. Therefore, whether or not he knows it, the right hon. Gentleman has been given a forecast on the basis of which not only will there be no increase—the standard of prophecy of the Department of Economic Affairs seems to be improving somewhat—but there may well be a decline in the national income in the coming 12 months.
The whole exercise of fudging a budget figure of £2,000 million in 1969–70, largely through rolling forward expenditure by means of credits and through undisclosed items like the famous last £100 million, has proved to be futile. It has proved to be unrelated to any real experience. A wiser and sadder man, the Secretary of State, last November, when his hon. Friend the Member for Heywood 121 and Royton (Mr. Barnett) asked him what was his revised estimate of the percentage of the gross national product that would be spent on defence in 1970, said that his right hon. Friend the First Secretary had this under examination, andI cannot therefore at this stage give an estimate of the likely proportion that would be spent on defence in 1970."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 9th November, 1966; Vol. 735, c. 288.]Of course not. He has discovered, too late, that he had built the house of cards of last year's Defence Review upon a wholly unrealistic calculation and forecast of 1969–70—as we told him at the time.
The entire operation of cutting the imaginary Conservative budget of £2,400 million was as bogus as is his claim this year to have saved £750 million by 1968 on the programme inherited. The refutation of that claim is to be found in the experience of the last eight years of the Conservative Administration. In those years we can compare and measure with some precision the ratio of the national income being spent year by year upon defence. I will read for those years the figures relating to defence expenditure as a proportion of the national income, beginning with 1957–58. They were as follows: 7.3 per cent.; 7.1 per cent.; 6.8 per cent.; 6.9 per cent.; 6.9 per cent.; 6.9 per cent.; 6.6 per cent. and 6.5 per cent., for 1964–65. That is the process which the right hon. Gentleman likes to refer to as a "runaway train". That is what he referred to, when presenting the White Paper of last year, as an "automatic rise".
We now know what the proportion was for his first full year, 1965–66, from information with which he supplied me last week. It was 6.55 per cent. He now estimates that for last year it will have been about 6.6 per cent, and, as I have just reminded the House, he estimates that it will be 6.5 per cent, for the coming year. I can tell the right hon. Gentleman that on a fairly generous estimate of the gross national product in 1969–70, the sum of £2,000 million then will represent between 6.5 per cent, and 7 per cent. This is the refutation of the right hon. Gentleman's claim that he has achieved a great and fundamental economic reappraisal of our defence expenditure.
In view of these figures, no wonder that the Motion before the House refers 122 not to reducing expenditure in general but only to reducing overseas expenditure. I am afraid that that operation, too, has been bogus. On 20th July last year the Prime Minister announced that there would be a cut of at least £100 million in overseas expenditure, mainly defence, "next year". There was no doubt what he meant. If there had been, it was spelled out by the Chief Secretary to the Treasury two or three days later, in answer to a Question designed to get quite clear what it was that the Prime Minister was telling the international bankers and other interested parties. The Chief Secretary said:The figure of £100 million will relate to the financial year 1967–68 as compared with 1966–67"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 26th July, 1966; Vol. 732, c. 218.]On the same day, 26th July, the Chancellor of the Exchequer himself said that the intention wasto save £100 million in overseas payments in the financial year 1967–68 as compared with the current year.That was the announcement; that was the plan; that was the intention.
The House will find the fudge if it will now be good enough to turn to Annex H of the Statement—
§ Mr. Powell
We were promised that in Annex H we should find how the saving of £100 million—or, at any rate, the £75 million which was the defence element—had been achieved. There we see two columns side by side in Table 3, one of which adds up to £47½ million. That is the saving, comparing 1967–68 with 1966–67. The figure of £75 million is a different one. It bears the strange superscription—Rate of Saving by end of 1967–68.So the whole operation of saving £100 million, as undertaken by the Prime Minister, has proved a complete failure; it simply has not happened.
But even the table from which I have quoted is not the worst of it; it papers over the full extent of the Government's unrealism. One has to look to the bottom of the page to find the truth and, as 123 usual, the truth is in small print. It is headed "Total foreign exchange expenditure" and it reads:No estimate, comparable to that given for 1966–67, can be given for total net foreign exchange expenditure in 1967–68.In other words, the pluses and minuses are quite unknown. The whole operation has been completely bogus.
§ The Under-Secretary of State for Defence for the Royal Air Force (Mr. Merlyn Rees)
Would the right hon. Gentleman continue to read the small print?
§ Mr. Powell
Certainly, I do not mind:The estimate must await the outcome of discussions with the United States Government and the Federal Republic of Germany.It has not happened.
§ The Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. George Brown)
Of course not.
§ Mr. Powell
"Of course not", say the Government now. "It is true that we came to the House in July, 1966 knowing all we know now—same agreements, same treaties—and said, 'We will save in 1967–68, compared with 1966–67, £100 million,' but now we say, 'Of course we could not do it. What did you expect?'" Perhaps after a little more experience we shall learn what to expect from them.
Unfortunately for this country and unfortunately for this country's credit, this has not been merely a fudge. Desiring at that time to impress those whom he was addressing, the Prime Minister announced that there were firm programmes on which the Government "had decided"—those were the words—adding up to this £100 million saving in 1967–68, compared with 1966–67. This was stated by the Prime Minister, confirmed by the Chief Secretary to the Treasury. This, of course, was why, a week or two later, the hapless Lord Beswick was sent to Malta to tell the astonished Malta Government that the gradual rundown of forces in Malta, which had been forecast in February in the Defence White Paper, would all take place in two years.
Naturally, there was shock and a furore, followed a few months later by the visit—almost equally disastrous—of the Commonwealth Secretary, with his 124 famous words on arrival, "No room for bargaining". We know something of the events since then. We know that the Government have been forced—rightly forced—back and back, though they are slow to learn. Even when the House was told, to its great relief, that there would be further negotiations and that the expulsion of British forces from the Islands of Malta had been halted—even then, the Minister without Portfolio announced to the House that he had told the Prime Minister of Malta… that we could not agree to negotiations if the administrative measures against the British Forces were to continue.He greatly hoped that,… to enable the talks to take place, the Malta Government will be prepared to ensure that normal conditions for our Forces will be restored."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 22nd February, 1967: Vol. 741, c. 1717.]Here was another attempt to dictate conditions, to force an ultimatum.
The Government were immediately pushed off even that, and now we are all hoping that these negotiations will result in an agreement and a phasing which will be acceptable to the people of Malta and, therefore, acceptable to the people of this country. But the Government are back where they started before their wild-goose chase. Rather, they are worse off; for, on the way, they have given deep offence and have collected ignominy.
What has happened on a small scale, though still important, in the case of Malta, has happened on a grand scale in the case of Germany. In the Budget last year, the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced that negotiations were to be started at an early date… with a view to the United Kingdom securing relief from the whole of the foreign exchange cost of keeping our forces in Germany … with the aim of bringing them"—that is, the negotiations—to a successful conclusion by the autumn of this year."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 3rd May, 1966; Vol. 727, c. 1449.]This year—1966. The autumn was subsequently defined by the Prime Minister on 26th May as being 18th September.
On 20th July, the Prime Minister repeated this, simply with the addition of bustle and threats that the Chancellor of the Exchequer was leaving for Bonn that very night and that there must be a 125 decision forthwith. The terms of the Prime Minister on that occasion were peremptory. He said:In the light of these discussions"—that is, the Chancellor's discussions in Bonn on 21st and 22nd July last year—the Government will immediately consider what … action is called for, including the question whether this would mean proposing, forthwith … very substantial cuts in our forces in Germany, sufficient to bring the foreign exchange costs down to the level covered by offset and other payments."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 20th July, 1966; Vol. 732, c. 633.]Then there were the statements by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, both while he was in Bonn and afterwards. He has denied the business about tents. Apparently, it was in temporary hutted or brick-built camps that the troops whom we were preparing to bring home were to be accommodated. But, said the Government, commenting on this:It becomes increasingly clear that the main part of any immediate defence cuts must depend on the West German reply to Mr. Callaghan's demands, which is expected within a week or so.That was last July-August. It is now nearly March. I must assume that it was not at any rate these negotiations which the Secretary of State had in mind, when, at his Press conference on the White Paper, he said that he had "nothing to report but progress".
So far as is known, what has been achieved is as follows. In the first place, there has been no addition to the offset for 1966–67; the Americans have offered us, for the calendar year 1967, additional purchases of £12½ million; and the question whether Germany has or has not offered a once-for-all payment of £31½ million is still involved in the impenetrable confusion of assertion and counter-assertion. These two sums together, taking them at their utmost, add up to £44 million—approximately half of one year's cost of the present strength of our forces in Germany. If that is still the situation at the end of June, does that mean that half our forces will then be withdrawn from B.A.O.R.?
The Government have shown, in these last nine months, an absolutely colossal lack of imagination of the effect upon the Continent of behaviour like this. It is all very well for the right hon. Gentleman the Foreign Secretary, referring to our inquiries about entering the Euro- 126 pean Common Market, to say, "These things must be kept apart". They cannot be kept apart.
Let us try to put ourselves in the other person's shoes. Let us look at this from the side of the Continent. The Continentals say, "There they go. The British are at it again, you see. The British have told us plainly, now, that the sole unilateral determinant of their strength on the Continent of Europe, of their commitment to present policies for our common defence, is the British short-term foreign exchange position. Now we understand whether the British mean business about their involvement in Europe."
§ Mr. Woodrow Wyatt (Bosworth)
Why do they object to being told that by us when they were told exactly the same thing by General de Gaulle?
§ Mr. Powell
I am not aware that General de Gaulle is trying to get into the European Economic Community.
The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for Defence, who bears the responsibility for the defence of this country—and he showed, in the second part of his speech today, the seriousness with which he feels it—spoke differently when he said, in answer to a Question last October:… N.A.T.O. is the core to the security and perhaps the survival of this country."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 19th October, 1966; Vol. 734, c. 209.]Yes indeed—and what an extraordinary approach, what extraordinary behaviour, towards those who share with us the responsibilities of the Alliance, which "is the core to the security and, perhaps, the survival of this country". If the right hon. Gentleman believes that—and I think that he does believe it—then he cannot possibly approve the way in which the Government as a whole have behaved in the last nine months or the results which have flowed from their behaviour. They have indeed sown dragon's teeth, and a baleful crop will spring up from them. The most foolish counsel in matters of defence is the short-term saving of currency.
§ Mr. Michael Foot (Ebbw Vale)
I appreciate many of the right hon. Gentleman's criticisms of the Government. Would he tell us exactly what is his own policy? Would he say whether he is in favour of keeping British troops in 127 Germany at roughly the same level, even though the West German Government refuse to carry out their pledge to help pay for them?
§ Mr. Powell
So far as I know, there is no pledge on the part of the German Government extending beyond the spring of this year; and certainly I would not approve, and I do not believe that any of my hon. Friends would approve, a unilateral denunciation of our obligations towards N.A.T.O. on these trumpery grounds.
It is not only on the financial side that the Defence Review has proved to be a piece of illusionism. Everything about it, as the hon. Member for Bosworth (Mr. Wyatt) recently wrote, is "a conjuring trick designed to deceive the innocent and unwary." The Review purported—and the right hon. Gentleman repeated this, though with a lighter touch, this afternoon—to be a grand review in depth of this country's defence commitments. It went on month after month while the country and the world hung breathless in expectation.
As the right hon. Gentleman said when he produced it, it was going… to bring our commitments into balance with the manpower and equipment which we can afford to have."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 22nd February, 1966; Vol. 725, c. 239.]With one sole exception, not a single commitment has been either renounced or modified. From Malta and Libya, through CENTO and the Persian Gulf, down to Simonstown and across to S.E.A.T.O., all remains as before. Not a word of our commitments has been altered. What the Government intend and what they are achieving has been something quite different. It slipped out in a phrase—which, in retrospect, takes on greater significance—in the Defence White Paper of last year, where it was stated that this Governmentset out … to limit the scale of military tasks which may be imposed by the commitments".Just so. The illusionism has been concerned with commitments. The real changes have related to the capabilities.
But the one exception—it was the only one to which the right hon. Gentleman was able to refer this afternoon—has been ironic and tragic. I refer, of course, to 128 Aden, where the commitment was renounced under the worst possible conditions, in the worst possible manner, and with predictable results. The results were predictable, for they were predicted. Almost exactly a year ago I warned the Government of… the kind of damage that can be done, the kind of dangers to which our own troops, our own people and our own friends can be subjected … by the sheer stupidity of the Government announcing this decision, 'in clear', as it were, two or three years in advance of their own date for breaking their commitment."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 7th March, 1966; Vol. 725, c. 1755.]I fear that prediction has been punctually fulfilled.
The Minister of State at the Foreign Office supplied me last week with a table giving, month by month, figures of the casualties in the South Arabia Federation. They are staggering figures, and they present a picture of which the meaning is visible at a glance. The significant point in the figures is the absolute change in character which comes over them between February and March of last year. To summarise, taking the casualties for the 12 months before that date—before the announcement—we see that British Service casualties totalled 149 while, in the 12 months after that date, they totalled 375. Total casualties, Service and civilian, in the 12 months before were 554, while in the 12 months afterwards they were 1,159.
The Government threw away a chance which was within their grasp to see Egypt out of the Yemen and to leave a successor State with the maximum chance of survival and self-defence. There is no sign as yet that the next 12 months will see such a State emerging. It is tragically ironic that these should already be the consequences of the one sole decision which the Government took in the whole sphere of our formal commitments.
Reference has been made this afternoon to some remarkable words used by the Chancellor of the Exchequer over the weekend. The right hon. Gentleman was reported to have said, although I heard the Foreign Secretary making certain comments about these words earlier:We cannot just clear out of Aden automatically overnight and leave the situation in the kind of mess that could arise.129 According to the Foreign Secretary, apparently, the Chancellor of the Exchequer was not reported quite correctly. According to the Foreign Secretary he was referring to withdrawals generally and not to the particular case of Aden. Of course—but the particular case of Aden is that which illustrates the general principle—and has illustrated it in the last 12 months. The one commitment which the Government modified has honoured in the breach the principle which the Chancellor of the Exchequer laid down.
When we turn to the forces themselves we find that all the major questions are left unanswered. I said last year that by their decision to end our carrier forces in the 'seventies, the Government had decided to… dispossess ourselves of the present offensive power of the Royal Navy when we have as yet no knowledge of how the philosophy and weapon systems which will succeed it are to develop."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 7th March, 1966; Vol. 725, c. 1759.]This position remains absolutely unchanged.
The Working Party on the Future Fleet has come and gone. In a Written Answer last November the Secretary of State said:The future Fleet Working Party, which has now reported, was set up to present the Admiralty Board, in the first instance, with the facts and advice necessary to enable decisions on the future shape and size of the Fleet to be taken … and met at regular intervals from April to August. …"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 9th November, 1966; Vol. 735, c. 292–3.]So far as we know there have been no decisions, no conclusions.
A year ago, in introducing the White Paper, the right hon. Gentleman said that the Royal Navy was to have,… surface-to-surface weapons which are not now in the programme."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 22nd February, 1966; Vol. 725, c. 250.]They still are not in the programme. Instead, we have in the White Paper a sentence which is almost cynical in its vagueness. The only reference to the subject is in paragraph 15, page 34:New ships, which the Royal Navy will need for its future tasks, are being planned …".Neither of what the future tasks are nor of what the nature of the ships being 130 planned is are we given any idea. I suspect that the right hon. Gentleman has no idea himself. These are voids which my hon. Friends and my hon. and gallant Friends will be exploring further in this debate and in the Navy debate later this week.
It is the same with the Army. Last year, in what was almost a throwaway in answer to a challenge in the last few moments before the General Election from my right hon. Friend the Member for Barnet (Mr. Maudling), the Secretary of State said:… we shall make further reductions in equipment and manpower which will save the additional £100 million."—[OFFICIAL REPORT. 8th March, 1966; Vol. 725, c. 2045.]"Further reductions in equipment and manpower"—we have been asking for more information, for some information, for any information, about these reductions in manpower ever since. In the context in which the right hon. Gentleman announced it, it was related to a return in the Far East to preconfrontation strength. Now, in this year's Defence White Paper, suddenly a new and major element is introduced, and in page 9, paragraph 42, we read:Since Britain's contribution to N.A.T.O. will have a critical influence on the composition and deployment of all three Services, final decisions on the shape and size of our defence forces in the 1970s must await the outcome of the N.A.T.O. discussions. It is hoped to announce further plans later this year.What sort of Army, what size of Army, are we to have as a result of this far-reaching major review of Britain's defences? Is it to be reduced by 5,000? By 11,000? By 16,000—or by some much larger figure? Nobody knows. And what, incidentally, of the Volunteer Reserve which last year was ruthlessly cut down—but for the last-minute salvation of certain units by efforts from this side—in order to provide a particular contingent for a particular order of battle in a N.A.T.O. strategy which the right hon. Gentleman is now engaged in trying to renegotiate.
Finally, we have the Air Force—
§ Mr. Joel Barnett (Heywood and Royton)
The right hon. Gentleman has made a very serious and severe criticism of a destructive nature. I am sure that people in the country as well as hon. Members will be interested to know 131 whether he and the Opposition would spend more or less than is set out in the White Paper.
§ Mr. Mayhew
The right hon. Gentleman made a criticism of the Government's claims to have reduced expenditure which, I think, impressed both sides of the House, but now he is complaining that the Government cancelled a carrier and is uncertain about manpower, and he is now going on to aircraft. Would he agree that the cost of the defence policy of the Government would then be between £2,300 million and £2,400 million a year?
§ Mr. Powell
I agree no such thing. I have demonstrated that the purported financial operations of the Government, both on overseas account and budgetary, have been bogus, and I have demonstrated that the previous Government year by year maintained the defence of this country with a gradually falling proportion of a rising national income. That is the record, and that is the answer.
On the Air Force, there was no statement in last year's Defence Review which attracted more attention than the celebrated passage about the Anglo-French variable geometry aircraft—
§ Mr. Shinwell
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. We are trying to find out what the Opposition are driving at [Interruption.] My point of order—[Interruption.]
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Eric Fletcher)
Order. I am trying to hear the point of order raised by the right hon. Gentleman.
§ Mr. Shinwell
Would it be possible to change the rules of the House so that the Opposition could produce a White Paper on Defence?
§ Mr. Powell
—it was the sentence in last year's White Paper which said:… both operationally and industrially this aircraft is the core of our long-term aircraft programme.132 The essence of a core—a word to which, in that spelling, the right hon. Gentleman is much addicted—is that it should be firm, healthy and assured. The right hon. Gentleman has sought to give the impression that the Anglo-French variable geometry aircraft is a firm project. He said so after his meeting with the French Minister of Defence. He said so in Paris on 16th January:The agreementsaid he:we have reached provides an assured future to the industries of both our countries on the basis of a co-operation which will extend into the mid-seventies …".On the same night he is reported to have said on radio:The difficulties which dogged the project"—the A.F.V.G.:a few weeks ago have disappeared, I think, for good.I charge the right hon. Gentleman with having been carried away by his own enthusiasm, and, I believe unintentionally, having given a wholly misleading impression of the status of this project and its firmness. I hope, indeed, that the project may come to fruition and succeed, but to say that it is assured is an assertion which is completely misleading.
We know the point of view which the French have taken on this, and we have the statement which the French Minister of Information made on the day after the meeting which led the right hon. Gentleman to make the statements of which I have been reminding the House—
§ Mr. Powell
I am about to make a quotation, and if the hon. Gentleman will allow me to make it I will seek to give way to him later. I am about to quote what the French themselves officially have said about this agreement of January. They said:The Ministers fixed a timetable in which the principal hurdle, that is to say, the financial barrier, is situated at the end of 1967. In the immediate future the various Ministries and the industries will submit on 1st March a sketch concerned both with the engine and with the airframe. On this programme one can hope that the Government will be able to 133 decide at the beginning of April that the studies may continue.We hope"—continued the French Minister of Information—that the studies will be sufficiently advanced so that in the course of December, 1967, one may decide whether or not"—"on puisse décider ou non"to start with the prototype in the following year.So, in the view of our other partner, we are taking steps which will make possible a decision whether or not in 1968 to proceed to the production of a prototype. Such is "the core of this country's aircraft programme, both operationally and industrially".
§ Mr. Healey
I know that the right hon. Gentleman is not familiar with the way in which prototypes develop, but he must surely know that it is impossible to decide on a prototype before the specification is completed. It is impossible, after the prototype is decided, to go into production before it is seen how the prototype goes. We are no less determined than the French Government to ensure that there is a possibility of considering progress at every appropriate stage. This is the only protection we have against a runaway escalation of costs such as was so familiar under the administration of the Tory Government.
§ Mr. Powell
Of course one does not proceed to construct a prototype until the preliminary work has been done. I accept—the right hon. Gentleman has now spelled it out—that they will decide next December whether or not to go on. But it follows that "the core, both operationally and industrially, of our long-term aircraft programme" is something that we shall decide next December whether or not to go on with.
§ Mr. Dalyell
The right hon. Gentleman says that he would hope to go ahead with the project. Would he tell us what his cost calculations are?
§ Mr. Powell
I am not aware that there have been any published cost calculations. There have been various rumours. Various figures have been leaked, but I am not aware there is any official figure. [Interruption.] If there is, I will table a Parliamentary Question and be told it.
§ Mr. Powell
I am not going to stand here and produce a guess of what would be the cost of an aircraft on which neither party has yet decided and of which there is not even sufficient information to decide whether or not to produce a prototype. I really think that the hon. Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell) is being unreasonable.
As for the rôle of our Air Force around this long-term core, no one has yet succeeded in ascertaining the kind of operations in which east of Suez in the later 1970s aircraft of this kind would operate, unless it were in a nuclear role. Here are aircraft which have a radius of action of, at the very least—I imagine that these figures are under-stated—1,000–1,500 miles—the distance, for instance, from London to Moscow or from Singapore to Hanoi.
We are told that these are strike aircraft which are going to strike the enemy forces at a distance. We have never yet had any explanation of the kind of operations, the kind of strategic setting, and what other forces, ours or of any other nation, would be involved, that would require a British force East of Suez to be striking the enemy in the later 1970s with an aircraft with a radius of action of 1,500 miles. Such an operation as that implies the involvement of this country in vast operations in all three elements of a character such as the party opposite has entirely and radically foresworn.
A year ago the Secretary of State, introducing his White Paper, proclaimed:The major decisions are now taken … From now onthe reviewwill be part of the normal machinery of government."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 7th March, 1966; Vol. 725, c. 1797.]We now know that the major decisions are not taken. The Defence Review was a non-review. It was a non-event worthy of even this Administration. And now the House has before it a Motion in which we are invited to approve the Statement on Defence asa further contribution to this end.We look to see what the end is to which the Statement on Defence and the defence policy of this country are to contribute. That end is anexercise in reducing the burden of British commitments, forces and expenditure overseas.135 There are two major counts to be made against this Motion. First, there has in fact been no reduction, either in expenditure overseas or in budgetary expenditure; so it is nonsense to talk about a continuing contribution to such an exercise.
The second and much the major count is that, in the view of this side of the House, the reduction of commitments, forces and expenditure overseas is not the end of national defence policy. It is not the supreme, let alone the sole, criterion by which a defence policy ought to be judged.
The Motion, from both points of view, is an insult to the intelligence of the House, as the Review itself is an imposture practised upon the Services and upon the nation. We will have none of it.
§ 5.27 p.m.
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes (South Ayrshire)
May I raise a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker? Are you calling me to move my Amendment?
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Eric Fletcher)
Mr. Speaker has already announced that none of the Amendments is selected.
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes
I should sum up the speech of the Secretary of State for Defence by employing the famous comment which was made from the back of the audience in the course of a bad film—"Do not shoot the pianist. He is doing his best." My right hon. Friend did his best to get the support of hon. Members on this side by explaining that the White Paper is an exercise in gradually decreasing defence expenditure.
There was, on the other side, an attempt at analysing this by the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell). The fatal mistake in his speech was that he failed to give us any indication of what the Conservative Opposition consider to be a reasonable amount of expenditure on national defence as an alternative to the White Paper.
So we have been treated to an exercise of irrelevancy on both sides. It has been the usual thing, with one Front Bench taking the rôle of a kettle and the other the rôle of the pot, dodging the realities that underlie the White Paper, and 136 ignoring the fundamental principles of so-called national defence.
The assumption behind the White Paper is that we must prepare to defend ourselves against somebody. This is not just a matter of a year or so. We are told that we must prepare for enormous expenditures on into the 1970s and 1980s, and the assumption is that our eternal enemy is the Soviet Union. This is a fatal fallacy. If all we have heard and read about the comings and goings and conversations between Mr. Kosygin, the Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister is to be accepted, the moral of those conversations is that relations between the two sides are improving. This is what we are told. It is said that there is to be a new peace treaty, and so on, yet we are called upon to accept a White Paper providing for enormous expenditures, on the assumption that we must continue the arms race and prepare for a nuclear war with the Soviet Union which every commonsense person agrees would be suicide.
I deny that assumption. I do not believe that there is any need for the people of this country or the people on the other side of the Iron Curtain at this time to proceed with their ruinous arms race, which can only be suicidal. My right hon. Friend failed lamentably to understand or answer the question put to him by my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer), when he asked: if there are 7,000 nuclear missiles or nuclear weapons in Germany already, what is the purpose of our going forward with our Polaris submarine programme? Of course, the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West praised my right hon. Friend for his part in the launching of the Polaris submarine. Naturally, it was part of the Tory programme. The only apology for it that we have heard from the Secretary of State for Defence is that we have cut out one of the five submarines, so that our policy is four-fifths of the Tory policy.
My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence must have forgotten the demonstration which he made when Mr. Macmillan stated from the Dispatch Box that the then Government would allow the Americans to come to Holy Loch. My right hon. Friend jumped up in great excitement on that occasion and challenged Mr. Macmillan about it. 137 saying that it was a danger to this country. That was to be one depôt on Holy Loch. We have got an improvement on that now and we are to have a base for four submarines on the Gare Loch in the west of Scotland, a project which was denounced by the leadership of the Labour Party at the time because it was so near to a populous area.
I shall leave other hon. Members to talk about east of Suez. My main purpose is to deal with the west of Scotland. We have the prospect there of a great submarine base which will be an outstanding menace and danger to the west of Scotland. It has been planted there in opposition to all the wishes of the local authorities in the west of Scotland. I prophesy that it will be one of the most expensive white elephants in the history of post-war military expenditure.
When sitting on the opposition benches, I heard my right hon. Friends move a Motion of censure on the last Tory Government, saying that £25,000 million had been wasted on weapons as a result of the stupidity of Tory policies over the previous 13 years. Not only did they say that, but we went into the Lobby on it. I wonder what we shall be able to say when this Government have been in power for 10 years—in spite of our differences, I hope that they will—and I wonder what our record will be. How many thousands of millions of pounds will we have spent in all parts of the world on aircraft costing vast sums of money, on the F111, the project with the French, and so on? When we come to add it all up, if the present policy is continued for 13 years under a Labour Government, will we have done any better than the Tories?
There is in this country today a critical attitude towards the Labour Government demanding to know why they are so much like the Tory Government, carrying on Tory ideas, mouthing the same platitudes, but ultimately coming to the same conclusion on the Defence White Paper and deciding that enormous sums of money must be borne on the shoulders of the British taxpayer at a time of economic crisis.
Let us consider the Polaris business, the microcosm of our expenditure. When the Tories were in power, they did not tell us that there was to be a base in the west of Scotland. That came out 138 only when the Labour Government came along. Now, we understand that this base in the West of Scotland is to cost about £45 million. It is a great military operation within 30 miles of Glasgow, a place which has the biggest and rottenest housing problem, probably, in the world.
Some of my hon. Friends have been with me and had opportunity to study what is going on there. At a time when there was a shortage of cement for housing, there was plenty of cement for the Polaris base. There were plenty of bulldozers, plenty of cranes, plenty of modern construction equipment. Yet, at the same time, we were slowing down on the work most needed for the social welfare of the people who voted for the Labour Government, thinking that they would do better than continue the policies of a previous Tory Government.
As I say, this base is a microcosm of wasted effort, wasted men, wasted scientists and wasted labour at a time when all our building and construction effort should be diverted to schools and hospitals, to advance factories and the other things which the Labour Government promised the people. I do not know what the answer is, nobody does, but it is a microcosm of wasted effort.
What about the submarines? We are told that we are to have the Polaris submarine. Will the Admiralty spokesman pledge that, by the time they are delivered, the Polaris submarines will not be obsolete? That we do not know. There has been controversy in the United States of America and in other parts of the world, but we know that the leading strategist spokesmen of the United States do not think that the Polaris submarine missiles can now get through on to the territories of the so-called enemy. The Americans are no longer building them. They are building an expensive thing called the Poseidon. By the time these submarines are to be delivered, the authorities say, the missiles will not be able to get through the anti-missile defences of the U.S.S.R.
So we shall have over £350 million scrap iron and junk in which an enormous amount of energy, labour, scientific work and manpower of this country has been invested. If we go on with this kind of thing we shall not be able to fulfil the commitments which I 139 think are the most solemn commitments of all, the commitments to the British people to lead them forward to a new society with a higher standard of living.
It is, therefore, with regret that I say I cannot vote for this White Paper. I cannot vote for its expenditure or for its underlying assumptions. If the Government proceed on these lines, and do not make any drastic change of policy in their expenditure this year, and they come forward for this huge expenditure next year they will be no better in their achievements than the discredited Government we voted against in order to get something better which would mean more to the people of the country.
Although there may be theoretical arguments about percentages and decimal points, and so on, and splitting hairs between the two Front Benches, the people of the country will want someone in this House to say clearly and determinedly that we challenge the whole of this policy, that it is against our election pledges and a betrayal of the people and that if the Government do not do much better than this they will deserve the fate of the Government they defeated.
§ 5.42 p.m.
§ Mr. Hugh Fraser (Stafford and Stone)
I find only one thing in common with the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes)—that neither of us will be able to support the Government in the Division tomorrow. There is however one thing more widely in common with the rest of the party opposite and us on this side of the House and certainly in the country today. That is the shattering difference between the promise and performance of the Government in office, not merely on the question of weaponry, on economies and deployments, but in the talk they have made, the impression they have given that their Government is a power in the world, and that they can influence events far more than they do.
This, not to a small extent, is the fault of the Prime Minister and to a smaller extent the fault of the Minister of Defence. We have heard so much talk about confrontation on the Himalayas, about our power and where it can be used, yet when we come to the burning 140 issues of the day the power of this country and this Government is seen daily to diminish. This is something which many people, in view of the expenditure of £2,000 million a year, feel more and more depressing in politics. Hon. Members opposite are fortunate in their allegiance, but what happens when it comes to a question of peace between India and Pakistan, or interference in the issues of Vietnam, or a question of Thailand, or of any area where we are supposed to have some responsibility? The answer, in spite of all the hot lines, is that the responsibility is absolutely nil.
§ Mr. Healey
I think that the right hon. Member would like to be fair, as he had some record in office of being fair, to the Armed Forces. I think that he will concede that we had some influence in Malaysia where our forces were.
§ Mr. Fraser
I agree that proper tribute should be paid to the grit and gallantry of the forces there, but when one looks at the wider questions today one finds that influence is diminishing, and as to confrontation the soldiers who fought hardest for our victory there were the generals in Jakarta. I am talking of the type of stuff put out by the Government and their failure to fix and deal with the realities which beset them. In America people talk about the division in the Government between hawks and doves. Here I think there is a division between chickens and buzzards, because the influence which right hon. Members opposite have in the world seems daily to grow less and less.
What worries me at this precise moment in our history is that we should be embarking on a surrender of some power when power is of influence and benefit to world peace. I refer to Aden. The Chancellor of the Exchequer is reported to have said yesterday in Glamorgan—although I am told he did not say these words, they are reported in the Financial Times and in The Times, which after all are responsible journals:We cannot just clear out of Aden automatically overnight and leave the situation in the kind of mess that could arise.When I read paragraph 31 of the White Paper on their Aden policy I am disturbed by what the Government propose. 141 The Government propose concerning Aden:We look forward to the United Nations playing an increased rôle … in helping to resolve the outstanding problems.What does that mean? What are the problems? Anyone who has studied the Middle East recently and anyone who talked with the Israeli Foreign Minister, who addressed a gathering from both sides of the House of Commons on his visit here, knows that peace in that area is most fragile. We know what has happened on the borders of Saudi Arabia and that there is an expansionist force determined to take over Aden. This was shown in speeches made by Colonel Nasser last February. Of this there can be no question.
How can the Government say that their policy is to get the United Nations to play an increased rôle, and what on earth can this mean? The United Nations is doing nothing to stop the only real colonial war going on today. That is the colonial war in the Yemen. The United Nations is doing nothing to protest against the use of poison gas. To think that today the United Nations could act as a military presence there is the height of irresponsibility.
The same paragraph 31 suggests thatthe Government are moving towards independence in a smooth fashion and consultations are in hand,but if we study what action is taking place we see that this is not so. The Aden Constitution has been suspended since the middle of last year. At this moment, I am told, suggestions are being made by the members of the South Arabian Federal Government for swift negotiations so that the achievement of independence will come while British troops are still on the snot, but that is being rejected by this Government. On these two counts, to suggest, as paragraph 31 does, that the political situation in Aden is in hand is not merely tendentious but also dangerous.
There is talk of generous financial assistance. The Government have improved their original promise of financial assistance. Last year when we had the present Secretary of State for Economic Affairs as Foreign Secretary he spoke about the importance of 81 mm. mortars and today we are at last told that the sum of money concerned will be con- 142 siderable, £10 million a year with a capital investment, I gather, of £5 million, but when Her Majesty's Government talk of an air component for the defence of the area we know that probably it is one of communications aircraft. I hope that that will be made clear when the Government reply to the debate. To talk as though it were a serious contribution to the defence of a country to suggest that it should have Auster aircraft is pouring contumely and contempt on people whom we are betraying, and the matter must be looked at again.
I have two questions concerning what the Government said in that admirable part of the White Paper, Chapter II, in which they described the courage, enterprise and work of our troops overseas. What will the Adenis do about the air defence of Aden, and what will they do under the defence settlement about naval patrol craft? Paragraph 37 says that our forces around Aden have been patrolling continuously in the area to… prevent the smuggling of arms and infiltration of dissidents …".How do they expect the successor Government in that area to be able to undertake those activities?
Perhaps the Secretary of State for Defence will tell us, and perhaps he will also tell us how Aden is to be defended against air attack. He has been to Aden, as I went to Aden when I worked in the Department over which he presides. He knows that there is no way of defending a town like Aden unless there is available to the Adenis, the people of Aden, an air force able to take counter-action against the enemy airfields from which attacks can be launched. That is true of any town in any metropolitan area, but it is especially true of Aden where, because of the country's contours, the radar defences cannot be fully operative.
It is no good having fighter aircraft, and it is far less use having a few communication aircraft. Aden can be defended only if it has aircraft prepared to knock out the airfields from which an attack against Aden is launched. Has that point been seriously put to the people of Aden? I wonder whether they would not want a defence agreement if they considered that point, and whether the right hon. Gentleman's premise that the people of Aden do not want a defence agreement is true. 143 I believe that it is in this country's and our allies' interests that we should press upon the people of Aden, upon the Government of the Federation and whatever part of that Government will be found from the town of Aden that that would be truly in their interests for their own defence. I do not believe that the Minister or the Government have been trying to negotiate this at all. The right hon. Gentleman has said that a defence agreement is not in our interests, that there is no support for it amongst the people of Aden and that there is no need for it. But I believe that if he consults a few people he will find that there is a need for an agreement.
I should like to hear the views of his Chiefs of Staff on the matter, although perhaps he cannot give them, and the views of his military planners. I see that there is a whole new section of project planners and study planners. What are they telling him about the advantage of moving out of Aden to Bahrein and spending more money in a more insecure area where, too, there will not be a proper defence agreement?
What do the Iranian Government, the Saudi Arabian Government, the Jordan Government and the Israeli Government feel about that? I am told that even the Government of Kenya have suggested to Her Majesty's Government that they are doing the wrong thing. The right hon. Gentleman and his Friends will have a great deal to answer for if the fragile peace which is still maintained between the various disparate peoples in the Middle East is broken by an attack on Aden when we go which will spread into the neighbouring territories and the oil States. Anyone who has been round the oil States knows full well that they cannot defend themselves.
This area is one where we have responsibilities and where those responsibilities can be made effective as they cannot be made effective in other parts of the world where we no longer have the influence. We have an influence here and we should hold that influence not merely in our own oil interests, not merely in the interests of our own position, but in the interests of peace in a vital area. The Government threaten that peace by what they propose today.
§ Mr. R. T. Paget (Northampton)
Before the right hon. Gentleman sits down, would he agree that the danger to Aden comes entirely from an Egyptian army unlawfully in the Yemen? Did he hear my Question one day when I put to my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary that Nasser is completely at our mercy? If we cut its communications, his army must go or surrender. Did he also hear my right hon. Friend say in reply that that was a very dangerous proposal? That is exactly the same reply as I got for the same proposal when Mussolini invaded Abyssinia.
§ 5.56 p.m.
§ Mr. Desmond Donnelly (Pembroke)
I must first state a constituency interest, because the Royal Naval Station at Brawdy is in my constituency. But I would not advocate anything which I did not conceive to be in the national interest if it were merely in the interests of my constituency.
It is important for us to define the objective of the debate. As my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence rightly said in the Defence Review last year, defence policy must be the servant of foreign policy. Stated very broadly, the main objectives of our foreign policy are to safeguard our vital national interests; to act as good citizens of the world; and to fulfil those functions within our means so to do. Where are the areas where our vital interests are concerned? The first, of course, is Europe. The second is the Middle East, and the third is the Orient and South-East Asia. I wish to say a word or two about each in turn, beginning with the Far East.
The argument has been put against the Government by a number of hon. Members, even on the other side of the House, that we should withdraw from east of Suez. The basic problem east of Suez in the Far East arises from the overall instability of the area and the aggressive natures of the foreign policies of certain Governments in the area. The first instance that comes to mind is China and the second is Indonesia, although that is less relevant now. In the Indonesian case there has been a remarkable success, as my right hon. 145 Friend the Secretary of State made clear, because of a British military presence in the area. That success is far greater than my right hon. Friend made clear this afternoon, and I should have pitched the case a good deal higher if I had been in his shoes.
It amounts to the virtual destruction and the hold on power in Indonesia of the Communist party. For the first time in the past decade a Communist party which has virtually had its hand on the levers of power has been forced to relinquish them without the firing of any major shots in any war. That was solely because of the British military presence in the area.
§ Mr. Donnelly
It did not happen because of words but because there were guns. The success of the British presence has had an important effect throughout the whole South East Asian archipelago. Another problem arises immediately—
§ Mr. Dalyell
My hon. Friend has a great interest in world history in these matters. Would he not agree mat had white troops not been involved in the first place and had Whitehall not followed its absurd concept of setting up unrealistic federations such as Malaysia this would never have started?
§ Mr. Donnelly
I do not accept this at all. If my hon. Friend examines the history of the success of nationalism m Indonesia after the War in the aftermath of the retreating Japanese, with all the development of the Communist parties in South-East Asia in that area—promoted, to some extent, by the power vacuum left by the retreating Japanese—he will see that his reading of the history is wrong. It was not Whitehall's fault, and it was an extremely good thing that we were in Malaysia.
The second problem which arises is one which is coming closer to us now. My right hon. Friend referred to it in terms of the Russian fears of Chinese expansionism. I do not know that the Russians are reading all the signs aright over the Chinese. Who knows? Nobody really knows. But there is the overall danger, and if anyone consults any of the local Governments in the area, he will 146 quickly find that nearly all are deeply perturbed about the possibilities of Chinese expansionism in the next decade.
This is really the big problem for world politics at the moment, and it may become increasingly the greater problem. It is no good saying that this is far away from us, that it has nothing to do with us. We once had a Prime Minister who said that Czechoslovakia was a faraway country of which we knew nothing. In fact, the distances of Czechoslovakia and the Orient from us are, relatively, the same.
The question then arises whether the local Governments can maintain the balances of power in these areas without Western support, and I do not think they can—now or in the foreseeable future. If this is the case, is it right and proper that only the United States of America should shoulder the burden? Is it in the stream of history that this nation, with its long-term associations with the Orient, should completely abdicate any sense of responsibility in the area?
Then we come to other aspects of the east of Suez policy? I am old-fashioned enough to believe that we have a sense of obligation to Australia and New Zealand. These men came with their wide-brimmed hats from "down under" twice, without any consideration, in two World Wars, and the sentimental ties must have some relevance. We cannot just forget them completely. There are plenty among my hon. Friends who talk about our obligation to the Commonwealth in relation to the Common Market. What about our obligation to the Commonwealth in this respect?
The question then arises, is the Government's acceptance of these commitments met by their military proposals? Here I must echo the question mark, raised by the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell)—accepting commitments is one thing, but meeting them is quite different. It involves money, men and a great deal of political courage in facing one's own electors: we cannot get away from this.
The Government have taken the decision to move in the direction of abandoning the aircraft carriers and placing our main emphasis and effort on certain land bases. I wonder if this will be practical in the mid-1970s. First of all, 147 there are the political considerations involved in these land bases. Second, there is the simple geography, the distances involved in the small bases proposed in the Indian Ocean and the cost involved in creating these bases, which, I think, is far higher than some hon. Gentlemen have estimated up to now.
On the other hand, if we proceeded with aircraft carriers, we should have a more flexible instrument. I agree with certain hon. Gentlemen who say that, in an all-out nuclear war, the flexibility of aircraft carriers is limited because they are so vulnerable, but we are not dealing with the kind of operations envisaged in our South-East Asia commitments, which are concerned with nuclear conflicts. Aircraft carriers in this respect have certain other advantages. They have flexibility and they have the element of surprise, because they can cover considerable distances in a very short period.
Look at the impact of the "Victorious", I think, which circled in Indonesian waters at a certain critical period of the confrontation in 1964, which had a considerable effect, according to Admiralty intelligence services, on morale in Jakarta.
Aircraft carriers do not have the same foreign exchange content which land bases attract and have the additional advantage of a much greater security of operation internally. It is very difficult for information to be got from them by any enemy on the land—[An HON. MEMBER: "They can be sunk."] Of course they can be sunk, but one must consider how other countries are looking at this. At a moment when we are cutting back on our aircraft carriers, the Americans have 16, with nine more in reserve, the French have two, with a further extension of life envisaged, and the Canadians and Australians have one each on the stocks. This is how they interpret the situation.
I wonder whether the Secretary of State is not basing his reasoning on the cost-effectiveness of aircraft carriers and their vulnerability, upon the thinking which prevailed in Washington some time ago but which has since then been discarded by Mr. McNamara.
I should now like to turn to the Middle East. The right hon. Member for Stafford and Stone (Mr. Hugh Fraser), the 148 former Secretary of State for Air, referred to Aden and Bahrain. This is an area of great political instability, as he said. What is the case for the British being there? First, there is the history of the background. This is the one place where the Pax Britannica still runs, for reasons of history. In addition, there is a powerful economic case, and, as my right hon. Friend said, one cannot separate economics and defence.
I wonder whether the sterling balances which flow from the Arab countries would continue to flow if we did not have a British military presence effectively in the Gulf. I wonder whether the function of sterling as a world currency could be maintained without the support of those Arab sheikhdoms, who at this moment hold such large sterling reserves, and I wonder if those who are advocating the withdrawal from these areas are prepared to face the economic consequences here, in terms of the £ sterling, if we withdraw there.
When we have agreed on the desirability of staying, what is the problem? Why do people want us to go? It is not a problem in Aden of the Aden people, but basically of an outside interest whose declared aim is to destroy British political and military power in the Middle East, who continually preaches that, who, as the right hon. Gentleman said, has 40,000 men now in the Yemen against the broad wishes of the people in the countryside and who is prepared continually, in defiance of all the accepted standards of warfare, to use poison gas. With all the shouting about Vietnam, why is there never a single word about poison gas in the Yemen?
This people, operating in the Middle East against us, this hostile Power, will shift its emphasis directly we leave Aden, to Bahrain. We will have paid the Dane-geld of Aden but will not have kept away the Dane in Bahrain. That is the problem, and the Gulf will not be viable with this small island, this politically difficult sheikhdom, however resolute the local Government may be. We want something much more.
I should have thought that Aden is the base which should have stayed. There is a good deal of effect and correctness in the right hon. Gentleman's remarks about the casualties since the decision to withdraw, the stepping up of the terrorist 149 campaign. The one thing in Arabia which fails is failure and the one thing which succeeds is success. Having taken that decision, there is the additional argument of reconsidering the carrier position in the Middle East. Our whole national interest is involved in this economic association.
I would say a word in conclusion about Europe. There has been a certain amount of pressure today and at various times on my Government colleagues to withdraw forces from Germany unless the Germans agree to pay the full support costs. I wonder whether this is the year for thinking about that. Our objective in Europe at the moment is to become a member of the European Economic Community.
§ Mr. Donnelly
It is the British Government's objective. It is the Prime Minister's objective. I have every reason for defending the Prime Minister on his correct decision, and I am proud to do so. The British Government's declared objective at the moment is to secure membership of the European Economic Community.
§ Mr. Donnelly
This is the moment when we are seeking influence on the Continent. What will happen if we withdraw, partially or fully, our forces from the European Continent? First it will be in direct negation of the Treaty that we entered into in 1954, which was a binding Treaty for a very long time, to maintain four divisions on the Continent. Secondly, much more important, if we leave the Continent it will mean that we shall very soon again be a country without any political influence on the European Continent.
More than that even, I share many of the doubts about German militarism with many of my hon. Friends here. If we leave the Continent and it is followed by an American withdrawal as well, it is only logical that all the N.A.T.O. military commands from the Arctic to the North to the Aegean in the South will be in the hands of German generals and admirals. Is this what we want? Is this where we want to arrive, putting the Germans back militarily where Hitler 150 left them at the height of their power? It is taking the analogy to an extreme extent, but it is the logical implication for those who wish to withdraw from our obligations in those areas.
All this has to be seen as part of one whole. There is an interdependence between our international obligations, our political aims, our economic policies, our economic viabilities and our defence policy. One cannot separate the South-East Asia policy or the Middle-Eastern policy or the European policy from the overall defence policy and, behind that, the underpinning of the defence policy with the sterling finance strategy.
That is why, although I have many doubts about Her Majesty's Government's underpinning of the commitments that they have entered into, I have no doubt whatsoever that they must maintain these commitments at this moment in the British national interest, and I hope that the whole House will support them in doing so.
§ 6.14 p.m.
§ Rear-Admiral Morgan Giles (Winchester)
The crux of the great defence debate revolves round the east of Suez policy. The Government are obviously in great difficulty here. On the one hand, we have clear indications in the White Paper that the Government recognise that they have obligations and commitments in the Far East and, as the White Paper says, that our forces will be required to give help to friendly Governments as they have done in recent years. On the other hand, we have resolutions passed by the Labour Party conference condemning the Government's overseas defence policy.
But the one big central issue is whether we are to maintain some sort of military presence overseas or pack up and in future guard our own territorial waters. The Labour Left-wing, predictably, says, "We will pack up and come home". The Liberal policy, I regret to say, is incomprehensible.
§ Mr. Emlyn Hooson (Montgomery)
Why does the hon. and gallant Gentleman say that when we are the only party that has consistently advocated that Britain should not have an independent nuclear deterrent and should come home and be away from east of Suez by 1970?
§ Rear-Admiral Morgan Giles
The hon. and learned Gentleman makes my point for me very well indeed.
The Government Front Bench pay lip-service to a presence east of Suez, but seek to deny the Services the equipment, specifically the aircraft carrier, to do the job. I urge that the Government should decide unequivocally to keep a British military presence in the Far East for the foreseeable future. There are many reasons why we should do this. First, we have definite treaty commitments to S.E.A.T.O. and under the ANZAM Pact. Secondly, from the point of view of our cold, logical self-interest we have enormous sterling investments in South-East Asia, and this capital and these dividends would all be put at risk by war or political instability in that part of the world.
Quite apart from these considerations of self-interest, I believe that Britain has very strong moral obligations to bear her fair share of the peace-keeping in the world. Surely it is not morally right to say that we are bored with doing all this and will drop out and go home and hope that somebody else will pick up the pieces. It is true, of course—many have pointed this out—that we are perhaps paying more than our fair share of this and are holding up the defence umbrella and making an enormous contribution to keep the peace in the Far East, whereas many European nations, including many of our N.A.T.O. partners, are using the shelter of our umbrella without paying anything and trading very actively under it.
If one goes to Jakarta or Hong Kong one finds that the taxis are Mercedes, Fiats, and so on. But I do not believe that the remedy is to say, "Let us go home out of it." The remedy is to have a really spirited diplomatic initiative to get the N.A.T.O. Powers to see that it is in their own interests and the interests of the peace of the world to contribute to the peace-keeping in the Far East.
In his speech at the Australia Club in London on 13th July last year the Prime Minister said:We recognise that it is in the Far East and Southern Asia that the greatest danger to peace may lie in the next decade and that some of our partners in the Commonwealth, including Australia, may be directly threatened. We reaffirm our belief that it is right that 152 Britain should continue to maintain a military presence in this area.To pursue this policy one must face the fact that bases on foreign soil are to some extent a wasting asset. It is a recognised fact of military life that it is virtually impossible to make use of a base in the face of subversion and sabotage if the local population is really opposed to one's presence there. I think that the Singapore base itself is quite sound at present, and that the Singapore Government, whatever they may say, still welcome a British presence there. Nevertheless, the Government have ruined our position in Aden and seem to have thrown the "island base" strategy out of the window.
For this and other reasons, it seems to me that the most effective and economical method of doing all we want to in pursuing this peace-giving policy is to make use of maritime task forces. These forces need to be properly balanced units with their own antisubmarine defences, and with infantry or Royal Marine commandos embarked, and, most important, they must carry their own organic air round with them in some form.
I emphasise that I am not speaking here with a single Service voice or rooting for a task for the Royal Navy. In fact, one of the most regrettable aspects of the present Government's defence policy is that a wedge appears to be driven between the three Services. This wedge is never apparent in the field or when active operations are in progress. Squabbles between the Services only come about inside the Ministry of Defence when a Government try to reduce military expenditure to a dangerously low level. Our defence policy is a three-legged stool and the whole affair becomes dangerously rickety if any one leg is cut short, or is too weak.
Maintaining these peace-keeping commitments in the Far East will involve two practical difficulties. The first is over-stretch, a concept which has been very well deployed by the hon. Member for Woolwich, East (Mr. Mayhew). I agree very much with what he said about over-stretch and the effect which this has on the lives of our soldiers, sailors and airmen. But I part company with him completely in the conclusion which he draws. We both agree that there is over-stretch, but he 153 says, "Come home out of it" whereas I say that that is not the solution—
§ Mr. Mayhew
Am I to take it that the hon. and gallant Gentleman's solution—I know that he will say this straight away, unlike his leader—is a larger defence budget?
§ Rear-Admiral Morgan Giles
My solution is not a larger defence budget. My solution is to leave it running at the level at which it has run over recent years, so that the forces are not subjected to this law of diminishing returns. If one tries to cut them down, we get the law of diminishing returns applying and we can do nothing useful with them.
The second difficulty is financial. Here the case was well summed up, and it answers the point very well, by the Economist, which said:The result"—of these cuts—is that the amount of foreign currency to be saved by a Mayhew policy would probably not come to much more than £80 million. That is almost exactly what the British people spent last year on buying tobacco from abroad, and half what they spent on buying coffee, tea and cocoa.The Economist went on to say:If Britain cannot really get its economy back into good enough shape to generate an export surplus that can cope with a problem half the size of its breakfast and bedtime beverage bill, then it might as well pack up.I want to turn to one specific aspect of the Far East situation, and that is Vietnam. This is dealt with in Chapter 1 of the White Paper, under the heading "South-East Asia after 'confrontation'". Even after the reductions that the Government plan there will still be considerable forces remaining in the Far East. In my opinion, some contribution should be made by the British to the United States effort in Vietnam. The Government's attempts to sit on the fence about Vietnam are thoroughly discreditable.
The White Paper says, on page 7, that Britain will not undertake major operations of war except in co-operation with her allies. I am sure that the Secretary of State will agree with this point. This proviso was quoted by him as an excuse for the limitation of the forces which we should deploy in the Far East. But how can we expect our allies to be there on the night if we do not support them or at least give them our moral support?
154 This, of course, raises the whole subject of our relations with Australia and New Zealand in this context. A recent Australian defence review points out how important it is that the States in South-East Asia should have the assurance of strong friends at hand in the area, to give them the essential time to allow their economic systems to grow and to allow their political systems to evolve as we would like them to do. In recent Answers to Questions both the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State have told me that they agree with this concept in the Australia defence review.
When he was in Canberra, at the Press Club a year ago, the Secretary of State said:We intend to remain and shall remain fully capable of carrying out all the commitments we have at the present time, including those in the Far East, the Middle East and in Africa and other parts of the world.How can this statement be reconciled with a decision to slash the defence votes, to cancel the aircraft carrier, to scuttle out of Aden, to remove our Naval Commander-in-Chief from Simonstonwn, to butcher the T.A. and to emasculate the aircraft industry?
The Australian High Commissioner, Sir Alec Downer, in London recently, had some pungent remarks to make about South-East Asia. He said that if the Communists in Vietnam had been allowed a free rein today not only all Vietnam but the whole of South-East Asia would have been in peril. These countries would have faced the danger of becoming Chinese Communist satellites in exactly the same way as happened in Hungary and the States of Eastern Europe after the Second World War. He added:We are not asking for your help"—he was speaking to a British audience—but we would like a better realisation on the part of some sections of British public opinion of the importance of the outcome of this war …".These remarks have some significance for the Secretary of State, because they were made by the High Commissioner of Australia in London, and they affect our policy in that part of the world and our future relations with Australia. He said that he would likea better realisation on the part of some sections of British public opinion of the importance of the outcome of this war to the 155 countries with which you have the closest possible ties.We should volunteer to lend a hand in this situation. A point was made a little earlier by an hon. Member opposite that British troops in Vietnam would not be further away from home than the "Diggers" were in Gallipoli or Tobruk.
§ Mr. Philip Noel-Baker (Derby, South)
Would the hon. and gallant Gentleman allow me to intervene? I am hoping very much that his Front Bench will make a declaration on the proposal which he has put forward that we should send troops to Vietnam, but I hope, at the same time, that his Front Bench and he will consider the legal implications of what the Americans are doing in Vietnam today. I hope that they will consider whether their intervention is consistent with the law and the Charter of the United Nations or with the S.E.A.T.O. pact which expressly forbids what they have done.
§ Rear-Admiral Morgan Giles
My view is that the Americans in Vietnam are fighting the battle of the free world for us.
§ Rear-Admiral Morgan Giles
I have answered the right hon. Gentleman.
To sum up, I believe that the risk of global war is greatly reduced and this must be largely thanks to the existence of a nuclear deterrent. It is essential to understand that the task of British forces now is to help to keep the peace of the world. This is the essential realisation. With respect to hon. Members on the Left wing of the Labour Party who, I know, differ fundamentally from myself, it is important to realise that what I am talking about is not force for waging war but force for keeping the peace of the world. Peace will not come naturally. Certainly, it cannot be gained by dropping one's musket and running away. Peace must be struggled for and it must be paid for.
To conclude with a quotation:If war is to be avoided, the means to wage war must be in the hands of those who hate war.
§ 6.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Robert Howarth (Bolton, East)
Before coming to the House I was told that Labour Defence Secretaries of State always had a very rough time from their back benchers. This is about the third defence debate which I have attended and my right hon. Friend's experience has been in line with that of earlier holders of this difficult office. I should like to say at the outset that I pay tribute to my right hon. Friend's work. Whatever one's views of the decisions which he takes, his grasp of the subject and his energy should be recognised.
I should like to start with a criticism in general terms before coming to the specific subject of equipment for the Royal Air Force and the rôle of the R.A.F. I am one of those who believe that the world rôle which Britain has cast for herself should be rapidly wound up. I accept that this cannot be done without the agreement of those with whom we are connected, and the difficulties with Malta bring home to us exactly what is involved in trying to run down our commitments. In that case they are on quite a small scale, but they give an indication of the sort of problems with which we shall have to deal.
But I regard it as inescapable that we will have to recognise in the years ahead that we are a European Power and that our rôle must be primarily in Europe. 1 hope that we will continue to be a loyal supporter of the United Nations and contribute to its peace-keeping operations, but, at the same time, I cannot foresee the rôle which we have now accepted continuing much beyond the end of this decade. I hope that it will be decided that we are to enter the European Economic Community and, secondly, that we will concentrate our effort within and about the edges of Europe.
Having made that criticism, I come to a specific subject which is of special intrest to me and which concerns the proposals in the Defence White Paper for the Royal Air Force. There is no doubt that the proposals which the Government have brought forward in the last year or two have now clearly laid the pattern for the Royal Air Force in future. I particularly welcome the announcement of the main agreement for the development of an Anglo-French variable geometry aircraft. 157 I want to deal with that in a little more detail, but I want, first, in more general terms to express what I believe to be the feeling of the R.A.F. itself about the equipment which will enable it to undertake the rôles upon which the Government will decide. The VC10, the Belfast, the Andover, the Argosy and soon the C130, which are either in service or shortly to be brought into service, will give the R.A.F. a tremendous transport capability. Recently announced decisions about the development of Anglo-French helicopter projects are a development in the right direction and will mean that in the next few years the Army and the R.A.F. will have a range of helicopters which will be second to none. The Government's decisions both to order American aircraft and to develop the Anglo-French variable geometry aircraft mean that the R.A.F. will have very advanced combat aircraft in the next few years.
I turn now specifically to the Anglo-French variable geometry aircraft. We are told that after the unhappy experiences with previous projects, when estimates were clearly much too low, from which we have learned, that the estimated research and development cost for the prototypes of the A.F.V.G., at rather more than ô200 million spread between the two countries is realistic. On the basis of a run of approximately 300 aircraft, it is estimated that unit costs will work out at about ô1½ million per aircraft. Clearly, these estimates will have to be watched very carefully and we hope that the assurances given by various Ministers will materialise.
It is about the rôle of this aircraft particularly that I wish to speak, because I do not believe that the decision to order the A.F.V.G. is in contradiction with my earlier remarks. An aircraft of this type is not specifically intended for an east of Suez role. Clearly, one of the partners, the French, has no such role anyway. The A.F.V.G. is much lighter than the Fill and it will be particularly useful in a European rôle for the R.A.F.
I understand that the idea is that it would supplement the small batch of Fills which has been ordered. It should not be forgotten that the small number of F111s on order are intended to replace the V-bombers as they are phased out at the end of this decade and also to replace 158 those Buccaneers which have been used for reconnaissance. The Buccaneer, of course, is a subsonic aircraft and, therefore, extremely limited in certain operations. But the A.F.V.G. in the numbers indicated by Ministerial statements seems to fulfil the rôles required by the French and the R.A.F. exceedingly well. We need it in a reconnaissance rôle, obviously necessary if we are to try to make sure that we have the information to show what a potential enemy might be contemplating.
We also need it in a strike rô1e and this I regard as an insurance policy. While I can understand those of my hon. Friends who are pacifists objecting to the Government spending money on defence, whatever views there are as to the level of spending, there is no doubt that any Government must be charged with the first responsibility of ensuring the security of the nation. I regard the build-up of a very effective R.A.F. as a first-class insurance policy to ensure that we will not be subjected to an attack, although, if it does its job properly, this aircraft will never be used.
The French require the A.F.V.G. as an interceptor. It is worth noting in this connection that the French intend to use it from their carrier This is the reply to the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell), who suggested that the French were much more luke-warm about the project than we were. The French require it for their carrier and I fail to see what other aircraft could possibly be used from the French carrier. This is one of the reasons why we can reasonably expect the French to continue with this project.
§ Mr. Marten
Is the hon. Gentleman certain that he is talking about the Anglo-French variable geometry aircraft when he says that the French want it for their carrier, or is he referring to the Dassault V.G. aicraft?
§ Mr. Howarth
They require the A.F.V.G for their carrier and that has the added advantage of ensuring that the weight of the aircraft does not rise as that of the F111 has risen to some extent, I understand. It could mean, I hope, that while there are, rightly, escape clauses in the main agreement between the two countries—and who, on the basis of the experience with Concord, would 159 suggest that we should go into a collaborative project without escape clauses—this project will go ahead, starting in physical terms at the beginning of 1968 and going into the 1970s, with the result that this will become the primary strike aircraft for the two air forces.
I repeat that I do not think that this is in contradiction of what I said earlier, for even if we do, as I hope, withdraw in the years ahead from a world rôle, we shall still need aircraft of this type for our air force in Europe and for the air forces of other countries. It is said that the French could consider their own Mirage 3G and that it could represent a danger to the joint project. But it must be remembered—I do not think that this is emphasised enough—that there are interested parties in this country, in France and particularly in America who are opposed to the A.F.V.G.
The American opposition is understandable. If we go ahead and build the A.F.V.G. and make a success of it with the French, we are likely to sell numbers of aircraft to other countries and therefore take potential sales from the American aircraft industry. There are bound to be detractors in American aviation who are opposed to the A.F.V.G. Equally, on the French side, Dassault presumably would very much like to do his own variable geometry aircraft. But the single-engined configuration of this aircraft is, I understand, not acceptable to the two air forces. Therefore, I feel that we can be confident that this deal will go ahead.
Finally, on the question of sales of this aircraft, I understand that teams are going to continental and Commonwealth countries explaining the project and all the parameters associated with it. The prospects of overseas sales are very good indeed. I believe the A.F.V.G., important as it is in military terms, is even more important industrially. Although this is not the debate in which to develop that point, may I say that only if we can come to agreement on the European air bus, this, together with the A.F.V.G., should ensure for this country a leading rôle in the aviation picture of the world.
If we decline to go ahead with the A.F.V.G., and to build a large subsonic transport aircraft, we are contracting out of aviation and leaving the market to the 160 Americans. This is ridiculous. Somebody summed it up best when he said that we should no more think of doing that than suggest that we should not manufacture motor cars because we could buy all the motor cars that we need from America. I hope that we shall go ahead with these two projects.
I believe that the decisions which the Government have taken on military aircraft are right. They will give the R.A.F. the equipment which it will need in the rôle which I hope it will fulfil in the years ahead.
§ 6.43 p.m.
§ Mr. Emlyn Hooson (Montgomery)
The hon. Member for Bolton, East (Mr. Robert Howarth) will forgive me if I do not take up the second part of his speech, on which I am not competent to speak. However, I very much agreed with the first part, when he spoke about what our strategic aim in the world should be and the rôle that we should seek to fulfil.
This is the third defence debate in which I have spoken when the Secretary of State led for the Government in which I find myself holding a completely different view from his about the rôle which this country should play in the world. This is a fundamental difference. I first observed it when the right hon. Gentleman led for the Opposition in the defence debate in 1964. He made a plain statement of fact on this country's world rôle as he saw it in the next 10 or 20 years. I found myself in fundamental disagreement with him then, and I have done so ever since.
Basically, the right hon. Gentleman sees this country still as a great military Power. He sees it as a world Power. Therefore, he wants it to have a global strategy, even though the pressure of events has made him opt for a strategy on the cheap to fulfil this rô1e. Although he was at some pains to emphasise today that he does not see this country as the world's policeman, nevertheless I have a sneaking feeling that he still regards us, if not as the world's policeman, then as the world's special constable—eager and respected, but low-paid and not equipped to deal with a very serious increase of crime. This is what is wrong with our present policy.
I accept the view expressed today by the hon. Member for Pembroke (Mr. Donnelly) that defence policy can only 161 be regarded as an extension of foreign policy. In my view, the whole of Britain's strategy is misconceived. I do not accept that a global rôle is in the interests of our country. I do not think that it is a rôle which we can afford. What is more, it is a very dangerous rôle for us unless we can fulfil it effectively, and to do that we must be prepard to pay a great deal more for it, as the hon. and gallant Member for Winchester (Rear-Admiral Morgan Giles) said. He did not put it in those terms, but that was the implication of what he said.
§ Rear-Admiral Morgan Giles
We heard from my right hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) how it has been done in the past and how it could be done in the future.
§ Mr. Hooson
If the Conservative Opposition had any political courage, they would say that to fulfil this rôle effectively—as they said it should be fulfilled, without backing out of any of our obligations—the defence policy which they advocate would cost a great deal more money.
The other reason why I think that this rôle is not for us is that I firmly believe that our constant reiteration of our importance as a world Power is an effective handicap to any serious attempt to align ourselves permanently with our European neighbours. This country must choose—we have been in this position for years—between having a future as a declining world Power in ever closer alliance with and dependence on the United States and opting to become a European Power and to play our part effectively in Europe. That is the choice for this country.
I should like to say why I do not think that the rôle which we have chosen is in the interests of our country. It is highly dangerous to fulfil the rôle of a world peace-keeper, in however minor a way, if we cannot do it effectively. It is not simply a question of doing what the Minister proposes—maintain minimum forces to perform this rôle in a minimal way. To be effective it is necessary to have sufficient military and economic reserves to maintain this rôle when the pressure is on.
If we are pushed to provide the minimal requirements for this rôle when 162 things are normal, how can we provide them when we are under pressure in different parts of the world? Therefore, the rô1e is bound to be ineffective in the long term. By now the Minister is already driven to trying to fulfil the rô1e on the cheap because he cannot carry public opinion with him in order to do it in an effective way. How could we carry out this rô1e if he were under pressure?
It was William Pitt who said—and I have quoted this dictum to the Minister before—that the arm of Britain should never be extended further than it can be maintained. The truth is that the arm of Britain is still extended all over the world in a Way in which it could not possibly be maintained for any length of time.
§ Captain Walter Elliot (Carshalton)
Would the hon. and learned Gentleman maintain, then, that our action in the confrontation in Indonesia and our help to East Africa were ineffective?
§ Mr. Hooson
I shall come to the question of the confrontation in a moment, as I had the advantage of visiting Borneo and Malaysia last autumn.
I should like to say that in any sustained rôle in the future, the strain on our forces would be so great, the strain on our economy would be so impossible, that we would be bound to fall down on the job. I ask the rhetorical question: what good is such a necessarily limited and stretched-out rôle, which we cannot possibly fulfil for any length of time, either to ourselves or to our allies? Why should we try? Does not the very presence of our forces in different parts of the world sometimes prevent those parts from achieving their own particular form of equilibrium or stabilisation? What right have we to presume that it is only our particular form of stability that is the accepted stability?
We tend to think that unless we are there and unless we have a particular solution that is satisfactory to us, it is necessarily unsatisfactory to the majority in that area. I do not accept that at all. Do we not, by our presence, enable artificial economic entities to be created or to remain? May I give, as an example, the position of Singapore. When I was there a friendly people, both in the Government and outside, impressed upon me how important was the British presence 163 to the economy of Singapore. Would it have crossed their minds that they could be independent economically of Malaysia unless the British presence had been there at the time? It was our very presence that put them in a position where they were able to opt for a certain course, because of the contribution that we made to their economy. Because we stayed, they now say, "You cannot leave us now because we could not sustain our economy if you were to leave". This is the impossible situation which results.
It seems to me that neither the Minister nor the Prime Minister has made a convincing case for the maintenance of this so-called world rôle, and I cannot conceive that such a rôle is in the long-term interests of our country.
My second theme is that this particular rôle cannot be achieved with our present forces. If the Government have selected this rôle, then it is their duty to fulfil it, but it means spending more money on defence. With the commitments we have in the Far East, and so on, if it is our intention to continue the rôle, I cannot see how the Navy can be denied its aircraft carriers. If we are to fulfil a rôle east of Suez then clearly the Navy needs carriers.
We cannot have it both ways. We cannot fulfil a rôle of this nature on the cheap, and we are doing a great disservice to our own Armed Forces, to our allies and to ourselves, by pretending that we can. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Woolwich, East (Mr. Mayhew) is right in his views on this problem.
The only remedy to this situation is to cut down on our commitments and to cut them down drastically. It has already been pointed out that there is one commitment, that of Aden, where any agreement has been achieved on the date for the cut down, or any announcement made. We are moving rapidly to the 1970s and still there does not appear to be any serious attempt to cut down our commitments in many parts of the world.
The time is drawing nigh when we shall have to come face to face with reality. I have always believed that we should cut down our obligations east of Suez and that we should have cut them down so that we are no longer there in the 1970s. I believe that I am 164 speaking for the majority of people when I express this view.
All kinds of arguments can be put forward for maintaining a rôle east of Suez, but none of them is valid. I visited Malaysia, Singapore and Borneo last September and I found everywhere an agreeable atmosphere, friendly Governments and persuasive reasonings. It is only fair that I should pay a tribute to the high morale and to the great skill that I and my colleagues observed among all three Services during our visit there.
I was greatly impressed by the high standard of efficiency and with the cheerful morale of the services generally. Clearly, it will be a matter of great regret to many Service men if our rôle east of Suez ceases. I can understand that. It is one of those things as far as they are concerned, which I think has to come to an end, sadly.
I should like to say how equally impressed I was by the obvious good will that exists there towards the British; by the fact that the Singapore and Malaysian Governments had a high regard for our forces and I think that the people of those countries were greatly impressed by the rôle which our forces played. I think they played that rôle extremely effectively, and the Minister was absolutely right when he said that the people of Borneo, during the last few months when we were withdrawing our troops, were extremely sorry to see them go. It is rarely, if ever, that that can be said of the withdrawal of any forces from any country.
Yet, having said all that, I came away from the Far East absolutely convinced that here was no rôle that this country could or should effectively play there in the 1970s. In deciding this I made a deliberate choice. I asked myself, where do the interests of my country lie? What function could my country, on its resources, fulfil in the world in the future? I answered—in Europe. That is why I do not think that this rô1e east of Suez can be maintained. I do not believe that a world peace-keeping rôle is desirable for any national country of our size outside the auspices of the United Nations. For a country of our size, the cost is too great for effectiveness, in any event, but there is also the great danger of propping up reactionary régimes and preventing 165 normal processes of reform from working and driving people into extreme action through a mistaken intention on our part of maintaining stability in a given area. I further believe that this rôle diverts us from our essential European interests where our future lies.
§ Mr. Hooson
The right hon. Gentleman clearly knew what I was leading up to.
It is important that the Government should make a statement of their intention to withdraw from east of Suez by 1970. I do not think that we should be pushed into this position. It would be grossly unfair to Singapore and Malaysia to mislead those countries into thinking that we can remain there into the 1970s and 1980s. It is only fair to them that we should clearly indicate our position.
§ Rear-Admiral Morgan Giles
Is the hon. and learned Gentleman not advocating that we should take our forces away from where by common consent a danger lies, and bring them back to Salisbury Plain, where, by common consent, there is no danger?
§ Mr. Hooson
I have always thought that there was great danger in Salisbury Plain. The potential dangers in the Far East are not events that this country will be able to deal with effectively in the 1970s. Any contribution that we make should be under the United Nations. Steps taken to acquire and equip the island bases should cease.
Our long-term aim should be the establishment of a European defence organisation. It is a great mistake on the part of the Government to think that they can withdraw forces from the Army of the Rhine, even if we can negotiate a détente agreement with the Eastern powers—and I have been a great advocate of this. Even if we achieve a détente in Europe, it is vitally important that there should be British forces on the Rhine. It is important from the point of view of Russia. Russia would feel far happier about Germany if there are British, French and American forces in Germany.
§ Mr. James Dickens (Lewisham, West)
On this point could I ask the hon. and learned Gentleman to make it quite clear, 166 on behalf of the Liberal Party, whether they support the British Army of the Rhine at its present strength of roughly 55,000 men with or without a German offset contribution?
§ Mr. Hooson
May I make my position absolutely clear. I would not withdraw any British forces from the Rhine without agreement with our N.A.T.O. allies. We should fulfil our obligations to N.A.T.O.
§ Mr. Hooson
I will give way to the right hon. Gentleman in a moment.
We should fulfil our obligations to N.A.T.O. and there should be no withdrawal unilaterally or threat of withdrawal unilaterally by this country.
§ Mr. Shinwell
Did the hon. and learned Gentleman listen to the speech today by the Secretary of State for Defence? I am not sure whether the hon. and learned Gentleman was here.
§ Mr. Shinwell
Then the hon. and learned Gentleman was about the only member of the Liberal Party who was. My right hon. Friend said that the danger in Europe had receded and yet the hon. and learned Gentleman wants to keep 55,000 troops there. The surprising thing is that he does not want to transfer them east of Suez.
§ Mr. Hooson
The right hon. Gentleman must do me the credit of believing that I have a little common sense at least. He is saying that there is a better atmosphere in Europe, and, of course, there is, between Russia and the eastern Powers and the N.A.T.O. Powers, but that is not a reason for withdrawing British troops unilaterally from the N.A.T.O. forces.
I think that Russia would be far less happy about the situation in Germany if there were only German troops on the Rhine and if the key positions in N.A.T.O. automatically went to German generals. I believe that it is vital in the interests of this country and its defence for Britain to be firmly involved in the defence of Europe.
The defence of Europe is the defence of Britain and a defence against any would-be aggressor in Europe.
§ Mr. Hooson
Germany possibly and Russia possibly. I remember that before I was a Member of this House there were hon. Members on the Left wing of the party opposite who, in the late 'forties, suggested that there was no danger from Russia in Europe. I suggest that they read Mr. Khrushchev's speech at the 20th Congress of the Communist Party and what he said Stalin's intent was in this matter. I am a great believer in reducing forces in Europe by agreement, but we should be ever watchful of our position there. The defence of Europe is the defence of Britain. The European rôle is Britain's rôle in the future and this is why I believe that it is impossible for my party to support the Government and their White Paper. We are against their strategy. We do not believe that it can be fulfilled in any event in the kind of way they are trying to fulfil it. We believe that it is diverting this country from what ought to be its chief purpose in the future and that is to take up its full burden in Europe and to be sure that there is created an effective European defence community.
§ 7.3 p.m.
§ Mr. Roy Roebuck (Harrow, East)
The speech of the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Hooson) was like some of the preparatory calisthenics for this debate which we have been having in the Parliamentary Labour Party. After his speech I instantly put him down as a member of the Young Liberals' Red Guard.
The hon. and learned Gentleman appeared to take the view that, despite the savings which my right hon. Friend has made, we are still spending far too much money east of Suez. In our more ethereal moments we can all decide what we would do if we did not have to pay the police rate, insurance premiums on our houses, and so on; but what I want to say this evening is that the Government, who were elected last April, were elected not on a pacifist programme, nor indeed on a squandermania programme, but on one which said that they would bring reality to defence.
It is no good the hon. and learned Gentleman feeling that the views he put 168 forward have the support of the majority of the country, because the country went to the polls shortly after the publication of the 1966 Defence Review, and it is my contention that the present White Paper is marching in quick time towards reality to the tune which the electors placed top of the pops last April.
The White Paper is putting into effect the results of that Defence Review, and this year anybody who looks at it impartially can see that substantial progress has been made towards implementing that policy. I confess to some surprise that some of my hon. Friends have been rather reluctant in giving it wholehearted endorsement. I think that they are being extremely curmudgeonly.
I share the view expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for Ilkeston (Mr. Raymond Fletcher) who said elsewhere that only one Defence White Paper would ever satisfy our side of the House, and that was one which contained one paragraph saying that because mankind was living in peace, and because we had an effective United Nations peace-keeping force, it was unnecessary to have any Services, and they would be disbanded forthwith. Certainly we can all agree that it would be glorious if we were able to demobilise all our troops and beat their rifles into computers, but we are living on earth, not in heaven—even under this Government—and there are areas of the world of great inflammability in which a spark, not quickly extinguished, could incinerate us all. I have no doubt that these areas are east of Suez, and if we ignore them we do so at our deadly peril.
Our troops there are making a bigger contribution to peace than those in Germany. I deplore the efforts of certain strong pro-Common Marketeers who believe that we should concentrate in Europe, holding that the Commonwealth is a declining asset. Our men in the Far East have made, and are making, an indispensable contribution to the stability of that area, and they are fulfilling our obligation as key members of the Commonwealth. It is right that we should seek prudent and honourable ways of reducing our commitments; and I am satisfied that the Government will do that. It is also right that we should see that our Services are deployed efficiently, and that they give value for money. 169 Again I am satisfied that that will be done.
I cannot see at the moment how more troops can be brought back without running serious risks. It is no good some of my hon. Friends eulogising democracy in the words of Hazlitt, or placing wreaths on Cromwell's statue, without realising that one must have a shield to protect democracy, and that Cromwell carried a sword as well as a Bible.
Those who want bigger cuts ought to spell out their proposals much more precisely. Let us assume that we should make bigger cuts. Let us consider the argument that we should bring back more men more quickly from Singapore. What action are they prepared to take in respect of the workers employed by British forces in Singapore? What would they do about any unrest which might follow the tremendous unemployment which would arise as a result? What help would they be prepared to give to the Social Democratic Government of Harry Lee? I wonder whether my hon. Friends have consulted him about what they propose?
Some of my hon. Friends want us to withdraw immediately from the Far East into Europe. The proposal seems to me to mean that we should become a sort of Majorca set in an ice-cold sea. I believe that this policy would lead to misery not only in the Far East but also here at home. We are a great trading nation, and we live by exporting. We therefore have a vested interest in stability. I remember my noble Friend, Lord Attlee, once saying that it was astonishing how often good morality went hand in hand with good economics, and I believe that the Government have taken note of that.
§ Mr. Hooson
The hon. Gentleman said that we lived by exporting. So do West Germany, Japan and Sweden. How do they manage?
§ Mr. Roebuck
I am familiar with that. They live partly because of the protection which we provide, but that is not an argument for our withdrawing our troops. It is an argument for internationalising our commitments, and I am all in favour of that. But the hon. and learned Gentleman must face the fact that the international organisations are not sufficiently strong enough for that to be done. We hope that he will add his support to that which 170 is being given by this side of the House to these international organisations.
The economic arguments which have been presented for a more rapid withdrawal are an astonishing over-simplification. Some people think that all we have to do is to bring home the boys, forgetting about their families, and that we can immediately pour out more houses, hospitals, exports, and build more roads, and give everybody a better standard of living. I submit that this is sheer tosh. Our economic troubles are far more deep-seated than that.
If we bring home people at the rate which some hon. Members want we shall find ourselves in great difficulty. Quite apart from the problem of finding them accommodation there is the question of import demand, which could rise very rapidly if this operation were conducted over a short period. Probably an effective saving would be made only if we demobilised half our Armed Forces and found productive work for them, but only a pacifist would argue that we could do that immediately.
I turn now to a more specific issue. I invite the Government to give an assurance about the welfare of Service men who are going to be moved. The modern Service man is usually a very highly skilled person, and if we want to re-engage him and recruit others of a high calibre we must treat him well. No longer can he be treated as one of Kipling's "Tommies". I hope that my hon. and right hon. Friends will exercise the greatest consideration when they move Service men.
Rightly or wrongly, we have today a married Service. Many of the Service men have children who are shortly going to take examinations. I hope that the greatest consideration will be given to them. Furthermore, I should like to know what plans my right hon. and hon. Friends have, after the mid-1970s, for those who are now in the Fleet Air Arm. Has a job, or some sort of rôle, been thought out for them?
In considering the White Paper and the question of our defence costs I have been struck by the number of strictly non-military items which arise, such as schools, family and medical facilities, and keeping troops in certain places for social or political rather than military 171 reasons. I wonder whether one of my right hon. Friends is in a position to give the House an estimate of the proportion of defence spending which can be attributed to strictly non-military items. I have my doubts whether those items should be included in the defence bill at all.
I welcome the suggestion in the White Paper that our forces should be used increasingly to assist our civil population, with appropriate trade union safeguards. This will be particularly valuable to the medical staff in the Services, who at present are able only to deal with comparatively young people, and who therefore gain experience only of the younger members of the community. I hope that under the new scheme they will be able to obtain experience in working with older people, because these doctors will be extremely useful to the community when they leave the forces and take up civilian practice.
I listened with great attention to the speech of the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell). Since he has been two years in opposition, I am sure that all my hon. Friends were prepared to give him a respectful hearing and to listen to all the new thoughts of the Opposition on defence. I am afraid that we did not get any. As my hon. Friend the Member for Heywood and Royton (Mr. Barnett) said in an intervention, we were left wondering whether the Opposition would spend less or more on defence, or whether they felt that my right hon. Friends had got the sum about right. It occurs to me that the right hon. Gentleman used to be a professor of Greek, and it may be that students of Greek can understand what the Conservative defence policy is. I cannot.
The right hon. Member and other leaders of the Opposition have not always been so backward in coming forward. The right hon. Gentleman told the Conservative Party Conference not long ago that we should make our commitments fit our resources. I would have thought that today he would have given us an opportunity of examining the way in which he would fix our commitments. He also suggested to the 1965 Conservative Party Conference that a Western presence east of Suez could impair the balance of 172 power in that area. I should like to know from whoever winds up for the Opposition tonight whether the Opposition suggest that our troops have not played an important part in keeping peace in the Far East.
Because of the great progress which my right hon. Friend has made in translating the election promises of the Labour Party into reality, and in slimming the Services to fighting fitness, I shall gladly support him in the Lobby tomorrow. This is the policy which he personally put before the electors of my constituency in the General Election, and I shall be happy to report to them that that policy is gradually being fulfilled.
§ 7.15 p.m.
§ Nr. Neil Marten (Banbury)
I hope that the hon. Member for Harrow, East (Mr. Roebuck) will forgive me if I do not follow the points that he made. Part of his speech could be dealt with in Monday's debate on the Army Estimates. He said that he wanted to hear Tory defence policy. He will certainly hear it during the course of the debate. He will not hear what the hon. Member for West Lothian wanted—which was our estimate of the cost of an aircraft which is not yet off the drawing board. It is asking too much of any Opposition—the Labour Party or the Conservative Party, or even the Liberal Party—to produce such figures.
§ Mr. Dalyell
In that case, the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) should not have said so confidently that the Conservative Party would hope to have these aircraft. When someone hopes that he will have aircraft presumably he has some idea of the costs involved.
§ Mr. Marten
The hon. Member must recall that the Government have said that it is the core of their policy both for the aircraft industry and for our defence. I am sorry to see that the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) is not here. He seemed to be complaining that the Government never listened to what he and his hon. Friends in the Left wing were saying. About one and a half years ago I had a debate on a Private Member's Motion in which I tried to show that the Left wing of the Labour Party was influencing Government policy. 173 The Minister of Defence (Equipment), who is sitting on the Front Bench now, replied to the debate in a speech which was largely irrelevant, but he did make one relevant point. I see that he is laughing. He remembers the occasion. He said that the Left wing had no influence at all on Government policy. That is the answer to the hon. Member for South Ayrshire.
There is a good reason for this. The Left wing never has the courage to vote against its Government. It talks, it shouts and it marches, but it does not vote against the Government. Perhaps it will do so tomorrow night.
I commend to the Left wing of the Labour Party the remarks of the hon. Member for Pembroke (Mr. Donnelly). Many of the points he raised were true. I hope that the Left wing will bear in mind what he says. He pointed out that the small countries were concerned about the expansion of the big Powers. He was referring to China, and making the point that small nations do not like to be bullied by large ones. That is what so much of foreign affairs is about, and what so much of Britain's foreign policy has traditionally been about.
I want to refer to the question of Aden. The people of Aden feel that they are being bullied by Egypt. My aim tonight is to press the Government to honour the 1964 Agreement, Article 38 of which provides that we should have a defence agreement with the new Government of South Arabia after its independence. So far, as we heard at Question Time today, the Government have consistently refused to enter into any defence agreement with Aden after its independence. We know that the Government have been approached by the United States of America, who have asked them to stay in Aden. We know that they have been approached by the Saudi Arabians, the Persians, the Kenyans, Israel and Jordan. All those countries want the Government to stay in Aden, but the Government are being very obstinate and are not prepared even to consider some form of defence agreement.
Since the Government came to the decision to get out, quite wrongly, in February, 1966, the situation has changed. I want them to accept this change and to persuade them to change their mind 174 about a defence agreement. No loss of face would be involved. As events change, Governments have to change their policies, and I hope that the Government will change their policy over Aden.
I do not want to go through the history of it—it is so fresh that the House will no doubt recall it—but in the White Paper it is stated that we would have a defence agreement with the new independent Government of Aden. On 22nd February last year the Secretary of State for Defence announced that we would withdraw from Aden. The next day he had to admit to the House that the decision had been taken on an entirely false assumption of the constitutional position.
I ask a question which, I hope, can be answered by the Foreign Secretary. I believe that much the same situation is arising about a misunderstanding of the constitution over the Protectorate position. When the Protectorate ceded control to Britain, did not the text of the Agreement say:It will not be amended without the mutual agreement of both parties."?If that is so, I believe that Britain has no right at law unilaterally to withdraw from the defence and protection of the old Protectorate.
I believe that the Government announced their decision to withdraw from Aden in the hope that that would have a shock effect upon the adjacent States, perhaps Saudi Arabia, which would then move in to defend Aden and we could get out of it. But they were very wrong. Saudi Arabia is not ready yet, nor is the Federal army, and certainly there is virtually no Federal air force at all to protect Aden and the Federation.
A sequel to the decision to get out was that Nasser in the Yemen, his morale at about as low an ebb as it could possibly be, and just about to withdraw, decided to stay. He claimed that it was his presence in the Yemen which had made our Labour Government change their mind. He claimed that as a very great victory, and it gave a sort of rejuvenation to the worn-out Egyptians that he had got this victory out of the Labour Government. But now he is feeling insecure again because of the attacks by the Royalists and he is resorting to bombing Saudi Arabia and resorting—I accept the evidence that has been produced so 175 far—to a limited use of mustard gas, or it may be phosgene gas, in the Yemen. He is doing this to terrorise the dissidents that there might be in the Yemen, and also as an encouragement to resistance in the Federation of Aden.
Also, one of the effects is that King Feisal of Saudi Arabia has little faith left in British intentions. This is important, because he should have confidence that we are going to remain in the Persian Gulf when we go there and build up our forces. But I believe that the fact that we are getting out of Aden must destroy King Feisal's faith in Britain.
So I suggest that in the changing circumstances we should have an interim defence agreement with the new independent Government of Aden and that the object of this interim agreement should be to protect Aden and the Federation until independence has settled down. I know that this is the great worry of the people who will become the successor Government. We could also make this agreement dependent upon the withdrawal of Nasser from the Yemen. I believe that the very fact that we had such an agreement would be a sufficient deterrent to Nasser and make him get out of the Yemen finally with his tail, I hope, firmly between his legs. This agreement should exist until such time as we and the new successor Government agreed that it should come to an end. If this does not happen, certain things will follow.
We are told that we shall withdraw on 1st January, 1968. I should like the Government to give us the latest date, because I understand that it has now slipped back to April, 1968, before we get out. If we get out then, as the months go by, one thing will happen as night follows day, and that will be a tremendous increase in terrorism up to the date that we withdraw.
I would agree with the Minister of Defence in paying tribute to the courage of our forces in Aden. When I was out there last September they were simply magnificent, and so was their morale. My right hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) gave the mounting figures of the casualties in 1965 and 1966. In 1967, in under two months, we have had 222 casualties. That works out at a minimum rate of 1,400 176 casualties this year, and my bet is that the figure will be greater than that. I believe that the Government and the people of Britain should be alarmed at the prospect of what is going to happen in Aden not only to the Arab people, but also to the British people who are there.
The Minister of Defence said in his speech that we could not stay because we had not got the support of the local people. I do not believe that for one minute. I believe that he is being terrified out of Aden because a bunch of Yemeni terrorists are beating them up from across the border. We have the support of the local people.
When we go from Aden we shall close the base and all British areas. We shall leave behind about 30,000 unemployed people who were employed in the base. When I was out there I inquired about this and was told that it was reckoned that about 10,000 of them would go back to the interior of the Federation, leaving about 20,000 people unemployed in Aden. This is a wonderful thing for Nasser and his friend Abdulla al Asnag who has friends in the present Government, and is now sitting down waiting to stir things up and call upon the forces of Nasser to come and settle things in Aden. I think that that is what will happen.
Nasser will also stir up dissidence in the Federation. It has already started in Dhala. On 19th February tribesmen attacked the British troops and the Federation troops in Dhala and there was a long exchange of gunfire. I believe that this sort of thing will go on mounting. When I was in Dhala last September I went to see the Emir and the British troops. I had tea with the Emir of Dhala, and he said, pointing to the hills above him, "Up there are some 6,000 Egyptians, and at night they shoot at my palace." He showed me the windows of his palace which had 79 shell or bazooka holes. He said, "If you withdraw from here, what chance have I and my troops against the Egyptians sitting up in the hills?" This is the reality.
I hear that we shall withdraw—I should like to have this confirmed or denied—our forces from the Federation outposts in August this year. If that is so, the House should be told, because it is extremely important, particularly in view 177 of the fact that Nasser in Cairo on 23rd February, in a really beastly speech—my goodness, how beastly it was!—said:We will help the revolutionaries to establish a Government.What could be clearer than that? As a result of that speech, King Hussein has withdrawn his ambassador from Cairo, but the British Government have done alsolutely nothing.
The writing is on the wall. What could be clearer? Why do not the Government wake up? Are they absolutely blind to what is going on and what the future intentions are? Or is it that the Foreign Secretary is so keen to get an agreement with his friend Nasser that he does not want to embarrass that chance by withdrawing our ambassador or making any protest to the United Nations about the Egyptian use of gas? If we withdraw, we shall create a power vacuum, and I do not think that the Federal army has any chance at all of standing up to Egypt.
The Foreign Secretary keeps on saying that we are giving Aden £5½ million capital and £10½ million of current expenditure for three years, and stating that that is adequate. It is not. What the independent Aden Federation want is hard-hitting power to protect' themselves against Nasser when independence comes and we withdraw.
Again, the Government are hoping against hope that the United Nations will move in and put a presence there, so that we can then get out and hand the whole thing over to the United Nations. I was very distressed this afternoon when I heard the Foreign Secretary announce to the House that the United Nations was going to Aden and to the Federation. When I intervened he admitted that it was nothing to do with frontier inspection posts or a United Nations presence but purely that three men—one a South American, one an African and one an Afghan—were going to advise on the constitution and elections. To try to mislead the House in that way—to give the impression that it was a great step forward—was stupid of the right hon. Gentleman. If he goes on like that he will soon qualify to be Prime Minister.
The right hon. Gentleman made one interesting remark when referring to the £10½ million for expenditure. He said 178 that that would be the amount that Aden would get unless there was a material change in the political situation. I am saying that there has been such a material change and that Her Majesty's Government should do something else. I said at Question Time that Nasser's aim appears clear to me, and Nasser is not alone in this. He is heavily mortgaged to Russia. His money is Russian, his bombers are Ilyushins, his fighters are MiGs and his paymaster is Mr. Kosygin. That is the position. When one considers what Egypt will do, or wants to do, throughout this area one must couple it with the names of Kosygin and the Russians.
Nasser wants to take over Aden, the Federation and then move east and, by dissidence and infiltration, take over Muscat and Oman. For those who do not know the geography of the area, that is what I would describe as the soft underbelly of Saudi Arabia. From there he hopes to start a process of encircling Saudi Arabia with the object of toppling King Feisal off his throne, following which there would be a direct conflict between Nasserism in the Middle East and the Arabism of King Feisal. That is one thing which British foreign policy has for long fought to prevent.
By the very action of withdrawing our forces from Aden we will open up the most enormous risks of conflict and instability in the Middle East. And then, from Muscat and Oman, Nasser wants to go on to the Persian Gulf, and I believe that he most certainly would. If one looks at the position in the Persian Gulf at present one sees that we exercise a remote protection there for Kuwait with our Air Force. If Nasser drives us out of the Persian Gulf then that, too, will go.
There are certain traditions about the Middle East which one should bear in mind. I spent about five years of my life there. There is, for example, the Iraqi historical claim on Kuwait and the Persian claim on Bahrein. These and other claims can be started up by Nasser if we allow these things to happen. This would indeed be dangerous.
The Minister of Defence (Administration) (Mr. G. W. Reynolds)
What the hon. Gentleman believes might happen as a result of our withdrawal from Aden 179 he is perfectly entitled to put forward; and time will show whether or not he is right. At one stage of his remarks he deliberately went out of his way to give the impression that there was collusion between some of my right hon. Friends in the Government and people outside the Government and that that might be used to bring about the things which he has been describing.
§ Mr. Martenindicated dissent.
§ Mr. Reynolds
When he reads the report of his speech in tomorrow's HANSARD he will see that he clearly gave that impression. If he did not mean to give it, will he withdraw his remarks?
§ Mr. Marten
I did not mean anything of the sort. I said that Abdul El Asnag, who is an Adenee, was employed by B.O.A.C. as a clerk in the Corporation's office and is the leader of the anti-British faction. I said that he was a considerable friend of one of the Ministers at Her Majesty's Foreign Office. I am not sure which Minister it is, but he is the right hon. Member for Dundee, East (Mr. George Thomson). If the Minister would care to ask his right hon. Friend about that friendship I am sure that his right hon. Friend will give him the answer. I am not saying that it goes on now—just that there is this link.
§ Mr. Reynolds
The hon. Gentleman is making the position even worse. He implied, when he began, that there was collusion between one of my right hon. Friends and the gentleman he has named to bring about the things he was mentioning. He now seems to be getting into deeper water. Will he plainly and clearly state that he was not implying and that there is not any collusion?
§ Mr. Marten
I never implied that there was. I would not dream of doing such a thing. I was merely saying that Abdul El Asnag has a friend who is now in Her Majesty's Government. I am not saying that there is contact or collusion, but obviously if one has a friend—
§ Mr. Marten
If I have said anything which implies collusion I will certainly withdraw it, because I would not think such a thing of that Minister. I am merely saying that there has been this 180 friendship in the past, which I am sure the Minister in question will not deny.
I have pointed out that the whole of the soft under-belly of Saudi Arabia is the target of Nasser, backed up by Russia. If one looks at the other side, at Djibuti in French Somaliland where the Russians are well entrenched, one sees that if the French get out of there the Communists, the Russians, will be established on both sides of the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden. And for East Africa this could be a very serious state of affairs indeed.
The whole stability of the Middle East, as well as our own position there, is at stake. We have our east-about route through the Persian Gulf and our trade with Aden. Aden and the bordering states took £123 million worth of exports from this country in 1965, no mean sum. Then there is our oil. Some say that the Arabs cannot drink their oil so they must sell it. That being so, they ask why we remain there. No one says that British forces are there to protect our oil interests. We are there to fill a power vacuum so that the wrong people do not fill that vacuum and so that we can be certain on what terms the oil flows.
We can also be certain that our investment there is protected, for our presence there results in there being stability in the area. I believe that our assets in that part of the world total about £1,000 million. We obviously need stability. The oil which is produced there is sterling area oil. The Kuwait sterling balances are worth £350 million. If we had instability in the area and these sterling balances were withdrawn from this country, the position could be extremely serious for us.
With all these factors being in the balance, I am pressing Her Majesty's Government to come to an interim defence agreement—not necessarily a long-term agreement—which will act as a deterrent to Nasser and make him get out of the Yemen. It will also enable the new and independent Aden Government to set itself up as a going concern without fear of attack from outside.
The alternative is for us to allow Nasser to sweep round through the Middle East, with such a revolution causing chaos and poverty to the people of the Middle East. In the name of common sense and humanity I plead with the 181 Government to think again on this issue and use the reasons for the changed political circumstances for having some sort of interim defence agreement.
§ 7.38 p.m.
§ Mr. Robert Sheldon (Ashton-under-Lyne)
I hope that the hon. Member for Banbury (Mr. Marten) will forgive me if I do not comment on the problem to which he drew attention, since I wish to deal with a wider aspect of the matter.
I have been unhappy for a long time about the economic consequences of our defence rôle and defence expenditure east of Suez. Until recently I held that there were only four solutions to our economic difficulties: first, a reduction in our defence expenditure east of Suez; secondly, import quotas providing certainty to our balance of payments; thirdly, devaluation; and, fourthly, heavy and continuous deflation with high unemployment and reduced growth. As the options have receded, one by one, we appear to have gone for the last of these alternatives.
Before last July it was possible to be optimistic about our economy and it was possible to argue that our defence costs would be a rapidly reducing proportion of our gross national product as our income rose year by year. Now, however, there are few optimists about and, because of this, it is necessary further to examine why we are in the area east of Suez, a presence which costs us so much in foreign currency.
The first reason is that we are unique among the countries of the world in what we regard as our defence interests. Apart from the United States, we are the only country directly involved in most major areas of the world—in Western Europe, the Mediterranean, the North Atlantic, the South Atlantic, the Indian Ocean and the Pacific Ocean.
As a result of our rôle as policemen of the world—or, as some might say, busybodies of the world—Government expenditure overseas is running at a rate of £500 million a year and if we take receipts into account net Government expenditure overseas is running at a rate of £470 million a year, the largest part of which is spent on defence.
If we look at other countries with similar economies and standards of living—and it might be considered 182 that their economies and standards of living were not always as good as ours—the fact that we can make this comparison is a measure of our relative decline. If we look at those countries, we see that of our main trading competitors—Germany, France and Japan—Germany and Japan have no net overseas Government expenditure; in fact, they have a considerable surplus and France has an approximate balance.
If we then look at the industrial countries next in order of size such as Italy, Sweden, the Netherlands and Belgium, we find that the Netherlands make a profit, Sweden has an approximate balance, and Italy and Belgium have deficits about one-twentieth the size of ours. The reason that these trading competitors are so much better off is that the cost of the troops they have on foreign soil, the cost of their embassies and legations, and other transfers approximately balances the amount they receive.
The question that has to be answered, and which demands an answer is: what do we get for our £470 million of hard-won foreign exchange which our main trading competitors fail to get? What benefit do we enjoy that is denied to those other countries? If it is said that there is no benefit, but only responsibilities, we must say that it is only we who regard our responsibilities to the rest of the world so much more than other countries regard theirs. This responsibility does not diminish with our worsening economic situation.
If Government spending overseas were in line with that of these other countries, on only three occasions in the last 15 years would we have had a deficit on balance of payments on capital as well as on current account. We would have been the creditor nation of the world, presenting similar problems to those presented by Germany in the late 'fifties.
The second possible reason for our expenditure east of Suez is that we act as a stabilising force. If I were convinced that the peace of the world rested on our contribution, if our defence effort did bring this about, then, despite the appalling drain on our balance of payments, I would say that we should continue this even without the support of other countries which might have been expected to contribute if they had considered this so important. But before we accept this 183 economic misery, we must examine which countries benefit and to which areas our presence brings stability.
In the areas which we are supposed to stabilise we must ask which of the many countries might expect help from us in times of trouble. Do we assist Thailand if it gets involved in the Vietnam war? Do we send troops to India if she is under attack? Do we organise a stand in Hong Kong? Do we engage in any conflict between Iraq and Saudi Arabia? When we talk of peace and stability we cannot possibly mean these. All we can mean is Malaysia and the Persian Gulf.
When we talk of stability in the Far East, an area of well over 1,500 million people, what we really mean is Malaysia and the Persian Gulf, with a population of less than 1 per cent, of that number. The bringing of stability to this population of less than 1 per cent, of the area to which we are supposed to bring stability is one of the prime causes of the impoverishment of this country, and no arrangements are being made to bring this to an end.
The third reason for our continuing east of Suez is that the United States want us there. America has a world role and is naturally anxious that others should share it, and since we are already there she wants us to remain there. We know that the United States underpins the £, and because of this it is difficult to refuse. It must be understood, however, that it is the £ the United States underpins, not the economy, and the fact that we have had falling growth and falling investment is a direct consequence of our staying east of Suez. Our position there hurts our economy, and this is understood quite clearly in the United States. If one asks, as I asked in the United States last autumn, if the choice were between improving our balance of payments and remaining east of Suez, indignant though they might be that we might withdraw from east of Suez they expected that, naturally, balance of payments came first. This, in fact, is what we are jeopardising.
The fourth reason for remaining east of Suez is the position of Australia and New Zealand. To them our Far East is their Near North—countries with large populations which might not always refrain from coveting the sparsely popu- 184 lated areas of a continent. It goes without saying that if Australia and New Zealand were in danger, whatever our position might be, we would not hesitate to go to their aid as they in two world wars came to ours. But our presence east of Suez does not guarantee that help. The lifeline via the United States would always be open. The guarantee of this help lies in the permanent attitude of the people of this country.
What concerns me very much is the verbal undertakings that might have been given to Australia and New Zealand—and possibly to other countries. Depending on how and by whom these undertakings are given they can be almost as binding as any treaty, and the House must ask for a full disclosure of any of these undertakings.
Before July, the prime argument for maintaining the level of defence expenditure was that as the economy grew the proportion spent on defence would decline. The National Plan spelled out how increasing prosperity would make defence expenditure a much less significant part than it had previously been. But when, last July, the National Plan was abandoned, defence spending plans to 1970 continued on the same basis. On 20th July, the future industrial growth of the country and our policy of full employment were both sacrificed to maintain the £. If we are to have this sacrifice of production whereby the industrial production index falls instead of rising—falls from 135 to 131—and unemployment rises to 600,000, the least we can ask is that defence spending shares in that sacrifice.
I am not too concerned about the date contained in the Motion. If I understood that withdrawal was just a question of timing, and that it was a question not of whether but of when, an important step would have been taken, but this assurance we have not had. Although troops may be moved, and I welcome that, the future level of defence expenditure remains unchanged, because the policy is unaltered.
I understand fully the difficulties that all reforming Governments have when they want change but find their freedom of action limited, but defence expenditure east of Suez is something over which we have control and about which the argument is clear. The argument is 185 whether production should be allowed to fall while an army is maintained in Singapore; whether men should be put out of work while expensive aircraft build up in the Persian Gulf; whether Imperial nostalgia should remain long after our Empire has gone; and whether our resources should continue to be dissipated in this way or whether we should now decide to invest them in our factories and our people who work in them.
§ 7.49 p.m.
§ Mr. Peter Tapsell (Horncastle)
I am sure that the House listened with much interest to the thoughtful speech we have just heard from the hon. Member for Ashton-under-Lyne (Mr. Sheldon). I, for one, agreed with the basic point he made that many of our defence difficulties stem directly from the failure of the Labour Government to maintain the rate of economic growth they so confidently predicted and which they inherited from their Conservative predecessors. But the fact that the predictions of the National Plan, as the hon. Gentleman pointed out, have been disproved by events makes the choice of priorities in defence even more important.
Aneurin Bevan once said that the language of priorities is the religion of Socialism. If this is true, the House must be expecting a reformation before the Government publish another Defence White Paper. Ever since the war, this country has tried to do too much simultaneously in too many places, and has consequently done most of them inadequately. The task of a Secretary of State for Defence is to concentrate our resources on what we can do and make sure that we do it effectively.
The Secretary of State has had a go. The theme of the White Paper can be summed up in the words of Samuel Butler, who wrote:In all the trade of war no featIs nobler than a brave retreat.But for retreat to be brave it must be conducted to a sensible plan, firmly based on our national priorities.
There is little evidence of this in the White Paper. This is not a plan to provide Britain with effective armed forces of a kind and in a position to give our foreign policy the strongest possible backing. As the hon. Gentleman implied, it reads as if it were a 186 hurried hotch potch of reductions and withdrawals, forced on the Secretary of State by the mishandling of our economic affairs by his colleagues and unmatched by a comparable reduction in our declared responsibilities overseas. We all know what Mr. Baldwin said about power without responsibility. There is, in the realms of defence and foreign affairs, an even worse state—responsibility without power. That is the prerogative and the message of the White Paper.
One would suppose that a Secretary of State for Defence drawing up the defence priorities of this country might list them in some such order as this—our nuclear capability, the Anglo-American alliance, N.A.T.O., the Middle East, and then the Far East. How do these priorities emerge in the White Paper? Our nuclear capability is dealt with on page 32 in paragraphs 3 and 4: One sentence on the V-bombers; seven lines on Polaris; not, the House may feel, extravagant coverage. However, I suppose that one must count it to the credit of the Government, as things have come to be measured recently, that their nuclear policy now that they are in power bears no relation to the pledges they made to the British public when they were trying to get there.
The second of the Polaris submarines they so fiercely opposed was appropriately launched on Saturday. We are promised two more and a Holy Loch of our own on the Clyde. No doubt it will be named after "Jimmy" Maxton. I support all this. I even supported it, unlike the Secretary of State for Defence, openly and publicly, during the 1964 General Election campaign.
How long is the Polaris weapon expected to be an entirely effective deterrent? One hears a good deal about anti-ballistic missile systems. The Americans are, I understand, reequipping their nuclear submarines with the Poseidon missile. Is Britain to be given Poseidon? The White Paper does not tell us. I hope that the Minister of Defence will.
The next defence priority is the Anglo-American alliance. Perhaps the least said about this the better at present. That is clearly the Secretary of State's view, too, as expressed, or not expressed, in the White Paper. His party's attitude to the Vietnam war and its handling of Mr. Kosygin's visit makes this 187 embarrassed silence at least intelligible. But it does not make for good defence.
In these circumstances, in view of the Government's wish, now that the election is over, to take us into the European Community, and particularly bearing in mind General de Gaulle's and Mr. Strauss's known views on defence, one might at least expect that the mishandling of our relations with the United States would be turned to our advantage in Europe. Not a bit of it. There is a certain catholicity about this Government's quarrelsomeness, from which only Spain and South Africa seem permanently protected. The Foreign Secretary has his views on the Oder-Neisse line. The Chancellor of the Exchequer has issued his diktat about our defence costs in Germany. Page 33 of the White Paper on N.A.T.O.—the third priority—appears to an accompanying chant of, "Bring back our boys" from many hon. Members opposite.
But it is when we reach the Middle East that the White Paper finally goes right through the looking glass and into a world of total unreality. This is an area I have come to know fairly intimately over the past 18 years. On page 8 of the White Paper, paragraph 32, the following sentence, surely destined to become famous, appears:Political arrangements have been made and practical preparations are under way for the small increase in forces stationed in the Persian Gulf, which we shall need to fulfil our remaining obligations in the area when we leave Aden.It is a sentence to which perhaps only a Duke of Wellington could do adequate justice. I will restrict myself to saying that I doubt whether there is a single person in the Middle East who concerns himself with these matters, whatever his nationality, social position or political allegiance, who believes it to be true.
No doubt a case can be made for a complete withdrawal of our forces from the Arabian Peninsula, if it is felt that it is beyond our present resources to guarantee stability to the area, and if our important oil interests are thought to be adequately protected by the bonds of commercial anxiety to sell, on the one hand, and readiness to buy, on the other. I am not sure how far that is true, but it is arguable. If one were assessing 188 priorities, that argument would certainly require examination.
What is sheer nonsense and folly is to leave the Aden base, to abandon our threatened friends in Southern Arabia without adequate air cover or a defence treaty, and at the same time to reiterate our rôle as the protecting power in the Gulf, and to suppose that this responsibility can be discharged in these changed circumstances with the very small increase in forces now proposed.
In this area the Government face a dilemma which they cannot evade. Without either Aden or the Southern Arabian Federation in secure and friendly hands, the Trucial States, and ultimately Kuwait also, can be militarily protected only with a substantial force. Everyone in the Middle East knows that and tells one so, friend and foe alike. Only the Secretary of State, in order to juggle his figures for the Treasury, pretends not to see it. Paragraph 32 of the White Paper as it stands may well come to rank with Mr. Gladstone's decision to send General Gordon to Khartoum.
My advice to the Government, which I hope they will take before it is too late, is either to stay in the Arabian Peninsula in sufficient force or to get out altogether. There is no middle way in the Middle East.
The fifth priority I listed was the Far East. Here, the White Paper seems as muddled as elsewhere. Nearly one-third of the gross national product of the great, thriving city of Singapore comes from our expenditure on the base. Eight months after the end of confrontation it still seems to be the intention to keep large forces based there at very heavy cost for a good many years.
I fully endorse all the tributes which have been paid today, from both sides of the House, to the wonderful job which our troops, the Gurkhas, and the Australian and New Zealand forces played during confrontation. However, having returned in the last fortnight from a visit to Indonesia, Malaysia and Vietnam, I feel fairly confident that there is little danger of a renewed conflict between Indonesia and Malaysia in the foreseeable future.
If the Government have not felt inclined to give their support to our friends and allies, the Australians, the New 189 Zealanders and the Americans, in Vietnam, it is difficult to envisage any Far Eastern conflict in which the British Government would be prepared to join. This is certainly the fear of our friends, of both Asian and European stock in the Far East, whose view of the nature and merits of the Vietnam conflict, I may say, is very different from the views of some hon. Members opposite.
My final plea on defence priorities is this. Before the Government wreck N.A.T.O. and our chances of entering the European Community now, or in the future, by withdrawing our troops in Germany; before they turn the Trucial States, with their oil, into a battle ground for warring Arab ideologies by handing over a helpless South Arabia to Egyptian terrorism; before they even offer the facilities of Malta's Grand Harbour to a Russian naval squadron in the Mediterranean, I suggest that the right hon. Gentleman takes a long look at our Singapore base and its future role in British defence strategy.
§ 8.1 p.m.
§ Mr. Woodrow Wyatt (Bosworth)
It has emerged increasingly in this debate that there is no real difference in kind between the Conservative Opposition as a whole and the Government Front Bench. They both believe in maintaining a world rôle—over-stretched, fully stretched, or within our stretch. The right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) said that the White Paper was deceitful. I agree with him, but, whereas he was pleased about it being deceitful, I am not. I believe his position to be that he is glad to find that all the protestations about cuts in overseas commitments and savings of foreign exchange have turned out to be untrue. That is what he hoped.
Of course, the right hon. Gentleman is entitled to poke his fun at the Government for trying to disarm critics on their back benches by a little bit of illusion in the White Paper. He did not explain to what extent a White Paper which he produced, if he had been Minister of Defence, would have exceeded in cost the White Paper produced by this Government. Although there is a difference in degree and not of kind between the Government Front Bench and himself, the degree may be substantial, and the costs 190 of the right hon. Member for Wolver-hampton, South-West would, I suggest, be £200 million to £300 million more than the costs of the present Minister of Defence.
§ Mr. Wyatt
My right hon. Friend thinks that they might have been even higher. I dare say that that may be so.
I do not want to labour the point too much about the deceitful nature of the Government's White Paper because it was prepared by dear friends of mine, but it is a bit odd to say that a bill which is £33 million larger than last year is actually less than it was last year. The Government themselves have led the way in setting up the Prices and Incomes Board. I cannot imagine a manufacturer thinking it a good approach to the Board to say that he has put up his price by £33 but, in fact, this was a reduction of £73, which is what the Government are trying to say now.
Nor do I think much of the Government's jiggery pokery with foreign exchange savings. In two tables at the back of the White Paper we are given to understand that £31 million is to be saved in foreign exchange, "other than Germany". That "other than Germany" is very important. The Government say that there is to be another £4 million saved in Germany by making economies in the N.A.A.F.I. which ought to have been made many years ago. So they are up to a figure of £35 million. Then they say that there is another £12½ million gained because the Americans will spend that much more money on buying goods from Britain because the Germans have been so beastly to us about the offset costs. They thus reach the extraordinary figure of £47½ million saving in foreign exchange costs in the year 1967–68.
They do not draw attention to the fact that underneath that sum there is another figure for our purchases of military equipment overseas, which this year will be £74 million. Last year, it was only £47 million. Thus, we have already lost £27 million on that transaction of the alleged saving of £47½ million in foreign exchange, apart from Germany. Again, I ask the House to bear in mind the "apart from Germany" point. 191 There is another footnote at the bottom of these tables, that no direct comparison can be made between our foreign exchange costs on military expenditure overseas in 1967–68 and 1966–67 because of our difficulties with Germany. Then why try to make the attempt in the table higher up?—for the obvious reason that they wished to trap the unwary into believing that there can be some actual saving. I do not believe that there can be any saving at all. Indeed, I think that we may well spend more in foreign exchange this coming year on military expenditure overseas than last year.
The Germans have already said that they will not go above their £31 million offer. They may not even go as high as that. They have not even paid up the £50 million or so which they had agreed to pay previously in the current year. By the time one subtracts the German contribution, which will be far lower, and adds to it the fact that our troops in Germany are costing more and more every year in foreign exchange, an entirely different result is produced. Last year, our troops cost about £89 million. This year it will be something like £100 million. So the bill in foreign exchange is likely to be higher than it was last year.
It is not, perhaps, exactly straight of the Government to put these somewhat doubtful figures into their White Paper. I thought that we were all agreed that the one thing we had to do, if we were to keep this country straight economically, was to cut out some, or a lot, of this £300 million in foreign exchange on military expenditure. It used to be the Labour Party's policy that we would do that. Browsing through HANSARD recently, I came across column 533 of 17th November, 1960. The present Prime Minister was speaking about the £28 million more on foreign exchange costs in the first half of 1960 than in the first half of 1959, and he said that itis now running at the very alarming figure of £170 million."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 17th November, 1960; Vol. 630, c. 533.]If he was alarmed by £170 million, I cannot see why he is not alarmed by £300 million, which is what the White Paper crystallises and solidifies for the coming year.
Likewise, the promises about troops coming home—25,000 by next year, we 192 are told—are somewhat illusory. It is only 25,000, and that is probably less than the total extra number of troops sent out to deal with the confrontation in Malaysia. Thus, in another year we shall not have brought back from abroad more than we originally sent out because of the famous confrontation. The White Paper pretends to reduce commitments, but it is only reducing the forces to meet commitments.
There is some danger in doing that, in causing muddle with half hints and half hopes in a White Paper. No one knows quite where he is. It is time we had a clear answer: is it the Government's intention finally and absolutely to wind up all our bases east of Suez by, say, the mid-1970s, or is it their intention to continue with them indefinitely? Sometimes we have a voice which seems to suggest that the critics and the Government are at one—after all, it is only a matter of timing, so do not press us too hard—and sometimes we have the voice of the Prime Minister or the Minister of Defence assuring foreign countries that we intend to maintain a world rôle well into the 1980s. Even in decency to those people to whom we have obligations at the moment overseas, we must make our position clear, quite apart from trying to make it clear to ourselves.
The White Paper seems to me to be a hopelessly illogical document. Either the forces we have overseas are absolutely vital to our security and defence or they are not. If they are vital to our security and defence no considerations of foreign exchange and balance of payments should weigh with us at all because they are vital to us. If they are not vital to us we should not have these forces at all. I believe the latter answer is the more correct.
It is certainly correct as the Minister of Defence demonstrated in regard to Germany this afternoon. He argued better than anyone could that the fewer ground forces and conventional forces we have in Germany the safer we are because the Russians dare not start a war which would be a nuclear war. The obvious conclusion is that we should take all our troops out of Germany, irrespective of exchange costs except perhaps for two brigades or a division to provide a tripwire effect. I think that we should do that. 193 We do not depend on the Russians for this. We can do it for ourselves. We know that the Russians are no threat to us in that area at the moment. They would then reduce their troops and be able to place more troops opposite the Chinese if they placed fewer opposite us. The hoary argument that we have to have bases and troops in the Far East and in Asia to protect our trade can no longer make intellectual sense. The hon. Member for Banbury (Mr. Marten) has been blowing off about Nasser and what Nasser would do, how he would eat up the Middle East if we left Aden. Nasser has not been able to eat up Syria, or Iraq or Iran and he has not been able to eat up Tunisia and Morocco, which are not very large military Powers. This illusion of hon. Members opposite has, unfortunately, infected the Government Front Bench.
I assure the House that the oil will flow just the same if we do not have our troops there and that we shall get our royalties. The Arabs cannot work the oil installations in the same way as we can. Even if they could they cannot market the oil because of the formation of rings of oil companies throughout the world. There is no great danger or threat to us there. I do not believe that Nasser or anyone else could take over all those countries. He is not popular and he cannot even take over Jordan, so why we should suppose that he would suddenly take over the whole Middle East I cannot imagine.
Why do we go on with this antiquated policy? One of the reasons given is that it takes a long time to denegotiate our commitments. It took us six months to denegotiate our commitments in India and that was a far bigger undertaking than any of the small commitments we now have in the world. It is not because it would take a long time to denegotiate our commitments, but simply that we do not want to do so because we are not batting on the right lines. Then why are we doing this?
I shall give the answer in the Prime Minister's own words. In the debate on 31st January, 1963, he said, having asked the same question as I have just asked:It is nostalgia. It is striving to relive our Imperial greatness. Within the lifetime of older hon. Members we were once top nation, and it is not easy … to accept the facts of history, geography and economics.194 He was full of this theme in that debate.
Later, he said:we must come to terms with our real status in the world, and I know that the whole House will realise that neither past greatness nor present illusions will earn us either respect or influence in the world.For good measure the Prime Minister also said:We can, with our limited resources, either pay for the pretence of the nuclear deterrent or honour our commitments in N.A.T.O. and elsewhere. But we cannot do both."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 31st January, 1963; VOL 670, c. 1242–44.]It is not for me to interpret the changes of mind of our Prime Minister, but I am a little surprised at his reluctance to follow Labour Party policies as laid down by the party conference, because I can remember an occasion when he actually stood for the leadership of the Labour Party on the ground that the then leader of the party ought to have taken notice of a resolution passed by the Labour Party conference concerning unilateral nuclear disarmament. [An HON. MEMBER: "What about steel?"]
Yes, I find it extremely agreeable to be able wholeheartedly to stand four square with other hon. Friends behind Labour Party policy on this occasion. I did my best to get this resolution adopted and it was adopted. I want those people who said to me that I should support steel nationalisation because that was Labour Party policy to say to themselves what they used to say to me. After all, if it was good enough for me it must be good enough for them. I even more enthusiastically support Labour Party policy when I happen to agree with it, as I do on this occasion.
I cannot for the life of me see what has happened during the two and a half years of a Labour Government completely to change our outlook on defence whether in Germany, in the Far East, South-East Asia, or east of Suez. Nothing whatever has happened except that a number of very worthy gentlemen have taken offices previously occupied by the worthy gentlemen opposite and, having done so, they have succumbed to the charm of office and power, of the Union Jack and the feeling that they command fleets of ships, aircraft and soldiers and that in some mysterious way 195 they are having an influence in the world by so doing.
They are the only people left in the world who think that they have an influence through what they are doing. The sooner they stop and let us get our economic strength back again the sooner shall we begin to have a real influence once more.
§ 8.18 p.m.
§ Mr. Douglas Dodds-Parker (Cheltenham)
I should not like to intervene between the hon. Member for Bosworth (Mr. Wyatt) and the other wing of his party on the question why certain policies were advocated at the last two General Elections and then when the party opposite won the election it saw fit to change those policies, but I think it a bit odd that the hon. Member could not differentiate between my right hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, Southwest (Mr. Powell) and the Treasury Bench.
I thought it very clear that whereas the Treasury Bench is now occupied by a number of right hon. Gentlemen who have come round to support a national policy, the method which we feel should be used for reaching that debate differ profoundly as between my hon. and right hon. Friends and hon. and right hon. Members opposite.
On the question of Germany possibly, the other half of the hon. Member for Bosworth's party will find the answer in the admirable speech of his hon. Friend the Member for Pembroke (Mr. Donnelly). He pointed out what the effect is likely to be if all of us withdraw from Germany.
I want briefly to support one or two points, in this vast field of policy and the application of policy in Cmnd Paper 2303. In dealing with "The Nature of the Threat" the White Paper says:the political and military extension of the détente would best be achieved by mutual reduction of the forces of the N.A.T.O. and Warsaw Pact Powers.That seems to be the heart of the problem we face today: still the most important area in our affairs is Europe and our part in it.
We have had Mr. Rapacki here during the past week. His name is still synonymous with attempts, made with- 196 out success during the last few years, to reach some sort of détente in Central Europe. When the Minister winds up the debate tomorrow can he say what has been going on with Mr. Rapacki on his visit? However much we disagree on certain points, we must consider seriously the policy of thinning out in Europe and of a nuclear-free zone, which, I gather, is the latest idea; these ideas must affect the policy which has been sketched out—it is little more than a sketch—in this year's White Paper. Control and inspection must remain. They are still vital to both sides, as one has seen that there are legitimate fears on both sides.
Therefore, I ask the Foreign Secretary, rather than the Minister winding up tonight, to tell us tomorrow what progress has been made, and why in paragraph 10 of Chapter I the Government say:… N.A.T.O. can, for many reasons, take a more confident view of Soviet intentions in 1967 than in 1949 or 1956.After all, when Mao Tse Tung dies why cannot the Communist leaders get together again? In the meantime, the Warsaw Pact forces are surely better equipped with nuclear weapons and conventional forces today than they were in 1949 or 1956?
I have never believed that the Soviet Union was so very expansionist after 1949 if our defences were adequate. In 1949, N.A.T.O. was set up, with the United States Air Forces as the nuclear shield. My memory goes back to August, 1939, when I was working for Polish refugees and I asked a Russian, when the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact was signed, if he would join and have a crack, too. He replied, "I do not think we will. We are going to lean against our fences." That is the technique that one has watched since then. I want to know from the Minister who winds up how far N.A.T.O.s strength continues to keep the fences strong.
The hon. Member for Bilston (Mr. Robert Edwards) is also an authority on these matters, as another member of the Western European Defence Committee. I cannot speak for him, but I feel that there is a weakening in our conventional forces. The French have withdrawn. What is the latest position on those forces and what is their rôle? The conventional 197 forces in Europe do not seem to be what they were not so long ago.
I shall not take up the House's time tonight by pointing out what Socialist leaders have said and how they have apparently changed their views since they came to office. But I believe that the Government have been risking antagonising our German allies by their method of handling the problem of the reduction of forces in Europe. I welcomed the Foreign Secretary's saying last week that he would keep to our treaty obligations when considering what reductions are to be made.
I hope that he will take the opportunity to offset Mr. Kosygin's being able to use his welcome visit to this country to insult our American and German allies without public protest. The right hon. Gentleman said at Question Time today that he has done so in private. Mr. Kosygin insulted them once at the Guildhall; and there may have been a private protest, but he did it again in the Royal Gallery here.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer's statement over the weekend seems to me a bad thing at this moment, in that Ministers should be firing off in different directions. I do not know whether it was agreed with the Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary, but it has not helped.
Turning to paragraphs 9 and 10 of Chapter I of the White Paper, I hope that the Government will continue to work to improve East-West relations, but in the meantime they should maintain the shield of adequate conventional integrated forces as well as the nuclear shield under which we find protection today. As White Papers are apt to be, the White Paper is probably more intelligible to Ministers and officials concerned with the subject the whole time. I find that it is pretty thin for hon. Members who are required to vote the huge sums to maintain our defences.
In paragraph 16 of Chapter I, under the heading, "Nuclear Weapon Planning and Consultation", the Government say:To associate allied nationals with the physical operation of the weapons themselves offers no solution to the problem."—That is the control of nuclear weapons, and their operation—The problem is how Governments take the political decision on their use. In a crisis, 198 the allied Governments must be able to remain continuously in communication …".When winding up this evening, can the Minister tell us more about how the McNamara Committee is working with the increasing speed of events?
In the Cuba crisis—which is best summed up in the book, "Missiles of October", which is about all that private Members have access to—I am sure that the United States did its utmost to consult its allies: but what is the present position on the phrase used in the White Paper, "remain continuously in communication", to allow reasonable consultation in responsibility on the top-level crisis which might occur in Europe? It is a question of prime interest to us all as to how far that communication has now been extended.
In paragraph 17 of Chapter I it is said:… the Special Committee of Defence Ministers has made more progress on the nuclear problems of the Alliance in 12 months than in the preceding 17 years.Allowing for the natural euphoria of the Secretary of State for Defence today, I think that his explanation does not really point out, except possibly for the benefit of his Left wing, exactly what progress has been made in the past 12 months that had not been made in the previous 17 years. And what about the Atlantic Nuclear Force and the M.L.F.? What progress has been made on them, on which so much political capital was made in the past two General Elections?
The N.A.T.O. area is vital for the United Kingdom's defence. We must have a long-term view. I am old enough to remember when Ernest Bevin, when he was on the Government Front Bench, with his great experience of Communism in the unions and five years in the Coalition Government, had a national policy which all of us, with the exception of the hon. Members below the Gangway, were prepared to accept and follow. Thanks to N.A.T.O. and the Marshall Plan, with both of which he had so much to do, we in Western Europe are still living in freedom.
I am suspicious of some Ministers and their special pleading. Although I must not say too much to embarrass the Foreign Secretary, I am delighted with the line he took today. I was getting rather apprehensive that he would get 199 that twitch over the right shoulder which Mr. Ernest Bevin acquired through addressing so many of his remarks in the same direction.
To those of us who were around in the 1930s and 1940s, 10 years is a short time. I am frightened that if we reduce forces in Europe without due consultation with our allies it might be very difficult to get them again if problems between the Soviet Union and China were resolved and we found ourselves once again threatened by conventional forces which might be much more powerful than anything we have left on this side of the Iron Curtain. It is surprising that on certain benches it is no longer regarded as the first priority of any Government to defend ourselves. I thought that, in the years after the war at all events, it had been agreed that defence was our first priority.
May I make two points briefly about redeployment? Hon. Members opposite will suggest—the hon. Member for Bosworth was tending that way—that the Conservative Party wants to keep forces for internal security or just for the fun of keeping them. But during the 20 years after the war we have all supported the transfer of power. The difference between us is that we do not like leaving a power vacuum when we go out of a country.
I remind hon. Members of how little we knew in the years after the war about what was going on in India and the Middle East. Travel was difficult and information harder to get than it is today. But our over-fast withdrawal from India and Palestine has left lasting scars on the good name of this country. Whatever view one may take of these events, there are still unresolved problems of Kashmir and the Arab-Israel relations. With events as they are now, the participants certainly believe that a little more patience and a little courage and determination on our part in those months and years of the transfer of power might have saved an ocean of tears and led to greater prestige for this country in that final period.
I will not refer to South-East Asia except to say that President Johnson's visit, as reported in the Press, has put new heart into our allies. This is comparable with the introduction of Marshall Aid in the years after the war to meet 200 the threat of Communism. I recall my own visit to South Asia, 12 years ago, to find the fear of the Chinese among all the heads of government I visited. I believe that the same situation exists today. Everyone I know who has been there reports that our friends out there—and there are many—wish to have help from this country, just as they are getting help from the United States, to defend themselves against Chinese expansion.
This position applies to some extent to what is happening in South Arabia. Nobody I know wants to stay there in order to go on administering the South Arabian Protectorate, but we feel that when we withdraw we should not leave a power vacuum. What worries me is how faith in the reliability of this country has been so shaken—faith not just in our resources but in our courage and determination to stand up for what we believe to be right. They feel that once again we shall run out on our friends. Is it surprising in these circumstances that people will not back the Government of the day when they see what happens to them, if they do so, during the few weeks or months of dependence before they become fully independent?
In paragraph 31 on page 7 of the White Paper the Government refer to the South Arabian forces. Are they adequate? We must bear in mind that the United Nations is powerless to do anything in the Yemen. The events of the Yemen are a disgrace to the United Nations. Twelve senior representatives of the Republican Council went to Cairo last autumn to try to get the Feisal-Nasser agreement implemented. Instead of succeeding, they found themselves incarcerated, and as far as I know they are still there. In an official broadcast on 10th February Cairo Radio said that it was no secret that Egyptian aircraft had bombed Nazran. These things go on without any effective protest from the U.N. or the British Government. We say, "It has nothing to do with us". And yet many people in the Middle East, and especially in the Arabian Peninsula, still look to this country to make it certain that when we withdraw we shall not leave our friends defenceless.
I hope that the Foreign Secretary will deal with some of these points of top policy, which the Minister of Defence implements. Over the next few years, for various reasons, we shall reduce our 201 commitments or withdraw from commitments which we have done our best to fulfil in the last few years. But let us go out with honour and dignity and not with the shame and maladministration which is feared in South Arabia and Malta at the moment. Because we are again standing in danger of dishonouring the good name of this country, I welcome the chance of voting against this White Paper, which I believe to be misleading and inadequate in the circumstances of the world today.
§ 8.35 p.m.
§ Mr. Humphrey Atkins (Merton and Morden)
What strikes me most about the defence debate this year compared with its predecessor last year—apart from the fact that we are, happily, to have six days to talk about defence and the debate last year was restricted to two days because the Labour Party chose to have an election—is that we are able this year, because there is no election, to study the Defence White Paper and the Government's plans in a great deal more detail and depth and with a great deal more honesty than we were last year.
I say "honesty" because I have been counting the number of speeches that have come from those on the benches behind the right hon. Gentleman this afternoon and comparing the number that supported him with the number that supported him last year. I find that he is getting a great deal less support, apparently, from the Government benches than he got last year. There have been a great many criticisms from the benches behind him, and there have been a great many more from in front of him, and I shall make a few more.
We had a contribution from the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) about the nuclear part of the right hon. Gentleman's programme. I should like to begin by discussing the present attitude of the Government to the whole problem of the nuclear deterrent. Frankly, it is not very easy to discover from the White Paper just what their attitude and present thinking are. The Defence White Paper is very coy about it and says virtually nothing.
We know that over the years the ideas of the Labour Party about Polaris and the nuclear deterrent have changed very considerably. We all remember, and my right 202 hon. Friend the Member for Wolver-hampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) mentioned it, the Prime Minister's reference to the nuclear deterrent, and the Polaris weapon in particular, as being virtually useless, comparing it with a dried pea on top of a mountain. Those of us who were in the House in 1964 will, I am sure, clearly remember the Prime Minister standing at the Opposition Dispatch Box and saying, "We shall renegotiate—"—or, if one prefers it, "denegotiate"—"the Nassau Agreement and end the proposal to buy Polaris."
But by 1965, to the dismay of a number of hon. Gentlemen sitting below the Gangway opposite, the Government's attitude had changed, and the hon. Member for Woolwich, East (Mr. Mayhew) said in the defence debate of 1965, "We on this side consider that four Polaris submarines are a force of tremendous power and significance." The 1965 Defence White Paper referred to the massive British contribution to the defence of the West and to the proposal for the Atlantic nuclear force about which we heard so much from the Labour Party before the 1964 General Election.
By 1966 a little less was being said about the Labour Party's proposals for the Atlantic Nuclear Force. In fact, the Defence Review of 1966 merely said, "We aim to internationalise our nuclear strategic forces." This year the Defence White Paper does not say anything about it at all. There is not a word about it. For an up-to-date expression of the right hon. Gentleman's views we have to rely on an Answer which he gave to a Written Question only on Friday, where he confirmed that Her Majesty's Government's policy is to internationalise our strategic nuclear forces, although he did not say so in the Government White Paper. Why did he not say so?
It is clear that over a period of years the Government's mind has been changing—in our view, rightly changing, and we are very glad that it has been doing so. What we want to know from the Government is whether their mind has changed a little more since the issue of the last White Paper in 1966, but they are concealing the fact.
It is perfectly clear—we need not discuss this at any length now—that our nuclear strategic forces are firmly in our 203 hands, in the British Government's hands, and will remain there. There is absolutely no doubt that the V-bombers which carry out nuclear deterrent at the moment are in our own hands, and they are not all allocated to N.A.T.O., because some have been over the Far East, going there on deployment while confrontation was going on. It is quite clear that the F111, when we get it, will be in our hands, and, of course, it has a nuclear capability. It is quite clear that the Polaris submarine will be in our own hands.
§ Mr. Atkins
The hon. Gentleman says "Spare parts from America". I must refer him to his own Front Bench. On this point I believe they are right, because the right hon. Gentleman said in 1965 that it does not make any sense in the modern world to try to produce every component for one's own defence system out of one's own exclusive national resources. He said that it does not make sense to do so for a single weapon, and equally buying weapons from abroad does not imply political dependence. President de Gaulle has proved it, said the right hon. Gentleman. The whole of his independent striking force depends on Boeing aircraft bought from the United States. It is true to say—and I am sure the right hon. Gentleman will not dispute it—that the Polaris force, when we have it at sea, as we shall at the beginning of 1968, will be our own force in our own hands.
§ Mr. Atkins
What we really want to do is to discover what the Government's future plans are.
The hon. Gentleman mentioned spare parts. I should like to take this opportunity of thanking the right hon. Gentleman for allowing me to go to the Holy Loch and to see something of the work that we are doing at our Polaris base which is being established at Faslane. I was most impressed when I was there. As far as spare parts are concerned, the impression that I got of our people who are working at the Polaris school, setting up the Polaris base and who will be 204 responsible for backing up the Polaris submarines when they are in service, is that they are perfectly capable technically of producing everything that is needed for the proper maintenance of the Polaris fleet in a state of readiness at sea.
§ Mr. Atkins
Indeed, I inquired where all the equipment came from, and a lot of it came from America. But our people are certain that they can build it themselves, so they tell me.
I must congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on the success of this whole enterprise which was started under the previous Government, and on the setting up of the Polaris executive. One of the things that he has done very well is to leave the Polaris executive command alone for many years. There is no doubt that this has been a great success in building up the "know-how", in meeting the requirements and getting the base ready in time for the first submarine when she goes on patrol at the beginning of next year.
One question that I should like the Minister to answer is in connection with future plans for the submarine and its weapons. My hon. Friend the Member for Horncastle (Mr. Tapsell) raised this matter and asked whether there are plans to put Poseidon misiles into the submarines. Even if there are not plans to do that—and I think from the answer that the right hon. Gentleman gave him there are not—would he tell me whether there are plans for developing the warhead, which we make, to keep this efficient and expensive weapon up to the highest state of efficiency that we can manage?
I referred to something that the right hon. Gentleman did in continuing the work of the Polaris executive and, as he reports in the White Paper, during the past year he has done a lot of rationalisation within his own Department. Indeed, we see the results of this by the two Ministers sitting on the Front Bench opposite, one wearing a different hat and the other new altogether, who have their responsibilities for administration and 205 equipment, and not three Service responsibilities as we have been used to for many years. Also we have the appointment of three new chief advisers to the Government who report to the Ministers; and the Secretary of State in his White Paper has reported progress in certain other fields, all of which we welcome. We believe that the integration, so far as possible, of these Services must produce greater efficiency.
There are, however, two or three gaps and I want quickly to ask the Minister of Defence (Administration), who I understand is to wind up, and whose responsibility this is largely, whether he could give a little more information, because there is none in the White Paper.
My first question concerns the defence intelligence services. Last year's White Paper devoted a whole paragraph to reorganisation of the defence intelligence services and what had happened. It reported that they were all now united and that a 12 per cent, saving in manpower had been achieved. This year's White Paper says nothing about it, but if one studies the Estimates one fact emerges which I find rather alarming. It is that in the course of last year the number of senior officers carried for intelligence purposes has been reduced by almost half, from eight to five. This appears on page 13 of the Estimates.
Is this an indication that the whole of the defence intelligence services are being cut substantially? We could understand a 12 per cent, saving which would arise because of the merger of the three Services and the efficiency obtained there-from, but are the Government heavily cutting down on defence intelligence? We do not expect an answer in great detail about what the intelligence services are doing, but we would like to get this cleared up. If the Government are reducing the forces, and they are, and are reducing their capability to perform tasks, the one thing which they should not reduce is intelligence. If anything, if they are to have smaller forces to try to do the same job, they need more and not less intelligence.
Another interesting gap is in the defence public relations staff. Last year we were told that further measures were being taken. What are they? There is nothing about them in this year's White 206 Paper. Has anything further happened about the defence public relations staff and, if so, will the hon. Gentleman tell us about it?
A defence communications network has been set up. A controller was appointed in May of last year and he is making plans for the rationalisation of defence communications services and hoping to make enough savings to enable the country to pay for the operational satellite communications system which we are buying from the United States. I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman will agree with me that the fact that we are buying it from the United States does not make us dependent on the United States for our defence communications. However, there is a slightly disquieting paragraph in the White Paper which appears on page 29 and which, speaking of the plans being made for rationalisation, says:If our rationalisation plans prove practicable …we shall save enough money to buy the American system. Does not the right hon. Gentleman think that they will be practicable? Does he think that all this is still rather guesswork? What is happening? Clearly, these questions must be answered, because these services ought to be rationalised.
I would also be grateful if the hon. Gentleman could say something about the education plans which were announced in last year's White Paper in which it was said that there would be no more academic education in cadet colleges but that a Royal Defence College was to be set up. It seems strange that young men who are to be officers in the Services should have their academic education absolutely cut off, apparently, from the moment they enter the Services for, presumably, a year while they are getting their initial training and then for probably at least another year while serving as junior officers before coming back to resume it. I am not an educationist, but it seems an odd way when for many years we have done the opposite.
The Defence White Paper speaks of the Royal Defence College being for non-technical officers, but it does not say where it is to be set up. The newspapers seem to have got hold of the idea that it is to be at Shrivenham, but my reading indicates that it will not be there, 207 because Shrivenham is to be responsible for the technical education of specialist officers and we are also told that the Royal Defence Academy will consist of four colleges, Shrivenham, Manadon, Cranwell and the Royal Defence College.
The White Paper is rather gloomy on rationalisation. Paragraph 6 on page 26 states:Most of the services, which it would be practical to rationalise, have now been studied and, in most cases, action has been taken.Does this mean that there will not be any more? If not, what does it mean? I thought that the Secretary of State indicated that he has further plans to bring the services closer together. That is something which we on this side would approve. I hope that he will be able to say that that sentence, which appeared to indicate that nothing else will be done, is not correct and should not be in the White Paper.
One of the things which has occupied a good deal of attention in the Press and a certain amount of attention in this debate, and for which I believe the Minister of Defence (Administration) has a particular responsibility, concerns the Government's plans for bringing troops home. We have heard a good deal today about how many are being brought home. The Secretary of State gave us a lot of figures, some of which I found rather confusing because they did not seem to add up. But, if we stick even to the White Paper, we are told that in the course of the next year—that is, by 1st April, 1968—about 25,000 men and 6,000 families will be brought back to the United Kingdom from outside Europe.
This is a matter of great importance to all of us in the House. Many of us have constituents who will be coming back. What arrangements have been made for them? The White Paper does not say too much about this. On page 73, in the section which deals mostly with this point, we are told that 16 major building projects to provide barracks for the Army are due to commence this year which will cost, incidentally, £18 million. When will they be finished? We cannot put troops into unfinished barracks.
Will these 16 be finished, or will they be carried after 1st April, 1968? The 208 House is entitled to a little more information about this matter, because it is clear that there will be great difficulty in accommodating all these troops. In past months we have had some varied expressions of opinion by members of the Government about precisely what arrangements will be made for the troops.
Paragraph 13 on page 73 of the White Paper refers to "various temporary camps". May we be told a bit more about this? Where are the temporary camps? In what sort of repair are they? How long will the men have to stay in them? We are entitled to more information on this point.
On the same subject there is the question of married quarters. The Government quite frankly admit that there are not nearly enough married quarters. They announced an additional programme for building permanent married quarters in this country. They have 15,000 planned between now and the end of 1970 and they are to add 3,500 to that number, but something which the Secretary of State said today made me think that the number is even higher.
Paragraph 1 on page 71 of the White Paper states:Furthermore, a sum of £20 million has been set aside for other expedients, e.g., caravans, mobile homes, the purchase of private houses and the rehabilitation of barracks".That is what the White Paper says under the heading "Married Quarters and Hirings"—the rehabilitation of barracks, not for troops, but for married quarters.
The Government must be a little more forthcoming about this. They refer not once or twice but three times in the White Paper to families being put into caravans and mobile homes. I always thought that a mobile home was a caravan, but perhaps there is a difference which I do not appreciate and I would be glad to have it explained.
The Minister of Defence (Administration) owes a duty to the House to tell us how many families he expects will be housed in caravans and mobile homes when they return to this country, for how long they will be expected to be in caravans and mobile homes, whether those caravans will be on permanent sites, whether they will be connected to drains, to water, to electricity and the telephone, 209 or whether they will be parked wherever he can find room, without any of those amenities. The House wants to know, and, what is much more important, the families want to know, because they will have to live in them. The hon. Gentleman therefore has a duty to tell us a great deal more about this.
Let us not forget that all these provisions have nothing whatever to do with anybody who comes home from B.A.O.R. If the hon. Gentleman has to resort to these other expedients without considering the B.A.O.R., what has he up his sleeve, or in his mind, or anywhere else about dealing with people who come home from the B.A.O.R.?
Finally, I want to ask him about training land, because the Government have wobbled hopelessly on this question. In 1965 the hon. Gentleman, in the Army Estimates debate, said:When we took office, we found a shortage of training land …which he blamed on my party, and then, later on in that debate, he said:We are desperately short of land where tracked vehicles can manœuvre."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 8th March, 1965; Vol. 708, c. 187 and 195.]Yet he was asked a Question in the House on 21st December last year about how much additional training land he had bought and taken into use since his Government had taken office. His answer was, "None."
On 18th January, six weeks ago, again in a Written Answer, the hon. Gentleman said:Sufficient training land is already available for our present and known future needs."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 18th January, 1967; Vol. 739, c.63.]And yet paragraph 63 on page 64 of the Defence White Paper says thata complete review of training land is being held, taking into account the requirements resulting from the return of units from overseas, loss of overseas training areas, and the reduction of the Territorial Army.What do the Government mean? Some time ago they said that they had not enough training land. Then they said that they had plenty of training land, and, at the same moment—because the Defence Review had been written at the same time—they are saying, "We are not sure whether we have or not." The suspicion in the minds of many of us is that there 210 is not enough, and I shall be glad to hear what the hon. Gentleman is proposing to do about this.
Those points being out of the way, I now come back to the major part of the debate. The House is being invited to approve a Motion which reads as follows:That this House welcomes the fact that the Government is conducting its Defence Review as a continuing exercise in reducing the burden of British commitments …I want to stop there for a moment. It is right that we should examine what we are being asked to approve, which isa continuing exercise in reducing the burden of British commitments …What are these commitments, which many people have, quite rightly, been talking about today? They were specified in last year's Defence Review, in Chapter 2 on page 3, and they came under three headings, namely, "International Treaties"—that is to say, N.A.T.O. CENTO and S.E.A.T.O.—and "Bilateral Agreements" with Malta, Cyprus, Libya, the Federation of South Arabia—which I will come back to—the four States in the Persian Gulf, South Africa as relating to Simonstown, and the Federation of Malaysia.
The third category was Commonwealth responsibilities, and under this heading it said that we were responsible for the defence and internal security of a number of countries, including Gibraltar, Aden, British Honduras, Mauritius, the Seychelles, the Falkland Islands, Hong Kong, and so on.
There was also our commitment to the United Nations, under which we have undertaken to provide logistic units appropriate to a force of six battalions. In addition, there was the Prime Minister's answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Cheltenham (Mr. Dodds-Parker) on 21st January, 1965, when he referred to our international and treaty commitments and said:Moreover, we must always be ready to respond to the needs of our Commonwealth partners in the defence field."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 21st January, 1965; Vol. 705, c. 396.]Those were our commitments, and pretty formidable they were, and, with only two exceptions which I can find, we still have them all. The exceptions are the internal security of Guyana now that it is an independent country and we have been able to bring about 1,000 men back 211 from there—and a good thing too—and the commitment, by treaty, with the Federation of South Arabia, which we have broken. Our criticism is that the Government are inviting us to approve their action in reducing commitments when in fact they have not reduced any at all, except the ones to which I have referred.
Everyone would accept that it is right for the Government constantly to consider how they should fulfil their commitments and consult the parties to whom they are committed. To be fair to the Government, in two or three cases they seem to have done this, because we learn from the White Paper that our commitment in Cyprus has been discussed with the local Government and it has been agreed that we do not need so many men on the island. I think that I am right in saying that 2,000 men are being brought back.
As for Malaysia, nobody would pretend that with the ending of confrontation it automatically follows that we need to keep as many people there as we did before. It is right that the Government should consult the Malaysian Government to see just how the commitment we still have can best be fulfilled, and nobody is surprised that we are able to bring back a number of troops following the ending of confrontation.
But in that connection I am worried, and I want the Government to tell me, about a sentence which occurs in paragraph 26 of the White Paper. This has been referred to already. It says:Our aim"—referring to Malaysia after confrontation ended—is that Britain should not again have to undertake operations on this scale outside Europe.Is this a foreign policy aim, or is it a defence aim? If it is a foreign policy aim, it means no more than the aim of any foreign policy, which is to prevent war. It really is meaningless, except as a general expression of good will.
But if it is a defence aim, and if it means that the right hon. Gentleman is aiming so to organise our forces that we cannot undertake operations on this scale outside Europe, this is another matter, and one that we want him to clear up, 212 because he has not got out of the commitment to Malaysia. We do not expect the Government to keep exactly the same number of troops there as are in the country at the moment, but we do expect them to be able to fulfil their obligations to Malaysia in the future if they should arise. This phrase ought to be made clear, because it is a disquieting one.
The moment we come nearer home we find that the Government do not consult their allies. They do not consult the people to whom they are committed. They take unilateral decisions. They took a unilateral decision to abandon the Federation of South Arabia, and I think that enough has been said about this by my hon. Friends to make it unnecessary for me to say any more. This is a disgraceful episode, of which the Government should be thoroughly ashamed.
Their action in Malta was no better. They did not consult the Maltese at all; they announced that they were going to move the British Forces from Malta, not, so far as we can tell, for any military reason but to save a little money. Whether it will save that money is another matter. We question whether it will save the taxpayer anything, because he will have to assist the Maltese people in some way or other.
Our complaint is that the Government have not withdrawn by agreement from any of their defence commitments. They have withdrawn without agreement from one. At the same time, the forces which they are providing to fulfil exactly the same commitments as they had last year appear to us to be inadequate, because the numbers are down.
As has been said, and will be said again in this debate and the Service debate that follows, the Royal Navy has been deprived of its principal weapon and the Government have no idea with what they will replace it; the size and shape of the Army is yet to be decided, and apparently it will not be decided for another four or five months, and the Air Force is to depend upon a supply of F111s. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will take this opportunity of clarifying a remark that he made this afternoon. I understood him to say that he was now negotiating the ceiling price. Would he clear up, without further delay—because this is very disquieting—the price of this aircraft?
§ Mr. Healey
Of course I will clear this up. We have already negotiated a basic price for the aircraft in its basic American configuration, at £2.1 million. We are hoping to negotiate the ceiling price for the F111K—the aircraft in its British configuration—at a cost of about £2½ million. These negotiations have a few weeks to go. We shall be placing the order, I hope, sometime next month, and I will let the House know the conditions of the order when we have placed it.
§ Mr. Atkins
The future weapons of the Navy are still being discussed; the size of the Army is still being discussed, and the right hon. Gentleman is still negotiating a possible purchase of aircraft for the Royal Air Force. The Government have not reduced their commitments but they have reduced our forces to a dangerous level at which they cannot adequately fulfil their commitments.
§ 9.8 p.m.
The Minister of Defence (Administration) (Mr. G. W. Reynolds)
I find myself intervening between the hon. Member for Merton and Morden (Mr. Atkins) and the battle between Sheffield and Derbyshire, which I understand is due to take place at the conclusion of this debate. Exactly how many hon. Members who are still in the House are concerned with that battle, or with the battle that we are fighting now, I do not know.
I have now transferred to the office of Minister of Defence for Administration and I want to answer some of the points that have been raised—mainly those concerned with administration, leaving my right hon. Friends the Foreign Secretary and the Secretary of State for Defence to deal with the wider points of foreign affairs and defence when they address the House tomorrow.
The hon. Member for Merton and Morden referred to rationalisation, especially that of the Defence Intelligence Service. I can assure him that it is going well. It has settled down. My right hon. Friend and everyone at the Ministry of Defence is satisfied with the reorganisation. There have been cuts in 214 the number of senior officers, but this has not meant any cut whatsoever in defence coverage. They are going on exactly as before. The cuts are primarily the result of rationalisation, which has reduced the number of senior posts in that field.
The hon. Member also asked whether the United Kingdom Polaris submarines will be equipped with the Poseidon missile. It has already been announced that they will be equipped with the A3 missile, and will continue to get it. At least half the American fleet of Polaris submarines will continue to have the A3 missile. They are equipping only a proportion of them. We believe that this missile is sufficient for our Polaris fleet.
The hon. Member also asked what had happened about public relations since the last White Paper drew attention to it, pointing out that this White Paper did not mention it. We have made a move towards rationalisation in public relations since the publication of the last White Paper and the Director of Public Relations of the Ministry of Defence—as it used to be, as distinct from the three Service Ministries—has now been redesignated the Controller of Public Relations and, from being in the centre, with an advisory capacity over the three Service public relations Departments, he is now the Chief Public Relations Officer of the Ministry of Defence, with Service public relations departments coming under him. In due course, it is possible that rationalisation will go further, but that is what has been done at present.
The Ministerial reorganisation has been going now for only about two months, but my right hon. Friend and I and my colleagues, the Minister of Defence for Equipment and the Under-Secretaries are already convinced that this is an improvement in the present situation, enabling us to take decisions on a wide range of subjects much more quickly than before, because we now have three Ministers operating over the entire field. At the same time, this leaves my right hon. Friend extra freedom to deal with major international matters of defence and not have to be drawn into every small matter just because it affects more than one Service.
We have been carrying out rationalisation of the Lands Departments for four years now, particularly in regard to the first rationalisation task which was 215 carried out, that of merging into one the three Service Lands Departments. We now have a unified defence lands system which, for purely administrative purposes is contained in the Army Department. It has to go in one, because there is not an administrative organisation capable of dealing with this sort of thing in the centre at the Ministry. This is something which we may move on to in due course. At the moment, the defence lands organisation is in the Army Department.
We now have, as is said in paragraph 61, five regional offices and 18 district offices dealing with management and control of defence lands for all the Services in the United Kingdom. At present, 42,000 acres of defence land are being disposed of, some of it in large quantities for housing to the Greater London Council.
At my request and that of my right hon. Friend four months ago, my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for the Army began a complete review of the Services need for land for training and other purposes throughout the United Kingdom, so that anything which I now say about the land used by the Services in the United Kingdom must be taken as provisional, because this complete review of the position is being undertaken.
The hon. Gentleman—his hon. Friend the Member for Stroud (Mr. Kershaw) who has been questioning me on this for some time—asked what has happened about the amount of land available for Services, particularly Army training in the United Kingdom. He said that, two years ago, I referred to a need for land for tracked training purposes and said that, since then, I had not purchased any land for training purposes, yet large numbers of troops were coming back to the country.
The hon. Gentleman mentioned the rundown of the Territorial Army and the Army Emergency Reserve, and that is the key to the present situation. The answers which I have given have always been exactly to the questions which were asked. There may be more to it, but, in each case, I have answered the exact question.
The reduction of the Reserve Army from 120,000 to about 70,000 has, of 216 course, given us a considerable amount of freedom in the amount of land which was used by those Territorial Army and Army Reserve units for their training. Each unit had a fortnight's camp and a number of weekends' training to do, and this will considerably ease the pressure on training lands and thus make it possible for us to provide the land for the 25,000 plus men who are being brought back under the Defence Review withdrawals, without the purchase of additional land.
This, with the rundown in the Reserve Army, has made it possible for us to make land available for troops coming back from Aden and elsewhere to carry on their proper training. If it is necessary—of course, decisions have not yet been taken—to bring troops back from Germany, and if as my right hon. Friend said, such troops remain assigned to N.A.T.O., they will have to be trained in the type of equipment which they would have to use in a Central Euro-pear war and will be trained—not all of them, but to a large extent—in tracked vehicles of one kind or another.
In these circumstances, what I said a year or two ago still applies. We would require additional land for tracked vehicle training if these troops come back from Germany and remain assigned to N.A.T.O. so that they have to keep up to standard in the type of equipment which they might have to use as part of a N.A.T.O. force in Central Europe.
§ Mr. Powell
Is the right hon. Gentleman saying that the deficiency of training land for tracked vehicles which existed two years ago has been made good by the relinquishment of training land by the ex-Territorial Army?
§ Mr. Reynolds
To a slight extent that has happened, but not completely. If the right hon. Gentleman will look at the figures which I gave in answer to a Question asked by his hon. Friend the Member for Stroud he will see that there has been a slight reduction in the number of tracked vehicles in the United Kingdom this year compared with last year. I am saying that we can get by with the present holdings of land, even with the 25,000 to 30,000 men coming back from overseas, because of the reduction in the Territorial Army, which has given us freedom of manœuvre in this matter. However, if the troops come back but remain assigned to 217 N.A.T.O., we will probably need additional land for tracked vehicle training.
The Army has 329,000 acres of land for training, but I do not want anyone to get unduly worried about this, because—and this is something which is not often appreciated—of that 329,000 acres, about 250,000 acres are used for agricultural purposes of one kind or another. Thus, it is farmed as well as being owned by the Services and as well as being used for training purposes.
At this stage I should, perhaps, refer to one piece of land which appears to be causing some difficulty. An article appeared in The Times a few days ago and some people have the impression that we intend to take over Glen Affric in Scotland. I understand that it is near Inverness. It was suggested that the land would be taken over by the Department and used for tank training, gunnery work, and so on. I wish to make it perfectly clear that this particular piece of land does not come within our intention for purchasing, although we have been in discussions with the owners and tenants of land in the area to see if they will give us permission for small parties of troops—of eight, nine or 10 men at a time—to go into the area for adventure training, including map reading, camping, and personal survival training.
We have such an arrangement with a considerable number of landlords in many parts of the country, and it works exceptionally well. But I assure hon. Members that we have no intention of purchasing land in the area. I also wish to make it perfectly clear that there will be no tanks there, virtually no vehicles and definitely no firing. It will be the same type of training that we carried out at Glen Trool, with considerable success, last year.
§ Mr. Cranley Onslow (Woking)
I am sorry to interrupt the right hon. Gentleman in his imitation of a runaway train, but is he saying that if troops are brought back from B.A.O.R., and do not remain assigned to B.A.O.R., there will be no need to acquire additional training land?
§ Mr. Reynolds
I apologise if I am speaking so quickly that the hon. Gentleman missed what I said some seconds ago. Indeed, I completely ran away from that point at least six sentences ago. If he will read the report of my remarks in 218 tomorrow's HANSARD he will see that I explained the position clearly. He will find that I went on to deal with tracked vehicle training areas and was pointing out that if these units are still assigned to N.A.T.O., and still need to be trained in the use of tracked vehicles, it will be necessary to have additional land.
Very little time remains in which I can reply to many of the questions that have been asked during the debate. I must refer to one or two other rationalisation matters at whatever speed I am able to speak because I want to get these explanations on the record. Many of these rationalisation matters have been successful. For example, accommodation stores and barrack furniture are now dealt with by the R.A.F. for all the three Services. This gives us a capital saving of £½ million and an annual saving of £70,000. Food is now dealt with by the Navy, which gives us a capital saving of £464,000 and an annual saving of £218,000. Motor transport for all the three Services is now provided by the Army, and this gives us a capital saving of £1 million and an annual saving of £600,000. We hope that, when we come on to the second stage of this project, the saving will increase from £600,000 to £¾ million.
The rationalisation programme is proceeding well and a number of projects have been pushed through to fruition. As we pointed out in the White Paper, perhaps we are coming to the end of this type of rationalisation. That does not mean, however, that we are coming to the end of a reorganisation of the logistic services of the Army, Navy and Air Force. The creation of my post and that of the Minister for Equipment brings us to a new stage in this exercise, and by no means the end of the exercise. I shall be looking, on behalf of my right hon. Friend, at all the logistic services, at home and overseas.
As my right hon. Friend said, we must keep an eye on expenditure in this sphere; first, because we wish to achieve savings; and, secondly, because, with a reduced defence budget, we must ensure that the maximum amount of money is spent on the teeth arms and the minimum amount on the logistic services which are necessary to keep them going.
We feel sure that the new Ministerial set-up will enable this to be done with 219 greater efficiency, but I think that in due course it will have an effect on the nature of our defence debates. Whereas we have had two days of general matters and one day devoted to each Service, I am now really speaking on general matters applying to all three Services right across the board, so that it would hardly be appropriate to make this speech on any one of the three Service days. In the past we have on different days dealt with matters Service by Service, but at some future date we may have to look at our procedures to see whether Ministerial and other changes may reflect themselves on the way we conduct our defence debates here.
The hon. Member asked me to refer to the education of officers in the three Services. He will remember, as I am sure the House will, that the Select Committee on Estimates reported on the Service colleges in the autumn of 1964. It was one of the first documents I found on my desk after the General Election of 1964. We replied, of course, to the Select Committee's comments arising from that Report, and asked Professor Michael Howard, Professor of War Studies at Kings College, London and Mr. Cyril English, one of Her Majesty's Senior Inspectors of education, to carry out a detailed inquiry into the Service colleges and to make recommendations. We received their report a few months ago and have since been studying it. The report is that we should set up two separate organisations, both of which the hon. Gentleman mentioned—one, a Royal Defence College and the other created by federating the existing defence colleges into a Royal Defence Academy. Our proposals are based on the creation of these two new institutions.
At present, young officers on joining have, generally speaking, two A-levels or something of that nature, and do their training at Dartmouth, Sandhurst, or Cranwell. The training there includes, in various ways appropriate to the individual Service, a certain amount of academic work, most of which is designed—and this applies particularly to the Army, but to a certain extent to the other two Services as well—to get those people who do not have two A-levels up to that standard and to improve the educational standard of those who 220 already have two A-levels and go into these cadet colleges for officers.
Those who want to do engineering in the wider sense go to Greenwich, Manadon, Shrivenham, or Cranwell, and officers outside that full degree course have other opportunities. We believe that all officers must be given full educational opportunities for a career in all three Services, that all officers should have an opportunity to work together, tri-Service-wise, as early as possible, and that young officers must be given at least equal opportunities of higher educational facilities—and these are becoming increasingly available—at least equal to those available to young men in industry and commerce.
We therefore intend to accept the Howard-English recommendation to set up a Defence College. It will be at Shrivenham, adjacent to the Royal Military College of Science, which is already there, and this will enable it to share many of that College's facilities—
§ Mr. Mayhew
Is it not the fact, however, that the report to which my hon. Friend has referred recommended that the Royal Defence College should be at the Royal Naval College at Greenwich, and for very solid reasons? Will he look at that?
§ Mr. Reynolds
We looked at the siting of that particular college, but came to the conclusion that the facilities available at Shrivenham were capable of expansion, as those at Greenwich were not, and that from a cost point of view there was a slight advantage in having this college at Shrivenham. But the main advantage was the prospects of necessary expansion in future at Shrivenham which, as my hon. Friend will agree, were difficult in the rather confined circumstances at Greenwich.
Taking the Army as an example, it will mean that the young cadet will spend 12 months of military training at Sandhurst, instead of two years as previously, and a large part of this will now be in the military field. He will then—and in the vast majority of cases he will have two A levels—spend two years with his regiment, after which he will go to the Royal Defence College at Shrivenham and do at least a one-year course there, being joined by Royal Navy officers of 221 the same age and by Royal Air Force officers of the same age.
The young officer will do a one-year course there, but all those capable of proceeding, after having completed that one-year course, to doing a three-year course for a degree will be able to do so. We expect that there will be about 700 students in the Royal Defence College at Shrivenham, just over half of whom will be doing the one-year course and just under half of whom will be staying on for the full three-year course to obtain a degree.
The Royal Defence College will in all probability have an applied science and weapons technology school, a school of political and strategic studies, and a school of economics and management studies. We shall seek recognition for the degree we are offering from the National Council for Academic Awards.
§ Mr. Reynolds
I am sorry. I cannot give way. I have only five minutes left and much more to answer. There are four more days to come on defence matters. I am sure that hon. Members will get in in some way or other.
The Royal Defence Academy, which is also mentioned in the Report, will exercise a centralised academic and administrative control over the four constituent colleges, the four constituent colleges being those mentioned by the hon. Member for Merton and Morden—the new Royal Defence College, the Royal Naval Engineering College at Manadon, the Royal Military College of Science at Shrivenham, and the Royal Air Force College at Cranwell. Postgraduate courses and other work not of service application will be centred at the Royal Military College at Shrivenham, and degree work at the Royal Naval College at Greenwich will be progressively transferred elsewhere. We are looking at the future use of the actual building at the Royal Naval College, Greenwich. We will set up the Royal Defence Academy as soon as possible and I hope that the Royal Defence College will start in 1970 and become fully operative in 1972.
We realise the need for quick decisions in this field because of the individual effect it will obviously have on existing 222 academic staff of the individual colleges as they exist. We know of their position. We will come to a decision as quickly as possible, keeping their interests in mind and keeping them informed.
My hon. Friend the Member for Harrow, East (Mr. Roebuck) and the hon. Member for Merton and Morden asked questions about barracks and quarters into which units and families will be moved as soon as they return to the United Kingdom. This is in two parts, as will be plainly seen from reference to the Defence Review—withdrawals and possible withdrawals from Germany at some later stage. We are talking in terms under the Defence Review of 30,000 men and 6,000 families.
This means that we must create for this return of soldiers and their families something equivalent to a new town with a population of between 40,000 and 50,000. People who talk about withdrawing troops from overseas must remember that what we are doing now is the equivalent of building a new town just to provide accommodation for them. These things cannot be done quickly, and providing proper accommodation for the troops and their families must be one of the prime considerations in our minds.
There are four methods of obtaining married quarters—an increase in the permanent building of married quarters, the purchase of existing houses, an increase in the number of hirings, and the provision of mobile homes and caravans. We are bringing forward starts of about 3,300 permanent married quarters over the next few months, but these take time to build. It takes a year or more to build a house from the time that a start is made on it.
The Ministry of Public Building and Works has increased its design capacity and, wherever possible, existing designs are being used and we are extending existing contracts already in being with contractors and are using industrial building methods in so far as that is an economic thing and a speedy thing to do. We have plans, for Defence Review withdrawals, to purchase 4,175 houses. A final figure for purchasing will depend on the number of hirings available in the areas to which troops will be withdrawn.
We have, already approved or have well along the pipeline, about 2,500 houses in various parts of the country 223 which we shall be purchasing; and 1,244 of them we have actually signed on the dotted line and nearly all of them will be available by the end of 1967. Nearly all these houses are on estates of from 20 to 100 houses now being built at the present time and will provide good accommodation for returning soldiers and their families. In three places—Andover, Bicester and Peterborough—we are making arrangements with local authorities whereby we will obtain the use of 205 houses.
In only one case, at Felixstowe, are we having to purchase secondhand houses. We have been able to get new estates of houses in all the other locations where we have required them to rehouse these returning families. In most instances the barracks and houses will be available when the units require them. In some cases the houses may not be available until a few months after the units return. Then we may have to use temporary accommodation.
If I may give an example, at Inverness the 1st Battalion the Royal Highland Fusiliers will move in there on 1st May. We have bought 108 houses. Those houses will not be ready until October,
§ 1967. We are making provision for caravans to cover the position of the families from May to October of this year, by which time they will be able to move into brand-new houses, fully furnished and equipped in the normal way. I am sure that these particular families, as they will be able to see the houses under construction, will be prepared to accept a few months in a caravan during the summer of this year until the permanent houses are ready.
§ It being half-past Nine o'clock, the debate stood adjourned.
§ Debate to be resumed Tomorrow.